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Monday, September 30, 2013

Waterhouse, John William


Ophelia (Lying in the Meadow)
1889
oil on canvas
157.5 x 97.8 cm
private collection

John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917) was an English painter of classical, historical, and literary subjects, known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He worked several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had seen its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, leading him to have gained the moniker of "the modern Pre-Raphaelite". Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.

He was born in the city of Rome to the British painters in 1849, in the same year that the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais, were first causing a stir in the London art scene. His early life in Italy has been cited as one of the reasons why many of his later paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon scenes taken from Roman mythology.

In 1854, he returned to England and he, coming from an artistic family, was encouraged to get involved in drawing. He often sketched artworks that he found in the British Museum and the National Gallery. In 1871 he entered the Royal Academy of Art school, initially to study sculpture, before moving on to painting.

His early works were not Pre-Raphaelite in nature, but were of classical themes. He went from strength to strength in the London art scene, with his 1876 piece After the Dance being given the prime position in that year's summer exhibition. One of his favorite subjects was Ophelia. He may have been inspired by paintings of Ophelia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. Perhaps due to his success, his paintings typically became larger and larger in size. In 1895 he was elected to the status of full Academician. He taught at the St. John's Wood Art School, joined the St John's Wood Arts Club, and served on the Royal Academy Council.

He was gravely ill with cancer and died two years later, and his grave can be found at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. He and his wife did not have any children. His wife outlived her husband by 27 years, passing away in 1944 at a nursing home. Today, she is buried alongside her husband.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stevens, Alfred


Young Woman Resting in a Music Room
year unknown
oil on canvas
40 x 61.2 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens (1823 - 1906) was a Belgian painter, born in Brussels. He was one of the most well-known artists in Paris in the second half of the 19th century. He caused a furor with his paintings of elegant, intriguing and distant women. He captured the contemporary worldly woman convincingly and deftly, paying close attention to the gorgeous textures of the clothing and luxuriously appointed interiors.

It was at the Paris World Fair of 1855 that he achieved a breakthrough with a painting of a beggar woman and her children in the snow. In this early period of his career he was particularly influenced by realist artists such as Gustave Courbet who chronicled the everyday lives of simple people, as well as by the Dutch interior tradition of depicting genre scenes in contemporary interiors.

Gradually he abandoned socially engaged realism and went on to develop a modern form of realistic painting showcasing society ladies in their luxuriously appointed salons. These works evoke the spirit of the good life in Paris. His subject choice was nothing short of pioneering at the time, as women had until then always been portrayed or painted exclusively in a mythological or historical context up until then. He depicted women as a sort of priceless ‘objects’ in their beautifully furnished homes. This provided him with an opportunity to demonstrate his craftsmanship. In addition to the harmonious colors, the public also greatly admired the lifelike portrayal of the various materials. As a result his paintings sold widely.

He and painter James McNeill Whistler were among the first artists to cultivate a fascination with Japanese art and objects. He was also an eclectic collector, filling his house with furniture and works of art from a wide range of periods, styles and countries. Still, he was primarily interested in attractive exotic trinkets and items such as kimonos, fans, parasols and folding screens, which he incorporated in his paintings. He not only painted the Parisian bourgeoisie; he was also an active participant in the decadent life of Parisian society.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Matisse, Henri


Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised, Green Striped Chair
1963
oil on canvas
65.1 x 50.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

The subject is Henriette Darricarriere, who was a ballet dancer at Studios de la Victorine, a cinematic studio founded in 1919 now called Studios Riviera. The transparent pants she is wearing are part of a harem costume.

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

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

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

Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting. In particular he loved Islamic art. Islamic pattern offers the illusion of a completely full world, where everything from far to near is pressed with equal urgency against the eye. Matisse admired that, and wanted to transpose it into terms of pure color. Beyond painting, he worked with lithographs and sculpture, and during World War II he did a series of book designs. Later in his career he experimented with paper cutouts and designed decorations for the Dominican chapel in Venice, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. Matisse said that he wanted his art to have the same effect as a comfortable armchair on a tired businessman and many of the paintings he left us seem to be the view from that armchair.
"Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better." "It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character." (Henri Matisse)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


Odalisque
1870
oil on canvas
69.2 x 122.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Three years before Odalisque won a place in the Salon, an annual government-sponsored exhibition in Paris, the Salon jury had rejected Renoir's Diana. The same model, Lise Treot, posed for both works. The female nude masked as a mythological subject had offended conservative jurors. But Lise's turn in Odalisque--overtly eroticized even though fully clothed--met with their approval. Such exotic fantasy proved to be popular during the 1870s. Renoir's painting owes a considerable debt to Eugene Delacroix's Women of Algiers (Louvre, Paris, 1834). Delacroix traveled extensively in North Africa and subsequently produced paintings inspired by the region and its artifacts. Renoir first visited Algeria ten years after painting Odalisque. Objects represented in it, such as the ceramic ware, pillows, textiles, and clothing, were most likely European products inspired by Islamic designs. Renoir sought to invoke a mood rather than depict a specific time and place. (National Gallery of Art)

"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.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hopper, Edward


Portrait of Orleans
1950
oil on canvas
66 x 91 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, 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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Constable, John


A Cottage in a Cornfield
1817
oil on canvas
32 x 26 cm
National Museum Wales, Cardiff, UK

Constable made two versions of this subject, the first painted largely outdoors in the vicinity of East Bergholtduring the summer of 1815 and completed in 1833 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),  and this second version painted in his studio in London towards the beginning of 1817. He made a number of changes to the image, showing the scene at high summer with the field full of ripe corn, changing the quality of the light, adding the figure beside the cottage on the left, and the donkey and foal standing to the right of the gate.

As a boy Constable often passed by this cottage, at the end of Fen Lane, when he walked down the lane on his way to school at Dedham. It was ‘a picture compact with the true sentiment of observation, playing the contrast of the remoteness of human habitation against the thick, ripening, jungle life of the corn surging up to the walls of the cottage’. (Andrew Shirley in his biography of Constable)  

"I should paint my own places best", Constable wrote, "painting is but another word for feeling".
Constable's range and aspirations were less extensive than those of his contemporary J. M. W. Turner, but these two artists have traditionally been linked as the giants of early 19th-century British landscape painting and isolated from the many other artists practising landscape at a time when it was unprecedentedly popular.

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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Munch, Edvard


The Haymaker
1917
oil on canvas
130 x 150 cm
Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway

"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul." (Munch)

Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944) was a Norwegian painter whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Although Munch was interested in painting since he was a boy, his family was not in love with the idea and urged him to acquire a more prestigious and profitable profession. In 1879, at the age of 16, he entered the Oslo Technical College with the idea of becoming an engineer. He pursued this field of study for little more than a year before deciding that his true calling was art and dropping out of the college. Soon thereafter, he enrolled for classes at the Royal Drawing School in Oslo. He was a quick and able student. At the Royal Drawing School, he was considered one of the most gifted young artists of his day.

Munch grew increasingly withdrawn from public life, after 1920, limiting social contacts and carefully guarding his privacy. He lived alone, without a servant or housekeeper, with only several dogs for company, and devoted his days to painting. It was during this period, ironically, that he at last began to gain the recognition that had been denied him previously by both critics and public. In 1940, Germany occupied Norway. He refused to be associated with the Nazis and the Quisling puppet-government they set up in Norway, isolating himself in his country home. Following the USA's entry into the Second World War in 1942, the painter's anti-Nazi stance gained him recognition there as well.

He died on January 23, 1944, at his estate in Ekely. He bequeathed all of his property, which included over 1,000 paintings and close to 20,000 sketches, woodcuts and lithographs, to the city of Oslo. The Munch Museum was subsequently opened there to mark the painter's centenary, in 1963.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rousseau, Henri


Winter
1907
oil on canvas
40.3 x 52.1 cm
Private collection

Rousseau said to Picasso in 1908... "We are the two great painters of this era; you are in the Egyptian style, I in the modern style."

Henri Julien Felix Rousseau (1844 - 1910), French Post-Impressionist painter, was the most celebrated of naive artists. He was, from the first, entirely self-taught, and his work remained consistently in Naive, Primitive and imaginative manner. He is known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) because before he retired to paint, he held a minor post in the Paris customs service, although he never actually rose to the rank of Douanier. At age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art.

Rousseau was an outsider, and he was not familiar with the rules of the artistic establishment. His character was extraordinarily ingenuous and he suffered much ridicule as well as enduring great poverty. However, his faith in his own abilities never wavered. He was a regular contributor to Paris exhibitions, but during his lifetime, was viewed with amusement and condescension by both the public and fellow artists. Although he worked in traditional genres, producing landscapes, portraits, allegories, and exotic scenes, they were transformed in his hands. Flattened shapes and perspectives, the freedom of color and style, the subordination of realistic description to imagination and invention are the hallmarks of his work. He never left France or saw a jungle. His jungle landscapes derive from his visits and studies at the Paris Botanical Gardens.

Rousseau was buried in a pauper's grave, and soon after his death his greatness began to be widely acknowledged. he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality, though ridiculed during his life. His work exerted influence on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso, including Leger and the Surrealists.
"If you remove these lines in the painting, the colors are no longer effective." "I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labor." (Rousseau)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Macke, August


Zoologischer Garten I
1912
oil on canvas
98 x 58 cm
Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany

"A work of art is a parable, it is man's thought, an autonomous idea of an artist, a song about the beauty of things: a work of art is the noble differentiated expression of man who is capable of something more than merely saying: 'Isn't that beautiful?' " (Macke)

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 on September 26, 1914 as a soldier near Perthe-les-Hurlus in the Champagne, the second month of World War I. He died in battle at the age of twenty-seven. His final painting depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of war. Despite his short life, he leaves a mature and extensive oeuvre of great strength and high quality.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Klimt, Gustav


Church In Cassone
1913
oil on canvas
110 x 110 cm
Private collection

The church was painted from a point of view in Malcesine, near the Villa Gruber in Dossodi Ferri on the peninsula Val di Sogno and Klimt used a telescope.
Malcesine is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Verona in the Italy. Malcesine lies on the shores of Lake Garda.

"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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


The Red Cow
1889
oil on canvas
90.8 × 73 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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

"The Red Cow" is painted during his stay in Brittany. It is representative of rural peasant life in 19th Century Europe. There were "three levels of French society, rural workers, urban workers, and urban bourgeoise" during that time period. Peasant images were quite popular among artists like Gauguin who had grown to despise the corrupt nature of European urban society, and found the simplicity of country life more to their taste. The issue of class is critically addressed in this painting which represents the peasant class as hard-working and pious and by extension more desirable as human beings than city people who use machines, and do not have to grow their own food and goods.

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.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Catlin, George


Au-nah-kwet-to-hau-pay-o, One Sitting in the Clouds, a Boy
1831
oil on canvas
53.5 x 42.0 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA

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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bastien-Lepage, Jules


Hay Making (Les Foins)
1878
oil on canvas
160 x 195 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Dubbed the "grandson of Millet and Courbet" by Emile Zola, Jules Bastien-Lepage specialised in agricultural scenes which were a far remove from the affected pastoral scenes that cluttered the Salon. Zola was excited by Hay Making, seeing it as the masterpiece of naturalism in painting.

Indeed, Bastien-Lepage has powerfully captured the epic of the French countryside and depicted the peasants in their simplicity and despondency: the young woman sitting in the foreground is haggard with weariness. The composition this painting is daringly photographic: the horizon is unusually high, allowing the hay "like a very pale yellow cloth shot with silver" to fill the main part of the canvas. The effects of accelerated perspective, the light palette, and close framing of the figures are signs of modernity within the naturalist approach. 

Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848 - 1884), was a French naturalist painter, a style following the Realist movement.
He was born in the village of Damvillers, Meuse, and spent his childhood there. His father grew grapes in a vineyard to support the family. Bastien took an early liking to drawing, and his parents fostered his creativity by buying prints of paintings for him to copy. His first teacher was his father, himself an artist. His first formal training was at Verdun, and prompted by a love of art he went to Paris in 1867, where he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-arts. He was awarded first place for drawing but spent most of his time working alone, only occasionally appearing in class.

When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, he fought when men were needed for the troops. After the war, he returned home to paint the villagers. He was recognized in France as the leader of a school, and his Portrait of Mine Sarah Bernhardt (1879), painted in a light key, won him the cross of the Legion of Honor. Bastien-Lepage, long ailing, had tried in vain to re-establish his health but died in Paris in 1884, when planning a new series of rural subjects. His friend was with him at the end and wrote,  "At last he was unable to work anymore; and he died on the 10th of December, 1884, breathing his last in my arms. At his grave's head his mother and brother lovingly planted an apple-tree, which every spring showers down its wealth of pearly petals over the last resting-place of the great master whose loss we all mourn."
After his death, a special exhibition of more than 200 of his pictures was formed at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1889 some of his best work was shown at the Paris Exposition.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Benson, Frank Weston


Salmon Fishing
1927
oil on canvas
91.8 x 112.1 cm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA, USA

Frank Weston Benson (1862 - 1951) was an American artist from Salem, Massachusetts. He is known for his Realistic portraits, American Impressionist paintings, watercolors. He began his career painting portraits of distinguished families and murals for the Library of Congress.

In 1880, Benson began to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and in 1883 at the Academie Julien in Paris. He enjoyed a distinguished career as an instructor and department head at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He was a founding member of the Ten American Painters, American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Guild of Boston Artists.

He was born to a successful cotton broker. He obtained his appreciation of the sea from his grandfather, Captain Samuel Benson. When he was 12, he was given a sailboat in which he explored the waterways and marshes and raced against his siblings. To encourage educational activity, his parents gave him a weekly allowance to foster independent study and hobbies. He kept active roller-skating, tennis, ice-skating, boxing, fishing and hunting. His father gave him a shotgun and taught him how to hunt shore birds along the North Shore and wildfowl in the local fields and marshes. He spent nearly all of his weekends hunting or fishing in the fields, marshes and streams.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ginner, Charles


Clayhidon
1913
oil on canvas
size unknown
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, Devon, UK

Charles Isaac Ginner (1878 - 1952) was a painter of landscape and urban subjects. Born in the south of France at Cannes, the second son of a British doctor. At an early age he formed the intention of becoming a painter, but his parents disapproved. He worked in an engineer's office, and in 1899, at the age of 21, moved to Paris to study architecture. In 1904, his parents withdrew their opposition to his becoming a painter, and he entered the Academie Vitti, where Henri Martin was teaching. In 1908, he left Vitti's and worked on his own in Paris, taking Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne for his guides. In 1909, he visited Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he held his first one-person show, which helped to introduce post-Impressionism to South America. His oil paintings showed the influence of Van Gogh, with their heavy impasto paint.

In 1910 Ginner went to London, to serve on the Hanging Committee of the Allied Artists Association's third exhibition. During World War I he was called up about 1916, serving firstly in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, secondly in the Intelligence Corps and lastly for the Canadian War Records. During World War II he was again an Official War Artist, and specialized in painting harbor scenes and bombed buildings in London. In 1942 he became an Associate of the Royal Academy, where he advocated the admission of younger artists.
Ginner painted buildings in an urban context. His watercolours are unmistakable, with meticulous detailing of trees and buildings.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wyeth, N.C.


Snowbound
1928
oil on canvas
36" x 34"
The National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Newell Convers Wyeth (1882 - 1945), otherwise known as N. C. Wyeth, was one of the great American illustrators. He was born and raised in Needham, MA, and was something of a child prodigy with watercolors. His mother encouraged his talent, and he attended local art schools.

When Wyeth was 20 years old, he was invited to study illustration under Howard Pyle in Wilmington, Delaware. Wyeth was greatly influenced by Pyle, who is still remembered today as the “father of illustration.” Pyle instilled in Wyeth the importance of research to illustration, from trips to historical sites, to drawing from models dressed in period costumes. Wyeth was pretty much successful from the get-go as a professional illustrator, landing a cover for The Saturday Evening Post just a few months after he began studying with Pyle.

Wyeth married and settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and went on to a long career as an illustrator, painter, and muralist. During his lifetime, he created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books, 25 of them for Scribner's, the Scribner Classics, which is the work for which he is best-known. The first of these, Treasure Island, was his masterpiece and the proceeds paid for his studio. Wyeth was a realist painter just as the camera and photography began to compete with his craft. Sometimes seen as melodramatic, his illustrations were designed to be understood quickly. Wyeth, who was both a painter and an illustrator, understood the difference, and said, "Painting and illustration cannot be mixed - one cannot merge from one into the other."

In 1945, N.C. Wyeth and his grandson died in an accident at a railway crossing near his Chadds Ford home. At the time of his death, he was working on an ambitious series of murals for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company depicting the Pilgrims at Plymouth, a series completed by Andrew Wyeth and John McCoy. Andrew Wyeth (born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in 1917) is a son of N.C. Wyeth and his wife Carolyn Bockius Wyeth.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Homer, Winslow


Snap the Whip
1872
oil on canvas
30.5 x 50.8 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, NYC, USA

Children embodied innocence and the promise of America's future and were depicted by many artists and writers during the 1870s. Here Homer reminisces about rural simplicity and reflects on the challenges of the complex post-Civil War world. Released from the confines of a one-room schoolhouse, exuberant boys engage in a spirited game. As the population shifted to cities and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory, this image would have evoked nostalgia for the nation's agrarian past. The boys' bare feet signal childhood's freedom but their suspenders are associated with manhood's responsibilities. Their game, which requires teamwork, strength, and calculation, may allude to the reunited nation. Observed from right to left, Homer's boys hang on to one another, strain to stay connected, run in perfect harmony, and fall away, enacting all the possible scenarios for men after the Civil War. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Monet, Claud


Camille Monet on a Garden Bench
1873
oil on canvas
60.6 x 80.3 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Monet's art depends on observation of his environment, and to that extent it is always autobiographical. In his pictures, one can chart the seasons, the weather, or as here, the look of women's fashion in 1873. Monet's wife, Camille Doncieux, is as easily recognizable as the mounds of geraniums in the garden of the couple's rented house in Argenteuil.
"Camille Monet on a Garden Bench" is the most enigmatic of Monet's rare genre pictures. Numerous interpretations have been offered, yet nothing has been found in the literature or theater of Monet's time that corresponds to this scene. The most telling clue may be biographical: the death of Camille's father in September 1873. Camille was an impassive model, but here she telegraphs sadness, while holding a note in her gloved hand. Later, Monet identified the gentleman as a neighbor?perhaps one who had called to offer his condolences and a consoling bouquet. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." (Monet)

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

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Caillebotte, Gustave


Richard Gallo and His Dog at Petit Gennevilliers
c.1884
oil on canvas
89 x 116 cm
Private Collection

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 1894) was a French painter, member of artists known as Impressionists group, though he painted in a much more realistic manner. He was an engineer by profession and a generous patron of the Impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected.

His reputation as a painter was superseded, for many years, by his reputation as a supporter of the arts. Caillebotte's art was largely forgotten until the 1950s when his descendents began to sell the family collection.

Art historians began reevaluating his artistic contributions, seventy years after his death. His striking use of varying perspective is particularly admirable and sets him apart from his peers who may have exceeded him in other artistic areas.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


A nymph by a stream
1870
oil on canvas
66.7 x 122.9 cm
National Gallery, London, UK

The model for this painting was Lise Trehot, who was Renoir's frequent model and companion during these years. Here, Renoir associates the female nude seen in nature with the forces of nature itself, represented by the stream near which she lies.This was a traditional theme in French art, and in the mid-19th century it was also explored by such artists as Ingres and Courbet.

"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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Morisot, Berthe


Reclining Shepherdess
1891
oil on canvas
63 x 114cm
Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris, France

Berthe Morisot (1841 - 1895) was a French painter and was the first woman to join the circle of the French impressionist painters. She was described as one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.

Born into a family of wealth and culture, Morisot received the conventional lessons in drawing and painting. Having studied for a time under Camille Corot, she later began her long friendship with Edouard Manet who became her brother-in-law in 1874 when she married his brother Eugene, and was the most important single influence on the development of her style. Unlike most of the other impressionists, who were then intensely engaged in optical experiments with color, Morisot and Manet agreed on a more conservative approach, confining their use of color to a naturalistic framework. Morisot, however, did encourage Manet to adopt the impressionists' high-keyed palette and to abandon the use of black. Her own carefully composed, brightly hued canvases are often studies of women, either out-of-doors or in domestic settings. Morisot and American artist Mary Cassatt are generally considered the most important women painters of the later 19th century.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Derain, Andre


Big Ben
1906
oil on canvas
79 × 98 cm
Musee d'Art Moderne de Troyes, France

"I do not innovate. I transmit." (Derain)
Derain Painted in a style called fauvism for this work. The colours are mixed together, they are bright and bold. The brush strokes are made to distort reality. Quite like the Morse code this art is done in dots and dashes.

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.
"The substance of painting is light." (Derain)

Tait, Agnes


Skating in Central Park
1934
oil on canvas
33 7/8 x 48 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, USA

Tait had long wanted to make a large, festive painting of winter revelers in Central Park, but without a patron she could not take on this project. When the Public Works of Art Project gave her support in the winter of 1933-1934, she had her opportunity. As skaters and sledders flocked to the frozen lake and snowy slopes of Central Park, Tait joined them to sketch the winter fun. Then she retreated to her studio to make her painting. She showed the park in late afternoon as the Manhattan sky began to blush and the street lamps to glow, but skating and sledding were still in full swing. Once she had the landscape painted, Tait added figures in groups to create a colorful pattern against the snow and ice. The dark branches of the bare trees make a more subtle design against the white snow and mist and the golden sky. Around the ends of tree branches and in patches along the snowbanks, she painted areas of gray into which she drew snow-covered twigs and grasses by scraping away the gray paint with the end of her paintbrush. (Smithsonian Institution)

Agnes Tait (1894 - 1981) was born in New York City. She enrolled at the National Academy of Design in 1908 and took a life drawing class. She finished her training at the academy in 1916. In 1927 she traveled to Paris and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where she learned lithography. The following year she returned to New York, where she had her first exhibition. She traveled to Europe a second time in the early 1930s and returned via Haiti and Jamaica, which fostered an interest in tropical scenes.

In early 1934 she was employed by the Public Works of Art Project, for which she executed what is considered her most famous work, Skating in Central Park. Throughout the 1930s she worked on small lithographic editions and mural work. In 1941 she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. She continued to travel extensively in Mexico, France, Spain, Ireland, and Italy and worked on portrait commissions, book illustrations, mural commissions, and her own paintings and lithographs. In the late 1960s and 1970s she limited her output to smaller works depicting mostly cats and flowers. She died in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Constable, John


view in a garden at Hampstead with a red house (Blick in einen Garten im Hampstead mit rotem Haus im Hintergrund, Ausschnitt)
1821
oil on canvas
size unknown
location unknown

"I should paint my own places best", Constable wrote, "painting is but another word for feeling".
Constable's range and aspirations were less extensive than those of his contemporary J. M. W. Turner, but these two artists have traditionally been linked as the giants of early 19th-century British landscape painting and isolated from the many other artists practising landscape at a time when it was unprecedentedly popular.

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.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Macke, August


Geraniums Before Blue Mountain
1911
oil on canvas
52.1 x 64.8 cm
Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

"A work of art is a parable, it is man's thought, an autonomous idea of an artist, a song about the beauty of things: a work of art is the noble differentiated expression of man who is capable of something more than merely saying: 'Isn't that beautiful?' " (Macke)

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 on September 26, 1914 as a soldier near Perthe-les-Hurlus in the Champagne, the second month of World War I. He died in battle at the age of twenty-seven. His final painting depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of war. Despite his short life, he leaves a mature and extensive oeuvre of great strength and high quality.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dove, Arthur Garfield


Dancing Willows
c.1944
oil and wax on canvas
68.6 x 91.1 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Arthur Garfield Dove (1880 - 1946) was an early American modernist artist, whose abstractions from nature influenced many younger American artists.  He is often considered the first American abstract painter.

He was born to a wealthy family in Canandaigua, New York. His parents were of English ancestry. His father was interested in politics and named his son Arthur Garfield, after the Republican candidates for President and Vice-President in the 1880 election, who ultimately won the vote.
His father was a very successful businessman and expected his son to become wealthy. Following his parents' wishes, he began pre-law study in 1901 at Cornell University, however, he enrolled in art courses as well. There, he was chosen to illustrate the Cornell University yearbook. And, his illustrations proved popular because they brought life to the characters and situations they depicted. After graduation, he became a well known commercial illustrator in New York City, working for Harper's Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Dove's parents were upset at his choice to become an artist, instead of a more profitable profession that his Ivy League degree would have enabled.

In 1909 he moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he painted and kept a farm. In his first one-person exhibition in 1912, Dove established himself as one of America’s most prolific and inventive artists working with abstraction. He sought to represent the unseen rhythms and nuances of his environment and to record personal interpretations of nature by reducing form to its purest essence. In 1921 he moved to a houseboat on the Harlem River. From 1924 to 1933 he lived on the sailboat, on Huntington Harbor off of Long Island. Then he moved to Geneva to settle his family estate. Five years later, he returned to Long Island, purchasing a house.

The paintings he created during the years he lived on a boat on the coast of Long Island (1924-1933), portray the boats, barges, and docks of Huntington Harbor as well as the effects of weather on the environment. His years on the family estate in Geneva (1933-38) are represented by paintings that in their rural imagery and earthy browns, moss greens, and muted ochres evoke the atmosphere of living off of the land. During his last decade, spent back in the Huntington Harbor area, at Centerport, he painted in a freshly abstract style of crisp, bright color and spatial experimentation. Dove continued to paint abstractions until his death in 1946.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


The Olive Trees
1889
oil on canvas
72.6 x 91.4 cm
MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Gogh painted at least 18 paintings of olive trees, mostly in Saint-Remy in 1889. At his own request, he lived at an asylum there from May 1889 through May 1890 painting the gardens of the asylum and, when he had permission to venture outside its walls, nearby olive trees, cypresses and wheat fields. "The olive trees with the white cloud and the mountains behind, as well as the rise of the moon and the night effect, are exaggerations from the point of view of the general arrangement; the outlines are accentuated as in some old woodcuts." (Later, when the picture had dried, he sent it to his brother Theo in Paris.)

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marc, Franz


Haystacks in the Snow
1911
oil on canvas
79.5 x 100 cm
Franz Marc Museum, Kochel am See, Germany

Franz Marc (1880 - 1916) was a German painter, and one of the key figures of the German Expressionist movement. He was born in Munich, then the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His father was a professional landscape painter; his mother was a strict Calvinist.

In 1900, he began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. In 1903 and 1907, he spent time in France, particularly in Paris, visiting the city's museums and copying many paintings, a traditional way for artists to study and develop technique. In Paris, he frequented artistic circles and was able to meet artists, including the actress Sarah Bernhardt. He discovered a strong affinity for the work of Vincent van Gogh.
In 1910, he developed an important friendship with the artist August Macke.
In 1911, he founded the The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) journal, which became the center of an artist circle, along with Macke, Wassily Kandinsky, and others who had decided to split off from the Neue Kunstlervereinigung (New Artist's Association) movement.
In 1912, he met Robert Delaunay, whose use of color and futurist method was a major influence on his work; fascinated by futurism and cubism, he created art increasingly stark and abstract in nature.
But in August of 1914, at the outbreak of the war, he volunteered. Kandinsky visited him to say "Auf Wiedersehen." but he replied "Adieu." Within two months, his first personal indication of the war's magnitude occurred; August Macke died in battle in September at the age of twenty-seven. After mobilization of the German Army, the government identified notable artists to be withdrawn from combat for their own safety. Marc was on the list but was struck in the head and killed instantly by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun, France while in his military service, on March 4, 1916 at the age of thirty-six, before orders for reassignment could reach him.

Marc made some sixty prints in woodcut and lithography. Most of his mature work portrays animals, usually in natural settings. His work is characterized by bright primary color, an almost cubist portrayal of animals, stark simplicity and a profound sense of emotion. Even in his own time, his work attracted notice in influential circles. Marc gave an emotional meaning or purpose to the colors he used in his work: blue was used to portray masculinity and spirituality, yellow represented feminine joy, and red encased the sound of violence. After the National Socialists took power, they suppressed modern art; in 1936 and 1937, the Nazis condemned the late Marc as an entarteter Kunstler (degenerate artist) and ordered approximately 130 of his works removed from exhibition in German museums.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cezanne, Paul


L'Estaque With Red Roofs (L'Estaque mit roten Dachern)
1885
oil on canvas
65 × 81 cm
Private collection

Cezanne moved to Provence in 1870 to evade military service during the Franco-Prussian War. He soon moved to L'Estaque, a Mediterranean small French fishing village a few miles west of Marseille. Many artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods visited or resided there or in the surrounding area. Many of them painted village scenes, the road leading to the village, and the view of the Bay from the village. During the early 1880s, Cezanne came to cherish L'Estaque as a retreat from the complexities of family life. It inspired some of his grandest landscapes, which are remarkable for the sense of deliberation and structure in every brushstroke and the finely balanced palette of blues and ochers. Cezanne painted many views of the water from his room in L'Estaque, showing the changing seasons, the shifting light of day, and the changes in the village itself over time.

"I am a pupil of Pissarro." (Cezanne)
"Cezanne is the father of us all." (Matisse and Picasso)

Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. He can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. He is regarded today as one of the great forerunners of modern painting, both for the way that he evolved of putting down on canvas exactly what his eye saw in nature and for the qualities of pictorial form that he achieved through a unique treatment of space, mass, and color. In his early career, he was strongly influenced by Delacroix and Courbet, using thick slabs of paint to give his early works a sculptural presence and intensity. He exhibited with the Impressionists, but eventually rejected what he considered the Impressionists' lack of structure, declaring his intention to make Impressionism into "something solid and durable, like the art of museums" in the individual brushstroke and the fall of light onto objects.
The paintings convey his intense study of his subjects. His often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. Misunderstood and discredited by the public during most of his life, his art grew out of Impressionism and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of the painting itself.

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

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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig


Mountain Landscape from Clavadel
1926
oil on canvas
135 x 200.3 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Kirchner was known for his energetic and emotive works, differentiated by an audacious use of colors, the vigor, and angular moulds. He wanted to avoid and stay away from existing creative traditions. He charted a new road, leading to fresh ideas and the novel modes of artistic expression, while cutting through the gap between the old & the new as well.

Kirchner suffered a complete mental and physical collapse after being called up for service during World War I; he then settled in Switzerland, hoping the mountain air would cure mind and body. He turned to painting the high Alps, with bold colors and coarse brushwork, suggesting man at peace with nature-an ideal that contrasted sharply with his own wartime experience.

"A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things." (Kirchner )

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 - 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the key artists group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. The group aimed to eschew the prevalent traditional academic style and find a new mode of artistic expression, which would form a bridge between the past and the present. They responded both to past artists such as Albrecht Durer, Matthias Grunewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder, as well as contemporary international avant-garde movements. As part of the affirmation of their national heritage, they revived older media, particularly woodcut prints.

He was born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria. He studied architecture in Dresden. After finishing his studies, however, he opposed his father's wishes and decided to become a painter.

In 1911, Kirchner settled in Berlin and founded a private art school with the aim of promoting the modern teachings of painting. Although the venture did not last long and ended the following year, here he discovered new motifs - city and street scenes. He painted them in a simplified manner, with sharply contoured forms, expressive features and clashing colors. The city paintings became incunables of Expressionism and made Kirchner one of the most important German artists of the 20th century.
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he volunteered for the military service, but left it soon enough suffering a nervous breakdown. He was released from the army at the end of 1915. In 1917, he left Germany for Switzerland, to settle in Frauenkirch near Davos. he lived in a farm house in the Alps, and mainly focused on the depiction of mountain scenery until the end of his life. There he was  appointed as the member of Prussian Academy of Fine Arts. Around 1920 his painting style calmed down, his paintings had a carpet-like two dimensionality. In 1923 he moved to the "Haus auf dem Wildboden" at the entrance of the Sertig Valley. In 1933, he was labelled a "degenerate artist" by the Nazis, over 600 of his works were confiscated from public museums in Germany and were sold or destroyed. In 1938, the psychological trauma of these events, along with the Nazi occupation of Austria, close to his Sertig Valley home, led him to commit suicide on June 15, 1938.