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Friday, May 31, 2013

Klimt, Gustav


Portrait of Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann
1901
oil on canvas
180 x 140 cm
The Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann and her husband were leading figures within the art scene of fin the siecle Vienna. They were highly cherished by artist such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler and Gustav Klimt who perpetuated her in one of his most important paintings. Rose was a very modern woman, she was the first woman to climb the Watzmann-Ostwand (2653m) with the highest cliff (1800m) of the Ostalpen. During World War I she volunteered in a military hospital in Vienna, caught the deadly typhus and dies thereafter in 1919.

"I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women...There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night...Who ever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures." (Klimt)

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. He was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, Austria and was educated at the Vienna Kunstgewerbe Art School. His major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism.

His work is distinguished by an elegant use of gold backgrounds and mosaic patterns. His elaborate, explicitly sensual works expressed themes of regeneration, love and death, and incorporated Egyptian, Classical Greek, Byzantine and Medieval styles. He was also inspired by engravings of Albrecht Durer, late medieval European painting, and Japanese Ukiyo-e. In synthesizing these diverse sources, Klimt's art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance.

Laying the groundwork for Art Deco and Modernism, Klimt’s creative influence can still be seen in today’s art, decorations and jewelry. He died in Vienna of pneumonia and was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery, Vienna.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Beckmann, Max


Double Portrait
1946
oil on canvas
130.8 x 75.6 cm (51 1/2 x 29 3/4 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA

This double portrait shows two of Beckmann's close friends: Hanns Swarzenski, a scholar of medieval art (and curator at the Museum of Fine Arts), and Curt Valentin (holding a candle), the New York art dealer who did much to promote Beckmann's reputation in the United States. Both visited Beckmann in Amsterdam during 1946, after the war's long interruption; but they visited at different times and never posed together. Instead, this imagined scene is a testament to the power of friendship and those who tended the light of civilization and civility during the long dark years of the Nazis. (mfa, Boston)

“… I have never been politically active in any way. I have tried only to realize my conception of the world as intensely as possible… My aim is to transfer this reality into painting ? to make the visible invisible through reality… In my opinion all important things in art since Ur of Chaldees, since Tell Halaf and Crete have always originated from the deepest feeling about the mystery of Being. Self-realization is the urge of all objective spirits. It is this self that I am searching in my life and in my art … The greatest danger that threatens humanity is collectivism. Everywhere attempts are being made to lower the happiness and the way of living of mankind to the level of termites. I am against these attempts with all the strength of my being .. I am immersed in the phenomenon of the individual, the so called whole Individual, and I try in every way to explain and present it. What are you? What am I? Those are the questions that constantly persecute and torment me and perhaps also play some part in  my art.” (Beckmann)

Max Beckmann (1884 - 1950) is widely acknowledged as one of Germany’s leading twentieth-century artists. He was born into a middle-class family in Leipzig, Germany. He enrolled at the Weimar Academy of Arts in 1899. From his youth he pitted himself against the old masters. Before the age of thirty, he was successful as an artist and financially secure. His paintings of the time, inspired by Impressionism, attracted clients, and he exhibited widely in Europe during the teens and 1920s.
Beckmann is a figurative painter throughout his career. He depicted the world around him with an unparalleled intensity. His work emerges directly from his experiences of the First and Second World Wars, the political upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s, the rise of Nazism, exile in Amsterdam and his final emigration to the United States. By capturing the objects and events that surrounded him, Beckmann hoped to grasp the deeper mysteries underlying human existence. He perceived and painted the world as a vast stage, at once real and magical, upon which his own life and the traumas of contemporary history were closely intertwined.
Beckmann continuously engaged with new artistic developments and was eager to compete with his peers. However, he refused to join any movement or group, cultivating the image of an isolated figure within the history of modern art. Nevertheless, his work after the First World War had strong affinities with German Expressionism and Cubism. During the 1920s he was regarded as a forerunner of New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), and a decade later incorporated abstract elements in his paintings. His ability to respond to artistic challenges ensured the continuing vitality of his art.

Beckmann's fortunes changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. Under the Nazi regime he was classified and persecuted as a ‘degenerate’ artist, and fled to Amsterdam in 1937. Even though this was a time of privation, isolation and anxiety, it was one of Beckmann’s most productive periods.

After the war, Beckmann moved to the United States, and during the last three years of his life, he once again achieved widespread recognition as a major force in modern art. He taught at the art schools of Washington University in St. Louis and the Brooklyn Museum.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Man Ray


Legend
1916
oil on canvas
132.1 x 91.4 cm (52 x 36 in.)
Collection of Deborah and Ed Shein, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

In "Legend", Man Ray experiments with illusions of depth and flatness. He suggests the broad patches of color are like the sections of an umbrella, "where one takes off the tip and…turns it around on its curve," rendering three dimensions as two. Man Ray further emphasizes the flat picture plane through the playful inclusion of the title plaque-or legend-at the bottom.

Man Ray (1890 - 1976), born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, was an American Dada and Surrealist artist. He was on the most versatile and inventive artists of this century. He was the master of experimental and fashion photography, and also a painter, filmmaker, poet, essayist, philosopher, and leader of American modernism. Known for documenting the cultural elite living in France, he spent much of his time fighting the formal constraints of the visual arts. His life and art were always provocative, engaging, and challenging. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements. He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all.

He initially taught himself photography in order to reproduce his own works of art, which included paintings and mixed media. He showed evidence of being artistically and mechanically inclined from childhood. After graduating from High School in 1908, he was offered a scholarship to study architecture but chose to pursue a career as an artist instead. In 1911, the Radnitzky family changed their surname to Ray in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and anti-semitism prevalent at that time. Emmanuel, who was called "Manny" as a nickname, thereafter used the single name Man Ray.

While living in New York City, with his friend Marcel Duchamp, he formed the American branch of the Dada movement, which began in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art. After a few unsuccessful experiments, Man Ray stated, "Dada cannot live in New York", and in 1921 he went to live and work in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, France during the era of great creativity. There he fell in love with famous French singer, Kiki (Alice Prin), often referred to as "Kiki de Montparnasse", who later became one of his favorite photographic models.

In Paris, he set up a photography studio to support himself. There he began to make photograms and revolutionized the art of photography. Great artists of the day such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Jean Cocteau posed for his camera. With Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso, Man Ray was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Gallerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. He invented the photographic technique of solarization. He also created a technique using photograms he called rayographs. He also directed a number of influential avant-garde short films.

Shortly before World War II, he returned to the United States and settled in Los Angeles from 1940 until 1951. However, he was disappointed that he was recognized only for his photography in America and not for the filmmaking, painting, sculpture, and other media in which he worked.
He called Montparnasse home and returned there in 1951. He concentrated primarily on painting until his death in Paris.
Man Ray was interred in the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, Paris. His epitaph reads: Unconcerned, but not indifferent.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Matisse, Henri


Luxe, Calme et Volupte (Luxury, Calm and Pleasure)
1904
oil on canvas
98.5 × 118.5 cm (37 x 46 in.)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Luxe, Calme et Volupte was painted in 1904, after a summer spent working in St. Tropez on the French Riviera alongside the neo-Impressionist painters, Paul Signac and Henri Edmond Cross. This painting is Matisse's most important work in which he used the Divisionist technique advocated by Signac, which Matisse had first adopted after reading Signac's essay, "D'Eugene Delacroix au Neo-impressionisme" in 1898. Signac purchased the work, which was exhibited in 1905 at the Salon des Independants. Matisse subsequently abandoned the Divisionist technique. The painting's title comes from the poem L'Invitation au voyage, from Charles Baudelaire's volume Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil).

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)
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Laurencin, Marie


Portrait of Mademoiselle Chanel
1923
oil on canvas
92.0 x 73.0cm
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

In 1923 Laurencin was working on the costumes and sets for Les Biches performed by Serge Diaghilev's Russian Ballets. Coco Chanel, who was creating costumes for the same company's Le Train Bleu at the time, asked Laurencin to paint her portrait. Laurencin painted Chanel in a languid pose draped in blue and black with one shoulder bare. The fluid lines, subtly shifting colors and the sitter's dreamy expression are typical of Laurencin's work, but Chanel - designer of ‘the little black dress’ and the Chanel suit - turned the painting down, saying it did not look like her.

Marie Laurencin (1883 - 1956) was a French painter, stage designer and illustrator. She studied porcelain painting at 18.
Picasso and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire (she once became romantically involved with Guillaume Apollinaire, and has often been identified as his muse) supported her and integrated her in discussions about art theory, which lead to Cubism. Laurencin's own creative work, however, remained untouched by such theoretical demands.
Her work shows mainly lyrical motifs like graceful, dreamy young girls in pastel coloring and soft shading. This color-sensitive inventiveness leads to a variation of repetitions of form and motifs. The influence of Persian miniature painting and Rococo art are undeniable.

During the early years of the 20th century, Laurencin was an important figure in the Parisian avant-garde.
In 1983, on the one hundredth anniversary of Laurencin's birth, the Musee Marie Laurencin opened in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The museum is home to more than 500 of her works and an archive.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rousseau, Henri


Old Man Junier's Trap (La carriole du Pere Junier)
1908
oil on canvas
97 x 129 cm
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

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)
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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Manet, Edouard


The balcony
1868
oil on canvas
170 × 124 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

The painting depicts four figures. On the left is Berthe Morisot, who appears here for the first time on a painting of Edouard Manet. Morisot became in 1874 the wife of Edouard Manet's brother, Eugene. In the center is the painter of landscapes Jean Baptiste Antoine Guillemet. On the right is the violinist Fanny Claus. The fourth person can hardly be recognized in the interior of the room, Leon Koella Leenhoff, the son of Manet’s wife Suzanne and perhaps his own son. It was sold by Gustave Caillebotte in 1884 and is currently kept at the Musee d'Orsay. The painting was inspired by The Majas at the balcony by Francisco Goya.

"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)
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Sargent, John Singer


The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
1882
oil on canvas
222.5 cm × 222.5 cm (87.6 × 87.6 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

The painting, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (originally titled Portraits d'enfants), Sargent exhibited at the Salon in 1883, depicts four young girls, the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, in their family's Paris apartment. Though the painting's unusual composition was noted from its earliest viewings, initially its subject was interpreted simply as that of girls at play, but it has subsequently been viewed in more abstract terms, reflecting Freudian analysis and a greater interest in the ambiguities of adolescence. In the new Art of the Americas Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the painting hangs in between the two tall blue-and-white Japanese vases depicted in the work; they were donated by the heirs of the Boit family. Edward Boit was an "American cosmopolite" and a minor painter.

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.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leighton, Frederic


Flaming June
1895
oil on canvas
120.6 × 120.6 cm (47 3/8 × 47 3/8 in.)
Museum of Art of Ponce, Puerto Rico

Flaming June is widely considered to be Leighton's magnum opus, showing his classicist nature. It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naiads the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolizes the fragile link between sleep and death.

Flaming June was first begun as a motif to adorn a marble bath in one of Leighton's other works, Summer Slumber. He became so attached to the design that he decided to create it as a painting in its own right. The transparent material worn by the sleeping woman - through which her right nipple can be seen clearly - is typical of his artistic predilections, as are the stunningly rich colors and the perfectly recreated marble surround. Natural light too is a constant preoccupation for him, and here he allows the sunset in the background to appear as molten gold.
The position of the sleeping woman gave him a great deal of trouble. He made several preliminary sketches to determine the way in which she should lie; in particular he had difficulty making the angle of her right arm look natural. His studies show that the picture went through at least four evolutionary sketches before Leighton came to on the end result. Out of these studies, four are nude and one is draped. The draped figure looks the least lifelike, demonstrating Leighton's need to draw from a naked model in order to achieve a fidelity to nature.

This painting was auctioned in the 1960s, during a period of time known to be difficult for selling Victorian era paintings, where it failed to sell for its low reserve price of $140 USD (the equivalent of $840 in contemporary prices). Afterward, it was promptly purchased by the Ponce Museum of Art in Ponce, Puerto Rico where it currently resides.

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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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mucha, Alphonse Maria


Woman With a Burning Candle
1933
oil on canvas
78 x 79 cm
Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic

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.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Brueghel, Jan the Younger


Expulsion From Eden
1600-1624
oil on panel
49 x 83 cm
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, Italy

Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601 - 1678) was a Flemish Baroque painter, and the son of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
He was born and died in Antwerp. He was trained by his father and spent his career producing works in a similar style.
Jan the Younger was traveling in Italy when his father died of cholera, and swiftly returned to take control of the Antwerp studio of his father. He sold the pictures left by his father and successfully completed half-finished works.
Jan the Younger soon established himself and headed a large studio with students and assistants. In 1630, he became the dean of the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp. He collaborated with a number of prominent artists including Rubens. Along with his brother Ambrosius, he produced landscapes, allegorical scenes and other works of meticulous detail. He also copied works by his father and sold them with his father's signature.

Though he enjoyed moderate success because of his father's reputation, he did not share his father's ability to create innovative themes. Throughout the latter 1620s, he embarked on series after series of allegories paintings. Thereafter, his studio declined and he produced a number of small paintings in his father's manner that no longer fetched high prices. His work is distinguishable from that of his father by being less well executed and lighter.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Cesari, Giuseppe


Archangel St. Michael
1629
Black and red chalk Drawing
31.5x24.7 cm
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

In the studio of Cavaliere d'Arpino (Giuseppe Cesari), one of the most influential artist in Rome during the pontificate of  Pope Clement VIII, painters from northern Europe were numerous. From this Cavaliere d'Arpino probably derived his inclination for painting religious scenes in a landscape. He produced delicate devotional paintings on copper or panel on a very small scale. In them, his lives of the saints or biblical episodes were enriched by imaginative additions.

Giuseppe Cesari (c. 1568 - 1640) was an Italian Mannerist painter, also known as Cavaliere d'Arpino, active mainly in Rome. He was much patronized in Rome by both Pope Clement VIII and Sixtus V. He was the chief of the studio in which Caravaggio trained upon the younger painter's arrival in Rome.

He had an enormous reputation in the first two decades of the 17th century, when he gained some of the most prestigious commissions of the day, most notably the designing of the mosaics for the dome of St Peter's (1603-12). Although some of his early work is vigorous and colorful, his output is generally repetious and vacuous, untouched by the innovations of Caravaggio (who was briefly his assistant) or the Carracci. He was primarily a fresco painter, but he also did numerous cabinet pictures of religious or mythological scenes in a finicky Flemish manner.

His father had been a native of Arpino, but Giuseppe himself was born in Rome. Here, he was apprenticed to Niccolo Pomarancio. He was a man of touchy and irascible character, and rose from penury to the height of opulence. Cesari became a member of the Accademia di San Luca in 1585. In 1607, he was briefly jailed by the new papal administration. He died in 1640, at the age of seventy-two, or perhaps of eighty, at Rome.

His most notable and perhaps surprising pupil was Caravaggio. In c. 1593-94, Caravaggio held a job at Cesari's studio as a painter of flowers and fruit.
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Goes, Hugo van der


The Fall of Adam (left side of Diptych of the Fall and Salvation)
c.1468
oil on oak
33.8 x 23 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Hugo van der Goes (c. 1430/1440 - 1482)  was, along with Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling and Dieric Bouts, one of the most important of the Early Netherlandish painters. His strange, melancholy genius found expression in religious works of profound but often disturbing spirituality. Characteristic of his work were his monumental figures. He did not master the art of perspective but proportions and relations of figures and background far surpass that of his predecessors. Faces and hands were very expressive.

Nothing is known of his life before 1467, when he became a master in the painters' guild at Ghent. He had numerous commissions from the town of Ghent for work of a temporary nature such as processional banners, and in 1475 he became dean of the painters' guild. In 1478, he moved into the Red Cloister monastery near Brussels, presumably because he had a tendency to acute depression. In 1481 he suffered a mental breakdown and although he recovered, died the following year.

No paintings by Hugo are signed and his only securely documented work is his masterpiece, a large triptych of the Nativity known as the Portinari Altarpiece (Uffizi, Florence). This was commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, the representative of the House of Medici in Bruges, for the church of the Hospital of Sta Maria Nuova in Florence, and it exercised a strong influence on Italian painters with its masterful handling of the oil technique.
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino


Madonna with child and goldfinch
second half of the 15th century
tempera and oil with gold on panel
64.2 x 46.7 cm
Private Collection

The Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino is the name given to an unknown artist active in the second half of the 15th century. Previously, his work was mistaken for Pier Francesco Fiorentino, however in recent years, art historians have noted Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino's work surpasses that of his namesake in skill and mastery. The two are not to be confused. Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino primarily adapted works by Filippo Lippi and Pesellino. Works by Pseudo-Pier Francesco are all marked by a lavish, archaic use of gold leaf, and many include elaborate rose-hedge backgrounds, probably derived from Domenico Veneziano.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn


Rembrandt Laughing
c. 1628
oil on copper
22.2 x 16.8 cm (8 3/4 x 6 5/8 in.) 
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Painted on copper plate, it shows Rembrandt in his early 20s in mid-laugh, with his head thrown back.
The value of this painting, once thought to be a knockoff, skyrocketed after the Rembrandt Research Project determined its true origin. “It has now been established on a range of stylistic and technical grounds that this is an authentic early work by Rembrandt dating from around 1628.” Before its discovery, Rembrandt Laughing hung quietly in the possession of an English family for more than 100 years. It first came to public attention at the English country auction in 2008, which identified it as work by “a follower of Rembrandt.” The auctioneers estimated its value at around $3,000. But scholars suspected this image was the real deal, so a bidding war erupted. The painting sold for about $5.2 million to an unidentified bidder before it was even properly authenticated.
In May, 2013, The Getty Museum has acquired this painting. The purchase price is not disclosed but it is roughly estimated at around $30,000,000 to $40,000,000.

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

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

His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. He was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom were already trained artists.
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Vuillard, Jean-Edouard


Foliage-Oak Tree and Fruit Seller
1918
distemper on canvas
193 x 283.2 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

"I don't do portraits," Vuillard said. "I paint people in their surroundings."

Jean-Edouard Vuillard (1868 - 1940) was a French painter.
He was born at Cuiseaux, Saone-et-Loire, the son of a retired army officer. His mother was a corset-maker in Paris and he grew up in the highly feminized world surrounded by women at work, surrounded by patterns and fabrics and rich colors. Living with his mother until the age of sixty, he was very familiar with interior and domestic spaces, though he did not restrict his subjects to the indoors. Much of his art reflected this influence, largely decorative and often depicting very intricate patterns. Marked by a gentle humor, they are executed in the delicate range on soft, blurred colors characteristic.

In 1886 Vuillard became a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, later moving to the Academie Julian. There he met Bonnard and other painters with whom he founded the Nabis group in 1889. The group combines painting with decorative art and is inspired by literary symbolism, exoticism and orientalism. He later shared a studio with fellow Nabis Bonnard and Maurice Denis.

The name Nabis derived from the Hebrew for prophet. Unlike the Impressionists, who sought to capture the fleeting effects of light in the outdoors, the Nabis used art to communicate interior feelings and to convey emotion. According to the Nabi artists, every emotion has “a plastic, decorative equivalent” that corresponds our sense of beauty -  an idea that contrasted the dominant ideas of positivism and naturalism. The non-naturalistic Nabi colors later become a source of inspiration for many artists such as the Fauve painters, including Henri Matisse. The group, influenced by Gauguin and Degas, concentrated on pattern and distortion to emphasize psychological meanings beyond appearances in ordinary domestic subjects, though Bonnard and Vuillard returned by the end of the century to a more naturalistic style.

In 1940, a week after the Germans occupied France, Vuillard died of a heart attack in La Baule, outside Paris, in the embrace of his powerful patrons. He created more than 3,000 paintings between the late 1800s and his death in 1940.

His medium here - distemper - is composed of powdered pigments and hot-glue binder mixed with water. Distemper must be used while still warm, requiring the artist to work quickly and confidently. This difficult process yields colors that are matte and vibrant, as well as permanent. He refrained from varnishing his works, in order to preserve their dry, opaque appearance.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Braque, Georges


La Ciotat
1907
oil on canvas
71.7 x 59.4 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Georges Braque (1882 - 1963) was a major 20th-century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism. He grew up in Le Havre and trained to be a house painter and decorator like his father and grandfather. However, he also studied serious painting in the evenings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in Le Havre. In Paris, he apprenticed with a decorator and was awarded his certificate.

His earliest works were impressionistic, but after seeing the work exhibited by the Fauves in 1905, Braque adopted a Fauvist style. The Fauves, a group that included Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, used brilliant colors and loose structures of forms to capture the most intense emotional response.

In 1907, his style began a slow evolution as he came under the strong influence of Paul Cezanne, who died in 1906. The 1907 Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne greatly impacted the direction that the avant-garde in Paris took, leading to the advent of Cubism. His oil paintings began to reflect his new interest in geometry and simultaneous perspective. He conducted an intense study of the effects of light and perspective and the technical means that painters use to represent these effects, appearing to question the most standard of artistic conventions.

Beginning in 1909, he began to work closely with Picasso, who had been developing a similar approach to oil painting. The invention of Cubism was a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, then residents of Montmartre, Paris. Their productive collaboration continued and they worked closely together until the outbreak of World War I in 1914 when Braque enlisted in the French Army, leaving Paris to fight in the First World War. Braque was severely wounded in the war, and when he resumed his artistic career in 1917 he moved away from the harsher abstraction of cubism. Working alone, he developed a more personal style, characterized by brilliant color and textured surfaces and the reappearance of the human figure. He painted many still life subjects during this time, maintaining his emphasis on structure.

He continued to work throughout the remainder of his life, producing a considerable number of distinguished oil paintings, graphics, and sculptures, all imbued with a pervasive contemplative quality. He died on 31 August 1963, in Paris. He is buried in the church cemetery in Saint-Marguerite-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Seurat, Georges


The Channel at Gravelines, Evening
1890 summer
oil on canvas
65.4 x 81.9 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

"Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science." (Seurat)

Seurat painted pointillist fantasies in which the sun is always setting, the remaining light of the day filtered not though dust but through stippled, composited specks of unmixed color. Details explode out of details, and colors out of colors; minute reds, greens, and blues clot together, microcosms formed through mixing. Here, docks and piers extend out of view, while great anchors appear out of reds, oranges, and greens. Twin ship’s viridescent sails catch the blushing wind, while flags disappear into the dotted sky.

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859 - 1891), Post-Impressionist painter, born into a very rich family in Paris, is one of the icons of 19th century painting. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and his teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat is the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors became known as Pointillism. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures. He is the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. Using Pointillism technique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color too small to be distinguished when looking
at the entire work but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. In 1883, panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon. After his painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat turned away from such establishments, instead allying himself with the independent artists of Paris. In 1884 he and other artists (including Maximilien Luce) formed the Societe des Artistes Independants. There he met and befriended fellow artist Paul Signac. Seurat shared his new ideas about pointillism with Signac, who subsequently painted in the same idiom.

Before actually painting the picture, he would sketch out parts of his artwork so that the models would not have to wait forever while he found the exact color. He took to heart the color theorists' notion of a scientific approach to painting. He believed that a painter could use color to create harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a musician uses counterpoint and variation to create harmony in music. He theorized that the scientific application of color was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He kept his private life very secret. On 29 March 1891, Seurat unexpectedly died. The cause of his death is uncertain. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Bohringer, Volker


Landliche Idylle (Rural idyll) 
1935
tempera on panel
43.4 x 54.2 cm
Private collection

Volker Bohringer (1912 - 1961) was a German visual art painter and printmaker of the New Objectivity.
He began his studies in 1929 at the Wurttemberg State School of Applied Arts in Stuttgart at Ernst Schneidler.
In 1930 he moved to the Academy and continued his studies as a master student, Hans Spiegel. 
In the era of National Socialism in 1937, he refused to join the Association of German painter and graphic artist, and subsequently received an exhibition prohibition. After the Second World War, he attended the First German Art Exhibition in Dresden in part. It was followed by exhibition participation in Bern and Zurich. In 1960 he had his first solo exhibition in Esslingen.
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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Picasso, Pablo


Woman Plaiting Her Hair
1906
oil on canvas
127 x 90.8 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Fernande Olivier (1881 - 1966), French artist, the model of this painting, met Picasso at the Bateau-Lavoir in 1904, and by the next year they were living together. Their relationship lasted seven years and was characterized by its tempestuousness. Both Fernande and Picasso were jealous lovers, and their passions sometimes exploded into violence. Among his most notable works of his Cubist period, several were inspired by Fernande. Picasso painted over 60 portraits of Fernande.
When Picasso finally achieved success as an artist, he began to lose interest in Fernande, as she reminded him of more difficult times. Eventually they separated in 1912, leaving Fernande without a way to carry on living in the style to which she had become accustomed. She had no legal right to expect anything from the painter, since she was still technically married to her first husband. To survive, she took various odd jobs, from a cashier at a butcher's to an antiques saleswoman. She also supplemented her income by giving drawing lessons.

"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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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Macke, August


Nude with coral nacklace
1910
oil on canvas
83 x 60 cm
Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany

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.
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Clausen, Sir George


Apple Blossom
1899
oil on canvas
size unknown
private Collection

Sir George Clausen RA (1852 -1944), was an English artist working in oil and watercolor. He was born in London, the son of a decorative painter of Danish descent. He attended the design classes at the South Kensington School of Art in London with great success, from 1867 to 1873. After studying there on a two-year scholarship, he decided to further his training at the Antwerp Academy. Whilst in the Netherlands he travelled along the coast, making studies in the fishing villages on his way. At this time he also embarked on his first forays to Paris and the influence of French art took root in his practice.

Clausen became one of the foremost modern painters of landscape and of peasant life, influenced to a certain extent by the impressionists, with whom he shared the view that light is the real subject of landscape art. His pictures excel in rendering the appearance of things under flecking outdoor sunlight, or in the shady shelter of a barn or stable.

In 1895 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and a full Academician in 1906. As Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy he gave a memorable series of lectures to the students of the Schools, published as Six Lectures on Painting and Aims and Ideals in Art.

Clausen was an official war artist during World War I. In the war his daughter's fiance was killed. During the 1920s he painted numerous landscapes around his country cottage on Dutton Hill, Essex. The success of his war commission led to several invitations to paint murals, notably Wycliffe's English Bible for the Houses of Parliament, and upon completion of this project he was knighted for his services to the arts in 1927.

Clausen’s best paintings were always the fruit of a profound study of country life, of landscapes in sun and shade, of flowers, of work on the farm. His most remarkable characteristic was his power of growth. No other painter of his age responded so freely to the spirit of the times - and that without injury to the strongly personal character of his work. He was concerned with conditions of light, a favorite of his being the prismatic play of color when objects are seen against the sun. He, however, differed from the French Impressionists by retaining integrity of form. Nobody excelled him in the capacity to suggest bulk and solidity in conditions when the actual features of landscapes were almost obliterated. In all his work he showed a poetical appreciation akin to that of Thomas Hardy, but without the abiding sense of tragedy of the relation of man to nature. His portraits were distinguished by a peculiar gravity.
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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Repin, Ilya


A Belorussian (Portrait of Sidor Shavrov)
1892
oil on canvas
size unknown
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, May 8, 2013

Manet, Edouard


Bunch of Asparargus
1880
oil on canvas
46 × 55 cm
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Koln, Germany

"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)
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monet, Claude


The Basin at Argenteuil
1872
oil on canvas
60 × 80.5 cm (23.6 × 31.7 in.)
Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France

Fascinated by water, by its transparency and its reflects, Monet always lived close to the Seine River.
"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.

1840: birth of Claude Oscar MONET on November 14th in Paris.
1845: family moves to Le Havre.
1857: death of his mother Louise Monet.
1858: meets Eugene Boudin who encourages him to paint out of doors.
1859: comes to Paris and enters the Swiss Academy.
1860: meets Pissaro and Courbet.
1863: discovers Manet's painting and paints "en plein air" in the Fontainebleau forest.
1864: stays in Honfleur with Boudin, Bazille, Jondkind. He meets his first art lover : Gaudibert.
1865: his paintings are submitted for the first time to the official Salon.
1867: birth of his first son Jean Monet while Claude Monet is in Sainte-Adresse.
1868: tries to commit suicide. He receives a pension from Mr Gaudibert. He paints in Fecamp and Etretat.
1869: settles in the village of Saint-Michel near Bougival where he paints in company of Renoir.
1870: marries Camille, Courbet is his witness. They take refuge in London when the war begins.
1871: meets Durand-Ruel in London with Pissaro and Daubigny. Death of his father. Monet settles at Argenteuil after visiting the Netherlands.
1873: meets Caillebotte.
1874: exhibits "Impression Sunrise" at the first Impressionist exhibition in the studio of Nadar.
1876: meets Ernest and Alice Hoschede.
1877: bankruptcy of Ernest Hoschede. Monet paints the Saint-Lazare train station.
1878: birth of Michel Monet, his second son. Monet and his family settle at Vetheuil in compagny of the family Hoschede.
1879: death of Camille.
1881: family moves to Poissy.
1883: rents a house at Giverny. He will stay there for 43 years.
1887: exhibits in New-York thanks to Durand-Ruel.
1889: exhibits with Rodin.
1890: purchases the house in Giverny and begins the digging for the Water-Lily pond.
1891: death of Ernest Hoschede. Monet paints the series of Meules (Haystacks) and of Peupliers (Poplars)
1892: paints the Rouen Cathedrals series. He marries Alice in July.
1894: visit of Mary Cassatt and of Cezanne at Giverny. Rodin, Clemenceau and Geffroy are present.
1900: paints several views of the Japanese bridge. He takes several trips to London and paints views of the Thames.
1904: travels to Madrid and admires the paintings of Velasquez.
1907: first problems with his eyesight. Monet discovers Venice.
1911: death of Alice.
1914: death of Jean, Monet's eldest son. Blanche moves to live near Claude Monet.
1916: decides to build a large studio of 23 m x 12m at Giverny.
1916 - 1926: works on twelve large canvas, The Water Lilies. Following the signing of the Armistice, Monet offers to donate them to France. Theses paintings will be installed in an architectural space designed specifically for them at the museum of the Orangerie in Paris.
1923: is nearly blind. He has an operation from the cataract in one eye. His sight improves.
1926: In February Monet is still painting. But he suffers from lung cancer. He dies on December 5th. He is buried in a simple ceremony at Giverny. His friend Georges Clemenceau attends the ceremony.

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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Monday, May 6, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


Summer's evening
1888
oil on canvas.
73.5 × 92 cm
The Winterthur Museum of Art, Winterthur, Switzerland

"I have sometimes worked excessively fast. Is it a fault? I can't help it. For instance, I painted a size 30 canvas, the “Summer's Evening” at a single sitting. Take it up again? - impossible; destroy it? - why should I! You see, I went out to do it expressly while the mistral was raging. Aren't we seeking intensity of thought rather than tranquillity of touch? But under the given conditions of working spontaneously, on the spot, and given the character of it, is a calm, well-regulated touch always possible? Goodness gracious - as little, it seems to me, as during an assault in a fencing match." (Gogh to Emile Bernard. Arles. Jun 24, 1888.)

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 -1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community.

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

Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties. He completed many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. According to an art critic, his late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and "longing for concision and grace". "I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)
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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Beckmann, Max


Double Portrait of Frau Swarzenski and Calora Netter
1923
oil on canvas
65 x 80 cm
Stadel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

Originally intended to be a portrait of the wife of Stadel director Georg Swarzenski, Beckmann decided to ask Swarzenski’s mistress, Carola Netter, to pose separately for him as well. Beckmann gave the resulting “double portrait” of both wife and mistress to the Stadel collection, and Swarzenski was forced to accept, primarily to keep the painting out of circulation and away from the eyes of his wife.

“… I have never been politically active in any way. I have tried only to realize my conception of the world as intensely as possible… My aim is to transfer this reality into painting ? to make the visible invisible through reality… In my opinion all important things in art since Ur of Chaldees, since Tell Halaf and Crete have always originated from the deepest feeling about the mystery of Being. Self-realization is the urge of all objective spirits. It is this self that I am searching in my life and in my art … The greatest danger that threatens humanity is collectivism. Everywhere attempts are being made to lower the happiness and the way of living of mankind to the level of termites. I am against these attempts with all the strength of my being .. I am immersed in the phenomenon of the individual, the so called whole Individual, and I try in every way to explain and present it. What are you? What am I? Those are the questions that constantly persecute and torment me and perhaps also play some part in  my art.” (Beckmann)

Max Beckmann (1884 - 1950) is widely acknowledged as one of Germany’s leading twentieth-century artists. He was born into a middle-class family in Leipzig, Germany. He enrolled at the Weimar Academy of Arts in 1899. From his youth he pitted himself against the old masters. Before the age of thirty, he was successful as an artist and financially secure. His paintings of the time, inspired by Impressionism, attracted clients, and he exhibited widely in Europe during the teens and 1920s.
Beckmann is a figurative painter throughout his career. He depicted the world around him with an unparalleled intensity. His work emerges directly from his experiences of the First and Second World Wars, the political upheavals of the 1920s and 1930s, the rise of Nazism, exile in Amsterdam and his final emigration to the United States. By capturing the objects and events that surrounded him, Beckmann hoped to grasp the deeper mysteries underlying human existence. He perceived and painted the world as a vast stage, at once real and magical, upon which his own life and the traumas of contemporary history were closely intertwined.
Beckmann continuously engaged with new artistic developments and was eager to compete with his peers. However, he refused to join any movement or group, cultivating the image of an isolated figure within the history of modern art. Nevertheless, his work after the First World War had strong affinities with German Expressionism and Cubism. During the 1920s he was regarded as a forerunner of New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), and a decade later incorporated abstract elements in his paintings. His ability to respond to artistic challenges ensured the continuing vitality of his art.

Beckmann's fortunes changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. Under the Nazi regime he was classified and persecuted as a ‘degenerate’ artist, and fled to Amsterdam in 1937. Even though this was a time of privation, isolation and anxiety, it was one of Beckmann’s most productive periods.

After the war, Beckmann moved to the United States, and during the last three years of his life, he once again achieved widespread recognition as a major force in modern art. He taught at the art schools of Washington University in St. Louis and the Brooklyn Museum.
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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hopper, Edward


Hill and Houses, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
1927
Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper
34.4 x 49.5 cm (13 9/16 x 19 1/2 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA

In this painting you can see the lighthouse on the hill and the keeper's house beside it. Another white house sits lower down the hill in the foreground, sitting on the green and brown fields next to the ocean.

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

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

He showed the modern world unflinchingly; even its gaieties are gently mournful, echoing the disillusionment and the sense of human hopelessness that swept across the country after the start of the Great Depression in 1929.

He painted hotels, motels, trains and highways, and also liked to paint the public and semi-public places where people gathered: restaurants, theaters, cinemas and offices. But even in these paintings he stressed the theme of loneliness - his theaters are often semideserted, with a few patrons waiting for the curtain to go up or the performers isolated in the fierce light of the stage. Hopper was a frequent movie-goer, and there is often a cinematic quality in his work.

As the years went on, however, he found suitable subjects increasingly difficult to discover, and often felt blocked and unable to paint. With Hopper the whole fabric of his art seemed to be interwoven with his personal character and manner of living. When the link between the outer world he observed and the inner world of feeling and fantasy broke, Hopper found he was unable to create. In particular, the rise of Abstract Expressionism left him marooned artistically, for he disapproved of many aspects of the new art.
He died in 1967, isolated if not forgotten. His true importance has only been fully realized in the years since his death.
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Keith, William


Spring Landscape (Spring in Marin County)
1893
oil on Canvas
size unknown
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA

"What I want to do is to study nature. The best way to do that is to be near her, and I have vague ideas about living in such close communion with her that she may adopt me and show me things hidden to every eye but that which loves her sincerely." (Keith)

William Keith (1838 - 1911) was a Scottish-American painter famous for his California landscapes. He is associated with Tonalism and the American Barbizon school. Keith was born in Scotland, and emigrated to the United States in 1850. He lived in New York City, and became an apprentice wood engraver in 1856. He first traveled to the American West in 1858, after being assigned to do illustrations for Harper's Magazine. He moved to England briefly, working for the London Daily News.

Most of his career was spent in California. In 1885 he bought a house in Berkeley and would commute to his studio in San Francisco each day. Keith enjoyed giving painting lessons on top of selling his own pieces because he liked to make sure he had a steady income. He mostly gave lessons to women, and rarely gave them to men however, because he enjoyed the company of women more.

"My subjective pictures are the ones that come from the inside. I feel some emotion and I immediately paint a picture that expresses it. The sentiment is the only thing of real value in my pictures, and only a few people understand that. Suppose I want to paint something recalling meditation or repose. If people do not feel that sensation when my work is completed, they do not appreciate nor realize the picture. The fact that they like it means nothing. Any one who can use paint and brushes can paint a true scene of nature - that is an objective picture. The artist must not depend on extraneous things. There is no reality in his art if he must depend on outside influences - it must come from within." (Keith)
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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Modigliani, Amedeo


Portrait of Maud Abrantes
1907
oil on canvas
81.3 x 53.3 cm (32 x 21 in.)
Hecht Museum, Haifa, Israel

This painting is one of Modigliani’s earlier works, and as such has much more of a traditional look. This painting is also indicative of the artist’s later style in the figure’s elongated neck and the still, somber emotion on her face. There is also much more detail in her clothing and her face than in Modigliani’s later works, which are characterized by simple lines and few discernable features. Early on as an artist, Modigliani preferred life-drawn women subjects, many of whom engaged in love affairs with the handsome painter.

 “What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.” (Modigliani)

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He was born as the forth and the youngest child in the family, which belonged to the secularized Jewish bourgeoisie. Today, he is known for his paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. He had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when he was 26. Anna was tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-green eyes, she embodied Modigliani's aesthetic ideal and the pair became engrossed in each other, although in later years they became apart. In 1914, the First World War broke out and he wanted to enlist but was exempted from military service for health reasons. In 1917, he met the 19-year old Jeanne Hebuterne (1898-1920), student of the academy and started to live together. "She was gentle, shy, quiet and delicate. A little bit depressive". She became his major model until his death, he painted her no less than 25 times. In 1918, Modigliani and Jeanne left Paris, which was under the threat of occupation by Germans, and went for the southern coast. In Nice and its environments he produced most of the paintings that would later become his most popular and highest-priced works. In November, 1918 in Nice, Jeanne  gave birth to a girl.

After returning to Paris, by the end of 1919, he became seriously ill with tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics, and he died on January 24, 1920, at the age of 35. When he died, his pregnant wife of nearly nine months was emotionally destroyed by his death. Two days after his death, she jumped out of a 5th storey window and killed herself and her unborn child. They were buried together in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Their orphan daughter was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani : Man and Myth.
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