Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sloan, John French

Sun And Wind On The Roof
oil on canvas
60.96 x 50.8 cm
Maier Museum of Art, United States

John French Sloan (1871 - 1951), the son of a traveling salesman, was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Philadelphia and after he finished high school he worked for a booksellers. He studied briefly at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before finding work as an artist with the Philadelphia Inquirer. This was followed by work at the Philadelphia Press, where he produced full-page color pictures based on news stories. In 1902 he moved to New York where he worked as a magazine illustrator. In 1910 he joined the Socialist Party and the following year became art editor of the radical journal, The Masses.

Sloan was one of the founders of the Ashcan school of American art. He was also a member of the group known as The Eight. He is best known for his urban genre scenes and ability to capture the essence of neighborhood life in New York City, often observed through his Chelsea studio window. He has been called "the premier artist of the Ashcan School who painted the inexhaustible energy and life of New York City during the first decades of the twentieth century" and an "early twentieth-century realist painter who embraced the principles of Socialism and placed his artistic talents at the service of those beliefs."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Levin, Steven J.

Russian Girl
oil on canvas
33 x 38.1 cm
private collection

Steven J. Levin (1964 - ) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Levin's interest in art began early, when as a young boy, he would spend hours drawing alongside his father, a commercial artist. Recognizing his talent and interest, his father gave Levin many impromptu drawing lessons and tips, as well as instructional books to aid in his artistic development.

After high school, with his mind fixed upon becoming an artist, he enrolled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Having been keenly interested in the great American illustrators as a teenager, he was hoping to find a program that could develop his ability to draw and paint from life convincingly. He quickly realized that the courses offered were either insufficient, or more often completely useless to prepare him for a career as a realist artist. Agreeing with this assessment, his father helped him search out another option for his art training. The following year he enrolled at the newly opened Atelier LeSueur in Excelsior, Minnesota.

The Atelier LeSueur was among several ateliers that were the artistic and scholastic offspring of what was known as the Boston School. This Boston School had originally comprised a group of highly influential artists and painters working in and around Boston in the late 19th and early 20th century. At the Atelier LeSueur, Levin was quickly immersed in a world that was rich in tradition, solid instruction, and which held to the idea that beauty and craft were the underpinnings of great art. The training consisted entirely of studio work under the direction of professional painters. Levin thrived in this new atmosphere and studied there for five years, following which he joined the teaching staff and remained on as an instructor for another seven years. He completed his studies with an extended stay in England to copy works in London’s National Gallery, another time-honored tradition for the classically trained painter. Though trained in the Boston School tradition, Levin has undertaken a somewhat different direction and brought a unique point of view to his work. He cites the works of Jan Vermeer and Edward Hopper as among two of his strongest influences.

Levin has exhibited widely and been featured in prestigious group shows in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, etc..  He has been featured on the cover of American Artist Magazine and has also been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes in national competitions. He lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pissarro, Camille

The Boulevard Montmartre at Night
oil on canvas
53.3 x 64.8 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Towards the end of his life Pissarro increasingly turned to the representation of town scenes in Paris, Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre and London, mainly painted from the windows of hotels and apartments. In February 1897 he took a room in Paris at the Hotel de Russie on the corner of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Drouot, and produced a series of paintings of the Boulevard Montmartre at different times of the day. This painting is the only night scene from this series, and is a masterful rendition of the play of lights on dark and wet streets. Pissarro neither signed nor exhibited it during his lifetime. (National Gallery)

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

Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903) was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His father was of French-Jewish origin, his mother was a Creole. Pissarro saw a subject and its light source as inseparable. He fought daunting criticism for most of his life, while trying to achieve validation for his revolutionary style. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings. He mentored Paul Cezanne and Paul Gaugin when they were aspiring artists, and vastly contributed to Impressionist theory.

His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. As a stylistic forerunner of Impressionism, he is today considered a father figure not only to the Impressionists but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. His influence on his fellow Impressionists is probably still underestimated; not only did he offer substantial contributions to Impressionist theory, but he also managed to remain on friendly, mutually respectful terms with such difficult personalities as Edgar Degas, Cezanne and Gauguin.

Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted. He died in Paris on 13 November 1903. During his lifetime, he sold few of his oil paintings.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sargent, John Singer

An Out-of-Doors Study
oil on canvas
65.9 x 80.7 cm
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY, USA

From the late 1880s, Sargent experimented with portrait compositions whose informality and naturalness stood in sharp contrast to his commissioned studio portraits of elegant and decorously posed society types. Inspired in part by the Impressionist works of his friend Claude Monet, this painting was the product of one of his extended visits to the Broadway artists' colony in the Cotswolds, England, where he experimented with plein-air (out-of-doors) work and a freer, Impressionist-inspired technique. Although he employed loose, lively brushwork throughout the image, Sargent carefully orchestrated the picture, employing a firm compositional structure of converging diagonal lines: the canoe, pole, canvas edge, and figural forms. Having begun the painting out-of-doors, he undoubtedly finished it in his studio, where he probably referred to a photograph of the couple similarly posed. Liberated from pictorial conventions, Sargent here featured the compositional asymmetry, natural light, and casual inattention of his “sitters” that would characterize his portraits in watercolor after 1900.

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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tissot, James

En plein soleil James Tissot
oil on wood
24.8 x 35.2 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY, USA

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 - 1902) was born in Nantes in a seaport on the French coast. Tissot was the son of a very prosperous, successful shopkeeper, who was a devout Roman Catholic. He spent much of his career in Britain. His pictures are distinguished most obviously by his love of painting women's costumes. He also had a gift for wittily observing nuances of social behavior.
Early in his career he painted historical costume pieces, but in about 1864 he turned with great success to scenes of contemporary life, usually involving fashionable women. Following his alleged involvement in the turbulent events of the Paris Commune in 1871 he took refuge in London, where he lived from 1871 to 1882. He was just as successful there as he had been in Paris.

Throughout his life Tissot retained an affinity and fascination with all things nautical, and his marked ability to accurately paint rigging and shipboard scene paintings must have come from his boyhood. For many years after his death Tissot was considered a grossly vulgar artist, bug there has been a recent upsurge of interest in him.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tait, Arthur Fitzwilliam

The Reprimand (a rural girl "warning" a deer)
oil on canvas
91 x 127.5 cm
Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY, USA

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819 - 1905) was a British born American artist who was one of the nineteenth century’s most popular painters. He is known mostly for his paintings of wildlife. He was able to instill in his genre paintings a strong sense of drama and conflict. Although he never traveled further West than Chicago, he acquired a reputation as a frontier artist, painting scenes of hunters and wildlife, mainly from his experiences in upstate New York.

Tait was born in Liverpool, England. At eight years old, because his father went bankrupt he was sent to live with relatives in Lancaster. It is during that time that he became attached to animals. By his mid-teens, he was working at Agents, an art dealer in Manchester.  In his spare time, he taught himself how to paint by copying works at the Royal Institute.

During the late 1840s he became aware of the Americas while attending an exhibition in Paris. He immigrated to the United States in 1850, where he established a small painting camp in the Adirondack Mountains, becoming a proficient marksman and woodsman, to paint during summer. He focused much of his art on capturing the drama of a man against nature.  His style, which combined misty, atmospheric landscape settings with detailed renderings of human figures, reminds one of that of George Caleb Bingham. The period 1850 to 1860 was a prolific time for him.  His paintings were accepted by Easterners as definitive views of life on the frontier. In 1858 he was elected to full membership of the Academy.

He was identified with the art life of New York until his death at Yonkers, New York. He painted barnyard fowl and wild birds as well as sheep and deer, with great dexterity, and reproductions of his minute panels of chickens had an enormous vogue. His style did not change from 1860 until death in 1905;  he continued to work in the style which he had found successful.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Derain, Andre

London Bridge, winter
oil on canvas
66 x 99.1 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

In 1905, French painter Andre Derain was commissioned by his art dealer Ambroise Vollard to paint views of London. Derain set up his easel outdoors and went to work. The subject of this landscape, London Bridge, was one of several bridges built across the River Thames as part of a larger movement at the turn of the 19th century to modernize the city center with grand new architectural projects and public works. London Bridge is one of about 30 paintings Derain produced over his two-month stay, all depicting activity on or around the Thames.
It’s not surprising that Derain’s art dealer was interested in views of London. Nineteenth-century London saw a huge growth in population (from 1 million in 1800 to over 6 million a century later) as mechanical industry, especially the building of railways, took hold. Derain saw the changes and created a portrait of London that was radically different from anything done by previous painters of the city. Derain later recalled: “Fauvism was our ordeal by fire. . . It was the era of photography. This may have influenced us and played a part in our reaction against anything resembling a snapshot of life. No matter how far we moved away from things, it was never far enough. Colors became charges of dynamite.” (MoMA)

"I do not innovate. I transmit." "The substance of painting is light." (Derain)

Andre Derain (1880 - 1954) was a French painter, sculptor and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse. Together with Henri Matisse, Derain was one of the major exponents of Fauvism from 1905 to 1908. Like the other artists who worked in this style, he painted landscapes and figure studies in brilliant, sometimes pure colors and used broken brushstrokes and impulsive lines to define his spontaneous compositions.
Derain broke with Fauvism in early 1908. He destroyed most of his work to concentrate on tightly constructed landscape paintings, which were a subtle investigation of the work of Cezanne. After World War I his work became more classical, influenced by the work of such artists as Camille Corot. His art underwent virtually no change after the 1920s, though his more conservative style brought him financial success. In 1954 Derain was knocked down by a truck and was taken to hospital. At first it was thought he was not seriously injured, but the shock was too much for a man in his seventies. He failed to recover.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Laurencin, Marie

Les Biches
oil on canvas
size unknown
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France

Les biches is Nijinska's ballet, performed by Serge Diaghilev's Russian Ballets in 1924. The word biche usually translated as hind, or a female deer. The set and costumes were designed by Marie Laurencin. In the center of the canvas, a woman stretches her legs in the manner of deer. The face of the woman is reduced to two oblong eyes closed like those of animals.

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sisley, Alfred

Vent et Soleil
oil on canvas
55.8 x 38.5 cm
Galerie d'Art Moderne, Milan, Italy

"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.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monet, Claude

Water Lilies
oil on canvas
89.9 x 94.1 cm
Art Institue of Chicago, IL, USA

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

"One instant, one aspect of nature contains it all,” said Monet, referring to the water landscapes that he produced at his home in Giverny between 1897 and his death in 1926. The focal point of these paintings was his beloved flower garden, which featured a water garden and a smaller pond spanned by a Japanese footbridge. In his first water-lily series (1897 - 99), he painted the pond environment, with its water lilies, bridge, and trees neatly divided by a fixed horizon. Over time, he became less and less concerned with conventional pictorial space. In this spatially ambiguous canvas, he looked down, focusing solely on the surface of the pond, with its cluster of plants floating amidst the reflection of sky and trees. Four years later, he further transcended the conventional boundaries of easel painting and began to make immense, unified compositions whose complex and densely painted surfaces seem to merge with the water.

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

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

Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right - not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination, like Hokusai's Ukiyo-e. At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese.

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.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Levitan, Isaac

Water Lilies
oil on canvas
95 x 128 cm
The Kustodiev Picture Gallery, Astrakhan, Russia

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Anker, Albert Samuel

Old age
oil on canvas
82 x 63 cm
Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland

"One has to shape an ideal in one's imagination, and then one has to make that ideal accessible to the people." (Anker)

Albert Samuel Anker (1831 - 1910) was a Swiss painter who has been called the "national painter" of Switzerland because of his enduringly popular depictions of 19th-century Swiss ordinary village life. His meticulous paintings of Swiss rural life endeared him to the public and during his heydays, he was considered as the most popular artist.

Anker's works captured the daily and social life of the rustics in the picturesque villages of Switzerland. His paintings depict his fellow citizens in an unpretentious and plain manner, without idealizing country life, but also without the critical examination of social conditions. He portrayed the social life of villagers as plain and unpretentious. Anker depicted men and women without any judgment or idealizing their social condition. Though he had a Christian world-view, he did not, in any way, impose his ideology on his paintings.

Anker was quick to reach his artistic objectives and never strayed from his chosen path. His works, though, exude a sense of conciliation and understanding as well as a calm trust in Swiss democracy; they are executed with great skill, providing brilliance to everyday scenes through subtle choices in coloring and lighting.

Anker had six children, two of whom died very early in life. he depicted his surviving children in some of his paintings. Anker died in 1910 at the age of 79 at his house in Anet, Switzerland. His studio in Ins has been preserved as a museum by the Albert Anker Foundation. Many Swiss postage stamps and other media have incorporated Anker's work.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Klimt, Gustav

Schubert at the piano
oil on canvas
150 x 200 cm

A Greek industrialist, a patron of the arts and a music lover, particularly of the music of Franz Schubert, commissioned Klimt to paint "Schubert at the Piano" for decoration above the door in his music room. A poet, essayist and critic once wrote: “In my opinion Klimt’s Schubert is the finest painting ever done by an Austrian." But, we can't see "Schubert at the Piano" in any museum. This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 spectacular Klimt paintings, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set on fire. 

"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, the second of seven children. His father was a gold engraver and his mother had unrealized ambition to be a musical performer. He was educated at the Vienna Kunstgewerbe Art School. He lived in poverty for most of his childhood, as work was scarce and the economy difficult for immigrants.

Klimt's major works include paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. His 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, his art achieved both individuality and extreme elegance. Throughout his life, although he was a controversial painter due to his subject matter, he was made an honorary member of the Universities of Vienna and of Munich. He was also a founding member and president of the Vienna Secession, which sought to create a platform for new and unconventional artists, bring new artists to Vienna, and created a magazine to showcase its member’ work.

Klimt lived a simple, cloistered life, in which he avoided other artists and cafe society. He often wore a long robe, sandals, and no undergarments. He also had many discreet affairs with women, and fathered at least 14 children. This may be an indication of his passion for women, their form and sexuality, which was the main focus of many of his works. The majority of his paintings were characterized by golden or colored swirling designs, spirals, and phallic shapes, depicting dominant women in erotic positions.

Klimt died of pneumonia in the influenza epidemic of 1918 and was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery, Vienna. He continued painting until the very end and many of his final works remained unfinished, leaving behind a posthumous legacy that few artists can rival. Laying the groundwork for Art Deco and Modernism, his creative influence can still be seen in today’s art, decorations and jewelry. Klimt's paintings have brought in the highest amounts ever paid at auction.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Redon, Odilon

c. 1910
oil on canvas
73.9 x 54.9 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

"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)

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

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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Picasso, Pablo

Mother and child
oil on canvas
112.4 x 97.5 cm
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, MA, USA

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

"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.

"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)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Schiele, Egon

The Lovers, Self-Portrait with Wally
gouache and pencil on paper
47.4 × 30.5 cm
private collection

Wally was born in 1894 in the south of Vienna. She was the daughter of a day laborer and a Bohemian schoolteacher who died young - an event which forced the family to move to the capitol, where Wally’s fateful initial encounter with Schiele took place around 1911. Over the next few years, Wally was to become the lover, muse and model of the artist, who was four years her senior, and she was also to care for him with no small affection. When Schiele was taken into investigative custody in April 1912, she brought him painting supplies and an orange which, as Schiele noted in his diary, represented his “sole light” during these dark days.The main charge which he faced - abduction of a minor - proved groundless, but the court even so proceeded to convict him of the “distribution of indecent drawings.” Schiele was to spend a total of 24 days in prison, during which he painted several sketches - including of the oranges.

In the 1912 portrait, Wally seems surrounded by an aura of melancholy or sadness; it is as if she already foresaw the end of her relationship with Schiele.
In June 1915 Schiele married Edith Harms, the daughter of a master locksmith who lived nearby, and Harms quite understandably demanded that Schiele end his relationship with Wally. It is said that in their final conversation, held at a Viennese coffeehouse, Schiele suggested to Wally that they take a vacation together at least once a year. This was inacceptable to both women. Wally thereafter attempted a fresh start at life, beginning training as a nurse. She then left Vienna in 1917 to work in Dalmatia, where she died of scarlet fever on 25 December of the same year. After their separation, Schiele never saw her again.

"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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Segantini, Giovanni

Goddess of Love
oil on canvas
210 x 144 cm
Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan, Italy

"I've got God inside me. I don't need to go to church." (Segantini)
Giovanni Segantini (1858 - 1899), born in Arco in the province of Trient, was an Italian painter known for his large pastoral landscapes of the Alps.
He was one of the most famous artists in Europe in the late 19th century, and his paintings were collected by major museums. He was active in Switzerland for most of his life.

Raised by peasants in the Italian Alps as a herdsman, Segantini spent long hours of solitude in drawing. His work was noticed by the local authorities, who sent him to art school in Milan.
After spending a few years in Milan painting genre subjects, he moved to the Lake Como district with his young wife. The rest of his life was spent in virtual isolation as he moved higher and higher into the Alps. With its pure and clear air of the Alps, he was able to develop a style which exuded radiance and at the same time went hand in hand with the evolution of the Divisionism painting technique and his progression towards Symbolism.

Already during his lifetime, he was celebrated through much of Europe as an innovator and prophet, as well as an important symbolist painter. His work represents the quintessential transition from traditional nineteenth century art to the changing styles and interests of the twentieth century.
Over the course of his life he moved from both the physical and emotional internal, such as his scene of motherhood in a stable, to the grand external views of the mountain scenery where he chose to live. Nature and the connections of people to nature are the core themes of his art. After he moved to the mountains he wrote "I am now working passionately in order to wrest the secret of Nature's spirit from her. Nature utters the eternal word to the artist: love, love; and the earth sings life in spring, and the soul of things reawakens."
He himself referred to his work as "naturalist Symbolism."
Segantini died of peritonitis in 1899, at the early age of 41, while working on his painting.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hopper, Edward

oil on canvas
25 1/16 x 20 3/8 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Goya, Francisco de

Charles IV of Spain and His Family
oil on canvas
280 × 336 cm    
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Charles IV of Spain and His Family features life sized depictions of Charles IV of Spain and his family, ostentatiously dressed in fine costume and jewelry. The painting was modeled after Velazquez's Las Meninas when setting the royal subjects in a naturalistic and plausible setting.
The royal family is apparently paying a visit to the artist's studio, while Goya can be seen to the left looking outwards towards the viewer.

Goya, Francisco de (1746 - 1828) was born in a village in northern Spain. He was a consummately romantic court painter to the Spanish Crown whose paintings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th and 20th century painters. The subversive and imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet, Picasso. He was regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, but his genius was slow in maturing and he was well into his thirties before he began producing work that set him apart from his contemporaries.

For the bold technique of his paintings, the haunting satire of his etchings, and his belief that the artist's vision is more important than tradition, Goya is often called "the first of the moderns." He is known for his scenes of violence, especially those prompted by the French invasion of Spain, and his uncompromising portrayal of his times marked the beginning of 19th century realism.

Serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind. He evolved a bold, free new style close to caricature. In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government in Spain, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there in 1828.

Goya completed some 500 oil paintings and murals, about 300 etchings and lithographs, and many hundreds of drawings. He was exceptionally versatile and his work expresses a very wide range of emotion. In his own day he was chiefly celebrated for his portraits, of which he painted more than 200; but his fame now rests equally on his other work. He had many children, but only one son survived to adulthood.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kruger, Franz

Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Alexander I of Russia
oil on canvas
484 x 344 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825), served as Emperor of Russia from 1801-1825. He was the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825, and also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania.    

Franz Krueger (1797 - 1857), called "Horse-Krueger", was a German painter. He was a favorite at the Russian court.
He first trained under a printmaker, who instilled in him the qualities of precise observation and solid workmanship. He was accepted into the Berlin Akademie in 1812, but he also continued to train independently, carrying out studies of horses. He soon developed a gift for finding themes that appealed to Prussian society and that reflected it attractively but truthfully; thus he favored hunting and stable scenes. The wars against Napoleon, however, inspired him to paint military subjects and portraits. He painted portraits of the members of the Prussian royal family, of various court persons, of Prussian high society. In 1825 Friedrich Wilhelm III granted him the title of "Royal Professor". At the same time he became a full member of the Academy of Arts. Krueger´s fame led him to numerous professional trips to other countries. From 1840 on he was the favorite painter of the next Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and his retinue. As a royalist, he was profoundly dismayed at the political unrest of 1848, and his last large painting does not repeat the patriotic message of the earlier paintings.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

David, Jacques Louis

The Intervention of the Sabine Women
oil on canvas
385 x 522 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

This painting depicts Romulus's wife Hersilia - the daughter of Titus Tatius, leader of the Sabines - rushing between her husband and her father and placing her babies between them. A vigorous Romulus prepares to strike a half-retreating Tatius with his spear, but hesitates. As one can see, the style of painting then, showed them to be naked, with the women wearing clothes.
The rocky outcrop in the background is the Tarpeian Rock, a reference to civil conflict, since the Roman punishment for treason was to be thrown from the rock. According to legend, when Tatius attacked Rome, he almost succeeded in capturing the city because of the treason of the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, governor of the citadel on the Capitoline Hill. She opened the city gates for the Sabines in return for 'what they bore on their arms.' She believed that she would receive their golden bracelets. Instead, the Sabines crushed her to death with their shields, and she was thrown from the rock which since bore her name.

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Courbet, Gustave

A Thicket of Deer at the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine
oil on canvas
174 x 209 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pissarro, Camille

Rabbit Warren at Pontoise, Snow
oil on canvas
59.2 x 72.3 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

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

Pissarro, primarily a landscape painter, was a driving force behind the impressionist group shows. Slightly older than the other members of the circle, he made many of the arrangements, reconciled disputes among painters, and contributed a number of canvases to all eight impressionist exhibitions. Pissarro, along with Impressionist painters Monet and Sisley, pursued the theme of snow throughout his career, producing nearly 100 snow paintings. In 1879 France experienced an extraordinarily severe winter, which Pissarro explored in this and other works painted at his home in Pontoise, 30 miles west of Paris along the Seine River.

Camille Pissarro (1830 - 1903) was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas (now in the US Virgin Islands, but then in the Danish West Indies). His father was of French-Jewish origin, his mother was a Creole. Pissarro saw a subject and its light source as inseparable. He fought daunting criticism for most of his life, while trying to achieve validation for his revolutionary style. His mature work displays an empathy for peasants and laborers, and sometimes evidences his radical political leanings. He mentored Paul Cezanne and Paul Gaugin when they were aspiring artists, and vastly contributed to Impressionist theory.

His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. As a stylistic forerunner of Impressionism, he is today considered a father figure not only to the Impressionists but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. His influence on his fellow Impressionists is probably still underestimated; not only did he offer substantial contributions to Impressionist theory, but he also managed to remain on friendly, mutually respectful terms with such difficult personalities as Edgar Degas, Cezanne and Gauguin.

Pissarro married Julie Vellay, a maid in his mother's household. Of their eight children, one died at birth and one daughter died aged nine. The surviving children all painted. He died in Paris on 13 November 1903. During his lifetime, he sold few of his oil paintings.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gauguin, Paul

Self Portrait (in the role of 'Les Miserables' protagonist Jean Valjean) with Emile Bernard portrait in the background, for Vincent
oil on canvas
45 x 55 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Of part Peruvian origin (Inca, he claimed), Gauguin projected his powerful, exotic features into a number of contrasting roles. In this painting, dedicated to van Gogh, he appears as Jean Valjean, anti-hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables’, who, while vilified by society, remains true to his personal morality. Seen on the right in profile is Emile Bernard, a fellow painter, who later accused Gauguin of taking credit for his ideas - not without some justification. (In 1888 Paul Gauguin worked with Emile Bernard in Pont-Aven, in Brittany.)

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)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bernard, Emile

Madeleine in the Bois d'Amour
oil on canvas
138 x 163 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Emile Bernard was only twenty when he painted this life-size portrait of his sister Madeleine, then aged seventeen.
It is not a realistic scene but a portrait with allegorical overtones of the young Madeleine with whom Gauguin had fallen in love. She seems to be absorbed in her reverie, listening to the divine voices of nature.
To get away from the naturalism advocated by the Impressionists of the 1870 generation, at this time, Emile Bernard used a more detached approach, painting in masses and solid areas of color. Details, volume and perspective were sacrificed to an overall vision composed in successive planes like Japanese prints.

Emile Henri Bernard (1868 - 1941) is known as a Post-Impressionist painter and writer. He was the son of a cloth merchant. Relations with his parents were never harmonious, and in 1884, against his father’s wishes, he enrolled as a student at the Atelier Cormon in Paris. There he became a close friend of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Bernard theorized a style of painting with bold forms separated by dark contours which became known as cloisonnism.
His work showed geometric tendencies which hinted at influences of Paul Cezanne, and he collaborated with Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.
In 1892 he organized the first French retrospective of the work of van Gogh, who had died in 1890. His close association with Gauguin had ended bitterly in 1891. Having abandoned plans to travel abroad with Gauguin, Bernard went instead to Italy in 1893 and thence to Egypt, where he lived until 1903, concentrating mainly on painting scenes of street life in Cairo.
On his return to France in 1904 Bernard set up home in Tonnerre. Having already published a selection of his letters from van Gogh in the mid-1890s, he resumed his art historical work: he visited his revered hero Cezanne, by then an old man, in Aix-en-Provence, and their carefully structured conversations and correspondence constitute an important first-hand account of Cezanne’s ideas on art and working methods. In 1905 Bernard founded a new art journal, Renovation Esthetique, which he edited until 1910.

Bernard had a complex and anxious personality, and his stylistic shifts and equivocations have been taken as signs of weakness. After World War I he produced innumerable female portraits and nudes in a slick, highly finished manner that belied his avant-garde origins.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fra Angelico

Annunciation (Cell 3)
176 x 148 cm
Convento di San Marco, Florence, Italy

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 - 1455) was a Florentine painter, a Dominican friar described as having "a rare and perfect talent". Although in popular tradition he has been seen as 'not an artist properly so-called but an inspired saint', (Ruskin), Angelico was in fact a highly professional artist, who was in touch with the most advanced developments in contemporary Florentine art and in later life traveled extensively for prestigious commissions. The name Fra Angelico means "Angelic Brother." His art stands as an important link between the first and later generations of Renaissance painting in Florence.

Angelico entered a Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1418 and became a friar.
Although his teacher is unknown, he apparently began his career as an illuminator of missals and other religious books. He began to paint altarpieces and other panels. In 1436 some of the Dominican friars of Fiesole moved to the convent of San Marco in Florence. Angelico  painted many frescoes for the cloister, chapter house, and entrances to the 20 cells on the upper corridors.  In 1445 he was summoned to Rome by Pope Eugenius IV to paint frescoes for the now destroyed Chapel of the Sacrament in the Vatican.

Angelico had considerable influence on Italian painting. he combined the influence of the elegantly decorative International Gothic style with the more realistic style of such Renaissance masters as the painter Masaccio. He was also aware of the theories of perspective. His representation of devout facial expressions and his use of color to heighten emotion are particularly effective. His skill in creating monumental figures, representing motion, and suggesting deep space through the use of linear perspective, especially in the Roman frescoes, mark him as one of the foremost painters of the Renaissance. He painted numerous altarpieces as well as frescos, several outstanding examples being in the S. Marco museum. His particular grace and sweetness stimulated the school of Perugia, and Fra Bartolommeo, who followed him into S. Marco in 1500, had something of his restraint and grandeur.
Angelico died in Rome and was buried in the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva, where his tombstone still exists. He has long been called 'Beato Angelico' (the Blessed Angelico). In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bellini, Giovanni

Naked Young Woman in Front of the Mirror
c. 1515
oil on canvas
62 x 79 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Bellini's first female nude, painted when he was about 85 years old.

Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 - 1516) was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Venice, Venetian painter, founder of the Venetian school of painting. He raised Venice to a center of Renaissance art that rivaled Florence and Rome. He brought to painting a new degree of realism, a new wealth of subject-matter, and a new sensuousness in form and color. Through the use of clear, slow-drying oil paints, he created deep, rich tints and detailed shadings. His sumptuous coloring and fluent, atmospheric landscapes had a great effect on the Venetian painting school. Little is known about his family. His father was a pupil of one of the leading 15th-century Gothic revival artists. He probably began his career as an assistant in the father's workshop.

Bellini became one of the greatest landscape painters. His ability to portray outdoor light was so skillful that the viewer can tell not only the season of the year but also almost the hour of the day. He lived to see his own school of painting achieve dominance and acclaim. His influence carried over to his pupils, two of whom became better known than he was: Giorgione and Titian. His younger contemporary, the German painter Albrecht Durer, wrote of Bellini in 1506: "He is very old, and still he is the best painter of them all." Bellini died in Venice in 1516.

Bellini's historical importance is immense. In his 65-year evolution as an artist, he brought Venetian painting from provincial backwardness into the forefront of Renaissance and the mainstream of Western art. Moreover, his personal orientations predetermined the special nature of Venice's contribution to that mainstream. These include his luminous colorism, his deep response to the natural world, and his warm humanity.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perugino, Pietro

The Virgin and Child with Angels
oil on wood
127 x 64 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Perugino, byname of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci   (c. 1450 - 1523), Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbria school. His work anticipated High Renaissance ideals in its compositional clarity, sense of spaciousness, and economy of formal elements. He was one of the earliest Italian practitioners of oil painting. Raphael was his most famous pupil.

He was born Pietro Vannucci in Citta della Pieve, Umbria; his nickname characterizes him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. He most likely began to study painting in Perugia, in local workshops. He apprenticed in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio alongside Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi and others. He may have learned perspective from Piero della Francesca.

In 1479 Perugino was summoned to Rome by Pope Sixtus IV to help decorate the Sistine Chapel. He is recorded in the 1481 contract for the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel (along with Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli), where his Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter demonstrates his qualities of simplicity, order and clearly articulated composition. He seems to have been the leader of the team. Some of his work in the Sistine Chapel was destroyed to make room for Michelangelo's Last Judgment.

After the completion of the Sistine Chapel work in 1486 Perugino, then aged forty, left Rome and by autumn was in Florence. In 1506 Perugino retired to Perugia, since his style was now hopelessly outmoded in Florence, where, however, it had served to counter-balance the confusion of late Quattrocento style.
In 1523 he died of the plague. Like other plague victims, he was hastily buried in an unconsecrated field, the precise spot now unknown. According to a historian, Perugino had very little religion, and openly doubted the soul's immortality.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Piero della Francesca

Madonna and Child with Saints (Montefeltro Altarpiece)
oil and tempera on panel
248 x 170 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy

Piero della Francesca (c. 1415 - 1492) was a painter of the Early Renaissance in Italy. His painting was characterized by its serene humanism, its use of geometric forms and perspective (he was renowned in his times as an authority on perspective and geometry). He was virtually forgotten for centuries after his death, but regarded since his rediscovery in the early 20th century as one of the supreme artists of the quattrocento.

Piero was born in Umbria and spent much of his life there. But he found the origins of his style in Florence, and he probably lived there as a young man for some time during the 1430s. He studied and absorbed the artistic discoveries of his great Florentine predecessors and contemporaries - Masaccio, Donatello, Domenico Veneziano, Filippo Lippi, Uccello, and even Masolino, who anticipated something of Piero's use of broad masses of color. Piero unified, completed, and refined upon the discoveries these artists had made in the previous 20 years and created a style in which monumental, meditative grandeur and almost mathematical lucidity are combined with limpid beauty of color and light.

Much of Piero's later career was spent working at the humanist court of Federico da Montefeltro at Urbino. There he painted the portraits of Federico and his wife and the celebrated Flagellation. Piero is last mentioned as a painter in 1478 (in connection with a lost work).
Thereafter he seems to have devoted himself to mathematics and perspective, writing treatises on both subjects.

It is said that Piero was blind when he died, and failing eyesight may have been his reason for giving up painting. He died on the very day that Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Americas. After his death, Piero was remembered mainly as a mathematician rather than as a painter. He had considerable influence, notably on Signorelli (in the weighty solemnity of his figures) and Perugino (in the spatial clarity of his compositions). Both are said to have been Piero's pupils.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Durer, Albrecht

Willow Mill
Watercolor and gouache on paper
251 x 367 mm
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France

The view is from the north bank of the River Pegnitz, on the outskirts of Nuremberg. The buildings in the center are the Grossweiden Mill and across the bridge on the left is the Kleinweiden Mill. In this watercolor, Durer was primarily interested in capturing the atmosphere of the stormy evening sky and the reflections in the water. This is arguably Durer's most accomplished watercolor landscape.

"Why has God given me such magnificent talent? It is a curse as well as a great blessing." (Durer)

Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528) was a German painter and printmaker generally regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist. His vast body of work includes altarpieces and religious works, numerous portraits and self-portraits, and copper engravings. His introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, have secured his reputation as the greatest Northern Renaissance artist. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatises, which involve principles of mathematics, perspective and ideal proportions. Durer exerted a huge influence on the artists of succeeding generations, especially in printmaking, the medium through which his contemporaries mostly experienced his art, as his paintings were predominately in private collections located in only a few cities. His success in spreading his reputation across Europe through prints were undoubtedly an inspiration for major artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Parmigianino, all of whom collaborated with printmakers in order to promote and distribute their work.

Durer died in 1528 and was buried in the churchyard of Johanniskirchhof in Nuremberg. That he was one of his country's most influential artists is manifest in the impressive number of pupils and imitators that he had. The extent to which Durer was internationally celebrated is apparent in the literary testimony of the Florentine artist Giorgio Vasari (1511-74), in whose Lives of the Most Eminent Italian Architects, Painters and Sculptors, the importance of Albrecht Durer, the "truly great painter and creator of the most beautiful copper engravings," is repeatedly stressed. Durer probably felt himself to be an "artist-prince," and his self-portraits seem incontestably to show a man sure of his own genius.

There is a legendary story behind his picture "The Praying Hands"! (see Jan.4, 2012 exhibit)
In the 15th century, in a village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father, a goldsmith, worked almost eighteen hours a day. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of his children, Albrecht and Albert, had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Instead, Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, Albrecht, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. His etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate his triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother, Albert, for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you." All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, "No" Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew the hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."