Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kahlo, Frida

Self Portrait, Thinking about death
oil on canvas mounted on masonite
44.5 x 37 cm
Collection of Dolores Olmedo, 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)

Frida Kahlo drew on many different types of funerary imagery in her paintings, including Aztec art and Mexican folk traditions. Later, she extended her range of sources to include Eastern religions. The self-portrait Thinking of Death, 1943, deals explicitly with Kahlo’s preoccupation with mortality and the fragility of her body - the legacy of polio in childhood and a near-fatal bus accident. In this work, the third eye chakra in the center of the forehead, which denotes wisdom or spiritual truth according to Indian Yogic beliefs, has been supplanted with a death’s head. Death is symbolized by the skull and crossbones that show on her forehead. Also, the thorny branches in the background may represent rebirth after death. Frida died on July 13, 1954.

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 Naive art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 Andre 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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mucha, Alphonse Maria

Portrait of Maruska (mucha's wife)
Gouache on cardboard
32.1 x 50.7 cm
Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic

Maruska was Mucha's ideal woman from an old Czech family. She was attractive, well-educated and well-read, a great lover of art and musical. They were married in 1906 in Prague. Throughout their marriage, Maruska was Mucha’s muse and the most loyal supporter of his art.

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 Vysehrad cemetery. Over 100,000 Czechs attended the funeral despite the Nazi ban. 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.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sargent, John Singer

Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) And Her Daughter Rachel
oil on canvas
152.4 x 102.55 cm (60 x 40 3/8 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Gretchen Osgood Warren, member of a prominent Boston family and an accomplished poet, posed with her eldest daughter at Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Fenway Court in Boston (now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), where Sargent had set up a temporary studio. Gretchen Osgood Warren sits perched and conventionally pretty in a confection of pink and white satin that belonged to her sister-in-law, for Sargent refused to allow her to wear her own choice, green velvet. Sargent does not seem to have known the Warrens well, despite the family’s close association with the arts.

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925), the son of American expatriate parents, was the most successful portrait painter of his era, as well as a gifted landscape painter and watercolorist. He was considered the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his evocations of Edwardian era luxury.

Sargent was born in Florence, Italy to American parents. His father was a doctor and his mother came from a very wealthy family in Philadelphia. He grew up in Europe, and studied painting in Italy and Germany, and then in Paris under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran (whose influence would be pivotal), then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Carolus-Duran's atelier was progressive, dispensing with the traditional academic approach which required careful drawing and underpainting, in favor of the alla prima method of working directly on the canvas with a loaded brush, derived from Diego Velazquez. It was an approach which relied on the proper placement of tones of paint. In 1884 at the Paris Salon, his painting of of a young socialite, exhibited as Madame X, the portrait of the 23-year-old, caused sensation and people complained that the painting was provocatively erotic. The scandal persuaded Sargent to move to England, and over the next few years established himself as the country's leading portrait painter.

During his career, Sargent created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. His oeuvre documents worldwide travel, from Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.From the beginning his work was characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush, which in later years inspired admiration as well as criticism for a supposed superficiality. His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism. In later life Sargent expressed ambivalence about the restrictions of formal portrait work, and devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working en plein air.

Sargent lived most of his life in Europe. He died in his sleep in 1925 at home in England having suffered a heart attack. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wyeth, Andrew

Fields of Broad Cove
watercolor on arches paper
29 1/4 x 41 5/8 in.
Portland Museum of Art, Maine, USA

"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."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Macke, August

Gartenbild (View of the Garden)
oil on canvas
70 x 88 cm
private collection

August Macke (1887 - 1914) was one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter). He was born in Westphalia. His father was a building contractor and his mother came from a farming family in  Westphalia. He lived during a particularly innovative time for German art which saw the development of the main German Expressionist movements as well as the arrival of the successive Avant-garde movements which were forming in the rest of Europe.

His style was formed within the mode of French Impressionism and Post-impressionism and later went through a Fauve period. In 1910, through his friendship with Franz Marc, he met Kandinsky and for a while shared the non-objective aesthetic and the mystical and symbolic interests of Der Blaue Reiter. Macke's meeting with Robert Delaunay in Paris in 1912 was to be a sort of revelation for him. Delaunay's chromatic Cubism, which Apollinaire had called Orphism, influenced Macke's art from that point onwards. His Shops Windows can be considered a personal interpretation of Delaunay's Windows, combined with the simultaneity of images found in Italian Futurism. The exotic atmosphere of Tunisia, where Macke traveled in 1914 with Paul Klee and Louis Moilliet was fundamental for the creation of the luminist approach of his final period, during which he produced a series of works now considered masterpieces. The paintings concentrate primarily on expressing feelings and moods rather than reproducing objective reality, usually distorting color and form.

Macke's career was cut short by his early death in September 1914, the second month of World War I. His final painting depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of war.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Davis, Stuart

Hot still Scape for six colors - 7th Avenue style
oil on canvas
91.4 x 114 cm (36 x 44 7/8 in.)
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

Hot still Scape is one of the undisputed masterpieces of 20th-century American painting. It captured the heady, sensory experience of the modern city. The term “still-scape” was his own invention: a combination of abstract landscape and still-life elements he had used in other paintings, coupled with those he had made up. “Hot,” according to him, described the dynamic mood created by the juxtaposition of the six colors: white, yellow, blue, red, orange, and black. The designation “7th Avenue” refers to the New York City street on which he had his studio for fifteen years. It was in the heart of a bustling West Village neighborhood with lively street life and noisy automobile traffic (indicated by the syncopated street signs in the picture), and just blocks from a number of the hot jazz clubs in the Village. A month after he finished the picture, he wrote, “It is the product of everyday experience in the new lights, speeds, and spaces of the American environment.”

Stuart Davis (1892 - 1964), born in Philadelphia, was an early American modernist painter. He was well known for his jazz-influenced, proto pop art paintings of the 1940s and 1950s, bold, brash, and colorful, as well as his ashcan pictures in the early years of the 20th century. He viewed technological developments such as radio as forces which changed the fundamental experience of American life. He believed visual art needed to change in style in order to reflect the fragmentation brought by modern twentieth century media.

From the outset of his career, Davis was associated with Avant-garde artistic movements. Beginning in 1909 he studied in New York with Robert Henri, leader of the early twentieth-century realist painters nicknamed the Ashcan School. His earliest subjects were the seamy urban scenes favored by that group. In 1913, Davis was one of the youngest painters to exhibit in the controversial Armory Show - a leading international contemporary and modern art fair and one of the most important annual art events in New York - where he displayed five watercolors, resulting in his determination to alter the direction of his own work. Exposed at this exhibition to the works of European modernism artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Davis became a committed "modern" artist and a major exponent of cubism and modernism in America.

Over the next few decades, he experimented with simplified, abstracted forms, multiple perspectives, and collage, and he also started to incorporate words into his paintings. He used everyday objects and references to popular culture as points of departure, and the places he lived in or visited - New York City, Paris, and Gloucester, Massachusetts - recur as themes in his paintings.

In the 1920s, Davis’s pictures bordered on the completely abstract, the objects in them often unrecognizable. He developed his mature style of Hard-edge paintings, mainly abstract still lifes and landscapes; his use of contemporary subject matter such as cigarette packages, spark plug advertisements and the contemporary American landscape make him a proto-Pop artist. In the 1930s, he became increasingly politically engaged. According to a scholar, his goal was to "reconcile abstract art with Marxism and modern industrial society". In 1934 he joined the Artists' Union; he was later elected its President. In 1936 the American Artists' Congress elected him National Secretary. Toward the end of the decade he turned once more to abstraction. Through it all, his work often retained an underlying sense of humor.
Davis died of a stroke in New York at age 71.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Roerich, Nicholas

Buddha the Winner
tempera on canvas
73.6 x 117 cm
Private Collection

"Where all the treasures of mankind must be saved, there one should find such a symbol that can open the inmost recesses of all hearts." (Roerich)

Nicholas Roerich, (1874 - 1947), also known as Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh, was a Russian painter, writer, archaeologist, public figure, mystic, enlightener and philosopher. He was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia to the family of a well-to-do notary public. Trained as an artist and a lawyer, his interests lay in literature, philosophy, archaeology and especially art. He was a prolific artist and he created thousands of paintings (many of them are exhibited in well-known museums of the world), as well as about 30 literary works.

Roerich was a dedicated activist, author and initiator of an international pact for the protection of artistic and academic institutions and historical sites (Roerich’s Pact: signed into law by the United States and most member nations of the Pan-American Union in April 1935) and a founder of an international movement for the defense of culture. He earned several nominations for the Nobel Prize.

Roerich lived around the world until his death in Punjab, India. Today, the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City is a major center for Roerich's artistic work. Numerous Roerich societies continue to promote his theosophical teachings worldwide. About his biography, please see Nicholas Roerich Museum.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Picasso, Pablo

Three Musicians (Musiciens aux masques)
oil on canvas
201 x 223 cm (79 x 88 in.)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

This celebrated work is part of series painted while was with his young family in the Fontainebleau in the summer of 1921. It is painted in the style of Synthetic Cubism and gives the appearance of cut paper. Picasso paints three musicians made of flat, brightly colored, abstract shapes in a shallow, boxlike room. On the left is a clarinet player, in the middle a guitar player, and on the right a singer holding sheets of music. They are dressed as familiar figures: Pierrot, wearing a blue and white suit; Harlequin, in an orange and yellow diamond-pattered costume; and, at right, a friar in a black robe. In front of Pierrot stands a table with a pipe and other objects, while beneath him is a dog, whose belly, legs, and tail peep out behind the musician's legs. Like the boxy brown stage on which the three musicians perform, everything in this painting is made up of flat shapes. Behind each musician, the light brown floor is in a different place, extending much farther toward the left than the right. Picasso said he was delighted when "Gertrude Stein joyfully announced... that she had at last understood what... the three musicians was meant to be. It was a still life!" Gertrude Stein is a noted American art collector of seminal modernist paintings and an experimental writer of novels, poetry and plays.

Three Musicians is an example of Picasso's Cubist style. In Cubism, the subject of the artwork is transformed into a sequence of planes, lines, and arcs. Cubism has been described as an intellectual style because the artists analyzed the shapes of their subjects and reinvented them on the canvas. The viewer must reconstruct the subject and space of the work by comparing the different shapes and forms to determine what each one represents. Through this process, the viewer participates with the artist in making the artwork make sense.

"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.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Matisse, Henri

The Blue Window
oil on canvas
130 x 90 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language. Truth and reality in art do not arise until you no longer understand what you are doing and are capable of but nevertheless sense a power that grows in proportion to your resistance. (Matisse)

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

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

Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting. In particular he loved Islamic art. Islamic pattern offers the illusion of a completely full world, where everything from far to near is pressed with equal urgency against the eye. Matisse admired that, and wanted to transpose it into terms of pure color. Beyond painting, he worked with lithographs and sculpture, and during World War II he did a series of book designs. Later in his career he experimented with paper cutouts and designed decorations for the Dominican chapel in Venice, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. Matisse said that he wanted his art to have the same effect as a comfortable armchair on a tired businessman and many of the paintings he left us seem to be the view from that armchair.
"Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better." "It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character." (Henri Matisse)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Redon, Odilon

Pastel over charcoals on paper
53.6 × 37.7 cm (21.1 × 14.8 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, USA

This pastel was entitled Sita, after the loyal and noble wife of Rama, hero of the Indian epic The Ramayana. According to this ancient text, Rama faced and ultimately prevailed over numerous misfortunes, among them the abduction of his wife by Ravana, the demonic ruler of Lanka. As she was transported through the sky, Sita tore off and threw down to earth jewels and other pieces of her attire to give Rama clues to her location. This pastel can be interpreted as a very free rendering of this story.
Redon’s own brief description, given in the record he kept of his works, emphasizes this painting's composition and striking color scheme: "Her head in profile, surrounded by a golden-green radiance, against a blue sky, stardust falling, a shower of gold, a sort of undersea mountain below."

"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)

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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Courbet, Gustave

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his children in 1853
oil on canvas
147 × 198 cm (57.9 × 78 in.)
Musee du Petit-Palais, Paris, France
(painted posthumously 1865-67)

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (French: 1809 - 1865) was a French politician, mutualist philosopher, economist, and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament and the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organizers of anarchism. After the French Revolutions of 1848 he began to call himself a federalist. He was arrested for insulting the president Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and was imprisoned from 1849 to 1852. After his release he remained in exile from 1858 to 1862 in Belgium. Upon the liberalization of the empire in 1863 he returned to France. Courbet painted this work posthumously from 1865 to 1867.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gower, George

Portrait of Elizabeth I, The Armada Portrait
oil on canvas
101.6 x 97.8 cm
private collection

"I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."  (Queen Elizabeth I: 1533 - 1603)

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I of England is the name of surviving versions of an allegorical panel painting depicting the Tudor queen surrounded by symbols of imperial majesty representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Elizabeth I used art as propaganda.

George Gower (c.1540 - 1596) was the foremost English portraitist of his day, but little is known  about his early life. He was appointed official Painter to Elizabeth I in 1581. This allowed him to paint most of England’s aristocracy. The post also made him responsible for painted decorations at the royal residences, among these a fountain (now destroyed) and an astronomical clock, both at Hampton Court Palace; he also decorated royal coaches and furniture. In 1584 Gower was granted the monopoly over the Queen’s easel portraiture, and was also made responsible for inspecting portraits of the Queen by other artists prior to their official release. His best-known work is the version of the Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, painted to commemorate the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada. This painting is one version of the Armada Portrait which is attributed to Gower.

Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I are the most complex and varied of all English royal portraiture, ranging from the earliest depiction of the submissive thirteen-year-old Princess to the most elaborate portraits of the commanding ‘Virgin Queen’. Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, had realized the political potential of the portrait, which he used to personify his divinely appointed power and emphasize the strength of the Tudor Dynasty. The Armada Portrait, a celebration of victory against the Spanish, was a declaration of the strength of Elizabeth’s rule. Elizabeth I conveys simultaneously her authoritative body politic and her physical existence as a woman, carefully manipulating her sexuality to proclaim her power. The flamboyant image of Elizabeth I seen here has become one of the most successful sovereign statements in English history.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Allori, Alessandro

Portrait of Eleonora da Toledo
oil on canvas
66.5 x 49.5 cm
Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Eleonora da Toledo (Italian: 1522 - 1562) was a Spanish noblewoman who was Duchess of Florence from 1539. She was born in Alba de Tormes, Salamanca as the second daughter of the Viceroy of Naples. She is credited with being the first modern first lady, or consort. She served as regent of Florence during the absence of her spouse.

Eleonora became the wife of Cosimo I de' Medici, the ruler of Tuscany, whom she married in 1539. The new couple had a large gathering at the Medici Villa in Poggio a Caiano to celebrate the nuptial ceremony. As the Medici were new to their ducal status, the marriage was attractive for a variety of political and dynastic reasons. Eleonora's royal Castilian ancestors and relations with the Habsburgs provided the Medici with the blue blood they had hitherto lacked and began the process of placing them on a footing with other European sovereigns. Through her father, Eleonora also provided the Medici with a powerful link to Spain, at that time ultimately in control of Florence, so that the marriage offered Cosimo I the opportunity to show sufficient loyalty to and trust in Spain that Spanish troops could be withdrawn from the province.

Alessandro Allori (Florence: 1535 - 1607) was an Italian portrait painter of the late Mannerist Florentine school. In 1540, at age 5, after the death of his father, he was brought up and trained in art by a close friend, often referred to as his 'uncle', the mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino.

Allori spent in Bronzino's workshop in Florence throughout his entire young life, and in much historical text Bronzino is referred to as his uncle. Allori's first known work was an altarpiece painted in 1560 for a chapel, a piece about the Last Judgment, where Michelangelo's influence can also be seen in the work. When Michelangelo died four years later, Allori prepared the decorations for the funeral.

As one of the last pupils of the Mannerist Florentine school painters, his works are in many ways homage to artists such as Bartolomeo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Agnolo Bronzino. Allori is the last of the line of prominent Florentine painters, of generally undiluted Tuscan artistic heritage, in some ways. His works are seen around the world, in museums in Rome and Florence in Italy, in Montpellier in France and also in Budapest. He is the father of the painter Cristofano Allori (1577 - 1621).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio

Angel (fragment of the Baronci Altarpiece)
oil on wood
31 x 26.5 cm
Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia, Italy

On December 10, 1500, Raphael received the recorded first commission to paint jointly a large altarpiece dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, for the Baronci chapel in the Sant'Agostino Church in Citta di Castello near Urbino. The work on the paintings was completed on September 13, 1501. The altarpiece was seriously damaged during an earthquake in 1789, and since 1849 fragments of the original painting have been part of different collections. This painting by Raphael is the collection of the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo.

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.

"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)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holbein, Hans, the Younger

The family of Hans Holbein
c. 1529
Paper, subsequently cut out and mounted on wood
76.8 × 64 cm
The Basel Art Museum, Switzerland

The portrait is believed to show his wife, Elsbeth, whom he had married in 1519. Also in the picture are his children, Philipp and Katherina. Originally the figures were painted on paper. Subsequently, they were cut out round the outlines and stuck to a dark panel. Part of the fringes of the picture were lost in the cutting.

Hans Holbein the Younger (c.1497 - 1543) was a German artist born in Augsburg, Bavaria, and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire, and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history of book design. He is called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.

The first half of his life was mostly spent in Basel. He showed his diverse talents early in his career by designing woodcuts and glass paintings, illustrating books, and painting portraits and altarpieces. From youth he enjoyed the friendship of the great humanist Erasmus, and he made pen drawings illustrating Erasmus's Praise of Folly.

In 1519 Holbein was admitted to the painters' guild of Basel. In the works between 1519 and 1526, he, now mature, shows his full genius without relinquishing the polished surface and enameled color of the earlier paintings. He reveals Italian influence in his larger conception and monumental composition and in the design and idealism of the characterization. A bold and subtle line, both precise and flowing, distinguishes these works. In 1523, during a trip to France, he becomes acquainted with the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

From 1526 to 1528, Holbein travelled to England in search of work, with a recommendation from Erasmus. He was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, where he quickly built a high reputation; he painted a fine group of portraits there including Sir Thomas More. In 1532, he settled in England and worked on portraits and wall paintings. In 1536 he became court painter to Henry VIII and made numerous portraits and drawings of the king and his wives. He also designed the king's state robes and made drawings that were the basis of all kinds of items used by the royal household, from buttons to bridles to bookbindings. At age 46, in 1543, he died of the plague in London while working on a portrait of the king.

Holbein's paintings are characterized by their bright and often cool colors and high measure of detail. Much of his hand paintings, in particular his murals, has been lost, but owing to his practice of drawing pre-studies, much is known about his work. He left to the world magnificent preliminary portrait drawings in which he combined chalk, silverpoint, pen and ink, and other media. Today they are prized as highly as his paintings and may constitute a freer expression of his gift for exquisite characterization. In the beautiful simplicity of their design and in the subtle suggestion of both form and character, they are unsurpassed. Also famous are his woodcuts, which include the Dance of Death series and illustrations for Luther's Bible.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vadder, Lodewijk de

Sonian Forest with peasants (Het Zoniënwoud met marktkramers)
oil on canvas
year unknown (c. mid.17th century)
175 x 230 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium

A number of Brussels artists developed an individual landscape style with which to convey the characteristic appearance of the heavily forested area around their city - the 'Soignes forest painters' produced large and elegant wooded landscapes using an oil painting technique recalling that of Rubens.
The human figures in their paintings are customarily shown as tiny compared to the luxuriant nature that fills the compositions with large, dark bodies of trees. Lodewijk de Vadder was one of the three leading Brussels landscape artists. The landscapes of them have something of the character of tapestries and probably had a corresponding decorative function.

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605 - 1655) was a Flemish Baroque landscape painter, engraver and tapestry designer. He learned painting from his father and brothers and he became a master of Antwerp's Guild of St. Luke in 1628.
He is best known as a landscape painter, although he also executed landscape engravings and drawings. He was granted a privilege to make tapestry cartoons by the Brussels city magistrate in 1644. In this capacity he worked mainly for weavers. He was referred to as the best landscape painter in the country by such weavers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Brueghel, Jan the Elder

Village Scene in the Woods (Farmhouse Inn in a Flemish Village)
early 17th century
oil on panel
52.4 x 70.8 cm (20 5/8 x 27 7/8 in.)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California, USA

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 -1625) was a Flemish painter, second son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. He was a painter of Landscapes and still-life work of Flowers, as well as allegorical and religious subjects. He was born in Brussels just one year before his father’s death, and then, following the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, along with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie were reared and trained by a grandmother, painter-miniaturist, in Antwerp.

He had several nicknames endeared to him, including, Velvet Brueghel, Flower Brueghel and Paradise Brueghel. Velvet was the recognition of his fashionable taste in Velvet cloth, where flower recognized his still life pieces and paradise was born of his popular representations for the Garden of Eden. The nicknames were to some extent an effort to distinguish between members of the same Brueghel family. His father was often called the "Peasant" Brueghel and Jan's elder brother, Pieter was called "Hell Brueghel" because he exploited the growing market for pictures of hell-fire and demons.

Jan was the second generation in a dynasty of Flemish painters. He worked from nature. Bringing home the flora he depicted in his tightly composed still lifes, he often went great distances to find rare examples. By the time Jan began painting, "Turkish" flowers such as tulips and hyacinths had appeared in Europe, as well as American plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Jan's reputation as a master at painting flowers is notable because of the newness of the genre, and he was proud of his mastery of minute detail. When flowering plants had run their course around August, landscape season began. He worked in an entirely different spirit from his father, depicting brilliantly colored, lush woodland scenes. His exquisite flower paintings were rated the finest of the day.

He was celebrated in his own time, becoming dean of the Antwerp painters' guild by 1602. He traveled widely throughout Europe. During a three-year trip to Italy in the mid-1590s, he gained the patronage of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, who delighted in Brueghel's unrealistic spaces and unexpected vistas combined with flowers and animals depicted from life. And later, in 1610, he was appointed court painter to the archdukes of Habsburg Austria.

Jan mixed the past - artificial, jam-packed Mannerist compositions - with a modern insistence on observation from nature. He frequently provided lush, warm-toned woodland scenes densely populated with exotic animals and flowers as frames for other artists' figures. He worked primarily in Antwerp and was a friend of Peter Paul Rubens, with whom he sometimes collaborated in painting flowers, landscape, and animals in canvases in which Rubens supplied the human figure.

Jan's position in society and among his fellow artists was assured during his lifetime: he solidified the family reputation established by his famous father, and his works were very influential. His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II and Ambrosius Brueghel,  whose sons then carried on the tradition into the 18th century. Jan died in a cholera epidemic that swept through Antwerp in 1625.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

oil on canvas
57.8 x 101.6 cm (22 3/4 x 40 in.)
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

"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)

Between 1837 and 1865 Corot painted a number of graceful female nudes in dreamlike outdoor settings. This elegant and provocative painting, exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1861, belongs to a rich tradition of classical nudes that reaches back to the Italian renaissance masters Giorgione and Titian. A 19th-century variation on this classical theme, Repose also recalls the exotic Near Eastern odalisques of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Corot’s near contemporary. But in Corot’s painting, the woman is a bacchant, or follower of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine. Bacchants were wood creatures who worshipped nature and often embodied emotions and irrationality. This bacchant rests on a panther’s skin, Bacchus’s attribute, yet the traditional vine wreath in her hair is intertwined with a modern French hair ribbon.

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) "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) "

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Master of the Legend of St George

tempera on panel
112 x 109 cm
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia

Master of the Legend of St George(c.1460-90) was a Painter, name unknown, active in Germany. Details are not known about the painter. Apparently an immigrant in Cologne, possibly of Netherlandish origin, he is named after the St George altarpiece (Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum). Its central panel is divided into four sections with multiple narrative scenes from the Life of St George.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crivelli, Carlo

Portrait of Saint George
Tempera on wood with gold ground
96.5 x 33.7 cm (38 x 13 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

This panel "Saint George" and its companion "Saint Dominic", originally formed part of a polyptych. The central panel, a "Madonna and Child" signed and dated 1472, is also in the Metropolitan Museum. Of his early polyptychs, only one, the altarpiece from Ascoli Piceno, survives complete in its original frame; all the others have been disassembled and their panels are divided among the world's museums.

Carlo Crivelli (c.1435 - c.1495) was an Italian Renaissance painter of conservative Late Gothic decorative sensibility. He was born in Venice to a family of painters, and received his artistic formation there and in Padua. By 1458 he left the Venice and spent most of the remainder of his career in the Marche (March of Ancona), where he developed a distinctive personal style that makes a contrast to his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini. His style echoes the courtly International Gothic sensibility. The urban settings are jewel-like, and full of elaborate allegorical detail. He is a painter of marked individuality; unlike Bellini, his contemporary, his works are not "soft", but clear and definite in contour, with astounding attention to detail.

Crivelli painted in tempera only, despite the increasing popularity of oil painting during his lifetime, and on panels, though some of his paintings have been transferred to canvas. His predilection for decoratively punched gilded backgrounds is one of the marks of the conservative taste, in part imposed by his patrons. He favored verdant landscape backgrounds, and his works can be identified by his characteristic use of fruits and flowers as decorative motifs, often depicted in pendant festoons. Commissioned by the Franciscans and Dominicans of Ascoli, his work is exclusively religious in nature. His paintings consist largely of Madonna and Child images, Pieta, and the by-then-old-fashioned altarpiece known as the polyptych. Often filled with images of suffering, such as gaping wounds in Christ's hands and side and the mouths of mourners twisted in agony, his work appropriately fulfills the spiritual needs of his patrons. These ultra-realistic, sometimes disturbing qualities have often led critics to label Crivelli's paintings "grotesque".

Crivelli died in the Marche around 1495. His work fell out of favor following his death. He had something of a revival, especially in the UK, during the time of the pre-Raphaelite painters. Admiration for his work declined with the decline of the pre-Raphaelites during the Modernist period, but recent writings on his work and a rehanging of his work in the National Gallery, London, are again bringing him more attention.

Saint George (c. 275/281 - 303) was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army. His father was the Greek Gerondios from Cappadocia Asia Minor and his mother was the Greek Polychronia from the city Lyda. Lyda was a Greek city from the times of the conquest of Alexander the Great (333 BC), now in Israel. He became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. He is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Krasner, Lee

oil on canvas
175.3 x 318.8 cm (69 x 125 1/2 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

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

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

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

Lee Krasner died in 1984, age 75, from natural causes. Six months after her death, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of her work. A review of the exhibition in the New York Times noted that it "clearly defines Krasner's place in the New York School" and that she "is a major, independent artist of the pioneer Abstract Expressionist generation, whose stirring work ranks high among that produced here in the last half-century."
"I never violate an inner rhythm. I loathe to force anything... I don't know if the inner rhythm is Eastern or Western. I know it is essential for me. I listen to it and I stay with it. I have always been this way. I have regards for the inner voice. " (Krasner)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pollock, Jackson

Easter and the Totem
Oil on canvas
208.6 x 147.3 cm (6' 10 1/8" x 58")
Gift of Lee Krasner in memory of Jackson Pollock, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

"When I am in a 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. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." (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 it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting."  "The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them." (Pollock describing his painting on the floor)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Miro, Joan

Animated Landscape
oil on canvas
129.5 x 194.9 cm (51 x 76 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

This work is one of six canvases of identical size that Miro painted at his family farm near Barcelona, in summer 1927. The composition has defied analysis: while individual forms have been identified? the moon, the plant, a bird, a dragon-like creature? there is disagreement on whether it depicts a landscape, a room with a landscape seen through a window, or various pictures within a picture.

"The one I told you about and where there are many things? leaves, the moon, a bird, an animal, and other things neither you nor I know what they stand for but which have, alas, become a sight more real than the filth so many excrement eaters come up with and which I am told are in fashion. I consider this canvas to be one of my best in several years. It is odd because, little by little, I am regressing in the best sense of the word." (Miro described the painting to his art dealer.)

Joan Miro i Ferra (1893 - 1983) was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. He attended a commercial school and worked as an office clerk until a mental breakdown persuaded his artisan father to permit him to study art. From the beginning he sought to express concepts of nature metaphorically. From 1919 on he lived alternately in Spain and Paris, where he came under the influence of Dadaism and Surrealism. The influence of Paul Klee is apparent in his dream pictures and imaginary landscapes of the late 1920s, in which linear configurations and patches of color look almost as though they had been set down randomly. His mature style evolved from the tension between this fanciful, poetic impulse and his vision of the harshness of modern life.

Miro was never closely aligned with any movement and was too retiring in his manner to be the object of a personality cult, like his compatriot Picasso, but the formal and technical innovations that he sustained over a very long career guaranteed his influence on 20th-century art. A pre-eminent figure in the history of abstraction and an important example to several generations of artists around the world, he remained profoundly attached to the specific circumstances and environment that shaped his art in his early years. An acute balance of sophistication and innocence and a deeply rooted conviction about the relationship between art and nature lie behind all his work and account in good measure for the wide appeal that his art has continued to exercise across many of the usual barriers of style.

Earning international acclaim, Miro's work has been interpreted as a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, he expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting.

Miro worked extensively in lithography and produced numerous murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces. A museum dedicated to his work, the Fundacio Joan Miro, was established in his birth city in 1975.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rousseau, Henri

Le Pecheur (The Fisherman)
oil on canvas
47 x 36 cm
private collection

Rousseau claimed he had "no teacher other than nature. I hate books. They only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about. Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see. When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself, Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!" 

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.

Rousseau 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.

Rousseau was buried in a pauper's grave, and soon after his death his greatness began to be widely acknowledged. he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality, though ridiculed during his life. His work exerted influence on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso, including Leger and the Surrealists.
"If you remove these lines in the painting, the colors are no longer effective." "I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labor." (Rousseau)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Manet, Edouard

Mademoiselle Victorine Meurent in the Costume of a Matador
oil on canvas
165.1 x 127.6 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another." (Manet)

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

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

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are no lines in nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.
"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (Manet)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dongen, Kees van

Portrait of Madame Marie-Therese Raulet
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Caen, France

"Painting is the most beautiful of lies." "The essential thing is to elongate the women and especially to make them slim. After that it just remains to enlarge their jewels. They are ravished." (Kees Van Dongen)

Cornelis Theodorus Maria van Dongen (1877 - 1968), usually known as Kees van Dongen, was a Dutch painter and one of the Fauves. He made oilpaintings, watercolors, pastels, drawings and lithographs. He gained a reputation for his sensuous, at times garish, portraits.

Dongen was born in Delfshaven, then on the outskirts, and today a borough, of Rotterdam, Netherlands. In 1892, at age 16, he started his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. During this period he frequented a seaport area, where he drew scenes of sailors and prostitutes. In 1897, he lived in Paris for several months and again returned to Paris in 1899. He lived in the Montmartre district and worked as a house painter and illustrator for satirical magazines. He met Henri Matisse in his first years in Paris, and adopted the Fauve style of painting in bright colors and broad strokes. His paintings of women, dancers and nudes are composed of rich, vivid colors and bold outlines. The simplified forms and emotional distortions were used to express his passionate involvement with contemporary life in Paris. In 1908, Dongen was invited to join the German Expressionist group, and his Expressionist portraits were extremely popular throughout continental Europe through the war years. After 1918, Dongen became a popular society painter. His style became simpler and more realistic, although he continued to use vivid colors in his portraits.

In 1926, Dongen was awarded the Legion of Honour and in 1927 the Order of the Crown of Belgium. In 1929, he received French nationality, lived mainly in Paris but frequented Monaco where he lived later in life and where he died. He died in 1968 at the age of 91. In the waning years of his life, he was honored by frequent museum retrospectives. Until almost the end he sustained what Apollinaire called his blend of "opium, ambergris, and eroticism, " the fluid touch and exuberance that were his trademark whether he painted landscapes, nudes, or portraits. His work was exhibited many times all over the world. Many of his paintings are in various museums world wide or privately owned.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Renoir, Pierre Auguste

Lucie Berard (Child in a White Dress)
oil on canvas
61.7 x 50.4 cm (24 1/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"The pain passes, but the beauty remains." "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world." (Renoir)

Renoir portrayed the three-year-old daughter of his patron Paul-Antoine Berard as a picture of innocence. Dressed in white, with here small, soft hands positioned rather helplessly at her sides, she looks out past the view, as though toward her future. This is one of a number of portraits of members of the Berard family that Renoir made.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.

He was born in Limoges and brought up in Paris, where his father, a tailor with a large family, settled in 1845. From the age of thirteen he worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates. This early apprenticeship left a certain trace on his art, which was always decorative in spite of its later realism. After machines for coloring ceramics had been introduced, he had to switch to decorating fans and screens. Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley and Bazille; some time later he met Pissarro and Cezanne.

Renoir's work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it. His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.

Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his subjects - pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all lovely women - have instant appeal. His paintings present a vision of a forgotten world, full of sparkling color and light. He was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. He then painted with the brush tied to his wrists. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes, next to his wife Aline.

Claude Renoir (1913 - 1993) was a French cinematographer. He was the son of actor Pierre Renoir and nephew of director Jean Renoir. He was also the grandson of painter Pierre Auguste Renoir. He is the father of actress Sophie Renoir.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pissarro, Camille

The Seine and the Louvre
oil on canvas
46 x 55 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

"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)

After 1893, Pissarro turned away almost entirely from the countryside motifs that had formed the main part of his work. From then on, he devoted himself to depicting urban sites: Paris, Rouen, Le Havre and Dieppe. He preferred to vary his subjects, and unlike Monet, did not study the atmospheric variations of the same motif.

He produced a series of paintings of the Seine and of the Louvre. Sky and water took on a new importance in Pissarro's art during the last ten years of his life, and he seemed to take more interest than before in observing the light. In this canvas, produced in the same year he died, the palette very subtly conveys the atmosphere of a winter's day in a soft light. The composition is tightly constructed with strict lines formed by the Louvre, the Pont des Arts and the outlines of the square. However, the light mist enveloping the landscape softens any rigidity that might have ensued from this construction.

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.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Matisse, Henri

oil on canvas
59.37 x 48.58 cm (23 3/8 x 19 1/8 in.)
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

"Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue." (Matisse)

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

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

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