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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Botticelli, Sandro


Allegorical Portrait of a Lady (Simonetta Vespucci ?)
year unknown
on canvas
58.5 x 40.5 cm
Private collection
    
Simonetta Vespucci (ca. 1453 - 1476) was an Italian Renaissance noblewoman. She was renowned for being the greatest beauty of her age - certainly of the city of Florence. By birth she was a noble lady. At age fifteen or sixteen she married Marco Vespucci, who was a distant cousin of the Florentine explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci. She died in 1476, probably from pulmonary tuberculosis. She was only twenty-two at the time of her death. The entire city was reported to mourn her death and thousands followed her coffin to its burial. Botticelli finished painting The Birth of Venus in 1485, nine years later. Some have claimed that Venus, in this painting, closely resembles Simonetta. Some suggest that Botticelli had fallen in love with her, a view supported by his request to be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti - the parish church of the Vespucci - in Florence. His wish was in fact carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510.

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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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Matisse, Henri


Odalisque in Red Trousers
c.1925
oil on canvas
50.0 x 61.0cm
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France
    
Matisse's ‘odalisques’ display the Matisse's passion for decorative pattern and motifs. He visited the French colonies in North Africa (Algeria in 1906 and Morocco in 1912-13) where the brilliant light, exotic environment and Moorish architecture inspired a new body of work. His odalisques have been described by an art historian as ‘elaborate fictions’ in which Matisse re-created the image of the Islamic harem using French models posed in his Nice apartment. The fabrics, screens, carpets, furnishings and costuming recalled the exoticism of the ‘Orient’ and provided a theme for Matisse's preoccupation with the figure and elaborate pattern.

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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Friday, June 28, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


Straw Hut at Dusk (The Cottage)
1885
Medium     oil on canvas
65,5 x 79 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

This old peasant’s cottage, seen at dusk, gives a peaceful, idyllic picture of rural life. Gogh was fascinated by such peasant dwellings, which he called "human nests." This cottage, with its double front doors and split chimney, actually housed two families. One of them was the De Groots, who posed for The Potato Eaters.

"One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR." (Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, in April 1885)

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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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


The Dancer
1874
oil on canvas
94 x 142 cm
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

"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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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Picasso, Pablo


Absinthe
1901
Charcoal, pastel, gouache and white chalk
65.2 x 49.6 cm
Hermitage Art Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

This is one of Picasso's early compositions in his Absinthe series. The woman is totally immersed in her thoughts, as suggested by the gesture of her fingers at her chin. Here, showing a woman at a table, Picasso adds several narrative elements. He shows dancing couples - a scene which has a symbolic meaning. Their indefinite forms in the yellow electric light may be no more than the lone woman's dream of the joys of life.

"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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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Degas,Edgar


At the Races in the Countryside
1869
oil on canvas
36.5 x 55.9 cm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA

In the late 1860's Degas depicted a family at the races in a scene said to have been influenced by his study of English pictures. He was especially influenced by the new science/art of photography, and often composed his works with a spontaneous snapshot quality.
This painting is not only a landscape but also a scene from everyday life and - most of all - a family portrait. The driver of the carriage is Degas's friend Paul Valpincon, who is shown with his wife, a wet nurse who has bared her breast to feed the child. It is an unusual scene with a focus on breasts and fertility. Scholars have cited various identities for the man without noting his resemblance to Edouard Manet.

"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, June 24, 2013

Correggio, Antonio


Portrait of a Gentlewoman
c.1518
oil on canvas
103 x 87.5 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

The unknown lady is depicted under a laurel that is a symbol of poetry and hints at her poetic talents. The strict composition and the noble combination of white, brown, dark green and blue colors emphasize the cold beauty of the face. The sitter is shown wearing a mourning dress. Her brown robe and belt evidence that she belongs to the Franciscan Order. On the chalice there is a Greek inscription, a quotation from Homer's Odyssey, recalling the moment when Helen is giving a bowl of wine to Telemachus with a drink which brings forgetfulness and drowns sorrow. The tree-trunk wound around with ivy symbolizes faithfulness and eternal love. According to one version, the woman in the painting is the poetess Ginevra Rangone.

Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489 - 1534), usually known as Correggio, named after the small town in Emilia where he was born, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance, who was responsible for some of the most vigorous and sensuous works of the 16th century. Relatively unknown in his lifetime, he was to have an enormous posthumous reputation. He was revered by Federico Barocci and the Carracci, and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries his reputation rivalled that of Raphael.

His career is poorly documented and his training has to be conjectured on stylistic grounds. Echoes of Mantegna's manner in many of his early paintings indicate that he may have studied that master's work in Mantua, and he was influenced in these works also by Lorenzo Costa and Leonardo. Later he developed a style of conscious elegance and allure with soft sfumato and gestures of captivating charm. Although he worked mainly in provincial centers, he was one of the most sophisticated artists of his time, blending disparate sources into a potent synthesis. In his use of dynamic composition, illusionistic perspective and dramatic foreshortening, he prefigured the Rococo art of the 18th century.
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brueghel, Jan the Elder with Peter Paul Rubens


The Garden of Eden
c.1615
oil on panel
74.3 x 114.7 cm
The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, Hague, Netherlands

This depiction of the Garden of Eden is painted by two well-known artists: Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder. While Breughel’s father, the even more famous Pieter Breughel the Elder, excelled in peasant scenes, Jan was especially gifted as a painter of exuberant nature scenes and floral still lifes. His most fruitful collaboration was with Peter Paul Rubens, who was as skilful in painting human figures as Jan Breughel was in depicting nature. Though they were both respected and popular artists in their own right, their joint works were in even greater demand than their solo work. Research has shown that it was Breughel who began sketching the outlines of the composition on the panel, but that it was Rubens who put the first scenes into paint: Adam and Eve, but also a part of the tree and the horse beside them. When this was done, Brueghel added the sky, the landscape and filled the rest of the painting with animals and plants. The painting captures the moment right before Adam eats from the fatal apple that Eve is handing him, which would result in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

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

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

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

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

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

Jan's position in society and among his fellow artists was assured during his lifetime: he solidified the family reputation established by his famous father, and his works were very influential. His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II and Ambrosius Brueghel,  whose sons then carried on the tradition into the 18th century. Jan died in a cholera epidemic that swept through Antwerp in 1625.
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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cranach, Lucas, the Elder


The Suicide of Lucretia
1538
oil on panel
size unknown
Neue Residenz, Bamberg, Germany

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 - 1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. He took his name from the small town of Kronach in South Germany, where he was born. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known as a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation. Despite his allegiance to the Protestant cause, he continued to work for Catholic patrons and was a very astute businessman. Throughout his career, he continued  to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and, during the last years of his life, Cranach was assisted by his son, Lucas the Younger (1515 - 86), who carried on the tradition of the workshop and imitated his father's style so successfully that it is often difficult to distinguish between their hands.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille


Une nymphe jouant avec un amour
c. 1857
oil on canvas
79 x 57 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - 1875) ,French landscape painter, was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. He developed, through painting on the spot, his sensitive treatment of light, form and distance in terms of tonal values rather than by color and drawing. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed "There is only one master here, Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important; Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot's influence.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colors more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchae and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colors, often using soft colored greys and blue-greens, with spots of color confined to the clothing of the figures. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape.
He died in Paris of a stomach disorder and was buried at Pere Lachaise.

"What there is to see in painting, or rather what I am looking for, is the form, the whole, the value of the tones…That is why for me the color comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while color gives you a kind of shock that I don’t like. Perhaps it is the excess of this principal that makes people say I have leaden tones." In his aversion to shocking color, Corot sharply diverged from the up-and-coming Impressionists, who embraced experimentation with vivid hues.
"Corot is not a simple landscapist, he is a painter, a true painter; he is a rare and exceptional genius." (Delacroix) "In my eyes, nobody taught me anything. When one finds oneself alone confronted by nature, one extricates oneself as best one can, and naturally one invents one's own style." (Corot)
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ingres, Jean Auguste Dominique



Odalisque with a Slave
1839
oil on canvas
72.1 x 100.3 cm (28 3/8 x 39 1/2 in.)
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Odalisque with a Slave is the 1839 orientalist painting painted by Ingres. He made a second version in 1842 with the help of two of his students, which is at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The 1842 version differs from the original by the presence of a garden painted by students.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 -1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style represented by his nemesis Eugene Delacroix. His exemplars, he once explained, were "the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art ... I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator." Nevertheless, modern opinion has tended to regard Ingres and the other Neoclassicists of his era as embodying the Romantic spirit of his time, while his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art.

Ingres was born at Montauban as the son of a painter and sculptor. He was introduced to art at an early age. Though his father was a mediocre artist described as a 'jack-of-all-trades', he passed his love of art onto his more talented son. It wasn't long before Ingres elevated from his father's informal training onto better things.

Ingres was an artist who received mixed reviews throughout his career. The ups and downs of his career are a most fascinating aspect of his artistic journey. During his 87 years he had frequently seen the critical response to his work go from unabashed scorning to enthusiastic accolades. This fluctuation literally occurred overnight after one Salon exhibition, but it was without significant longevity. Though the opinion of his worth as an artist was inconsistent the majority of his life, he ultimately finished on top. In his latter years he was well respected, highly sought after and even deemed the best living artist in France. He became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and later he was elected to the President. The French government elevated Ingres to the rank of Grand Officers of the Legion of Honor. He was the first artistic figure to receive such a title. He was also one of the first professional painters appointed to the Senate in 1862. In his 60s Ingres was recognized as the greatest living artist in France.

Ingres died rich, honored and revered as a god by many of his pupils. His death marked the symbolic end of the tradition of monumental history painting in France. Despite having been surrounded by scores of pupils and a group of devoted fans, Ingres eventually left behind no pupils who would sustain his increasingly antiquated artistic vision. He was considered the last Neoclassical artist. Ingres said paint should be as smooth 'as the skin of an onion'.
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Matisse, Henri


The Moroccans
1916
oil on canvas
181.3 x 279.4 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Matisse developed this painting of what he described as “the terrace of the little cafe of the casbah” in the years following two visits to Morocco, in 1912 and 1913. As he worked on various studies he eliminated details he felt were extraneous to the painting’s overall balance. A balcony with a flowerpot and a mosque behind it are at upper left, at lower left is a still life of vegetables, and to the right is a man wearing a round turban, seen from behind. Matisse’s generous application of black paint helps unify the three sections of the painting across its abstract expanse. (MoMA)

"Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better." (Matisse)

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

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

Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting. In particular he loved Islamic art. Islamic pattern offers the illusion of a completely full world, where everything from far to near is pressed with equal urgency against the eye. Matisse admired that, and wanted to transpose it into terms of pure color. Beyond painting, he worked with lithographs and sculpture, and during World War II he did a series of book designs. Later in his career he experimented with paper cutouts and designed decorations for the Dominican chapel in Venice, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. Matisse said that he wanted his art to have the same effect as a comfortable armchair on a tired businessman and many of the paintings he left us seem to be the view from that armchair.
"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." (Matisse)
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sisley, Alfred


Main Street in Argenteuil
1872
oil on canvas
65 x 46 cm
Castle Museum, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, Norwich, England

"Though the artist must remain master of his craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist." (Sisley)

Alfred Sisley (1839 - 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life, in France, but retained British citizenship. He is one of the creators of Impressionism. He was exclusively a landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors) painter, who, in the line of Corot, and with Monet, best sought and succeeded in expressing the most subtle nuances of nature in Impressionist landscapes. He retained a passionate interest in the sky, which nearly always dominates his paintings, and also in the effects of snow, the two interests often combining to create a strangely dramatic effect. He never deviated into figure painting and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, never found that Impressionism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

Sisley did not promote himself in the way that some of his fellow Impressionists did, and it was only towards the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer of the throat, that he received something approaching the recognition he deserved. His death at the very end of the nineteenth assumes a symbolic resonance. It signals the dissolution of the kind of Impressionism to which he had devoted his working life.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Ensor, James


Tribulations of Saint Anthony
1887
oil on canvas
117.8 x 167.6 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

One of Ensor's earliest fantastical paintings, this work recreates the familiar story of Saint Anthony battling a world of temptations (embodied by the woman at the far left). Ensor described his version of the narrative as one in which "the bizarre prevails" as Hell expels menacing sea creatures and grotesque monsters haphazardly joined together within a colorful, loosely rendered landscape.

Inspired by earlier renditions of the story by Flemish artists Hieronymus Bosch (1453?1516) and Pieter Brueghel (1525?1569), Ensor brought a fresh interpretation to a familiar subject by combining invented figures with wild brushstrokes and audacious color choices. On the basis of this painting, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, described Ensor as possibly "the boldest living painter" in 1887. (MoMA)

James Sidney Edouard, Baron Ensor (1860 - 1949) was a Flemish-Belgian painter, an important influence on expressionism and surrealism who lived in Ostend, Belgian coast city, for almost his entire life. He is considered to be an innovator in 19th century art. Although he stood apart from other artists of his time, he significantly influenced such 20th century artists as Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Alfred Kubin, and other expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century.

No single label adequately describes the visionary work produced by Ensor between 1880 and 1900, his most productive period. His pictures from that time have both Symbolist and Realist aspects, and in spite of his dismissal of the Impressionists as ‘superficial daubers’ he was profoundly concerned with the effects of light. His imagery and technical procedures anticipated the coloristic brilliance and violent impact of Fauvism and German Expressionism and the psychological fantasies of Surrealism.
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kokoschka, Oskar


Double Portrait of Trudi
1931
oil on canvas
39 x 28 in.
location unknown

Oskar Kokoschka (1886 - 1980) was an Austrian painter, illustrator, poet, and playwright, who is credited with founding Expressionist drama, best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes. He is the third in the great trio of Viennese artists (Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele), and the one whose reputation is currently hardest to assess. On the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered to join the cavalry. While on patrol, he was machine-gunned and bayoneted but was eventually rescued. As an artist Kokoschka started to gain international fame in the 1920. In the Nazi Germany his works were banned by the authorities, and mocked as examples of degenerate art. Kokoschka's last years were somewhat embittered, as he found himself marginalized as a curious footnote to art history.

Kokoschka had a passionate, often stormy affair with Alma Mahler (widow of composer Gustav Mahler). After several years together, Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. He continued his unrequited love for Alma Mahler his entire life.
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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


Ravine
1889
oil on canvas
73 x 91.7 cm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA

In June 1889, shortly after his arrival at an asylum in the southern French town of Saint-Remy, van Gogh painted a riotous study of a flowering hillside. He sent a pen-and-ink copy of the painting to his brother in early July. Months later, in October, the artist found himself without fresh canvas on which to paint and decided to sacrifice the study of wild vegetation to paint this view of the mountainous ravine near the asylum. Recent collaborative research by conservators and curators has revealed the presence of the lost painting beneath the Boston canvas. (MFA Boston)

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)

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".
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Redon, Odilon


Meditation
year unknown
pastel on paper
46.5 x 55.5 cm
Private Collection

"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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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stella, Frank


Hiraqla 1
1968
Acrylic polymer and fluorescent polymer on canvas
10 x 20 feet
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Frank Stella treated his paintings like constructed objects rather than pictures. In Hiraqla, he replaced the traditional rectangular format with a distinctive outer profile. This further extends the idea of the surface as an object in its own right rather than as a field for illusions. There is no figure-ground relationship, for all is figure. Interwoven bands of both muted and Day-Glo acrylic colors pull together in a tight spatial weave.

Frank Stella (1936 - ) is an American painter and printmaker, noted for his work in the areas of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. He was born the oldest of three children to first-generation Italian-American parents in Massachusetts. In his sophomore year of high school, he began learning to paint. He went on to Princeton University and continued taking art courses while earning a degree in history. His Princeton professors introduced Stella to the New York art world by bringing him to exhibitions in the city, thereby shaping his earliest artistic aesthetic.

Stella is one of the greatest living artists whose impact is felt in the work of many contemporary American artists and styles. His color variations, exploration of circular motifs, and shaped canvases influenced artists like Kenneth Noland and served as a catalyst for such developments as Color Field painting and Post-Painterly Abstraction. His intellectual conception of painting brought him close to the realm of sculpture. In the 1990s, Stella began making freestanding sculpture for public spaces and developing architectural projects.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gottlieb, Adolph


Alkahest of Paracelsus
1945
152.4 x 111.76 cm (60 x 44 in.)
oil and egg tempera on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

… Well, I’ll tell you how the idea of compartmentalization occurred to me.
I was looking for some sort of a systematic way of getting down these subjective images and I had always admired, particularly admired, the early Italian painters who preceded the Renaissance and I very much liked some of the altar pieces in which there would be, for example, the story of Christ told in a series of boxes, starting with the Nativity and ending with the Resurrection. This would be told chronologically, like a comic strip technique. And it seemed to me this was a very rational method of conveying something. So I decided to try it.
But I was not interested in telling, in giving something its chronological sequence. What I wanted to do was to give something, to present what material I was interested in, simultaneously so that you would get an instantaneous impact from it. So I made boxes but then I put the images in with no sequence and no rational order. In other words, there was no chronology and you were supposed to see the thing instantaneously. Then, since there was no chronology, there was no rational order. The images appeared apparently at random; they then established themselves in a new system. So that was why all those years I was able to use very similar images but, by having different juxtapositions, there will always be a different significance to them.
Curiously, I’ve told this to people but it doesn’t seem to register, but what really puzzled me is that nobody ever accused me of being influenced by Mondrian. They accused me of being influenced by psychiatry, primitive art, by Torres Garcia, all sorts of things, but nobody ever mentions Mondrian. No one ever thinks of early Italian painters. (Adolph Gottlieb in an interview in 1967)

Adolph Gottlieb (1903 - 1974) was an American abstract expressionist painter, sculptor and graphic artist. He was born in New York to Jewish parents. He attended public schools in New York however left high school to work his way to Europe at the age of 17, when he resolved to be an artist. He lived in Paris for six months, then spent another year visiting museums and galleries in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Dresden, among other major European cities. He returned to New York in 1924. He attended classes at The Art Students League, Educational Alliance, and other local schools where he met early friends including Mark Rothko. He valued the artist’s role as a leader and creator, and he served as both with his art and his organizing abilities. He was a founding member of artist’s groups as early as The Ten in 1935, and helped organize the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors in 1939 and New York Artist-Painters in 1943.

Gottlieb was the first of his colleagues to be collected by a major museum when the Guggenheim Museum purchased eleven works in 1945 and the Museum of Modern Art purchased a painting in 1946. He left a legacy of art, active involvement in the art and progressive movements of his time, and a foundation that extends his legacy of giving to individual artists and promoting their interests.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sully, Thomas


Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely
1818
oil on canvas
214.5 × 142.5 cm (84.4 × 56.1 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely (1803 - 1867) was an American heiress, traveler, arbiter of fashion, and mistress of Hampton. This painting has something of an iconic status and been credited as an inspiration for the widespread American popularity of the harp in the 19th century. Fifteen-year-old Eliza Ridgely of a wealthy Baltimore merchant dreamily plucks the strings of an imported pedal harp. Her empire satin gown is accented by a regally draped shawl. In reality, however, it is doubtful whether Eliza actually had fingers so slender, arms so lengthy, or torso and thighs so svelte. Sully later admitted, "From long experience I know that resemblance in a portrait is essential; but no fault will be found with the artist, if he improve the appearance."

Thomas Sully (1783 -1872) was an English-born, American painter, mostly of portraits. Born to an English family of actors, Sully was nine years old when his parents brought their theatrical company to the United States.  Sully's paintings reveal his upbringing in the dramatic arts. He achieved fame and fortune as a portrait painter to the highest echelons of America society. Part of his success was due to his ability to flatter the sitter, for he seemed to have no qualms about 'improving' the appearance of what he was painting.

Sully's portraits of John Quincy Adams, who became President within the year, and then the Marquis de Lafayette appear to have brought him to the forefront of his day. Many famous Americans of the day had their portraits painted by him. His own index indicates that he produced 2631 paintings from 1801, most of which are currently in the United States. Though best known as a portrait painter, Sully also made historical pieces and landscapes.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Homer, Winslow


Boys in a Pasture
1874
oil on canvas
40.3 × 58.1 cm (15.9 × 22.9 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

The 44-cent postal service stamp, first day of issue: August 12, 2010, features Boys in a Pasture by Winslow Homer. It is the 9th in the American Treasures Stamp series released by the US Postal Service. According to the Museum of Fine Arts, “the boys in this painting - companionable, idle, at peace - may be seen as emblems of America's nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time as well as of its hope for the future. Their faces are averted, a device Homer often used to make his figures less individual and, therefore, more universal.”

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

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

Born in Boston, from a parent from long lines of New Englanders, he spent his adolescence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, surviving the absence of a father who rushed out to California to pan for gold. At nineteen he learned how to draw on the job at a lithography shop by illustrating or copying of photographs for sheet music covers of popular songs. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterized by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolor, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.

Homer's mother was a gifted amateur watercolorist and his first teacher, and she and her son had a close relationship throughout their lives. Homer took on many of her traits, including her quiet, strong-willed, terse, sociable nature; her dry sense of humor; and her artistic talent. He was an average student, but his art talent was evident in his early years.
His father was a volatile, restless businessman who was always looking to "make a killing". When he was thirteen, his father gave up the hardware store business to seek a fortune in the California gold rush. When that failed, his father left his family and went to Europe to raise capital for other get-rich-quick schemes that didn't materialize.

Homer's career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines, at a time when the market for illustrations was growing rapidly, and when fads and fashions were changing quickly. His early works, mostly commercial engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings - qualities that remained important throughout his career. His quick success was mostly due to this strong understanding of graphic design and also to the adaptability of his designs to wood engraving.
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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hopper, Edward


Drug Store
1927
oil on canvas
73.7 x 101.9 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Many of Hopper's paintings serenely depict mundane aspects of American city life. Drug Store depicts nocturnal solitude in the city. Eerily illuminated by electric light, the drug store window is a bright spot in a picture otherwise made up of shadowy doorways and blank facades. There is speculation that Silbers’ Pharmacy may have existed near Hopper’s Washington Square studio in New York City. However, the exact location, or if this pharmacy ever existed, is unknown.
The scene is set at night. No one is depicted walking the streets, so we can infer it is the late night, early morning hour. There is light coming only from the drug store. There is a sign hanging across the window: “PRESCRIPTIONS DRUGS EX-LAX.”  There is insight into the presence of Ex-Lax, a common over-the-counter laxative, in the painting. Sigmund Freud’s works on psychosexual development were produced in the mid-1920′s, leading to the belief that Ex-Lax pins reference to the anal stage of Freud’s theory. The timeline lends one to consider the link with Freud.

"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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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Schiele, Egon


Portrait of Edith Schiele, the artist's wife, sitting
1918
oil on canvas
140 x 110 cm
Upper Belvedere Palace & Museum, Vienna, Austria

"All beautiful and noble qualities have been united in me ... I shall be the fruit which will leave eternal vitality behind even after its decay. How great must be your joy, therefore, to have given birth to me." (Egon Schiele)

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Austrian painter and his work is noted for its intensity, was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. He was strongly influenced by the Jugendstil movement, the German Art Nouveau. He was regarded by many of his contemporaries as the predestined successor to Gustav Klimt, but died before he could fulfill his promise. The linearity and subtlety of Schiele’s work owe much to Klimt’s decorative elegance. Schiele, however, emphasized expression over decoration, heightening the emotive power of line with a feverish tension. The twisted body shapes and the expressive line that characterize his paintings and drawings mark the artist as an early exponent of Expressionism.

On 19 October 1918 Edith, his pregnant wife, fell ill with Spanish influenza, then sweeping Europe. On 28 October she died. Schiele, who seems never to have written her a real love-letter, and who in the midst of her illness wrote his mother a very cool letter to say that she would probably not survive, was devastated by the loss. Almost immediately he came down with the same sickness, and died on 31 October, three days after his wife.

When Egon Schiele died in 1918 at the age of only 28 years old, he was seen as being one of the most important artists of his time. During the turmoil of the following decades he was more and more buried in oblivion until he completely disappeared into thin air after being judged as "degenerate art" by Hitler's Nazi regime.
When Rudolf Leopold, a young eye doctor, saw works by Egon Schiele at the beginning of the 1950s he immediately recognized their quality, emotionality and technical bravura could absolutely be compared to the Old Masters. The life of Leopold changed radically. He entirely devoted himself to collecting and trading art. Many Schiele paintings and drawings were on sold on the free market at the time and even quite affordable even though they were not that cheap: a large-sized oil painting pretty much had the same price as a new car.  Leopold made significant contributions to the international esteem in which he is held today. With 44 oil paintings and around 180 graphic works, the Leopold Museum is the largest and most prominent collection with works of Egon Schiele worldwide.
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Cezanne, Paul


The Bay of Marseilles, Seen from L'Estaque
1886
oil on canvas
80.2 x 100.6 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

In scale and resolution, this is the culminating work of a series of landscapes that Cezanne painted at L'Estaque. L'Estaque is a Mediterranean small French fishing village a few miles west of Marseille. Many artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods visited or resided there or in the surrounding area. Many of them painted village scenes, the road leading to the village, and the view of the Bay from the village. During the early 1880s, Cezanne came to cherish L'Estaque as a retreat from the complexities of family life. It inspired some of his grandest landscapes, which are remarkable for the sense of deliberation and structure in every brushstroke and the finely balanced palette of blues and ochers. Cezanne painted many views of the water from his room in L'Estaque, showing the changing seasons, the shifting light of day, and the changes in the village itself over time.

"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. In his early career, he was strongly influenced by Delacroix and Courbet, using thick slabs of paint to give his early works a sculptural presence and intensity. He exhibited with the Impressionists, but eventually rejected what he considered the Impressionists' lack of structure, declaring his intention to make Impressionism into "something solid and durable, like the art of museums" in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects.
The paintings convey his intense study of his subjects. His often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. Misunderstood and discredited by the public during most of his life, his art grew out of Impressionism and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of the painting itself.

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

Finally, living as a solitary in Aix rather than alternating between the south and Paris, he concentrated on a few basic subjects, still lifes of studio objects, studies of bathers, and successive views of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. The landscapes of the final years have a more transparent and unfinished look. By the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1906, his art had begun to be shown and seen across Europe, and it became a fundamental influence on the Fauves, the Cubists, and virtually all advanced art of the early 20th century.
He exhibited little in his lifetime and pursued his interests increasingly in artistic isolation. He did not gain commercial success until he was in his 50s.
He has been called the father of modern painting.
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso).
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Monet, Claude


Le bassin aux nympheas (Water Lily Pond)
1899
oil on canvas
89 x 93 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

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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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Utamaro, Kitagawa


Young Woman Blowing a Glass Pipe
about 1792-1793
ukiyo-e (woodblock print)
private collection

Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1753 - 1806) was a Japanese printmaker and painter, who is considered one of the greatest artists of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e, “pictures of the floating world”). His name was romanized as Outamaro. He is known especially for his masterfully composed studies of women, known as bijinga. He also occupied himself with nature studies and published many very famous illustrated books, particularly books of insects. Biographical details for Utamaro are extremely limited, and each reference one consults on him gives an substantially different account.

Probably born in a provincial town, he went to Edo (now Tokyo) with his mother. There, he started painting and designing rather unoriginal wood-block prints of women. His first major professional artistic work, at the age of 22, in 1775, seems to have been the cover for a Kabuki playbook. He then produced a number of actor and warrior prints, along with theater programs, and other such material. From the spring of 1781, he started painting and designing fairly forgettable woodblock prints of women.

His work reached Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, where it was very popular, enjoying particular acclaim in France. He influenced the European Impressionists, particularly with his use of partial views and his emphasis on light and shade. The reference to the "Japanese influence" among these artists often refers to the work of Utamaro. He died on the 20th day of the 9th month, 1806, aged about fifty-three, in Edo.

Utamaro produced over two thousand prints during his working career, along with a number of paintings, many illustrated books, etc. He alone, of his contemporary ukiyo-e artists, achieved a national reputation during his lifetime. His sensuous female beauties are generally considered the finest and most evocative bijin-ga in all of ukiyo-e. He succeeded in capturing subtle aspects of personality, and transient moods, of women of all classes, ages, and circumstances. His reputation has remained undiminished since; his work is known worldwide, and he is generally regarded as one of the half-dozen greatest ukiyo-e artists of all time.
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Modigliani, Amedeo


Jeanne Hebuterne
1918
oil on canvas
55 x 38 cm
Private Collection

Jeanne Hebuterne (1898 - 1920) was a French artist, best known as the frequent subject and common-law wife of Modigliani. She was born in Paris to a  bourgeois Roman Catholic family. Her father worked at Le Bon Marche department store. A beautiful girl, she was introduced to the artistic community in Montparnasse by her brother who wanted to become a painter. She met several of the then-starving artists and modeled for Tsuguharu Foujita. However, wanting to pursue a career in the arts, and with a talent for drawing, she chose to study at the Academie Colarossi. It was there in the spring of 1917 that she was introduced to Modigliani. Jeanne soon began an affair with the charismatic artist, and the two fell deeply in love. She soon moved in with him, despite strong objection from her deeply Catholic parents. Her family disapproved of the much older Modigliani because of his bohemian lifestyle and Jewishness.

Gentle, shy, quiet, and delicate, Jeanne Hebuterne became a principal subject for Modigliani's art. Her distinctive appearance and mysterious expression inspired Modigliani to paint her numerous times. In the fall of 1918, the couple moved to the warmer climate of Nice on the French Riviera where Modigliani's agent hoped he might raise his profile by selling some of his works to the wealthy art connoisseurs who wintered there. While they were in Nice, their daughter was born. The following spring, they returned to Paris and Jeanne became pregnant again. By this time, impoverished and physically unwell, Modigliani became volatile after consuming copious quantities of drugs and alcohol. He was suffering from tuberculous meningitis and his health was deteriorating badly.

On 24 January 1920 Modigliani died. Jeanne Hebuterne's family brought her to their home but Jeanne, totally distraught, threw herself out of the fifth-floor apartment window the day after Modigliani's death, killing herself and her unborn child. Her family, who blamed her demise on Modigliani, interred her in the Cimetiere de Bagneux. Nearly ten years later, the Hebuterne family finally relented and allowed her remains to be transferred to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to rest beside Modigliani. Her epitaph reads: "Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice." Their orphaned daughter, Jeanne Modigliani (1918-84), was adopted by her father's sister in Florence, Italy. She grew up knowing virtually nothing of her parents and as an adult began researching their lives. In 1958, she wrote a biography of her father that was published in the English language in the United States as Modigliani: Man and Myth. (excerpt mainly from Wilipedia)

With her long, curved neck, her elongated, oval face, almond-shaped eyes and small, pursed lips, this portrait represents the Modigliani’s mature style. His late works are suffused with melancholy and it has often been remarked that their tranquillity contrasts with the chaos of his personal life.

 “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. The day after his death, she jumped out of a fifth storey window and killed herself and her unborn child. They were finally 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.
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard

Monday, June 3, 2013

Utrillo, Maurice


La Maison Bernot (The Bernot house)
1924
oil
sizen unknown
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

Maurice Utrillo (1883 - 1955) was a French painter who specialized in cityscapes.
Born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, as the illegitimate son of a painter, he learned the skills from his mother, who wanted to keep him away from his addiction to alcohol. He soon showed real artistic talent. With no training beyond what his mother taught him, he drew and painted what he saw in Montmartre.
After 1910 his work attracted critical attention, and by 1920 he was internationally acclaimed.
In 1928, the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion d'honneur.

In middle age he became fervently religious and in 1935, at the age of fifty-two, he married Lucie Valore and moved to just outside of Paris. By that time, he was too ill to work in the open air and painted landscapes viewed from windows, from post cards, and from memory. Throughout his life, he was plagued by alcoholism and his mental disorder resulted in his being interned in mental asylums repeatedly.

His paintings up until 1907 are dominated by the colors yellow, turquoise, wine red and zinc white. From 1909 to 1914 he confines his palette to white and shades of gray. In order to attain a greater realistic effect with his paintings, he mixed sand and gypsum into the paint. This so-called "Periode blanche" (White Period) marks the highlight of Utrillo's creation.
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


The Agony in the Garden Gethsemane (Christ in the Garden of Olives)
1889
oil on canvas
73 x 92 cm
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

“The Agony in the Garden Gethsemane: Self-Portrait as Christ” is a painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, awaiting the imminent betrayal of his identity by Judas to the Roman soldiers. This painting is of elevated importance since it is actually the first painted image of Paul Gauguin as Christ. The painting includes a group of people who are either approaching Gauguin or receding from him. This group could either be Christ's desciples leaving him alone or the Roman garisson summoned by Judas.

Interpreting the group as the disciples abandoning Christ, it is suggested that Gauguin painted himself “not unflatteringly” as Christ in order to sustain the image of his recently acquired role as the “Messiah of painting” who carries the burden of the salvation of art. A critic interprets this painting as a symbol of the Gauguin’s desertion by his friends. In late 1889 when this painting was completed Theo Van Gogh and Edgar Degas had been claiming to dislike the artist’s latest works, a stance which deeply hurt 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.
"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction. " (Gauguin)
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard