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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Vermeer, Johannes


The lacemaker
c.1670
oil on canvas
24.5  × 21 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris

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

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

Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Watteau, Jean-Antoine


The Embarkation for Cythera
1717
oil on canvas
129 x 194 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

The Embarkation for Cythera is also known as "Voyage to Cythera" and "Pilgrimage on the Isle of Cythera". The painting portrays an amorous celebration or party enjoyed by the aristocracy of France during the Regence after the death of Louis XIV, which is generally seen as a period of dissipation and pleasure, and peace, after the somber last years of the previous reign. The work celebrates love, with many cupids flying around the couples and pushing them closer together, as well as the statue of Venus. In the ancient world, Cythera, one of the Greek islands, was thought to be the birthplace of Venus, goddess of love. It has often been noted that, despite the title, the people on the island seem to be leaving rather than arriving, especially since they have already paired up. Many art historians have come up with a variety of interpretations of the allegory of the voyage to the island of love. Watteau himself purposely did not give an answer.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684 -1721) was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement (in the tradition of Correggio and Rubens). He revitalized the waning Baroque style, and indeed moved it to the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical Rococo. He had an impact on the development of Rococo art in France and throughout Europe lasting well beyond his lifetime.

Living only thirty-six years, and plagued by frequent illness, Watteau nonetheless rose from an obscure provincial background to achieve fame in the French capital during the Regency of the duc d'Orleans. His paintings feature figures in aristocratic and theatrical dress in lush imaginary landscapes. Their amorous and wistful encounters create a mood but do not employ narrative in the traditional sense. During Watteau's lifetime, a new term, fete galante, was coined to describe them. Watteau was also a gifted draftsman whose sparkling chalk sheets capture subtle nuances of deportment and expression.

After Watteau’s death, his art fell out of fashion. During the French Revolution, some eighty years after the work was painted, his depictions of lavishly set pastoral escapades were associated with the old days of the monarchy and a frivolous aristocracy. In the early 19th century the curator at the Louvre was forced to place it in storage. It was not until the 1830s that Watteau and the Rococo returned into fashion. His influence on the arts (not only painting, but the decorative arts, costume, film, poetry, music) was more extensive than that of almost any other 18th-century artist. According to the 1911 Britannica, "in his treatment of the landscape background and of the atmospheric surroundings of the figures can be found the germs of Impressionism".

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lorrain, Claude


Landschaft mit Apollo und Merkur (Landscape with Apollo Guarding the Herds of Admetus and Mercury stealing them)
c.1645
oil on canvas
55 × 45 cm
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome, Italy

"Claude Lorrain knew the real world by heart, down to its minute details. He used it as a means of expressing the harmonious universe of his soul." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Claude Lorrain (also Claude Gellee or Le Lorrain) (c.1600-1682) was an French artist of the Baroque era who was active in Italy, and is admired for his achievements in landscape painting.
Claude was born into poverty as a peasant's son, in the Duchy of Lorraine and was orphaned by age of twelve, but left around 1612 for Germany, then Rome, where he became a studio assistant to the landscape painter.

Claude painted a pastoral world of fields and valleys not distant from castles and towns. John Constable described Claude as "the most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw", and declared that in Claude’s landscape "all is lovely - all amiable - all is amenity and repose; the calm sunshine of the heart". Claude exerted considerable influence on landscape artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. The English painter Turner was especially indebted to Claude, and tried to outdo his grand compositions. In life and long after his death, Claude influenced landscape painting and garden design, through his paintings and over 1,300 drawings.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Botticelli, Sandro


The Adoration of the Magi
c.1476
Tempera on panel
111 × 134 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

The Adoration of the Magi theme was popular in the Renaissance Florence. It depicts a famous scene, where the three Magi, or kings, bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to lay before a baby Jesus. Botticelli was commissioned to paint at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi. The work was commissioned by Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, a banker of humble origins and dubious morality connected to the House of Medici, for his chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella (now destroyed).

In the scene are present numerous characters among which are several members of the Medici family: Cosimo de' Medici (the Magus kneeling in front of the Virgin), his sons Piero (the second Magus kneeling in the center with the red mantle) and Giovanni (the third Magus), and his grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. The three Medici portrayed as Magi were all dead at the time the picture was painted, and Florence was effectively ruled by Lorenzo. Botticelli also included a portrait of himself, in the yellow robe in the bottom right corner of the painting.

Alessandro Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, (c.1445-1510) began his career during the Italian Renaissance period. He was born in Florence around 1445 where he would live out the rest of his life. As the youngest of five children, Botticelli’s father, a tanner, allowed him to become an apprentice to a goldsmith. During this apprenticeship, the goldsmith he worked with gave him the name Botticelli, meaning ‘small wine cask’. After a time, Botticelli convinced his father that he wanted to study painting and was chosen to be apprentice to the well known painter Fra Filippo Lippi. Botticelli quickly became recognized as a gifted artist under Lippi, and by the time he was 15 years old, he was able to open a workshop dedicated to his own work.
Botticelli stressed line and detail using them to bring his characters alive - as if acting out a scene. He included in his style a flowing characteristic and Neo-Platonism. This meant that he would bring together in one painting ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan ideas which may have included mythology. In 1481, he was invited to Rome to take part in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. He joined artists such as Perugino, Ghirlandaio and then Michelangelo in contributing to the most well known piece of Italian art.

As Botticelli grew older, he became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a prominent civic leader in Florence and Botticelli's style underwent a remarkable change. Many of his previous paintings were considered ungodly and were burned. When Savonarola’s popularity ended being burnt in the center of Florence, many followers fled the city but Botticelli stayed in Florence, and continued to paint. Botticelli’s later years seemed to be a disturbing time for him. As times changed in Florence, he often took on difficult commissions that other painters turned down. His rotating style reflected that he was struggling as a painter and his paintings were full of emotion. He died at the age of 65.

At the height of his fame, he was one of the most esteemed artists in Italy. His work was most in demand by the Medici family. After his death, his name all but disappeared until the late 19th century, his work lay forgotten for over 400 years after his death, 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.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Van Scorel, Jan


Mary Magdalene
c.1530
67 x 76 cm
oil on panel
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The woman is Mary Magdalene. She can be identified by her jar of ointment, which she used to anoint Jesus’s feet. Van Scorel painted her as a seductive, luxuriously dressed courtesan, a reference to her reputed past as a prostitute. The name Christ comes from the Greek 'christos', meaning the anointed one.

Jan Van Scorel (1495-1562) is a Dutch humanist, architect, engineer, and painter. He studied in Rome and returning to Holland in 1524, he began a successful career as a painter and a teacher, introducing Italian Renaissance elements. He successfully combined the idealism of Renaissance Italy with the naturalism of northern European art in his paintings, and he bequeathed the style to successive generations of Dutch artists. Considered to be the leading Netherlandish Romanist, van Scorel died in Utrecht in 1562, leaving behind a wealth of portraits and altarpieces.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Maes, Nicolaes


The Adoration of the Shepherds
c.1660
oil on canvas
120.7 x 95.9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Nicolaes Maes almost exactly copied Albrecht Durer's 1504 engraving of the Nativity, in this painting. Maes simply widened the house to the left, provided new poses for the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and added the four shepherds that give the painting its new subject.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio


Virgin and child
1508
oil on wood
75 × 51 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

"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)

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483-1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. 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 a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. 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. 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. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

He died on his thirty-seventh birthday, April 6, 1520, because of acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, and was buried the next day, at his request, in the Pantheon amidst universal mourning and acclaim. His funeral was extremely grand, very well attended by large crowds. It is said that Raphael's early death plunged into grief the entire papal court. Pope Leo X, who had an intention to make him a cardinal, wept bitterly when he died. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus reads: "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die." He is said to have had many affairs, but he never married. The reason of his premature death is unknown.

Raphael's influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime. His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded 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. (it was against his authority that the Pre-Raphaelites revolted). 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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bronzino, Agnolo


Holy Family with St Anne and St John
c.1546
oil on panel
126.8 x 101.5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

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.

Johns, Jasper


Map
1961
oil on canvas
198.2 x 314.7 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Jasper Johns, Jr. (1930-), born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in South Carolina, is an American contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and printmaking. Together with Rauschenberg and several Abstract Expressionist painters of the previous generation, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman, Johns is one of the most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century. He also ranks with Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, Munch, and Picasso as one of the greatest printmakers of any era.

Johns' early mature work, of the mid- to late 1950s, invented a new style that helped to engender a number of subsequent art movements, among them Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual art. The new style has usually been understood to be coolly antithetical to the expressionistic gestural abstraction of the previous generation. This is partly because, while his painting extended the allover compositional techniques of Abstract Expressionism, his use of these techniques stresses conscious control rather than spontaneity.

The American flag subject is typical of his use of quotidian imagery in the mid - to late 1950s. As he explained, the imagery derives from "things the mind already knows," utterly familiar icons such as flags, targets, stenciled numbers, ale cans, and, slightly later, maps of the U.S. As Johns became well known - and perhaps as he realized his audience could be relied upon to study his new work - his subjects with a demonstrable prior existence expanded. In addition to popular icons, he chose images that he identified in interviews as things he had seen - for example, a pattern of flagstones he glimpsed on a wall while driving. Throughout his career, Johns has included in most of his art certain marks and shapes that clearly display their derivation from factual, unimagined things in the world, including handprints and footprints, casts of parts of the body, or stamps made from objects found in his studio, such as the rim of a tin can.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Chagall, Marc


Self-Portrait with Seven Digits
1913
oil on canvas
128 x 107 cm
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This painting was Chagall’s first self-portrait, about 25 years old. It was painted in his first Paris studio, where he and 200 fellow artists lived in very poor conditions. It’s an example of how artists can include personal meaning and history in their self-portraits.

He grew up in Belarus, now an independent country, but then part of the Russian empire. His father was a laborer (unskilled construction worker) who struggled to make enough money to support the family. While Chagall spent most of his life in France, he never stopped returning to Belarus in his mind and in his art. In this painting, two landscapes hover above the painter:  his new home of Paris and the memories of his childhood village in Belarus.

His Jewish heritage shows strongly in much of his work, with references to traditional folktales, fables, and beliefs. In Study for Self Portrait with Seven Fingers, Chagall refers to the colorful Yiddish folk expression Mit alle zibn finger, (with all seven fingers,) meaning “working as fast and as hard as possible”.  That explains the extra fingers! The broken, puzzle-like appearance of the objects in the painting is an influence from Cubism, a popular style of painting at the time. He was experimenting with Cubist methods of breaking up reality and reassembling it in new ways.

Chagall said, "For the Cubists, 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."

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.
"Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love." (Chagall)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Leger, Fernand


Three Women by a Garden
1922
oil on canvas
64.8 x 91.4 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Fernand Leger (1881-1955), painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, was born at Argentan, France. He began his career as a an artist by serving an apprenticeship in architecture and working as a architectural draughtsman. In 1900 he went to Paris and was admitted to the art school in 1903. The first profound influence on his work came from Cezanne. Leger became friends with Delaunay and maintained ties with great artists, including Matisse, Rousseau, Apollinaire and leading exponents of Cubism. As a painter Leger exerted an enormous influence on the development of Cubism, Constructivism and the modern advertising poster as well as various forms of applied art.

Leger's experiences in World War I had a significant effect on his work. Mobilized in 1914 for service in the French Army, he spent two years at the front in Argonne. He produced many sketches of artillery pieces, airplanes, and fellow soldiers while in the trenches, and painted Soldier with a Pipe (1916) while on furlough. In September 1916 he almost died after a mustard gas attack. During a period of convalescence he painted The Card Players (1917), a canvas whose robot-like, monstrous figures reflect the ambivalence of his experience of war. As he explained: ...I was stunned by the sight of the breech of a 75 millimeter in the sunlight. It was the magic of light on the white metal. That's all it took for me to forget the abstract art of 1912-1913. The crudeness, variety, humor, and downright perfection of certain men around me, their precise sense of utilitarian reality and its application in the midst of the life-and-death drama we were in...made me want to paint in slang with all its color and mobility.

After his experiences in the First World War, he became convinced that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction towards the stylized depiction of real objects, laying great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. By 1920, Leger had achieved a mechanistic classicism, a precise, geometrically and harshly definitive monumental rendering of modern objects such as cog-wheels and screws, with the human figure incorporated as an equally machine-like being. Surrealismus left its mark on Leger in the 1930s, loosening up his style and making it more curvilinear.

Among the most prominent artists in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, Leger was prolific in many media and articulated a consistent position on the role of art in society in his many lectures and writings. His mature work underwent many changes, from a Cubist-derived abstraction in the 1910s to a distinctive realist imagery in the 1950s. Leger taught at Yale University from 1940 until 1945. He attracted numerous students to his various schools, and his ideas and philosophy were disseminated by modern artists throughout Europe and the Americas. By now his dominant motifs were drawn from the workplace and were post-Cubist in form, combined with the representational clarity of Realism.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Picasso, Pablo


Lying female nude
1932
oil on canvas
130 x 161 cm
location unknown

"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. Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


White House at Night
1890
oil on canvas
59.5 x 72.5 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

In May 1890, Gogh came to Auvers-sur-Oise and painted a series of pictures with houses. The Auvers period began with the hope of a new life and the recovery of health. This sense of hope was expressed in the pictures executed in May. In the June paintings, the motif of the home remained at the centre of the artist's attention, but its emotional range expanded greatly - from gloomy foreboding to conciliation. Since the emotion was expressed by Gogh not through the subject itself, but through his manipulation of the methods of painting, the structure of his compositions changed each time. In this painting a frozen quality prevails, and the chief lines are stable horizontals and verticals. They are needed to draw a house, but they can turn it into a prison. Gogh gives much attention to windows, the "eyes" of a home. The red splashes of the windows to the right are alarming; Gogh would draw a star, a sign of fate, at moments of greatest anguish. The White House at Night expresses the great psychological tension under which Gogh found himself.

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 spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community.

In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 in 1890 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties. He completed 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. 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". "I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." "One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR." (Gogh)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


The Seed of the Areoi
1892
oil on burlap
92.1 x 72.1 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

The Polynesian goddess sits on a blue-and-white cloth. In the origin myth of the Areoi, a Polynesian secret society, a male sun god mates with the most beautiful of all women, Vairaumati, to found a new race. By painting his Tahitian mistress Tehura as Vairaumati, Gauguin implied a continuity between the island's past and its life during his own stay there.

Eugene 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 synthesist 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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Redon, Odilon


Ophelia among the Flowers
1908
pastel on paper
64 x 91 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

This pastel is one of several compositions by Redon of this subject from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. The garlanded head of Ophelia is turned towards the flowers as though in contemplation of their beauty.

Before 1900 Redon made drawings almost exclusively in black and white; afterward he began to focus on paintings and pastels in sensuous color. Many of his late works in color took nature’s small beauties, such as butterflies, seashells, and flowers, as objects of contemplation and presented them with a fantastic intensity. Redon was a Symbolist; he believed that art could transcend the everyday and open onto a marvelous world of the mind. Around 1905 he spoke of the painter’s task as a privileged one: "Painting consists in using a special sense, an innate sense for composing a beautiful substance. To do as nature does: create diamonds, gold, sapphires, agates, precious metal, silk, flesh: it is a gift of delicious sensuality." (Redon)

Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (1840 - 1916), French, was one of the outstanding figures of Symbolism. He studied under Jean-Leon Gerome; mastered engraving from Rodolphe Bresdin, who exerted an important influence; and learned lithography under Henri Fantin-Latour.
Redon's aesthetic was one of imagination rather than visual perception. His imagination found an intellectual catalyst in his close friend, the Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme. He had a retiring life, first in his native Bordeaux, then in Paris, and until he was in his fifties he worked almost exclusively in black and white, in charcoal drawings and lithographs. There is an evident link to Goya in Redon’s imagery of winged demons and menacing shapes.

Redon produced nearly 200 prints, beginning in 1879 with the lithographs collectively titled In the Dream. He completed another series dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, whose poems had been translated into French with great success by Mallarme and Charles Baudelaire. Rather than illustrating Poe, Redon’s lithographs are poems in visual terms, themselves evoking the poet’s world of private torment.
Redon remained virtually unknown to the public until the publication of J.K. Huysmans's novel A Rebours in 1884; the book's hero who lives in a private world of perverse delights, collects Redon's drawings, and with his mention in this classic expression of decadence, Redon too became associated with the movement.

Redon's aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind. His work represents an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to place the visible at the service of the invisible. Well before the Surrealists, he focused on his inner world, on the fantastic, some-times frightening, and always mysterious creatures of his imagination, to evoke a realm of dreams, distant memories, and indefinable emotions.
Much of his early life had been unhappy, but after undergoing a religious crisis and a serious illness, he was transformed into a much more buoyant and cheerful personality, expressing himself in radiant colors in mythological scenes and flower paintings. The flower pieces, in particular, were much admired by Matisse, and the Surrealists regarded Redon as one of their precursors. He was a distinguished figure by the end of his life, although still a very private person.
Redon occupies a major place in the history of modern art, not only for the intrinsic beauty of his works, but also and perhaps most importantly for the daring quality of his imagination.
"My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the undetermined. They are a kind of metaphor." (Redon)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pissarro, Camille


View from my Window, Eragny-sur-Epte
1888
oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

This painting shows a view from the Pissarro's house at Eragny, looking towards the village of Bazincourt. The tall building on the left was converted into Pissarro's studio when he bought the property in 1892. The composition which the artist referred to as modern primitive, was begun in 1886 but not completed until two years later. It is painted in the painstaking Pointilist technique that Pissarro used for only a few years.

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." (Pissarro)
"He was a father for me. A man to consult and a little like the good Lord." (Cezanne)

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.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cezanne, Paul


Still Life with Apples
1898
oil on canvas
68.6 x 92.7 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

"I am a pupil of Pissarro." (Cezanne)
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso)

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. In his early career, he was strongly influenced by Delacroix and Courbet, using thick slabs of paint to give his early works a sculptural presence and intensity. He exhibited with the Impressionists, but eventually rejected what he considered the Impressionists' lack of structure, declaring his intention to make Impressionism into "something solid and durable, like the art of museums" in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects.
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.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Boucher, Francois


The Abduction of Europa
1734
oil on canvas
231 x 274 cm
Wallace Collection, London, UK

Europa was the beautiful daughter of the king of Tyre, Agenor. Zeus (Jupiter), the King of the gods according to Greek mythology, saw Europa as she was gathering flowers by the sea and immediately fell in love with her. Zeus transformed himself into the form of a magnificent white bull and appeared in the sea shore where Europa was playing. The great bull walked gently over to where Europa stood and knelt at her feet. The appearance and movements of the bull were so gentle that Europa spread flowers about his neck and dared to climb upon his back. But suddenly, the bull rushed over the sea abducting Europa. Only then the bull revealed its true identity and took Europa to the Mediterranean island of Crete. There, Zeus cast off the shape of the white bull, and back into his human form, made Europa his lover beneath a simple cypress tree. Europa became the first queen of Crete and had by Zeus three sons.

Francois Boucher (1703-1770) was a extremely popular French painter of the rococo age. He began his artistic career working as an engraver and at the age of 17. He was greatly impressed by the delicate style of his contemporary Antoine Watteau. In 1723 Boucher won the Prix de Rome and studied in Rome from 1727 to 1731. He turned what he studied into a uniquely personal style, suitable for large-scale decorations as well as small intimate, so-called cabinet pictures.

He was enormously successful, and well patronized, so his output was prodigious. He designed stage sets, provided models for the porcelain factory, and designs for the tapestry factories. He held a near monopoly in producing the imagery of the mid-century. In 1755, he became director of the Gobelins tapestries and in 1765 he was made first painter to the king, director of the Royal Academy, and designer for the Royal Porcelain Works. His success was greatly facilitated by his patron, the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. Boucher was her favorite, and he painted her portrait several times.

His lovely paintings and decorations, usually portray an idyllic and pastoral world, with little attempt to confront reality. His delicate, lighthearted depictions of classical divinities and unusually well-dressed French shepherdesses delighted the public, who made him the most fashionable painter of mid-century Europe. By the early 1770's, his sentimental and, some said, facile style was too widely imitated and fell out of favor during the rise of neoclassicism. He died in Paris on 30 May 1770.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tiziano, Vecellio ; (Titian)


Rape of Europa
c.1559
oil on canvas
178 × 205 cm
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA, USA

The Rape of Europa was painted by Titian for the King of Spain Phillip II.  The painting depicts a completely surprised Europa arms and legs flailing as she is carried away on Jupiter’s back as he is disguised as an ornamented white bull. Europa is portrayed as demure and resistant, weak with desire and frightened beneath a contrasting sky of opposites both calm and turbulent. Cupids one below and two above are transfixed as they watch the tension between Europa and Jupiter. Nymphs ambiguous on the far shore helplessly waive as they watch. Titian used light to accentuate the dramatization and emotions of the painting, superbly depicting the Venetian’s skill in the use of light.

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio  (c.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.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn


The abduction of Europa
1632
oil on oak panel
62.2 × 77 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, California, USA

In the Metamorphoses , the ancient Roman poet Ovid told a story about the god Jupiter, who disguised himself as a white bull in order to seduce the princess Europa away from her companions and carry her across the sea to the distant land that would bear her name. During his long career Rembrandt rarely painted mythological subjects. A master of visual effects, Rembrandt took pleasure in describing the varied textures of sumptuous costumes and glittering gold highlights on the carriage and dresses.

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of a miller, 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.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tanguy, Yves


Aupres des Sables
1936
gouache on paper
11.9 x 17.1 cm
private collection

Yves Tanguy's paintings have a unique, immediately recognizable style of nonrepresentational surrealism. They show vast, abstract landscapes, mostly in a tightly limited palette of colors, only occasionally showing flashes of contrasting color accents. Typically, these alien landscapes are populated with various abstract shapes, sometimes angular and sharp as shards of glass, sometimes with an intriguingly organic look to them, like giant amoebae suddenly turned to stone.

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy (1900 -1955), known as Yves Tanguy, was a French-born American surrealist painter, originally a merchant seaman.
He was born in Paris, France, the son of a retired navy captain. In 1918, he briefly joined the merchant navy before being drafted into the Army. At the end of his military service in 1922, he returned to Paris, where he worked various odd jobs. By chance, he stumbled upon a painting by Giorgio de Chirico and was so deeply impressed he resolved to become a painter himself in spite of his complete lack of formal training.

Tanguy had a habit of being completely absorbed by the current painting he was working on. This way of creating artwork may have been due to his very small studio which only had enough room for one wet piece. In around 1924 he was introduced into the circle of surrealist artists around Andre Breton. He quickly began to develop his own unique painting style. During this busy time of his life, Andre Breton gave Tanguy a contract to paint 12 pieces a year. With his fixed income, he painted less and only ended up creating eight works of art for Breton.

Throughout the 1930s, Tanguy adopted the bohemian lifestyle of the struggling artist with gusto. In 1938, after seeing the work of fellow artist Kay Sage, he began a relationship with her. With the outbreak of World War II, Sage moved back to her native New York, and Tanguy, judged unfit for military service, followed her. He would spend the rest of his life in the United States. Sage and Tanguy were married in Reno, Nevada in 1940. Toward the end of the war, the couple moved to Woodbury, Connecticut, converting an old farmhouse into an artists' studio. They spent the rest of their lives there. In 1948, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1955, Yves Tanguy suffered a fatal stroke at Woodbury. His body was cremated and his ashes preserved by Kay. Badly affected by the sudden death of Yves Tanguy in 1955, Kay went blind, little by little, but nevertheless did finish the Complete Catalogue of Yves Tanguy’s work before committing suicide in 1963. Later, Yves Tanguy's ashes were scattered by his friend Pierre Matisse on the beach at Douarnenez in his beloved Brittany, together with those of his wife Kay.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Picabia, Francis


Self-Portrait
1940
Oil on cardboard
48 x 58 cm
Private collection

In this case, the female models of this painting were likely taken from black and white ‘erotic’ magazines or pictures.

Francis Picabia (1879-1953) was a French painter, illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved with the art movements Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism. He was the son of a Cuban diplomat father and a French mother.

During the seventy four intervening years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time. After studying at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, he painted landscapes for nearly six years in the manner of Corot and the Impressionists, especially Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style, and, along with Marcel Duchamp, he helped found in 1911 the Section d’Or, a group of Cubist artists. Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with its more lyrical variation known as Orphism. In these early paintings he portrayed assemblages of closely fitted, metallic-looking abstract shapes. As Picabia moved away from Cubism to Orphism, his colors and shapes became softer.

In 1915 Picabia traveled to New York City, where he, Duchamp, and Man Ray began to develop what became known as an American version of Dada, a nihilistic art movement that flourished in Europe and New York from 1915 to about 1922.  About 1916 he gave up the Cubist style completely and began to produce the images of satiric, machine like contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism.

In 1916 Picabia returned to Europe and settled in Barcelona. He subsequently joined Dadaist movements in Paris and Zurich. In 1921 he renounced Dada on the grounds that it was no longer vital and had lost its capacity to shock. In 1925 he left Paris to settle in the south of France, where he experimented with painting in various styles. He returned to live in Paris in 1945, and he spent the final years of his life painting in a mostly abstract mode. Picabia was notable for his inventiveness, adaptability, absurdist humor, and disconcerting changes of style.
Picabia died in Paris in 1953 and was interred in the Cimetiere de Montmartre.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Magritte, René


La robe de l'aventure (The garmet of adventure)
1926
oil on Canvas
80 x 120 cm
location unknown

"If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream." (Magritte)

Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte (1898 - 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. His Belgian brand of Surrealism deals in clear visions with unclear meanings. Unlike the fantastic dreamscapes of Paris Surrealists such as Salvador Dali, his settings are strangely normal, and his protagonists are bourgeois gentlemen in ties and bowler hats. Yet he specialized in permanent irresolution, in mysteries without a key.

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Delvaux, Paul


Women-Trees
1937
oil on canvas
120.5 x 150.5 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA

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

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homer, Winslow


The Bridle Path, White Mountains
1868
oil on canvas
61.3 × 96.5 cm
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, USA

Homer visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the summer of 1868, where he likely journeyed along the Crawford Path in the Presidential Range; the path for travelers on horseback depicted in The Bridle Path, White Mountains. The Bridle Path’s emphasis on the pleasures of the moment are reinforced by its hazy, indistinct background, allover weave of blues and yellows, and play of light on the horse and rider.

"Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems."

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was one of the most authentic and important American artists of the 19th century. He is remembered for his landscapes, many featuring scenes of the sea, boats, and coastlines. He did not receive formal art training. He began his art career as an apprentice for a commercial lithographer. In the late 1850's he began doing work for Harper's Weekly. His early work for Harper's was primarily to create line art drawings from photographs. At the time pictures were printed by "stamping" them from a large wood block.

Born in Boston, from a parent from long lines of New Englanders, he spent his adolescence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, surviving the absence of a father who rushed out to California to pan for gold. At nineteen he learned how to draw on the job at a lithography shop by illustrating or copying of photographs for sheet music covers of popular songs. 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's mother was a gifted amateur watercolorist and his first teacher, and she and her son had a close relationship throughout their lives. Homer took on many of her traits, including her quiet, strong-willed, terse, sociable nature; her dry sense of humor; and her artistic talent. He was an average student, but his art talent was evident in his early years.
His father was a volatile, restless businessman who was always looking to "make a killing". When he was thirteen, his father gave up the hardware store business to seek a fortune in the California gold rush. When that failed, his father left his family and went to Europe to raise capital for other get-rich-quick schemes that didn't materialize.

Homer's career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines, at a time when the market for illustrations was growing rapidly, and when fads and fashions were changing quickly. His early works, mostly commercial engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings - qualities that remained important throughout his career. His quick success was mostly due to this strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hopper, Edward


Bridle Path
1939
oil on canvas
107 x 72 cm
private collection

This painting shows three horseback riders at midday approaching the West 72nd Street entrance to Central Park in New York City. A large building is seen above the hillside towering over the three riders; two women and a man.  The riders are dressed in modern 1930s riding garb and appear to be galloping toward the dark tunnel.  The man leans back and his horse’s head rears up, slowing the gallop as they approach the tunnel.  The three riders are on a dark gray path which leads up the overpass, they are indeed on a “bridle path”.

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

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

He showed the modern world unflinchingly; even its gaieties are gently mournful, echoing the disillusionment and the sense of human hopelessness that swept across the country after the start of the Great Depression in 1929. He painted hotels, motels, trains and highways, and also liked to paint the public and semi-public places where people gathered: restaurants, theaters, cinemas and offices. But even in these paintings he stressed the theme of loneliness - his theaters are often semideserted, with a few patrons waiting for the curtain to go up or the performers isolated in the fierce light of the stage. Hopper was a frequent movie-goer, and there is often a cinematic quality in his work.

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eakins, Thomas


The Swimming Hole and The Swimmers
1885
oil on canvas
70.2 × 93 cm
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, USA

This painting was painted using the pictures of his art students bathing in the nude.

Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (1844-1916) was an outstanding American realist painter of the 19th century, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history. Born in Philadelphia, he passed the major part of his life there with the exception of a period of training in Europe, 1866-70. He studied in Paris, but learnt most from the Spanish painters Velazquez and Ribera, absorbing a precise and uncompromising sense for actuality which he applied to portraiture and genre pictures of the life of his native city.

Eakins worked exactingly from life, choosing as his subject the people of his hometown of Philadelphia. He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, he produced a number of large paintings which brought the portrait out of the drawing room and into the offices, streets, parks, rivers, arenas, and surgical amphitheaters of his city. He also took a keen interest in the new technologies of motion photography, a field in which he is now seen as an innovator. He was a controversial figure whose work received little by way of official recognition during his lifetime. Since his death, he has been celebrated by American art historians as "the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art".

Thursday, December 5, 2013

O'Keeffe, Georgia


The Lawrence Tree
1929
oil on canvas
31 x 40 in.
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, USA

Painted in the summer of 1929 while visiting author D.H. Lawrence at his Kiowa Ranch near Taos during O'Keeffe's first trip to New Mexico, the tree stands in front of the house. In her words:  "...There was a long weathered carpenter's bench under the tall tree in front of the little old house that Lawrence had lived in there. I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree...past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree."

From 1979 to 1989 the Wadsworth Anthneum in Hartford, Connecticut hung The Lawrence Tree by O'Keeffe upside down. In 1990 the piece joined a traveling O'Keeffe retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Exhibition officials researching the work discovered letters from O'Keeffe complaining that the work had been hung the wrong way in an exhibition in 1931. The manner she described matched the same manner that the Wadsworth used to hang the painting. After the exhibition completed, Wadsworth hung the painting the way O'Keeffe had intended.

"One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work." (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.

"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)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homer, Winslow


The Cotton Pickers
1876
oil on canvas
61.1 x 96.8 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA

Winslow Homer was one of the few artists who painted African-Americans with sympathy and respect. The Cotton Pickers shows two young women returning home from a day’s work in the fields. These two women stand tall and proud, despite their tiring labour. Picking cotton was an exhausting and sometimes painful job. The cotton seems soft, but the fluffy boll hides the prickly seedpod underneath. Notice how it catches at the woman’s apron. This kind of realism, based on accurate observation, is a hallmark of Homer’s art. Here, his realism serves a deeper, more symbolic function. Ten years after the Civil War’s end, not much had changed in the lives of former slaves.

"Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems."

Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910) was one of the most authentic and important American artists of the 19th century. He is remembered for his landscapes, many featuring scenes of the sea, boats, and coastlines. He did not receive formal art training. He began his art career as an apprentice for a commercial lithographer. In the late 1850's he began doing work for Harper's Weekly. His early work for Harper's was primarily to create line art drawings from photographs. At the time pictures were printed by "stamping" them from a large wood block.

Born in Boston, from a parent from long lines of New Englanders, he spent his adolescence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, surviving the absence of a father who rushed out to California to pan for gold. At nineteen he learned how to draw on the job at a lithography shop by illustrating or copying of photographs for sheet music covers of popular songs. 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's mother was a gifted amateur watercolorist and his first teacher, and she and her son had a close relationship throughout their lives. Homer took on many of her traits, including her quiet, strong-willed, terse, sociable nature; her dry sense of humor; and her artistic talent. He was an average student, but his art talent was evident in his early years.
His father was a volatile, restless businessman who was always looking to "make a killing". When he was thirteen, his father gave up the hardware store business to seek a fortune in the California gold rush. When that failed, his father left his family and went to Europe to raise capital for other get-rich-quick schemes that didn't materialize.

Homer's career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines, at a time when the market for illustrations was growing rapidly, and when fads and fashions were changing quickly. His early works, mostly commercial engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings - qualities that remained important throughout his career. His quick success was mostly due to this strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wyeth, Andrew


Day Dream
1980
detail unknown

Model of this painting is Helga Testorf, born in Germany. The Helga Pictures are a series of more than 240 paintings and drawings of German model Helga Testorf created by Andrew Wyeth between 1971 and 1985. Testorf was a neighbor of Wyeth's in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and over the course of fifteen years posed for Wyeth indoors and out of doors, nude and clothed.

Explaining the series, Wyeth said, "The difference between me and a lot of painters is that I have to have a personal contact with my models.... I have to become enamored. That's what happened when I saw Helga." He described his attraction to "all her German qualities, her strong, determined stride, that Loden coat, the braided blond hair".

Wyeth asked Testorf to model for him in 1971, and from then until 1985 he made 45 paintings and 200 drawings of her, many of which depicted her nude. The sessions were a secret even to their spouses. The paintings were stored at the home of his student, neighbor and good friend. When the existence of the pictures was made public images of Testorf graced the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines. Well after the paintings were finished, Testorf remained close to Wyeth and helped care for him in his old age.

"its all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of design is motion." (Wyeth)

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) is one of the most famous US painters of the twentieth century and often named the "Painter of the People" as a result of his popularity with the American people. He was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter in the American tradition, capturing the people and landscapes of his country on canvas.

The youngest of five children, his artistic talent was highly influenced by his famous illustrator father. Wyeth was mostly home-schooled and did not attend any college or university. He also did not receive any formal artistic training, but his parents recognized and nurtured his talent. The Wyeth family was highly creative.

He was inspired by the people and landscapes that surrounded his childhood home in Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. His close friends and neighbors were usually the subjects of his paintings. His most famous model and subject of numerous works was Christina Olson. One of the most well-known images in twentieth century American art is his painting, Christina's World. Following her death, Wyeth painted Helga Testorf for over a decade. He created over 240 studies of this model known as the Helga Suite.

In Wyeth’s words, "Art to me, is seeing. I think you have got to use your eyes, as well as your emotion, and one without the other just doesn't work… If one could only catch that true color of nature ? the very thought of it drives me mad."

Monday, December 2, 2013

David, Jacques-Louis


Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 1804
between 1805 and 1807
oil on canvas
621 x 979 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The work was commissioned by Napoleon in 1804. Jacques-Louis David, the official painter of Napoleon, started work on 21 December 1805 in the former chapel of the College of Cluny, near the Sorbonne, which served as a workshop. Assisted by his student Georges Rouget, he put the finishing touches in November 1807. The painting remained the property of David until 1819, when it was transferred to the Royal Museums, where it was stored in the reserves until 1837. Then, it was installed in the Chamber Sacre of the museum of the historical Palace of Versailles on the orders of King Louis-Philippe. In 1889, the painting was transferred to the Louvre from Versailles and replaced there with a full-size replica - this replica had been begun by David himself in 1808 and completed during his exile in Brussels. Josephine kneels before Napoleon during his coronation at Notre Dame. Behind him sits pope Pius VII.

In the classical French tradition, kings underwent consecration (sacre) rather than a coronation because of anointment, conferred by the archbishop of Reims in Notre-Dame de Reims. Napoleon blended Roman imperial pageantry with the purported memory of Charlemagne and the coronation was held in Paris in the presence of Pope Pius VII. According to government tallies, the entire cost was over 8.5 million francs. Napoleon's elevation to Emperor was overwhelmingly approved by the French citizens in a referendum. Among Napoleon's reasons for coronation were the prestige in international royalist and Catholic milieux and the foundation for future dynasty.

Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) was the most celebrated highly influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the prominent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward a classical austerity and severity, chiming with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Regime.

David won wide acclaim with his huge canvases on classical themes. He was a painter to the king, Louis XVI, who had been the purchaser of his principal works, and his popularity was soon immense. He later became an active supporter of the French Revolution and friend of Maximilien Robespierre, and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre's fall from power, he aligned himself with yet another political regime upon his release, that of Napoleon I. It was at this time that he developed his 'Empire style', notable for its use of warm Venetian colors. David had a huge number of pupils, making him the strongest influence in French art of the 19th century, especially academic Salon painting.

David was born in the year when new excavations at the ash-buried ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were beginning to encourage a stylistic return to antiquity. His father, a prosperous dealer in textiles, was killed in a duel in 1757, and he was subsequently raised by two uncles. After classical literary studies and a course in drawing, he was placed in the studio of a history painter. At age 18 he was enrolled in the school of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. After four failures in the official competitions and years of discouragement that included an attempt at suicide, he finally obtained, in 1774, the Prix de Rome, a government scholarship that not only provided a stay in Italy but practically guaranteed lucrative commissions in France. In Italy there were many influences, including those of the dark-toned 17th-century Bolognese school, the serenely classical Nicolas Poussin, and the dramatically realistic Caravaggio. David absorbed all three, with an evident preference for the strong light and shade of the followers of Caravaggio.