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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


Algerian Girl
1881
oil on canvas
50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

"He bores me. He ought to have stuck to his flying machine." (Renoir -on Leonardo da Vinci...)

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.

"Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art? First, it must be indescribable, and, second, it must be inimitable." "With a limited palette, the older painters could do just as well as today... what they did was sounder." "Go and see what others have produced, but never copy anything except nature. You would be trying to enter into a temperament that is not yours and nothing that you would do would have any character."  (Renoir)
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Picasso, Pablo


Girl before a Mirror
1932
oil on canvas
162.3 x 130.2 cm
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY, USA

Girl Before a Mirror shows Picasso's young mistress Marie-Therese Walter, one of his favorite subjects in the early 1930s. Her white-haloed profile, rendered in a smooth lavender pink, appears serene. But it merges with a more roughly painted, frontal view of her face - a crescent, like the moon, yet intensely yellow, like the sun, and "made up" with a gilding of rouge, lipstick, and green eye-shadow. Perhaps the painting suggests both Walter's day-self and her night-self, both her tranquility and her vitality, but also the transition from an innocent girl to a worldly woman aware of her own sexuality.
It is also a complex variant on the traditional Vanity - the image of a woman confronting her mortality in a mirror, which reflects her as a death's head. On the right, the mirror reflection suggests a supernatural x-ray of the girl's soul, her future, her fate. Her face is darkened, her eyes are round and hollow, and her intensely feminine body is twisted and contorted. She seems older and more anxious. The girl reaches out to the reflection, as if trying to unite her different "selves." The diamond-patterned wallpaper recalls the costume of the Harlequin, the comic character from the commedia dell'arte with whom Picasso often identified himself - here a silent witness to the girl's psychic and physical transformations.  (MoMA)

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

"Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso", known as Pablo Picasso, (1881 - 1973) was a Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain. One of the greatest, dynamic and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

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

Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune, making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art. Based on sales of his works at auctions, he holds the title of top ranked artist. He was also a prolific artist with estimates of 50,000 works of art production in his lifetime, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc..

For the last three decades of his long life Picasso lived mostly in south of France. He worked up until the day he died at age 91; literally painting till 3 am on Sunday, April 8th, which was just hours before his death. He died while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Picasso was interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962.
Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old.
Pablo Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kahlo, Frida


Self Portrait dedicated to Dr. Eloesser
1940
oil on masonite
59.5 x 40 cm
Private Collection, USA

Towards the end of 1939, Frida began to suffer increased back pain and developed an acute fungal infection in her right hand. At the recommendation of Dr. Eloesser, her long-time friend and doctor, she traveled to San Francisco to see him for treatment. In thanks for the treatment that stabilized her condition, she painted this self-portrait for him. The dedication inscribed on the banderole at the bottom reads: "I painted my portrait in the year 1940 for Doctor Leo Eloesser, my doctor and my best friend. With all my love. Frida Kahlo."

The earrings she is wearing were a gift from Pablo Picasso whom she met while in Paris. The hand on the banderole as well as on the earrings, makes reference at what is called in Mexico "milagros". Milagros are pieces made of wax or ivory shaped in the form of the part of the human body that the person wants to be healed, and left on the altar of the Saint they pray to. The necklace of thorns around her neck is a reminder of the pain from which Dr. Eloesser freed her. It was Dr. Eloesser who later convinced Diego Rivera to reconcile and marry Frida for a second time. This painting may have been a "Thank You" gift for Dr. Eloesser's efforts.

When Dr. Eloesser died in 1994, he willed the painting to his long time companion Joyce Campbell. Campbell didn't really like the painting and described it as "...a garish, unlikable, unsettling painting...I could never have lived with it." Not long after she received the painting she sold it.

"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 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.
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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Millais, John Everett


The Vale of Rest
1859
oil on canvas
102.9 x 172.7 cm
Tate Gallery, London, UK

Of all the pictures that Millais created, this was his favorite. The title and subtitle, 'Where the weary find repose', both come from Mendelssohn's part-song 'Ruhetal' from Sechs Lieder, Opus 59, no.5. Millais heard his brother William singing the song and felt it suited the picture perfectly.

The nun on the left is digging a grave, which is positioned in such as way that the viewer appears to be in it alongside her. The second nun's rosary has a skull attached to it. In the background a coffin-shaped cloud - a harbinger of death, according to Scots legend - appears in the evening sky.
According to Millais' wife, Effie, 'It had long been Millais' intention to paint a picture with nuns in it'. The idea for the picture occurred to him on honeymoon in Scotland in 1855. As Effie explains, 'On descending a hill, he was extremely struck with its beauty, and the coachman told us that on one of the islands were the ruins of a monastery. We imagined to ourselves the beauty of the picturesque features of the Roman Catholic religion'.
The setting - excluding the tombstones, but including the terrace, shrubs and the wall in the background, with poplars and oak trees behind it - was Effie's family's garden in Perth. Effie recalled, 'The sunsets were lovely for two or three nights, and he dashed the work in, softening it afterwards in the house, making it, I thought, even less purple and gold than when he saw it in the sky. The effect lasted so short a time that he had to paint like lightning' . The grave and gravestones were painted some months later in an old churchyard in Perth.

Sir John Everett Millais (1829 - 1896) was born in Southampton, England. His family was of French descent. In 1838 he attended Henry Sass' Drawing School and the Royal Academy in 1840. While still a youth, he won various medals for his drawings. With Rossetti and Hunt, he founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Ophelia,  exhibited in 1852 at the Royal Academy, marks the culmination of Millais' youthful period.

Endowed with a virtuoso technical skill, he rapidly outstripped his colleagues and won lasting fame. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy and served as President in 1896. Millais' works never failed to elicit praise. His remarkable technique lent his canvases a unique distinction, particularly in his last paintings, long after the exhilaration of the radiant Pre-Raphaelite period had died away. Towards the end of his life, he turned to portraiture. He was also a fine illustrator.
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Friday, April 26, 2013

Leighton, Frederic


Portrait of May Sartoris
c.1860
oil on canvas
152.1 x 90.2 cm
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, USA

This painting is an expression of Leighton's remarkable friendship with May’s mother, celebrated opera singer Adelaide Sartoris. The young Leighton frequented Adelaide’s artistic and literary salon in Rome in the early 1850s, and was on intimate terms with her by the time he painted her daughter’s likeness around 1860. By her marriage to the banker Edward Sartoris, Adelaide had three children, Greville, Mary Theodosia (May) and Algernon. May Sartoris was only nine years old when Leighton produced this wistful likeness of her.

Sir Frederic Leighton (1830 - 1896) was an English painter and sculptor who was President of the Royal Academy for almost two decades. The leading establishment figure in Victorian art, was the first artist to be ennobled. He was a classical painter producing highly finished pictures, and was also an excellent portraitist. He was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan figure, much of his early life having been spent in Germany and Italy. Throughout his life he was energetic, and hardworking, and his inability to take life more easily when in his sixties accelerated his death.  His funeral was at St. Paul's Cathedral. Leighton's magnificent home Leighton House, is now a museum.

Leighton was a lifelong bachelor. In later life his favorite model was Ada Alice Pullen, known as Dorothy Dene. George Bernard Shaw knew them both, and it is likely that they were the models for Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolitlle in Pygmalion.
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Riviere, Briton


Sympathy
1877
oil on canvas
102 x 122 cm (39,9 x 47,9 inches)
Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, Surrey, UK

This painting shows a little girl who has been sent to bed early as a punishment sitting on the stairs being comforted by a dog. Riviere recorded that he painted the little girl from his daughter.

Briton Riviere (1840 - 1920) was a genre and animal painter, etcher and sculptor born in London, England, of Huguenot descent. His father was an art teacher at Oxford University. He was educated at Oxford, where he took his degree. For his art training he was indebted almost entirely to his father, and early in life made for himself a place of importance among the artists of his time.

His early works, titled as The eve of the Spanish Armada and a Romeo and Juliet, were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. However, subjects of this kind did not attract him long, for in 1865 he began a series of paintings of animal-subjects. He made his reputation with a painting that portrayed pigs, and indeed his most well known pictures were of animals-subjects which  occupied him almost exclusively for the rest of his life. His pictures of dogs were sentimental and extremely popular. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1875, becoming a full member in 1880.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Landseer, Edwin Henry


A Naughty Child
1834
oil on millboard
size unknown
Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London, UK

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, RA (1802 - 1873) was a notable English painter and sculptor, well known for his animal subjects. Apart from animal subjects, he also painted portraits and historical scenes. The best known of his works, however, are sculptures: the lions in Trafalgar Square, London. Although he had no previous experience as a sculptor, in 1858 he was commissioned to make four huge bronze lions for the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

His career was a story of remarkable social as well as professional success: he was the favorite painter of Queen Victoria (who considered him ‘very good looking although rather short’) and his friends included Dickens and Thackeray. Queen Victoria commissioned numerous pictures from him. Initially asked to paint various royal pets, then, in the year before her marriage, the queen commissioned a portrait of herself, as a present for Prince Albert. His appeal crossed class boundaries: reproductions of his works were common in middle-class homes, while he was also popular with the aristocracy.

He was born in London, the son of the engraver and writer. He was something of a prodigy whose artistic talents were recognized early on. His life was entwined with the Royal Academy. At the age of just 13, he exhibited works there. He was elected an Associate at the age of 24, and an Academician five years later. He was knighted in 1850, and although elected President in 1866 he declined the invitation.  By this time his health had broken down and, for this reason, he declined the presidency of the Royal Academy.

In his late 30s he suffered what is now believed to be a substantial nervous breakdown, and for the rest of his life was troubled by recurring bouts of melancholy, hypochondria, and depression, often aggravated by alcohol and drug use, although he continued to paint brilliantly almost until the end of his life. In the last few years of his life his mental stability was problematic, and after 1870 sank slowly into madness.

Landseer was the most famous English artist of his generation, and he was mourned throughout the nation. He was accorded the honor of public funeral, and he was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral alongside Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and J.M.W. Turner.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Degas, Edgar


Woman Combing Her Hair
1894
oil on canvas
54 × 40cm
Ordrupgaard Collection, Denmark

"In painting you must give the idea of the true by means of the false." "Art is vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it." (Degas)

Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917) was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are considered to be among the finest in the history of art.

Early in his career, his ambition was to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

Certain features of his work remained the same throughout his life. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory or using models. The figure remained his primary subject; his few landscapes were produced from memory or imagination. It was not unusual for him to repeat a subject many times, varying the composition or treatment. He was a deliberative artist whose works were prepared, calculated, practiced, developed in stages. They were made up of parts. The adjustment of each part to the whole, their linear arrangement, was the occasion for infinite reflection and experiment.  "In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement." (Degas)

In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon", and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant. "The artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown." (Degas)
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Monet, Claude


The Bend of the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter
1879
oil on canvas
54 x 65 cm
Private collection

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

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

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

Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right - not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination, like Hokusai's Ukiyo-e. At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese. "I have slowly learned about the pattern of the grass, the trees, the structure of birds and other animals like insects and fish, so that when I am 80, I hope to be better," Hokusai wrote 16 years before his death at age 89. "At 90, I hope to have caught the very essence of things, so that at 100 I will have reached heavenly mysteries. At 110, every point and line will be living."
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Redon, Odilon


Woman with a Yellow Bodice
c.1899
Pastel on paper
66 x 50 cm
Museum Kroller-Mueller, Otterlo, The Netherlands

"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.
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chagall, Marc


The Promenade
1918
oil on canvas
169.6 x 163.4 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

This is one of pictures that Chagall painted while on a home visit to Belarus from Paris. When he came in 1914 war broke out and couldn't return. In 1917, he was living back in Vitebsk. It was also the year he became engaged to Bella. In this painting, Chagall expresses the joys of his marriage to Bella. He smiles as he holds a bird in one hand and Bella in the other. Bella soars upward as if a kite in the heavens connected to earth only by Chagall's loving hand. A passionate bouquet of red flowers lay at his foot. Flying in the air celebrates the joy and ecstasy of their love. In the background you can see the houses of the Jewish shtetl with a church nearby. You can identify a glass and a wine bottle laid on a red background; perhaps the remains of some meal/picnic they shared. Green was a color favored by Chagall - he uses it copiously in this painting. He is not painting realistically, the green in this and other paintings (sometimes even green faces) are part of his fantasy world.

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)
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Momper, Joos de the Younger


A Summer Landscape with Harvesters
c.1610
oil on canvas
166.4 x 251.1 cm
The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo

Throughout Momper's career it was not uncommon for him to work with other painters, as he did here with Jan Brueghel, who would add figures and animals to his landscapes. Brueghel, the son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and a master in his own right, specialized in flowerpieces, landscapes, and genre scenes.

Joos de Momper the Younger (1564 - 1635), also known as Josse de Momper, is one of the most important Flemish landscape painters between Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens. Brueghel's influence is clearly evident in this many of de Momper's paintings.

He came from an old painting family of Antwerp and was named after his grandfather who was also a landscape painter. He learned to paint from his father Bartholomeus de Momper and in 1581 he became a  master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke.

Momper primarily painted landscapes, the genre for which he was well regarded during his lifetime. He painted both fantasy landscapes, viewed from a high vantage point and employing a conventional Mannerist color transition of brown in the foreground to green and finally blue in the background, and more realistic landscapes with a lower viewpoint and more natural colors. His wide panoramas also feature groups of figures.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Repin, Ilya


On a Turf Bench
1876
oil on canvas
36 x 56 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Ilya Yefimovich Repin (1844 - 1930) was a leading Russian painter and sculptor of the Peredvizhniki artistic school. An important part of his work is dedicated to his native country, Ukraine. His realistic works often expressed great psychological depth and exposed the tensions within the existing social order. Beginning in the late 1920s, detailed works on him were published in the Soviet Union, where a Repin cult developed about a decade later. He was held up as a model "progressive" and "realist" to be imitated by "Socialist Realist" artists in the USSR.

Repin was born in the heart of the historical region called Sloboda Ukraine. His parents were Russian military settlers. In 1866, after apprenticeship with a local icon painter and preliminary study of portrait painting, he went to Saint Petersburg and was shortly admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. From 1873 to 1876 on the Academy's allowance, Repin sojourned in Italy and lived in Paris, where he was exposed to French Impressionist painting, which had a lasting effect upon his use of light and color. His style was to remain closer to that of the old European masters, especially Rembrandt, and he never embraced Impressionism.

Many of the subjects Repin painted were common people, like himself, although he did on many occasions paint the Russian elite, intelligentsia, and Tsar Nicholas II. He also painted many of his contemporary compatriots, including novelist Leo Tolstoy, composer Modest Mussorgsky and  scientist Dmitri Mendeleev. A common recurring theme in his paintings was the Russian Revolutionary Movement, and as a result his works are often classified as a “Russian national style.”

In his later life, he lived in a house in Kuokkala, Finland, called the Penates, which he designed and built himself. After the October Revolution of 1917, Finland declared Independence, and Repin was invited to return to the Soviet Union. He refused, saying that he was too old to make the journey, and remained in Finland until his death thirteen years later. In 1940, the Penates house was opened to the public as a museum.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Levitan, Isaac


The lake
1900
oil on canvas
149 x 208 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Lake is Levitan's last painting, an unfinished masterpiece by the Russian painter who mastered the landscape of mood, a very emotional interpretation of the Russian landscape.

"What can be more tragic than to feel the grandeur of the surrounding beauty and to be able to see in it its underlying mystery... and yet to be aware of your own inability to express these large feelings" (Levitan)

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

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

He was buried in Dorogomilovo Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 Levitan's remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov's necropolis. Levitan did not have a family or children. His hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations. "Painting is not a record but an explanation of nature with paints and brush." (Levitan)
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Starr, Sidney


The City Atlas
1889
oil on canvas
61 x 51 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Sidney Starr (c.1866 - 1925) was an English genre, portrait, landscape and decorative painter. He spent the first half of his artistic career in Britain and Europe, before moving to New York in 1892. Starr's early work was much influenced by Whistler. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882-86; he was prize-winner at the Paris International Exhibition in 1889; he became member of the New York Watercolor Club.

The concentration on London subject-matter was apparent in the work of Starr. Urban problems resulting from 19th-century expansion in the cities - such as unemployment, poverty, child labour, alcoholism and prostitution - were almost totally absent from this art. The city was being viewed as a predominantly middle-class thing. He retained British nationality. He died in New York in 1925.
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Monday, April 15, 2013

Frieseke, Frederick Carl


Summer
1914
oil on canvas
114.3 × 146.7 cm (45 × 57.8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874 - 1939) was an American Impressionist painter who spent most of his life as an expatriate in France. An influential member of the Giverny art colony, his paintings often concentrated on various effects of dappled sunlight. He is especially known for painting female subjects, both indoors and out.

He was born in Michigan.  His father manufactured bricks.  Following his mother's death when he was six years old, he spent some time living with his aunt and uncle and working in his uncle's grocery store. After graduating from high school, he went on to study art at the Chicago Art Institute for a year. In 1895 he moved to New York to study at the Art Students' League, and in 1898 he moved to Paris where he enrolled at the Academie Julian and was influenced by James A. M. Whistler.

In 1906 he rented  the house next door to Claude Monet in Giverny. He was increasingly dissatisfied with the formal art forms of his time. In an interview in 1912, he considered himself an impressionist and said, "No artist in the impressionist school has influenced me except, perhaps, Renoir." His principal concerns were the varied effects of sunlight. As he said himself, "It is sunshine, flowers in sunshine; girls in sunshine; the nude in sunshine, which I have been principally interested in. If I could only reproduce it exactly as I see it I would be satisfied." 

After the first World War, he purchased a country home in Normandy. He preferred living in France to the United States because of the freedom it offered him. He said, "I stay on here because I am more free and there are not the Puritanical restrictions which prevail in America . . . .I can paint a nude in my garden or down by the fish pond and not be run out of town."

Frieseke said that "I never compose a picture before Nature, but I paint what I see that is interesting, and which appeals to me at that moment. I put down whatever I see before me. I avoid being conventional as much as possible, for most picture making is conventional. I never change the drawing of a tree, or leave out a bed of flowers. I may not see them, if they do not add to the beauty of the whole." he died in Normandy and was buried at Mesnil-sur-Blangy in France.

He had established a superb reputation and won many awards during his career. After World War I there was a slow but steady decline in Frieseke's popularity. In spite of continuing awards and the acquisition of his paintings by a number of museums, diminishing sales and negative reviews reflected a change in tastes.  Critics saw his work as outmoded and overly conservative and Frieseke as a painter of pretty women. Ironically, it is his nudes which were never popular with the American public that are considered to be his best works. His paintings have also regained some of their original popularity and frequently command high prices at auction.
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


Self Portrait with a White Hat
1910
oil on canvas
42 × 33 cm
Private Collection

"Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art? First, it must be indescribable, and, second, it must be inimitable." "With a limited palette, the older painters could do just as well as today... what they did was sounder." "Go and see what others have produced, but never copy anything except nature. You would be trying to enter into a temperament that is not yours and nothing that you would do would have any character."  (Renoir)

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.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cezanne, Paul


Self Portrait with Palette
1890
oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
E. G. Buhrle Collection, Switzerland

Since 1890, Cezanne's complex painting has influenced nearly every avant-garde movement in painting, including Cubism and abstract art. 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".

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

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

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

Finally, living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and Paris, he concentrated on a few basic subjects, still lifes of studio objects, studies of bathers, and successive views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. The landscapes of the final years have a more transparent and unfinished look. By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906, his art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the Cubists, and virtually all advanced art of the early 20th century.
He exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation. He did not gain commercial success until he was in his 50s.
He has been called the father of modern painting.
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso).
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


Self Portrait with Mandolin
1889
oil on canvas
61 x 50 cm
Private Collection

Gauguin, like many artists from Giorgione onwards, was an amateur musician who played, among other instruments, the mandolin.

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.
"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction. " (Gauguin)
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hill, Thomas


Mount Tallac from Lake Tahoe
1880
oil on canvas
90.5 x 141.9 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA

Thomas Hill (1829 - 1908) was an American artist of the 19th century. He produced many fine paintings of the California landscape, in particular of the Yosemite Valley, as well as the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

He was born in England and, at the age of 15, he emigrated to the United States with his family. They settled in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Hill first visited Yosemite Valley in 1862. Following a visit to Europe in 1867 and a stay in Boston from 1868 to 1872, he made the San Francisco bay area his home, actively participating in the early artistic circles of the city and traveling frequently to Yosemite. In 1883, he established his first summer studio at Yosemite, and in 1886 he moved to Wawona, fifteen miles southwest of the valley, where he maintained a studio and residence the rest of his life. The Native American encampment and the woman carrying a papoose in the foreground are elements he frequently included in his Yosemite landscapes to provide a focal point and a note of human interest. His work was often driven by a vision resulting from his experiences with nature. For him, Yosemite Valley and the White Mountains of New Hampshire were his sources of inspiration to begin painting and captured his direct response to nature.
He produced an estimated five thousand paintings of Yosemite for the tourist market. He said he painted it "not as it is, but as it ought to be."
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bierstadt, Albert


California Spring
1875
oil on canvas
187.3 x 264.2 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA

Albert Bierstadt (1830 - 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. He was the foremost painter to portray the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. The paintings by him were often oversized, highly colorful and portrayed the immense distances and scale of the American West. His use of vivid colors and inspiring scenery have made him one of the most popular artists of the American West and made him the most popular artist of the 1870's. His works were highly sought after and graced many a wall in museums in both the United States and around the world.

Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany. His family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1831. He developed a taste for art early and made clever crayon sketches in his youth. Despite prodding from his family to not become an artist, he persisted and produced his first oil painting at the age of 21.

Though his paintings sold for princely sums, he was not held in particularly high esteem by critics of his day. His use of uncommonly large canvases was thought to be an egotistical indulgence, as his paintings would invariably dwarf those of his contemporaries when they were displayed together. The romanticism evident in his choices of subject and in his use of light was felt to be excessive by contemporary critics. His paintings emphasized atmospheric elements like fog, clouds and mist to accentuate and complement the feel of his work. He sometimes changed details of the landscape to inspire awe. The colors he used are also not always true. He painted what he believed was the way things should be: water is ultramarine, vegetation is lush and green, etc.

In 1860 he was elected a member of the National Academy; he received medals in Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and Germany; and his paintings remain popular. He was a prolific artist, having completed possibly as many as 4000  paintings during his lifetime. Many are scattered through museums around the United States. The popularity of Albert Bierstadt among the art crowd began to wane in the 1890's.
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Boucher, Francois


The Love Letter
1750
oil on canvas
81.2 x 75.2 cm (31 15/16 x 29 5/8 in.)
Timken Museum of Art, Balboa Park in San Diego, California, USA

The Love Letter was commissioned by Madame de Pompadour herself. The king's mistress ordered it for her chateau at Bellevue, where they probably hung over doorways, built into curving oval frames. Pieces of canvas were later added at the corners to make this painting rectangular. The scene is a pastoral idyll. The young "shepherdesses" wear fine silks, and an audience would understand an erotic promise in the display of pink toes.

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour (1721 - 1764) was a member of the French court, and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death. Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of forty-two. Looking at the rain during the departure of his mistress' coffin from Versailles, the King said: "The marquise won't have good weather for her journey."

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.
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio


San Michele
c.1505
oil on wood
30 × 26 cm (12 in × 10 in)
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

This painting depicts the Archangel Michael in combat with the demons of Hell, while the damned suffer behind him. Along with St. George, it represents the first of Raphael's works on martial subjects. By 1548 it hung in the collection at the Palace of Fontainebleau.
The sinners in the background suggest that Raphael may have consulted an illustrated volume of Dante's Inferno. The punishments depicted reflect Dante's treatment of hypocrites and thieves.

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)
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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ghirlandaio, Domenico


Adoration of the child
year unknown
tempera on wood
90 x 90 cm
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449 - 1494) was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo. He is best known for his frescoes, in which he often set religious subjects in a secular setting and in which he included recognizable portraits.

The occupation of his father is, dealers of silks and related objects in small quantities. He was at first apprenticed to a jeweler or a goldsmith, most likely his own father. The nickname "Il Ghirlandaio" (garland-maker) came to him from his father, a goldsmith who was famed for creating the metallic garland-like necklaces worn by Florentine women. In his father's shop, he is said to have made portraits of the passers-by. In 1490, the Duke of Milan received a report that described a handful of good artists available for work in one region. In the report, it was suggested that he was a notable painter of panels and a master of fresco. It went on to commend his work and to describe him as an efficient and prolific artist. Ghirlandaio employed hordes of assistants - one of whom was Michelangelo - in his prosperous, family-run business.
Ghirlandaio is commonly credited with having given some early art education to Michelangelo, who cannot, however, have remained with him long. Ghirlandaio died of pestilential fever and was buried in Santa Maria Novella. He had been twice married and left six children. One of his three sons, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, also became a noted painter.
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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Botticelli, Sandro


The Madonna of the Magnificat
1481
Tempera
118 × 118 cm (46 × 46 in.)
Uffizi, Florence, Italy

The Madonna of the Magnificat portrays the Virgin Mary crowned by two angels. The Child Jesus is keeping in a hand the pomegranate, symbol of the Resurrection. The painting is said to portray the family of Piero de' Medici, de facto lord of Florence from 1464. His wife Lucrezia Tornabuoni as Mary, Lorenzo de' Medici as the young man with the ink-pot, flanked by his brother Giuliano de' Medici who is holding a book. Behind the two boys is Maria, while the two older sisters are holding the crown in the background: Bianca on the left and Nannina on the right. The newborn would be the daughter of Lorenzo, Lucrezia de' Medici. A vast number of paintings of the Virgin and Child were produced in Florence in the late 1400s. Early in Botticelli's career, he specialized in such works.

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.
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Homer, Winslow


Rainy Day in Camp
1871
oil on canvas
50.8 x 91.4 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Homer completed this painting his last major scene of life at the front, six years after the Civil War ended, using studies he had made during the siege of Yorktown in 1862. The red cloverleaf above Homer's name on the first barrel on the left was the insignia of the First Division of the Second Corps of the Sixty-first New York Volunteer Infantry, the unit to which he was assigned. One critic remarked that the bedraggled mule at the right "tells the whole story" of the miserable conditions at Yorktown.

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.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sheeler, Charles


View of New York
1931
oil on canvas
121.9 x 92.4 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Charles Sheeler (1883 - 1965) was an American painter and commercial photographer in the precisionist movement. He employed photograph-like images with clearly defined linear lines and dramatic light. He is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the 20th century.

He was born in Philadelphia. He studied art at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Several trips to Europe heightened his awareness of European modernism, influencing his developing style. His artistic transformation occurred when he traveled to Italy and France. Upon his return to Philadelphia, he discarded the spontaneous, bravura brushstrokes and began employing an underlying geometric structure reminiscent of early Italian Renaissance Masters he had seen, such as Piero della Francesca and Giotto, and of French modernists such as Cezanne, Braque, and Picasso. With the intent to establish order and permanence in his work, he smoothed his brushstroke, eliminating evidence of gesture and of execution.

In 1912, Sheeler had also ventured into commercial photography, focusing on architectural subjects and eventually becoming acquainted with New York avant-garde artists and collectors. His pioneering photographs, using sharp-focus effects, were also instrumental in transforming his paintings into detailed and smooth-surfaced images that reject his earlier loosely brushed style.

A solo exhibition at a New York gallery in 1922 defined Sheeler as a central proponent of Precisionism. Commissions to photograph the Ford Motor Company’s plant at River Rouge, Michigan, brought him international acclaim, as he presented a pristine view of American industry. During the 1930s, Sheeler focused his attention on painting, further developing a style based on strong geometric order for subjects of American industrial life.
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Monet, Claude



Hemerocalles au bord de l'eau
1819
ol on canvas
200 x 200 cm
location unknown

"I'm never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel." (Monet)
Fascinated by water, by its transparency and its reflects, Claude MONET always lived close to the Seine River.

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

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

Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right - not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination, like Hokusai's Ukiyo-e. At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese. "I have slowly learned about the pattern of the grass, the trees, the structure of birds and other animals like insects and fish, so that when I am 80, I hope to be better," Hokusai wrote 16 years before his death at age 89. "At 90, I hope to have caught the very essence of things, so that at 100 I will have reached heavenly mysteries. At 110, every point and line will be living."
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


M.Loulou
1890
oil on canvas
55 × 46.2 cm (21.7 × 18.2 in.)
The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, USA

This is the portrait of a child called Lou Lou which Gauguin painted when he was in Brittany. LouLou is the child of close friends of Gauguin.

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

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.
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Monday, April 1, 2013

Turner, Joseph Mallord William


The Slave Ship
1840
oil on canvas
90.8 × 122.6 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

"The Slave Ship" formally "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on". In this classic example of a Romantic maritime painting, Turner depicts a ship, visible in the background, sailing through a tumultuous sea of churning water and leaving scattered human forms floating in its wake.

Turner’s own untitled poem, written in 1812:

        “Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
        Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
        Declare the Typhon's coming.
        Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
        The dead and dying - ne'er heed their chains
        Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
        Where is thy market now?"

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)  was born in London, England. He is the one of the finest landscape artists whose work was exhibited when he was still a teenager. His father was a barber. His mother died when he was very young. He received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale. His entire life was devoted to his art. Wherever he visited he studied the effects of sea and sky in every kind of weather. He developed a painting technique all his own. Instead of merely recording factually what he saw, he translated scenes into a light-filled expression of his own romantic feelings.

Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day. As he grew older Turner became an eccentric. Except for his father, he had no close friends. He allowed no one to watch him while he painted. One day Turner disappeared from his house. His housekeeper, after a search of many months, found him hiding in a house in Chelsea. He had been ill for a long time. He died the following day.

Unlike many artists of his era, he was successful throughout his career. He left a large fortune that he hoped would be used to support what he called "decaying artists." His collection of paintings was bequeathed to his country. At his request he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. He is
commonly known as "the painter of light" and his work is regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism.
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