Thursday, May 31, 2012

Raffaello Sanzio

Virgin and Child enthroned with Sts John the Baptist and Nicholas of Bari
 (the Ansidei altarpiece)
Oil on panel
209 x 148 cm
National Gallery, London

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. 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 never married but is said to have many lovers.

Raphael died on the 6th of April 1520 (on his 37th birthday) and was buried the next day in the Pantheon. His funeral was very well attended attracting large crowds.
He was a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored (it is said that Pope Leo X, who wept bitterly when he died, had intended making him a cardinal), and his influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime.
His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded by almost all critics 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. 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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Krafft, Johann Peter

Ruggiero and Angelica
Oil on wood
134 x 103 cm
Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

Johann Peter Krafft (1780 - 1856) was a German-Austrian painter, teacher and curator.
He was born in Hanau, Hesse. At the age of ten, he began his art studies at the Hanau Akademie. In 1799, he moved to Vienna and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts for three years under the tutelage of Heinrich Füger. From 1802 to 1808, he studied in Paris, with Jacques-Louis David and François Gérard, and then in Rome. On his return to Vienna he produced numerous portraits, a genre that occupied him for the rest of his career, allowing him to make a handsome living. His portraits are characterized by the emphasis he placed on specific traits of the face of the sitter, by an economy of outline and by the cool, often sharply graduated coloring.
He painted the portrait of Franz II and Archduke Karl. The picture on the battle of Aspera is also well-known.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Maes, Nicolaes

Portrait of a Boy as Adonis
c. 1670
Oil on canvas
73 x 63 cm
Akademie der bildenden Kunste, Vienna

Nicolaes Maes, also known as Nicolaes Maas (1634 - 1693) was a Dutch Golden Age painter of genre and portraits. He was the son of a prosperous merchant.

In about 1648 he became a pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, staying there until 1654 when he returned to his native town Dordrecht. In his early years he concentrated on genre pictures, rather sentimental in approach, but distinguished by deep glowing colors he had learnt from his master. Old women sleeping, praying, or reading the Bible were subjects he particularly favoured. So closely did his style resemble that of Rembrandt, some paintings were ascribed to Rembrandt.

In the 1660s, however, Maes began to turn more to portraiture, and after a visit to Antwerp around the middle of the decade his style changed dramatically. He abandoned the reddish tone of his earlier manner for a wider, lighter and cooler range (grays and blacks in the shadows instead of brownish tones), and the fashionable portraits he now specialized in were closer to van Dyck than to Rembrandt. So great indeed was the change, that it gave rise to the theory of the existence of another Maes, of Brussels.
In 1673 he moved permanently to Amsterdam and had great success with this kind of picture. Maes was a fairly prolific painter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monet, Claude

The Stroll, Camille Monet and Her Son Jean (Woman with a Parasol)
Oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm (39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in.)

National Gallery of Art, Washington

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.

Monet collected 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.

His first wife, Camille, and his second wife, Alice, frequently served as models.
In his final years he was troubled by failing eyesight, but he painted until the end.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de

The Toilette
oil on canvas
67 x 54 cm
Musée D'Orsay, Paris

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, May 26, 2012

Murillo, Bartolome Esteban

Holy Family with the Infant St John
Oil on canvas
126 x 156 cm
(4' 1.61" x 5' 1.42")
Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest, Hungary)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682) was born in Seville, Spain, where he lived until his death. He was the youngest son in a family of fourteen and his father was a barber and surgeon (his parents died when he was still very young, and he was largely brought up by his aunt and uncle).
He was the first Spanish painter to achieve renown throughout Europe. In addition to the enormous popularity of his works in Spain, he was much admired in other countries, particularly England. Although he is best known for his religious works, his lively, realist portraits of flower girls and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times.

He had many pupils and followers. The prolific imitation of his paintings ensured his reputation in Spain and fame throughout Europe, and prior to the 19th century his work was more widely known than that of any other Spanish artist.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bronzino, Agnolo

Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (Allegory of the Triumph of Venus)
Oil on wood
146 × 116 cm (57.5 × 45.7 in)
National Gallery, UK

Agnolo di Cosimo (1503 – 1572), usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence, the son of a butcher. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his relatively dark skin.
He was a court painter to Duke Cosimo I de Medici for most of his career, and his work influenced the course of European court portraiture for a century. Cold, cultured, and unemotionally analytical, his portraits convey a sense of almost insolent assurance.
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.
Bronzino was also a poet.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chardin, Jean Baptiste Simeon

The Silver Goblet
Oil on canvas
13 x 16 1/4" (33 x 41 cm)
Chardin, Jean Baptiste Simeon (1699-1779)
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon (1699 - 1779). French painter, the son of a cabinetmaker, largely self-taught, one of the greatest of the 18th century, whose genre and still life subjects documented the life of the Paris bourgeoisie. He favored simple still lifes and unsentimental domestic interiors. His unusual abstract compositions had great influence.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Modigliani, Amedeo

Seated Nude
oil on canvas
37 x 29 cm
Honolulu Museum of Art

“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.” (Modigliani)
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He was born as the forth and the youngest child in the family, which belonged to the secularized Jewish bourgeoisie. Primarily a figurative artist, he became known for paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form.

In 1914, the First World War broke out and he wanted to enlist but was exempted from military service for health reasons. In 1917, he met the 19year old Jeanne Hébuterne (1898-1920), student of the academy and started to live together. “She was gentle, shy, quiet and delicate. A little bit depressive”. She became his major model until his death, he painted her no less than 25 times. In 1918, Modigliani and Jeanne left Paris, which was under the threat of occupation by Germans, and went for the southern coast. In Nice and its environments he produced most of the paintings that would later become his most popular and highest-priced works.
In November, 1918 in Nice, Jeanne  gave birth to a girl. After returning to Paris, by the end of 1919, he became seriously ill with tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics, and he died on January 24, 1920. On the following day the pregnant Jeanne committed suicide. They were buried together in the Père Lachaise cemetery. Their orphan daughter was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani : Man and Myth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ruysdael, Salomon van

River Landscape
c. 1640
Oil on panel
64 x 89 cm
Private collection

Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruysdael (c. 1628 - 1682), a native of Haarlem, was a Dutch landscape painter.
He is considered one of the great masters of landscape painting. Drawing inspiration from his surroundings and from the stories of incoming travelers, he created paintings that evoked emotion and thought. He also used his imagination to create dramatic scenes and some of the most astounding landscape art works ever produced. Derived from the Classical style, he paved the way for the Romantic style that came about in the late 18th century.

During his lifetime, his works were little appreciated, and he seems to have suffered from poverty. In 1681 the sect of the Mennonites, with whom he was connected, petitioned the council of Haarlem for his admission into the almshouse of the town, and there the artist died on the 14th of March 1682.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Munch, Edvard

The Sick Child (The fourth version of the painting)
Oil on canvas
118.7 x 121 cm
Tate Collection, London, UK

This is a portrait of Munch's older and favorite sister Sophie who died of tuberculosis in 1877 at the approximate age of 15. Munch considered the painting "a breakthrough in my art". Munch created numerous versions of the painting. The fourth, painted in 1907, is presently in the Tate Gallery, London.

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

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

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

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Appiani, Andrea

Portrait of Napoleon
oil on canvas
100 × 75 cm (39.4 × 29.5 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Andrea Appiani (1754 - 1817) was an Italian neoclassical painter. He came from a lower middle-class background in Milan. He had been intended to follow his father's career in medicine but instead entered the private academy of the painter. He received instruction in drawing, copying mainly from sculpture and prints. He also studied anatomy.

In May 1805, Appiani took part in Napoleon’s coronation in Milan. Napoleon I named Andrea Appiani his "first court painter" and commissioned him to paint works in the Palazzo Reale in Milan. He was made pensioned artist to the Kingdom of Italy by Napoleon, awarded the Légion d'Honneur and the Order of the Iron Crown, and painted Napoleon as First Consul, then Emperor, on several occasions throughout the decade, but lost his allowance after the events of 1814 and fell into poverty. During his stint as court painter he rendered portraits of Napoleon and the chief personages of his regime.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Millet, Jean-Francois

Young Shepherdess
c. 1871
Oil on canvas
162 x 113 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Jean-François Millet (1814 - 1875), the son of a peasant, 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 can be categorized as part of the naturalism and realism movements.

He was trained under a local painter at Cherbourg and then in Paris (1837) under Delaroche. 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. 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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Georgia O'Keeffe

Hollyhock Pink with Pedernal
oil on canvas
20 x 30 in.
Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (1887 – 1986) was an American artist. She was born in a farmhouse on a large dairy farm in Wisconsin.
She distinguished herself as one of America's most important modern artists, a position she maintained throughout her life.

Known for the flower paintings which encompass a quarter of her work, O’Keeffe was originally inspired by nature during her childhood in rural Wisconsin. Shunning her artistic education in favor of expressing her emotions, O’Keeffe enlarged flowers until they became abstract artforms whose sheer size commanded attention. An innovator who profoundly impacted 20th century art, O’Keeffe was the first woman honored with her own exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. New York Times described her paintings as both "bold and hermetic, immediately appealing and unnervingly impassive."

She died in Santa Fe on March 6 at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway".

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tissot, James

The Garden Bench
Oil on canvas
142 x 99 cm (55.9 x 38.9 in.)
Private collection

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 - 1902) was born in Nantes in a seaport on the French coast. Tissot was the son of a very prosperous, successful shopkeeper, who was a devout Roman Catholic. He spent much of his career in Britain. His pictures are distinguished most obviously by his love of painting women's costumes. He also had a gift for wittily observing nuances of social behavior. Early in his career he painted historical costume pieces, but in about 1864 he turned with great success to scenes of contemporary life, usually involving fashionable women. Following his alleged involvement in the turbulent events of the Paris Commune in 1871 he took refuge in London, where he lived from 1871 to 1882. He was just as successful there as he had been in Paris.

Throughout his life Tissot retained an affinity and fascination with all things nautical, and his marked ability to accurately paint rigging and shipboard scene paintings must have come from his boyhood. For many years after his death Tissot was considered a grossly vulgar artist, bug there has been a recent upsurge of interest in him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cima da Conegliano

The Madonna of the orange tree
c. 1495
Tempera and oil on panel
212 x 139 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Giovanni Battista Cima, also called Cima da Conegliano (c.1459 - c.1517) was an Italian Renaissance painter, son of a sheep-shearer, named after the town of his birth, and active mainly in nearby Venice.

Cima was one of the first Italians to assign a place for landscape depiction, and to formulate the laws of atmosphere and of the distribution of light and shade. He became the greatest and perhaps the only painter of religious subjects, and his altarpieces are clear, bright, and poetic. By the second half of the decade his fame had spread beyond the confines of the Venetian state.
He belonged to the generation between Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione and was one of the leading painters of early Renaissance Venice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

The playing Claude Renoir
Oil on canvas
55 x 46 cm
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919) 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 Cézanne.

He was one of the central figures of the Impressionist movement. His 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 was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. Renoir then painted with the brush tied to his wrists. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte 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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Louis Tocque

La comte Carl Gustav Tessin
oil on canvas
80.5 x 64.5 cm
Musee National, Stockholm

Jean Louis Tocque (1696 - 1772) was a French painter, born in Paris. He specialized in portrait painting.
His father, who was also a painter, died in 1710, before Louis was even fourteen. He was eventually brought into the care of another artist, Jean-Marc Nattier. He admired Rigaud and Largillierre and adapted their styles, and Nattier's, to the requirements of his own time. He married Jean-Marc Nattier's daughter Marie Nattier in 1747.

His first major work was the painting of the portrait of Louis XV of France ordered by his great-grandfather Louis XIV, King of France. In 1740 he painted the portrait of Queen of France. From 1737 to 1759 more than fifty of the portraits he painted, were regularly part of the exhibitions of the Salon in Paris . In 1745 he painted the portrait of Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain, one year before her death. In 1757 he went to the Russian Empire, where he stayed for two years after being invited by Elizaveta Petrovna, Empress of Russia in order to create a ceremonial portrait of her. This portrait is today part of the permanent collection of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg in Russia. In the 1760s he traveled to Denmark and created the portraits of the Danish royal family and taught at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tura, Cosimo

The Flight into Egypt
early 1470s
Tempera on wood
Diam. 38.7 cm (15 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Cosimo Tura (c. 1430 - 1495) was an Italian early-Renaissance painter and considered one of the founders of the School of Ferrara. He was a court painter to the dukes of Ferrara. This roundel, dating to the early 1470s, is one of three scenes of the early life of Christ that probably formed part of the predella of Tura's masterpiece, the Roverella altarpiece, the central panel of which is in the National Gallery, London (picture 2). It is characteristic of the artist in its nervous, calligraphic line. Every being in this picture looks sick and miserable.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Matisse, Henri

Odalisque à la culotte grise
oil on canvas
54 cm x 65 cm
Musée de l'Orangerie, París

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 - 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. 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 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. 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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Clark, Alson

Summer, Giverny
oil on canvas
65.1 x 81 cm (25.63 x 31.89 in.)
Private collection

Alson S. Clark (1876 - 1949) was an American Impressionist painter best known for his landscapes much influenced by the French Impressionists. Born in Chicago, Illinois, his art education included training at the Art Institute of Chicago (where he enrolled at Saturday classes at the age of 11), the Art Students League of New York. He spent much of his early career working in Paris, France.

He served in the US Army as an aerial photographer during World War I. In 1920 he and his wife relocated to Pasadena, California. He taught fine art at Occidental College, and was director of the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Magritte, Rene

Le Beau Monde   (The Beautiful World)
100 x 81 cm
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection

Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte (1898 - 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality.

He was born on the 21st November, 1898 in Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. As his business did not go well the family had to move often. Rene lost his mother early and tragically, she committed suicide by drowning herself in the River when Rene was only 14 years old. This was not her first attempt; she had made many over a number of years, driving her husband Leopold to lock her into her bedroom. One day she escaped, and was missing for days. She was later discovered a mile or so down the nearby river, dead.

After studying in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels, he became a wallpaper designer and commercial artist. His early painting works were executed under the influence of the Cubism and Futurism, then he was inspired by the Purists and Fernand Leger. The acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning-point for Magritte. In 1927-30 Magritte lived in France, where he participated in the activities of the Surrealists, establishing a close friendship in particular with Max Ernst, Dali, Andre Breton and especially with Paul Eluard. In Paris, Magritte's system of conceptual painting was formed, it remained almost unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner, intentionally dry and academic, "polished in the technical sense" with precise and clean draughtsmanship demonstrated a paradoxical ability to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality. He was fond of philosophy and literature. Many of his paintings reflect his impressions of literature works, illusions and philosophical metaphors. Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 in his own bed in Brussels at the age of 69, and was interred in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Evere, Brussels. Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art.

Magritte described his paintings as "visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?'. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Klimt, Gustav

Castle Chamber at Attersee II
Oil on canvas
110 x 110 cm
Private collection

"I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women...There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night...Who ever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures." (Klimt)

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. He was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Austria and was educated at the Vienna Kunstgewerbe Art School. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects.

His work is distinguished by an elegant use of gold backgrounds and mosaic patterns. His elaborate, explicitly sensual works expressed themes of regeneration, love and death, and incorporated Egyptian, Classical Greek, Byzantine and Medieval styles. He was also inspired by engravings of Albrecht Durer, late medieval European painting, and Japanese Ukiyo-e.
Laying the groundwork for Art Deco and Modernism, Klimt’s creative influence can still be seen in today’s art, decorations and jewelry. Klimt was one of the founding members of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession). He died in Vienna of pneumonia and was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery, Vienna.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kandinsky, Wassily

Dreamy improvisation (Träumerische Improvisation)
Oil on canvas
130.5 x 130.5 cm
Pinakothek der Moderne Munich, Germany

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." (Kandinsky) 
Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944) was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics. Successful in his profession - he was offered a professorship (chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat - he began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30.

He was never solely a painter, but a theoretician, and organizer at the same time. He expressed his views on art and artistic activity in his numerous writings. In the 1920-30s Kandinsky's name became world famous. He was proclaimed the theoretician and leading figure of abstract painting. In addition to teaching courses, Kandinsky became actively involved in delivering lectures; his exhibitions took place almost yearly in Europe and America.

In 1921, Kandinsky was invited to go to Germany to attend the Bauhaus of Weimar by its founder, architect Walter Gropius. Kandinsky taught the basic design class for beginners and the course on advanced theory at the Bauhaus; he also conducted painting classes and a workshop in which he augmented his color theory with new elements of form psychology. In 1933, the Nazis having come to power in Germany and closed down the Bauhaus, he took refuge in France where he spent the last eleven years of his life. In 1939 Kandinsky and his wife became French citizens. He died on 13 December 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 78.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mengs, Anton Raphael

Maria  Josepha of Austria
oil on canvas
128 x 98 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Maria Josepha of Austria, daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was engaged to Ferdinand IV of Naples, but she died of smallpox at the age of 16 before the marriage.

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 - 1779) was a German painter, active in Rome, Madrid and Saxony, who became one of the precursors to Neoclassical painting. He was widely regarded in his day as Europe's greatest living painter. He eschewed the dramatic illusionism and dynamism of the Baroque style in his figural compositions, preferring instead to blend quotations from ancient sculptures with stylistic elements of Raphael, Correggio, and Titian. The results are generally cold, insipid, and contrived, however, and Mengs's reputation has declined precipitously since the 18th century.

He was a friend of Giacomo Casanova. Casanova provides accounts of his personality and contemporary reputation through anecdotes in Histoire de Ma Vie. He died in Rome in June 1779 and was buried in the Roman Church of Santi Michele e Magno.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Strudwick, John Melhuish

Saint Cecilia
Oil on panel
size unknown
National Museums Liverpool

John Melhuish Strudwick (1849 - 1937), was an important late Victorian Pre-Raphaelite painter. He was born in London, studied at the Royal Academy Schools. Initially, he enjoyed the patronage of wealthy industrialists but his career went into decline when they withdrew their support.
Strudwick's paintings were done in a blend of Renaissance and medieval styles, with meticulous attention to detail, especially in his treatment of draperies and accessories, and leading to a very small output.
The Times obituary described him as 'a beautiful old man... (and) a charming personality, exceedingly kind to young artists'.

Cecilia lived in Rome around 230 AD. She is famous for taking a lifelong vow of chastity which she kept despite her enforced marriage. She converted her husband to Christianity and both suffered martyrdom. In medieval times, a misreading of her Acts led to her connection with church music and when the Academy of Music was established at Rome in 1584, she was adopted as its patroness. Her saint's day is celebrated on 22 November.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Segantini, Giovanni

Eitelkeit (Vanity)
oil on canvas
78x126 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland

"I've got God inside me. I don't need to go to church." (Segantini)
Giovanni Segantini (1858 - 1899), born in Arco in the province of Trient, was an Italian painter known for his large pastoral landscapes of the Alps. He was one of the most famous artists in Europe in the late 19th century, and his paintings were collected by major museums. He was active in Switzerland for most of his life.

After spending a few years in Milan painting genre subjects, he moved to the Lake Como district with his young wife. The rest of his life was spent in virtual isolation as he moved higher and higher into the Alps. With its pure and clear air of the Alps, he was able to develop a style which exuded radiance and at the same time went hand in hand with the evolution of the Divisionism painting technique and his progression towards Symbolism.

Already during his lifetime, he was celebrated through much of Europe as an innovator and prophet, as well as an important symbolist painter. His work represents the quintessential transition from traditional nineteenth century art to the changing styles and interests of the twentieth century.
Over the course of his life he moved from both the physical and emotional internal, such as his scene of motherhood in a stable, to the grand external views of the mountain scenery where he chose to live. Nature and the connections of people to nature are the core themes of his art. After he moved to the mountains he wrote "I am now working passionately in order to wrest the secret of Nature's spirit from her. Nature utters the eternal word to the artist: love, love; and the earth
sings life in spring, and the soul of things reawakens." He himself referred to his work as "naturalist Symbolism."
Segantini died of peritonitis in 1899, at the early age of 41, while working on his painting.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Watts, George Frederick

oil on canvas
65 x 52 cm
Private Collection

"I paint ideas, not things. I paint primarily because I have something to say, and since the gift of eloquent language has been denied to me, I use painting; my intention is not so much to paint pictures which shall please the eye, as to suggest great thoughts which shall speak to the
imagination and to the heart and arouse all that is best and noblest in humanity." (Watts)

The painting represents the shepherd Endymion who was loved by the moon. The classical subject is given a strong and sculptural treatment in which both the nude male figure and the draperies of the moon goddess derive from the Elgin Marbles.

George Frederic Watts (1817 - 1904), born in London, the son of a piano maker, was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works.
He was a modest, hard-working artist who twice refused a baronetcy offered by Queen Victoria and other honours, including an offer to become president of the Royal Academy, although he did accept the Order of Merit, in his own words on behalf of all English artists.
Many of his paintings are held at the Tate Gallery - he donated 21 of his symbolic paintings to the Tate Gallery.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gauguin, Paul

Young Christian Girl (Bretonne en Priere)
Oil on canvas
65.2 x 46.7 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903) was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist.  In 1870, he began a career as a stockbroker and remained in this profession for twelve years, and, in 1883, at the age of thirty-five, he decided to give up business and devote himself entirely to painting.

Gauguin embodied the dissatisfaction with bourgeois (middle-class) Parisian existence felt by several postimpressionist painters. He achieved what was perhaps the most extreme break with that society when he left Europe for a non-Western culture.
In the spring of 1895 he sailed for Tahiti. He settled among the natives but his health grew poorer; An ankle he had broken in Brittany did not heal properly, and he suffered from strokes. He had to depend on menial jobs (work that is beneath a person's skills) in order to support himself. In 1901 he moved to the Marquesas Islands. He died there, alone, of a stroke on May 8, 1903.

Gauguin’s art was not popular while he was alive. After his death, he was recognized for his experimental use of colors and synthetist style that was distinguishably different from Impressionism. Today, he is regarded as a highly influential founder of modern art. He focused on color and line, and often created a profound sense of mystery in his work. His unusual combinations of objects and people can be seen as forerunners of the surrealist (using fantastic imagery) art of the 1920s and later.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fra Angelico

Triptych of The Perugia Altarpiece (Perugia 1437 det. top left)
tempera on panel
Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria of Perugia, Italy

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 - 1455) was an Early Italian Renaissance painter described as having "a rare and perfect talent".  The name Fra Angelico means "Angelic Brother." His art stands as an important link between the first and later generations of Renaissance painting in Florence. In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life.

"The Perugia Altarpiece" is a painting housed in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria of Perugia, Italy. The painting was executed for the St. Nicholas Chapel in the Basilica of San Domenico, Perugia. The predella panels portray scenes of the Life of St. Nicholas.
The work includes a large central panel, depicting the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Angels, and the two side panels, each forming two arched sub-panels and including a figure of saint. This painting is a part of the upper left side panel.
In the early 19th century, it was split and partially dispersed, and some of the predella panels were acquired by the Pinacoteca Vaticana.