Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kline, Franz

oil on canvas
204.14 x 242.57 cm (80 3/8 x 95 1/2 in.)
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

'Named after a city in northern Italy, Turin evokes both architectural structures such as bridges and girders and the surging energy of the metropolis.'

"People sometimes think I take a white canvas and paint a black sign on it, but this is not true. I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important." (Kline)

Franz Jozef Kline (1910 - 1962) was an American painter mainly associated with the abstract expressionist movement centered around New York in the 1940s and 1950s. His first academic training was at Boston University from 1931 to 1935 and in London at the Heatherley School of Art from 1937 to 1938 as an illustrator and draughtsman.

As with Jackson Pollock and other Abstract Expressionists, he was labeled an "action painter" because of his seemingly spontaneous and intense style, focusing less, or not at all, on figures or imagery, but on the actual brush strokes and use of canvas. Kline's best known abstract expressionist paintings are in black and white. His paintings are deceptively subtle. While generally his paintings have a dynamic, spontaneous and dramatic impact, he often closely referred to his compositional drawings. He carefully rendered many of his most complex pictures from studies. There seem to be references to Japanese calligraphy in Kline's black and white paintings, although he always denied that connection. Bridges, tunnels, buildings, engines, railroads and other architectural and industrial icons are often suggested as imagery informing Kline's work.

Kline's most recognizable method and style derives from a suggestion made to him by his friend Willem De Kooning. In 1948, Kooning suggested to an artistically frustrated Kline to bring in a sketch and project it with a Bell Opticon opaque projector he had at his studio. Kline described the projection as such: "A four by five inch black drawing of a rocking chair...loomed in gigantic black strokes which eradicated any image, the strokes expanding as entities in themselves, unrelated to any entity but that of their own existence." Kline created paintings in the style of what he saw that day throughout his life. His influence on the second generation of abstract action painters was substantial, and his works comprise some of the most imposing achievements of Abstract Expressionism.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Botticelli, Sandro

Idealized female portrait /Simonetta Vespucci as a nymph
tempera on wood
82 × 54 cm (32.3 × 21.3 in.)
The Städel, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

It's one of the largest 15th century female portraits. She is wearing a hairstyle that can typically be seen on nymphs. The pearls in her hair and braids can also be linked to the nymphs. Simonetta was born Simonetta Cattaneo in 1453 or 1454. At age fifteen or sixteen she married Marco Vespucci, a distant relative of the famous explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. She became a prominent member of the Medici circle. She was considered to be the greatest beauty in Florence. At a jousting tournament in 1475 she was nominated 'regina della bellezza', queen of the beauty, by Giuliano de Medici. She died in 1476, probably from tubercle bacillus. She was buried in the parish church of the Vespuccio; the Church of Ognissanti in Florence.

Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli (c.1445 - 1510) was an Italian painter during the Early Renaissance. He was given the nickname 'Botticelli', derived from the word 'botticello' meaning 'small wine cask'. He belonged to the Florentine school under the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici.
At the height of his fame, he was one of the most esteemed artists in Italy. After his death, his name all but disappeared until the late 19th century, when a developing appreciation for Florentine arts and culture brought about a renewed interest in his work. Since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting. Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

Botticelli never wed, and expressed a strong aversion to the idea of marriage. The popular view is that he suffered from an unrequited love for Simonetta Vespucci. According to popular belief, she had served as the model for The Birth of Venus and recurs throughout his paintings, despite the fact that she had died years earlier, in 1476. Botticelli asked that when he died, he be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. His wish was carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510. He was buried near her in the same church.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

Girl at a Window
oil on canvas
81.6 x 61 cm (32 x 24 in.)
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK

She leans on the grey stone sill, the rough wall fading to black behind her, and she is ruddy, glowing - her hair scrawled with vivid red, her cheeks bursting pink, her left hand lazily but unmistakably directing you to look at her cleavage disappearing under a loose shirt. Painted in 1645 when Rembrandt was thirty-nine. Originally rectangular in format, this painting was most likely cut down and given an arched top at the end of the seventeenth century.

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of well-to-do millers, was a Dutch painter and etcher. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. He was the first and the only of their sons who was sent to the school for Latin. After seven years’ schooling (1613-1620), at the age of 14, Rembrandt entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt's later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia (his wife) gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came in 1642 - at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper about 1649, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. Yet these problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work. His etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high. His personal life, however, continued to be marred by sorrow. His beloved Hendrickje died in 1663, and his son, Titus, in 1668 - only 27 years of age. Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.

His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. He was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom were already trained artists.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Querfurt, August

After the Hunt
year unknown
Oil on panel
21 x 32 cm
Private collection

August Querfurt (1696 - 1761) was an Austrian painter, born in Vienna and well-known as a painter of soldiers and battle scenes. His father, a landscape and animal painter, was young August's first teacher. He spent most of his professional career in Augsburg and Vienna. He painted encampments, battles, skirmishes of cavalry, and hunting subjects.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mondrian, Piet

oil on canvas
75 x 111.5 cm
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Museum of Art, Utica, New York

Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944) was a Dutch painter. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism.
Mondrian seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist. He is recognized as the purest and most methodical of the early abstractionists. He radically simplified the elements of his artwork in an effort to reflect what he believed to be the order underlying the visible world. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art.
Abstract artists believed that painters, sculptors and architects must work together to build a new world, where people can live in balance with the laws of the universe. The forms that fit this philosophy had to be clear. Straight lines and corners were used.

His earliest paintings are generally realist landscapes with static compositions and the use of opaque colors. After his encounter with fauvism and his study of the Dutch avant-garde (Van Gogh, in particular), his colors become increasinly pure and less naturalistic. His next change reflects his awareness of cubism. The faceted exploration of subject matter and the language of painting is of less interest to him than the architectonic grid in the analytic cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque around 1912 and 13.  His own paintings begin to demonstrate more centralized compositions, greater use of linearity, and a sense of expansion from a central focus.
A contemporary and disciple of the famous cubists Picasso and Braque, Mondrian challenged the definition of art itself, working with simple lines, right angles, correct geometric figures and pure, primary colors. His work attained a level of abstraction far beyond that of even his most progressive colleagues. His art and theory influenced the Bauhaus movement and the development of the International style in architecture.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kramskoy, Ivan Nikolaevich

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
oil on canvas
75.5 × 99 cm
State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (1837 - 1887) was a Russian painter and art critic, a master of genre, historic and portrait painting and an art critic. He was an intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement in 1860-1880.

He was born in the town of southwestern Russia into a poor petty-bourgeois family. He received a basic education in a district school. During his childhood he independently studied drawing and later began working with aquarelle. From 1857 to 1863 Kramskoi studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts; he reacted against academic art and was an initiator of the "revolt of fourteen" which ended with the expulsion from the Academy of a group of its graduates.

Influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats, he asserted the high public duty of the artist, principles of realism, and the moral substance and nationality of art. He became one of the main founders and ideologists of the Company of Itinerant Art Exhibitions. In 1863–1868 he taught at the drawing school of a society for the promotion of applied arts. He created a gallery of portraits of important Russian writers, scientists, artists and public figures in which expressive simplicity of composition and clarity of depiction emphasize profound psychological elements of character. He created a series of portraits of prominent people of the time, such as Leo Tolstoy, Nikolay Nekrasov, Petr Tretyakov and Ivan Shishkin. And, his democratic ideals found their brightest expression in his portraits of peasants, which portrayed a wealth of character-details in representatives of the common people. During his lifetime, he also executed many orders for church paintings and portraits to earn his living.

The democratic orientation of Kramskoy’s art, his acute critical judgments about it, and his persistent quest for objective public criteria for the evaluation of art exerted an essential influence on the development of democratic art and aesthetics in Russia in the last third of the nineteenth century. He died at work, while standing at his easel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Uemura, Shoen

Noh Dance Prelude (Jo-no-mai)
ink and color on silk
81.3 × 42.7 cm
Tokyo National University of Arts and Music, Tokyo, Japan
Important Cultural Property of Japan: designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs

"In this picture, I wanted to express a strong will lurking within the women that are infrangible in any circumstances." (Shoen)

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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bronzino, Agnolo

Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi
c. 1545
oil on panel
102 × 85 cm (40 × 33 in.)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Lucrezia di Sigismondo Pucci was the wife of Bartolomeo Panciatichi, a Florentine humanist and politician. The show of refined garments and jewelry was intended not only to underline the elite position of the woman, but also aspects of her personality through a complex symbology, including the words "Amour dure sans fin" on the golden necklace, a reference to a love treatise written for the Grand Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1547.

Agnolo di Cosimo, usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino (1503 - 1572) was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence, the son of a butcher. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his relatively dark skin.

Bronzino was the outstanding artist of the Tuscan High Mannerist style. He was a court painter to Duke Cosimo I de Medici for most of his career. He produced large numbers of portraits as well as religious pictures and his work influenced the course of European court portraiture for a century.
His style is cold, refined, aristocratic, and technically brilliant in its rendering of surface details and colors. His portraits, while highly stylized in their long lines and elegant poses, achieve a formalized stillness that is the ultimate refinement of Mannerism's usually hectic quality. He was less successful as a religious painter, his lack of real feeling leading to empty, elegant posturing in which almost every one of the extraordinarily contorted poses can be traced back to Raphael or to Michelangelo, whom Bronzino idolized.
He was a much respected figure who took a prominent part in the activities of the Accademia del Disegno, of which he was a founder member in 1563. His influence on later portraiture extended to the 19th-century French master J. A. D. Ingres. Bronzino was also a poet.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Maler, Hans

Queen Anne of Hungary and Bohemia
c. 1519
oil on panel
44 x 33 cm
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain

Painting in the late Gothic style, Hans Maler (1480 - 1526/1529) often signed his name Hans Maler zu Schwaz, from his home of Schwaz in the city of Tyrol, Austria. This was near the capital city of Innsbruck, where the Habsburg Court reined, under Ferdinand I, Archduke and later Holy Roman Emperor.

Maler's two most important patrons were Ferdinand I of Austria, who at the time was Archduke (Later Emperor) and the celebrated Fuggers, the wealthy merchant family.
His portraits, under royal and wealthy patronage, were respectable and dignified representations. One could not get a sense of personality from his representation of ruling class subjects; reinforcing their important and status. The style of his composition never strayed from the formal bust sized pose of the sitter, gazing off to the left or right. His skin tones were usually slightly rosy in complex, set against his subjects - decorative costume, often with a bluish background.
Maler died in Schwaz in either 1526, or 1529.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Balthus ; (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola)

oil on cardboard mounted on wood
100.3 x 81.3 cm (39 1/2 x 32 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Therese Blanchard served as model. She was a neighbor of Balthus at the Cour de Rohan, near the place de l'Odeon in Paris.

"I always feel the desire to look for the extraordinary in ordinary things; to suggest, not to impose, to leave always a slight touch of mystery in my paintings." (Balthus)
Count Balthasar Klossowski (or Kłossowski) de Rola (1908 – 2001), best known as Balthus, was an esteemed but controversial Polish-French modern artist. His mother engaged, under the name of Baladine, in a long-lasting relationship with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who acted as Balthus’s mentor, providing etchings to accompany many of his poems.

Many of Balthus's paintings show young girls in an erotic context. Balthus insisted that his work was not erotic but that it recognized the discomforting facts of children's sexuality. His work shows numerous influences, including the writings of Emily Brontë, the writings and photography of Lewis Carroll, and the paintings of Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Poussin, Ingres, Goya, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Courbet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne, etc.

Throughout his career, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the art world. He insisted that his paintings should be seen and not read about, and he resisted any attempts made to build a biographical profile. A telegram sent to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for its 1968 retrospective of his works read: "NO BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS. BEGIN: BALTHUS IS A PAINTER OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US LOOK AT THE PICTURES. REGARDS. B."

Appreciated for many years by only a handful of collectors, and ostensibly out of step with the modern movement, Balthus’s classically inspired work won the recognition and admiration of a wider public only late in his career.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kooning, Willem de

oil, enamel, and charcoal on canvas
201 x 175.6 cm (79 1/8 x 69 1/8 in.)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA

Willem de Kooning (1904 - 1997) was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Kooning's parents were divorced when he was about five years old, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather. His early artistic training included eight years at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. In the 1920s he worked as an assistant to the art director of a Rotterdam department store. In 1926 he emigrated to the US, where he worked illegally in New York as a commercial artist, window dresser, sign painter and carpenter. There he met other artists, including Arshile Gorky and worked for the Federal Art Project, for which he did murals. He was one of the thirty-eight artists chosen from a general invitation to New York City metropolitan artists to design and paint the 105 public murals at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. From 1935 in fact, he was able to devote himself entirely to painting. 

In 1938, he met Elaine Marie Fried, later known as Elaine de Kooning, whom he married in 1943. She also became a significant artist. In 1938, probably under the influence of Arshile Gorky, he embarked on a series of male figures, while simultaneously embarking on a more purist series of lyrically colored abstractions. As his work progressed, the heightened colors and elegant lines of the abstractions began to creep into the more figurative works, and the coincidence of figures and abstractions continued well into the 1940s. This period includes the representational but somewhat geometricized Woman and Standing Man, along with numerous untitled abstractions whose biomorphic forms increasingly suggest the presence of figures. By about 1945 the two tendencies seemed to fuse perfectly in Pink Angels. During the 1940s, he became increasingly identified with the Abstract Expressionist movement and was recognized as one of its leaders into the mid-1950s, while notoriously stating: "It is disastrous to name ourselves."

In the post-World War II era, he painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract expressionism or Action painting, and was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the Gestural branch of the New York School. He shared a studio with Arshile Gorky and his early pictures were influenced by Gorky's Surrealist style and by Picasso's painting. However, he was also inspired by Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko.

He taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1948 and at the Yale School of Art in 1950-51. In 1950, he was one of 17 prominent Abstract Expressionists and avant-garde artists to sign an open letter to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art accusing it of hostility towards "advanced art". From 1950 he developed his first "Women" pictures, which are notable for such vehemence of handling that they at first caused a scandal. He retained this type of figuration until the 1990s. At the same time he also worked on fairly abstract landscapes.

Kooning has been regarded as a leading exponent of Abstract Expressionism. His exceptional oeuvre is suffused with the duality of traditional figuration and Gestural Abstract painting. Naturalised as an American citizen in 1962, he left New York the following year to settle at Springs on Long Island. In 1964 he received one of the greatest distinctions awarded in America, the "Presidential Medal of Freedom". In 1970 he turned to sculpturing in bronze. He died in Springs, USA on 19 March 1997.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rothko, Mark

Red, Orange, Orange on Red
oil on canvas
233 x 204.5 cm (91 3/4 x 80 1/2 in.)
St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

"If you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point. I am interested in expressing the big emotions - tragedy, ecstasy, doom." (Rothko)

Rothko created the effect of a hidden light source in this painting by applying many thin washes of pigment that allow some of the colors in the bottom layers to appear through the top layer. For some viewers, the floating fields of saturated colors, ranging from rust red to tangerine orange, evoke the shimmering luminosity of dawn or twilight. Although monumental in scale, this painting is not intended to be overwhelming. Rothko said, "I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however . . . is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human." To enhance this sense of intimacy, Rothko preferred to exhibit groups of his paintings hung low on the wall in relatively dim light, creating a unified, contemplative environment rather than a room of individual artworks. (St. Louis Museum of Art)

Mark Rothko (1903 - 1970) was a Russian-American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted classification as an "abstract painter". Born in Dvinsk, Russian Empire which is today Latvia, he was the fourth child born to Jacob and Anna Rothkovich. His father was a pharmacist as well as an intellect, who supplied his children with a secular and political as opposed to religious raising. As Russia was a hostile environment for Zionist Jews, Jacob immigrated to the United States with his two older sons in 1910, finally sending for the rest of his family in 1913. They settled in Portland, Oregon, though Jacob died only a few months after the family's arrival, requiring them to earn a living in their new country though they only spoke Hebrew and Russian. Rothko was forced to learn English and go to work when he was very young, resulting in a lingering sense of bitterness over his lost childhood. He graduated early from Lincoln High School, showing more interest in music than visual art. He was awarded a scholarship to Yale University, but soon found the environment at Yale conservative and exclusionary; he left without graduating in 1923.

Painting consumed Rothko's life, and although he did not receive the attention he felt his work deserved in his own lifetime, his fame has increased dramatically in the years following his death. At odds with the more formally rigorous artists among the Abstract Expressionists, Rothko nevertheless explored the compositional potential of color and form on the human psyche. To stand in front of a Rothko is to be in the presence of the pulsing vibrancy of his enormous canvases; it is to feel, if only momentarily, something of the sublime spirituality he relentlessly sought to evoke. Rigidly uncompromising, Rothko refused to bend to the more distasteful aspects of the art world.

Rothko regarded his paintings as living organisms: for him, color was something deeply human and sensuous, but at the same time it served as the gateway to transcendental experience. He also felt an affinity to Monet within the colorist tradition. This is reflected by his method of creating hovering expanses of color, which can be related to the interior space of Monet’s famous water lily paintings. Rothko committed suicide in 1970 in New York.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Monet, Claude

Water lilies
oil on canvas
diameter 80 cm
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, USA

"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love." (Monet) 

In Giverny, Monet loved to paint outdoors in the gardens he created there. The water lilies found in the pond had a particular appeal for him, and he painted several series of them over the rest of his life. The Japanese-style bridge over the pond became the subject of several works as well.

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, October 17, 2012

Monet, Claude

Route de Versailles a Louveciennes, effet de neige
oil on canvas
55 x 65 cm
Private Collection

"No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition." (Monet) 

Monet sometimes got frustrated with his work. According to some reports, he destroyed a number of paintings—estimates range as high as 500 works. Monet would simply burn, cut, or kick the offending piece. In addition to these outbursts, he was known to suffer from bouts of depression and self-doubt. He wrote to one friend that "Age and chagrin have worn me out. My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that's left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear." Despite his feelings of despair, he kept working on his paintings until his final days.

Monet died on December 5, 1926, at his home in Giverny. Monet once wrote, "My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effects." Most art historians believe that Monet accomplished much more than this. He helped change the world of painting by shaking off the conventions of the past. By dissolving forms in his works, Monet opened the door to further abstraction in art. He is credited with influencing such later artists as Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning.

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.
"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love." (Monet)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pissarro, Camille

La route de Versailles a Louveciennes, effet de neige
oil on canvas
38.4 x 46.4 cm
The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

In 1869, Pissarro settled in Louveciennes, a suburban village northwest of Paris frequented by the Impressionists. Pissarro often painted his own house and studio, which were situated on the north side of the village on the road to Versailles, in varying seasons and climatic conditions. When Paris was under siege during the Franco-Prussian War (1870 - 71), the Prussians garrisoned their troops in Pissarro's house, destroying most of his early paintings. This painting, one of his few surviving early works, reflects Pissarro's affinities with Claude Monet, a frequent houseguest, who was also attracted to this site.

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." (Pissarro)

Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903) was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His father was of French-Jewish origin, his mother was a Creole. Pissarro painted rural and urban French life, particularly landscapes in and around Pontoise, as well as scenes from Montmartre. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings.

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

Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted. He died in Paris on 13 November 1903. During his lifetime, he sold few of his oil paintings.
"He was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord." (Cezanne)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

Dardagny, morning
oil on canvas
26 x 47 cm
National Gallery, London, England

Dardagny is a village in Switzerland about 10 miles west of Geneva. Visible on the left are the Jura Hills. Corot made two visits to the area in 1852 and again in 1853, when he went sketching in the nearby countryside with fellow artists.

"In my eyes, nobody taught me anything. When one finds oneself alone confronted by nature, one extricates oneself as best one can, and naturally one invents one's own style." (Corot)
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - 1875) ,French landscape painter, was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. He spent most of his time in and around Rome, where he developed, through painting on the spot, his sensitive treatment of light, form and distance in terms of tonal values rather than by color and drawing. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed "There is only one master here, Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important; Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot's influence.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colors more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchae and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colors, often using soft colored greys and blue-greens, with spots of color confined to the clothing of the figures. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape.
He died in Paris of a stomach disorder and was buried at Pere Lachaise.
"What there is to see in painting, or rather what I am looking for, is the form, the whole, the value of the tones…That is why for me the color comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while color gives you a kind of shock that I don’t like. Perhaps it is the excess of this principal that makes people say I have leaden tones." In his aversion to shocking color, Corot sharply diverged from the up-and-coming Impressionists, who embraced experimentation with vivid hues.
"Corot is not a simple landscapist, he is a painter, a true painter; he is a rare and exceptional genius." (Delacroix)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bonnard, Pierre

Morning in the Garden at Vernonnet
oil on canvas
85.7 x 113.7 cm (33 3/4 x 44 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

"It is still color, it is not yet light." (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."  "Painting has to get back to its original goal, examining the inner lives of human beings." (Bonnard)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Raffaello Sanzio

Madonna with the Blue Diadem
oil on wood
68 × 48.7 cm (26.8 × 19.2 in.)
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The Madonna with the Blue Diadem is a painting by Raphael and his pupil Gianfrancesco Penni, probably painted in Rome around 1512. Although there is question about the artist, the composition is almost certainly that of Raphael. Due to the use of bright, acid colors and the porcelain-like finish, it is thought that the painting of the composition may have been the work of one of his pupils, Giovanfrancesco Penni.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

He was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. He was extremely influential in his lifetime. After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael's more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

Raphael is said to have had many affairs, but he never married. He died on his 37th birthday and, at his request, he was buried the next day in the Pantheon. The reason of his premature death is unknown. His funeral was extremely grand, attended by large crowds. He was a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored (it is said that Pope Leo X, who wept bitterly when he died, had intended making him a cardinal), and his influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus reads: "Ille hic est Raffael, timuit quo sospite vinci, rerum magna parens et moriente mori." Meaning: "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die." "While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere." (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)

His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded by almost all critics as the greatest painter who had ever lived - the artist who expressed the basic doctrines of the Christian Church through figures that have a physical beauty worthy of the antique. He became the ideal of all academies, and today we approach him through a long tradition in which Raphaelesque forms and motifs have been used with a steady diminution of their values. In the modern era Raphael's past canonical status has counted against him and he has inevitably been compared, often unfavorably, to Leonardo and Michelangelo, whose personalities and artistic expression more readily accord with 20th-century sensibilities.

Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was self-designed, but for the most part executed by the workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bolotowsky, Ilya

Blue Tondo
c. 1980
Silkscreen on heavy paper
61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in.)
Bryce Hudson Collection, Louisville, KY, USA

Ilya Bolotowsky (1907 - 1981) was a leading early 20th-century painter in abstract styles in New York City. His work, a search for philosophical order through visual expression, embraced cubism and geometric abstraction and was much influenced by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.

Born in Russia to Jewish parents in St. Petersburg, he lived through World War I and the Russian Revolution, then, after spending his childhood in Istanbul  in Turkey, fled and immigrated to the United States while still a teenager. The violent upheavals of his early life led to his search for "an ideal harmony and order … a free order, not militaristic, not symmetrical, not goose-stepping, not academic."

Having moved first to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and then in 1923 to New York, he studied at the National Academy of Design in New York and developed an interest in the biomorphic forms of Surrealist art, as well as geometric abstraction. He painted his first non-objective work in 1933 and was a founder-member of American Abstract Artists in 1936.
The Neoplastic style of abstraction defined by Piet Mondrian would prove to be the greatest influence on his work. Mondrian practiced a form of purely nonrepresentational art, in which compositions of right angles and primary colors held no associations with the natural world. However, unlike Mondrian, Bolotowsky did not limit himself to primary colors in his painting, preferring instead to emphasize a variety of colors and geometric forms.

During the Depression of the 1930s he painted numerous abstract murals under the auspices of government-sponsored art programmes. During World War II, he worked for a while in Alaska as a translator. When he returned to New York in 1946, he taught at Black Mountain College, an important art school in North Carolina. He stayed there until 1948 and then took teaching positions at other schools, among them the University of Wyoming and the University of Wisconsin. By the late 1940s, he was concentrating on a coloristically diverse variant of Piet Mondrian’s Neo-plasticism, the style that characterized both the painted columns Bolotowsky began to make in the 1960s and the paintings of the rest of his career.

Even the work of Jackson Pollock, aroused ''empathy", Bolotowsky remarked in the interview, ''empathy is not really an abstract thing.'' For Bolotowsky, true abstraction was struggling for ''an essence of harmony remote from any empathy.''

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gogh, Vincent van

Landscape at Twilight
oil on Canvas
50 X 101 cm (19 11/16 x 39 3/4 in.)
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

"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".

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Munch, Edvard

Starry night
oil on canvas
140 x 119 cm
The Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway

"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul." (Munch)

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Manet, Édouard

130.5 x 190 cm  (51.4 in × 74.8 in)
oil on canvas
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

The painting was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino, which in turn refers to Giorgione's Sleeping Venus. Comparison is also made to Ingres' La grande Odalisque in 1814. Unlike other artists, Manet did not depict a goddess or an odalisque but a high-class prostitute waiting for a client.

Though Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass sparked controversy in 1863, his Olympia stirred an even bigger uproar when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. The public was infuriated not only by the style, but also by the subject of the picture. "A yellow-bellied courtesan", "a female gorilla made of india-rubber outlined in black", "the Queen of Spades after her bath", "a parcel of nude flesh or a bundle of laundry", and other similar characteristics appeared in newspapers. When words were exhausted some "enthusiasts" tried to finish with the picture physically, and it was saved only thanks to being hung high, above the reach of the fanatics. The work was condemned by Conservatives as "immoral" and "vulgar." However, the work had proponents as well. Émile Zola quickly proclaimed it Manet's "masterpiece" and added, "When other artists correct nature by painting Venus they lie. Manet asked himself why he should lie. Why not tell the truth?" The painting deviates from the academic canon in its style, characterized by broad, quick brushstrokes, studio lighting that eliminates mid-tones, large color surfaces and shallow depth. Instead of a smooth idealised nude, Manet painted a woman whose nakedness is starkly emphasized by the harsh light. The model, Victorine Meurent, went on to become an accomplished painter in her own right.

Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are not lines in Nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rousseau, Henri

Carnival Evening
oil on canvas
117.3 x 89.5 cm (46 3/16 x 35 1/4 in.)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, USA

"I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labor." (Rousseau)
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". "Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chagall, Marc

Donkey in the red sky (L'Ane rouge dans le ciel)
oil on canvas
46 x 38 cm (18 1/8 x 15 in.)
Location unknown

"For the Cubists," Chagall said, "a painting was a surface covered with forms in a certain order. For me a painting is a surface covered with representations of things . . . in which logic and illustration have no importance."

Donkey in the red sky is an exceptionally energetic example of Chagall's visionary, fantastic oeuvre. Comprised of visions taken from his mind and his memory, his paintings consistently combine floating lovers and flying beasts in magical compositions that exude charm and beauty. Chagall had a passion for dreaming, and his whimsical, folkloric paintings serve as testimony to this. His instinct was to abandon logic to the joy of creation, and as such Chagall's paintings become an expression of his internal thoughts and feelings rather than objective projections of the outside world. The composition of this work is so dynamic and the mystical aura so pervading that the viewer is instantly transported into this whimsical world. We are invited to join these mystical characters and experience the magic and mystique of the subconscious. The painting is a visual feast as well as being a testament to the fact that the themes in Chagall's art are timeless, not confined to a single epoch of history, but reminding man of the continuity of life for generation after generation, since the earliest days of recorded time.

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985), was a Belorussian-French artist and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. Among the celebrated painters of the twentieth century, he is associated with the modern movements after impressionism, including fauvism and Cubism, a twentieth century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting. In Cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, he depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to present the piece in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. However, he worked at the fringes of the different movements of modern art, also infusing his work with the folk art of his Belorussian roots as well as his Jewish heritage.

He studied in Saint Petersburg from 1907 to 1910 at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts and later with Leon Bakst, then he moved to Paris in 1910, where he associated with Guillaume Apollinaire and encountered Fauvism and Cubism. There, he participated in the Salon des Independants and the Salon d'Automne. In 1914, he visited Russia, and was prevented from returning to Paris by the outbreak of war. He settled in Vitebsk, where he was appointed Commissar for Art, and he founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School directing it until disagreements with the Suprematists which resulted in his resignation in 1920. He moved to Moscow and executed his first stage design. After a sojourn in Berlin, he returned to Paris in 1923. During World War II, he fled to the United States, then he returned to and settled permanently in France in 1948. He died March 28, 1985, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rigaud, Hyacinthe

Louis XV, roi de France
oil on canvas
266 x 200 cm
Musee Conde, Chateau de Chantilly, France

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659 -  1743), a Catalan origin whose career was based in Paris, was one of the most prolific and successful French portrait painters of the Baroque period. He is renowned for his portrait paintings of Louis XIV in his coronation costume, the royalty and nobility of Europe, and members of their courts and considered one of the most notable French portraitists of the classical period. He was one of those French painters who knew the highest celebrity under the Ancien Regime. 

Rigaud studied in Montpellier and Lyon before arriving in Paris in 1681. His reputation was established in 1688 with a portrait (now lost) of Monsieur, Louis XIV's brother, and he became the outstanding court painter of the latter part of Louis's reign, retaining his popularity after the king's death. He was less interested in showing individual character than in depicting the rank and condition of the sitter by nobility of attitude and expressiveness of gesture.

Rigaud combined Anthony van Dyck's prototypes and opulent style with Philippe de Champaigne's stiff, linear formality. In his unofficial portraits, however, Rigaud's interest in realism and character displays the influence of Rembrandt van Rijn. His studio employed both part-time specialists and full-time assistants like Jean-Marc Nattier. They often copied his portraits, which Rigaud touched up as necessary. He was elected to the Academie Royale as a history painter in 1700, and he later taught there.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tiziano, Vecellio

Bacchus and Ariadne
c. 1523
oil on canvas
176.5 × 191 cm (69.5 × 75.2 in.)
National Gallery, London, UK

Bacchus and Ariadne is one of a cycle of paintings on mythological subjects produced for Alfonso d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara. An advance payment was given to Raphael, who originally held the commission for the subject of a Triumph of Bacchus. At the time of Raphael's death in 1520, only a preliminary drawing was completed and the commission was then handed to Titian. In the case of Bacchus and Ariadne, the subject matter was derived from the Roman poets Catullus and Ovid. This painting is considered as one of Titian's greatest works.

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio  (ca. 1488 - 1576) known in English as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth. He received important part of his training in the studio of Giovanni Bellini, then came under the spell of Giorgione, with whom he had a close relationship.

Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars", Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. During the 1530s Titian's fame spread throughout Europe. In 1530 he first met the emperor Charles V in Bologna and painted a famous portrait of him. Charles was so pleased with it that he appointed Titian court painter and elevated him to the rank of Count Palatine and Knight of the Golden Spur - an unprecedented honor for a painter. At the same time his works were increasingly sought after by Italian princes. His influence on later artists has been profound: he was supreme in every branch of painting and revolutionized the oil technique with his free and expressive brushwork. During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may
not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art. His painting methods would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.
His greatness as an artist was not matched by his character, for he was notoriously avaricious. In spite of his wealth and status, he claimed he was impoverished, and his exaggerations about his age (by which he hoped to pull at the heartstrings of patrons) are one of the sources of confusion about his birthdate.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kandinsky, Wassily

one center
oil on canvas
140.6 x 99.5 cm
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Netherlands

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." (Kandinsky)

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944) was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics. Successful in his profession - he was offered a professorship (chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat - he began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30.

Kandinsky named works after musical terms. He saw color when he listened to music, and believed color could visually express music’s timber, pitch and volume. At age 30, Kandinsky’s artistic career began when he left a legal career to pursue artistic studies after seeing Monet’s “Haystacks.” Passionately compelled to create, Kandinsky believed that the purity of this desire would communicate itself to viewers of his work.
He was fascinated by music's emotional power. Because music expresses itself through sound and time, it allows the listener a freedom of imagination, interpretation, and emotional response that is not based on the literal or the descriptive, but rather on the abstract quality that painting, still dependent on representing the visible world, could not provide. Music can respond and appeal directly to the artist's "internal element" and express spiritual values, thus for him it is a more advanced art. In his writings Kandinsky emphasizes this superiority in advancing toward what he calls the epoch of the great spiritual.

He was never solely a painter, but a theoretician, and organizer at the same time. He expressed his views on art and artistic activity in his numerous writings. In the 1920-30s Kandinsky's name became world famous. He was proclaimed the theoretician and leading figure of abstract painting. In addition to teaching courses, Kandinsky became actively involved in delivering lectures; his exhibitions took place almost yearly in Europe and America.
In 1921, Kandinsky was invited to go to Germany to attend the Bauhaus of Weimar by its founder, architect Walter Gropius. Kandinsky taught the basic design class for beginners and the course on advanced theory at the Bauhaus; he also conducted painting classes and a workshop in which he augmented his color theory with new elements of form psychology. In 1933, the Nazis having come to power in Germany and closed down the Bauhaus, he took refuge in France where he spent the last eleven years of his life. In 1939 Kandinsky and his wife became French citizens. He continued painting almost until his death. He died on 13 December 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 78.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Macke, August

Lady in a Green Jacket
color on canvas
44 × 43 cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany

August Macke (1887 - 1914) was one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter). He lived during a particularly innovative time for German art which saw the development of the main German Expressionist movements as well as the arrival of the successive avant-garde movements which were forming in the rest of Europe.

He was born in Westphalia. His father was a building contractor and his mother came from a farming family in  Westphalia. His style was formed within the mode of French Impressionism and Post-impressionism and later went through a Fauve period. In 1910, through his friendship with Franz Marc, he met Kandinsky and for a while shared the non-objective aesthetic and the mystical and symbolic interests of Der Blaue Reiter.

His works can be considered as Expressionism, and also as part of Fauvism. The paintings concentrate primarily on expressing feelings and moods rather than reproducing objective reality, usually distorting color and form. His career was cut short by his early death in September 1914, the second month of World War I. His final painting depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of war.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kawai, Gyokudo

Morning Snow
ink and color on silk
54.5 × 72.5 cm
Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Kawai, Gyokudo (1873 - 1957) was the pseudonym of a Japanese style painter, active from Meiji through Showa period Japan.
Gyokudo was born in Aichi Prefecture, as the eldest son of a paper, ink and brush merchant. He was recognized as a great painter from his childhood. He is noted for his polychrome and occasionally monochrome works depicting the mountains and rivers of Japan in the four seasons, with humans and animals shown as part of the natural landscape. Throughout his career, his great passion was to capture Japan's vast landscapes, particularly the countryside, in soft and nostalgic tones.

Gyokudo developed a new aesthetic of Japanese painting by mixing the styles of two popular schools of the time: the Kano school and the Maruyama-shijo school. He is well known for subtle polychrome sumi-ink depictions that skillfully use flowing lines to give images a dynamic and yet often delicate impression. In 1940, he was awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government. Most of his works are preserved and displayed at the Gyokudo Art Museum, in Ome, Tokyo.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Degas, Edgar

Cafe Singer
oil on canvas
53.5 x 41.8 cm (21 1/16 x 16 7/16 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 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)