Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pissarro, Camille

The Avenue, Sydenham
oil on canvas
48 x 73 cm
National Gallery, London, UK

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." (Pissarro)
This painting is among the largest that Pissarro is known to have painted in London during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1).
The painting conveys the atmosphere of an early spring day, with oak trees coming into leaf against a soft blue sky, in the area of Norwood where Pissarro stayed until June 1871. Technical analysis shows that the main outlines of the landscape were painted first and the figures added over the paint that had dried.

"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.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Kokoschka, Oskar

Tre Croci - Dolomite Landscape
oil on canvas
82 x 119 cm
Leopold Museum, Wien, Austria

On her journey with Oskar Kokoschka in August of 1913, Kokoschka’s then-lover Alma Mahler (widow of composer Gustav Mahler) wrote in her diary: “In Tre Croci, our life revolved entirely around his work. ... The summer sun above the glaciers! This morning, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I simply do not deserve this blessing. Kokoschka needs to work! This is what he was born for. Life as such doesn’t interest him one bit…”
The landscape depicted in this painting has an enchanted appearance. The predominantly green colouration, the rugged, dark contours and the mysterious quality of the lighting situation all support this impression. The sketches for this painting bear the subtitle After the Storm. Although Alma Mahler is not actually visible in this landscape, she is somehow present all the same. (Leopold Museum)

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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Herbin, Auguste

oil on canvas
size unknown
Museum de Fundatie, Heino and Wijhe, Zwolle, France

Auguste Herbin (1882-1960), the son of a workman, was born in a small village near the Belgian border. This background is reflected in the northern French artist's painting with its rational approach and explicit working class character. Before settling in Paris, where he first joined the Impressionists and later the Fauves, Herbin attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lille from 1900 onwards. His studio was situated directly next to Braque's and Picasso's, allowing a close study of Cubism, which resulted in first Cubist paintings in 1913. In 1917 he moved on to an abstract, geometric phase before gradually discovering Constructivism.

Herbin's radical reliefs of simple geometric forms in painted wood, challenged not only the status of the easel painting but also traditional figure-ground relationships. The incomprehension that greeted these reliefs and related furniture designs, even from those critics most favorably disposed towards Cubism, was such that until 1926 or 1927 he followed Leonce Rosenberg's advice to return to a representational style. Herbin himself later disowned landscapes, still lifes and genre scenes of this period, in which the objects were depicted as schematized volumes. From 1938 his interest in the Italian Trecento led Herbin to a more concrete, strictly two-dimensional painting style with simple geometric forms.

A lateral paralysis in 1953 forced the artist to learn painting with his left hand. His typical architectural approach and his color effects made his pre-war work widely known in the international art world - a success which continued after the war. Herbin died in Paris on 31 January 1960. One painting remained unfinished - it was called "Fin".

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Greuze, Jean-Baptiste

Young shepherd holding a flower (a boy holding a dandelion and pensively making a wish for his love to be reciprocated)
oil on oval canvas
72.5 x 59.5 cm
City of Paris Fine Art Museum (Petit Palais), Paris, France

Painting commissioned by the Marquis de Marigny, Director General of the King's Buildings, for his sister, the Marquise de Pompadour.

Greuze achieved fame for his morally uplifting narrative paintings, but he was equally adept working in the pastoral, erotic mode brought to refinement by Francois Boucher, La Pompadour’s favourite painter. In 1756, while sojourning in Rome, he received support from the Marquis de Marigny, who commissioned from him this oval painting for the Versailles apartment of his sister Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.

The exceptionally light colour scheme with its harmony of pinks, blues and mauves complemented by the golden tone of the curly hair, and the combination of transparent glazes and vigorous impastos is reminiscent of the art of Francois Boucher, from whom Greuze later had to distance himself.
"With the elegance of the clothing and radiant colours, it could easily be mistaken for the work of Boucher." (Diderot)

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725 - 1805)  is a French painter, born in Burgundy. He had a great success at the 1755 Salon and went on to win enormous popularity with similar sentimental and melodramatic genre scenes. His work was praised by Diderot as 'morality in paint' and as representing the highest ideal of painting in his day.
Much of his later work consisted of titillating pictures of young girls, which contain thinly veiled sexual allusions under their surface appearance of mawkish innocence.

With the swing of taste towards Neoclassicism his work went out of fashion and he sank into obscurity at the Revolution in 1789. At the very end of his career he received a commission to paint a portrait of Napoleon, but he died in poverty. His huge output is particularly well represented in the Louvre, the Wallace Collection in London, the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, and in the museum dedicated to him in Tournus, his native town.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cassatt, Mary

At the Theatre
pastel and gouache with metallic
size unknown
private collection

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 - 1926) was an American painter. She was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in Philadelphia. From there she went to Europe to further her studies. After a time, she settled in Paris an became involved with the Impressionist school of art. She first befriended Edgar Degas in France, one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement, who had seen her paintings exhibited in Paris. Degas invited her to join their group. Degas respected Cassatt's work, seeing in her careful compositions an approach to art that was deliberate and well thought out. She found her niche with the Impressionist approach, also became friends with Manet, another member of the movement.
The Impressionists concentrated on painting and pastel art, taking scenes from real life. This school of art used brighter colors and broader brushstrokes than the old masters. She often created images of the social and private lives of women going about their everyday life, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children. She was described as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.

Cassatt's own works were very favourably received by the critics and contributed not a little to the acceptance of Impressionism. Despite her admiration for Degas, she was no slavish imitator of his style, retaining her own very personal idiom throughout her career. Her earlier works were marked by a certain lyrical effulgence and gentle, golden lighting, but by the 1890s, largely as a consequence of the exhibition of Japanese prints held in Paris at the beginning of that decade, her draughtsmanship became more emphatic, her colors clearer and more boldly defined.

In 1893, Cassatt was commissioned to paint a mural for Chicago’s World Fair. Ironically, after all those years abroad, this mural, entitled Modern Woman, made her well known in her home country. She worked hard to encourage American museums to develop collections of Impressionist art. From all accounts, the Modern Woman title of the mural, applied equally well to the artist, herself. She was a great practical support to the movement of Impressionism as a whole, both by providing direct financial help and by promoting the works of Impressionists in the USA.
"Why do people so love to wander? I think the civilized parts of the World will suffice for me in the future." (Cassatt)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Magritte, René

La femme du macon
oil on canvas
35 x 41 cm
location unknown

Magritte's Belgian brand of Surrealism deals in clear visions with unclear meanings. Unlike the fantastic dreamscapes of Paris Surrealists such as Salvador Dali, his settings are strangely normal, and his protagonists are bourgeois gentlemen in ties and bowler hats. Yet he specialized in permanent irresolution, in mysteries without a key.

"If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream." (Magritte)

Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte (1898 - 1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. His Belgian brand of Surrealism deals in clear visions with unclear meanings. Unlike the fantastic dreamscapes of Paris Surrealists such as Salvador Dali, his settings are strangely normal, and his protagonists are bourgeois gentlemen in ties and bowler hats. Yet he specialized in permanent irresolution, in mysteries without a key.

He was born on the 21st November, 1898 in Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. As his business did not go well the family had to move often. Rene lost his mother early and tragically, she committed suicide by drowning herself in the River when Rene was only 14 years old. This was not her first attempt; she had made many over a number of years, driving her husband Leopold to lock her into her bedroom. One day she escaped, and was missing for days. She was later discovered a mile or so down the nearby river, dead.

After studying in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels, he became a wallpaper designer and commercial artist. His early painting works were executed under the influence of the Cubism and Futurism, then he was inspired by the Purists and Fernand Leger. The acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning-point for Magritte. In 1927-30 Magritte lived in France, where he participated in the activities of the Surrealists, establishing a close friendship in particular with Max Ernst, Dali, Andre Breton and especially with Paul Eluard. In Paris, Magritte's system of conceptual painting was formed, it remained almost unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner, intentionally dry and academic, "polished in the technical sense" with precise and clean draughtsmanship demonstrated a paradoxical ability to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality. He was fond of philosophy and literature. Many of his paintings reflect his impressions of literature works, illusions and philosophical metaphors. Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 in his own bed in Brussels at the age of 69, and was interred in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Evere, Brussels. Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art.

Magritte described his paintings as "visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?'. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

O'Keeffe, Georgia

East River From the 30th Story of the Shelton Hotel
oil on canvas
30 x 48 1/8 in.
New Britain Museum of American Art, CN, USA

This aerial view of New York City's East River shows midtown Manhattan in the foreground and Long Island City (Queens) in the background, as seen from the 30th floor of the Shelton Hotel, where O'Keeffe lived between 1925 and 1936.

"One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work." (O'Keeffe)

Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986) was an American artist. She was born in a farmhouse on a large dairy farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. She distinguished herself as one of America's most important modern artists, a position she maintained throughout her life.

Known for the flower paintings which encompass a quarter of her work, O’Keeffe was originally inspired by nature during her childhood in rural Wisconsin. Shunning her artistic education in favor of expressing her emotions, she enlarged flowers until they became abstract artforms whose sheer size commanded attention. "Precisionist", is the term most widely used to describe her work. O’Keeffe’s great clarity in painting is what identifies her well-known paintings of urban architecture, mountains, bones, and flowers. The simple, clear forms in her masterpieces made her a pioneer of a new modernism in the USA. Although O’Keeffe used her subject matter representationaly, the starkly linear quality, the thin, clear coloring, and boldly patterned compositions give the effect of an abstract design. She was the first woman honored with her own exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. New York Times described her paintings as both "bold and hermetic, immediately appealing and unnervingly impassive." O’Keeffe's goal as a painter was to “make the unknown - known. By unknown I mean the thing that means so much to the person that he wants to put it down - clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand.” (O’Keeffe)

In her later years, she became totally blind and died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway". The brilliance of her art work has proven timeless. O'Keeffe, not only carved out a significant place for women painters in an area of the American art community that had been exclusive to and is still dominated by men, but also she had become one of America’s most celebrated cultural icons well before her death. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe opened in 1997.
"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty." (O'Keeffe)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Catlin, George

A Choctaw Woman
oil on canvas
73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Catlin (1796 - 1872) was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West. He was born in Pennsylvania, and initially trained as a lawyer. He had spent many hours hunting, fishing, and looking for American Indian artifacts. His fascination with Native Americans was kindled by his mother, who told him stories of the western frontier and how she was captured by a tribe when she was a young girl.

Catlin was the first artist to record the Plains Indians in their own territories. Following a brief career as a lawyer, he journeyed west five times in the 1830s to paint the Plains Indians and their way of life. He admired them as the embodiment of the Enlightenment ideal of "natural man," living in harmony with nature. But the more than 500 paintings of his Indian Gallery also reveal the fateful encounter of two different cultures in a frontier region undergoing dramatic transformation.

When Catlin first traveled west in 1830, the United States Congress had just passed the Indian Removal Act, requiring Indians in the Southeast to resettle west of the Mississippi River. This vast forced migration - as well as smallpox epidemics and continuing incursions from trappers, miners, explorers, and settlers - created pressures on Indian cultures to adapt or perish. Seeing the devastation of many tribes, Catlin came to regard the frontier as a region of corruption. He portrayed the nobility of these still-sovereign peoples, but he was aware that he painted in sovereignty's twilight.

By the late 1830s and 1840s, Catlin began displaying the Indian Gallery in eastern capitals and in Europe, an advocate for the Indian way of life. Yet the challenge of keeping his collection together and making ends meet led him to questionable strategies. He courted audiences by presenting real Indians enacting war dances. In effect, Catlin created the first Wild West show, with all its compromising sensationalism and exploitation.

Catlin lobbied the U.S. government for patronage throughout his career, hoping Congress would purchase the Indian Gallery as a legacy for future generations. Disappointed in this goal, he went bankrupt in 1852. A Philadelphia industrialist paid his debts and acquired the Indian Gallery, and soon after Catlin's death, the paintings were donated to the Smithsonian. Today Catlin's Indian Gallery is recognized as a great cultural treasure, offering rare insight into native cultures and a crucial chapter in American history.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dongen, Kees van

oil on canvas
161.29 x 46 cm
Private collection

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jawlensky, Alexej von

Madchen mit roter Schleife
oil on cardboard
71.5 x 50 cm
location unknown

This painting dating from Jawlensky's most important period was painted on his cardboard and subsequently split from the portrait of Helene which was painted on the reverse of the same board.

Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky (1864 - 1941) was a Russian expressionist painter active in Germany.
Following family tradition, he was originally educated for a military career, attending cadet school, and, later, the Alexander Military School in Moscow. However, while still a cadet, he became interested in painting. At the age of 16, he visited the Moscow World Exposition, which had a profound influence on him. He subsequently spent all of his leisure time at the Tret’yakov State Gallery, Moscow.
In 1884 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Samogita Infantry-Grenadier’s Regiment, based in Moscow. In 1889 he transferred to a regiment in St Petersburg, and later enrolled in the Academy of Art, where he was a student of Il’ya Repin.
Indeed his works of this period reflected some of the conventions of Realism. Seeking to escape the limitations on expression exhorted by the Russian art establishment, he moved to Munich in 1896. Here he made the acquaintance of expatriate Russian artist, Vasily Kandinsky. In Munich he began his lasting experimentation in the combination of color, line, and form to express his innermost self.

When in 1914 world war I began, he was expelled from Germany due to his Russian citizenship. He moved to Prex on Lake Geneva. And remained in Switzerland until 1921. He suffered from a progressing paralysis and had difficulties in painting. Then his final move to Wiesbaden took place in 1921 for arthritis therapy. In 1937, 72 of his works were confiscated by Natzis as "degenerate artworks". Three years later he died in Wiesbaden.

At the beginning his style was influenced by the Fauves, particularly by Matisse, but he soon discovered his own, Expressionist style, which is characterized by strong colors and simple forms. Later he turned to those calm, spiritualized and mystical images of the human face, which are so typical of Jawlensky.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boilly, Louis-Leopold

Young Woman Ironing
oil on canvas
40.7 x 32.4 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Boilly's precise, intimate pictures, filled with anecdotal detail, were inspired by seventeenth-century Dutch paintings of daily life. This portrayal of a young laundress demonstrates Boilly's rich, warm color and masterful rendering of textures and materials.

Louis-Leopold Boilly (1761 - 1845) was a French prolific painter and draftsman. He was born in northern France, the son of a local wood sculptor. A self-taught painter, Boilly began his career at a very young age. A gifted creator of popular portrait paintings, he also produced a vast number of genre paintings vividly documenting French middle-class social life. His life and work spanned the eras of monarchical France, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Empire, the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy. He meticulously recorded facial details and gestures, and his depictions of costumes and textiles are fascinating as a chronicle of fashion. Boilly's paintings and drawings, often tinged with humor, showcase his witty interpretation of urban life.

Boilly was a popular and celebrated artist of his time. He was awarded a medal by the Parisian Salon in 1804 for his work. In 1833 he was decorated as a chevalier of the nation's highest order, the Legion d'Honneur. He remains a highly regarded master of oil painting. Altogether he executed about 500 genre paintings and some 5,000 small portraits. He is also noted for his pioneering use of lithography.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jean-Honore Fragonard

Le chat angora
oil on canvas
64.8 x 53.3 cm
location unknown

Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732 - 1806) ,French painter, was one of the most prolific artists whose scenes of frivolity and gallantry are among the most complete embodiments of the Rococo spirit. He was a pupil of Chardin for a short while and also of Boucher. He developed into the most brilliant and versatile artist in 18th-century France. He wielded brush, chalk and etcher's needle with extraordinary virtuosity, effortlessly varying his touch as he produced a succession of consummate masterpieces on themes from religion, mythology, genre and landscape. Among his most popular works are genre paintings conveying an atmosphere of intimacy and veiled eroticism. His delicate coloring, witty characterization, and spontaneous brushwork ensured that even his most erotic subjects are never vulgar, and his finest work has an irresistible verve and joyfulness.

By 1780 Fragonard’s career had passed its peak. Erotic paintings and the exuberant decorative style he was known for had gradually begun to go out of fashion, replaced by Neo-Classicism, which would gain more popularity in the years leading up to the French Revolution.
Fragonard died in 1806, almost completely ignored and forgotten.
He had little direct influence on French painting, but his work shows many of the preoccupations of later artists with problems of style, subject-matter and conception.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kokoschka, Oskar

Two Nudes (Lovers)
oil on canvas
163.2 x 97.5 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Painted in Vienna in the years just prior to World War I, Two Nudes is a self-portrait of Kokoschka with Alma Mahler, a symbolic testimonial to the artist's tumultuous affair with the widow of the great composer Gustav Mahler. Kokoschka's haunted expression and the ambiguous poses of the two lovers - who seem both to embrace and to move past each other - reflect a complex and tormented relationship. Kokoschka's bold brushwork and Expressionist style were influenced not only by van Gogh but by the sixteenth-century Spanish painter El Greco, whose work Kokoschka greatly admired. (MFA Boston)

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.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Picasso, Pablo

oil on canvas
129.8 x 96.8 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

In Bather, Picasso used a nude female figure standing at the seaside as a testing ground for new representational possibilities, challenging pictorial conventions of space, beauty, and time. The background is simplified into three bands of color applied in flat, rough strokes.
The bather’s body is broken into discrete parts; her breasts, stomach, and shoulders are hardened into geometric arcs and curves, and her right foot twists unnaturally. Traditional painting captures a single moment from a single perspective; Picasso depicted his bather’s torso from the front, rear, and side, presenting multiple views simultaneously. (MoMA)

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

"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)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kandinsky, Wassily

Berglandschaft mit Dorf I (Mountain Landscape with Village I)
oil on cardboard
 70.5 x 96.5 cm
private collection

"I really believe that I am the first and only artist to throw not just the 'subject' out of my paintings, but every 'object' as well. (Kandinsky)"

Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944) was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics. Successful in his profession - he was offered a professorship (chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat - he began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30.

Kandinsky named works after musical terms. He saw color when he listened to music, and believed color could visually express music’s timber, pitch and volume. At age 30, Kandinsky’s artistic career began when he left a legal career to pursue artistic studies after seeing Monet’s “Haystacks.” Passionately compelled to create, Kandinsky believed that the purity of this desire would communicate itself to viewers of his work.
He was fascinated by music's emotional power. Because music expresses itself through sound and time, it allows the listener a freedom of imagination, interpretation, and emotional response that is not based on the literal or the descriptive, but rather on the abstract quality that painting, still dependent on representing the visible world, could not provide. Music can respond and appeal directly to the artist's "internal element" and express spiritual values, thus for him it is a more advanced art. In his writings Kandinsky emphasizes this superiority in advancing toward what he calls the epoch of the great spiritual.

He was never solely a painter, but a theoretician, and organizer at the same time. He expressed his views on art and artistic activity in his numerous writings. In the 1920-30s Kandinsky's name became world famous. He was proclaimed the theoretician and leading figure of abstract painting. In addition to teaching courses, Kandinsky became actively involved in delivering lectures; his exhibitions took place almost yearly in Europe and America.
In 1921, Kandinsky was invited to go to Germany to attend the Bauhaus of Weimar by its founder, architect Walter Gropius. Kandinsky taught the basic design class for beginners and the course on advanced theory at the Bauhaus; he also conducted painting classes and a workshop in which he augmented his color theory with new elements of form psychology. In 1933, the Nazis having come to power in Germany and closed down the Bauhaus, he took refuge in France where he spent the last eleven years of his life. In 1939 Kandinsky and his wife became French citizens. He continued painting almost until his death. He died on 13 December 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 78.

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, and the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul. (Kandinsky)"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Braque, Georges

Landscape at L'Estaque
oil on canvas
60.3 x 72.7 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Signac, Paul

Les Andelys, Cote d'Aval
oil on canvas
60 x 92 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA
This view of the harbor of Les Andelys, a village on the Seine River near Giverny, is part of a series of 10 works that Signac made in the summer and early fall of 1886. It was the first series he painted using the all-over dots and dashes of strong colour that were the hallmark of the Neo-Impressionist group centered around his friend Georges Seurat.

Paul Signac (1863 - 1935) was a French neo-impressionist painter.He is one of the principal neoimpressionist painters worked with Georges Seurat in creating pointillism (or divisionism). He followed a course of training in architecture before deciding at the age of 18 to pursue a career as a painter after attending an exhibit of Monet's work.

Unlike Seurat, he had virtually no formal training; he taught himself to paint by studying the works of Claude Monet and others. After he and Seurat met, they developed their technique of painting with dots (points) of colour, which led to the name pointillism. As Signac explained, they used the pure impressionist palette but applied it in dots that were to be blended by the viewer's eye. What Signac called "muddy mixtures" were to be banished from painting and replaced by luminous, intense colours. Many of Signac's paintings are of the French coast. He loved to paint the water. He left the capital each summer, to stay in the south of France in the village of Collioure or at St. Tropez.

As president of the annual Salon des Independants (1908-34), Signac encouraged younger artists by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists. At the age of seventy-two, he died on 15 August 1935 in Paris from septicemia. His body was cremated and buried three days later, on August 18, at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

Riverbank at Mery sur Seine, Aube
oil on canvas
46.5 x 62 cm
private Collection

"Corot is not a simple landscapist - he is a painter, a true painter; he is a rare and exceptional genius." (Delacroix)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796  - 1875) was a French landscape painter and printmaker in etching. He was born in Paris and his family were bourgeois people - his father was a cloth merchant and his mother a milliner - and unlike the experience of some of his artistic colleagues, throughout his life he never felt the want of money, as his parents made good investments and ran their businesses well.

After an education at the College de Rouen and two abortive apprenticeships with drapers, he was given the financial freedom at the age of 26 to devote himself to painting. He first studied with the landscape painter. He made trips to Italy that are considered so essential to the formation of a landscape artist, spending time in Rome, the Campagna and Naples. He also travelled extensively in France, to Normandy, Provence, the Morvan region in Burgundy and to north-east France in 1871 during the Commune. He also travelled in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and England. During these trips he painted in the open air and filled numerous notebooks with drawings. His early oil sketches, such as those painted in Italy, were clearly defined and fresh, using bright colours in fluid strokes. During the winter months he worked in the studio on ambitious mythological and religious landscapes destined for the salon.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colours more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchantes and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colours, often using soft coloured greys and blue-greens, with spots of colour confined to the clothing of the figures. 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. Topographical detail was suppressed in favour of mood and atmosphere. The popularity of these combined with Corot’s encouragement of younger artists to copy his pictures (which he then signed), either as a learning exercise or for producing works for sale, resulted in numerous forgeries and imitations, as well as difficulties of attribution.

At the Exposition Universelle of 1855 he showed six paintings and won a gold medal. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape. For a long time, however, especially among collectors, the popularity of his late work overshadowed appreciation of his early studies.

“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 colour comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while colour 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.” (Corot)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Turner, Joseph Mallord William

Petworth Park: Tillington Church in the Distance
oil on canvas
63.5 × 139 cm
Tate Gallery, London, UK

The Petworth Park is one of the more famous in England..., 283-hectare (700-acre) landscaped in Petworth, West Sussex, ... largely on account of a number of pictures of it which were painted by Turner. It is inhabited by the largest herd of fallow deer in England. There is also a 12-hectare (30-acre) woodland garden, known as the Pleasure Ground. The park was handed over from private to the nation in 1947 and is now managed by the National Trust under the name "Petworth House & Park".

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)  was born in London, England. His father was a barber, his mother died when he was very young and he received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale. He is the one of the finest landscape artists whose work was exhibited when he was still a teenager.

Turner's entire life was devoted to his art. Wherever he visited he studied the effects of sea and sky in every kind of weather. He developed a painting technique all his own. Instead of merely recording factually what he saw, he translated scenes into a light-filled expression of his own romantic feelings.

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

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Constable, John

Wivenhoe Park, Essex
oil on canvas
56.1 × 101.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, London, UK

"I should paint my own places best", Constable wrote, "painting is but another word for feeling".

John Constable John Constable (1776 - 1837) was an English Romantic painter. Born in Suffolk, he is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home - now known as "Constable Country"- which he invested with an intensity of affection.

The son of a landowning farmer, miller, and corn merchant, Constable grew up along the Stour River in East Bergholt, Suffolk. Although his family hoped that he would join his father's business, they permitted him to enter the Royal Academy Schools at the age of twenty-two. Rejecting the accepted hierarchy of genres, which ranked idealized landscapes that told historical or mythological tales above views observed in nature, Constable sought recognition for humbler scenes of cultivated land and agricultural labor.

Beginning with the 1819 Academy exhibition, Constable demonstrated his aspirations more boldly by exhibiting large-scale scenes of working farms and waterways painted in his studio, using increasingly broad brushstrokes and thickly applied highlights. His strikingly fresh, apparently spontaneous transcription of the landscape, described by a writer as "the mirror of nature," caused a sensation among French painters. Intensive studies of clouds and skies enabled Constable to achieve these unique atmospheric effects. In 1821 and 1822, during his intense "skying" period, he produced dozens of watercolor, crayon, and oil studies of the clouds. His cloud studies - celebrated today - were not exhibited in his lifetime. He labeled almost all of these images with scientific precision, indicating the date, time, wind, and weather conditions under which they were painted. Yet his ultimate goal was to paint the sky - which he deemed landscape's "chief organ of sentiment" - more expressively.

In the later part of his career, Constable made fewer open-air oil sketches. Instead, he increasingly prepared studio sketches inspired by his earlier outdoor drawings. He undertook one major project in his final years - a series of twenty mezzotints after his paintings to be engraved by a little-known printmaker under his supervision. The series, known as English Landscape and published from 1830 to 1833, became a manifesto of his views on landscape painting and a summary of his career.

He was never financially successful and did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 52. He sold more paintings in France than in his native England. Today he is often considered, along with J. M. W. Turner, one of England's greatest landscape painters.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel

La Ghirlandata
oil on canvas
124 x 85 cm
Guildhall Art Gallery & Roman London's Amphitheatre, London, UK

Just one year before Rossetti produced La Ghirlandata, he had attempted suicide: Grief-stricken after the death of his wife Elizabeth Siddal. And then, Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris, ‘filled the gap’ and the two began an affair which lasted many years. However, while this painting was created at Kelmscott at a time when Rossetti became infatuated with Jane Morris, the model for La Ghirlanta is not Morris - It is Alexa Wilding.

Owing to its association with love, music was often a feature of Rossetti’s paintings of women. In La Ghirlandata the beautiful but impassive Alexa Wilding is depicted plucking at the strings of a harp, garlanded with lushly blooming roses and honeysuckle, flowers that Rossetti associated with sexual attraction. Her hair is loose and her draperies flutter about her neck in decorative flowing lines. Rossetti created several oil paintings from 1871 until 1874 depicting women with musical instruments: This is one of the most emotional and symbolic.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882) was one of the most unusual and original of all Victorian artists. He was a poet, illustrator, painter and translator. His art was characterized by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. Poetry and image are closely entwined in his works; he frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures. He reacted against the prevailing tendency towards realism and created a new kind of art, painting in his maturity powerful and mysterious dreamlike images of women that convey, through poetic suggestiveness and allusive detail, ideas of sensuality, beauty, love, death and destiny.

For Rossetti, women embodied the mystery of life, and this belief ran through his diverse subject matter from his early pictures typifying female virtue, to the femmes fatales of his later work, representing the power of women over men. A distinguished poet as well as a painter, he was able to enrich his work through his familiarity with European literature, especially with his namesake Dante.

Rossetti gained his love of the Italian poet’s work from his father, a Dante scholar who had come to London as a political exile. Dante’s intense vision of Beatrice, his ideal love for her that transcended death, was one of the wellsprings of Rossetti’s art, and at times his own life seemed to run in parallel. The visionary world he constructed in his art was imaginary, but it was built on personal experience; his ideals of female beauty were inspired by the delicate features of Elizabeth Siddal, his early muse, who died tragically soon after their marriage, and then by the statuesque Jane Morris. But he also frequently used professional models.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

David, Jacques Louis

Madame Recamier
oil on canvas
173 x 244 cm
The Louvre Museum, Paris, France

A portrait of the Parisian socialite Juliette Recamier, showing her in the height of Neoclassical fashion, reclining on an Directoire style sofa in a simple empire line dress with almost bare arms, and short hair. He began it in May 1800 but may have left it unfinished when he learned that Francois Gerard had been commissioned before him to paint a portrait of the same model (Gerard's portrait was completed in 1802). 
The pose of a reclining figure looking back over her shoulder was adopted in 1814 by Ingres for his Grande Odalisque. Rene Magritte also parodied David's painting in his own Perspective: Madame Recamier by David, showing a coffin reclining.

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.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Memling, Hans

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints (central panel of St. John Altarpiece, with Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine)
oil on oak panel
173.6 x 173.7 cm
Memlingmuseum, chapel in St. John's hospital (Sint-Janshospitaal), Bruges, Belgium

The symbolic gesture whereby Jesus places a wedding ring on the finger of St Catherine of Alexandria caused this altarpiece to be identified for many years as the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine. Nevertheless, it is clearly dedicated to the Virgin and the two St Johns. This panel focuses upon a Sacra Conversazione, a gathering of saints around the Virgin. This Altarpiece is dedicated to the patron saints of St. John's Hospital.

Hans Memling, also spelled Memlinc, (c.1430 - 1494) was a German-born leading Flemish painter of the Bruges school (Jan van Eyck is the famed founder of the  school) painting both portraits and large religious works. He moved to Flanders and worked in the tradition of Early Netherlandish painting. He is one of the leading artists from the 1460s until the end of his life. His reputation was not confined to Flanders, but spreaded to Italy, France and England. Memling's work suited the taste of that age in any European country.

His portraits of nobles were more characteristic, and probably more remarkable as likenesses, than any that Memling s contemporaries could produce. He was very successful in Bruges: it is known that he was listed among the wealthiest citizens on the city tax accounts.
Memling died on August 11, 1494 and left behind a considerable property. Recording his death, the notary of Bruges described him as "the most skillful painter in the whole of Christendom."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mantegna, Andrea

The Agony in the Garden
tempera on wood
63 x 80 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

Mantegna had a preference for barren, rocky landscapes. In this painting he uses the landscape to emphasize Jesus' emotions of loneliness and fear. Three disciples are asleep while the agonized Jesus prays to his father. He feels his end is approaching. In the background Judas and a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus. To the right the sky is becoming lighter: a new day has come.

Mantegna, Andrea (1431 - 1506), one of the foremost north Italian painters of the 15th century. A master of perspective and foreshortening, he made important contributions to the compositional techniques of Renaissance painting. He was the dominant influence on north Italian painting for 50 years.

Born probably at Isola di Carturo, between Vicenza and Padua, he became the apprentice and adopted son of the painter Francesco Squarcione of Padua. He developed a passionate interest in classical antiquity. The influence of both ancient Roman sculpture and the contemporary sculptor Donatello are clearly evident in Mantegna's rendering of the human figure. His human forms were distinguished for their solidity, expressiveness, and anatomical correctness.

His principal works in Padua were religious. In 1459 he went to Mantua to become court painter to the ruling family and accordingly turned from religious to secular and allegorical subjects. In the works after 1465, he carried the art of illusionistic perspective to new limits. This was to become an important element of baroque and rococo art. Mantegna's later works varied in quality. His work never ceased to be innovative. He died in Mantua.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Johnson, Eastman

The Girl I Left Behind Me
oil on canvas
106.7 x 88.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA

"The Girl I Left Behind Me" is a long-standing popular folk tune and song, dated by most authorities to the late 18th or early 19th century. It has many variations and verses. Here is one example:

My mind her full image retains
Whether asleep or awaken'd
hope to see my jewel again
For her my heart is breaking.

Eastman Johnson imagined a soldier's wife standing on the hill where they parted. The crimson lining of her wind-whipped cape suggests their passionate love for one another, while her wedding ring, appearing almost at the center of the painting, ensures the young bride's devotion. Johnson had witnessed the Battle of Manassas in 1862, and the painting's title refers to an old Irish song that became a popular regimental ballad during the Civil War. The young woman in this picture may be the most passionate portrayal in all nineteenth-century American art. It is even more openly romantic than Winslow Homer's pictures of women. Everything about her is animated by an inner intensity. She combines the majesty of a classical statue with the mood of a tragic heroine.

Eastman Johnson (1824 - 1906) was an American painter, and Co-Founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, with his name inscribed at its entrance. Best known for his genre paintings, paintings of scenes from everyday life, and his portraits both of everyday people and prominent Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His later works often show the influence of the 17th-century Dutch masters whom he studied while living in The Hague, and he was even known as The American Rembrandt in his day.

Johnson's achievement was to bring more sophisticated techniques to the United States, to extend the range of "American" subject matter, and to insist on a more dignified and democratic content to genre painting. He spoke to and for his own generation, and he greatly influenced a number of genre painters as they made their transition from genre painting to art-for-art's sake modernism. He could produce anecdotal and sentimental pictures while simultaneously experimenting with a lighter palette, looser brushwork, and summary treatment of forms. Seen in the broader context of American art, Johnson's work forges the strongest link between the genre painting of the pre-Civil War years and the realism of the late nineteenth century.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Porter, Charles Ethan

Mountain Laurel
oil on canvas
50.9 x 61.3 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., USA

Charles Ethan Porter (c.1847 - 1923), one of the finest still-life painters in America during the nineteenth century, was the first African American admitted into the National Academy of Design in New York. He grew up in Connecticut, moving from Hartford to Rockville, at an early age. After graduating from high school in 1865, he studied art for two years at Wilbraham Wesleyan in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. In 1869, he moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design in New York. From 1887 until 1896, he moved back and forth between New York and Connecticut, managing to live off his income as an artist. According to the Hartford Black History Project, Porter shared a studio in Rockville, Connecticut with a Bavarian artist, who sold Porter's paintings door-to-door because people would not buy art from a black artist. He died poor and in relative obscurity.

Here, Charles Ethan Porter captured a cascade of laurel in full bloom, gathered in a simple blue-gray vase. The green leaves and the simple, shaded background convey the season’s warmth and vibrancy. He lived and worked in Connecticut, where mountain laurels were named the state flower. His meticulous touch and astonishing luminescence testifies to an exceptional talent from any era. His native state, Connecticut, proved to be his most powerful muse, from his mother's lustrous garden to the fields and woodlands of Connecticut. Porter's fascination with nature's vegetation and topography provided endless inspiration throughout his career.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fantin-Latour, Henri

Marie-Yolande de Fitz-James 
oil on fabric
50.2 x 42.2 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA

This is the portrait commissioned by the Duke of Fitz-James. His method of presenting the Duke’s 12-year-old daughter against a neutral background is reminiscent of the old master paintings he copied on visits to the Louvre.

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 - 1904) was a French painter who is best known for his flower paintings and group portraits of his friends Parisian artists and writers. He was particularly renowned for his highly controlled style of delicate, meticulously detailed still-life and flower paintings. He often spent his summers painting floral still life-s with his wife, also an artist. He reportedly produced more than 800 flower paintings in response to the tremendous demand for such works in France and Britain.

Although he befriended several of the young artists who would later be associated with Impressionism, including Whistler and Manet, Fantin's own work remained conservative in style. He exhibited with the Impressionists but never shared their passion for outdoor painting. But his paintings inspired by imaginative themes, revealing his romantic passion for Wagner, Berlioz and Schumann, strongly influenced the symbolist movement of the late 19th Century.

He died of lyme disease and was interred in the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, Paris, France. In 1879 He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur medal. Marcel Proust mentions Fantin-Latour's work in In Search of Lost Time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Macke, August

Portrait of the Artist's wife Elisabeth with a Hat (Frau des Kunstlers mit Hut)
oil oon canvas
49.7 × 34 cm
Westphalian State Museum of Art and Cultural History, Germany

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

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

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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

Figures on the Beach
oil on canvas
52.7 x 64.1 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hopper, Edward

Room in Brooklyn
oil on canvas
73.98 x 86.36 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Donghi, Antonio

The Baptism    
oil on canvas
size unknown
Galerie d'Art Moderne, Turin, Italy      

Antonio Donghi (1897 - 1963) was an Italian painter of scenes of popular life, landscapes, and still life. Born in Rome, he studied at the Instituto di Belle Arti. After military service in World War I he studied art in Florence and Venice, soon establishing himself as one of Italy's leading figures in the neoclassical movement that arose in the 1920s. Possessed of an extremely refined technique, he favored strong composition, spatial clarity, and unpretentious subject matter.

His figures possess a gravity and an archaic stiffness reminiscent of Piero della Francesca, but a closer comparison may be made to Georges Seurat and Henri Rousseau. His still lifes often consist of a small vase of flowers, depicted with the disarming symmetry of naive art. He achieved both popular and critical success, in 1927 winning First Prize in an International Exhibit at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. A critic saw his clear realism and choice of subject-matter (people, still-lifes and cityscapes) as egalitarian and related to Caravaggio's influences.

By the 1940s, his work was far outside the mainstream of modernism, and his reputation declined, although he continued to exhibit regularly. In his last years he concentrated mainly on landscapes, painted in a style that emphasizes linear patterns. He died in Rome in 1963.
Most of his works are in Italian collections, notably the Museo di Roma.