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Friday, August 31, 2012

Mucha, Alphonse Maria


Autumn from The Seasons Series
1896
Color lithograph
103 x 54 cm
private collection

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was born in Moravia (now in the Czech Republic, then part of the Austrian Empire). He was a prolific key figure artist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who produced a flurry of paintings, posters, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewellery, wallpaper, theater sets, etc. in what was termed Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau. His works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, surrounded by lush flowers which formed halos behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.
The Art Nouveau style, however, was one that he attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more.

The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he died in Prague on 14 July 1939, of a lung infection, and was interred there in the
Vyšehrad cemetery.
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Picasso, Pablo


The Red Armchair
1931
Oil and Ripolin on panel
131.1 x 98.7 cm (51 5/8 x 38 7/8 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

In 1931, Picasso began a series of paintings of his mistress, Marie Therese Walter, of which "The Red Armchair" was the first. Perhaps acknowledging the double life they were leading, Picasso invented a new motif - a face encompassing the both frontal and profile views. A constant innovator Picasso experimented beyond form and style, exploring different materials in his work.
The Red Armchair demonstrates the use of Ripolin, an industrial housepaint, mixed with oil paint, to produce a variety of surfaces, from the yellow roughened background to the almost brushless finish of black paint.

"Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso", known as Pablo 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. Based on sales of his works at auctions, he holds the title of top ranked artist. He was also a prolific artist with estimates of 50,000 works of art production in his lifetime, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc..

For the last three decades of his long life Picasso lived mostly in south of France. He worked up until the day he died at age 91; literally painting till 3 am on Sunday, April 8th, which was just hours before his death. He died while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Picasso 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. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old.
Pablo Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de


At the Moulin Rouge
1895
oil on canvas
123 × 140.5 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

"I paint things as they are. I don't comment." "I have tried to do what is true and not ideal." (Toulouse-Lautrec)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901) ,an aristocrat, was born in southern France. The son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, he was the last in the line of an aristocratic family that dated back a thousand years. Today, the family estate houses the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec.

He is a 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. He is known, along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period. He observed and captured in his art the Parisian nightlife of the period.

Henri's father was rich, handsome, and eccentric. His mother was overly devoted to her only living child. They themselves were first cousins, and Henri suffered from a number of congenital health conditions attributed to this inbreeding. As a child, Henri was weak and often sick. But by the time he was 10 years old he had begun to draw and paint. At 12 young, he 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. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He dwelt in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his work. Dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks, prostitutes - all these were memorialized on canvas or made into lithographs. He was very much an active part of this community. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing
and drinking, meanwhile making swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings.

In order to join in the Montmartre life - as well as to fortify himself against the crowd's ridicule of his appearance - he began to drink heavily. By the 1890s the drinking was affecting his health. He was confined first to a sanatorium and then to his mother's care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol. He died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at the age of 36, at the family chateau of Malrome. 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. Since after his death, his paintings and posters - particularly the Moulin Rouge group - have been in great demand and bring high prices at auctions and art sales. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be created in Albi, his birthplace, to house her deceased son's 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 woodblock prints which became popular in art circles in Paris.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vermeer, Johannes


Le Verre de vin (Glass of wine)
c.1658-1661
oil on canvas
65 x 77 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

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

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was the son of a silk worker with a taste for buying and selling art. Vermeer himself was also active in the art trade. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories. His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. He lived and worked in Delft all his 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. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Sano di Pietro


L'Ange de l'Annonciation
late fifteenth century
Gold ground on poplar
40.5 x 34 cm
Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon, Vaucluse, France

Sano di Pietro (1406–1481) was an Italian painter and illuminator, active in Siena. In the mid-1400s, his workshop was the busiest in Siena. He and his assistants mass produced scores of devotional panels, often for religious fraternities. He wasn't merely a painter of altar pieces. He also produced frescoes, miniatures, and book bindings. Book bindings are exquisite little paintings that went on the spine of a book.

In addition to his own painting and overseeing the pupils and assistants in his workshop, he was also part of the civic fabric of Siena. There are city records showing his participation. In 1431 and 1442 he was the leader of the San Donato district of Siena. He was also emplloyed as an arbitrator. It was, however, as a painter that he made his living. After a long and successful career he died in 1481. His death notice read; A famous painter and a man wholly dedicated to God.
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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ruysdael, Salomon van


village protégé
1663
oil on canvas
105 x 150.5 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Salomon van Ruysdael (c. 1602 - 1670) was a Dutch Golden Age landscape painter of the Baroque style. He was the son of a woodworker specialized in making fancy ebony frames for mirrors and paintings.

Salomon van Ruysdael was one of the main pioneers of naturalistic landscape in the earlier 17th century in Holland. He was born in the area known as Gooiland and became a member of the Haarlem painters' guild in 1623. A prolific painter, Ruysdael specialized throughout his life in river and estuary scenes. His earlier paintings are modest in theme and restricted in color, the later works becoming more elaborate.

Unlike certain other landscape painters of the period, van Ruysdael generally painted actual landscapes of such places as Arnhem, Dordrecht, and Utrecht, sometimes combining motifs from different places in one picture. His command of the landscape elements - great trees anchoring one side of the composition, distant views that draw the eye, and a vast expanse of sky and clouds - seems more assured, and his use of color for effect more brilliant. From that point he became increasingly interested in light effects and decorative elements in his compositions.  Many of his later works are monumental in format and design, and they exhibit a masterly rendering of atmospheric effects.
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Degas, Edgar


Two Women
1878
pastel
size unknown
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917) was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are considered to be among the finest in the history of art.

Early in his career, his ambition was 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.

Certain features of his work remained the same throughout his life. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory or using models. The figure remained his primary subject; his few landscapes were produced from memory or imagination. It was not unusual for him to repeat a subject many times, varying the composition or treatment. He was a deliberative artist whose works were prepared, calculated, practiced, developed in stages. They were made up of parts. The adjustment of each part to the whole, their linear arrangement, was the occasion for infinite reflection and experiment.  "In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement." (Degas)

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. "The artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown." (Degas)
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Luce, Maximilien


Le bon samaritain (The Good Samaritan)
1896
oil on canvas
76 x 102 cm
private collection

Maximilien Luce (1858 - 1941) was a French Neo-impressionist artist. In his painting, he became influenced by Impressionism. In the 1880s he met and established friendly contacts with many Parisian painters, including Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Together with them he was one of the founders of Neo-Impressionism (Pointillism). Through Camille Pissarro, he came under the influence of Anarchist ideas and formed friendships with the Anarchist writers and journalists in Paris in the 1890s, and in 1894 served a brief prison term, before being acquitted.

He began a movement which based itself on the scientific study of light and the analysis of the prismatic effect of colors. For some years, he worked strictly by the ideas of pointillism, though he later changed his technique in favor of a less formal painting style. Landscapes, city scenes, and depictions of working people define the contents of Luce's paintings. During the First World War he also painted war scenes, depicting soldiers struggling against the horrors of the Great War. In 1934, he was elected President of the Societe des Artistes Independants after Signac’s retirement, but soon resigned in a protest against society's policy to restrict the admission of Jewish artists.
He died in Paris in 1941. He remains an important artist in Pointillism and social realism.
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rousseau, Henri


Les Pecheurs a la ligne
1908
oil on canvas
46 x 55 cm
musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

Henri Julien Felix Rousseau (1844 - 1910), French Post-Impressionist painter, was the most celebrated of naive artists.  He was, from the first, entirely self-taught, and his work remained consistently in Naive, Primitive and imaginative manner. He is known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) because before he retired to paint, he held a minor post in the Paris customs service, although he never actually rose to the rank of Douanier. At age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art.

He was an outsider, and he was not familiar with the rules of the artistic establishment. His character was extraordinarily ingenuous and he suffered much ridicule as well as enduring great poverty. However, his faith in his own abilities never wavered. He was a regular contributor to Paris exhibitions, but during his lifetime, was viewed with amusement and condescension by both the public and fellow artists. Although he worked in traditional genres, producing landscapes, portraits, allegories, and exotic scenes, they were transformed in his hands. Flattened shapes and perspectives, the freedom of color and style, the subordination of realistic description to imagination and invention are the hallmarks of his work. He never left France or saw a jungle. His jungle landscapes derive from his visits and studies at the Paris Botanical Gardens.

He was buried in a pauper's grave, and soon after his death Rousseau's greatness began to be widely acknowledged. Rousseau came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality, though ridiculed during his life. Rousseau's work exerted influence on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso, including Leger and the Surrealists. "I hate books. They only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about." Rousseau claimed he had "no teacher other than nature".
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Derain, Andre


Portrait de Madame Paul Guillaume au Grand Chapeau
(Portrait of Madame Paul Guillaume at Big Hat)
c.1928
oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

"I do not innovate. I transmit." "The substance of painting is light." (Derain)

Andre Derain (1880 ? 1954) was a French painter, sculptor and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse. Together with Henri Matisse, Derain was one of the major exponents of Fauvism from 1905 to 1908. Like the other artists who worked in this style, he painted landscapes and figure studies in brilliant, sometimes pure colors and used broken brushstrokes and impulsive lines to define his spontaneous compositions.

Derain broke with Fauvism in early 1908. He destroyed most of his work to concentrate on tightly constructed landscape paintings, which were a subtle investigation of the work of Cezanne. After World War I his work became more classical, influenced by the work of such artists as Camille Corot. His art underwent virtually no change after the 1920s, though his more conservative style brought him financial success.

In 1954 Derain was knocked down by a truck and was taken to hospital. At first it was thought he was not seriously injured, but the shock was too much for a man in his seventies. He failed to recover.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

El Greco


Pentecôte (Pentecost)
1600
oil on canvas
275 x 127 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

El Greco (1541 - 1614) was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance.
He was born on Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice, and the center of Post-Byzantine art.
He is the most unusual painter in 16th-century Europe. He combined the strict Byzantine style of his homeland, Greece, with influences received during his studies in Venice and the medieval tradition of the country where he worked, Spain.
 
His painting style always gave rise to much discussion. Proud and independent El Greco, who always signed his pictures by his Greek name, demanded constant self-assertion but he was valued and respected by the intellectuals of Toledo , being regarded as a "Man of eccentric habits and ideas, of tremendous determination, extraordinary reticence, and extreme devoutness". 

El Greco did not have followers, and his art was forgotten for 300 years. The re-discovery of his painting was a sensation; he became one of the most popular masters of the past, his painting rose the interest of collectors, artists, lovers of art and art historians. El Greco is now regarded as one of the most important representatives of European Mannerism.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Courbet, Gustave


Self-Portrait with Pipe
1849
oil on canvas
45 x 37 cm (18 x 15 in.)
Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France

 "I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom. Let me end my life free. When I am dead let this be said of me: He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any régime except the régime of liberty."

Many of Courbet’s early paintings from the 1840’s are self-portraits. As a method of self-promotion and advertisement, he made an impression with his self-portraits, and used them to find his own artistic style. After this period, he became convinced that painters should illustrate the world around them as they see it and his realistic work in the later 1840’s gained support among younger realist and neo-romantic painters.

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting.
He was born into a wealthy bourgeoisie family in Ornans, France. In 1841, Courbet left the countryside where he grew up to study law in Paris. However, this is where he discovered the joy of painting, and soon all interest in the law was gone. In 1844 his self-portrait, Courbet with a Black Dog, was accepted by the Salon.

Courbet lived a Bohemian lifestyle, sacrificing many bourgeoisie comforts to paint in a creative environment. He attempted to show his political leanings through his choice of lifestyle and the subjects of his paintings.

He was always at odds with vested authority, aesthetic or political. For his choice of subjects from ordinary life, and more especially for his obstinacy and audacity, his work was reviled as offensive to prevailing politics and aesthetic taste. Enjoying the drama, Courbet rose to defend his work as the expression of his newfound political radicalism. While he continued to provoke the
establishment by submitting works to the Salon that were twice rejected in the mid-1860s, within that decade he triumphed as the leader of the realist school.
His influence became enormous, reaching its height with his rejection of the cross of the Legion of Honor offered him by Napoleon III in 1870. Under the Commune of Paris (1871), Courbet was president of the artists' federation and initially active in the Commune; he was later unfairly held responsible, fined, and imprisoned for the destruction of the Vendôme column.
In 1873 he fled to Switzerland, where he spent his few remaining years in poverty. Although his aesthetic theories were not destined to prevail, his painting is greatly admired for its frankness, vigor, and solid construction.

Courbet died, at the age of 58 in Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.
“Painting”, in Courbet's view, “should consist solely of the reproduction of things the artist can see and touch.”
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bonnard, Pierre


Earthly Paradise
1920
oil on canvas
130 x 160 cm (51 1/4 x 63 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

“Painting has to get back to its original goal, examining the inner lives of human beings.” (Bonnard)

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

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

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

Picasso was very critical of Bonnard : “That’s not painting,” Picasso said. “Painting can’t be done that way. Painting isn’t a question of sensibility; it’s a matter of seizing the power, taking over from nature, not expecting her to supply you with information and good advice.” Matisse was supportive, however, remarking : “Yes! I certify that Pierre Bonnard is a great painter, for today and for the future.”
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Millais, John Everett


Portrait of Sophie Gray
1857
oil on mounted paper
30.5 x 20.3 cm (12 x 8 in.)
Jean Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA

This hypnotic, close-up study, tinged with melancholy, portrays Millais's much younger sister-in-law Sophie at Fourteen. Her intense gaze, both vulnerable and defiant, flushed cheeks, full lips, and cascading auburn locks powerfully suggest the awakening of female sexuality and desire, a theme more conventionally symbolized in the embroidered heart filled with flowers that emblazons her chest.

Sir John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896) was born in Southampton, England. His family was of French descent. In 1838 he attended Henry Sass' Drawing School and the Royal Academy in 1840. While still a youth, he won various medals for his drawings. With Rossetti and Hunt, he founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Ophelia,  exhibited in 1852 at the Royal Academy, marks the culmination of Millais' youthful period.

Endowed with a virtuoso technical skill, he rapidly outstripped his colleagues and won lasting fame. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy and served as President in 1896. Millais' works never failed to elicit praise. His remarkable technique lent his canvases a unique distinction, particularly in his last paintings, long after the exhilaration of the radiant Pre-Raphaelite period had died away. Towards the end of his life, he turned to portraiture. He was also a fine illustrator.
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig


Nu feminin au chapeau (Nude female in cap)
1911
oil on canvas
76 x 70 cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany

"A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things." (Kirchner )

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 - 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the key artists group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. The group aimed to eschew the prevalent traditional academic style and find a new mode of artistic expression, which would form a bridge between the past and the present. They responded both to past artists such as Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder, as well as contemporary international avant-garde movements. As part of the affirmation of their national heritage, they revived older media, particularly woodcut prints.

He was born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria. He studied architecture in Dresden. After finishing his studies, however, he opposed his father's wishes and decided to become a painter. In 1911 Kirchner moved to Berlin. Here he discovered new motifs - city and street scenes. He painted them in a simplified manner, with sharply contoured forms, expressive features and clashing colors. The city paintings became incunables of Expressionism and made Kirchner one of the most important German artists of the 20th century.

At the onset of the First World War in 1914, he volunteered for military service, but soon suffered a nervous breakdown and was discharged. In 1917 he settled in Frauenkirch near Davos. The city scenes were now replaced by mountain landscapes and scenes of rural life. Around 1920 his painting style calmed down, his paintings had a carpet-like two dimensionality. In 1923 he moved to the "Haus auf dem Wildboden" at the entrance of the Sertig Valley. In 1933, he was labelled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis, over 600 of his works were confiscated from public museums in Germany and were sold or destroyed. In 1938, the psychological trauma of these events, along with the Nazi occupation of Austria, close to his Sertig Valley home, led him to commit suicide.
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


Tilla Durieux
1914
oil on canvas
92.1 × 73.7 cm (36 1/4 x 29 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Tilla Durieux (1880 - 1971) was a renowned Austrian actress of the first decades of the 20th century. After World War II in the western Federal Republic of Germany, she played in numerous theater and film roles as well as on television and radio shows. For these roles she received many awards. In addition, she was inducted into the German Academy of Performing Arts as an honorary member and was named State Actress. Beside her work as an actress, she composed a number of literary works, including novel and drama.

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 was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. He then painted with the brush tied to his wrists. Renoir died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes, next to his wife Aline. "The pain passes, but the beauty remains." "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world." (Renoir)
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chichkine, Ivan


Au chalet d'été (At the summer cottage)
1894
oil on canvas
size unknown
Musée tartare, Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia

Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (Ivan Chichkine, 1832 - 1898) was a Russian landscape painter closely associated with the Peredvizhniki movement.
He was born in Yelabuga of Vyatka Governorate (today Republic of Tatarstan), and graduated from the Kazan gymnasium. Then he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, attended the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, which he graduated with the highest honours and a gold medal. He received the Imperial scholarship for his further studies in Europe. Five years later he became a member of the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg and was professor of painting. His painting method was based on analytical studies of nature. He became famous for his forest landscapes, and was also an outstanding draftsman and a printmaker.

Shishkin owned a dacha in the south of St. Petersburg. There he painted some of his finest landscapes. His works are notable for poetic depiction of seasons in the woods, wild nature, animals and birds. He died in St. Petersburg, Russia, while working on his new painting.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hopper, Edward


Second Story Sunlight
1960
oil on canvas
40 x 50 in.
Whithney Museum of American art, New York, USA

"Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world." "I don't think I ever tried to paint the American scene; I'm trying to paint myself." (Hopper)

Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967) was a prominent American realist painter. He painted American landscapes and cityscapes with a disturbing truth, expressing the world around him as a chilling, alienating, and often vacuous place. Everybody in a Hopper picture appears terribly alone. Hopper gained a widespread reputation as the artist who gave visual form to the loneliness and boredom of life in the big city. This was something new in art.

He showed the modern world unflinchingly; even its gaieties are gently mournful, echoing the disillusionment and the sense of human hopelessness that swept across the country after the start of the Great Depression in 1929.

He painted hotels, motels, trains and highways, and also liked to paint the public and semi-public places where people gathered: restaurants, theaters, cinemas and offices. But even in these paintings he stressed the theme of loneliness - his theaters are often semideserted, with a few patrons waiting for the curtain to go up or the performers isolated in the fierce light of the stage. Hopper was a frequent movie-goer, and there is often a cinematic quality in his work.

As the years went on, however, he found suitable subjects increasingly difficult to discover, and often felt blocked and unable to paint. With Hopper the whole fabric of his art seemed to be interwoven with his personal character and manner of living. When the link between the outer world he observed and the inner world of feeling and fantasy broke, Hopper found he was unable to create. In particular, the rise of Abstract Expressionism left him marooned artistically, for he disapproved of many aspects of the new art.
He died in 1967, isolated if not forgotten. His true importance has only been fully realized in the years since his death.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Grimshaw, John Atkinson


Reflections on the Thames, Westminster
1880
oil on canvas
76.2 x 127 cm
location unknown

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836 - 1893) was a Victorian-era artist, a "remarkable and imaginative painter" known for his city night-scenes and landscapes. He was born in Leeds. In 1861, at the age of 24, he left his job as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway to become a painter. His primary influence was the Pre-Raphaelites. True to the Pre-Raphaelite style, he created landscapes of accurate color, lighting, vivid detail,and realism.

He painted landscapes that typified seasons or a type of weather; city and suburban street scenes and moonlit views of the docks in London, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow also figured largely in his art. He depicted the contemporary world but eschewed the dirty and depressing aspects of industrial towns. His careful painting and skill in lighting effects meant that he captured both the appearance and the mood of a scene in minute detail.

He died 13 October 1893, and is buried in Woodhouse Hill Cemetery, Hunslet, Leeds. Some artists of Grimshaw's period, like Vincent Van Gogh, left letters and documents recording his work and lives. Grimshaw left behind no letters, journals, or papers; scholars and critics have little material on which to base their understanding of his life and career. His "paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene."
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cima da Conegliano


Archangel Raphael with Tobias and two saints
c. 1470 - 1517
oil on panel
size unknown
Accademia Galleries, Dorsoduro, Venice, Italy

Giovanni Battista Cima, also called Cima da Conegliano (c. 1459 - c. 1517) was an Italian Renaissance painter, active mainly in nearby Venice. He was born at Conegliano, now part of the province of Treviso. His father was a sheep-shearer (cimator), hence the family surname. After a rudimentary education in painting in Conegliano, he went to Venice, where he emerges as the only artist in Venice equal to Giovanni Bellini. His altarpieces are clear, bright, and poetic and 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. Although he was always capable of modest innovation, his style did not undergo any radical alteration during a career of some 30 years, and his response to the growing taste for Giorgionesque works from the early 16th century remained superficial. As a result of that, he had little long-term influence on the course of Venetian painting. His paintings are mostly quiet devotional scenes, often in landscape settings, in the manner of Giovanni Bellini. He has been called "the poor man's Bellini", but because of his calm and weighty figures he was also known in the 18th century as "the Venetian Masaccio".
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Erte


Blossom Umbrella
1979
Serigraph on Paper
60 x 45cm
private collection

"I have always loved working at night. No one interrupts me. No telephone calls disturb my train of thought. I feel I have unlimited time. One bright lamp (its bluish light helps me to see the true colors) illuminates the drawing on which I am working." (Erte)

The Russian-born painter Romain de Tirtoff (1892 – 1990), who called himself Erté after the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T., was one of the foremost fashion and stage designers of the early twentieth century. He was a diversely-talented artist and designer who flourished in an array of fields, including fashion, jewelry, graphic arts, costume and set design for film, theater, and opera, and interior decor.

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. He designed the cover of Harper’s Bazaar for 22 years. The influence of his work as a result of the high visibility of Harper’s influenced an entire art movement that was to become known as "Art Deco" and he became known as "The Father of Art Deco".

Erté pursued his chosen career with unflagging zest and creativity for almost 80 years. The genius of him is evidenced by an enormous body of work that is considered among the most influential and unique of the 20th century. 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.
On his death in 1990, he was hailed as the "prince of the music hall" and "a mirror of fashion for 75 years".
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Heade, Martin Johnson


Light and shadow: the Newbury Marshes
c.1875
oil on canvas
30.5 x 67.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Martin Johnson Heade (1819 - 1904) was a prolific American painter known for his salt marsh landscapes, seascapes, and depictions of tropical birds (such as hummingbirds), as well as lotus blossoms and other still lifes. He was born in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, the son of a storekeeper. His earliest works were produced during the 1840s and were chiefly portraits. Friendships with artists of the Hudson River School led to an interest in landscape art. He traveled to the tropics several times thereafter, and continued to paint birds and flowers.

Heade was not a widely known artist during his lifetime, but his work attracted the notice of scholars, art historians, and collectors during the 1940s. He quickly became recognized as a major American artist. Although often considered a Hudson River School artist, some critics and scholars take exception to this categorization. Heade's works are now in major museums and collections. His best known works are depictions of light and shadow upon the salt marshes of New England. His paintings are occasionally discovered in unlikely places such as garage sales and flea markets.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Clouet, Francois


Portrait of Francis I, King of France (Francois I of France on horseback)
c. 1540
Oil on wood
27 x 22 cm
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

François Clouet (c. 1510 - 1572) was a French Renaissance miniaturist and painter, particularly known for his detailed portraits of the French ruling family.

Clouet resided in Paris in the Temple quarter, and in 1568 is known to have been under the patronage of Claude Gouffier de Boisy, Seigneur d'Oiron, and his wife Claude de Baune. In 1571 he was summoned to the office of the Court of the Mint, and his opinion was taken on the likeness to the king of a portrait struck by the mint. He prepared the death-mask of Henry II, as in 1547 he had taken a similar mask of the face and hands of Francis I., in order that the effigy to be used at the funeral might be prepared from his drawings; and on each of these occasions he executed the painting to be used in the decorations of the church and the banners for the great ceremony. His work is remarkable for the elaborate finish of all the details, the extreme accuracy of the drawing, and the exquisite completeness of the whole portrait.

He died on 22 December 1572, shortly after the massacre of St Bartholomew, and his will, mentioning his sister and his two illegitimate daughters, and dealing with the disposition of a considerable amount of property, is still in existence. His daughters subsequently became nuns.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Picasso, Pablo


Nude under a Pine Tree
1959
Oil on canvas
193 x 276.9 cm (76 1/2 x 110 in. )
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Pablo Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”
"Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso", known as Pablo 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. Based on sales of his works at auctions, he holds the title of top ranked artist. He was also a prolific artist with estimates of 50,000 works of art production in his lifetime, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc..

For the last three decades of his long life Picasso lived mostly in south of France.
He worked up until the day he died at age 91; literally painting till 3 am on Sunday, April 8th, which was just hours before his death. He died while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Picasso 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. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Francia, Francesco


Federigo Gonzaga
1510
Tempera on wood
45.1 x 34.3 cm (17 3/4 x 13 1/2 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In July 1510 the ten-year-old Federigo Gonzaga was sent from Mantua to Rome as a hostage. On his way to Rome he stopped in Bologna, where Francia astounded everyone by painting and delivering his portrait in twelve days. The picture was subsequently taken to Rome for the admiration of the papal court and was only reluctantly returned to Federigo's mother. The fine execution of this famous portrait is typical of Francia's best work.

Francesco Raibolini  (ca. 1447 - 1517), called Francia, was an Italian painter, goldsmith from Bologna. He was an important artist in his day but fame was overshadowed by the next generation of High Renaissance painters. His soft and graceful mature style was mainly based on that of Perugino and Raphael, and was popular and much imitated around Bologna. His most characteristic works are sweet, softly rounded Madonnas. He was also an accomplished portraitist.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

O'Keeffe, Georgia


Pink Tulip
1926
oil on canvas
36 x 30 in.
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, USA

"I paint not what I could see, but a music only I can hear."  "The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint." Abstraction and representation for O’Keeffe were neither binary nor oppositional. She moved freely from one to the other, cognizant that all art is rooted in an underlying abstract formal invention. For O’Keeffe, abstraction offered a way to communicate ineffable thoughts and sensations. Abstraction allowed her to express intangible experience - be it a quality of light, color, sound, or response to a person or place. O’Keeffe's goal as a painter was to "make the unknown - known. By unknown I mean the thing that means so much to the person that he wants to put it down - clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand." (O’Keeffe)

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986) was an American artist. She was born in a farmhouse on a large dairy farm near Sun Prairie, 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, she enlarged flowers until they became abstract artforms whose sheer size commanded attention. "Precisionist", is the term most widely used to describe her work. O’Keeffe’s great clarity in painting is what identifies her well-known paintings of urban architecture, mountains, bones, and flowers. The simple, clear forms in her masterpieces made her a pioneer of a new modernism in the USA. Although O’Keeffe used her subject matter representationaly, the starkly linear quality, the thin, clear coloring, and boldly patterned compositions give the effect of an abstract design. She 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."

At the age of 84, she began to go blind, eventually retaining only peripheral vision. She did her last unassisted oil painting in 1972. The next year, a young ceramic artist, Juan Hamilton, arrived at her door to offer his assistance as a handyman. He became her controversial assistant, companion, and representative for her remaining years. In 1984, in failing health, O'Keeffe moved to Santa Fe to live with Juan Hamilton and his family. The next year she died at the age of 98, leaving most of her estate to Juan Hamilton, which prompted a legal suit by O'Keeffe's family. Hamilton eventually agreed to turn over more than two-thirds of his inheritance to the museums and institutions in her original will. In 1997, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum opened in Santa Fe, with its first exhibition curated by Juan Hamilton. It is the first art museum dedicated to the work of an internationally acclaimed woman artist.

In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway".
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jean-Honore Fragonard


The Shepherdess
c. 1750/52
oil on canvas
118.75 x 160.02 cm (46 3/4 x 63 in. )
Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, USA

Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732 ? 1806) ,French painter, was one of the most prolific artists whose scenes of frivolity and gallantry are among the most complete embodiments of the Rococo spirit. He was a pupil of Chardin for a short while and also of Boucher. He developed into the most brilliant and versatile artist in 18th-century France. He wielded brush, chalk and etcher's needle with extraordinary virtuosity, effortlessly varying his touch as he produced a succession of consummate masterpieces on themes from religion, mythology, genre and landscape. Among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism. His delicate coloring, witty characterization, and spontaneous brushwork ensured that even his most erotic subjects are never vulgar, and his finest work has an irresistible verve and joyfulness.

By 1780 Fragonard’s career had passed its peak. Erotic paintings and the exuberant decorative style he was known for had gradually begun to go out of fashion, replaced by Neo-Classicism, which would gain more popularity in the years leading up to the French Revolution.
Fragonard died in 1806, almost completely ignored and forgotten.
He had little direct influence on French painting, but his work shows many of the preoccupations of later artists with problems of style, subject-matter and conception.
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vallotton, Felix


Le Mensonge (The Lie)
1898
oil on board
14 x 33.4 cm
Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland, USA

Félix Edouard Vallotton (1865 - 1925) was a Swiss painter associated with Les Nabis. He was an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut. He was born into a well-to-do middle-class family in Lausanne. At the age of seventeen, he came to Paris to enter the Académie Julian. He spent many hours in the Louvre, where he greatly admired the works of Holbein, Dürer and Ingres; these artists would remain exemplars for Vallotton throughout his life. He began his artistic career by painting portraits, and then turned to interior scenes. It was during this period that he developed his own manner of painting: he worked with small, precise strokes, carefully rendering every detail and creating a smooth canvas surface.

During the First World War he produced an anti-war series of drawing. In the 1920s he regularly exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, though his popularity underwent a marked decline. He died on the day after his 60th birthday, following cancer surgery in Paris in 1925. Apart from his work in the fields of painting, drawing and sculpture, he wrote three novels and a number of plays.
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Friday, August 3, 2012

Durand, Asher Brown


The Beeches (Les hetres)
1845
Oil on canvas
153.4 x 122.2 cm (60 3/8 x 48 1/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

"The true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation...." (Durand)

Asher Brown Durand (1796 - 1886) was an American painter of the Hudson River School. He was born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey, the eighth of eleven children. His father was a watchmaker and a silversmith. He was apprenticed to an engraver. He engraved Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull in 1823, which established Durand's reputation as one of the country's finest engravers.

Around 1830, his interest shifted from engraving to oil painting. He spent summers sketching in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, making hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that were later incorporated into finished academy pieces which helped to define the Hudson River School. He is particularly remembered for his detailed portrayals of trees, rocks, and foliage. He was an advocate for drawing directly from nature with as much realism as possible. Like other Hudson River School artists, he also believed that nature was an ineffable manifestation of God.
He died on the family property in Maplewood, to which he had retired from active professional life in 1869.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Motley, Archibald John, Jr.


Nightlife
1943
oil on canvas
91.4 x 121.3 cm (36 x 47 3/4 in.)
location unknown

Archibald John Motley, Junior (1891 - 1981) was an American painter. He studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1910s. He is most famous for his colorful chronicling of the African-American experience during the 1920s and 1930s, and is considered one of the major contributors to the Harlem Renaissance. He specialized in portraiture and saw it "as a means of affirming racial respect and race pride."

"And that's why I say that racism is the first thing that they have got to get out of their heads, forget about this damned racism, to hell with racism ... That means nothing to an artist. We're all human beings. And the sooner that's forgotten and the sooner that you can come back to yourself and do the things that you want to do." (Motley)

His night scenes and crowd scenes, heavily influenced by jazz culture, are perhaps his most popular and most prolific. He depicted a vivid, urban black culture that bore little resemblance to the conventional and marginalizing rustic images of black Southerners so popular in the cultural eye. It is important to note, however, that it was not his community he was representing. Unlike many other Harlem Renaissance artists, he never lived in Harlem - he was born in New Orleans and spent the majority of his life in Chicago. He married a white woman and was among the affluent and elite black community of Chicago. He was not a part of that urban experience in the same way his subjects were.
He was awarded the Harmon Foundation award in 1928, and then became the first African-American to have a one-man exhibit in New York City.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vermeer, Johannes


La Jeune Fille à la flûte (Girl with a Flute)
c.1666
oil on canvas
20 x 17.8 cm (7 7/8 x 7 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was the son of a silk worker with a taste for buying and selling art. Vermeer himself was also active in the art trade. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories. His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. He lived and worked in Delft all his 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. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.
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