Monday, April 30, 2012

Reni, Guido

oil on canvas
319 x 221 cm
Musée du Louvre, paris

Guido Reni (1575 - 1642) was an Italian painter of popular religious works and critically acclaimed mythological scenes.
He was born in Bologna into a family of musicians. He admired Raphael unconditionally. He did, however, come to terms with Caravaggio's naturalism. He exalted the clarity of light, the perfection of the body, and lively color. Toward the end of his life, Reni modified his style and his paintings became so airy as to seem insubstantial and were almost completely monochrome. He also used long, flowing brushstrokes and conveyed an atmosphere laden with intense melancholy.

He was a quintessentially classical academic but he was also one of the most elegant painters in the annals of art history. He was constantly seeking an absolute, rarefied perfection which he measured against classical Antiquity and Raphael. He was a man of great energy, but unfortunately of considerable self-conceit, and of prodigious activity.
In his own time he was perhaps the most popular artist in Italy, the eighteenth century loved him, the nineteenth century, persuaded by the violent criticism of John Ruskin, hated him. Presently his work will be more appreciated for its own sake than it has been, and his excellencies have a greater value. Even his detractors cannot deny the exceptional technical quality of his work nor the clarity of his supremely assured and harmonious brushwork.
Reni died in Bologna in 1642. He is buried in the Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Hendrickje Stoffels
Oil on canvas
78.4 x 68.9 cm (30 7/8 x 27 1/8 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He was born in Leiden as a son of a miller. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. Rembrandt began his studies at the Latin School, and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University of Leiden.

He is generally considered one of the greatest painters 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.
His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. The greatest artist of the Dutch school, he was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art.

In contrast to his successful public career, Rembrandt's family life was marked by misfortune. His wife Saskia gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came soon at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper thereafter, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy. These problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work; if anything, his artistry increased. 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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Renoir, Pierre August

Children on the Seashore, Guernsy
Oil on canvas
66.5 x 91.5 cm (26.2 x 36.0 inch)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

"The pain passes, but the beauty remains." (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.

In 1854 he began work as a painter in a porcelain factory in Paris, gaining experience with the light, fresh colors that were to distinguish his Impressionist work and also learning the importance of good craftsmanship. 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 Impressionist movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.

He 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.
Renoir once said: "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cowper, Frank Cadogan

The Blue Bird
oil on canvas
34 7/8 x 28 in. (88.4 x 71.1 cm.)
private collection

Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877 - 1958) was an English painter and illustrator of portraits, historical and literary scenes, described as "The last of the Pre-Raphaelites". He worked in both watercolours and oils, and also worked as book illustrator. He contributed to a mural in the Houses of Parliament in 1910.

The most remarkable thing about him was the complete change in his style between his earlier and later work. Without any comparison in rank between the 2 artists, the change was as complete and as apparently inexplicable as it was between the early and late Corot. Cowper begins as a painter of romantic subject pictures in the Pre-Raphaelite manner; he ended as a painter of pretty women in what may be called the chocolate box manner.

The subject of this picture comes from a fairy tale entitled The Blue Bird. The heroine of the tale, a princess, was locked in a castle turret after her Prince Charming had refused to marry her ugly sister. He had been changed by a sorceress into a blue bird, who brought jewels to his true love as a token of affection. The Princess eventually used these jewels to buy her way to freedom. The curse was then lifted, and the couple lived happily ever after.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Picabia, Francis

Trois Mimes
Oil on canvas
24 1/4 x 20 in (61.6x50.9 cm)
Location unknown

Francis Picabia (1879 - 1953) , painter and poet associated with both the Dada and Surrealist art movements, was born to an upper class family in Paris, 82 rue des Petits Champs, the same house where he died. He was a son of a French mother and a Cuban father of Spanish descent.

During the seventy four intervening years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time. Up to 1908 he painted landscapes in the manner of Corot and the Impressionists, especially Sisley. Then, influenced by Matisse's Fauvism on one hand, and by Cubism of Braque and Picasso on the other, he tried to combine both movements and created bright-colored Cubists pictures unlike the somber monotone paintings of Cubism founders.
In 1910, he met Marcel Duchamp and Guillaume Apollinaire. The friendship with Marcel Duchamp, a pioneer in the use of ready-made art, and G. Apollinaire, an Avant-garde poet and critic, significantly influenced Picabia's following works.
In 1927, his period of  'transparencies' started. He was looking for alternative methods to depict three-dimensional space without traditional rules of perspective. He developed this approach in his works, in which flat images of different scales overlay and interlace to show an object from a variety of viewpoints. When an eye accommodates to intersections of different planes and foreshortening, an illusion of three-dimensional space really appears.
In 1934, the transparent images were forced out by heavy brutal shapes of pseudo classicism. Exaggerating the manner of the self-taught Primitivists and Kitch stylistic, Picabia parodied the high genres of allegory, portraiture and Mythological scenes.
Picabia died in Paris in 1953 and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wyeth, Andrew

Wind from the Sea
Tempera on hardboard
47 x 70 cm (18 1/2 x 27 9/16 in.)
Private collection
National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

"its all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of design is motion." (Wyeth)
Andrew Wyeth (1917 - 2009) is one of the foremost American artists of the twentieth century. He was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter in the American tradition, capturing the people and landscapes of his country on canvas. The youngest of five children, his artistic talent was highly influenced by his famous illustrator father. Wyeth was mostly home-schooled and did not attend any college or university. He also did not receive any formal artistic training, but his parents recognized and nurtured his talent. The Wyeth family was highly creative.

He was inspired by the people and landscapes that surrounded his childhood home in Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. His close friends and neighbors were usually the subjects of his paintings. His most famous model and subject of numerous works was Christina Olson. One of the most well-known images in twentieth century American art is his painting, Christina's World. Following her death, Wyeth painted Helga Testorf for over a decade. He created over 240 studies of this model known as the Helga Suite.

"Wind from the Sea" is painted in tempera, a Renaissance technique whereby egg yolk is used to bind pigment. This painting is a scene from a room on the top floor of his Christina Olson’s house in coastal Maine and captures a moment on a hot summer day, when the tattered and transparent curtains are blown into the room by wind coming from the sea. This painting embodies not only the heat but also the feeling of Maine in the summer.
In Wyeth’s words, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work… If one could only catch that true color of nature ? the very thought of it drives me mad."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Levitan, Isaac

Sunny Day (Journée ensoleillée)
oil on canvas
53 x 40.7 cm
private collection

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

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

He was buried in Dorogomilovo Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 Levitan's remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov's necropolis. Levitan did not have a family or children. His hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Balthus: (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola)

The Cat in the mirror II
oil on canvas
200 x 170cm
private collection

Count Balthasar Klossowski (or Klossowski) de Rola (1908 – 2001), known as Balthus, was an esteemed Polish-French modern artist. In his formative years his art was sponsored by Rainer Maria Rilke who acted as Balthus’s mentor, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. His father, Erich Klossowski, a noted art historian who wrote a monograph on Daumier, and his mother Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro (known as the painter Baladine Klossowska; she engaged in a long-lasting relationship with Rainer Maria Rilke, providing etchings to accompany many of Rilke's poems. ) were part of the cultural elite in Paris. In 1921 Mitsou, a book which included forty drawings by Balthus, was published. It depicted the story of a young boy and his cat, with a preface by Balthus's mentor, Rainer Maria Rilke.

Balthus was always extremely controversial. The Surrealists admired him a great deal but he was generally considered private, evocative, and mysterious - just like his paintings of landscapes, still lifes, street scenes and women. He felt his paintings should only be seen - not read about or read into. For this reason, there may be various names given to any particular Balthus painting for the purpose of identification.

Throughout his career, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the art world. A telegram sent to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for its 1968 retrospective of his works read: "NO BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS. BEGIN: BALTHUS IS A PAINTER OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US LOOK AT THE PICTURES. REGARDS. B."

Prime Ministers and rock stars alike attended the funeral of Balthus in 2001. Bono, lead-singer of U2, sang for the hundreds of mourners at the funeral, including the President of France, the Prince Sadruddhin Aga Khan, supermodel Elle McPherson, and Cartier-Bresson.

Balthus felt the painting was very similar to praying.
Balthus was one of the few living artists to be represented in the Louvre Museum.
Balthus's painting was praised and acquired by Pablo Picasso for his private collection.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Anker, Albert

Strickendes Mädchen (Knitting girl or knitting kitty) 1884
oil on canvas
65.5 x 46.5 cm
Fine art museum Bern, Switzerland

"One has to shape an ideal in one's imagination, and then one has to make that ideal accessible to the people." (Anker)
Albert Samuel Anker (1831 - 1910) was a Swiss painter who has been called the "national painter" of Switzerland because of his enduringly popular depictions of 19th-century Swiss village life.

His paintings depict his fellow citizens in an unpretentious and plain manner, without idealizing country life, but also without the critical examination of social conditions. Although Anker did paint occasional scenes with a social significance, such as visits by usurers or charlatans to the village, his affirmative and idealistic Christian world-view did not include an inclination to issue any sort of overt challenge.

Anker was quick to reach his artistic objectives and never strayed from his chosen path. His works, though, exude a sense of conciliation and understanding as well as a calm trust in Swiss democracy; they are executed with great skill, providing brilliance to everyday scenes through subtle choices in coloring and lighting.

Many Swiss postage stamps and other media have incorporated Anker's work. His studio in Ins has been preserved as a museum by the Albert Anker Foundation.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Picasso, Pablo

Portrait de Marie-Thérèse Walter 1937
oil on canvas
46 cm x 38 cm
Musée Picasso, Paris

Pablo Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”
Picasso (1881 - 1973), was a Spanish painter and sculptor. One of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

He demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune, making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art.

For the last three decades of his long life Picasso lived mostly in south of France.
He died on 8 April 1973, aged 91, in Mougins, France, while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. He was interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old.

Friday, April 20, 2012


The Sea off Satta (36 Views of Mount Fuji - #23)
circa 1858
Woodblock print
13 1/4 x 8 5/8 in.
private collection

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 - 1858) was a Japanese Ukiyo-e artist, and one of the last great artists in that tradition.
He was also referred to as Andō Hiroshige. He transmuted everyday landscapes into intimate, lyrical scenes that made him even more successful than his contemporary, Hokusai.

Hiroshige was born in Edo (now Tokyo) and at first, like his father, was a fire warden. The prints of Hokusai are said to have first kindled in him the desire to become an artist. With Hokusai, Hiroshige dominated the popular art of Japan in the first half of the 19th century. His work was not as bold or innovative as that of the older master, but he captured, in a poetic, gentle way that all could understand, the ordinary person's experience of the Japanese landscape as well as the varied moods of memorable places at different times. His total output was immense, some 5400 prints in all.

Hiroshige’s woodblock prints greatly influenced French Impressionists such as Monet, Vincent Van Gogh. He died of cholera on October 12, 1858, in Edo.

Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theater, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dali, Salvador

Sun Table
oil on canvas
60 x 46cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Netherlands

Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol (1904 - 1989), known as Salvador Dalí was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. His expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. He 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. Although he is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, his status is controversial; many critics consider that he did little if anything of consequence after his classic Surrealist works of the 1930s.
There are museums devoted to Dalí's work in Figueras, his home town in Spain, and in St Petersburg in Florida.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pissarro, Camille

The Artist's Garden at Eragny
oil on canvas
73.4 x 92.1 cm (28 7/8 x 36 1/4 in.)
National Art Gallery Washington DC

"He was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord." (Cézanne)
Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903) was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His father was of French-Jewish origin, his mother was a Creole.

Pissarro painted rural and urban French life, particularly landscapes in and around Pontoise, as well as scenes from Montmartre. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings.

His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. As a stylistic forerunner of Impressionism, he is today considered a father figure not only to the Impressionists but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. His influence on his fellow Impressionists is probably still underestimated; not only did he offer substantial contributions to Impressionist theory, but he also managed to remain on friendly, mutually respectful terms with such difficult personalities as Edgar Degas, Cézanne and Gauguin.

Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted. He died in Paris on 13 November 1903. During his lifetime, he sold few of his oil paintings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Metsys, Quinten

The Virgin in Prayer
40 x 25 cm
Other detail unknown

"in his time a smith and afterwards a famous painter" (inscription of the relief plaque on the facade of the Antwerp Cathedral about Metsys.)

Quinten Metsys, also spelled Quentin Massys (1466–1529) was a painter in the Flemish tradition and a founder of the Antwerp school. Trained as a blacksmith in his native Louvain, Massys is said to have studied painting after falling in love with an artist's daughter. In 1491 he went to Antwerp and was admitted in to the painters' guild. He was active in Antwerp for over 20 years, creating numerous works with religious roots and satirical tendencies.

Although his portraiture is more subjective and personal than that of Albrecht Durer or Hans Holbein, Massys's painting may have been influenced by both German masters. He painted many notable portraits, including one of his friend Erasmus.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Allori, Alessandro

The Annunciation
Oil on panel
103 x 162 cm
Galleria dell' Accademia, Florence

Alessandro Allori (1535 – 1607) was an Italian prolific and active portrait painter of the late Mannerist Florentine school.
After a short sojourn in Rome, where he was influenced by Michelangelo's art, Allori returned to his native Florence where he became one of the principal painters for the ruling family of Florence, the Medici. He was appointed director of the Florentine tapestry factory in the mid-1570s.
Allori was one of the last notable Italian exponents of Mannerism, painting in a style that was becoming outmoded by the time of his death.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kahlo, Frida

Self-Portrait with inscription
Oil on masonite
61 x 45 cm
Private collection

"I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." Frida Kahlo also stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter."

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907 - 1954) was a Mexican painter, and is perhaps best known for her self-portraits. Kahlo's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. She gave her birth date as July 7, 1910, but her birth certificate shows July 6, 1907. Kahlo had allegedly wanted the year of her birth to coincide with the year of the beginning of the Mexican revolution so that her life would begin with the birth of modern Mexico.

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naïve art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo's art as a "ribbon around a bomb".

At the age of six, Frida developed polio, which caused her right leg to appear much thinner than the other. It was to remain that way permanently. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which derived from a traffic accident she experienced as a teenager. Kahlo produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends. She died July 13, 1954, at the age of 47.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Redon, Odilon

Flower Clouds
Pastel, with touches of stumping, incising, and brushwork, on blue-gray wove paper with multi-colored fibers altered to tan, perimeter mounted to cardboard
44.5 × 54.2 cm (17.5 × 21.3 in)
The Art Institute of Chicago, USA

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 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.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vermeer, Johannes

View of Houses in Delft, known as "The Little Street"
c. 1658
Oil on canvas
54.3 x 44 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Johannes, Jan Vermeer (1632 - 1675).
Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life.
Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime.
He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stokes, Marianne Preindelsberger

Angels Entertaining the Holy Child
oil on canvas
150x176 cm
Private Collection

Marianne Stokes (1855 - 1927) was born in Southern Austria (Marianne Preindlsberger). She began her artistic career studying art in Munich, then Paris, and settled in England after her marriage to a landscape painter.
Marianne Stokes was considered one of the leading artists in Victorian England and her talent was recognised early.

In the 1890s, Marianne changed her style completely and began painting in a Mediaevalist style, often with costumed female figures, and to work in gesso and tempera. According to a critic, two aspects of Stokes's childhood affected her work: being given an illustrated copy of Grimm's fairy tales, and experiencing the mysticism of Catholic ceremonies.
Marianne died in London in 1927, aged 72.
"Mrs Stokes' aim is to build up, evolve, create some beautiful thing: a picture which shall be, in the broadest sense of the word, a piece of  'decoration'  for a wall, harmonious and beautiful." ( a critic wrote in 1900.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Klimt, Gustav

The Kiss
oil and gold leaf on canvas
180 × 180 cm
The Austrian Belvedere Gallery, Vienna

Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism.

Klimt was 45 when he painted The Kiss. Man leaning over and kissing kneeling woman. All shrouded in symbolically patterned gold. A bed of flowers below them.
The Kiss is a fascinating icon of the loss of self that lovers experience. Only the faces and hands of this couple are visible, all the rest is great swirl of gold, studded with colored rectangles as if to express visually the emotional and physical explosion of erotic love.
This work is composed of conventional oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, an aspect that gives it its strikingly modern, yet evocative appearance. The Kiss is widely considered a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is a symbol of Vienna Viennese Art Nouveau, and is considered Klimt's most popular work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Simeon with the Infant Jesus in the Temple
Oil on canvas
98 x 79 cm
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

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

Rembrandt's greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. 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.

Matisse, Henri

La Tristesse du roi (Sorrows of the King)
Gouache-painted paper cut-outs, mounted on canvas
292 x 386 cm
Völklinger Hütte Museum, Germany

La Tristesse du roi is a reference to one of Rembrandt's canvases, David Playing the Harp before Saul, in which the young Biblical hero plays to distract the King from his melancholy. In this work, Matisse layers the themes of old age, of looking back towards earlier life and of music soothing all ills.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 - 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as one of the three artists who 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. 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.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Goyo Hashiguchi

Woman in Blue Combing Her Hair
woodblock print on paper
44.6 x 32.7 cm (17.6 x 12.9 in)   
Walters Art Museum

Hashiguchi, Goyo (1880 - 1921) was born to a wealthy samurai family. He was extremely gifted and graduated as best student of Fine Arts School. He is one of the most celebrated artists, particularly renowned for his woodblock prints of beautiful women, also known as bijin-ga.

His production standards were so high that only woodblock prints of superior quality were allowed to be sold and distributed. During his lifetime, only thirteen prints were completed. Due to Goyo's exacting standards, these prints were published in very small editions, usually less than eighty in number. Because of their rarity and extraordinary beauty, portrait prints by him are among the most highly prized of all bijin-ga prints. 

He died in his artistic prime at the age of 41 of meningitis, and his works are regarded by many to be among the finest bijin-ga (woodblock prints of beautiful women) of the twentieth century.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Moore, Albert Joseph

A Revery
oil on canvas
116.7 x 74.8 cm
Getty Center, Los Angeles, California

Albert Joseph Moore (1841 - 1893) was an English painter, known for his depictions of langorous female figures set against the luxury and decadence of the classical world. He was born in the city of York, the fourteenth child of a portrait painter, William Moore. In his childhood he showed an extraordinary love of art, and as he was encouraged in his tastes by his father and brothers, two of whom afterwards became famous as artists, John Collingham Moore and Henry Moore.

Renowned for his pictures of classically draped women harmoniously posed in decorative settings, he was a major exponent of late-19th-century Aestheticism, which cultivated formal beauty at the expense of moral or narrative content.
He worked with many well-known Pre-Raphaelite painters, including Whistler. With Whistler, he developed a special relationship, they worked together in a studio for some time. He died in 1893, at his studio in Spenser Street, Westminster.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stubbs, George

Molly Longlegs
Oil on canvas
127 x 101.5cm
National Museum of Liverpool, UK

"nature was and is always superior to art" (Stubbs)
George Stubbs (1724 - 1806), born in Liverpool, the son of a currier and leather merchant, was an English painter, best known for his paintings of horses. He often painted horses with their grooms, whom he always painted as individuals. He also painted portrait of dogs, and more exotic animals including lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, and rhinoceroses, which he was able to observe in private menageries. He became preoccupied with the theme of a wild horse threatened by a lion and produced several variations on this theme. He also painted historical pictures, but these are much less well regarded. He remained active into his old age.

"Molly Longlegs" was a bay mare that twice won 200 guinea prizes at Newmarket races. She belonged to Lord Bolingbroke who presumably commissioned this portrait. This picture, with its clear depiction of veins, bones, muscles and distinctive equine bloodpoints is among the best of his single horse portraits. It shows how closely Stubbs's anatomical studies and portraiture were linked.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grabar, Igor

Winter Morning
oil on canvas
125 x 124 cm
Sebastopol Art Museum, Sebastopol, Ukraine

Igor Emmanuilovich Grabar (1871 - 1960), descendant of a wealthy Rusyn family born in Budapest (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Hungary), was a Russian post-impressionist painter and a representative mainly in the genre of socialist realism. His parents were active participants of the Slav liberation movement being persecuted by the government, and had to flee to Russia.

After being graduated from the department of law at Petersburg University he turned to art, enrolling at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Fine Art. He was notable for a peculiar divisionist painting technique bordering on pointillism and his rendition of snow. He stayed at the top of the Soviet art establishment until his death, excluding a brief voluntary retirement period.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Patinir, Joachim

Crossing the River Styx (Voyage to the Underworld)
oil on panel
64 × 103 cm (25.2 × 40.6 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Joachim Patinir, also called de Patiner (c. 1480 - 1524), was a Flemish Northern Renaissance history and landscape painter.
He ia a pioneer of landscape as an independent genre. Nothing is known of his early life, but in 1515 he became registered as a member of Antwerp's painters’ guild Guild of Saint Luke, where he spent the rest of his life. He was a friend of Albrecht Dürer, and Dürer called Patinir "der gute Landschaftmaler" ("a good painter of landscapes").

Although landscape never constitutes the subject of his pictures, he was the first Netherlandish artist to let it dwarf his figures in religious and mythological scenes. His style combines naturalistic observation of detail with a marvellous sense of fantasy, forming a link between Bosch and Bruegel. There are only five paintings signed by Patinir.

In this painting, the ferryman Charon rows a departed soul down the River Styx. Charon ferries a human soul who must decide between heaven and hell. You can see the landscape of Eden on the left (including the Fountain of Paradise) and the frightening Hell on the right side. Heaven is populated by swans, peacocks, small deers and figures of angels, one of which tries to draw the attention of the soul that travels in the boat. Hell is full of grotesque creatures, and is accessed through a door guarded by Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog. The tiny wavering spirit must choose - but see how his eyes dart towards Hell and away from the beckoning angel.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Macbeth, Robert Walker

Fair Pledges of a Fruitful Tree
Oil on Canvas
36.2 x 30.3 in. (92 x 77 cm)
Location unknown

Robert Walker Macbeth (1848 - 1910) was a Scottish painter specializing in pastoral landscape and the rustic genre. He studied in London, producing realistic everyday scenes and working for The Graphic magazine. In 1874 he became an associate of the Royal Water Colour Society. Both as painter and as etcher he was very popular. He painted in the Lincolnshire and Somerset countryside.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mucha, Alphonse Maria

Jaroslava and Jiri - The Artist's Children
oil on canvas
82.8 x 82.8 cm
Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860 - 1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was born in the town of Moravia, then part of Austro-Hungary. His father was a court usher, and the family had but modest means. The future painter was raised in an atmosphere of strict Roman Catholicism, and this would later be reflected in the symbolism he employed in his work. He joined the choir at St. Peter's Cathedral and pursued singing seriously for a while, but was forced to abandon it after his voice started cracking.

He was a prolific painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He is more than anyone else responsible for the Art Nouveau Style and applied his considerable talents to a wide variety of pursuits ranging from painting and sculpture to poster, magazine, and calendar illustration, and product and architectural design. His style of painting influenced an entire generation of painters, graphic artists, draughtsmen and designers and in the minds of many.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Goya, Francisco de

Portrait of Mariana Waldstein
Oil on canvas
142 x 97 cm (56 x 38 1/4")
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Goya, Francisco de (1746 - 1828) was born in a village in northern Spain. He was a consummately Spanish court painter whose paintings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th and 20th century painters.

For the bold technique of his paintings, the haunting satire of his etchings, and his belief that the artist's vision is more important than tradition, Goya is often called "the first of the moderns." He is known for his scenes of violence, especially those prompted by the French invasion of Spain, and his uncompromising portrayal of his times marked the beginning of 19th century realism.

Serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind. He evolved a bold, free new style close to caricature.
In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government in Spain, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there in 1828.
He had many children, but only one son survived to adulthood.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jongkind, Johan Barthold

River Scene
Oil on canvas
52.1 x 80 cm
The National Gallery, London

"It is Paris where I am recognized as a painter" (Jongkind)
Jongkind, Johan Barthold (1819 - 1891). Dutch landscape painter, active mainly in France, where he was a precursor of Impressionism. He was highly esteemed by the artistic community and art lovers. His friend Monet acknowledged him as the most significant formative influence on his work.

Although he was better appreciated during his lifetime than van Gogh, in some ways his career is similar to that of Gogh. Both artists made a greater impression abroad than in their own country, both failed to adjust to the society of their time, both endured much poverty and were troubled by serious psychological problems, and sensational aspects of their lives - in Jongkind's case it was alcoholism - have interfered with a balanced appraisal of their achievement.