Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gogh, Vincent van

Vase with Oleanders and Books
oil on canvas
60.3 x 73.7 cm (23 3/4 x 29 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

For Van Gogh, oleanders were joyous, life-affirming flowers that bloomed "riotously" and were "continually renewing" themselves. In this painting of August 1888, the flowers fill a majolica jug that Van Gogh used for other still lifes made in Arles. They are symbolically juxtaposed with Émile Zola's novel La joie de vivre.

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)
Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He loved art from an early age. He began to draw as a child, and he continued making drawings throughout the years leading to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted. His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.
The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. According to an art critic, his late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and "longing for concision and grace".

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Picasso, Pablo

Le Gourmet
oil on canvas
92.8 x 68.3 cm (36 9/16 x 26 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Shortly after travelling to Paris from Barcelona, Picasso began to produce works that were suffused in blue. This particular pigment is effective in conveying a sombre tone. The psychological trigger for these depressing paintings was the suicide of Picasso's friend Casagemas. The Blue Period work is quite sentimental, but we must keep in mind that Picasso was still in his late teens, away from home for the first time, and living in very poor conditions. Le Gourmet is the painting of Blue Period.

"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, born in Málaga on the southern coast of Spain. One of the greatest, dynamic 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 was exposed to art from a very young age by his father, who was a painter and art instructor. After studying at various art schools between 1892 and 1896, including academies in Barcelona and Madrid, he went on to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid during the winter of 1896-1897. Picasso soon became bored with academics and set himself up as an independent artist. In Barcelona in 1899 Picasso’s circle of friends included young avantgarde artists and writers who traveled between Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. Picasso also visited these cities and absorbed the local culture. His early works were influenced by old masters such as El Greco and Velázquez and by modern artists including Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Picasso moved to Paris in 1904 and settled in a dilapidated section of Montmartre, a working-class quarter. This area was home to many young artists and writers, and he was gradually assimilated into their stimulating intellectual community. Although Picasso benefited greatly from the artistic atmosphere in Paris and his circle of friends, he was often lonely, unhappy, and terribly poor.

Picasso 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.”

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bruegel, Pieter the Elder

The Peasant Wedding
oil on panel
114 × 164 cm (44.9 × 64.6 in.)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The bride is under the canopy. According to contemporary custom, the groom is not seated at the table but may be the man pouring out beer. Two pipers play the pijpzak, and an unbreeched boy in the foreground licks a plate. The feast is in a barn in the spring time ; two ears of corn with a rake reminding us of the work that harvesting involves, and the hard life peasants have. The plates are carried on a door off its hinges. The main food was bread, porridge and soup.

Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder (c.1525 - 1569) was a Flemish renaissance painter, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. He received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' or 'Bruegel the Peasant' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant in order to mingle at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings.

Making the life and manners of peasants the main focus of a work was rare in painting in Bruegel's time, and he was a pioneer of the Netherlandish genre painting. He developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative, or story-telling, meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes and parables of Christ to such mythological portrayals as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; religious allegories in the style of Hieronymus Bosch; and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. Using abundant spirit and comic power, he created some of the early images of acute social protest in art history. On his deathbed he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution.

He was the father of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Both became painters, but as they were very young children when their father died, it is believed neither received any training from him. Bruegel died in Brussels between Sept. 5 and 9, 1569. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Modigliani, Amedeo

Portrait of Sofa Almaiisa
oil on canvas
81 x 116 cm
Private Collection

“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. His father was a money-changer, but when his business failed, the family lived in poverty. Amedeo's birth saved the family from ruin, as according to an ancient law, creditors could not seize the bed of a pregnant woman or a mother with a newborn child.

His mother was, in many ways, instrumental in his ability to pursue art as a vocation. When he was eleven years of age, she had noted in her diary: "The child's character is still so unformed that I cannot say what I think of it. He behaves like a spoiled child, but he does not lack intelligence. We shall have to wait and see what is inside this chrysalis. Perhaps an artist?"
Today, Modigliani  is known for his paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. He had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health. He was influenced through his art studies by the writings of Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Carducci, Comte de Lautréamont, and others, and developed the belief that the only route to true creativity was through defiance and disorder.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when he was 26. Anna was tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-green eyes, she embodied Modigliani's aesthetic ideal and the pair became engrossed in each other, although in later years they became apart. 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 19-year old Jeanne Hebuterne (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, at the age of 35. When he died, his pregnant wife of nearly nine months was emotionally destroyed by his death. Two days after his death, she jumped out of a 5th storey window and killed herself and her unborn child. They were buried together in the Pere 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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vlaminck, Maurice de

Houses at Chateau
oil on canvas
81.3 x 101.6 cm (32 x 40 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Maurice de Vlaminck (1876 - 1958) was a French painter. Along with Andre Derain and Henri Matisse he is considered one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense color.

He was born in Paris to a family of musicians. His father taught him to play the violin. He first pursued the same musical career as his parents.
After absolving his military service, he worked as a musician until he accidentally met Andre Derain in 1900.
It was Derain who kindled Vlaminck's artistic ambitions. He decided to become a painter and rented an old hut in which he and Derain shared a studio. A crucial turning point in his artistic development was a visit to a van Gogh exhibition in Paris in the following year. After visiting a van Gogh exhibit, he declared that he "loved van Gogh that day more than my own father". In 1902 he met Henri Matisse, who encouraged him to exhibit at the Salon des Independents.

He painted during the day and earned his livelihood by giving violin lessons and performing with musical bands at night. His artistic work was interrupted for four years in 1914 when he was drafted into the war. After his release he established a small studio in Paris. It took place in 1919 at Druet, bringing about the artist's definite break-through. The show was so successful that he was able to buy a house in Valmondois in the same year. In this rural environment, he was finally able to develop his own style.
His work was honoured in numerous international exhibitions during the 1930s.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monet, Claude

Waterloo Bridge, Gray Weather
oil on canvas
65.4 x 92.6 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Claude Monet first traveled to London in 1870, to escape from the Franco-Prussian War. The marine scenes of Joseph Mallord William Turner fascinated him. He went back to London with the intention of painting in the fall of 1899. His seventh-floor suite at the Savoy Hotel had a view of the Thames River, with Waterloo Bridge and the factories of Southwark visible to the east, and Charing Cross Railway Bridge and the Palace of Westminster to the west. He spent six weeks executing quick studies with the intention of finishing them in his Giverny studio.

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

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

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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Schiele, Egon

Two little girls
watercolor and pencil on paper
31 x 40 cm (12.0 x 15.7 in.)
The Albertina, Wien, Austria

Schiele, in his early twenties, tended to gravitate to the familiar. He himself, his beloved sister Gertrude, and his fledgling girlfriends were his most frequent models. He also readily identified with children. Schiele, who described himself as an "eternal child", was in many ways still a boy himself. Certainly his emotional maturity lagged far behind his artistic precocity, making it possible for him to depict puerile mental state that generally elude older artists. The torment of growing up remained very real to him; not only did he still suffer the pangs of puberty, but he found young models far less intimidating than adults. Children had one other great advantage over mature models in Schiele's early, impecunious days: they could be persuaded to pose for spare change, or even for a bit of candy. The streets of Vienna were teeming with young urchins, and Schiele lured them like the Pied Piper.
"There were always two or three smaller or larger girls in Schiele's studio; girls from the neighborhood, from the street, solicited in nearby Schonbrunn Park; some ugly, some attractive, some washed, but also some unwashed. They sat around doing nothing...Well, they slept, recovered from parental beatings, lolled about lazily...their closely cropped or tangled hair, pulled their skirts up or down, tied or untied their shoelaces. And all this they did - if one can call that doing something - because they were left to themselves like animals in comfortable cage, or so they perceived it." (Schile's friend, the artist and writer Paris von Gutersloh)

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Austrian painter and his work is noted for its intensity, was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century and was regarded by many of his contemporaries as the predestined successor to Gustav Klimt, but died before he could fulfill his promise. The twisted body shapes and the expressive line that characterize his paintings and drawings mark the artist as an early exponent of Expressionism.

On 19 October 1918 Edith, his pregnant wife, fell ill with Spanish influenza, then sweeping Europe. On 28 October she died. Schiele, who seems never to have written her a real love-letter, and who in the midst of her illness wrote his mother a very cool letter to say that she would probably not survive, was devastated by the loss. Almost immediately he came down with the same sickness, and died on 31 October, three days after his wife.

When Egon Schiele died in 1918 at the age of only 28 years old, he was seen as being one of the most important artists of his time. During the turmoil of the following decades he was more and more buried in oblivion until he completely disappeared into thin air after being judged as "degenerate art" by Hitler's Nazi regime. When Rudolf Leopold saw works by Egon Schiele at the beginning of the 1950s he immediately recognized their quality, emotionality and technical
bravura could absolutely be compared to the Old Masters. The life of the young eye doctor changed radically. He entirely devoted himself to collecting and trading art. Many Schiele paintings and drawings were on sold on the free market at the time and even quite affordable even though they were not that cheap: a large-sized oil painting pretty much had the same price as a new car. Rudolf Leopold made significant contributions to the international esteem in which he is held today. With 44 oil paintings and around 180 graphic works, the Leopold Museum is the largest and most prominent collection with works of Egon Schiele worldwide.

"All beautiful and noble qualities have been united in me ... I shall be the fruit which will leave eternal vitality behind even after its decay. How great must be your joy, therefore, to have given birth to me." (Egon Schiele)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mantegna, Andrea

Samson and Delilah
c. 1495
Tempera on linen
47 x 36.8 cm (18 1/2 x 14 3/8 in.)
National Gallery, London, England

This picture is based on the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. It is painted to look like a cameo - a miniature relief in the different strata of a precious stone. Such carvings by Roman gem-cutters were admired and collected in Mantegna's circle. In the biblical story, Delilah reveals the secret of Samson's strength (his uncut hair) to his enemies, and he is captured. This was sometimes seen as an example of a woman's treachery: Delilah betrayed her lover for money.

Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 - 1506) was an Italian painter, born near Padua, a student of Roman archeology, one of the foremost north Italian painters of the 15th century. A master of perspective and foreshortening, he made important contributions to the compositional techniques of Renaissance painting. He painted heroic figures, often using a dramatic perspective that gives the viewer the illusion of looking up from below. The effect is somewhat the same as looking up from ground level at statues mounted on a pedestal, creating a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500. Together with Giovanni Bellini, he was largely responsible for spreading the ideas of the Early Renaissance in northern Italy.

His first important commission came in 1448, painting frescoes for the Eremitani Chapel in Padua. He worked in Padua, Verona and Venice before moving to Mantua in 1460, where he spent the rest of his life. The great paintings by Mantegna date from his years in Mantua as court artist to the Gonzaga rulers of Mantua. He was knighted by 1484, a rare honour for an artist. Mantegna was also important as a graphic artist, his many engravings exerting a powerful influence on Durer.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Uemura, Shoen

New autumn
c. 1940 - 45
ink and color on silk
66.0 × 72.0 cm
Menard Art Museum, Komaki, Aichi, Japan

Uemura, Shoen (1875 - 1949) was an important woman artist in modern Japanese painting. Shoen was known primarily for her paintings of beautiful women in the Japanese-style art, although she also produced numerous works on historical themes and traditional subjects.

Shoen was born in Kyoto, as the second daughter of a tea merchant. She was born two months after the death of her father and thus grew up together with her mother and aunts in an all female household. Her mother’s tea shop attracted a refined, cultured clientele for the art of Japanese tea ceremony.

As a child she drew pictures, while her mother bustled about the shop. Even the customers were attracted by the beauty of her drawings, although she was just a small girl. Unusually for the times, her mother supported her daughter's decision to pursue art as a career. She was obsessed with the works of Hokusai (1760-1849), a famous Ukiyo-e wood block artist.

Themes and elements from the traditional Noh drama frequently appeared in her works, but images of beautiful women (bijinga) came to dominate her works. Eventually, her works would combine the themes of both Noh and women together into a single composition. She put strong affections into persons in her paintings, but at the same time maintained stern distance from them to produce graceful, sometimes somewhat rigorous portraits throughout her career.

In 1941, Shoen became the first woman painter in Japan to be invited to join the Imperial Art Academy. She was also appointed a court painter to the Imperial Household Agency in 1944. In 1948, she became the first woman to be awarded Japan's prestigious Order of Culture.  She continued painting until her death in 1949.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cassatt, Mary

Young Mother Sewing
oil on canvas
92.4 x 73.7 cm (36 3/8 x 29 in.)
Henry Osborne Havemeyer Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

"Why do people so love to wander? I think the civilized parts of the World will suffice for me in the future." (Cassatt)
During the 1870s and 1880s, Cassatt often depicted women out and about in Paris, where she had settled in 1874. During the 1890s, she narrowed the range of her subjects to mothers or nurses caring for children and children alone. These themes reflected her affection for her nieces and nephews and her friends' children and her contemporaries' concern with motherhood and child rearing.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 - 1926) was an American painter. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. She was described as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.

Her own works were very favourably received by the critics and contributed not a little to the acceptance of Impressionism. Despite her admiration for Degas, she was no slavish imitator of his style, retaining her own very personal idiom throughout her career. Her earlier works were marked by a certain lyrical effulgence and gentle, golden lighting, but by the 1890s, largely as a consequence of the exhibition of Japanese prints held in Paris at the beginning of that decade, her draughtsmanship became more emphatic, her colors clearer and more boldly defined. She was a great practical support to the movement of Impressionism as a whole, both by providing direct financial help and by promoting the works of Impressionists in the USA.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hammershoi, Vilhelm

Young Oak Trees
oil on panel
55.5 x 77 cm (21.85 x 30.31 in.)
Private collection

Vilhelm Hammershøi, in English Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864 – 1916), was a Danish painter. He is known for his poetic, low-key paintings. He painted portraits, landscapes and many room interiors which frequently contained a single figure that was seated or standing. He married Ida in 1891 and she provided the inspiration for many of his future works and is often the lone figure seen in his paintings. They lived a quiet life, apart from Ida's reported fiery temperament, and had no children.

Hammershøi worked mainly in his native city Copenhagen. They also often travelled together throughout Europe. They journeyed to the surrounding countryside and locations beyond, where he painted rolling hills, stands of trees, farm houses, and other landscapes. Later in his life he lived in the old merchant house in Copenhagen with his wife, and he painted the interior of this house more than sixty times. He died of throat cancer in 1916 in Copenhagen at the age of 52.

He is now one of the best-known artists in Scandinavia, and comprehensive retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bosch, Hieronymus

The Wayfarer (Prodigal son or Peddler)
oil on panel
71.5 cm diameter (28.1 in.)
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Bosch's work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives. He stands apart from the prevailing Flemish traditions in painting. Interpretations of the character in this painting include the suggestion that he is choosing between the path of virtue at the gate on the right or debauchery in the house on the left, or that he is the prodigal son returning home from the world.

Hieronymus, or Jerome, Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516), who lived somewhat later than Memling, spent his entire artistic career in the small Dutch town of Hertogenbosch, from which he derived his name. His work was influenced by the Flemish school of painting, but whereas the Flemish painters created a world of serenity and reality, the world of Bosch is one of horror and imagination. His style was unique, strikingly free, and his symbolism, unforgettably vivid, remains unparalleled to this day. Marvellous and terrifying, he expresses an intense pessimism and reflects the anxieties of his time, one of social and political upheaval. Some writers saw him as a sort of 15th century surrealist and linked his name with that of Salvator Dali. For others, Bosch's art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, Bosch remains the most extravagant painter of his time.
He was an orthodox Catholic and a prominent member of a local religious brotherhood, but his most characteristic paintings are so bizarre that in the 17th century he was reputed to have been a heretic.

Bosch married well and was successful in his career. In his own time his fame stood high and a generation or so after his death his paintings were avidly collected by Philip II of Spain. Through the medium of prints his works reached a wider public and were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Little is known of Bosch’s life. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records and local account books.

At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. Standing alone in its lifetime, his work has a timeless and modern quality that greatly endeared him to Surrealists in the twentieth century. About forty genuine examples of his work survive, but none is dated and no accurate chronology can be made.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gauguin, Paul

The Spirit of the Dead Watching
oil on canvas
72.4 × 92.4 cm (28.5 × 36.4 in.)
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 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. He was a financially successful stockbroker when he began collecting works by the impressionists in the 1870s. Inspired by their example, he took up the study of painting under Camille Pissarro. In 1882, after a stock market crash and recession rendered him unemployed, Gauguin decided to abandon the business world to pursue life as a full-time artist.

In 1891 his rejection of European urban values led him to Tahiti, where he expected to find an unspoiled culture. Instead, he was confronted with a world already transformed by western missionaries and colonial rule. Gauguin had to invent the world he sought and he interwove the images and mythology of island life with those of the west and other cultures. He lived in 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. His greatest innovation was the use of color, which he employed not for its ability to mimic nature but for its emotive qualities. He applied it in broad flat areas outlined with dark paint, which tended to flatten space and abstract form. This flattening of space and symbolic use of color would be important influences on early twentieth-century artists. Today, he is regarded as a highly influential founder of modern art. His unusual combinations of objects and people can be seen as forerunners of the surrealist (using fantastic imagery) art of the 1920s and later.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Durer, Albrecht

Johannisfriedhof in Nuremburg
ca. 1489
size unknown
Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Thousand views of ocean, Soshu Choshi
woodblock color print
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Thousand views of ocean is a series of 10 images depicting on the theme of water and fishing.
Katsushika, Hokusai (1760 - 1849) was a Japanese artist, Ukiyo-e painter of the Edo shogun period. He was born in 1760 as a son of a mirror maker to the shogun and started painting at six. In his time, he was Japan's leading expert. He is best known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831). The series depicts Mount Fuji in differing seasons and weather conditions from a variety of different places and distances.

His influences stretched to his contemporaries in nineteenth century Europe whose new style Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil in Germany, was influenced by him and by Japanese art in general. This was also part of the larger Impressionist movement, with similar themes to Hokusai appearing in Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

He died at the age of 89, in 1849 and some years before his death he is reported to have stated:
"At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Delvaux, Paul

The Sabbath
oil on canvas
160 x 260 cm
Museum Paul Delvaux, Koksijde, Belgium

Paul Delvaux (1897 - 1994) was a Belgian painter and printmaker. He was, with René Magritte, one of the major exponents of Surrealism in Belgium, although he never officially joined. He was the son of a lawyer. The young Delvaux took music lessons, studied Greek and Latin, and absorbed the fiction of Jules Verne and the poetry of Homer. All of his work was to be influenced by these readings, starting with his earliest drawings showing mythological scenes.

He began his training in 1920 at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, albeit in the architecture department owing to his parents' disapproval of his ambition to be a painter. Nevertheless, he pursued his goal, attending painting classes.
In his earliest works, he was strongly influenced by the Flemish Expressionism of painters. In the mid-1930s, however, he turned decisively to Surrealism, not as an orthodox member of the movement but to a large extent under the influence of Giorgio De Chirico. His paintings are primarily nostalgic scenes in which women often appear in the nude. The painstakingly detailed nature of his works manages to convey an unreality, a world of his own imagination. His combination of photographic realism with unusual juxtapositions and a sense of mystery, places him in the same surrealistic category as Rene Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. He is considered an important contributor to modern art of the mid 20th century.

Delvaux acknowledged his influences, saying of de Chirico, "with him I realized what was possible, the climate that had to be developed, the climate of silent streets with shadows of people who can't be seen, I've never asked myself if it's surrealist or not." He did not consider himself "a Surrealist in the scholastic sense of the word." "Delvaux ... always maintained an intimate and privileged relationship to his childhood, which is the underlying motivation for his work and always manages to surface there. This 'childhood,' existing within him, led him to the poetic dimension in art."

Friday, September 14, 2012

klimt, gustav

the swamp
oil on canvas
80 x 80 cm (31.4 x 31.4 in.)
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. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism.

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. In synthesizing these diverse sources, Klimt's art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance.

Laying the groundwork for Art Deco and Modernism, Klimt’s creative influence can still be seen in today’s art, decorations and jewelry. He died in Vienna of pneumonia and was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery, Vienna.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Batoni, Pompeo

Allegory of Peace and War
oil on canvas
136 x 99 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708 – 1787) was an Italian painter, born in Lucca, son of a goldsmith. His style incorporated elements of the French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and nascent Neoclassicism. He was regarded in his maturity as Rome’s greatest living painter, perhaps even the most famous in Europe. He gained such stature through numerous grand portraits and prestigious commissions for religious and historical subjects from popes, emperors, and kings.

Batoni carried out prestigious church commissions and painted numerous fine mythological canvases, many for eminent foreign patrons, but he is famous above all as a portraitist. He adopted his style from the works of Raphael, academic French painting, and was the highly-fashionable and greatest artist of eighteenth-century Rome. His portrait style was elegant and polished, often incorporating background scenes filled with Roman sculpture or architecture. His characterization is not profound, but it is usually vivid, and he presented his sitters with dignity. He was a curator of the papal collections and his house was a social, intellectual, and artistic center.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seurat, Georges

Landscape of the Ile de France
oil on canvas
32.5 x 40.5 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, France

"Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science." (Seurat)

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859 - 1891), Post-Impressionist painter, born into a very rich family in Paris, is one of the icons of 19th century painting. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and his teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat is the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors became known as Pointillism. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures. He is the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. Using Pointillism technique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color too small to be distinguished when looking
at the entire work but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. In 1883, panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon. After his painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat turned away from such establishments, instead allying himself with the independent artists of Paris. In 1884 he and other artists (including Maximilien Luce) formed the Societe des Artistes Independants. There he met and befriended fellow artist Paul Signac. Seurat shared his new ideas about pointillism with Signac, who subsequently painted in the same idiom.

Before actually painting the picture, he would sketch out parts of his artwork so that the models would not have to wait forever while he found the exact color. He took to heart the color theorists' notion of a scientific approach to painting. He believed that a painter could use color to create harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a musician uses counterpoint and variation to create harmony in music. He theorized that the scientific application of color was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He kept his private life very secret. On 29 March 1891, Seurat unexpectedly died. The cause of his death is uncertain. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lempicka, Tamara de

Reclining Nude with Book
oil on canvas
64.1 x 121.2 cm.
location unknown

Tamara de Lempicka (1898 - 1980), born in Moscow, in the Russian Empire, was a Polish Art Deco painter and "the first woman artist to be a glamour star." She took advantage of the growing interest in women who were entering the arts following the First World War, and indeed, she strongly believed that she stood out among them. She wrote, "I was the first woman who did clear painting---and that was the success of my painting. Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine. And the galleries began to put me in the best rooms, always in the center, because my painting attracted people. It was neat, it was finished".

She is best known for her Art Deco-styled portraits. Sexy, bedroom-eyed women in stylish dress are rendered in haunting poses. Perhaps it was her own dramatic life mirrored in her art. Married twice to wealthy, she moved from her native Poland to Russia, and then to Paris. In 1925 she exhibited her works at the first Art Deco show in Paris. She moved to America in 1939 with her second husband. Her works appeared exclusively at many galleries and museums, but her artistic output decreased. In 1960 she changed her style to abstract art and began creating works with a spatula. After her husband died in 1962 she ceased painting and moved to Mexico permanently, buying a beautiful house in Cuernavaca, built by a Japanese architect.
She despaired of growing old and in her last years sought the company of young people. She mourned at the loss of her beauty and was cantankerous to the end. She died in her sleep on March 18, 1980 with her daughter at her side. Her wish to be cremated and have her ashes spread on the top of the volcano Popocatepetl was carried out.
American singer-songwriter Madonna is a huge fan and collector of her work.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Matisse, Henri

Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg
oil on canvas
147.3/97.5 cm (58/38.4 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA

Mlle Yvonne Landsberg was painted in 1914 before the outbreak of World War I. The monochromatic color scheme and the mask like face were most likely influenced by Picasso and his severe paintings of women as in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), but the curious lines emanating from Mlle Landsberg's body appear to be Matisse's invention. The curved lines seem to be lines of force or energy surrounding the sitter, extending her into the surrounding space, of filling the void. This may be an attempt by Matisse's at expressing an existentialist theme, a lapse from his joie de vivre oeuvre.

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

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

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sisley, Alfred

Neige a Louveciennes (Snow at Louveciennes)
oil on canvas
60 x 73 cm
location unknown

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

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

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bernard van Orley

Virgin and Child with Angels
ca. 1515
oil on wood
85.4 x 69.9 cm (33 5/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Bernard van Orley (1491? - 1541) was a Flemish Northern Renaissance painter, and also a leading designer of Brussels tapestry and stained glass. He is counted among a group of painters belonging to the Romanism school of painting, who has not been given enough attention by the general public. His family came originally from Luxembourg, descendants from the Seigneurs d'Ourle or d'Orley. His branch of the family then moved to the Duchy of Brabant, where his father, painter Valentin van Orley was born as an illegitimate child and lost his noble lineage.

He was born at Brussels and completed his art education in Rome in the school of Raphael, although there is no evidence that he visited Italy. After returning to Brussels, he held an appointment as court painter to Margaret of Austria until 1527, in which year he lost this position and left the city. He only returned to it upon being reinstated by Mary of Hungary in 1532. While in his earlier work he continued the tradition of the Van Eycks and their followers, he inaugurated a new era in Flemish art by  introducing into his native country the Italian manner of the later Renaissance, the style of which he had acquired during his sojourn in Rome. His art marks the passing from the Gothic to the Renaissance period; he is the chief figure in the period of decline which preceded the advent of Peter Paul Rubens. Meticulously careful execution, brilliant coloring, and an almost Umbrian sense of design are the chief characteristics of his work. He has (very flatteringly) been called "the Raphael of the Netherlands". In 1520, when Durer visited the Netherlands, Orley gave a banquet for him, and Durer drew his portrait.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Piero di Cosimo

Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci
oil on panel
57 x 42 cm
Musee Conde, Chantilly, France

Piero di Cosimo (1462 - 1521), also known as Piero di Lorenzo, was an Italian Renaissance painter. The son of a goldsmith, Piero was born in Florence and apprenticed under the artist Cosimo Rosseli, from whom he derived his popular name and whom he assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in 1481.

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity - a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari, who included a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyro-phobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, "more like a beast than a man".

Piero was a painter of fantastical imagination. His imagination was grounded nonetheless in observation, Giorgio Vasari pointing out that he drew excellently from life. He proved himself a true child of the Renaissance by depicting subjects of Classical mythology. He also painted portraits, the finest of which is that of Simonetta Vespucci (this painting), in which she is depicted as Cleopatra with the asp around her neck. None of his surviving paintings is signed, dated or documented.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monet, Claude

Poppy Fields near Argenteuil (Les Coquelicots, Environs d'Argenteuil)
oil on canvas
54 x 73.7 cm (21 1/4 x 29 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

When Monet returned from England in 1871, he settled in Argenteuil and lived there until 1878. These years were a time of fulfillment for him. Monet found in the region around his home the bright landscapes which enabled him to explore the potential of plein-air painting. He painted several Poppy Fields near Argenteuil. Painted in the wildflower fields outside Argenteuil, this painting reveals Monet's passion for color. He scatters the blooms of poppies in a natural profusion across the lush green fields. It conjures up the vibrant atmosphere of a stroll through the fields on a summer's day.

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Levitan, Isaac

Soiree sur la Volga (Evening on the Volga)
oil on canvas
50 x 81 cm
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

"Painting is not a record but an explanation of nature with paints and brush." (Levitan)

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Krasner, Lee

Self Portrait
c. 1929
oil on canvas
77.5 x 82.6cm (30 1/2 x 32 1/2 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

"With Jackson there was quiet solitude. Just to sit and look at the landscape. An inner quietness. After dinner, to sit on the back porch and look at the light. No need for talking. For any kind of communication." (Krasner)

Lee Krasner (1908 - 1984) was an influential American abstract expressionist painter in the second half of the 20th century. In 1945, she married artist Jackson Pollock, who was also influential in the abstract expressionism movement. She was born to an immigrant Russian-Jewish couple. Her early art training was at The Cooper Union, Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design in New York. Her headstrong, independent character often set Krasner at odds with her instructors at the conservative academy, where she nevertheless received a thorough grounding in drawing, painting, and design.

Krasner and Pollock gave each other reassurance and support during a period when neither's work was well-appreciated. Like Picasso during the brief period of his interaction with Braque, the daily give-and-take of Pollock and Krasner stimulated both artists. Pollock and Krasner fought a battle for legitimacy, impulsiveness and individual expression. They opposed an old-fashioned, conformist, and repressed culture unreceptive to these values, which was put off by the intricacy of Modernism in general.

Lee Krasner died in 1984, age 75, from natural causes. Six months after her death, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of her work. A review of the exhibition in the New York Times noted that it "clearly defines Krasner's place in the New York School" and that she "is a major, independent artist of the pioneer Abstract Expressionist generation, whose stirring work ranks high among that produced here in the last half-century."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Anker, Albert

Marie Anker
oil on canvas
65 x 81cm
Kunst Museum, Bern, Switzerland

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

His paintings depict his fellow citizens in an unpretentious and plain manner, without idealizing country life, but also without the critical examination of social conditions.
His meticulous paintings of Swiss rural life endeared him to the public and during his heydays, he was considered as the most popular artist. His works captured the daily and social life of the rustics in the picturesque villages of Switzerland. He portrayed the social life of villagers as plain and unpretentious. He depicted men and women without any judgment or idealizing their social condition. Though he had a Christian world-view, he did not, in any way, impose his ideology on his paintings.

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

He had six children, two of whom died very early in life. he depicted his surviving children in some of his paintings. He died in 1910 at the age of 79 at his house in Anet, Switzerland. Many Swiss postage stamps and other media have incorporated Anker's work. His studio in Ins has been preserved as a museum by the Albert Anker Foundation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

O'Keeffe, Georgia

My Shanty, Lake George
oil on canvas
20 x 27 1/8 in.
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., USA

O’Keeffe was first introduced to the Lake George area in 1907, when she was a student at the Art Students League and received a scholarship to paint in the region. My Shanty reveals a vocabulary of simplified forms, precise edges, and repeated horizontals. The old farm building, which served as the artist's summer studio, is solid and clearly defined. Although it is seemingly a literal depiction of the building, the composition cannot be classified simply as representational or precisionist. It illustrates O'Keeffe's tendency to overlay objective fact with spiritual and symbolic meanings; at the end of the building's gable roof, the triangular shape of the structure is emphasized, a compositional choice that O’Keeffe may have derived from the theories of Wassily Kandinsky, who believed that the triangle was a symbol of the soul.

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".
"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)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Van Rijsselberghe, Théo

Canal dans les Flandres (Canal in Flanders)
oil on canvas
152.4 x 203.2 cm
private collection

Théo van Rysselberghe (1862 - 1926) was a Belgian neo-impressionist painter, designer and sculptor, who played a pivotal role in the European art scene at the turn of the century. Born in Ghent to a French-speaking bourgeois family, he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Barely 18 years old, he already participated at the Salon of Ghent, showing portrait paintings. He met several painters from the Parisian scene such as Sisley, Signac, Degas and especially Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He appreciated especially the talent of Toulouse-Lautrec.

He was one of the prominent co-founders of the Belgian artistic circle Les XX. This was a circle of young radical artists. They rebelled against the outmoded academism of that time and the prevailing artistic standards. Among the most notable members were James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff, Auguste Rodin and Paul Signac. He saw the works of the impressionists Monet and Auguste Renoir at the show of Les XX. He was deeply impressed. He experimented with this technique. This impressionist influence became prominent in his paintings. Then, he discovered the pointillist technique when he saw Georges Seurat's La Grande Jatte at the eighth impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1886. This shook him up completely. He imported this style to Belgium.  He abandoned realism and became an adept of pointillism. In the final years of the 1890s, he had reached the climax of his Neo-impressionist technique. Slowly he abandoned the use of dots in his portraits and landscapes and began applying somewhat broader strokes. After 1910 he abandoned his pointillist technique completely. His strokes had become longer and he used more often vivid colors and more intense contrasts, or softened hues. He had become a master in applying light and heat in his paintings.

In 1911, he retired to the Côte d'Azur and became more and more detached from the Brussels art scene. Here he continued painting, mostly landscapes of the Mediterranean coast, portraits of his wife and daughter, and of his brother. At the end of his life, he also turned to portrait sculpture. He died in Saint-Clair on 14 December 1926 and was buried in the cemetery of Lavandou. Much of the works of Van Rysselberghe still remain in private collections.

Van Rysselberghe made the mistake of his life: he didn't recognize the talent of the young Pablo Picasso who was in his Blue Period at that time. He found his works "ugly and uninteresting".