Monday, December 31, 2012

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

The Holy Family with Angels
oil on canvas
117 x 91 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)
In the 1640s Rembrandt produced several works on the subject of the Holy Family. The world of peace and love, lost after the death of his wife Saskia, seemed possible once more after the appearance in Rembrandt's house in 1645 of Hendrickje Stoffels. It has been suggested that the features of Hendrickje are to seen in the face of the Virgin Mary and that the little child asleep in the cradle is Titus, son of Rembrandt and Saskia. Domestic happiness and intimacy are their dominate mood.

Joseph is hard at work at his bench, but the yoke in his hand may also be linked with the legend that Christ would free the people of Israel from the yoke. Mary pauses her reading of the Bible in order to check on her son. He is sound asleep in his cradle. Mary slightly opens the curtain to look at the face of her son, her face radiating the light of love and tenderness. A group of angels accompanied by divine light from Heaven enters the room to witness this domestic scene. The warmth of the home is felt in the brownish gloom of the peaceful household, into which a clear golden light pierces, accompanying the hovering little angels. The red cloth which covers the cradle of the Messiah rings out like a declaration.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of a miller, 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, Rembrandt entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics. He 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, Rembrandt's 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 Rembrandt's 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 Rembrandt's 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 the artist 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, December 30, 2012

Millet, Jean-Francois

Noonday Rest
Pastel and black conte crayon on buff wove paper
29.2 x 41.9 cm (11 1/2 x 16 1/2 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

"To tell the truth, the peasant subjects suit my temperament best; for I must confess, even if you think me a socialist, that the human side of art is what touches me most." (Millet)

A peasant couple naps in the cool shadow of the grain stack after a morning of labor in the fields. The positioning of their bodies is mirrored in the two sheaves at their feet and in the shoes and sickles in the lower lefthand corner.
Millet produced this pastel as part of a series, The Hours of the Day, which shows the day-to-day activities of mid-19th-century rural France. For Millet, the series emphasized the cyclical nature of peasant life and the natural world. These subjects were also of great interest to Van Gogh, who looked up to the old Millet and collected reproductions of his works.

Jean-Francois Millet (1814 - 1875), born into a family of peasant near Cherbourg, was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. Millet is noted for his scenes of peasant farmers. He was the first painter to endow rural life with a dignity and monumentality that transcend realism, making the peasant an almost heroic figure. He never painted out-of-doors, and he had only a limited awareness of tonal values. He can be categorized as part of the naturalism and realism movements.

Millet was trained under a local painter at Cherbourg and then in Paris in 1837. His earliest works are pastiches of the pastorals of the 18th century and rather erotic nudes, but he also painted portraits for a time. The influence of Daumier seems to have been decisive. From c. 1850 his choice of subject matter led to accusations of Socialism (e.g. The Sower, Salon of 1850). In 1849 he moved to Barbizon and remained there for the rest of his life, living in the most gruelling poverty, painting scenes of peasants and their labors as well as ordinary landscapes and marines.

 Millet was often accused of socialism because of his chosen subject. Despite mixed reviews of the paintings he exhibited at the Salon in Paris, Millet's reputation and success grew through the 1860s. In 1870 Millet was elected to the Salon jury. His last years were marked by financial success and increased official recognition, but he was unable to fulfill government commissions due to failing health. On January 3, 1875 he married Catherine in a religious ceremony. Millet died on January 20, 1875.

He was an important source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh, particularly during his early period. Millet and his work are mentioned many times in Vincent's letters to his brother Theo. Millet's late landscapes would serve as influential points of reference to Claude Monet's paintings of the coast of Normandy; his structural and symbolic content influenced Georges Seurat as well. Millet is the main protagonist of Mark Twain's play Is He Dead? (1898), in which he is depicted as a struggling young artist who fakes his death to score fame and fortune. Most of the details about Millet in the play are fictional.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gogh, Vincent van

The Siesta (after Millet)
oil on canvas
73 x 91 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

"One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a whisp of smoke rising from the chimney and continue on their way." (Gogh)

The Siesta was painted while Gogh was interned in a mental asylum in Saint-Remy de Provence. The composition is taken from a drawing by Millet for Four Moments in the Day. To justify his act, Gogh told his brother Theo: "I am using another language, that of colors, to translate the impressions of light and dark into black and white". Gogh often copied the works of Millet, who he considered to be "a more modern painter than Manet". Remaining faithful to the original composition, even down to the still life details in the foreground, Gogh nevertheless imposes his own style upon this restful scene which, for Millet, symbolized rural France of the 1860's. This highly personal retranscription is achieved primarily by means of a chromatic construction based on contrasting complementary colors: blue-violet, yellow-orange. Despite the peaceful nature of the subject, the picture radiates Gogh's unique artistic intensity.

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". "I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)

Friday, December 28, 2012


Venice, The Piazzetta from the Molo
oil on canvas
100.4 x 107.4 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

The view shows the piazzetta, the area between the Piazza San Marco and the waterfront, known as the Molo. On the right is the Doge's Palace and beyond it the basilica of San Marco. In the center is the Torre dell'Orologio, the clock tower, and on the left the campanile of San Marco. The first building on the left is the Library. The column with the lion of St Mark which stands on the Molo has been omitted. The painting is considered a work by Canaletto's studio.

Giovanni Antonio Canale (1697 - 1768) , known as Canaletto (little Canal), was born in Venice where his father was a painter of theatrical scenery. The young Canaletto studied first in his father's workshop then probably under the Dutch painter. He next went to Rome, where he learned perspective. Immediately upon his return to Venice, in 1720, Canaletto became successful as a painter and engraver of city scenes.

Canaletto found that providing formulaic paintings for tourists was very lucrative. These, still highly skilled works, were produced by him often in collaboration with an organized workshop. He often made meticulous preparatory drawings. He may have used a camera obscura for topographical accuracy in creating some of his designs, but he always remained concerned with satisfying compositional design, not simply slavishly recording views. He recorded his observations with clarity and delight in the color and constantly changing atmosphere that to him was Venice.

Canaletto had a large studio in Venice and turned out quantities of those paintings and etchings that have made his name synonymous with eighteenth-century Venice. He was elected to membership in the Venetian Academy in 1763.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guardi, Francesco

View of the canal of the Giudecca
oil on canvas
72.2 x 119.3 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

Francesco, who was strongly influenced by Canaletto’s idealized views of the city, generally made preparatory drawings for his paintings. In this painting, Francesco provides a view of the Giudecca Canal, the waterfront promenade of Zattere, the churches of San Biagio and Santa Marta, and the Euganean Hills rising up in the distant background, behind the island of San Giorgio in Alga. The use of light and color are characteristic of eighteenth-century Venetian painting.

Francesco Lazzaro Guardi (1712 - 1793) was a Venetian painter of veduta (view), a member of the Venetian School. He was, after Canaletto, the main painter of views of Venice in the 18th century. Following Canaletto he recorded both the architecture of the city and the celebrations of its inhabitants in interior and exterior scenes. These works brought him great success. He is considered to be among the last practitioners of the classic Venetian school of painting.

Francesco was born in Venice into a family of lesser nobility from Trentino. While Francesco followed Canaletto in producing views or vedute, he soon developed his own style, based on a freer handling of paint. He took particular pleasure in rendering the vibrant atmosphere of Venetian light and its dazzling effect on water. His father and his brothers were also painters and they probably all contributed as a team to some of the larger commissions later attributed to Francesco.
Francesco died at Venice in 1793.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Durer, Albrecht

The Feast of the Rose Garlands
oil on poplar wood
162 × 194.5 cm (64 in × 76.6 in.)
National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic

In 1506, in Venice, Durer completed his great altarpiece "The Feast of the Rose Garlands" for the funeral chapel of the Germans in the church of St. Bartholomew.

"Why has God given me such magnificent talent? It is a curse as well as a great blessing." (Durer)

Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528) was a German painter. His introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, have secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatises, which involve principles of mathematics, perspective and ideal proportions. Durer exerted a huge influence on the artists of succeeding generations, especially in printmaking, the medium through which his contemporaries mostly experienced his art, as his paintings were predominately in private collections located in only a few cities. His success in spreading his reputation across Europe through prints were undoubtedly an inspiration for major artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Parmigianino, all of whom collaborated with printmakers in order to promote and distribute their work.

There is a legendary story behind his picture "The Praying Hands"!
In the 15th century, in a village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father, a goldsmith, worked almost eighteen hours a day. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of his children, Albrecht and Albert, had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Instead, Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, Albrecht, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. His etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate his triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother, Albert, for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you." All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No" Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew the hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Raffaello Sanzio

Madonna and Child (The Small Cowper Madonna)
Oil on wood
58 x 43 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 - 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. He was a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. After his early years in Rome much of his work was self-designed, but for the most part executed by the workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

He died on his thirty-seventh birthday, April 6, 1520, because of acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, and was buried the next day, at his request, in the Pantheon amidst universal mourning and acclaim. His funeral was extremely grand, very well attended by large crowds. It is said that Raphael's early death plunged into grief the entire papal court. Pope Leo X, who had an intention to make him a cardinal, wept bitterly when he died. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus reads: "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die." He is said to have had many affairs, but he never married. The reason of his premature death is unknown.

Raphael's influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime. His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded as the greatest painter who had ever lived - the artist who expressed the basic doctrines of the Christian Church through figures that have a physical beauty worthy of the antique. (it was against his authority that the Pre-Raphaelites revolted). He became the ideal of all academies, and today we approach him through a long tradition in which Raphaelesque forms and motifs have been used with a steady diminution of their values. In the modern era Raphael's past canonical status has counted against him and he has inevitably been compared, often unfavorably, to Leonardo and Michelangelo, whose personalities and artistic expression more readily accord with 20th-century sensibilities.

"While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere." (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bronzino, Agnolo

Madonna and Child with Saint John Baptist as child and Saint Elizabeth
oil on wood
101.6 x 81.3 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

The picture was painted perhaps for an acquaintance of Bronino's at the court of Cosimo De' Medici in Florence.
The Christ Child removes a garland from his head and grasps the reed cross from the infant Saint John the Baptist who wears his camel skin cloak and carries a baptismal bowl. The female saint might be Saint Elizabeth. The reed cross foreshadows Christ's Passion, while the wild strawberries offered to Christ by Saint John may be interpreted as referring to the fruitful and righteous life of Christ.

Agnolo di Cosimo, usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino (1503 - 1572) was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence, the son of a butcher. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his relatively dark skin.

Bronzino was the outstanding artist of the Tuscan High Mannerist style. He was a court painter to Duke Cosimo I de Medici for most of his career. He produced large numbers of portraits as well as religious pictures and his work influenced the course of European court portraiture for a century.
His style is cold, refined, aristocratic, and technically brilliant in its rendering of surface details and colors. His portraits, while highly stylized in their long lines and elegant poses, achieve a formalized stillness that is the ultimate refinement of Mannerism's usually hectic quality. He was less successful as a religious painter, his lack of real feeling leading to empty, elegant posturing in which almost every one of the extraordinarily contorted poses can be traced back to Raphael or to Michelangelo, whom Bronzino idolized.
He was a much respected figure who took a prominent part in the activities of the Accademia del Disegno, of which he was a founder member in 1563. His influence on later portraiture extended to the 19th-century French master J. A. D. Ingres. Bronzino was also a poet.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pollock, Jackson

The Key
oil on linen
149.8 x 208.3 cm (59 x 82 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting."  "The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them." (Pollock describing his painting on the floor)

"When I am in a painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." (Pollock)

The Key belongs to Jackson Pollock’s Accabonac Creek series, named for a stream near the East Hampton property that he and his wife, the painter Lee Krasner, purchased in late 1945. Marking a crucial moment in his evolution as an artist, this quasi-Surrealist painting was created on the floor of an upstairs bedroom and worked on directly from all sides. Although there is a general suggestion of landscape, here the process of painting became primary, expressing the power of spontaneous action and chance effects. The resulting abstraction, with its expressive, gestural appearance, prefigured the allover compositions of Pollock’s celebrated drip paintings, which debuted the following year.

Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956), American painter, known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement along with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Instead of using the traditional easel, Pollock affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with sticks, trowels or knives, sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods.

Pollock was born in Wyoming and grew up in California and Arizona. He was expelled from two high schools during his formative years, the second one being Los Angeles Manual Arts School, where he was encouraged to pursue his interest in art.
In 1930, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York to study art, and secured a job under the WPA Federal Art Project, a New Deal project, which allowed him to earn a living from his painting. This provided him the opportunity to develop his techniques. As he was gaining professional and social success, Pollock fought the addiction of alcoholism and recurring bouts of depression. He began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism in 1937, and he briefly suffered a nervous breakdown next year. He was subsequently under the care of psychoanalysts who used his own drawings in therapy sessions. Peggy Guggenheim contracted with Pollock to hold his first showing at her gallery in New York in 1937.

He married Lee Krasner in 1945, a painter, and moved to East Hampton on Long Island, where he would remain the rest of his life. In the barn behind the house, which he converted to his studio, Pollock developed a new and completely novel technique of painting using what he called his “drip” technique. Using hardened brushes, sticks, and turkey basters, and household enamel paints, Pollock squirted, splashed, and dripped his paint onto canvas rolled out over his studio floor. In 1956, Time magazine gave Pollock the name “Jack the Dripper,” referencing his unique style of action painting.

Pollock had become a symbol of the new artistic revolt, abstract expressionism, and he enjoyed considerable fame. He had a volatile personality, struggled with alcoholism for most of his life, and he died at the age of 44 in a single-car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible, killing himself and one of his passengers, while driving under the influence of alcohol, which occurred less than a mile from his home.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Matta, Roberto

The Earth Is a Man
oil on canvas
182.9 x 243.8 cm (72 x 96 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

Roberto Matta (1911 - 2002), in full Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurren, was one of Chile's best-known painters and a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art. He was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American and Latin American cultures. He lived his adult life outside his homeland and became identified with the international Surrealist movement.

Born in Santiago, as a Spanish, Basque and French descent, he initially studied architecture completing an architecture degree at the Catholic University in Santiago, but became disillusioned with this occupation and left for Paris in 1933 to work for the influential architect and city planner Le Corbusier. While working in the architect’s studio, he became increasingly interested in painting. It was Breton who provided the major spur to Matta's direction in art, encouraging his work. His friendships with the avant-garde artists during this period, such as Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Federico Garcia Lorca, and others stimulated his interest in Surrealist Movement, and by 1936 he had abandoned architecture as a career.

Matta produced illustrations and articles for Surrealist journals such as Minotaure. His stylistic development was rapid. By the time he moved to New York City at age 28, he had created a distinctive and visionary vocabulary of biomorphic forms swirling about an eerie and angst-ridden setting. His mature work blended abstraction, figuration and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes. Matta, throughout his life, combined the Surrealists' interest in psychic automatism with a predilection for vaguely figural elements caught in states of flux and crisis. Rich in psychological ambiguity, his work reflects the sense of dislocation and anxiety that contributed to the emergence of existentialism after World War II.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sisley, Alfred

Bridge at Hampton Court
oil on canvas
46 × 61 cm
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany

"Though the artist must remain master of his craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist." (Sisley)

Hampton Court Bridge crosses the River Thames in England in a north to south direction between Hampton, London and East Molesey, Surrey. It is on the reach above Teddington Lock and about hundred yards upstream of the bridge is Molesey Lock. On the north bank is Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Court Park and Bushy Park. On the south bank is Hampton Court railway station, Molesey Lock and the mouth of the River Mole.

Alfred Sisley (1839 - 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life, in France, but retained British citizenship. He is one of the creators of Impressionism. He was exclusively a landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors) painter, who, in the line of Corot, and with Monet, best sought and succeeded in expressing the most subtle nuances of nature in Impressionist landscapes. He retained a passionate interest in the sky, which nearly always dominates his paintings, and also in the effects of snow, the two interests often combining to create a strangely dramatic effect. He never deviated into figure painting and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, never found that Impressionism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

Sisley did not promote himself in the way that some of his fellow Impressionists did, and it was only towards the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer of the throat, that he received something approaching the recognition he deserved. His death at the very end of the nineteenth assumes a symbolic resonance. It signals the dissolution of the kind of Impressionism to which he had devoted his working life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vouet, Simon

Saint Cecilia
oil on canvas
134.1 × 98.2 cm
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art‎, Hartford, CT, USA

Simon Vouet (1590 - 1649) was a French painter, who today is perhaps best remembered for helping to introduce the Italian Baroque style of painting to France. His father was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Vouet began his painting career as a portrait painter. At a young age he traveled to England and was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to Constantinople. From there he went to Venice and was in Rome from 1614 to 1627. He formed his style in Italy, where the Baroque style was emerging during these years.

He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting and Italian Mannerism, etc.. His early work was influenced by Caravaggio, but works done after 1620 display more idealized figures and use more evenly diffused white light. Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624. He received a pension from the King of France.

Despite his success in Rome, Vouet suddenly returned to France in 1627, following a summons from the King of France Louis XIII, to become his first painter. Thereafter he won almost all the important commissions and dominated the city artistically for the next 15 years. Vouet was the fresh dominating force in French painting, producing numerous public altarpieces and allegorical decors for private patrons, in Paris. Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation, and through Vouet, French Baroque painting retained a classicizing restraint from the outset. A French contemporary said, "In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before."

Vouet's new style was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque style into France. He adapted this style to the grand decorative scheme of the era of Louis XIII and Richelieu. Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapestry cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His late works display the soft, idealized modeling, sensuous forms, and bright colors for which he is best known. A number of Vouet's decorative schemes have been lost.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

oil on canvas
54.7 × 65.9 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"The pain passes, but the beauty remains." "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world." (Renoir)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.

He was born in Limoges and brought up in Paris, where his father, a tailor with a large family, settled in 1845. From the age of thirteen he worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates. This early apprenticeship left a certain trace on his art, which was always decorative in spite of its later realism. After machines for coloring ceramics had been introduced, he had to switch to decorating fans and screens. Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley and Bazille; some time later he met Pissarro and Cezanne.

Renoir's work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it. His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.

Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his subjects - pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all lovely women - have instant appeal. His paintings present a vision of a forgotten world, full of sparkling color and light. He was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. He then painted with the brush tied to his wrists. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes, next to his wife Aline.

Claude Renoir (1913 - 1993) was a French cinematographer. He was the son of actor Pierre Renoir and nephew of director Jean Renoir. He was also the grandson of painter Pierre Auguste Renoir. He is the father of actress Sophie Renoir.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rubens, Peter Paul

The Virgin and Child in a Garland of Flowers
oil on canvas
65 x 83.5 cm (25.59" x 32.87")
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

This Virgin and Child gorgeously surrounded by the Garland of Flowers is an extraordinary collaborative co-production painting between Antwerp's most eminent painters of the early seventeenth century, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). Rubens and Brueghel executed approximately twenty-five works together between around 1597 and Brueghel's death in 1625. Highly prized and sought after by collectors throughout Europe, the collaborative works of Rubens and Brueghel were distinguished by an extremely high level of quality, further enhanced by the status of the artists themselves.

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 -1625) frequently provided lush, warm-toned woodland scenes densely populated with exotic animals and flowers as frames for other artists' figures. He worked primarily in Antwerp and was a friend of Peter Paul Rubens, with whom he sometimes collaborated in painting flowers, landscape, and animals in canvases in which Rubens supplied the human figure.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640), Flemish Baroque painter, was a classically educated humanist scholar, art collector, and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England, who was the greatest exponent of Baroque painting's dynamism, vitality, and sensuous exuberance. He was well-known for his altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His work is a fusion of the traditions of Flemish realism with the classical tendencies of the Italian Renaissance and is one of the most methodically assimilative and most prodigiously productive of Western artists.

Rubens's influence in 17th-century Flanders was overwhelming, and it was spread elsewhere in Europe by his journeys abroad and by pictures exported from his workshop. He is a central figure in the history of Western art and artists at almost every period have responded to the force of his genius. Perhaps most noticeably in France, where Watteau, Delacroix, and Renoir were among his greatest admirers.

He died from gout on May 30, 1640 and was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. He had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Helene (in 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Helene Fourment); his youngest child was born eight months after his death. His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque' for plus-sized women.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brueghel, Jan the Elder

Flowers in a Wooden Vessel
oil on Wood
98.0 x 73.0 cm (38.58 x 28.74 in.)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 -1625) was a Flemish painter, second son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. He was a painter of Landscapes and still-life work of Flowers, as well as allegorical and religious subjects. He was born in Brussels just one year before his father’s death, and then, following the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, along with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie were reared and trained by a grandmother, painter-miniaturist, in Antwerp.

He had several nicknames endeared to him, including, Velvet Brueghel, Flower Brueghel and Paradise Brueghel. Velvet was the recognition of his fashionable taste in Velvet cloth, where flower recognized his still life pieces and paradise was born of his popular representations for the Garden of Eden. The nicknames were to some extent an effort to distinguish between members of the same Brueghel family. His father was often called the "Peasant" Brueghel and Jan's elder brother, Pieter was called "Hell Brueghel" because he exploited the growing market for pictures of hell-fire and demons.

Jan was the second generation in a dynasty of Flemish painters. He worked from nature. Bringing home the flora he depicted in his tightly composed still lifes, he often went great distances to find rare examples. By the time Jan began painting, "Turkish" flowers such as tulips and hyacinths had appeared in Europe, as well as American plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Jan's reputation as a master at painting flowers is notable because of the newness of the genre, and he was proud of his mastery of minute detail. When flowering plants had run their course around August, landscape season began. He worked in an entirely different spirit from his father, depicting brilliantly colored, lush woodland scenes. His exquisite flower paintings were rated the finest of the day.

He was celebrated in his own time, becoming dean of the Antwerp painters' guild by 1602. He traveled widely throughout Europe. During a three-year trip to Italy in the mid-1590s, he gained the patronage of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, who delighted in Brueghel's unrealistic spaces and unexpected vistas combined with flowers and animals depicted from life. And later, in 1610, he was appointed court painter to the archdukes of Habsburg Austria.

Jan mixed the past - artificial, jam-packed Mannerist compositions - with a modern insistence on observation from nature. He frequently provided lush, warm-toned woodland scenes densely populated with exotic animals and flowers as frames for other artists' figures. He worked primarily in Antwerp and was a friend of Peter Paul Rubens, with whom he sometimes collaborated in painting flowers, landscape, and animals in canvases in which Rubens supplied the human figure.

Jan's position in society and among his fellow artists was assured during his lifetime: he solidified the family reputation established by his famous father, and his works were very influential. His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II and Ambrosius Brueghel,  whose sons then carried on the tradition into the 18th century. Jan died in a cholera epidemic that swept through Antwerp in 1625.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Matisse, Henri

Large Reclining Nude (The Pink Nude)
oil on canvas
92.7 x 66.0 cm
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, USA

"Cutting directly into color reminds me of a sculptor's carving into stone." (Matisse)

In the 1930s, Matisse became interested in simplifying, flattening and abstracting forms. He reduced the sense of viewpoint. Images became signs for what they represented. Matisse would begin by painting an image and then eliminate detail to create a smooth, flattened area. New emphasis was placed on bright colors and on the spaces between the represented objects.

Pink Nude is an important work in the transition to Matisse's later painting style and to his use of cut-outs. This work is the first in which the artist used cut paper to change and shape the image. This work began as a natural portrait of a reclining woman surrounded by a chair and a vase of flowers. Gradually, Matisse changed the structure of the image by flattening and abstracting the forms and creating a geometric pattern in the background. The woman's body is presented as a series of curves against the geometric grid; this is meant to suggest the extreme opposition between movement and stillness or passion and reason. In painting the vase the same bright pink as the woman's flesh, Matisse may have been suggesting a connection between the earthy, reproductive nature of woman and the vase which holds the growing flowers. The inverted, abstract chair appears as another symbol of fertility and procreation. This work can be compared to Matisse's Blue Nude as the pink figure's pose is a variation on the earlier work. Pink Nude, however, maintains a more restrained and cooler air than the highly sensual subject of Blue Nude. This new restraint and abstraction marks an important shift in Matisse's work.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 - 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. The art of 2oth century has been dominated by two men: Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. They are artists of classical greatness, and their visionary forays into new art have changed our understanding of the world. Matisse was the elder of the two, but he was a slower and more methodical man by temperament. Matisse and Picasso helped to define the revolutionary  developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture.

Matisse began studying drawing and painting in the 1890s. A student of the masters of Post-Impressionism, Matisse later made a reputation for himself as the leader of a group of painters known as Les Fauves (wild beasts). An ironic label given to them by a critic, the name reflected Matisse's aggressive strokes and bold use of primary colors.
Although he was labelled a Fauve, by the 1920s he was increasingly hailed as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. His mastery of the expressive language of color and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.

Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting. In particular he loved Islamic art. Islamic pattern offers the illusion of a completely full world, where everything from far to near is pressed with equal urgency against the eye. Matisse admired that, and wanted to transpose it into terms of pure color. Beyond painting, he worked with lithographs and sculpture, and during World War II he did a series of book designs. Later in his career he experimented with paper cutouts and designed decorations for the Dominican chapel in Vence, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. "Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better."(Matisse)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gonzales, Eva

Awaking girl
oil on canvas
101.5 x 82.5 cm
Kunsthalle, Bremen, Germany

Eva Gonzales (1849 - 1883) was a French Impressionist painter. She was born in Paris daughter of a Spanish, naturalized French, novelist, Emmanuel Gonzalèz, and a Belgian musician. In 1865, she began her professional training and took lessons in drawing from the society portraitist Charles Chaplin who was also Mary Cassatt's teacher. In 1869, she met Edouard Manet and became his student, colleague and model.

Like her teacher, Edouard Manet, she never exhibited with the Impressionist painters in their controversial exhibitions in Paris, but she is considered part of the group because of her painting style. She was Manet's only formal student and modeled frequently for several members of the Impressionist school. Until 1872, she was strongly influenced by Manet but later developed her own, more personal style. She included subtle emotion and richness of detail in her works. Her watercolors with their bright colors and soft forms achieved great success, though women painters working in France at the end of the 19th-century were marginalized because of the prejudice of the strict social rules for their gender. She exhibited for the first time at the Salon in 1870. Thereafter she submitted work every year to the Salon. Although she was always invited to exhibit with the other Impressionists, for some reason she preferred to show her work at the Official Salon.

Although her career was cut short when she died in childbirth at the age of thirty-four, exactly six days after the death of her teacher, Manet, she became known for her characteristic style for portraiture.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bussière, Gaston

oil on canvas
117 x 90 cm
Musee des Ursulines, Macon, France

Gaston Bussiere (1862 - 1928) was a French Symbolist painter and illustrator. He was born in Cuisery, a town in Normandy, France. He studied at l'Academie des Beaux-Arts in Lyon before entering the ecole des beaux-arts de Paris. He was awarded the Marie Bashkirtseff prize in 1884.

Bussiere was greatly influenced by the works of his contemporaries, especially Gustave Moreau who was a French Symbolist painter. Bussiere worked with Gustave Moreau and Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. His works were also greatly inspired by the theater works of William Shakespeare, the musics of composers Richard Wagner and Berlioz.

Bussiere used French legends and Nordic myths in many of his paintings, which lent themselves to the illustrations he created for many books of his day. He became in demand as an illustrator, creating works for major authors. He illustrated Honore de Balzac's Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes published in 1897, Emaux et camees, written by Theophile Gautier, as well as Oscar Wilde's Salome. He also illustrated several works by Flaubert. Many of his works are on exhibit at the Musee des Ursulines in Macon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ernst, Max

Woman, Old Man, and Flower
oil on canvas
96.5 x 130.2 cm (38 x 51 1/4")
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA

Ernst was a major contributor to the theory and practice of Surrealism. His work challenged and disrupted what he considered to be repressive aspects of European culture, in particular Christian doctrine, conventional morality and the aesthetic codes of Western academic art. Until the mid-1920s he was little known outside a small circle of artists and writers in Cologne and Paris, but he became increasingly successful from c. 1928 onwards. After 1945 he was respected and honored as a surviving representative of a "heroic" generation of avant-garde artists.

Max Ernst (1891 - 1976) was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was one of the most inventive artists of the 20th century. He was born near Cologne as the first son of a teacher of the deaf and amateur painter. He studied philosophy and psychiatry at Bonn University, but he never received any formal artistic training, though he had a deep interest in painting. He became one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

In 1914 Ernst got acquainted with Hans Arp, and their lifelong friendship began. With the outburst of the First World War Ernst was conscripted to the army, where he served in the field artillery till the end of the war. He fought in France and Poland, and recovered from clinical death, an experience which was to deepen his decision to take up art. After demobilization he settled in Cologne, where he founded a group of Dadaists. The exhibition of 1920 at the Winter Brewery in Cologne was closed by the police on the grounds of obscenity.

In 1922, Max Ernst, following an invitation of his Dadaist friends, Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara, André Breton, and others, moved to Paris. In the paintings of his early Parisian period he was able to successfully combine the techniques of painting, assemblage and collage in large-scale paintings with enigmatic plots. In 1924 André Breton published the First Surrealist Manifesto. Max Ernst was among those who shared the views and aims of the Surrealists and took an active part in founding the new movement. In the late 1920s he turned to the beloved motifs of German Romanticism and revived them in a new, Surrealistic, manner. Between 1929 and 1939 he began producing books of collages.

In 1937 Max Ernst distanced himself from Breton and the Communist group of Surrealists, though he remained true to the chosen methods of work. In 1938 he left Paris and settled in Saint Martin d'Ardèche in the South of France. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was arrested by French authorities for being a "hostile alien". Thanks to the intercession of Eluard, he was discharged a few weeks later. Soon after the French occupation by the Nazis, he was arrested by the Gestapo, managed to escape and flee to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, a sponsor of the arts.

In 1941-1945 he lived in New York, where he not only worked but also shared his knowledge and experience with younger American colleagues, thus leaving a lasting and profound influence on the development of American modern art. In 1946-52 he lived in Arizona, surrounded by landscapes that resembled his own pictorial phantasmagorias. In the USA he got interested in sculpture. In 1953 he returned to Europe and settled in France. In the 1950s he got world acclaim. In his late works he returned to the subjects of his early, Dada period. He died on 1st April 1976 in Paris, one day before his 85th birthday. His paintings, steeped in Freudian metaphors, private mythology, and childhood memories, are regarded today as icons of Surrealist art.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carrington, Leonora

c. 1938
oil on canvas
65 x 81.3 cm (25 9/16 x 32 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

This painting was virtually unknown until it was shown for the first time at the artist's retrospective exhibition at the Center for Inter-American Relations in New York in 1976. Since then the work has left an unending trail of publicity and commentary, serving as an icon in the growing literature devoted to women surrealist painters. She painted this self-portrait, in the literature also entitled "The Inn of the Dawn Horse," while she lived with the German surrealist painter Max Ernst in the South of France from 1937 until 1940. This work was painted one year before the outbreak of World War II.

Leonora Carrington (1917 - 2011) was a British-born Mexican artist, a surrealist painter and a novelist. Born into an upper class  industrialist family in Lancashire, England, she had spent her childhood in a large country estate, surrounded by animals and devouring fairy tales and Celtic legends and learned at a very early age the injustice of society. Since her parents were both very strict Catholics, they sent her away from convent to convent and then to boarding school. Finally after many rebellious acts and expulsions from school, she succeeded in convincing her parents to let her study art at an academy in London. There she lived on a modest pension from her family and established herself as a painter and a writer.

Carrington saw Max Ernst's work in 1936 in London, and was immediately attracted to him before actually meeting him. At a dinner party in London in 1937, she had met Max Ernst - he was 46 and already married, and followed him to Paris. They then moved to the South where they lived a group of ruined buildings that they had renovated and decorated with mythical animals and birds. The couple lived together until the outbreak of W.W.II when Ernst was taken prisoner as an enemy alien after the French declared war on Germany in 1939. During the years of World War II, she suffered enormously - she had several mental breakdowns, due to her lover Max Ernst's imprisonment in a concentration camp. In 1940, Carrington was reunited with Max Ernst, but he was now in the company of Peggy Guggenheim, the art collector.

Carrington lived in New York after the war, and then moved to Mexico. It was in Mexico that she developed a mature body of work heavily influenced by magic, alchemy, and a lot more of the Celtic tradition. Her female protagonists are like the sorceresses, and priestesses of some ancient religion: their journeys are mythic voyages that unravel like fairy tales.

Carrington has written a myriad of articles, novels, essays, and poems. She has produced thousands of paintings, sculptures, collages, and a number of tapestries. She has also made many public appearances. On in particular, was the women's movement in the early 1970's, where she spoke about women's legendary powers and the need for women to take back the rights that belonged to them all along.
Carrington has passed away at age 94. Part of her life is a sad love story surrounded by passionate art, involving Max Ernst.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Herbin, Auguste

Landscape in Ceret
oil on canvas
size unknown
Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

Auguste Herbin (1882-1960), the son of a workman, was born in a small village near the Belgian border. This background is reflected in the northern French artist's painting with its rational approach and explicit working class character. Before settling in Paris, where he first joined the Impressionists and later the Fauves, Herbin attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lille from 1900 onwards. His studio was situated directly next to Braque's and Picasso's, allowing a close study of Cubism, which resulted in first Cubist paintings in 1913. In 1917 he moved on to an abstract, geometric phase before gradually discovering Constructivism.

Herbin's radical reliefs of simple geometric forms in painted wood, challenged not only the status of the easel painting but also traditional figure-ground relationships. The incomprehension that greeted these reliefs and related furniture designs, even from those critics most favorably disposed towards Cubism, was such that until 1926 or 1927 he followed Leonce Rosenberg's advice to return to a representational style. Herbin himself later disowned landscapes, still lifes and genre scenes of this period, in which the objects were depicted as schematized volumes. From 1938 his interest in the Italian Trecento led Herbin to a more concrete, strictly two-dimensional painting style with simple geometric forms.

A lateral paralysis in 1953 forced the artist to learn painting with his left hand. His typical architectural approach and his color effects made his pre-war work widely known in the international art world - a success which continued after the war. Herbin died in Paris on 31 January 1960. One painting remained unfinished - it was called "Fin".

Monday, December 10, 2012

Redon, Odilon

Anemones and lilac in a Blue Vase
after 1912
60 x 74 cm (23.5 x 29.0 in.)
pastel on paper
Musee du Petit-Palais, Paris, France

"My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the undetermined. They are a kind of metaphor." (Redon)

Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (1840 - 1916), French, was one of the outstanding figures of Symbolism.Much of his early life had been unhappy, but after undergoing a religious crisis and a serious illness, he was transformed into a much more buoyant and cheerful personality, expressing himself in radiant colors in mythological scenes and flower paintings.

He had a retiring life, first in his native Bordeaux, then in Paris, and until he was in his fifties he worked almost exclusively in black and white, in charcoal drawings and lithographs. In these he developed a highly distinctive repertoire of strange creatures, insects, and plants with human heads, etc., influenced by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. He remained virtually unknown to the public until the publication of J.K. Huysmans's novel A Rebours in 1884; the book's hero who lives in a private world of perverse delights, collects Redon's drawings, and with his mention in this classic expression of decadence, Redon too became associated with the movement.

His aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind. His work represents an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to place the visible at the service of the invisible.
He showed equal facility in oils and pastel. The flower pieces, in particular, were much admired by Matisse, and the Surrealists regarded Redon as one of their precursors. He was a distinguished figure by the end of his life, although still a very private person.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Manet, Edouard

Amazona de frente (Horsewoman, Fullface)
oil on canvas
74 x 52 cm
Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (Manet)

Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are not lines in Nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bonnard, Pierre

The Terrace at Vernonnet
oil on canvas
148 x 194.9 cm (58 1/4 x 76 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Bonnard developed a passion for the countryside and the seasons. The daily intimacies of family life add warmth to his art, but there is nothing casual in his presentation. He believed that in landscape the human figure "should be part of the background against which it is placed," and he deliberately controlled the viewer's eye. He knew exactly what he wanted us to see, but he didn't want everything in the picture to be evident at first glance.

"It is still color, it is not yet light." (Bonnard)

Pierre Bonnard (1867 - 1947) was a French painter, and a founding member of Les Nabis, a group of young artists committed to creating work of symbolic and spiritual nature. He led a happy and carefree youth as the son of a prominent official of the French Ministry of War. At the insistence of his father, he studied law, graduating and practicing as a barrister briefly. However, he had also attended art classes on the side, and soon decided to become an artist. His wife Marthe is an ever-present subject and is seen seated at the kitchen table or nude as in a series of these paintings.

He, sometimes called an intimist, is known for his intense use of color. He was not a plein air painter like Monet or Cezanne, any more than Picasso was. He did not paint from life but rather drew his subject, sometimes photographing it as well, and made notes on the colors. He then painted the canvas in his studio from his notes. He made copious drawings and notes that served as designs for more than one painting. Working on unstretched canvas, he developed a complex process of manipulating paint, rather in the way that contemporary painters do in seeking out color and textural possibilities. The format and content of the painting could then be altered by cropping the canvas.

Still, his often complex compositions, typically of sunlit interiors of rooms and gardens populated with friends and family members, are both narrative and autobiographical. The process of making a painting would extend over months, even years. He was deeply conscious of the complexities of visual perception: He carefully plotted his paintings, so that what is seen in them depends upon the active participation of the viewer, as happens when we perceive scenes in the world.

Picasso was very critical of Bonnard : "That’s not painting," Picasso said. "Painting can’t be done that way. Painting isn’t a question of sensibility; it’s a matter of seizing the power, taking over from nature, not expecting her to supply you with information and good advice."  Matisse was supportive, however, remarking : "Yes! I certify that Pierre Bonnard is a great painter, for today and for the future."  "Painting has to get back to its original goal, examining the inner lives of human beings." (Bonnard)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dali, Salvador

Inventions of the Monsters
oil on canvas
51.4 x 78.4 cm (20 1/4 x 30 7/8 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." (Dali)
Salvador Dalí produced over 1,500 paintings in his career, in addition to producing illustrations for books, lithographs, designs for theater sets and costumes, a great number of drawings, dozens of sculptures, and various other projects, including an animated short film for Disney.

Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol (1904 – 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Spain. After passing through phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting, he joined the Surrealists in 1929 and his talent for self-publicity rapidly made him the most famous representative of the movement.

Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. Dalí's expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Dalí attributed his "love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes" to a self-styled "Arab lineage", claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.

He took over the Surrealist theory of automatism but transformed it into a more positive method which he named `critical paranoia'. According to this theory one should cultivate genuine delusion as in clinical paranoia while remaining residually aware at the back of one's mind that the control of the reason and will has been deliberately suspended. He claimed that this method should be used not only in artistic and poetical creation but also in the affairs of daily life.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leger, Fernand

Divers on a Yellow Background
oil on canvas
186.7 x 217.8 cm (73 1/2 x 85 3/4 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Among the most prominent artists in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, Leger was prolific in many media and articulated a consistent position on the role of art in society in his many lectures and writings. His mature work underwent many changes, from a Cubist-derived abstraction in the 1910s to a distinctive realist imagery in the 1950s. Leger attracted numerous students to his various schools, and his ideas and philosophy were disseminated by modern artists throughout Europe and the Americas.

Fernand Leger (1881-1955), painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, was born at Argentan, France. He began his career as a an artist by serving an apprenticeship in architecture and working as a architectural draughtsman. In 1900 he went to Paris and was admitted to the art school in 1903. The first profound influence on his work came from Cezanne. Leger became friends with Delaunay and maintained ties with great artists, including Matisse, Rousseau, Apollinaire and leading exponents of Cubism.

As a painter Leger exerted an enormous influence on the development of Cubism, Constructivism and the modern advertising poster as well as various forms of applied art. After his experiences in the First World War, he became convinced that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction towards the stylised depiction of real objects, laying great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. By 1920, Leger had achieved a mechanistic classicism, a precise, geometrically and harshly definitive monumental rendering of modern objects such as cog-wheels and screws, with the human figure incorporated as an equally machine-like being. Surrealismus left its mark on Leger in the 1930s, loosening up his style and making it more curvilinear. He taught at Yale University from 1940 until 1945. By now his dominant motifs were drawn from the workplace and were post-Cubist in form, combined with the representational clarity of Realism.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rigaud, Hyacinthe

Louis XIV, Roi de France en costume de sacre
oil on canvas
277 × 194 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659 - 1743), a Catalan origin whose career was based in Paris, was one of the most prolific and successful French portrait painters of the Baroque period. He is renowned for his portrait paintings of Louis XIV in his coronation costume, the royalty and nobility of Europe, and members of their courts and considered one of the most notable French portraitists of the classical period. He was one of those French painters who knew the highest celebrity under the Ancien Regime. 

Rigaud studied in Montpellier and Lyon before arriving in Paris in 1681. His reputation was established in 1688 with a portrait (now lost) of Monsieur, Louis XIV's brother, and he became the outstanding court painter of the latter part of Louis's reign, retaining his popularity after the king's death. He was less interested in showing individual character than in depicting the rank and condition of the sitter by nobility of attitude and expressiveness of gesture. These qualities are seen most memorably in his celebrated state portrait of one of the classic images of royal majesty, Louis XIV (this painting). Louis so admired this portrait that, although he had intended it as a present to Philip V of Spain, he kept it himself.

Rigaud combined Anthony van Dyck's prototypes and opulent style with Philippe de Champaigne's stiff, linear formality. In his unofficial portraits, however, Rigaud's interest in realism and character displays the influence of Rembrandt van Rijn. His studio employed both part-time specialists and full-time assistants like Jean-Marc Nattier. They often copied his portraits, which Rigaud touched up as necessary. He was elected to the Academie Royale as a history painter in 1700, and he later taught there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vadder, Lodewijk de

A Village Road
oil on panel
24.1 x 34.3 cm (9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USA

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605 - 1655) was a Flemish Baroque landscape painter, engraver and tapestry designer. He learned painting from his father and brothers and he became a master of Antwerp's Guild of St. Luke in 1628.

He is best known as a landscape painter, although he also executed landscape engravings and drawings. He was granted a privilege to make tapestry cartoons by the Brussels city magistrate in 1644. In this capacity he worked mainly for weavers. He was referred to as the best landscape painter in the country by such weavers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Constable, John

Chain Pier, Brighton
Oil on canvas
127 x 183 cm (50 x 72 in)
Purchased 1950
Tate Gallery, London, UK

Constable first went to Brighton in 1824, taking his wife Maria in an attempt to restore her failing health. He visited her there frequently in the mid-1820's and made many drawings and sketches, but this is his only large painting of a Brighton subject.

The 1820's were some of the busiest years of Brighton's development as a fashionable seaside resort. Here Constable shows the bustling life of the beach against a backdrop of Brighton's new hotels, residential quarters and the Chain Pier itself. The pier opened in 1823, shortly before Constable's first visit, but was destroyed by storm in 1896.

John Constable (1776 – 1837) was an English Romantic painter. He is known principally for his landscape paintings of the area surrounding his home which he invested with an intensity of affection. "I should paint my own places best", he wrote, "painting is but another word for feeling".
Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable in British art, he was never financially successful. He sold more paintings in France than in his native England.

Constable spent the summer and early autumn of 1814 in Suffolk, painting directly from nature. In this work he depicted a panoramic view over the Valley. He wanted to catch the ever changing lights and colors.
He wrote thought that `No two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world." He wanted to catch this never-static world and he developed new techniques to represent in paint the atmospheric effects of changing light in the open air, the movement of clouds across the sky, the interplay of open air and trees.
Not long after he painted Constable wrote: ‘This charming season … occupies me entirely in the fields and I believe I have made some landscapes that are better than is usual with me – at least that is the opinion of all here‘.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Weyden, Rogier van der

Virgin and child (Portrait Diptych of Laurent Froimont - left wing)
Oil on oak panel
51.5 x 33.5 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen, France

Weyden, Rogier van der (c.1399 - 1464) was the leading Netherlandish painter of the mid-15th century. He was extremely inventive iconographically and compositionally, and was a master of depicting human emotion. He seems to have had a large workshop with numerous assistants and pupils, and many of his compositions are known in several versions.

Although his life was generally uneventful, he was highly successful and internationally famous in his lifetime. His influence was strong and widespread. In his own lifetime his paintings were sent all over Europe, and his emotional and dramatic style found more followers than the quiet perfection of van Eyck. In spite of his contemporary celebrity, his reputation later faded.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Heade, Martin Johnson

Sailing off the Coast
oil on canvas
38.4 × 74 cm (15.1 × 29.1 in.)
White House, Washington, D.C., United States

Martin Johnson Heade (1819 - 1904) was a prolific American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, and depictions of tropical birds (such as hummingbirds), as well as lotus blossoms and other still lifes.

Heade was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, the son of a storekeeper. He began his career as a portrait-painter, studied in Italy, traveled in the west, and then settled in Boston as a landscape-painter. This brought him into relations with Rev. James C. Fletcher, who induced him to visit Brazil with a view to preparing an illustrated work on South American humming birds. He traveled to the tropics several times thereafter, and continued to paint birds and flowers.

Heade was not a widely known artist during his lifetime, but his work attracted the notice of scholars, art historians, and collectors during the 1940s. His studio was in New York city. He painted many western and tropical scenes, also views on the Hudson and the Massachusetts coast, which are characterized by rich effects of color and light, and by poetic sentiment. He quickly became recognized as a major American artist. Although often considered a Hudson River School artist, some critics and scholars take exception to this categorization. Heade's works are now in major museums and collections. His best known works are depictions of light and shadow upon the salt marshes of New England. His paintings are occasionally discovered in unlikely places such as garage sales and flea markets.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chagall, Marc

Scene de Cirque
oil on canvas
24 x 41 cm (9 1/2 x 16 1/8 in.)
location unknown

Dedicated to his second wife Vava, this work is an exceptionally dynamic and vibrant depiction of the circus, one of Chagall's most celebrated subjects. The circus was a continuous source of inspiration for Chagall throughout his life: a magical dreamland that transported him into the parallel world of the subconscious. This fascination dates back to his childhood in Vitebsk and indeed he also frequently attended the circus in Paris. The circular ring was certainly suited to the dynamic atmosphere that is such a dominant feature across all of his oeuvre, and indeed the viewer is thrust into the centre of the drama to take a seat in the audience. In the Chagall's own words, "it is a magic world, the circus, a timeless dancing game where tears and smiles, the play of arms and legs take the form of a great art".

"For the Cubists," Chagall said, "a painting was a surface covered with forms in a certain order. For me a painting is a surface covered with representations of things . . . in which logic and illustration have no importance." Chagall had a passion for dreaming, and his whimsical, folkloric paintings serve as testimony to this. His instinct was to abandon logic to the joy of creation, and as such Chagall's paintings become an expression of his internal thoughts and feelings rather than objective projections of the outside world.

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985), was a Belorussian-French artist and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. Among the celebrated painters of the twentieth century, he is associated with the modern movements after impressionism, including fauvism and Cubism, a twentieth century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting. In Cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, he depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to present the piece in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. However, he worked at the fringes of the different movements of modern art, also infusing his work with the folk art of his Belorussian roots as well as his Jewish heritage.

He studied in Saint Petersburg from 1907 to 1910 at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts and later with Leon Bakst, then he moved to Paris in 1910, where he associated with Guillaume Apollinaire and encountered Fauvism and Cubism. There, he participated in the Salon des Independants and the Salon d'Automne. In 1914, he visited Russia, and was prevented from returning to Paris by the outbreak of war. He settled in Vitebsk, where he was appointed Commissar for Art, and he founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School directing it until disagreements with the Suprematists which resulted in his resignation in 1920. He moved to Moscow and executed his first stage design. After a sojourn in Berlin, he returned to Paris in 1923. During World War II, he fled to the United States, then he returned to and settled permanently in France in 1948. He died March 28, 1985, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monet, Claude

Jean Monet on His Hobby Horse
oil on canvas
60.6 x 74.3 cm (23 7/8 x 29 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

"I'm never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel." (Monet)

Jean was the first son of Camille and Claude Monet, born in 1867. The little boy appeared in several of Monet's paintings during the family's early residence in Argenteuil. In a fond glimpse of Jean's childhood rather than a formal portrait, Monet has depicted his son atop a favorite toy, playing in the privacy of the family's garden.

Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. Monet found subjects in his immediate surroundings, as he painted the people and places he knew best. He rejected the traditional approach to landscape painting and instead of copying old masters he had been learning from his friends and the nature itself. He observed variations of color and light caused by the daily or seasonal changes.

One day in 1871, legend says, Claude Monet walked into a food shop in Amsterdam, where he had gone to escape the Prussian siege of Paris. There he spotted some Japanese prints being used as wrapping paper. He was so taken by the engravings that he bought one on the spot. The purchase changed his life - and the history of Western art.
Monet went on to collect 231 Japanese prints, which greatly influenced his work and that of other practitioners of Impressionism, the movement he helped create. Under the new Meiji Emperor, Japan in the 1870s was just opening to the outside world after centuries of isolation. Japanese handicrafts were flooding into European department stores and art galleries. Japonisme, a fascination with all things Japanese, was soon the rage among French intellectuals and artists, among them Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and the young Monet.

Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right - not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination.
"I have slowly learned about the pattern of the grass, the trees, the structure of birds and other animals like insects and fish, so that when I am 80, I hope to be better," Hokusai wrote 16 years before his death at age 89. "At 90, I hope to have caught the very essence of things, so that at 100 I will have reached heavenly mysteries. At 110, every point and line will be living."
At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese.