Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ernst Josephson

Woman Knitting in an Interior
year unknown
oil on canvas
33.02 x 40.64 cm
private collection

"I will become Sweden's Rembrandt or die." (Ernst Josephson)

Ernst Josephson (1851-1906) was a Swedish painter, draughtsman and poet came from a culturally distinguished Jewish family. His main paintings were done on portraits and paintings of folk life.

He did his art studies in Italy, France and the Netherlands. Frequent journeys in western and northern Europe allowed him to copy Old Master paintings. He copied especially works by Velazquez, Raphael, Titian and above all Rembrandt, whom he took as his principal model both as colourist and as a draughtsman.

His life was marred by illness. He contracted syphilis at a relatively young age, and in 1888 he became mentally ill, having religious hallucinations and believing that he was God and Christ. He was later taken to hospital and diagnosed with schizophrenia, but continued working throughout his disease, often while in a trance-like state. He also wrote poetry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carl Wilhelmson

On Rocks at Fiskebackskil
oil on canvas
126 × 151 cm
Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg, Sweden

Carl Wilhelmson (1866-1928) was one of the Swedish national painters, born in Fiskebackskil, Gothenburg county, Sweden. After elementary school he became an apprentice at the lithographic firm, during which time he took evening classes at the Society for Industrial school. At age 14, he began to study painting in Gothenburg. This was followed by studies at the Gothenburg Museum Drawing and Painting School. After studying abroad in Spain, Leipzig and Paris, where he worked as a lithographer, in 1897 he got the post of superintendent of his old school, Gothenburg Museum Drawing and Painting School of Fine Arts. In 1912 he founded a private art school in Stockholm. He became honorary Doctor of Theology at Uppsala University 1915.

In his production are mainly genre paintings, often with marine motifs. His painting was characterized by a thinly applied paint on patches visible canvas. He also performed depictions of Uppland and the Lapland countryside and a number of portraits.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Per Ekstrom

Waterlogged winter landscape (Vattendrankt vinterlandskap)
oil on canvas
80.5 × 110.5 cm
other detail unknown

Per Ekstrom (1844-1935) was a Swedish landscape painter. He studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm. As he was inspired by Frnch school, mainly by Corot, in 1876, he went Paris, France, where he lived until 1890. His debut took place at the Paris Salon in 1878. In 1910 he moved back to Sweden and lived in Stockholm. Because of his way of painting, his preference to the sun and the air, he was often called "The sun painter".

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Adolf von Becker

A Mother's Joy (Maternal Happiness)
oil on canvas
68 x 53 cm
Ateneum Hall, Finish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland

Adolf von Becker (1831-1909), a realist painter and professor in Finland. After completing a law degree in 1853, he became a Court of Appeal student teacher. He worked in that profession for a while, but he was inspired by the countryside when drawing, and came about to study the art at Copenhagen. He graduated from the Academy in Copenhagen.

He was one of the first Finnish artists to receive training in France. In Paris he was a pupil of the realist innovator Gustave Courbet. He opened his own school in Finland where he taught painters such as Helene Schjerfbeck, Albert Edelfelt and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. He described his work, including women, often, however, so that the women were part of the space, and do not directly the subject of painting.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Eero Jarnefelt

The Wage Slaves; Under the Yoke (Burning the Brushwood)
oil on canvas
164 x 131 cm
Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland

Eero Erik Nikolai Jarnefelt (1863-1937) was a Finnish realist painter. He was born in Viipuri, Finland as the son of a Lieutenant-General in the Russian army. His mother belonged to a noble family in St Petersburg. He studied at the St. Petersburg Art Academy. In 1886 he went to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. In Paris, he was inspired by the plein-air and naturalistic paintings.

He was influenced by both his studies in St Petersburg and the family's strong idealism. The family home became a meeting place called "Jarnefelt school" for the young intelligensia. The circle discussed such topics as Russian and Scandinavian literature. The group's thinking was coloured by the idealistic notion that art could be transformed and could reform society by turning towards reality.

His best known painting is probably The Wage Slaves, depicting slash-and-burn agriculture. The Wage Slaves depicts Finns living in the countryside amid the landscapes and natural conditions that governed their lives. His sister married the composer, Jean Sibelius.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Lake View
oil on canvas
size unknown
Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland

Lake View was painted at his lakeside studio in Ruovesi. The loose brushwork and strong colours of the background and particularly of the sky are offset by the meticulous detail of the slender young branches in the foreground.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish painter who is best known for his illustrations of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. His work was considered very important for the Finnish national identity. He was born in Pori, Finland in a Swedish-speaking family. His father worked as police chief and lawyer. At the age of 11 he was sent to Helsinki to study at a grammar school, because his father opposed his ambition to become a painter. After his father's death in 1879, he attended drawing classes at the Finnish Art Society.

In 1884 he moved to Paris, to study at the Academie Julian. In Paris he became friends with the Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt. In 1894, he moved to Berlin to oversee the joint exhibition of his works with the works of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. In 1895, he received a telegram that his daughter had died from diphtheria. This would prove to be a turning point in his work. While his works had previously been romantic, after his daughter's death he painted more aggressive works.

For the Paris World Fair in 1900, he painted frescoes for the Finnish Pavilion, and this work secured his stature as the leading Finnish artist. In 1909, he moved to Nairobi in Kenya with his family, and there he painted over 150 expressionist oil-paintings and bought many east African artefacts. But he returned to Finland after a couple of years, because he realized Finland was his main inspiration. In 1918, he and his son took part in the fighting at the front of the Finnish Civil War. Later, he was invited to design the flags, official decorations and uniforms for the newly independent Finland.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fanny Churberg

Winter landscape with sunset
oil on canvas
26.0 x 40.5 cm
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland

Fanny Churberg (1845-1892) was a Finnish painter and one of the great masters of her time. Her father was a doctor from a family of farmers and her mother was a daughter of a vicar. When she was twelve her mother died and she had to take on large parts of the responsibility of being the matron of the house. When she was 20 her father died. She cared for him day and night during the last months of his life.

She started her artistic training in Helsinki in 1865. Her studies continued in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was also one of the first Finnish painters to study in Paris, France. Although she remained to a large extent within the conventions of the Dusseldorf school of painting. She openly expressed her enthusiasm for the countryside and its dramatic situations, relying above all on colour and a fast brush technique to do so. The charged quality of her work differed sharply from that of her contemporaries, as did her subjects.

Her career ended suddenly in 1880. Her health was weaker and she took care of her brother who was suffering from tuberculosis. The death of her brother in 1882 made her quite lonely and her will to live lessened as did her energy. She did not paint anymore not even to her own amusement, but during her career she had still managed to paint over 300 paintings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Albert Edelfelt

Queen Bianca
oil on canvas
75.5 x 96.5 cm
Ateneum (Finnish National Gallery), Helsinki, Finland

Queen Bianca is a portrait depicting mediaeval times.

Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt (1854-1905) was a Finnish painter, illustrator and etcher. He was Finland's leading artist in the late 19th century, introducing French influences into Finnish art but also helping to gain a broader international interest in his country's culture. Although his reputation in Finland remained firm, international recognition dwindled after his death until the renewal of interest in realism that took place in the late 20th century.

In 1870 he studied at the school of the Finnish Art Society in Helsinki, in 1871-73 he studied at the Academy of Art in Helsinki, in 1873 at the Academy in Antwerp, and in 1874-78 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Apart from annual visits to Finland, he lived in Paris.
He painted history pictures, Naturalist landscapes and scenes of Finnish farm life. He won great acclaim with the French public for his portraits. In the 1880s and 1890 he exhibited at the Paris Salon, at the Paris World Fair in 1889 he received the Grand Prix d'Honneur.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thomas Fearnley

Derwentwater in Borrowdale, Looking South
oil on paper, laid down on canvas
28 x 39 cm
location unknown

Thomas Fearnley (1802-1842) was a Norwegian painter, and a leading representative of Norwegian romantic nationalism in painting. He was the son of merchant Thomas Fearnley. His mother belonged to the prominent Norwegian family. He was originally trained in the military but left in 1819 to pursue the arts. His work was often commissioned by the royal family of Norway, and later the royal family of Sweden.

He traveled all over Europe in the 1830's, visiting London, Paris and Munich as well as Italy. During his time in Italy, his work was greatly influenced by the sunny nation and his subject matter was suddenly bathed in the warm southern light. He spent the rest of his life traveling between Norway and England and eventually moved to Munich where he contracted typhoid and died at the age of 39. His son, also named Thomas, was a shipping magnate whose business continues to run today. The National Gallery in Oslo owns a total of 54 of his smaller pictures and sketches and also a series of drawings.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lars Hertervig

Island Borgoya
oil on canvas
69.5 x 61.5 cm
National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway

Lars Hertervig (1830-1902) was a Norwegian landscape painter, who was born into a poor Quaker farmers in Borgoy, in the municipality Tysvar in Norway on the west coast of Norway. His semi-fantastical work with motives from the coastal landscape in the traditional district of Ryfylke is regarded as one of the peaks of Norwegian painting.

He studied painting at the Arts Academy of Dusseldorf from 1852. In 1854, he experienced a temporary mental breakdown, and in 1856, he was admitted to Gaustad Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Oslo, at the age of 26 with symptoms which would now be suggestive of schizophrenia. Discharged after one and a half years he spent the rest of his life sheltered in private care in his home community. He produced his most famous art during this period, after his discharge from Gaustad Hospital. His last 30 years he struggled financially, and finally ended up at the poorhouse. He could not afford to paint with oil on canvas, and several works from this period are watercolors and gouache on paper not meant for painting, sometimes using bits of papers glued together with homemade rye flour paste. His breakthrough came at the Jubilee Exhibition in Oslo in 1914, twelve years after his death.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hans Gude

Winter Afternoon (Vinterettermiddag)
oil on canvas
50.5 × 36 cm
National Gallery of Norway, Oslo, Norway

Hans Fredrik Gude (1825-1903) was a Norwegian romanticist painter and is considered to be one of Norway's foremost landscape painters. He has been called a mainstay of Norwegian National Romanticism.

He spent forty-five years as an art professor and so he played an important roll in the development of Norwegian art by acting as a mentor to Norwegian artists. Young Norwegian artists flocked to wherever he was teaching.
He also served as a professor at the Berlin Academy of Art from 1880 to 1901. He is associated with the Dusseldorf school of painting.

His early works are of idyllic, sun-drenched Norwegian landscapes which present a romantic, yet still realistic view of his country. Around 1860 he began painting seascapes and other coastal subjects. He had difficulty with figure drawing initially, and later he would work specifically on his figures. He initially painted primarily with oils in a studio, basing his works on studies he had done earlier in the field. However, as he matured as a painter he began to paint en plein air and espoused the merits of doing so to his students. Over the course of his lifetime he won numerous medals, was inducted as an honorary member into many art academies, and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kitty Kielland

oil on canvas
115 x 120 cm
location unknown

This painting was given to new Queen Maud in Norway in 1905, and was hung in Queen Maud’s Salon at the Royal Palace. The work depicts the Stokkavannet lake in Stavanger just after sunset. The motif is typical of the scenery in southern Norway, where Kitty grew up. Although Kielland was criticised by her contemporaries for her sombre, melancholic paintings, Evening Landscape realistically captures the effects of the changing evening light on the landscape. This painting is considered a masterpiece in its genre.

Kitty Lange Kielland (1843-1914) was a Norwegian landscape painter. She was born to an affluent family in Stavanger. Although she received some training in drawing and painting, it was not until she turned thirty that she was allowed to train as a professional artist. As a woman she was forced to take private lessons instead of joining landscape painting class. She left for Munich in 1875 where she joined a colony of Norwegian artists living there.In 1879 she moved to Paris, and exhibited her paintings for the first time. She left Paris in 1889, suffering from senile dementia for several years, and finally died in Oslo.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Theodor Kittelsen

Christmas Troll
other detail unknown

Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1857-1914) was an Norwegian artist who had become well-known for his nature paintings and illustrations of fairytales and legends, especially of trolls. His art was dominated by his strong love of nature and was influenced by the Norwegian fairy tales tradition and blended by Naturalism, Mysticism and Art Nouveau. He is one of the most popular artists in Norway and the “father” of all Trolls.

He was born in a coastal town in Telemark county, Norway. His father died at an early age, leaving a wife and eight children in difficult circumstances. He was only 11 years old when he was apprenticed to a watchmaker. When at the age of 17 his talent was discovered, and he became a pupil at a drawing school in Oslo. He had to earn his money as a draftsman for German newspapers and magazines. In 1882 he was granted a state scholarship to study in Paris. In 1887 he returned to Norway for good. When back in Norway, he found nature to be a great inspiration. He created the most beautiful and thrilling paintings of Norwegian nature at its most scenic and impressive, as well as illustrations for children´s books and even illustrating scenes from the Bible. He also wrote the texts to many of the books he illustrated. In 1908 he was made Knight of the The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.

Though he was loved by the Norwegian people, art critiques and publishers failed to thoroughly appreciate his work. He died famous but utterly poor, and it was only after his death he was awarded an artist´s salary by the state, the money being paid out to his widow and their 9 children. He is relatively unknown outside of his country. His favorite tools were pencils and ink, he varied the pressure and created thinner and thicker lines.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Amaldus Nielsen

The Rognaldsvag in Kinn
oil on canvas
40 x 63 cm
private collection

Amaldus Clarin Nielsen (1838-1932) was a Norwegian painter. He was born as a son of shipmaster and merchant, and grew up in Mandal, a small town on Norway’s southernmost tip. He lived most of his childhood and adolescence without a father. He received some tuition from a traveling drawing teacher, and then studied at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen and at the Dusseldorf Academy.

According to Nielsen himself, nature was his greatest source of inspiration and teacher. He strived to represent nature as precisely, objectively and straightforwardly as possible. His landscapes are scrupulously done, with telling details from the coastal habitat he knew so well. He has been called "Norway's first naturalist painter". Most of his paintings portrayed Western and Southern Norway. He was decorated as a Knight, First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 1890.

Eleven of his works are owned by the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. By Nielsen's heirs in 1933, the collection of about 300 works of Nielsen was donated to Oslo municipality. Since 1994 this collection is on permanent exhibit in the Stenersen Museum.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gerhard Munthe

Budeia (Milkmaid from Hallingdal)
oil on canvas
other details unknown

Budeia is a painting on a young woman in the Hallingdal region of Norway in traditional folk costume.

Gerhard Peter Frantz Munthe (1849-1929) was a Norwegian painter and illustrator. He originally intended to study medicine like his father, a physician. But his father advised him to take up the arts.
After studying arts under several painters, from 1877 to 1882, he lived in Munich. However, many of his motifs were taken from Norway and his paintings were in the naturalist style. Some of his works were woven into large tapestries. He also created monumental decorations. He is represented with several works in the National Gallery of Norway.

He was a prolific letter writer, and also published several articles, some of which were collected and published in 1919. He was made a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav and a Knight of the Danish Order of the Dannebrog and the Swedish Order of the Polar Star.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Harriet Backer

Drying clothes
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Harriet Backer (1845-1932) was a Norwegian painter who achieved recognition in her own time and was a pioneer among female artists both in the Nordic countries and in Europe generally. She is best known for her detailed interior scenes, communicated with rich colors and moody lighting.

At the age of nearly 30 Backer decided to train professionally as a painter. She studied in Paris and Munich, and was influenced by impressionism, though she is regarded as both a naturalist and an early Impressionist, she never belonged to any school. She copied works in major museums and took occasional art lessons; she later considered this experience to have been of fundamental importance to her artistic development.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Munch, Edvard

oil on canvas
93 x 110 cm
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway

"Easiest of all is to paint shorelines. Just let your hand glide. If I do not know what to paint, I paint landscape." "Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul." (Munch)

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Although Munch was interested in painting since he was a boy, his family was not in love with the idea and urged him to acquire a more prestigious and profitable profession. In 1879, at the age of 16, he entered the Oslo Technical College with the idea of becoming an engineer. He pursued this field of study for little more than a year before deciding that his true calling was art and dropping out of the college. Soon thereafter, he enrolled for classes at the Royal Drawing School in Oslo. He was a quick and able student. At the Royal Drawing School, he was considered one of the most gifted young artists of his day.

Munch grew increasingly withdrawn from public life, after 1920, limiting social contacts and carefully guarding his privacy. He lived alone, without a servant or housekeeper, with only several dogs for company, and devoted his days to painting. It was during this period, ironically, that he at last began to gain the recognition that had been denied him previously by both critics and public. In 1940, Germany occupied Norway. He refused to be associated with the Nazis and the Quisling puppet-government they set up in Norway, isolating himself in his country home. Following the USA's entry into the Second World War in 1942, the painter's anti-Nazi stance gained him recognition there as well.

He died on January 23, 1944, at his estate in Ekely. He bequeathed all of his property, which included over 1,000 paintings and close to 20,000 sketches, woodcuts and lithographs, to the city of Oslo. The Munch Museum was subsequently opened there to mark the painter's centenary, in 1963.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Botticelli, Sandro

The Story of Nastagio Degli Onesti: The Banquet in the Pine Forest
tempera on wood
84 × 142 cm
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti is a novella from Decameron, it tells the story of the young Nastagio from Ravenna, who cunningly uses a horrific event in order to persuade his beloved to marry him. The Encounter with the Damned in the Pine Forest: Nastagio, rejected by the lady he admires, retires in the pine forest. There he suddenly comes upon a knight on horseback who is hunting a naked woman with his hounds. Nastagio seizes a branch in order to protect the defenseless woman.

Alessandro Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, (c.1445-1510) began his career during the Italian Renaissance period. He was born in Florence around 1445 where he would live out the rest of his life. As the youngest of five children, Botticelli’s father, a tanner, allowed him to become an apprentice to a goldsmith. During this apprenticeship, the goldsmith he worked with gave him the name Botticelli, meaning ‘small wine cask’. After a time, Botticelli convinced his father that he wanted to study painting and was chosen to be apprentice to the well known painter Fra Filippo Lippi. Botticelli quickly became recognized as a gifted artist under Lippi, and by the time he was 15 years old, he was able to open a workshop dedicated to his own work.
Botticelli stressed line and detail using them to bring his characters alive - as if acting out a scene. He included in his style a flowing characteristic and Neo-Platonism. This meant that he would bring together in one painting ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan ideas which may have included mythology. In 1481, he was invited to Rome to take part in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. He joined artists such as Perugino, Ghirlandaio and then Michelangelo in contributing to the most well known piece of Italian art.

As Botticelli grew older, he became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a prominent civic leader in Florence and Botticelli's style underwent a remarkable change. Many of his previous paintings were considered ungodly and were burned. When Savonarola’s popularity ended being burnt in the center of Florence, many followers fled the city but Botticelli stayed in Florence, and continued to paint. Botticelli’s later years seemed to be a disturbing time for him. As times changed in Florence, he often took on difficult commissions that other painters turned down. His rotating style reflected that he was struggling as a painter and his paintings were full of emotion. He died at the age of 65.

At the height of his fame, he was one of the most esteemed artists in Italy. His work was most in demand by the Medici family. After his death, his name all but disappeared until the late 19th century, his work lay forgotten for over 400 years after his death, when a developing appreciation for Florentine arts and culture brought about a renewed interest in his work. Since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting. Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

Botticelli never wed, and expressed a strong aversion to the idea of marriage. The popular view is that he suffered from an unrequited love for Simonetta Vespucci. According to popular belief, she had served as the model for The Birth of Venus and recurs throughout his paintings, despite the fact that she had died years earlier, in 1476. Botticelli asked that when he died, he be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. His wish was carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510. He was buried near her in the same church.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Lippi, (Fra) Filippo

c 1443
oil on Wood
203 x 186 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Fra Filippo Lippi (c.1406-1469), also called Lippo Lippi, was an Italian painter.
In 1458, Fra Filippo sets about painting frescoes picture for the convent chapel of S. Margherita of Prato, where he met Lucrezia Buti, a novice monk, the beautiful daughter of a Florentine. Lippi asked that she might be permitted to sit for the figure of the Madonna. Under that pretext, Lippi abducted her to his own house, and kept her there despite the nuns' efforts to reclaim her. The result was their son Filippino Lippi, who became a painter no less famous than his father.

Lippi died in 1469 while working on the frescoes of Scenes of the life of the Virgin Mary. The mode of his death is a matter of dispute. It has been said that the pope granted Lippi a dispensation for marrying Lucrezia, but before the permission arrived, Lippi had been poisoned by the indignant relatives of either Lucrezia herself or some lady who had replaced her in the inconstant painter's affections.

He was highly regarded in his day and his influence is seen in the work of numerous artists, most notably Botticelli. Four centuries later he was one of the major sources for the second wave of Pre-Raphaelitism.
He had always been zealously patronized by the Medici family, beginning with Cosimo de' Medici.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Duccio di Buoninsegna

Tempera and gold on wood
213 × 396 cm
Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena, Italy

And on that day when it was brought into the cathedral, all workshops remained closed, and the bishop commanded a great host of devoted priests and monks to file past in solemn procession. This was accompanied by all the high officers of the Commune and by all the people; all honorable citizens of Siena surrounded said panel with candles held in their hands, and women and children followed humbly behind. They accompanied the panel amidst the glorious pealing of bells after a solemn procession on the Piazza del Campo (the principal public space of the center of Siena) into the very cathedral; and all this out of reverence for the costly panel…  (One person who witnessed this event wrote)

Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319), born and active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, was one of the most influential Italian artists in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. He worked mostly with pigment and egg tempera and like most of his contemporaries he painted religious subject matters. He became famous in his own lifetime, and in the 1300s, he became one of the most favored and radical painters in Siena.

Duccio stands in relation to the Sienese School as Giotto does to the Florentine; yet without the powerful naturalism that makes the art of Giotto so revolutionary. Rather, Duccio sums up the grave and austere beauty of centuries of Byzantine tradition and infuses it with a breath of the new humanity which was being spread by the new Orders of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tiziano, Vecellio ; (Titian)

Assumption of the Virgin
oil on wood panel
690 x 360 cm
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice, Italy

"Certainly the best picture in Italy." (Oscar Wilde)
The Assumption of the Virgin was Titian's first major commission in Venice. He worked on this huge altarpiece for more than two years from 1516 to 1518. This panel established Titian's popularity in Venice. He soon became the lead painter of Venice.

The picture is composed of three orders. At the bottom are the Apostles (humanity), amazed and stunned by the wondreous happening. St Peter is kneeling with his hand on his breast, St Thomas is pointing at the Virgin, and St Andrew in a red cloak is stretching forward. In the middle, the madonna, slight and bathed in light, is surrounded by by a host of angels that accompany her joyfully hailing. Above is the Eternal Father, serene and noble majesty, calling the Virgin to him with a look of love.

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c.1488-1576) known in English as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth. He received important part of his training in the studio of Giovanni Bellini, then came under the spell of Giorgione, with whom he had a close relationship. Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars", Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects.

During the 1530s Titian's fame spread throughout Europe. In 1530 he first met the emperor Charles V in Bologna and painted a famous portrait of him. Charles was so pleased with it that he appointed Titian court painter and elevated him to the rank of Count Palatine and Knight of the Golden Spur - an unprecedented honor for a painter. At the same time his works were increasingly sought after by Italian princes. His influence on later artists has been profound: he was supreme in every branch of painting and revolutionized the oil technique with his free and expressive brushwork.

During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art. His painting methods would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art. His greatness as an artist was not matched by his character, for he was notoriously avaricious. In spite of his wealth and status, he claimed he was impoverished, and his exaggerations about his age (by which he hoped to pull at the heartstrings of patrons) are one of the sources of confusion about his birthdate.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Giorgione, Giorgio da Castelfranco

Madonna and Child Enthroned between St Francis and St Liberalis
oil on panel
200 x 152 cm
Duomo, Castelfranco Veneto, Treviso, Italy

Giorgione, Giorgio da Castelfranco (c.1477-1510) was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance in Venice. He is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are acknowledged for certain to be his work. The resulting uncertainty about the identity and meaning of his art has made Giorgione one of the most mysterious figures in European painting. Together with Titian, who was slightly younger, he is the founder of the distinctive Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting, which achieves much of its effect through color and mood, and is traditionally contrasted with the Florentine painting. His career was cut off by his death at a little over thirty.

Giorgione came from the small town of Castelfranco Veneto, 40 km inland from Venice. His gifts were recognized early. In 1500, when he was only twenty-three, he was chosen to paint portraits of the Doge of Venice: the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

Vasari mentions an important event in Giorgione's life, and one which had influence on his work, his meeting with Leonardo da Vinci: the Tuscan master, on the occasion of Leonardo's visit to Venice in 1500. All accounts agree in representing Giorgione as a person of distinguished and romantic charm, a great lover and a musician, given to express in his art the sensuous and imaginative grace, touched with poetic melancholy, of the Venetian existence of his time. They represent him further as having made in Venetian painting an advance analogous to that made in Tuscan painting by Leonardo more than twenty years before; that is, as having released the art from the last shackles of archaic rigidity and placed it in possession of full freedom and the full mastery of its means. (Vasari; 1511-1574, is an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Renaissance artists.)

Giorgione also introduced a new range of subjects. Besides altarpieces and portraits he painted pictures that told no story, whether biblical or classical, or if they professed to tell a story, neglected the action and simply embodied in form and color moods of lyrical or romantic feeling, much as a musician might embody them in sounds. Innovating with the courage and felicity of genius, he had for a time an overwhelming influence on his contemporaries and immediate successors in the Venetian school, including Titian. Giorgione died at age 34, probably of the plague then raging. Titian finished at least some paintings of Giorgione after his death.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Giotto di Bondone

Legend of St Francis: 23. St. Francis Mourned by St. Clare
270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi, Italy

Giotto was "The most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence." (according to Giotto's contemporary, the banker and chronicler Giovanni Villani)

Giotto made a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and initiated "the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years." (according to late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari)

Giotto di Bondone (c.1266-1337), known as Giotto, was the most innovative Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He was a citizen of Florence, though he also worked in Assisi, Rome, Padua, Milan and Naples. His art is notable for its clear, grave, simple solutions to the basic problems of the representation of space and of the volume, structure, and solidity of 3-dimensional forms, and above all of the human figure. He is seen as the revolutionary who altered the course of painting in Western Europe, striking out of the Gothic and Byzantine styles towards the Renaissance. His solutions to many of the problems of dramatic narrative were fundamental. They have subsequently been elaborated on in many ways, but they have never been surpassed.

Giotto was a genius at getting to the heart of whatever episode from sacred history he was representing, at cutting it down to its essential, dramatic core, and at finding the compositional means to express its innermost spiritual meaning and its psychological effects in terms of simple areas of paint. He was described by Dante as the foremost painter, displacing the elder Cimabue in fame and fortune. The impact of Giotto’s innovations can be seen in the work of Masaccio a century later and ultimately in the work of Michelangelo himself, who studied and made copies of Giotto’s compositions.

At the age of 10, Giotto was supposedly found by Cimabue (1240-1302), who took him to Florence to study art. His workshop flourished and his art and evident business shrewdness made him sufficiently prosperous. Many facts and episodes of his life were made up by later historians, so very little is actually known. For a time his name was a synonym for the word ‘painter’.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bellini, Giovanni

The Feast of the Gods
oil on canvas
170 x 188 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Venice, Venetian painter, founder of the Venetian school of painting. He raised Venice to a center of Renaissance art that rivaled Florence and Rome. He brought to painting a new degree of realism, a new wealth of subject-matter, and a new sensuousness in form and color. Through the use of clear, slow-drying oil paints, he created deep, rich tints and detailed shadings. His sumptuous coloring and fluent, atmospheric landscapes had a great effect on the Venetian painting school. Little is known about his family. His father was a pupil of one of the leading 15th-century Gothic revival artists. He probably began his career as an assistant in the father's workshop.

Bellini became one of the greatest landscape painters. His ability to portray outdoor light was so skillful that the viewer can tell not only the season of the year but also almost the hour of the day. He lived to see his own school of painting achieve dominance and acclaim. His influence carried over to his pupils, two of whom became better known than he was: Giorgione and Titian. His younger contemporary, the German painter Albrecht Durer, wrote of Bellini in 1506: "He is very old, and still he is the best painter of them all." Bellini died in Venice in 1516.

Bellini's historical importance is immense. In his 65-year evolution as an artist, he brought Venetian painting from provincial backwardness into the forefront of Renaissance and the mainstream of Western art. Moreover, his personal orientations predetermined the special nature of Venice's contribution to that mainstream. These include his luminous colorism, his deep response to the natural world, and his warm humanity.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Somone Martini

The Annunciation and Two Saints
Tempera and gold on wood
305 × 265 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

This wooden triptych beautiful Annunciation was painted by Simone Martini and his brother-in-law Lippo Memmi for the chapel of Sant'Ansano of the Cathedral in Siena. The work is considered an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest examples of Sienese Gothic painting, characterized by the wonderful elegance of both line and color. The Archangel Gabriel has just touched ground in front of the Virgin as shown by his unfold wings and his swirling mantle. The Virgin is portrayed almost surprised and frightened by the sudden appearance. Gabriel, holding an olive branch in his hand, a traditional symbol of peace, is to communicate her that she will soon bear the child Jesus, whose name means the "Savior." The exquisite rhythm of the lines and dematerialized forms of Gabriel and Mary in the central portion of The Annunciation led a number of artists to imitation, but none of them achieved such vibrant contours and such spirited forms as did Simone in this great masterpiece.

Simone Martini (c.1284-1344) was an Italian painter born in Siena. He was a major figure in the development of early Italian painting and greatly influenced the development of the International Gothic style. Very little documentation of Simone's life survives, and many attributions are debated by art historians. He died while in the service of the Papal court at Avignon, France. His brother-in-law was the artist Lippo Memmi.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Artemisia Gentileschi

Allegory of Inclination (known as "The Angel")
Casa Buonarroti, Florence, Italy
other detail unknown

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian Baroque painter. Her father, a Tuscan master painter Orazio Gentileschi, was heavily influenced by the baroque master Caravaggio, and so was Artemisia. She is considered to be one of his most talented followers. Later she added classical influences into her work. Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio.

In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible - victims, suicides, warriors - and made it her speciality to paint the Judith story.

She was raped by her tutor painter and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.

During her lifetime, she managed to do the unheard of: thrive in a male-dominated field as a woman. Today, she remains an inspiration, not only for her powerful artwork, but for her ability to overcome the limits and prejudices of her time.

Artemisia Gentileschi

30 × 28 cm
Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian Baroque painter. Her father, a Tuscan master painter Orazio Gentileschi, was heavily influenced by the baroque master Caravaggio, and so was Artemisia. She is considered to be one of his most talented followers. Later she added classical influences into her work. Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio.

In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible - victims, suicides, warriors - and made it her speciality to paint the Judith story.

She was raped by her tutor painter and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.
During her lifetime, she managed to do the unheard of: thrive in a male-dominated field as a woman. Today, she remains an inspiration, not only for her powerful artwork, but for her ability to overcome the limits and prejudices of her time.

Friday, June 27, 2014


The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul
46.5 x 33.4 cm
tempera on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washigton DC, USA

Sassetta chose to ignore the recently discovered laws of perspective and methods of rendering form realistically. In this picture, he has reverted to the medieval book illustrators' technique of showing consecutive events simultaneously on a single panel and representing early Christian legends in contemporary settings.

Stefano di Giovanni di Consolo, known as il Sassetta (c.1392-c.1451) was an Italian painter who is considered one of the most important representatives of the early 15th century Sienese painters.
Many consider Sassetta's fusing of traditional and contemporary elements as integral to the move from the Gothic to the Renaissance style of painting in Siena. He mingles an innate conservatism, especially in his architectural structures, with a delight in the svelte forms of International Gothic figure design, and in the clarity and unity of Renaissance pictorial space.
Sassetta was a fiercely pious man, and the meaning of his nickname Sassetta is obscure.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Correggio, Antonio

The Adoration of the Magi
oil on canvas
84 x 108 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy

Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489-1534), usually known as Correggio, named after the small town in Emilia where he was born, was one of the greatest Italian artists of the Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century. Relatively unknown in his lifetime, he was to have an enormous posthumous reputation. He was revered by Federico Barocci and the Carracci, and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries his reputation rivalled that of Raphael.

His career is poorly documented and his training has to be conjectured on stylistic grounds. Echoes of Mantegna's manner in many of his early paintings indicate that he may have studied that master's work in Mantua, and he was influenced in these works also by Leonardo. Later he developed a style of conscious elegance and allure with soft sfumato and gestures of captivating charm. Although he worked mainly in provincial centers, he was one of the most sophisticated artists of his time, blending disparate sources into a potent synthesis. In his use of dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening, he prefigured the Rococo art of the 18th century.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reni, Guido

Bacchus and Ariadne
oil on canvas
96 x 86 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA

"He had about him a certain air of grandeur and gravity that exceeded his station in life, which produced in everyone, even those of high rank, a hidden veneration and respect." (so wrote an early biographer of Guido Reni)

Guido Reni (1575-1642), born in Bologna into a family of musicians, was an early Italian Baroque painter noted for the classical idealism of his renderings of mythological and religious subjects. He admired Raphael unconditionally. His graceful, classical style featured refined colors, delicate and varied flesh tones, soft modeling, and gentle emotion that owes a debt to Raphael's work. He did, however, come to terms with Caravaggio's naturalism in a group of youthful works. He spent 1602-13 in Rome, and he was reputed to have met (and quarreled with) Caravaggio in the workshop of Carracci where he learned classicizing style.

Reni exalted the clarity of light, the perfection of the body, and lively color. He was a quintessentially classical academic but he was also one of the most elegant painters in the annals of art history. Toward the end of his life, his paintings became so airy as to seem insubstantial and were almost completely monochrome. He also used long, flowing brushstrokes and conveyed an atmosphere laden with intense melancholy. He was constantly seeking an absolute, rarefied perfection which he measured against classical Antiquity and Raphael.

He was notoriously pious and eccentric. He disliked and feared women, whom he barred from his house even as servants, yet he was devoted to his mother and renowned for his heartfelt Madonnas. "The fear of God was always the first advice that Reni gave his pupils," his biographer wrote. His large studio dominated the Bolognese school, and his fame spread throughout Europe. His success was underlined by the important commissions he received. He died in Bologna and was buried in the Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna.

The eighteenth century loved him, the nineteenth century, persuaded by the violent criticism of John Ruskin, hated him. But even his detractors cannot deny the exceptional technical quality of his work nor the clarity of his supremely assured and harmonious brushwork.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ghirlandaio, Domenico

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints
Tempera on wood
191 x 200 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494, original name Domenico di Tommaso Bighordi) was an Italian early Renaissance painter of the Florentine school noted for his detailed narrative frescoes, which include many portraits of leading citizens in contemporary dress. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.

He was the son of a goldsmith, and his nickname "Il Ghirlandaio" (garland-maker)" was derived from his father's skill in making garlands. His father was famed for creating the metallic garland-like necklaces worn by Florentine women. He probably began as an apprentice in his father's shop, but almost nothing is known about his training as a painter or the beginnings of his career. In his father's shop, Ghirlandaio is said to have made portraits of the passers-by, and he was eventually apprenticed to Alessio Baldovinetti to study painting and mosaic.

Ghirlandaio never received a major commission from the Medici family or from any other leading patrons. In the late 19th century, however, because of the high degree of realism in his work, he was ranked as a leading Florentine painter of the 15th century. Although during much of the 20th century the greater imaginative power of Botticelli or Filippino Lippi made Ghirlandaio's paintings seem dull, since the 1960s the honesty and truth of his works have brought him back into critical favour.