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Friday, November 30, 2012

Chagall, Marc


Scene de Cirque
1958
oil on canvas
24 x 41 cm (9 1/2 x 16 1/8 in.)
location unknown

Dedicated to his second wife Vava, this work is an exceptionally dynamic and vibrant depiction of the circus, one of Chagall's most celebrated subjects. The circus was a continuous source of inspiration for Chagall throughout his life: a magical dreamland that transported him into the parallel world of the subconscious. This fascination dates back to his childhood in Vitebsk and indeed he also frequently attended the circus in Paris. The circular ring was certainly suited to the dynamic atmosphere that is such a dominant feature across all of his oeuvre, and indeed the viewer is thrust into the centre of the drama to take a seat in the audience. In the Chagall's own words, "it is a magic world, the circus, a timeless dancing game where tears and smiles, the play of arms and legs take the form of a great art".

"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." 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.

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.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monet, Claude


Jean Monet on His Hobby Horse
1872
oil on canvas
60.6 x 74.3 cm (23 7/8 x 29 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

"I'm never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel." (Monet)

Jean was the first son of Camille and Claude Monet, born in 1867. The little boy appeared in several of Monet's paintings during the family's early residence in Argenteuil. In a fond glimpse of Jean's childhood rather than a formal portrait, Monet has depicted his son atop a favorite toy, playing in the privacy of the family's garden.

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.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Piero di Cosimo


Nativite avec saint Jean-Baptiste enfant (Nativity with St. John the Baptist as a child)
c. 1500
oil on panel
d=146 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

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. None of his surviving paintings is signed, dated or documented. An extremely original artist, his influences include Signorelli and later on Leonardo.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hicks, Edward


Peaceable Kingdom
c.1834
oil on canvas
76.2 × 90.2 cm (30 × 35.5 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Edward Hicks (1780 - 1849) was born in Pennsylvania, USA, into a family that had suffered severe financial losses during the Revolution. After Edward's mother died when he was eighteen months old, he was raised by a Quaker family, a close friend of his mother's. He was taught the Quaker beliefs, which had a great effect on the rest of his life.

Hicks apparently had no scholarly interests and at the age of thirteen was apprenticed to coach makers. This apprenticeship furnished him with the technical skills he would apply to the easel paintings he executed fairly late in his life. Hicks at this time was painting signs, furniture, coaches, lettering, and floor cloths, but he became increasingly interested in the Quaker ministry. His sermons reportedly attracted crowds, and he was described as one of the most popular and leading ministers of his time. From this point on his religious interest would dominate his life. Nonetheless, he continued painting, which he described as "one of those trifling insignificant arts" and principally a way to "get an honest living." He became a Quaker icon because of his paintings. He was an American folk painter and distinguished minister of the Society of Friends.
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Picasso, Pablo


Madame Picasso
1923
oil on linen
100.3 x 82 cm (39 1/2 x 32 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso." (Picasso)

"Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso", known as Pablo Picasso, (1881 - 1973) was a Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Malaga 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 Velazquez 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.”
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gauguin, Paul


The Siesta
c.1894
oil on canvas
88.9 x 116.2 cm (35 x 45 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction. " (Gauguin)

Gauguin considered the unself-conscious ease of native Tahitian women one of the great attractions of life in the South Seas. Here he made their unaffected grace, as one art historian aptly put it, the subject of a picture. Close examination of the canvas reveals that he labored over the arrangement of the women, correcting their profiles, eliminating another figure at the far left, and painting the basket of fruit where there once was a dog. He also changed the sarong of the dramatically foreshortened woman at the center from bright red to navy blue.

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.
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rousseau, Henri


Suburban scene
1896
oil on canvas
49 x 65 cm
private collection

"Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see." Rousseau said to Picasso in 1908... "We are the two great painters of this era; you are in the Egyptian style, I in the modern style."

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". "I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labor." (Rousseau)
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Goya, Francisco de


The Grape Harvest, or Autumn
1787
oil on canvas
275 x 190 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels." (Goya)

Dressed in yellow clothes that symbolize autumn, a young man sitting on a stone offers a cluster of black grapes to a lady. A boy is eager to reach the offered fruit, which is reserved for the adults. A woman stands next to them, holding a grape basket on her head, much like the classical allegory of the goddess Ceres with fruit on her head. Some grape harvesters are behind them, next to the grapevine that leads to a valley crowned with the suggestion of mountains in the background.
The grape harvest is an allegory of autumn. This is one of the most beautiful and best-known compositions from all of Goya's cartoon series. It's pyramidal structure, and the figures that recall ancient statuary, define the artist's study of the classical artistic tradition. This cartoon was for one of the tapestries intended for the Prince of Asturias' dining room at the El Pardo Palace.

Goya, Francisco de (1746 - 1828) was born in a village in northern Spain. He was a consummately romantic court painter to the Spanish Crown whose paintings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th and 20th century painters. The subversive and imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet, Picasso. He was regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, but his genius was slow in maturing and he was well into his thirties before he began producing work that set him apart from his contemporaries.

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

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

Goya completed some 500 oil paintings and murals, about 300 etchings and lithographs, and many hundreds of drawings. He was exceptionally versatile and his work expresses a very wide range of emotion. In his own day he was chiefly celebrated for his portraits, of which he painted more than 200; but his fame now rests equally on his other work. He had many children, but only one son survived to adulthood.
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Durer, Albrecht


Haller Madonna (Madonna and Child)
c.1498
oil on panel
50 × 40 cm (19.7 × 15.7 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington,D.C., USA

"Why has God given me such magnificent talent? It is a curse as well as a great blessing." (Durer)

The coat of arms in the left lower corner allowed to identify the commission of the work from the rich Haller von Hallerstein family of Nuremberg. The child holds a stolen fruit hiding behind his back, a symbol of the Original Sin, that brought humanity to disaster and that he is born to redeem; the red padding of the cushion, as well as the tassels, perhaps symbolize the blood of the Jesus' Passion. On one side is the richly marbled wall of the family home; on the other, the wooded and castellated world. The sad little Christ faces a choice, ease or the laborious ascent, and his remote mother seems to give him little help.

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 ...no ...no ...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."
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bronzino, Agnolo


Portrait of Maria de Medici, daughter of Cosimo I de Medici
1551
tempera on wood
52.5 x 38 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

First-born of Cosimo I de Medici and Eleanora di Toledo, Maria was born in 1540 and died in 1557 at the age of seventeen.

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.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bruegel, Pieter the Elder


The Harvesters
1565
oil on wood
116.5 x 159.5 cm (45 7/8 x 62 7/8 in. )
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

This is one of six panels painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder for the suburban Antwerp home of the wealthy merchant, one of the artist's most enthusiastic patrons. Through his remarkable sensitivity to nature's workings, Bruegel created a watershed in the history of Western art, suppressing the religious and iconographic associations of earlier depictions of the seasons in favor of an unidealized vision of landscape.
The Harvesters probably represented the months of August and September in the context of the series. It shows a ripe field of wheat that has been partially cut and stacked, while in the foreground a number of peasants pause to picnic in the relative shade of a pear tree. Work continues around them as a couple gathers wheat into bundles, three men cut stalks with scythes, and several women make their way through the corridor of a wheat field with stacks of grain over their shoulders. The vastness of the panorama across the rest of the composition reveals that Bruegel's emphasis is not on the labors that mark the time of the year, but on the atmosphere and transformation of the landscape itself.

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.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille


La baie de somme (somme bay)
oil on canvas
c. 1860
24 x 50 cm (9.4 x 19.5 in.)
private collection

"Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. (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 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) "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)
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mondrian, Piet


Farm near Duivendrecht
c.1916
oil on canvas
86.3 x 107.9 cm (34 x 42 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Mondrian based his unique geometric style, which he termed "Neo-plasticism" on the Utopian belief in the absolute harmony of straight lines and pure colors derived from the natural world. His basic vision was rooted in landscapes, and in particular, the flat topography of his native Holland. At the outbreak of World War I, Mondrian was in Holland, at that time, he returned to the subjects and themes of his early career, describing them in simple horizontal and vertical lines and colors. Although he continued to develop the abstract style he had begun in the years before the war, he also worked in a more representational style. This painting balances both of these approaches, merging naturalistic description with simplified forms and a reduced palette of pale lavender, orange, pink, and brown.

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 increasingly 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.
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cezanne, Paul


Flowers in a Rococo Vase
c.1876
oil on canvas
73 x 59.8 cm (28 3/4 x 23 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

"When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art." (Cezanne)
Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. He can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. He is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and color.

He was a contemporary of the impressionists, but he went beyond their interests in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects, to create, in his words, "something more solid and durable, like the art of the museums.'' The paintings convey his intense study of his subjects. His often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. Misunderstood
and discredited by the public during most of his life, his art grew out of Impressionism and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of the painting itself.

Cezanne was born at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on Jan. 19, 1839. He went to school in Aix, forming a close friendship with the novelist Emile Zola. He also studied law there, but at the same time he continued attending drawing classes. Against the implacable resistance of his father, he made up his mind that he wanted to paint and in 1861 joined Zola in Paris. In Paris he met Camille Pissarro and came to know others of the impressionist group but he remained an outsider to their circle. Extremely personal in character, his early paintings deals with bizarre subjects of violence and fantasy in harsh, somber colors and extremely heavy
paintwork. In the late 1870s, Cezanne however entered the phase known as "constructive",' characterized by the grouping of parallel, hatched brushstrokes in formations that build up a sense of mass in themselves. He continued in this style until the early 1890s.

Finally, living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and Paris, he concentrated on a few basic subjects, still lifes of studio objects, studies of bathers, and successive views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. The landscapes of the final years have a more transparent and unfinished look. By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906, his art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the Cubists, and virtually all advanced art of the early 20th century.
He exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation. He did not gain commercial success until he was in his 50s.
He has been called the father of modern painting.
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso).
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Caravaggio


Still-Life with Flowers and Fruit
1590s
oil on canvas
105 x 184 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

Michelangelo Merisi (1571 - 1610), called later Caravaggio, was born in either Milan, or a town of Caravaggio near Milan, as the son of a ducal architect. He was active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. Few artists in history have exercised as extraordinary an influence as this tempestuous and short-lived painter. Even in his own lifetime, Caravaggio was considered enigmatic, fascinating, rebellious and dangerous. Caravaggio was destined to turn a large part of European art away from the ideal viewpoint of the Renaissance to the concept that simple reality was of primary importance. Caravaggio was one of the first to paint people as ordinary looking. Almost all of his subjects emphasize sadness, suffering, and death.

Caravaggio, orphaned at age 11, trained as a painter in Milan under Peterzano who had himself trained under Titian. In his early twenties he moved to Rome where many huge new churches and palazzi were being built and paintings were needed to fill them. During the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church searched for religious art with which to counter the threat of Protestantism, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate.

Caravaggio's novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro. This came to be known as Tenebrism, the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value. He burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissioned artwork. Thereafter Caravaggio never lacked commissions or patrons, yet he handled his success poorly. Since 1600, because of his violent temper Caravaggio was constantly in trouble with the law and was regularly mentioned in police records, under accusations of assault, libel and other crimes. "after a fortnight's work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him." (An early published notice on him, dating from 1604 and describing his lifestyle three years previously) Caravaggio was jailed on several occasions and ultimately had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope, when he became involved in killing a young man in a brawl in 1606. He fled from Rome finding refuge with a price on his head. He was involved in a brawl in Malta in 1608 again, and another in Naples in 1609, possibly a deliberate attempt on his life by unidentified enemies. This encounter left him severely injured. A year later, at the age of 38, he died under mysterious circumstances in Porto Ercole, reportedly from a fever while on his way to Rome to receive a pardon from the Pope.

Famous while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation. Heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques".
"What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting." (Andre Berne-Joffroy)
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Masaccio


Madonna Enthroned, Panel from the Pisa Altar
1427
tempera on panel
133 x 73 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Masaccio (1401 - 1428) was the first great painter of the Quattrocento period of the Italian Renaissance, whose innovations in the use of scientific perspective inaugurated the modern era in painting. He was born in a village near Florence, located in the valley of the Arno River. He was the best painter of his generation because of his skill at recreating lifelike figures and movements as well as a convincing sense of three-dimensionality.

He was one of the first to use linear perspective in his painting, employing techniques such as vanishing point in art for the first time. He also moved away from the International Gothic style and elaborate ornamentation of artists like Gentile da Fabriano to a more naturalistic mode that employed perspective and chiaroscuro for greater realism.

His remarkably individual style owed little to other painters, except possibly the great 14th-century master Giotto. He was more strongly influenced by the architect Brunelleschi and the sculptor Donatello, both of whom were his contemporaries in Florence. From Brunelleschi he acquired a knowledge of mathematical proportion that was crucial to his revival of the principles of scientific perspective. From Donatello he imbibed a knowledge of classical art that led him away from the prevailing Gothic style. He inaugurated a new naturalistic approach to painting that was concerned less with details and ornamentation than with simplicity and unity, less with flat surfaces than with the illusion of three dimensionality. Together with Brunelleschi and Donatello, he was a founder of the Renaissance.

He died in Rome at twenty-six and little is known about the exact circumstances of his death. Despite his brief career, he had a profound influence on the course of later Florentine art and particularly on the work of Michelangelo. The majority of his work has been destroyed.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Levitan, Isaac


Spring in Italy
1890
oil on canvas
42.8 x 60.2 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.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kahlo, Frida


Self portrait with Braid
1941
oil on masonite
51 x 38.7 cm (20 x 15.25 in.)
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, Mexico City, Mexico

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "My painting carries with it the message of pain." (Frida)

Shortly after the divorce from acclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1939, Frida cut off her long hair and rejected her femininity to express the pain she felt over the separation. This self portrait was painted shortly after their remarriage in Dec. 1940 and in it, hair again becomes the vehicle through which she expresses her feelings about their marital reconciliation. The strands of hair that had previously been cut off have been gathered up again and plaited into a new braid which, in its shape of an endless loop, might be seen as a symbol of the eternal circle of time. This idea is reinforced by the leaves entwined around the naked upper body of Frida. (MoMa)

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907 - 1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years, Frida went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. Her traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. During three months recovering in a full body cast, Frida studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother. Frida later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter". She channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets - Amazon parrots, spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, hens, sparrows and a fawn - which lived at her home.

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

Frida's health deteriorated steadily during the 1950s. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly. In the summer of 1954, she contracted pneumonia and died soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida".

In accordance with Frida's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work.
"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."
Frida produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

O'Keeffe, Georgia


Series I No. 3
1918
oil on board
50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, USA

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty." (O'Keeffe)

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

Known for the flower paintings which encompass a quarter of her work, O’Keeffe was originally inspired by nature during her childhood in rural Wisconsin. Shunning her artistic education in favor of expressing her emotions, she enlarged flowers until they became abstract artforms whose sheer size commanded attention. "Precisionist", is the term most widely used to describe her work. O’Keeffe’s great clarity in painting is what identifies her well-known paintings of urban architecture, mountains, bones, and flowers. The simple, clear forms in her masterpieces made her a pioneer of a new modernism in the USA. Although O’Keeffe used her subject matter representationaly, the starkly linear quality, the thin, clear coloring, and boldly patterned compositions give the effect of an abstract design. She was the first woman honored with her own exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. New York Times described her paintings as both "bold and hermetic, immediately appealing and unnervingly impassive." 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)

In her later years, she became totally blind and died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. 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". The brilliance of her art work has proven timeless. O'Keeffe, not only carved out a significant place for women painters in an area of the American art community that had been exclusive to and is still dominated by men, but also she had become one of America’s most celebrated cultural icons well before her death. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe opened in 1997.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cuyp, Aelbert


Landscape near Rhenen
c.1655
oil on canvas
170 x 229 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp (1620 - 1691) was one of the leading Dutch landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. He is especially known for his large views of the Dutch countryside in early morning or late afternoon light. He was born in Dordrecht. He came from a family of artists; his grandfather and uncle were glass stainers and his father was a portraitist. He studied art with his father. Upon the death of his parents, he inherited a considerable fortune and a few years later, he married a widow who was a member of a patrician family.

Cuyp, who painted still lives, animals, portraits, and landscapes, worked in two distinct styles. Between 1639 and 1645 he painted naturalistic, diagonal compositions that show a good sense of space and an almost monochromatic yellowish-gray color. His more individualistic style, most evident in his work from the period between 1650 and 1670, is considered his best. His paintings are sunny and lively in atmosphere, profound in tonalities, simple in outline, well-balanced in composition, and notable for the large, rich foreground masses. Although his palette tends largely to yellow, pinkish red, warm browns, and olive green rather than blue and silver grey, he is considered a forerunner of Vermeer in his handling of light.

He was active in civic and religious affairs in Dordrecht throughout his life, becoming a deacon of the Reformed Community, an elder of the Church Council, and a member of the Tribunal of Eight for the Southern Provinces.
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homer, Winslow


Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts (High Tide)
1870
oil on canvas
66 x 96.5 cm (26 x 38 in. )
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

One of the best beaches on the East Coast, Manchester, on Cape Ann, the North Shore of Massachusetts, named "the Singing Beach" since it makes a high-pitch noise when you walk on it, is a high-priced vacation spot. Eagle Head is the promontory in the background. When this work was first exhibited in New York, contemporary critics focused on Homer's technical shortcomings, his subject matter, and the lack of propriety in the bathers' costumes. The unembellished starkness of the image, and the harsh light and long shadows intensify the disquieting quality of the painting.

Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910), largely self-taught, was an American landscape painter and printmaker best known for his marine subjects. He is regarded by many as the greatest American painter of the nineteenth century America and a preeminent figure in American art. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he had a happy childhood, growing up mostly in then rural Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an average student, but his art talent was evident in his early years. When he was nineteen he was apprenticed as to the lithographic firm. In 1859 he moved to New York where he worked as a freelance illustrator. On the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, he was sent by Harper's Weekly magazine, to draw pictures of the fighting. He observed the battle of Bull Run before accompanying the Army of the Potomac during its Peninsula Campaign. He also drew pictures of the siege of Petersburg. During the war he developed a reputation for realism. Homer's career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines such as Ballou's Pictorial and Harper's Weekly, at a time when the market for illustrations was growing rapidly, and when fads and fashions were changing quickly. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.

Homer was the undisputed master of the genre "sporting artist" in America, and he brought to it both intense observation and a sense of identification with the landscape-just at the cultural moment when the religious Wilderness of the nineteenth century, the church of nature, was shifting into the secular Outdoors, the theater of manly enjoyment. His quick success was mostly due to the strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Pollock, Jackson


number 7
1951
enamel on canvas
143.5 x 167.6 cm (56 1/2 x 66 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

"When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about." (Pollock)
Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956), American painter, known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement along with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Instead of using the traditional easel, Pollock affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with sticks, trowels or knives, sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods.

Pollock was born in Wyoming and grew up in California and Arizona. He was expelled from two high schools during his formative years, the second one being Los Angeles Manual Arts School, where he was encouraged to pursue his interest in art.
In 1930, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York to study art, and secured a job under the WPA Federal Art Project, a New Deal project, which allowed him to earn a living from his painting. This provided him the opportunity to develop his techniques. As he was gaining professional and social success, Pollock fought the addiction of alcoholism and recurring bouts of depression. He began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism in 1937, and he briefly suffered a nervous breakdown next year. He was subsequently under the care of psychoanalysts who used his own drawings in therapy sessions. Peggy Guggenheim contracted with Pollock to hold his first showing at her gallery in New York in 1937. He married Lee Krasner in 1945, a painter, and moved to East Hampton on Long Island, where he would remain the rest of his life. In the barn behind the house, which he converted to his studio, Pollock developed a new and completely novel technique of painting using what he called his “drip” technique. Using hardened brushes, sticks, and turkey basters, and household enamel paints, Pollock squirted, splashed, and dripped his paint onto canvas rolled out over his studio floor. In 1956, Time magazine gave Pollock the name “Jack the Dripper,” referencing his unique style of action painting.

Pollock had become a symbol of the new artistic revolt, abstract expressionism, and he enjoyed considerable fame. He had a volatile personality, struggled with alcoholism for most of his life, and he died at the age of 44 in a single-car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible, killing himself and one of his passengers, while driving under the influence of alcohol, which occurred less than a mile from his home. "On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally in the painting." (Pollock)
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cezanne, Paul


House of Père Lacroix
1873
oil on canvas
61.3 x 50.6 cm (24 1/8 x 19 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

In 1873 Cezanne moved to the village of Auvers, near Paris, where he painted this landscape. It was near Camille Pissarro's home, and the two of them often painted side by side during 1873 and 1874. To brighten Cezanne's dark palette knife, his friend Pissarro told him, "Never paint except with the three primary colors. . . . " The bright hues and quickly worked brushstrokes reveal here the effect of Pissarro's influence. Greens and yellows contrast in the foreground, and multihued vertical drags of the brush re–create watery reflections. Cool shadows contrast with the orange of a tiled roof. Light emphasizes the blond planes of the building, which is shaded with blues, greens, and mauves, and where broad strokes and heavier paint convey texture.

"I am a pupil of Pissarro." (Cezanne)
Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. He can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. He is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and color.

He was a contemporary of the impressionists, but he went beyond their interests in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects, to create, in his words, "something more solid and durable, like the art of the museums.'' The paintings convey his intense study of his subjects. His often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. Misunderstood and discredited by the public during most of his life, his art grew out of Impressionism and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of the painting itself.

Cezanne was born at Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on Jan. 19, 1839. He went to school in Aix, forming a close friendship with the novelist Emile Zola. He also studied law there, but at the same time he continued attending drawing classes. Against the implacable resistance of his father, he made up his mind that he wanted to paint and in 1861 joined Zola in Paris. In Paris he met Camille Pissarro and came to know others of the impressionist group but he remained an outsider to their circle. Extremely personal in character, his early paintings deals with bizarre subjects of violence and fantasy in harsh, somber colors and extremely heavy paintwork. In the late 1870s, Cezanne however entered the phase known as "constructive",' characterized by the grouping of parallel, hatched brushstrokes in formations that build up a sense of mass in themselves. He continued in this style until the early 1890s.

Finally, living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and Paris, he concentrated on a few basic subjects, still lifes of studio objects, studies of bathers, and successive views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. The landscapes of the final years have a more transparent and unfinished look. By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906, his art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the Cubists, and virtually all advanced art of the early 20th century.
He exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation. He did not gain commercial success until he was in his 50s.
He has been called the father of modern painting.
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso).
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pissarro, Camille


Chestnut trees in Louveciennes
1872
oil on canvas
54 x 41 cm (21.2 x 16.1 in.)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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.

"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 saw a subject and its light source as inseparable. He fought daunting criticism for most of his life, while trying to achieve validation for his revolutionary style. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings. He mentored Paul Cezanne and Paul Gaugin when they were aspiring artists, and vastly contributed to Impressionist theory.

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)
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ito, Shinsui


Beauty in the snow
1949
ink and color on silk
size unknown
Yamatane Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

Shinsui Ito (1898 – 1972), was a Nihonga (Japanese Painting) painter and Ukiyo-E woodblock print artist in Taisho and Showa period Japan. He was born in Fukagawa, Tokyo and was one of the great names of the shin-hanga (modern wood block print) art movement, which revitalized the traditional art after it began to decline with the advent of photography in the early 20th century. It can be said that he was the last person who inherited the tradition of Ukiyo-e Edo. In the later years of his life, he concentrated on painting. He was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun and his art work had been declared an "Intangible National Treasure" by a government commission.

Shinsui was a typical representative of the shin-hanga art movement. He only designed the prints - either as drawing sketches, or watercolors or paintings. Skillful carvers and printers then carved the woodblocks - one for each color - and printed the sheets from these blocks. The skill of these people was maybe even more important for the success of an artist's work than the design. Although traditional Japanese printmaking had practically come to a standstill at the beginning of the twentieth century, the quality of the craftsmanship of carvers and printers had reached a level never seen before during the 18th or 19th century.
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Picasso, Pablo


The Lovers
1923
oil on canvas
130.2 x 97.2 cm (51 1/4 x 38 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso." (Picasso)

Purity of line and color, economy of means, ideal figures and an atmosphere of nobility and restrained emotion - these are the admired characteristics of classicism in all ages, based on the qualities ascribed to ancient Greek and Roman art. In The Lovers, Picasso probaly comes as close to classical perfection as it is possible for a modern artist to do without any direct imitation of the past. There is a theatrical element in the painting, reminiscent of the classical tradition derived from the French dramatist Racine rather than from the ancients. Picasso had in fact been immersed in theatrical activity ever since his involvement with Diaghilev and Parade, and many paintings of this period could easily be interpreted as stage scenes.

"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.”
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mucha, Alphonse Maria


Zodiac - La Plume
1896
lithograph
65.7 x 48.2 cm
private collection

Zodiac was Mucha's first work under his contract with the printer Champenois and was originally designed as an in-house calendar for the company. In this composition, Mucha incorporated twelve zodiac signs in the halo-like disk behind the woman's head, one of Mucha's customary motifs. The majestic beauty of the woman is emphasized by her regal bearing and elaborate jewellery. The striking design of the Zodiac calendar quickly attracted the attention of Léon Deschamps, chief editor of La Plume; he bought the rights to distribute it as the magazine's calendar for 1897. It became one of Mucha's most popular designs; at least nine variants of this lithograph are known.

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

He was a prolific and prominent painter and decorative artist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, known best for his distinct style what was termed Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau. He applied his considerable talents to a wide variety of pursuits ranging from painting and sculpture to poster, magazine, and calendar illustration, and product and architectural design, as well as designs for jewelery, wallpaper, theater sets, etc. His style of painting influenced an entire generation of painters, graphic artists, draughtsmen and designers and in the minds of many.

His works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, surrounded by lush flowers which formed halos behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors. The Art Nouveau style, however, was one that he attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more.

Mucha worked on his most famous work, The Slav Epic, which consisted of 20 paintings that featured major points in Czech history and of other Slavic countries, but the rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'.

In 1938, Czechoslovakia was taken over by Nazi Germany and, in 1939, since the suppression of nationalism was high on the agenda of the conquerors, Mucha, with his history of patriotism and Pan-Slavism, was among the first persons to be arrested and incarcerated by the Gestapo at the onset of World War II. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he died in Prague on 14 July 1939, of a lung infection, and was interred there in the Vyšehrad cemetery. His son, author, devoted much of his life to writing about him and bringing attention to his art. Interest in Mucha's distinctive style experienced a strong revival in the 1960's with a general interest in Art Nouveau.
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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Vigee-Lebrun, Marie Louise Elisabeth


Self-portrait in a straw hat
after 1782
oil on canvas
97.8 × 70.5 cm (38.5 × 27.8 in.)
National Gallery, London, UK

Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755 - 1842), French artist born in Paris, was one of the most famous painters of the 18th century. She was an extremely industrious and productive painter and made a brilliant career. During her eighty seven-year life, she created well over 600 pieces of artwork. In a time period where it was uncommon to be a female artist, she put her best effort forth to overcome this adversity. Women painters were not recognized nearly as much as men painters, but her artwork had its own uniqueness that distinguished it apart from others. She not only had to overcome the adversity of being a woman, but also had to escape the turmoil of the French Revolution.

She was so talented that in 1778, she was summoned to Versailles to become the official painter to Queen Marie Antoinette. Because they were the same age, they became friends and confidants. Throughout the next ten years, she painted the Queen more than thirty times. In 1783, she was admitted to the French Academy of Arts, which was a great accomplishment because most women at the time were denied entry into such programs. After 1789, in the turmoil of the French Revolution, she became in danger because she was in close ties with the court. She fled the country immigrating to such places as Vienna, Prague, Dresden, London, and St. Petersburg. Her fame grew even more with such immigration. In 1801, she moved back to Paris. However, because she disliked Parisian social life under Napoleon, she left for London where she painted pictures of the court and Lord Byron. She moved yet again to Switzerland, but did not stay long, and returned to her home of Paris, where she painted until her death in 1842.

She was fashionable with the European aristocracy. Her portraits are elegant and rich in color, very sentimental and idealized the model. But the evident difference of the models from their pictorial depiction did not embarrass the customers. Her independence is one of the main reasons that many people admire her. She is considered a role model, especially to female artists, because of her wide recognition of skills and gained admittance to academies that were closed to her sex. Her unique and exceptional talent made her one of the most sought out painters of her time. She was blessed with a natural ability that people adored, even centuries later. Her style is generally considered Rococo and shows interest in the subject of neoclassical painting. In her best works the magnificent art of French portraitists of the 18th century and fine sensitiveness of the European sentimentalism are happily united.
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Metzinger, Jean


Woman with a Fan
1913
oil on canvas
92.7 x 65.7 cm (36 1/2 x 25 7/8 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Jean Metzinger (1883 - 1956) was a French artist, painter, theorist, writer, critic and poet, born in Nantes, France, where he spent his entire youth. At the age of twenty he moved to Paris to pursue a career as a painter. About 1908 he met the writer Max Jacob, who introduced him to Guillaume Apollinaire and his circle, which included Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. Picasso was to have a significant influence on Metzinger from this time to about 1923.
In 1910 and 1911 he published several articles on contemporary painting and afterward periodically contributed to the literature on Modern art. He was the first to note in print that Picasso and Braque had dismissed traditional perspective and merged multiple views of an object in a single image; his article on this subject appeared in 1910.

Metzinger was in many ways an exemplary avant-gardist: intellectually acute, athirst for originality, culturally elitist and ambitious. It will be shown that these various factors coupled with his early interests in mathematics, geometry especially, impelled the novel approach visible in these early works. As a sensitive and intelligent theoretician of Cubism, he sought to communicate the principles of this movement through his paintings as well as his writings. He is best known for his contributions to modern art as a member of the Cubist movement; less known for his contributions made to modern art prior to the development of Cubism.

His work developed in parallel with the 'mechanical world' of Fernand Léger from 1924 to 1930. Throughout these years he continued to retain his own marked artistic individuality, with firmly constructed pictures, brightly colored and visually metaphoric works, consisting of urban and still-life subject-matter, with clear references to science and technology. Following the mechanized paintings of the late 1920s, until his death in 1956, he turned towards a more classical approach to painting with elements of Surrealism and Cubism. The works of this period - perhaps to a greater extent than his Neo-Impressionist paintings leading up to 1908 - have been imprudently neglected by critics, curators and art historians.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Exter, Alexandra


City
1913
oil on canvas
88.5 x 70.5 cm
Kiev Regional Art Museum, Vologda, Russia

Alexandra Exter (1882 - 1949) was a Russian painter and designer of Polish birth. She was a Suprematism and Constructivism painter, and co-founder of the Art Deco movement. As one of the founders of Art Deco, she developed her own style of art by combining her education with western avant-garde influences.

Exter was born into a wealthy family in a part of Imperial Russia which is now Poland. Due to her family's wealth, she was able to receive an exceptional education. She studied several subjects including music, languages, and private drawing lessons. In 1903 she studied painting at Kieve art school. That same year she married and spent several months with her husband in Paris where she attended the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere in Montparnasse. As a result of her education and travel, her style of art was a mixture of Russian, Cubism, and Futurism. She was a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Gertrude Stein. In 1914 she participated in the International Futurist Exhibition in Milan, and in 1915 she joined The Supremus, an avant-garde artist's group. She and her husband emigrated to France in 1924 and settled in Paris where she became a professor at the Academie de l'Art Moderne in Paris and Fernand Leger's Academie de l'Art Contemporain.

Exter was also a stage designer. She worked as a costume designer until 1920. Her abilities brought Exter to Alexander Tairov's Chamber Theater and to the ballet studio of the dancer Bronislava Nijinska, the sister of Vaslav Nijinsky. She was active as an illustrator until her death on March 17, 1949, in the Parisian suburb of Fontanay-aux-Roses.
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