Monday, November 24, 2014

Ivan Kramskoi

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
oil on canvas
75.5 × 99 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

The identity of the model is unknown and depicts a woman of "quiet strength and forthright gaze". It is one of Russia's best-known art works, although a number of critics were indignant when the painting was first exhibited and condemned what they saw as a depiction of a haughty and immoral woman. Its popularity has grown with changes in public taste.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837-1887) was a Russian painter and art critic. He came from a poor petit-bourgeois family. He was an intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement in 1860-1880. From 1857 to 1863 he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts; he reacted against academic art and was an initiator of the "revolt of fourteen". Influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats, he asserted the high public duty of the artist, principles of realism, and the moral substance and nationality of art.

His democratic ideals found their brightest expression in his portraits of peasants, which portrayed a wealth of character-details in representatives of the common people. The democratic orientation of his art, his acute critical judgments about it, and his persistent quest for objective public criteria for the evaluation of art exerted an essential influence on the development of democratic art and aesthetics in Russia in the last third of the nineteenth century.

In one of Kramskoi’s most well known paintings, Christ in the Desert (1872), he continued Alexander Ivanov's humanistic tradition by treating a religious subject in moral-philosophical terms. He imbued his image of Christ with dramatic experiences in a deeply psychological and vital interpretation, evoking the idea of his heroic self-sacrifice.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ivan Aivazovsky

View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus
124.5 x 195.5 cm
oil on canvas
location unknown

“The artist who only copies nature becomes a slave to nature. The motions of live elements are imperceptible to a brush: painting lightning, a gust of wind or the splash of a wave. The artist must memorize them. The plot of the pictures is composed in my memory, like that of a poet; after doing a sketch on a scrap of paper, I start to work and stay by the canvas until I’ve said everything on it with my brush.” (Aivazovsky)

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was a famous Russian artist specializing in seascape and landscape portraits. He did most of his painting outside, watching the elements, and only going indoors to put the finishing touches on his masterpieces. His art was greatly influenced by Romanticism. Aivazovsky, although a romantic, was also a very practical man. He was among the first artists to personally exhibit his creations in major cities. He enjoyed a generous income and spent much of his wealth on the welfare of his hometown. Dostoevsky was an admirer of Aivazovsky’s art.

He was born into the family of a destitute Armenian merchant in the Crimean city. At the time of his birth the city was devastated after a recent war and was still suffering from the consequences of a plague epidemic that had affected the region in 1812. His childhood was spent in poverty on the outskirts of the city facing the beautiful Feodosia Bay in the Crimean city and the ruins of an ancient Greek fortress.

Young Ivan was mesmerized by the grandeur of the view and the heroic stories told about the Greeks and the famous battles of the past. His talent was discovered at a very early age. He was taken on as an apprentice by a local architect and later sent to a gymnasium in Simferopol where he showed such amazing artistic skills that influential locals helped him move to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of Art. He was trusted by the academy to continue his work on his own and moved back to Crimea where he set up a shop and started painting his beloved Black Sea.

His life in the quiet coastal Feodosia was quite uneventful. He spent days in his workshop mixing paints and producing seascapes and in winters went to St. Petersburg to exhibit his works for the sophisticated public of the Russian capital. Although he lead a secluded life, Aivazovsky kept in constant touch with his great contemporaries, welcomed them at his home in Feodosia and arranged meetings with them in St. Petersburg.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Levitan, Isaac

March, 1895
oil on canvas
60 x 75 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

"What can be more tragic than to feel the grandeur of the surrounding beauty and to be able to see in it its underlying mystery... and yet to be aware of your own inability to express these large feelings" (Levitan)

Isaac Ilyich Levitan (1860-1900) was a classical Lithuanian-Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of the "mood landscape". He was born in Lithuania, into a poor but educated Jewish family. At the beginning of 1870, the family moved to Moscow, where he studied at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture. He lost his mother in 1875 and his father two years later. He was left penniless and homeless in Moscow, sleeping alternately in the homes of relatives and friends, sometimes spending the night in the empty classrooms of the school. A nightwatch took pity on the youth and let him sleep in his cubicle. The School waived his tuition fee "because of extreme poverty and in recognition of his singular success in art".

The work of Isaac Levitan belongs to the highest achievements of Russian culture. Its significance is compared with the works of such classics as Anton Chekhov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Stanislavsky. His attitude towards nature and the poetry of his art were in many points akin to the works of Anton Chekhov, who became his friend from the late 1870s. He spent the last year of his life at Chekhov’s home in Crimea.
Leo Tolstoy once said, "The basis of human happiness is the possibility to be together with nature, to see it and to talk to it". Levitan was granted this happy feeling as hardly any other human being ever was. He also knew the joy of recognition by his contemporaries and of friendship with the best among them. Levitan ranks among the most appreciated and loved of Russian artists. In spite of the effects of a terminal illness, his last works are increasingly filled with light. They reflect tranquility and the eternal beauty of Russian nature.

He was buried in Dorogomilovo Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 his remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov's necropolis. He did not have a family or children. His hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.
"Painting is not a record but an explanation of nature with paints and brush." (Levitan)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christoffel van Sichem II

Judith with the Head of Holofernes
13.5 x 10.4 cm
Baillieu Library Collection, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Christoffel van Sichem II (1581-1658) was a 17th-century Dutch woodcut artist. He was known primarily for his book illustrations, he also created prints in series. His best-known book is the Dutch language Biblia Sacra, published in Antwerp and and Amsterdam in 1657, sometimes known as the van Sichem Bible. He also made woodcuts after portraits by leading artists such as Abraham Bloemaert, Hendrick Goltzius and Maarten van Heemskerck, among others. He made these for various publications and then he bundled and published them himself.

He was the son of the Dutch artist Chirstoffel van Sichem I (1546-1624). He was born in Basel, he moved with his family to Amsterdam in 1598, where he worked for the rest of his life. He was the brother of Karel Sichem who published many of his prints. His father, Christoffel van Sichem I was the first of a family of artists.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gogh, Vincent van

The Sower (Sower at Sunset)
Arles, June 1888
oil on canvas
64 × 80.5 cm
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)
Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, in April 1885, "One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR."

Gogh painted an autumnal scene of sowing. The motif of the peasant sowing had fascinated him since his earliest months as an artist. In letters written in June he referred directly to Millet's Sower but he complained that it lacked colour. It was one of van Gogh's aims to correct this, in a sense to update the subject Millet had made so famous, and which was for Gogh so resonant, by repainting the motif using modern colour theory. In the autumn of 1888 he made two paintings named "The Sower".

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community.

In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 in 1890 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties. He completed many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. According to an art critic, his late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and "longing for concision and grace".

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jan van Goyen

Landscape with two oaks
oil on canvas
88.5 x 110.5 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Dutch painter, was one of the foremost pioneers of realistic landscape painting in the Netherlands. He was one of the first painters to capture the quality of the light and air in a scene and to suggest the movement of clouds. He created a distinctive type of monochrome landscape in browns and greys with touches of vivid blue or red to catch the eye. His many drawings show that he travelled extensively in Holland and beyond. Most of his paintings seem to be based on drawings made as he travelled about the countryside, and he evidently used the same drawings again and again because the same themes and motifs recur repeatedly in his works. Some 1,200 paintings and 800 drawings are known. His finest work has a sense of poetic calm as well as great freshness and luminosity of atmosphere.

Van Goyen the son of a shoemaker was born at Leiden, and trained in Haarlem. After returning to Leiden he moved to The Hague in 1631, where he chiefly worked until his death. He was hugely prolific and had many pupils and imitators. His daughter married his pupil Jan Steen, the famous painter of genre scenes, in 1649. Despite his other career as a picture dealer, he constantly had financial difficulties and died insolvent because he kept speculating in land, houses, and tulip bulbs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ary Scheffer

The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil
oil on canvas
size unknown
The Louvre Museum, Paris, France

This painting shows a scene from Dante's Inferno of Dante and Virgil viewing Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta in Hell. There are three other versions of this painting by Ary Scheffer (Wallace Collection, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Louvre, Cleveland Art Museum in Cleveland, OH).

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), Dutch-French Romantic painter, often painted subjects from literature, especially the works of Dante, Byron and Goethe. He did not show much affinity with Romanticism and developed his own style, which has been called "frigidly classical". He was also an accomplished portrait painter, finishing 500 portraits in total. His subjects included composers Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt, the Marquis de la Fayette, Pierre-Jean de Beranger, Alphonse de Lamartine, Charles Dickens, Duchess de Broglie, Talleyrand and Queen Marie Amelie. After 1846, he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fall out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Shut up in his studio, he produced many paintings that were only exhibited after his death in 1858. By the time of his death, his reputation was damaged. Though his paintings were praised for their charm and facility, they were condemned for poor use of color and vapid sentiment. But nowadays he is considered a major player in the Romantic movement.

Scheffer was the son of a portrait painter. He was taught by his parents and attended the Amsterdam drawing academy from the age of 11. In 1808 his father became court painter of Louis Bonaparte in Amsterdam, but he died a year later. In 1811 he moved to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1819 he was asked to make a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. Perhaps because of Lafayette's contacts, he was politically active throughout his life and he became a prominent Philhellene. He was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848. As a captain of the Garde Nationale he escorted the royal family in their escape from the Tuileries and escorted the Duchess d'Orleans to the Chambre des Deputes where she in vain proposed her son to be the next monarch of France. He fought in the army of Cavaignac during the popular uprising in Paris, but he was so shocked by the cruelty and hatred from the government's side and the misery of the lower classes that he withdrew from political activity and refused to make portraits of the family of Napoleon III. In 1850 he became a French citizen. He continued his frequent travels to the Netherlands, and made trips to Belgium, Germany and England, but a heart condition slowed him down and in 1858 took his life in his summerhouse in Argenteuil. He is buried in the Cimetiere de Montmartre.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

Tobit and wife waiting for return of son
oil on pamel
40.3 x 54 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of well-to-do millers, was a Dutch painter and etcher. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. He was the first and the only of their sons who was sent to the school for Latin. After seven years’ schooling (1613-1620), at the age of 14, he entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics.

Rembrandt is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia (his wife) gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came in 1642 - at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper about 1649, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures.

Despite his financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. Yet these problems in no way affected his work. His etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high. His personal life, however, continued to be marred by sorrow. His beloved Hendrickje died in 1663, and his son, Titus, in 1668 - only 27 years of age. Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.

His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. He was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which he surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom were already trained artists.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bartholomeus van der Helst

Portrait of a Family
oil on canvas
235 x 345 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670), born in Haarlem, the son of a Haarlem innkeeper, was a Dutch portrait painter, active in Amsterdam. When he moved to Amsterdam in 1636, Rembrandt van Rijn was at the height of his popularity. The dazzling elegance of the Flemish painter Anthony Van Dyck had reached Amsterdam, and the city's military heroes and the wealthy members of the regent class loved the new style, and Van der Helst quickly adapted himself to their tastes with the flattering portrayals in the style of Anthony van Dyck.

In the 1640s he took over from Rembrandt as the most popular portraitist in the city, his detailed, tasteful, and slightly flattering likenesses appealing more to the fashionable burghers than the Rembrandt's work, which was becoming more individual and introspective. As Rembrandt's work grew deeper and more personal, many patrons were demanding more elegant, less intense portraits. Patrons turned to Van der Helst, who firmly established his reputation in 1643. He was highly influential during his lifetime. For example, Rembrandt's talented pupils Bol and Flinck abandoned the style of their master in order to follow his more popular manner.

He died at Amsterdam in 1670. Upon his death, his widow offered all of his works for sale, including many large pieces, that are painted by himself as well as respected other masters, probably necessary because of the depressed Dutch economy. His colorful realism remained fashionable into the next century.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gerard ter Borch (the Younger)

Woman writing a letter
oil on panel
39 × 29.5 cm
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, Hague, The Netherlands

Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681) was a significant Dutch genre painter, who lived in the Dutch Golden Age. He is noted for small portraits and genre scenes of great refinement. He is known for his rendering of texture in draperies. His works are comparatively rare, About eighty have been catalogued.

He was born in the province of Overijssel in the Dutch Republic. He received an excellent education from his father Gerard ter Borch the Elder, who in his youth had spent some years in Rome and returned with drawings he had made as well as some he had collected in Italy. His son, the Younger, precociously revealed his gifts. His early paintings were mainly scenes of military life, painted with great subtlety of color and values. Later he showed a predilection for small, dainty interior scenes, in which he revealed his delight in the sheen of satin and the grace of charming women.

He traveled widely. In 1634 he was in Haarlem, in 1635 in London, in 1640 probably in Rome, then visits to Spain, France, Germany, etc.. He finally settled in Deventer, the Netherlands, where he became a member of the town council, as which he appears in the portrait now in the gallery of the Hague.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vermeer, Johannes

Girl reading a letter at an open window
oil on canvas
83 x 64.5 cm
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Germany

"Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife." (Vermeer)

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632-1675) was a Dutch Golden-Age painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was born in Delft, Netherlands. After his baptismal record at a local church, he seems to disappear for nearly 20 years. He likely had a Calvinist upbringing. His father worked as a tavern keeper and an art merchant, and he inherited both of these business upon his father's death in 1652. The following year, he married Catherina Bolnes. Bolnes was Catholic, and he converted to her faith. The couple moved in with her mother, and would eventually have 11 children together. His paintings commanded high prices and he was able to support his large family, but he struggled financially in his final years, due in large part to the fact that the Dutch economy had suffered terribly after the country was invaded by France in 1672. He was deeply indebted by the time of his death. He died in Delft.

With Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Vermeer ranks among the most admired of all Dutch artists, but he was much less well known in his own day and remained relatively obscure until the end of the nineteenth century. The main reason for this is that he produced a small number of pictures, perhaps about forty-five (of which thirty-six are known today), primarily for a small circle of patrons in Delft. Adding to his image as an isolated figure are the fact that Vermeer's teacher is unknown, and that he evidently had no pupils. However, he was a respected member of the painters' guild in Delft, and he exchanged pictorial ideas with painters active in that city and in the region. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images. The influence of Caravaggio is apparent in Vermeer's early works, including "The Procuress" (1656).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jan Steen

Beware of Luxury
oil on canvas
105 x 145 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

“Life is a stage; we play our part and receive our reward,” wrote Vondel, the great poet of the Netherlands, expressing the moral preoccupation of 17th-century Dutch culture. The 17th century was a time of geographic exploration and economic prosperity for the famed lowlands. Laboriously claimed from the sea, crisscrossed by canals and spotted with windmills, the tiny country produced a vibrant bourgeois society with an astonishing artistic legacy, in what has been called the Dutch golden age. Jan Steen, along with Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and many others who populated the local guilds, brilliantly chronicled the emergence of the distinct civilization that Oliver Cromwell said preferred “gain to Godliness”.

Jan Steen (c.1625-1679), born in the Netherlandish town of Leyden, the first son of successful Catholic brewers who ran the tavern The Red Halbert for two generations, was one of the most prominent Dutch genre painters during The Dutch Golden Age of painting. He was known for his humor and vivid rich colors. He traveled and worked throughout the Netherlands in towns such as Delft, Warmond and Haarlem, settling eventually back in Leyden. In his final years he acquired the position of president at the Guild of Saint Luke at Leyden.

His genre paintings were full of life, humor and insights into everyday life. His vivid depiction of domestic scenes survives even today in the Dutch proverb a Jan Steen household, meaning a busy and somewhat messy scene. His themes are usually invested with his own humorous, moralizing or satirical comment. He can at times play the showman, tweaking the beholder's elbow lest he miss something. Behind his pictures one feels the genial, sensitive and quizzical man. Among his c.800 works also are historic paintings, biblical work, still lifes, portraits and landscapes. Some 350 works have survived the ages.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Michiel van Musscher

Portrait of a Lady with her dog and a maid
oil on canvas
43.2 × 38.7 cm
location unknown

Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, born in Rotterdam. He showed a talent for drawing at a young age. At the end of the 17th century he was the most successful portraitist in Amsterdam.

His work distinguishes itself by a combination of a very meticulous and technically skilled way of reflecting details. This becomes apparent in the painting of textiles such as silk, but also in the way in which tapestry is reproduced. Typical of his portraits is the exuberant way in which the Dutch regents had themselves displayed. In the last quarter of the 17th century wealthy citizens kept a virtual regal lifestyle. This bourgeois culture with ‘royal’ allure is magnificently visible in the portraits and genre paintings by him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Paulus Potter

Figures with Horses by a Stable
oil on panel
45 x 38 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

In the shaded yard in front of a stable, a man attempts to mount his horse with the assistance of another man. The woman standing next to them has momentarily turned her attention away from the infant she is nursing in order to watch the scene.

Paulus Potter (1625-1654) is a Dutch painter and etcher. He was a pioneer in the painting of landscapes with animals. He created portraits of animals, making them his picture's focus, not just a backdrop for human action. Animals appear prominently in all of his works, sometimes singly but usually in small groups silhouetted against the sky, or in greater numbers with peasant figures and rustic buildings in an extensive landscape.

He was born at Enkhuizenand and probably trained by his father. Farm scenes and small-scale paintings of animals became popular in Holland from the middle of the 17th century. He is said to have wandered the Dutch countryside, sketchbook in hand, equally sensitive to how farm animals behave at different times of day and to light's vicissitudes from morning to dusk. Few of his contemporaries were more attuned to nature's moods or to the timeless harmony of beast, landscape, and weather. His strong feeling for composition is seen in the way he grouped forms and used silhouette. His most successful paintings are small.

When he died of tuberculosis before he was thirty years old, he had already profoundly influenced the way animals are depicted in European art.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mondrian, Piet

A Farm Building
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter. His basic vision was rooted in landscapes, and in particular, the flat topography of his native Holland. At the outbreak of World War I, Mondrian was in Holland, at that time, he returned to the subjects and themes of his early career, describing them in simple horizontal and vertical lines and colors. Although he continued to develop the abstract style he had begun in the years before the war, he also worked in a more representational style.

He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism. He seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist. He is recognized as the purest and most methodical of the early abstractionists. He radically simplified the elements of his artwork in an effort to reflect what he believed to be the order underlying the visible world. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art. Abstract artists believed that painters, sculptors and architects must work together to build a new world, where people can live in balance with the laws of the universe. The forms that fit this philosophy had to be clear. Straight lines and corners were used.

His earliest paintings are generally realist landscapes with static compositions and the use of opaque colors. After his encounter with fauvism and his study of the Dutch avant-garde (Van Gogh, in particular), his colors become increasingly pure and less naturalistic. His next change reflects his awareness of cubism. The faceted exploration of subject matter and the language of painting is of less interest to him than the architectonic grid in the analytic cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque around 1912 and 13. His own paintings begin to demonstrate more centralized compositions, greater use of linearity, and a sense of expansion from a central focus.

A contemporary and disciple of the famous cubists Picasso and Braque, Mondrian challenged the definition of art itself, working with simple lines, right angles, correct geometric figures and pure, primary colors. His work attained a level of abstraction far beyond that of even his most progressive colleagues. His art and theory influenced the Bauhaus movement and the development of the International style in architecture.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jan Lievens

Portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
oil on panel
57 x 44.7 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Jan Lievens (1607-1674) and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) were born in Leiden just over a year apart, studied with the same master, and lived near one another, their names are forever conjoined. It is evident that as aspiring artists, they developed a symbiotic relationship that benefited them both. Rembrandt’s posthumous fame as the greatest artist of the Dutch golden age has left Lievens in his shadow, described as a follower or student, even though Leivens began his career some years before his compatriot.

He was already an apprentice painter at the age of eight. First in his native Leiden and from 1617 to 1619 under Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, later, he moved back to Leiden, where he worked together with Rembrandt for over five years. After 1631, he spent three years in London and his style began to change under the influence of Anthony van Dyck’s portraits. And when he saw Rubens’s work in Antwerp in 1635, he adopted the Baroque style completely. In 1644, he returned to Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life. He received major commissions in the Dutch Republic. The city of Amsterdam was another major patron.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pyke Koch

Female Sleepwalker resting
oil on canvas
45 x 75 cm
location unknown
Fair use

The resting sleepwalker is an important theme in the oeuvre of Pyke Koch. He executed four versions of this subject since 1959. His oeuvre can be seen as a series of masquerades, metaphores, metamorphoses and mystifications, strongly influenced by painters like Henri Rousseau and Paul Delvaux.

Pieter Frans Christiaan Koch, known as Pyke Koch (1901-1991), was a Dutch artist who painted in a magic realist manner. He is considered to be one of the foremost representatives in the Netherlands of Magic Realism, a style of painting in which the scenes depicted seem realistic yet uncanny or unlikely. His paintings show many details. Some believe these details contain hidden messages and references to his personal life. The work does contain many references to earlier periods in the history of art. He was very much inspired by painters of the Italian quattrocento, most notably the work of Piero della Francesca. He was a perfectionist in the extreme. He worked slowly and destroyed many of his works because he was not satisfied with the result. His oeuvre is therefore quite small. Still it has been incorporated in all major collections in the Netherlands.

He was born in Beek, a small village near Nijmegen in the Netherlands as only son of the local doctor. He went to school first in Nijmegen, later to a boarding school in Zeist. There he was given the nickname Pike (as in the fish). The name stuck, even when he moved to Utrecht to study law at the University, although he changed the spelling to 'Pyke'. Music was an important part of Koch family life. He played the violin and was interested in music from Bach to gipsy music. During his student days he played with a student gypsy band.

From the very start his paintings were admired for their technical perfection, even though he had no formal training. In fact he had no practical training whatsoever. Koch was fond of his image as a self taught painter. He was most impressed with the painters of the Italian Renaissance Piero della Francesca, Masaccio and Mantegna. He also admired some modern painters, notably Chirico and Magritte. In 1931 one of the foremost museums in the Netherlands, the Museum Boymans van Beuningen bought one of his paintings. This meant he was considered one of the Great Painters of the Netherlands. During the 1930s his work became very popular. It was often called Magic Realism, a term he quite liked. After the war his work became less popular. Abstract expressionism and other more conceptual forms of art became the norm. All forms of realism were considered old fashioned. He was also active as a designer for graphic work. He designed postage stamps and for instance, the Utrecht street lights.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hals, Frans

Jester with a Lute
oil on wood
71 x 62 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Frans Hals (c.1580-1666) was the first great artist of the 17th-century Dutch School and is regarded as one of the most brilliant of all portraitists. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and he helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Much later the dazzling virtuosity of his brushwork became an important precedent for the achievements of the 19th-century French artist, Manet. It is thought that he met Rubens who visited the city in 1624. The rapidity of Hals's technique and his incisiveness can be contrasted with the studied fluidity of Rubens's works. 

He was born into the family of a cloth-maker of Dutch origin in Antwerp, but worked for most of his life in Haarlem. The life of him was not eventful and is little known. He painted the wealthy of Haarlem on special occasions. His works before he became thirty are not known. His surviving work includes about 300 paintings, and the majority of these are portraits and group portraits. These are generally regarded as his masterpieces.

He was fond of daylight and silvery sheen, while Rembrandt used golden glow effects based upon artificial contrasts of low light in immeasurable gloom. Both men were painters of touch, but of touch on different keys - Rembrandt was the bass, Hals the treble. Hals seized, with rare intuition, a moment in the life of his subjects. What nature displayed in that moment he reproduced thoroughly in a delicate scale of color, and with mastery over every form of expression. He became so clever that exact tone, light and shade, and modeling were obtained with a few marked and fluid strokes of the brush.

He knew fame during his lifetime, but died in poverty. Despite his success, he experienced severe financial difficulties throughout his life. During his last years he was destitute and the municipal authorities of Haarlem awarded him a small annual stipend four years before his death. He was twice married, had at least ten children, and was constantly in financial trouble.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Govert Flinck

Isaac blessing Jacob
oil on canvas
117 x 141 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Govert Teuniszoon Flinck (1615-1660) was a Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age. He was born at Kleve, capital of the Duchy of Cleves, which was occupied at the time by the United Provinces. He painted portraits, genre, and narrative subjects. He was a pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life.

His style was at first extremely close to that of Rembrandt. His early works are so similar that collectors once bought them as Rembrandts. With aspirations as a history painter, however, he looked to the swelling forms and grand action of Peter Paul Rubens, which led to many commissions for official and diplomatic painting. He achieved great contemporary success, being awarded major commissions for public buildings. For Amsterdam’s new town hall, Flinck was commissioned to paint on the theme of the Batavian revolt against the Romans. Unfortunately, he died before completing the series.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maurits C. Escher

Print Gallery
Fair use

In 1956, in a letter to his son, Escher wrote about the Print Gallery: "The odd print I told you about last time is finished, though not yet printed. I don't think I have ever done anything as peculiar in my life. Among other things, it shows a young man looking with interest at a print on the wall of an exhibition that features himself. How can this be? Perhaps I am not far removed from Einstein's curved universe".

M. C. Escher (1898-1972), graphic artist born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, is known for his repeating patterns of interlocking motifs, tessellations of the Euclidean and the hyperbolic plane and his drawing representing impossible figures. Without having any mathematical knowledge, he managed to represent many mathematical concepts belonging to non-Euclidean geometry and many of his drawings are used by mathematicians to illustrate examples.

He had an ability to visualize distinct spatial patterns from childhood, and, though not faring well in much of his earlier studies, he attended Haarlem's School for Architectural and Decorative Arts. There, he decided to take up graphic arts under the recommendation of his mentor. His earlier work included nudes and innovative portraiture captured in woodcuts, linoleum cuts and lithographs.

He traveled to the Mediterranean in the early 1920s and was profoundly influenced by the wonders of the Moor-designed Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Establishing a home in Rome with his family, he worked on engravings and prints that captured natural landscapes and architecture, startlingly playing with perspective, orientation and shadow.

With the rise of fascism in Italy, he relocated to Switzerland in 1935, though he soon took a maritime journey to Spain, returning to Alhambra Palace and visiting La Mezquita ("Mosque") of Cordoba as well. He was inspired by the structures' complex designs, and further focused his work on tessellation and repeating patterns, often featuring overlapping, interlocked images morphing into something else. He moved to Belgium in 1937, but with the invasion of Nazi forces, left for Holland in 1941. He continued to create eye-opening dreamscape work. In addition to eventually becoming a lauded international artist with mounted exhibitions, he was embraced by mathematicians and scientists, as much of his heavily researched, precise output embodied or explored concepts around geometry, logic, space and infinity.

His work went almost unnoticed until the 1950’s, but by 1956 he had given his first important exhibition, was written up in Time magazine, and acquired a world-wide reputation. Among his greatest admirers were mathematicians, who recognized in his work an extraordinary visualization of mathematical principles. He died in 1972, in Laren, Netherlands, leaving a legacy of more than 2,000 pieces.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

George Breitner

Girl in a White Kimono
oil on canvas
59 × 57cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Inspired by Japanese prints, Breitner made at least twelve paintings around 1894 of a girl in a kimono. She assumes different poses and the kimono often has a different colour. The dreamy girl is sixteen-year-old Geesje Kwak, a hat-seller and one of Breitner’s regular models. She was born in 1877 in the province of North Holland. When she was 16, she moved to Amsterdam and her path crossed that of the artist Breitner. In 1892 Breitner visited an influential exhibition of Japanese art in The Hague (which style had earlier inspired Vincent van Gogh, among others), and he enthusiastically acquired several kimonos and some decorative room screens as a result. Now a year later, Breitner asked young milliner Geesje Kwakthe to pose as a model in the kimonos on a paid professional basis. There is an existing notebook in which he recorded the various dates and hours when Geesje posed for him, and the amounts which she was paid for her time.

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) was a Dutch painter and photographer, born in Rotterdam.
An important figure in Amsterdam Impressionism, he is noted especially for his paintings of street scenes and harbours in a realistic style. He introduced a social realism to the Netherlands that created shock waves similar to that of Courbet and Manet's in France. He painted en plein air, and became interested in photography as a means of documenting street life and atmospheric effects as reference materials for his paintings.

In 1876, he enrolled at the academy in The Hague. He preferred working-class models: labourers, servant girls and people from lower-class neighbourhoods. He saw himself as 'le peintre du peuple', the people's painter. In 1886, he moved to Amsterdam, where he recorded the life of the city in sketches, paintings and photos. Sometimes he made several pictures of the same subject, from different angles or in different weather conditions. Photos might serve as an example for a painting, as for his portraits of girls in kimonos, or as general reference material. By the turn of the century he was a famous painter in the Netherlands. Although he exhibited abroad early on, his fame never crossed the borders of the Netherlands.

In the early months of 1882, he came into contact with Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh appears to have been introduced to him by his brother Theo, and the pair sketched together in the working-class districts of The Hague. Two years after van Gogh's death, Breitner wrote that he did not like van Gogh's paintings:"‘I can’t help it, but to me it seems like art for Eskimos, I cannot enjoy it. I honestly find it coarse and distasteful, without any distinction, and what’s more, he has stolen it all from Millet and others."

Monday, November 3, 2014

David Bailly

Vanitas still life with a self-portrait
oil on panel
65 x 97.5 cm
Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, the Netherlands

Vanitas is an explicit genre of art in which the artist uses gloomy and moody symbolic objects in order that the viewer becomes very aware of the brevity of life and the inevibility of death. The origins of the term vanitas can be traced back to the Latin biblical adage from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “…vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas…” which when translated means: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity…”. This specific artistic genre was very popular in the 16th and 17th century especially in the Netherlands, Flanders and France.

David Bailly (1584-1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He was born at Leyden in the Dutch Republic, the son of a Flemish immigrant, calligrapher and fencing master. He apprenticed with a surgeon-painter in Leiden and then with a portrait painter in Amsterdam.In the winter of 1608, Bailly took his Grand Tour, travelling to Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg Hamburg, and via Tirol to Venice, and from there to Rome. On his return he spent five months in Venice, all the while working as a journeyman where he could, before crossing the alps again in 1609. On his return voyage, he worked for several German princes including the Duke of Brunswick. Upon his return to the Netherlands in 1613, he began painting still-life subjects and portraits, including self-portraits and portraits of his students and professors at the University of Leiden.

He is known for making a number of vanities paintings depicting transience of this life, with such ephemeral symbols as flowers and candles. He also included portraits of himself in these paintings, meaning to illustrate the ephemeral nature of his own artistic accomplishments. Though he sometimes intended his drawings as models for engravings, more often he made them as independently displayed works of art. In 1648 he became headman of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bosch, Hieronymus

The Last judgement
oil on wood triptych
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria

Left panel (167.7 x 60 cm): The left panel depicts the Garden of Eden of the biblical history.
Central panel (164 x 127 cm): The central painting depicts a Last Judgement, basing on John's Book of Revelation. Above is Christ as a judge, surrounded by Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the apostles.
Right panel (167.7 x 60 cm): Thematically, the hell at right is not different from the Last Judgement. Satan, in the center, receives the damned souls.

Bosch's work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives. He stands apart from the prevailing Flemish traditions in painting.

Hieronymus, or Jerome, Bosch (c.1450-1516), who lived somewhat later than Memling, spent his entire artistic career in the small Dutch town of Hertogenbosch, from which he derived his name. His work was influenced by the Flemish school of painting, but whereas the Flemish painters created a world of serenity and reality, the world of Bosch is one of horror and imagination. His style was unique, strikingly free, and his symbolism, unforgettably vivid, remains unparalleled to this day. Marvellous and terrifying, he expresses an intense pessimism and reflects the anxieties of his time, one of social and political upheaval. Some writers saw him as a sort of 15th century surrealist and linked his name with that of Salvator Dali. For others, his art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, he remains the most extravagant painter of his time.
He was an orthodox Catholic and a prominent member of a local religious brotherhood, but his most characteristic paintings are so bizarre that in the 17th century he was reputed to have been a heretic.

He married well and was successful in his career. In his own time his fame stood high and a generation or so after his death his paintings were avidly collected by Philip II of Spain. Through the medium of prints his works reached a wider public and were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Little is known of his life. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records and local account books.

At the time of his death, he was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. Standing alone in its lifetime, his work has a timeless and modern quality that greatly endeared him to Surrealists in the twentieth century. About forty genuine examples of his work survive, but none is dated and no accurate chronology can be made.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Uros Predic

The Kosovo Maiden
oil on canvas
115 x 88 cm

The Kosovo Maiden or Maiden of the Blackbird Field is the central figure of a poem with the same name, part of the Kosovo cycle in the Serbian epic poetry. In it, a young beauty searches the battlefield for her betrothed husband and helps wounded Serbian warriors with water, wine and bread after the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 between Serbia and Ottoman Empire. She finally finds wounded and dying warrior Pavle Orlovic who tells her that her fiancee Milan Toplica and his blood-brothers Milos Obilic and Ivan Kosancic are dead. Before the battle they had given her a cloak, golden ring and veil for the wedding as a promise of safe return, but they were slain and Pavle pointed to the direction of the bodies. The poem finishes with;
    "O wretch! Evil is your fortune!
    If I, a wretch, were to grasp a green pine,
    Even the green pine would wither."
The poem became greatly popular as a symbol of womanly compassion and charity.

Uros Predic (1857-1953) started work on this painting on the eve of World War I and finished it in 1919. The sketch was made in 1914 at the request of the Kolo Srpskih Sestara charity and was to be used for making picture postcards sold for humanitarian purposes. He was inspired by the national myth about the first Serbian nurse.

He was born in Orlovat, Servia and graduated from the Art academy in Vienna in 1880. Hee was an assistant professor at the Art academy in Vienna in the period from 1883to 1885. Then he returned to his native village Orlovat, where he painted a series of paintings about the life of his fellow villagers. From 1886 until his death, he mainly lived and worked in Belgrade. He was elected as a member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was one of the founders of the Society of painters in Belgrade, and was its first president. He painted the icons for the Becej orthodox church, and the icons for the chapel of Bogdan Dunderski. He died in Belgrade, at the age of 96, as the longest living Serbian painter.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Milena Pavlovic-Barili

Self-portrait with Archer
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Milena Pavlovic-Barili (alt. Barilli) (1909-1945) was a Serbian painter and poet. Her Italian father Bruno Barilli was an influential composer. She studied at the Royal school of arts in Belgrade, Serbia (1922-1926) and in Munich (1926-1928). In the early 1930s she left Serbia and returned only for brief visits until the outbreak of World War II. During her stays in Spain, Rome, Paris and London, where she socialised with Jean Cocteau and Andre Breton, she was influenced by many western schools and artists, notably Giorgio de Chirico. After 1939 she stayed in New York only, where she died in a horse riding accident in 1945.

The topics of her work varied from portraits to imaginative interpretations of biblical stories. The motifs often included dream-like situations, veils, angels, statues of Venus goddess, and Harlequins. Many of her works are parts of permanent exhibitions in Rome, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade), and her hometown, where the house in which she was born has been converted into a museum in her honor.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pavle Jovanovic

The fencing lesson
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Pavle "Paja" Jovanovic (1859-1957) is considered one of Serbia's greatest academic painters. He was a greatly talented, virtuous painter, nationally and internationally very successful, rich, praised and adored, although later in his life his art was criticized and dismissed by some of the 20th century art critics as outdated, dry, staged, detached from real life and a sterile example of the Academic Realism. Whatever the point of view of the scholarly art establishment, the fact is that his art was loved by the people. It has been said that, during a certain period, there was almost no Serbian home that did not have a reproduction on the wall of one of his famous pictures.

He was born in Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar, Austrian Empire (today Vojvodina province, Serbia). His father was photographer and took him to Vienna in 1875 when he was 15, where he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in 1877 and finished in 1880. Encouraged to visit the Balkan region during his hiatus, he studied the customs and folklore of the people, and in 1882 he was awarded the prize of the Academy and was given the czar scholarship. As early as in 1893 he was proclaimed for the member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was given the task to make the monumental, historical compositions. After 1905 he devoted himself exclusively to painting the portraits in the style of academic realism for the rich clientele, and he became very famous. In the following period, having noticed greater interest of Europe for the Balkans, he painted mostly scenes from the life of the Albanians, Montenegrins, Herzegovinians, which brought him great reputation. In his long and prolific life, he created a large number of paintings, and although he also gained popularity as the remarkable portraitist, immortalizing many kings and queens, the politicians, the wealthy people and the artists, he is after all best known for his genre-compositions and works with the historical content.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Katarine Ivanovic

oil on canvas
size unknown
National Museum of Serbia, Serbia

Katarina Ivanovic (1817-1882), was a Serbian painter and patriot, who lived mainly in Hungary. She was born in Hungary to a middle-class family. After studying in Budapest, she worked in Belgrade from 1846 to 1847. In later years, she spent a lot of time traveling and living at different places, including Paris and Zagreb. In 1876, she was a member of the Society of Teachers of Serbia where she was the first female academic. She primarily painted still lifes and portraits. Many works reflect the emergence of nationalist sentiment in the first half of the 19th century and reveal a transitional moment in Serbian society prior to the revolutions of 1848.

As is the case with many female artists, she had difficulty finding work and receiving public recognition during her life time. However, the Serbian Learned Society (the precursor to the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences) extended honorary membership to her towards the end of her life in 1880. Following her death, the Serbian Learned Society organized a commemoration in her honor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alfred Verwee

Young bulls at a watering place
second half of the 19th century
oil on canvas
size unknown
private collection

Alfred Jacques Verwee (1838-1895), born in the Belgian village of Sint-Joost-ten-Nodewas, is a Belgian painter known for his depictions of animals, landscapes and seascapes. He is generally considered to be Belgium's first great animal painter.

He was originally trained to be a surveyor, but could not complete his engineering studies due to family financial difficulties. Painting had long been a hobby so, with the support of his father, a romantic painter of winter landscapes, he began to pursue that as a career. He enrolled at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts. His first exhibition was in 1857, but he didn't achieve true recognition until 1863, when he had a show at the Brussels Salon, where he was awarded a gold medal. He won another gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1864. On the advice of professional acquaintances, he settled in Paris and made contact with painters of the Barbizon school. This didn't lead to the expected financial success, however, and he returned to Brussels a year later. Then, from 1867 to 1868, he lived in London but, again, commercial success was unobtainable and he returned home broke.

He attempted to create a grand vision of the Flemish countryside. Around 1880, he became fascinated with the area surrounding Knokke, and an informal artists' colony slowly took root there. By 1887, he saw that Knokke could become a major tourist attraction, so he joined with two local businessmen to purchase a large tract of dunes and polders to subdivide for property developers. In 1888, he built a villa, the "Fleur des Dunes" and, in 1891, joined with his friend to create "Knokke-Attractions", a promotional firm. His health began to deteriorate in 1892. First, he suffered from rheumatism, then was diagnosed with throat cancer. In 1895, he travelled to Southern France, Algeria and Egypt in hopes of finding a warm, dry climate that would improve his health. A few weeks before his death, his friends brought him back to Knokke and he died at his home.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jan Verhas

The Review of Scholars 1878 (La revue des ecoles en 1878)
other detail unknown
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Jan Francois Verhas (1834-1896) was a genre painter and is considered the founder of the Academy of Dendermonde.
He was best known for his paintings of children of the Belgian bourgeoisie, in a classical style but with a natural feeling to them. genre scenes, portraits, landscapes and animals. He observed his subject sharply and has created a gentle atmosphere with pure lines and colours. His palette became clearer and his colours more and more refined.

He studied at the Academy in Antwerp, finishing with the Belgian Prix de Rome in 1860. Around 1860 he spent some time in Paris. He visited Italy in 1862 and returned to settle in Antwerp. In 1863 he achieved great success with his painting. From 1863 to 1867 he lived in Binche and from 1867 onwards in Brussels, where he specialised in portraits. After the somewhat academic beginnings to his career, he took up romantic painting and was then attracted to the theme of children. He was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in 1881, and was awarded a Gold Medal in Paris in 1889.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quentin Matsys

The Moneylender and his Wife
oil on panel
71 x 68 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Quentin Matsys (also spelled Massys, Metsys, or Messys) (1466–c.1530), born in Leuven, Brabant (now in Belgium), is a Flemish artist who is the first important painter of the Antwerp school. He was part of a Flemish family of artists, son of a Leuven blacksmith. His father was known to have executed commissions for the new Leuven Stadhuis, one of the most ornate town halls in the Netherlands, as well as other work for the Leuven authorities, and to have been superintendent of the chapel belonging to the Leuven metalsmiths- Guild of St Eligius.

The roots of his training are unknown. According to the legend he only became a painter because his sweetheart would not marry a smith. When he settled at Antwerp at the age of twenty-five, his own style contributed importantly to reviving Flemish art along the lines of van Eyck and van der Weyden. He most likely met Holbein more than once on his way to England, and Durer is believed to have visited his house at Antwerp in 1520.

He is best known for his razor sharp wit and his skill at capturing the absurdity of society. His paintings, even after five hundred years, are bitingly clever. He infused his art with a strong sense of moralizing overtones, comedy and satire. He absorbed the Netherlandish artistic traditions and influence, reinterpreting them in original and often outrageous ways. He painted a range of subjects, excelling in humorous portraiture and social satire. He had considerable skill as a portrait painter. His portraiture exhibits highly personal and individual emotional characteristics that reflect his adherence to realism as a technique.

He died at Antwerp in c.1530. In spite of his religious devotion, several of his relatives died as a result of their faith. His sister and her husband suffered at Leuven in 1543 for what was then the capital offence of reading the Bible: he being decapitated, she allegedly buried alive in the square before the church.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tobias Verhaecht

Alpine landscape (Paisaje alpino)
oil on canvas
106 x 267 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Tobias Verhaecht (1561-1631) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman, born in Antwerp, where he would spend most of his life. He spent much of his early life in Florence, where he won the favour of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in Rome, where he earned a reputation as a painter of landscape frescoes. He returned to Antwerp and became a master of the Guild of St. Luke in 1590. He was a member of a local Chamber of rhetoric and wrote a comedy for it in 1620.

In 1592 the young Peter Paul Rubens came to study with him and he became the first teacher of Rubens. He married the grand-daughter of Peter Paul Rubens' stepfather and a cousin of his mother.

He mostly specialized in landscapes, often incorporating monuments he had seen in Italy in his compositions. For this purpose, numerous drawings he had made in Italy circulated in his workshop, where they were copied by his pupils. His landscapes followed the traditional style of the world landscape, which had first been developed in the first half of the 16th century by Joachim Patinir and had reached its peak with Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The landscapes depict imaginary mountains characterized by rocky peaks seen from a high viewpoint and typically including a religious or mythological scene. His work closely resembles in style the set of 12 large landscape prints published by Hieronymus Cock after designs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He collaborated with other painters such as Jan Brueghel the Elder. He produced several versions of the Tower of Babel.