Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lippi, (Fra) Filippo

Madonna in the Forest
c. 1460
Oil on panel
127 x 116 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fantin-Latour, Henri

Immortality ("Immortalité")
oil on canvas
116.2 × 87.3 cm (45.7 × 34.4 in)
National Museum Cardiff

The personification of Immortality holds the palm of victory and scatters roses on the tomb of Delacroix, inscribed DEL. At the lower right are the towers of the cathedral of Notre-Dame and the dome of the Pantheon, the national shrine to great sons of France.

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904) was a French painter who is best known for his flower paintings and group portraits of his friends Parisian artists and writers.
Although he befriended several of the young artists who would later be associated with Impressionism, including Whistler and Manet, Fantin's own work remained conservative in style. But his paintings inspired by imaginative themes, revealing his romantic passion for Wagner, Berlioz and Schumann, strongly influenced the symbolist movement of the late 19th Century.
He died of lyme disease and was interred in the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, Paris, France.
In 1879 He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur medal.
Marcel Proust mentions Fantin-Latour's work in In Search of Lost Time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leighton, Frederic

The Fisherman and the Siren
oil on canvas
66.3 × 48.7 cm (26.1 × 19.2 in)
Private collection

Sir Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896) was an English painter and sculptor who was President of the Royal Academy for almost two decades. The leading establishment figure in Victorian art, was the first artist to be ennobled. He was a classical painter producing highly finished pictures, and was also an excellent portraitist. He was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan figure, much of his early life having been spent in Germany and Italy. Throughout his life he was energetic, and hardworking, and his inability to take life more easily when in his sixties accelerated his death.  His funeral was at St. Paul's Cathedral. Leighton's magnificent home Leighton House, is now a museum.

Leighton was a lifelong bachelor. In later life his favorite model was Ada Alice Pullen, known as Dorothy Dene. George Bernard Shaw knew them both, and it is likely that they were the models for Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolitlle in Pygmalion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri De

La Rousse in a White Blouse
Oil on canvas
59.5 x 48.2 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

French painter and illustrator, whose immersion in the colorful and theatrical life yielded an œuvre of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) is known, along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period.

Toulouse-Lautrec was an aristocrat, the son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse and last in line of a family that dated back a thousand years. By the time he was 10 he had begun to draw and paint. At 12 young Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at 14 his right leg. The bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs.
An alcoholic for most of his adult life, he was placed in a sanatorium shortly before his death. He died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at the age of 36. His last words were: "Le vieux con!" ("The old fool!", although the word "con" can be meant in both simple and vulgar terms). This was his goodbye to his father.

After Toulouse-Lautrec's death, his mother and his art dealer promoted his art. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be created in Albi, his birthplace, to house his works. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum now owns the world's largest collection of works by the painter.
His debt to the Impressionists, in particular the more figurative painters Manet and Degas, is apparent. His style was also influenced by the classical Japanese woodprints which became popular in art circles in Paris.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Watts, George Frederic

oil on canvas
142.2 cm × 111.8 cm (56.0 in × 44.0 in)
Tate Gallery, London, Britain

In the Bible, hope is 'an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enter into that within the veil.' Watts explained that 'Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord'.

Two versions were painted in 1886.  Private collection (first) and Tate (second) version. Watts himself preferred the Tate, softer, version. It omits the star - a symbol of optimism - that appears at the top of the first version.

George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904) was a popular Victorian English painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope  and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the "House of Life", in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.  He painted for no gain save the reward of achievement when he felt he had a message to deliver through his pictures. To his purposes he deliberately sacrificed his natural dexterity and technique, holding that the artist should be lost in his picture. Nevertheless, the power of color which is exhibited in "Hope" is one of the most marked qualities of his work. The whole is a delicate harmony in blues and greens, and is suggestive of the Italian influence which so strongly affected the painter.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Khnopff, Fernand

La tentation de Saint Antoine (The Temptation of St Anthony)
Oil on canvas
83 x 83 cm
Private Collection

Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (1858 – 1921) was a Belgian symbolist painter, sculptor, photographer and writer. He abandoned law school, turning to literature and art.

He was one of the foremost Symbolist artists and active supporters of avant-garde art in late 19th-century Belgium. He took certain themes from a friend of Symbolist poetry: silence, solitude, secretiveness and deserted towns. Already during his lifetime he was almost a cult figure, creating a personality for himself as a dandy much sought after in Society circles.

He admired the work of Ingres and was especially attracted to the painterly art of Rubens, Rembrandt, the Venetian Renaissance and particularly Delacroix. He was given the Order of Leopold in recognition of his services to painting but despite this he was an exceptionally private artist.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Modigliani, Amedeo

Marie fille du peuple
Huile sur toile
62 x 50 cm
Bâle, Kunstmuseum, Suisse

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 – 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France.

Today, he is known for his paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when he was 26. Anna was tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-green eyes, she embodied Modigliani's aesthetic ideal and the pair became engrossed in each other, although in later years they became apart.

He died at the age of 35 in Paris of tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kayama, Matazo

Frozen Forest
Japanese-style painting
(Japanese-style painting generally uses mineral pigments like rock paints and India ink, and it is usually done on silk, Japanese paper, gold or silver leaf)
113.0 × 146.3 cm
Ookawa Museum Foundation, Japan

Matazo Kayama (1927-2004) was a Japanese painter born in Kyoto, the son of a designer of Nishijin-brocade Kimono (Traditional Japanese Dress).
He was seen in Japanese art circles after World War II as the representative of a new Japanese style. Kayama’s early work reflected the depressed conditions following the defeat of Japan in the war. In the early 1960s he created refined landscapes suggestive of the decorative character of classical Japanese painting. After 1980 his style changed again, towards an individualistic approach visible in his large ink paintings of Japanese natural life. This style was essentially a revival of the unique decorative character of Japanese art, but with a modern sense of form and mood.

He was a professor emeritus, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, chosen to cultural contributor in 1997, awarded the Order of Cultural Merit in 2003.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cranach, Lucas the Elder

Venus Standing in a Landscape
Oil on wood
380 x 255 mm (15 x 9.8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Venus is clad only in a provocatively transparent veil. The better to set off the ivory whiteness of her body, Cranach has shown it silhouetted against a somber background of foliage. The landscape conveys in a few strokes an intense impression of the Germanic conception of nature.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known as a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation.

He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86), and others, continued to create versions of his father's works for decades after his death.

Venus Standing in a Landscape is an example for the fashionable body of the period. The body is elongated with sloping shoulders, small breasts that are fairly far apart. Cranach emphasized the rounded abdomen, giving the appearance of pregnancy, a desirable body image of that time. In relation to the torso, the legs and arms are long, and the color of the skin is very pale and marble-like. All of these features indicate Cranach depicted fashionable body rather than a natural one.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mondrian, Piet

Night Landscape (Landschap bij nacht)
c.1907 - 1908
Oil on canvas
35 x 50.2 cm
Private collection

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist.
He was a Dutch Abstract painter of the first half of the 20th Century.

At the beginning of his career, Piet Mondrian firmly rooted in the representational form, favoring naturalistic and impressionistic landscapes. His early work reflected the influence of avant-garde trends such as Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Then he advocated a style called “neoplasticism,” which entailed complete rejection of visually perceived reality as subject matter and the restriction of a pictorial language to its most basic elements of the straight line, primary colors, and the neutrals of black, white, and gray. After that, inspired by New York City's pulsating life and the new rhythms of musical forms such as jazz, he replaced his austere patterns with a series of small squares and rectangles that coalesced into a flow of colorful vertical and horizontal lines.

A contemporary and disciple of the famous cubists Pablo Picasso and Georges 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. The consistent development of Mondrian's art toward complete abstraction was an outstanding feat in the history of modern art, and his work foreshadowed the rise of abstract art in the 1940s and '50s.
He died of pneumonia on February 1, 1944 and was interred in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Grünewald, Matthias

Concert of Angels and Nativity
(Second view of the Isenheim Altarpiece)
Oil on wood
265 x 304 cm
Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar

Matthias Grünewald (c.1470 - 1528) was a major figure in a generation of great northern German Renaissance painters that also included Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Albrecht Altdorfer.
Grünewald remained relatively unknown until the 20th century. His present worldwide reputation, however, is based chiefly on his greatest masterpiece, the Isenheim Altarpiece , which was long believed to have been painted by Dürer. It is a strange and puzzling fact that the only German painter who can be compared with Dürer for greatness and artistic power has been forgotten to such an extent that we are not even quite sure of his name. Many of his paintings had been attributed to Albrecht Dürer and Grünewald's reputation was obscured until the 20th century. Albrecht Dürer is now seen as Grünewald's stylistic antithesis.

Only ten paintings, several consisting of many panels, and thirty-five drawings survive, all religious, although many others were lost at sea in the Baltic on their way to Sweden as war booty.
Grünewald's largest and most famous work is the Isenheim Altarpiece created between 1506-1515.
Above is the second view of the Isenheim Altarpiece.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Shinsui, Ito

"Haru no Yoi" (Evening in Spring)
wood block print (dai oban tate-e)
private collection

Itō Shinsui (1898 – 1972), was a Nihonga (Japanese Painting) painter and Ukiyo-E woodblock print artist in Taishō and Shōwa period Japan. He was one of the great names of the shin-hanga (modern wood block print) art movement, which revitalized the traditional art after it began to decline with the advent of photography in the early 20th century.
In the later years of his life, he concentrated on painting. He was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun and his art work had been declared an "Intangible National Treasure" by a government commission.

Shinsui was a typical representative of the shin-hanga art movement. He only designed the prints - either as drawing sketches, or watercolors or paintings. Skillful carvers and printers then carved the woodblocks - one for each color - and printed the sheets from these blocks. The skill of these people was maybe even more important for the success of an artist's work than the design. Although traditional Japanese printmaking had practically come to a standstill at the beginning of the twentieth century, the quality of the craftsmanship of carvers and printers had reached a level never seen before during the 18th or 19th century.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friedrich, Caspar David

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog
Oil on canvas
94 x 74.8 cm
Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany

Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840) was a landscape painter of the nineteenth-century German Romantic movement, of which he is now considered the most important painter. He is best known for his later allegorical landscapes, which feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees, and Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world.

Although Friedrich was renowned during his lifetime, his work fell from favor during the second half of the nineteenth century. As Germany moved towards modernization, a new urgency was brought to its art, and his contemplative depictions of stillness were seen as the products of a bygone age. From the 1920s through 1940s, his work was appreciated by the Expressionists, Surrealists and Existentialists. Today he is seen as an icon of the German Romantic movement, and a painter of international importance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Caillebotte, Gustave

Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor-Scrapers)
Oil on canvas
102 x 146.5 cm (40 x 57 3/4")
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) was a French painter, member of artists known as Impressionists group, though he painted in a much more realistic manner. He was an engineer by profession and a generous patron of the Impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected.

His reputation as a painter was superseded, for many years, by his reputation as a supporter of the arts. Caillebotte's art was largely forgotten until the 1950s when his descendents began to sell the family collection.

Art historians began reevaluating his artistic contributions, seventy years after his death. His striking use of varying perspective is particularly admirable and sets him apart from his peers who may have exceeded him in other artistic areas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bruegel, Pieter the Elder

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
c. 1558
Oil on canvas, mounted on wood
73.5 x 112 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder (c. 1525 – 1569) was a Flemish renaissance painter.
He received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' or 'Bruegel the Peasant' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant in order to mingle at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings.

Making the life and manners of peasants the main focus of a work was rare in painting in Bruegel's time, and he was a pioneer of the Netherlandish genre painting. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies.
Using abundant spirit and comic power, he created some of the early images of acute social protest in art history. On his deathbed he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution.

He was the father of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Both became painters, but as they were very young children when their father died, it is believed neither received any training from him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Van Dyck, Anthony

Portrait of Philadelphia and Elisabeth Wharton
Oil on canvas
162 x 130 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641) was a Flemish painter who was one of the most important and prolific portraitists of the 17th century. He is also considered to be one of the most brilliant colorists in the history of art.
He settled in London from Antwerp, in 1632, as chief court painter to King Charles I, who knighted him shortly after his arrival. Van Dyck painted most of the English aristocracy of the time.

Van Dyck was one of the most influential 17th-century painters. He set a new style for Flemish art and founded the English school of painting. His style became lighter and more luminous, with thinner paint and more sparkling highlights in gold and silver occasionally showing a certain hastiness or superficiality as he hurried to satisfy his flood of commissions.
He died in London on December 9, 1641 and was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Malevich, Kasimir

Complex Presentiment: Half-Figure in a Yellow Shirt
Oil on canvas
39 x 31 1/8 in. (99 x 79 cm.)
State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (1879 – 1935) was a Russian painter. He was a pioneer of geometric abstract art and the originator of the Avant-garde Suprematist movement.

"No phenomenon is mortal," he wrote in an unpublished manuscript, "and this means not only the body but the idea as well, a symbol that one is eternally reincarnated in another form which actually exists in the conscious and unconscious person."

Malevich was fired with the desire 'to free art from the burden of the object' and launched the Suprematist movement, which brought abstract art to a geometric simplicity more radical than anything previously seen. He claimed that he made a picture 'consisting of nothing more than a black square on a white field'.
He died of cancer in Leningrad on May 15, 1935. His influence on abstract art, in the west as well as Russia, was enormous.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Matisse, Henri

Madras Rouge (Mme Matisse)
Oil on canvas
99.4 x 80.5 cm (39 1/8 x 31 3/4 in)
Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA, USA

Madras Rouge (The Red Madras Headress), the woman depicted is the painter's wife.
Matisse spoke of his art as being like "a good armchair".
Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 – 1954) was a French artist.
The art of our 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.

Although he was initially labelled a Fauve (wild beast), 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.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Danseuse assise ( "Seated Dancer")
c. 1879-80
Charcoal and pastel on paper mounted on pasteboard
63.5 x 48.7 cm (25 x 19 1/8 in)
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

"the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown" (Degas)
Among the supreme masterpieces of the 20th century are Degas's pictures of the ballet and its dancers.
Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist.

Early in his career, he wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life. In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon", and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux
oil on canvas
81 × 65 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, United States of America

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 noted for his radiant, intimate paintings, particularly of the female nude.

Mademoiselle Romaine Lacaux - Painted by Renoir in 1864, with its grays and black, its use of flowers for spots of color, and the still life in the right back-ground, it recalls similar work by Courbet. Even more, it suggests certain paintings by Manet in that it possesses that freshness of light, a certain luminous transparency. It further reminds one of the early portraits of Degas.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fijalkowski, Stanislaw

year unknown
oil on canvas
61.5 x 50 cm
private collection

Fijalkowski (1922 - . Polish painter) believed that "unreal" shapes are justified in paintings when they are saturated with meaning. He said "...apart from interpreting reality within an esoteric dimension, there appeared in his paintings the need to organize the esoteric meanings inherent in form."

He admits that the shape of his art was to a significant degree determined by the writings of Kandinsky and Mondrian, and by his interest in Surrealism. These two branches of 20th century art unexpectedly combined in Fijalkowski's art to produce results.
 "I attempted more boldly to create forms that did not impose a single meaning, leaving viewers fully free to access the ingredients of their personalities, that may be unconscious or repressed but are absolutely truthful. I sought, and continue to strive, to create form that is only the beginning of the work as generated by the viewer, each time in a new shape..."

He has received numerous domestic and international awards at a number of exhibitions.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pollock, Jackson

Full Fathom Five
Oil on canvas with nails, tacks, buttons, key, coins, cigarettes, matches, etc.
50 7/8 x 30 1/8 inch (129.2 x 76.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

"On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally in the painting."
Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956), American painter, known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Instead of using the traditional easel, he 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 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 while driving under the influence of alcohol, which  occurred less than a mile from his home. He was buried in Green River Cemetery in Springs with a large boulder marking his grave.

Full Fathom Five is one of the earliest masterpieces of his drip technique. In this painting, the initial impression of a vibrant sea-green hue is relieved on inspection by the variety of shades and inflections which combine to produce an idea of water and of depth.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Memling, Hans

Advent and Triumph of Christ
oil on panel
81 × 189 cm (31.9 × 74.4 in)
Alte Pinakothek, München, Deutsch

Hans Memling, also spelled Memlinc, (c. 1430 – 1494) was a German-born leading Flemish painter of the Bruges school (Jan van Eyck is the famed founder of the  school) painting both portraits and large religious works. He moved to Flanders and worked in the tradition of Early Netherlandish painting. He is one of the leading artists from the 1460s until the end of his life. His reputation was not confined to Flanders, but spreaded to Italy, France and England. Memling's work suited the taste of that age in any European country.
His portraits of nobles were more characteristic, and probably more remarkable as likenesses, than any that Memling s contemporaries could produce. He was very successful in Bruges: it is known that he was listed among the wealthiest citizens on the city tax accounts.
Memling died on 11 August 1494 and left behind a considerable property. Recording his death, the notary of Bruges described him as "the most skillful painter in the whole of Christendom."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kahlo, Frida

Self Portrait with Monkeys
oil on canvas
81.5 x 63 cm
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art

"I paint myself because I'm so often alone and because I am the subject I know best"
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907 – 1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years, Kahlo went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. She also had a volatile marriage with acclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

Kahlo's traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. She had several miscarriages and suffered periods of depression. During three months recovering in a full body cast, Kahlo neglected the study of medicine... she studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother. She later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter".

Kahlo channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets – spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, Amazon parrots, hens, sparrows and a fawn – which lived at her home. In Mexican mythology, monkeys are symbols of lust, but Kahlo portrayed them as tender and protective symbols. The spider monkey species is recognized by disproportionately long limbs and long prehensile tail and are normally found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Kahlo’s decision to include so many animals in her self portraits reveals how close she felt to the animal world ... she expressed her alliance with the monkeys through their hands across her body, through ribbons uniting them both, or, in this case, through the monkey’s tail wound round her arm.

During the 1950s, Kahlo's health deteriorated steadily. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly.

In the summer of 1954, Kahlo contracted pneumonia and died on July 13, 1954, soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida". In accordance with Kahlo's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Spring Rain
Serigraph on Paper
31 x 35.75 in (78.74 x 90.81 cm)
Private collection

The designs created by Erte (1892 - 1990), byname of Romain de Tirtoff, during his long and illustrious life influenced not only the world of theatre, film and fashion, but an entire art movement as well. The genius of the artist is evidenced by an enormous body of work that is considered among the most influential and unique of the 20th century.

His legendary career spanned nearly the entire length of his 97 years of life. In 1912, Erte moved to Paris and his unique talent was immediately recognized by the city's most established couturiers. In 1915, he began an association with Harper's Bazaar by designing covers of each of their magazines for the next 22 years. The influence of his work as a result of the high visibility of this periodical influenced an entire art movement that was to become known as Art Deco.

A lifetime of international success and recognition has ensured this unique artist's place in the annals of art history, and his original designs grace the permanent collections of prestigious museums throughout the world.
His byname Erte was derived from the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T..

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hockney, David

Pearblossom Highway, 11-18th April 1986 #2
Chromogenic prints mounted on paper honeycomb panel (Photographic collage)
198 x 282 cm (78 x 111 in)
Private collection

David Hockney (1937 - ) is an English painter, stage designer and photographer.
He is an important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century. (Hockney has always denied being a Pop artist but is included under this heading because this is how the public perceives him. )

It is a unique interpretation of his California road trip on a well-known dangerous highway, route 138. The scene not only consists of the driver’s perspective, but of the passenger’s eye view as well. In the forefront of ‘Pearblossom Highway, 11-18th April 1986, #2’, onlookers can make out an assortment of scattered debris such as crushed soda cans, beer bottles, an abandoned container of Castrol motor oil, and an empty case of Bud Light, all of which are relics of travelers who once passed though and left their mark.

Hockney was so fascinated with this road trip through the Antelope Valley on the outskirts of Los Angeles that he created a meaningful interpretation using over 700 mounted photographs that reveal the formerly barren Mojave Desert. “Hockney has manipulated scale to make the picture work better, to make it more real. It’s more real than any view you can have standing there in the desert. That’s what hits you in the stomach.” (The Getty Museum’s previous museum director John Walsh)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Clairin, Georges

Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt
Oil on canvas
250 x 200 cm
Musιe des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais.

Georges Clairin (1843 - 1919), French painter. In addition to being a well-known portraitist, Clairin also completed numerous decorative commissions for public buildings such as the theatres in Tours and Cherbourg, the Opéra in Monte Carlo, etc. He was knighted in 1897.

In the privacy of her home or in the theatre, Sarah Bernhardt made her life into a spectacle at the service of her talent. To achieve this, she managed to inspire the admiring complicity of painters, sculptor, photographers and poster designers, who depicted the many facets of her role as a Diva.
The painter Clairin, who was her lover and then a loyal friend, remained the official portraitist of his illustrious muse for fifty years. He used to have his own studio in her beautiful house in Belle-Île.

The 32-year-old actress, Sarah Bernhardt, Member of the Comédie Française, was enjoying her first triumphs in the plays of Racine and Hugo at the time. As a sign of her social ascent, she had just moved into her new mansion near to Monceau Park, the bohemian splendour of which is depicted in this painting.
This large portrait showing the subject in a white satin dress, with a very studied nonchalance, was one of Sarah Bernhardt’s favourites and she kept it all her life.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Picabia, Francis

Transparence - Hera
c. 1929
Oil on cardboard
105 x 75 cm
private collection

“Between my head and my hand,” he said in 1922, “there is always the figure of death.” As a child, he was l'enfant terrible, later he becomes the perfect rastaquouère (a social upstart; a smooth untrustworthy foreigner), the Joker or flashy adventurer, which is the public side of his complex personality.

Francis Picabia (1879 – 1953) was a French painter and poet, associated with both the Dada and Surrealist art movements. He was born in Paris, 82 rue des Petits Champs, the same house where he died and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.
During the seventy four intervening years, Picabia explored most of the artistic movements of his time, a feat as exceptional as the epoch itself.

He painted for a time in an Impressionist and then a Cubist style.
Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with Orphic elements.
In 1915 in New York City, Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray together founded an American Dadaist movement and he began to paint the satiric, machinelike contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism. In 1917 Picabia returned to Europe and joined Dadaist movements in Barcelona, Paris, and Zürich. After Dadaism broke up about 1921, he followed the poet André Breton into the Surrealist movement.
He subsequently painted in Surrealist, abstract, and figurative styles.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dou, Gerrit

The Quack
Oil on canvas
112 x 83 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Gerrit Dou (1613 – 1675), known as Gerard Dou, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, whose small, highly-polished paintings are typical of the Leiden fijnschilders. He specialized in genre scenes and is noted for his trompe l'oeil "niche" paintings and candlelit night-scenes with strong chiaroscuro.

In 1628, at the age of 15, he became the first pupil of the young 21 year old Rembrandt,  with whom he continued for three years. From Rembrandt, he acquired his skill in coloring, and in the more subtle effects of chiaroscuro; and the style of Rembrandt is reflected in several of his earlier pictures. After Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, Dou developed a style of his own, painting usually on a small scale, with a surface of almost enamelled smoothness.

Rembrandt as a representative of the loose way of painting and Dou as a representative of the other, the precise way.
He painted the home life of simple people with delightful truth and sympathetic interest in their peaceful routine, and he did this in perfect form, all parts in perfect relation to one another, with aerial perspective and enveloping atmosphere.
The distinction of method between Rembrandt (master) and Dou (pupil) may be clear. While Dou learned from Rembrandt the brilliant mastery of interior light, and of color, Dou adhered to his original tendency for minute execution. While Rembrandt grew broader, larger, more powerful, Dou contented himself with ever increasing care, for delicate treatment and extreme finish.