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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Michelangelo Buonarroti


Pieta per Vittoria Colonna
c.1546
Black chalk on cardboard
28.9 × 18.9 cm
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA

The theme of the Pieta, so dear to the sculptor Michelangelo, is addressed in a highly emotional composition. The dead Jesus is cradled between the grieving Mary's legs, who raises her arms to heaven as two angels also raise Christ's arms at right angles. Mary's gesture balances the forceful vertical lines of Jesus' body, which lies on a rock. Above the two stands a beam, the Cross, on which is inscribed, vertically, a quotation by Dante: Non vi si pensa quanto sangue costa ? "There they don't think of how much blood it costs".

Sometime around 1538, at about the age of 60, Michelangelo was introduced to Vittoria Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara, about age 45.  Vittoria was the widow of the imperial general Ferrante Francesco d’Avalos, a descendant of one of the oldest families of Italy and a member of the Viterbo Circle, a religious group that wanted the church to base theology of salvation on grace rather than works. His friendship with Vittoria gained Michelangelo admittance into her social circles and introduced him to issues dealing with church reform.

Michelangelo and Vittoria shared a loving platonic relationship until her death in 1547. She was one of Michelangelo’s closest friends, and only female companion. The two exchanged letters and shared discussions about religion, politics and art. The relationship with Vittoria, an accomplished woman of the Renaissance and an acclaimed and published spiritual poet, spurred Michelangelo to write some of his most inspired poetry including, To Vittoria Colonna:

When the prime mover of many sighs
Heaven took through death from out her earthly place,
Nature, that never made so fair a face,
Remained ashamed, and tears were in all eyes.
O fate, unheeding my impassioned cries!
O hopes fallacious! O thou spirit of grace,
Where art thou now? Earth holds in its embrace
Thy lovely limbs, thy holy thoughts the skies.
Vainly did cruel death attempt to stay
The rumor of thy virtuous renown,
That Lethe’s waters could not wash away!
A thousand leaves, since he hath stricken thee down,
Speak of thee, not to thee could Heaven convey,
Except through death, a refuge and a crown.
Translated into English by H.W. Longfellow (1807-1882).

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 - 1564) was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.
He was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time. In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino ("the divine one").

In his personal life, Michelangelo was abstemious. He told his apprentice: "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man."
It is said he was indifferent to food and drink, eating "more out of necessity than of pleasure" and that he "often slept in his clothes and ... boots."
He was by nature a solitary and melancholy person. His biographer says, "His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio


Self-Portrait
c. 1499
Black chalk
38.0 x 26.0 cm
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

This Self-Portrait drawing was the work in his teens.




Head of a muse
unknown
Black chalk
30.5 x 22.2 cm
Private collection

Head of a Muse was drawn by Raphael as a study for a figure in Parnassus, one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican which was commissioned by Pope Julius II. The series is seen as Raphael's greatest masterpiece.


"While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere." (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 - 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. He was a popular personality, famous, wealthy, and honored.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop, and despite his death at 37, a large body of his work remains. Many of his works are found in the Apostolic Palace of The Vatican, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. After his early years in Rome much of his work was self-designed, but for the most part executed by the workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

He died on his thirty-seventh birthday, April 6, 1520, because of acute illness, which lasted fifteen days, and was buried the next day, at his request, in the Pantheon amidst universal mourning and acclaim. His funeral was extremely grand, very well attended by large crowds. It is said that Raphael's early death plunged into grief the entire papal court. Pope Leo X, who had an intention to make him a cardinal, wept bitterly when he died. The inscription in his marble sarcophagus reads: "Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die." He is said to have had many affairs, but he never married. The reason of his premature death is unknown.

Raphael's influence was widely spread even during his own lifetime. His posthumous reputation was even greater, for until the later 19th century he was regarded as the greatest painter who had ever lived - the artist who expressed the basic doctrines of the Christian Church through figures that have a physical beauty worthy of the antique. (it was against his authority that the Pre-Raphaelites revolted). He became the ideal of all academies, and today we approach him through a long tradition in which Raphaelesque forms and motifs have been used with a steady diminution of their values. In the modern era Raphael's past canonical status has counted against him and he has inevitably been compared, often unfavorably, to Leonardo and Michelangelo, whose personalities and artistic expression more readily accord with 20th-century sensibilities.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leonardo da Vinci


Study for a Madonna's Head
c. 1481
metalpoint
size unknown
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Leonardo's metalpoint study of this female figure's head shows his confident and composed exploration of the anatomical and three-dimensional form of the human head. This metalpoint is thought to have been used as a preparatory study for the painting of the Madonna Litta (c.1480-81) Hermitage, Leningrad. The Madonna's head in Leonardo's metalpoint study is very similar to the Madonna's head in the Madonna Litta painting except that the virgin's eyes in the preparatory drawing seem to be much more open and visible to the viewer as compared to the eyes of the virgin in the actual painting whose seem to be partially closed and gazing downwards at the Christ child.
It is not certain whether Leonardo in fact painted the Madonna Litta himself or whether his workshop or one of his ardent followers painted the work. Some scholars have even claimed that the painting of the Madonna Litta is too awkward to have been done by Leonardo. Regardless of the artist, however, the virgin's head in both works seems to resemble the other quite closely.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.
He was born in the small Tuscan town of Vinci in the region of Florence as the son of a wealthy notary and a peasant woman. He was handsome, persuasive in conversation, and a fine musician and improviser.
He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
Renaissance humanism recognized no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo's studies in science and engineering are as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science), made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo's life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him.
A creator in all branches of art, a discoverer in most branches of science, and an inventor in branches of technology, Leonardo deserves, perhaps more than anyone, the title of Homo Universalis, Universal Man.

In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvelously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease. (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hooch, Pieter de


A Dutch Courtyard
c.1658
oil on canvas
69.5 x 60 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washingon, DC, USA

In this painting, a woman sips from a “pass-glass,” with rings marking equal portions for passing around to share. The little girl carries a brazier of hot coals for the men to light their long-stemmed, white clay pipes. To create a stable, sheltering environment for this depiction of domestic tranquility, De Hooch emphasized the geometry of the brick paving, window shutters, and wooden fence. Over the garden wall can be glimpsed the tower of Delft’s New Church.

Pieter de Hooch (c.1629 - 1684) was a genre painter during the Dutch Golden Age. He was born in Rotterdam, the son of a mason and a midwife. His career as a painter started in Delft. As usual in his day, he had a second string to his bow besides painting: he was an assistant to a linen merchant.

His main characters are women: busy housewives, loving mothers and careful and neat maids. He is an outstanding master of interior. He specialized in decorous interiors with merry companies of people. Views through windows or corridors into other, distant rooms often featured in his work. He depicts enfilades of rooms, intimate and poetic domestic world; gentle sun light penetrates through open doors and windows. He was a contemporary of Dutch Master Jan Vermeer, with whom his work shared themes and style. His colors are warmer and softer than Vermeer’s.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vermeer, Johannes


A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
c.1670
oil on canvas
51.5 x 45.5 cm
The National Gallery, London, UK

In the left foreground rests a viola da gamba with the bow placed in between the strings. The virginal has a landscape painted on the inside of the lid, and the painting in the background is The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen or a copy of it. Whether or not the subject of The Procuress is intended to have a bearing on the meaning of the whole work is not clear. It is probable that a more general association between music and love is intended. A tapestry frames the scene at the upper left, and the skirting in the lower right is decorated with Delft tiles. (The National Gallery)

"Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife." (Vermeer)

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was the son of a silk worker with a taste for buying and selling art. Vermeer himself was also active in the art trade. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories. His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. He lived and worked in Delft all his life.

Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Picasso, Pablo


Girl Reading at a Table
1934
oil on canvas
162.2 x 130.5 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

In this painting of Marie-Therese, the time is night and the scene is intimate: she sits reading at a table in a room illuminated by only a small lamp. One hand gently holds open the pages of her book while the other touches her garland-crowned head with fingers that resemble feathers. The space of the room is compressed, but the resulting distortions are never severe. Sinuous rhythms absorb the straight linear accents of the table, and the exaggerated height of both table and plant emphasizes the young woman's childlike appearance. Her pale blond hair and blue-white skin make her look especially ethereal within this dark and deeply colored interior. The canvas, one of several similar compositions Picasso painted of his mistress, is a poem by a man in love. (MET)

Marie-Therese Walter (1909 - 1977) was the French mistress and model of Pablo Picasso from 1927 to about 1935, and the mother of his daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen years old; he was 45 and still living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. It ended when Picasso moved on to his next mistress, artist Dora Maar. In Picasso's paintings, Walter appears as blonde, sunny, and bright.

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso." (Picasso)

"Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso", known as Pablo Picasso, (1881 - 1973) was a Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain. One of the greatest, dynamic and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

He was exposed to art from a very young age by his father, who was a painter and art instructor. After studying at various art schools between 1892 and 1896, including academies in Barcelona and Madrid, he went on to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid during the winter of 1896-1897. Picasso soon became bored with academics and set himself up as an independent artist. In Barcelona in 1899 Picasso’s circle of friends included young avantgarde artists and writers who traveled between Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. Picasso also visited these cities and absorbed the local culture. His early works were influenced by old masters such as El Greco and Velazquez and by modern artists including Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Picasso moved to Paris in 1904 and settled in a dilapidated section of Montmartre, a working-class quarter. This area was home to many young artists and writers, and he was gradually assimilated into their stimulating intellectual community. Although Picasso benefited greatly from the artistic atmosphere in Paris and his circle of friends, he was often lonely, unhappy, and terribly poor.

Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune, making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art. Based on sales of his works at auctions, he holds the title of top ranked artist. He was also a prolific artist with estimates of 50,000 works of art production in his lifetime, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc..

For the last three decades of his long life Picasso lived mostly in south of France. He worked up until the day he died at age 91; literally painting till 3 am on Sunday, April 8th, which was just hours before his death. He died while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Picasso was interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old. Picasso's final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Metzinger, Jean


Bathers: Two Nudes in an Exotic Landscape
1905
oil on canvas
116 cm x 88.8 cm
Private Collection

Jean Dominique Antony Metzinger (1883 - 1956) was a major 20th-century French painter, theorist, writer, critic and poet, born in Nantes, France, who, along with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque developed the art style known as Cubism.

He enjoyed a thorough education and attended painting classes under Hypolitte Touront, a well-known portrait painter who taught an academic, conventional style of painting. Metzinger, however, loved the neo-impressionist innovations, the abandonment of shading and mixing colors. When he sent his first oil paintings to Paris the response was so positive that he was soon invited to exhibit three works in a presentation of independent artists at the "Salon des Independants". His immediate success brought about the decision to move to Paris where he could benefit from the fertile artistic world.

His earliest works, from 1900 to 1904, have been influenced by the Neo-Impressionism of Georges Seurat. Between 1904 and 1907 he worked in the Divisionist and Fauvist styles with a strong Cezannian component, leading to some of the first proto-Cubist works. From 1908 he experimented with the faceting of form, a style that would soon become known as Cubism. His early involvement in Cubism saw him both as an influential artist and principal theorist of the movement. His works around 1909 finally document a move towards what was later referred to as analytical Cubism, but was initially rejected completely by the critics. He documented his theories in his "Comments about Painting" in 1910. During the 1920s he briefly abandoned Cubism. He lived in Provence until 1943 and then returned to Paris where he was given a teaching post.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kandinsky, Wassily


Painting with houses (Peinture de maisons)
1909
oil on canvas
size unknown
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

"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.""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)

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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


Roses
1889
oil on canvas
33 × 41.3 cm
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan

These lovely roses, abundant in Provence, were growing in a corner of the Saint-Remy asylum garden when Van Gogh painted them.

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, October 22, 2013

Munch, Edvard


Shore with Red House
1904
oil on canvas
69 x 109 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, October 21, 2013

Picabia, Francis


Comic Wedlock
1914
oil on canvas
196.5 x 200 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Francis Picabia (1879 - 1953) was a French painter, illustrator, designer, writer, and editor, who was successively involved with the art movements Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism. He was the son of a Cuban diplomat father and a French mother.

During the seventy four intervening years, he explored most of the artistic movements of his time. After studying at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, he painted landscapes for nearly six years in the manner of Corot and the Impressionists, especially Sisley. In 1909 he adopted a Cubist style, and, along with Marcel Duchamp, he helped found in 1911 the Section d’Or, a group of Cubist artists. Picabia went on to combine the Cubist style with its more lyrical variation known as Orphism. In these early paintings he portrayed assemblages of closely fitted, metallic-looking abstract shapes. As Picabia moved away from Cubism to Orphism, his colors and shapes became softer.

In 1915 Picabia traveled to New York City, where he, Duchamp, and Man Ray began to develop what became known as an American version of Dada, a nihilistic art movement that flourished in Europe and New York from 1915 to about 1922.  About 1916 he gave up the Cubist style completely and began to produce the images of satiric, machine like contrivances that are his chief contribution to Dadaism.

In 1916 Picabia returned to Europe and settled in Barcelona. He subsequently joined Dadaist movements in Paris and Zurich. In 1921 he renounced Dada on the grounds that it was no longer vital and had lost its capacity to shock. In 1925 he left Paris to settle in the south of France, where he experimented with painting in various styles. He returned to live in Paris in 1945, and he spent the final years of his life painting in a mostly abstract mode. Picabia was notable for his inventiveness, adaptability, absurdist humor, and disconcerting changes of style.
Picabia died in Paris in 1953 and was interred in the Cimetiere de Montmartre.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Matisse, Henri


The Red Studio
1911
oil on canvas
181 x 219.1 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

"I find that all these things . . . only become what they are to me when I see them together with the color red." (Matisse)
Here, the red is an attempt to find a color that is forceful enough to resist the illusion of deep space by pushing to the surface. The red is, of course painted onto the flat canvas but actually fails to remain there visually. Instead, the red becomes the walls and furnishing of the room seen in space. Illusion triumphs - Matisse is thwarted.

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)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chagall, Marc


Over Vitebsk (Aux Environs de la Ville)
1915 - 1920
oil on canvas
67 x 92.7 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Chagall said, "For the Cubists, a painting was a surface covered with forms in a certain order. For me a painting is a surface covered with representations of things . . . in which logic and illustration have no importance."

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985), was a Belorussian-French artist and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. Among the celebrated painters of the twentieth century, he is associated with the modern movements after impressionism, including fauvism and Cubism, a twentieth century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting. In Cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, he depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to present the piece in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. However, he worked at the fringes of the different movements of modern art, also infusing his work with the folk art of his Belorussian roots as well as his Jewish heritage.

He studied in Saint Petersburg from 1907 to 1910 at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts and later with Leon Bakst, then he moved to Paris in 1910, where he associated with Guillaume Apollinaire and encountered Fauvism and Cubism. There, he participated in the Salon des Independants and the Salon d'Automne. In 1914, he visited Russia, and was prevented from returning to Paris by the outbreak of war. He settled in Vitebsk, where he was appointed Commissar for Art, and he founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School directing it until disagreements with the Suprematists which resulted in his resignation in 1920. He moved to Moscow and executed his first stage design. After a sojourn in Berlin, he returned to Paris in 1923. During World War II, he fled to the United States, then he returned to and settled permanently in France in 1948. He died March 28, 1985, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.
"Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love." (Chagall)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gauguin, Paul


Self-Portrait
1889
oil on wood
79.2 x 51.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

Gauguin painted many self-portraits, but few are as enigmatic as this one. It was among the work that Gauguin and his student Meyer Isaac de Haan created to decorate the dining room of the inn where they were staying in Le Pouldu, near Pont-Aven (Pont-Aven is a commune of the Finistere departement, in Brittany, France). This self-portrait, and one Gauguin did of de Haan, were painted on a pair of cupboard doors.

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, October 17, 2013

Leonardo da Vinci


Profile of a Young Fiancee (La Bella Principessa)
c.1496
chalk, pen, ink and wash tint on vellum
33  x 22 cm
Private collection
Note: recently attributed to Leonard da Vinci

This is a portrait of a young lady in fashionable costume and hairstyle of a Milanese of the 1490s. Sold at auction in 1998 as an early 19th-century German work, it has since been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci by some experts. Evidence discovered in 2011 accounting for its provenance has strengthened the case for it being by Leonardo. A number of Leonardo experts and art historians have concurred with the attribution to Leonardo da Vinci, though it has been disputed. Most of those who disagree with the attribution to Leonardo believe the portrait is by an early 19th-century German artist imitating the style of the Italian Renaissance. The current owner purchased the portrait in 2007.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.
He was born in the small Tuscan town of Vinci in the region of Florence as the son of a wealthy notary and a peasant woman. He was handsome, persuasive in conversation, and a fine musician and improviser.
He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
Renaissance humanism recognized no mutually exclusive polarities between the sciences and the arts, and Leonardo's studies in science and engineering are as impressive and innovative as his artistic work. These studies were recorded in 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science), made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo's life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him.
A creator in all branches of art, a discoverer in most branches of science, and an inventor in branches of technology, Leonardo deserves, perhaps more than anyone, the title of Homo Universalis, Universal Man.

In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvelously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease. (by Giorgio Vasari in the edition of Lives of the Artists, 1568)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Andrea d'Assisi


Portrait of a Boy
c.1495 or 1500
oil and tempera on poplar
50 x 36 cm
Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany

Andrea d'Assisi (called Andrea di Aloigi or L'Ingegno; 1480 - 1521) was an Italian Renaissance painter. He is a native of Assisi. He was apparently known as l’ Ingegno (the talented or ingenious) in his lifetime: a receipt in the archives of Assisi refers to him as “Ingegno di Maestro Allovisi”.

He is said by biographer Giorgio Vasari to have been a most promising fellow-pupil with Raphael under Perugino, and to have assisted the latter in the Collegio del Cambio at Perugia, at Assisi, and in the Sistine Chapel. Some figures of Moses Leaving to Egypt in the latter have been attributed to him. However, there are no signed or otherwise documented work by L'Ingegno, so any attribution to him remains uncertain. Andrea d'Assisi, Vasari adds, became blind and his career was cut short. The lack of surviving, securely attributed works means that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty about his artistic career.
The sitter was formerly assumed to be the young Raphael.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ghirlandaio, Domenico


An Old Man and His Grandson
c.1490
tempera on wood
62 x 46 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

One of Ghirlandaio's best-known works, it is considered notable for its emotional poignancy. The picture portrays an older man in a red robe, embracing a young child who is also wearing red. They sit in an interior, illuminated against a darkened wall. Behind them at right is a window through which can be seen a generalized landscape, its uneven terrain and winding roads typical of Ghirlandaio's backgrounds. An extraordinary feature of the painting is the deformity of the man's nose, evidence of rhinophyma. Ghirlandaio has presented the portrait in a naturalistic and sympathetic fashion, at variance with physiognomic theory of the era, which maintained a connection between external appearances and internal truths. Rather than implying a defect of character, An Old Man and his Grandson invites appreciation of the man's virtuousness.

Although the man's fur-lined robe and hood and the boy's elegant doublet and cap indicate a noble heritage, and despite the traditional assumption that the subjects are grandfather and grandson, their identities are unknown. While the composition is thematically related to portraiture from the Netherlands, by the mid-15th century the motif of a portrait in an interior with a landscape seen in the distance was common in Italy.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449 - 1494) was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo. He is best known for his frescoes, in which he often set religious subjects in a secular setting and in which he included recognizable portraits.

The occupation of his father is, dealers of silks and related objects in small quantities. He was at first apprenticed to a jeweler or a goldsmith, most likely his own father. The nickname "Il Ghirlandaio" (garland-maker) came to him from his father, a goldsmith who was famed for creating the metallic garland-like necklaces worn by Florentine women. In his father's shop, he is said to have made portraits of the passers-by. In 1490, the Duke of Milan received a report that described a handful of good artists available for work in one region. In the report, it was suggested that he was a notable painter of panels and a master of fresco. It went on to commend his work and to describe him as an efficient and prolific artist. Ghirlandaio employed hordes of assistants - one of whom was Michelangelo - in his prosperous, family-run business.
Ghirlandaio is commonly credited with having given some early art education to Michelangelo, who cannot, however, have remained with him long. Ghirlandaio died of pestilential fever and was buried in Santa Maria Novella. He had been twice married and left six children. One of his three sons, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, also became a noted painter.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poor, Henry Varnum


Sleeping Baby
year unknown
oil on canvas
52.4 x 91.4 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA

Henry Varnum Poor (1887 - 1970) was born in Chapman, Kansas. He was a painter of landscapes, portraits and still-lifes, as well as an accomplished self-taught ceramicist. With all the complaints about Standard & Poor’s these days, he had nothing to do with Wall Street, save that he was grandnephew of money-man Henry Varnum Poor, the financial analyst and founder of H.V. and H.W. Poor Co., which merged with the Standard Statistics Bureau to become Standard & Poor’s, the bond-rating agency.

As a boy, Poor showed an aptitude for drawing and strong interest in nature. He received his B.A. in art from Stanford University before going to Europe in 1910. Particularly significant for his development as an artist was his stay in London, where he worked under Walter Sickert and visited the Grafton Gallery exhibition “Manet and the Post-Impressionists.” French modernism had such an impact on Poor that he moved to Paris, studying at the Academie Julian for five months.

After he returned to the United States he worked in various modes. Although he considered painting his primary medium, after the stock market crash in 1929 he focused mainly on ceramics, which brought him fame and numerous awards. His ceramics are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also worked successfully as an architect, designer, furniture maker, sculptor, muralist, author, illustrator, and educator. Self-taught in many of these disciplines, Poor created art that was close to nature, instinctive, vigorous, and well-crafted.

He was a founder of the American Designers Gallery in New York and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Among the first ten artists to receive federal funding for murals, he painted frescoes at the Departments of Justice and Interior in Washington, D.C.. Their success led to commissions for the Land Grant Frescoes at Pennsylvania State University.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homer, Winslow


Sunlight and shadow
c.1872
oil on canvas
69 x 79 cm
Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, NY, USA

Homer painted about a dozen small paintings during his stay in Paris in 1867. Although he arrived in France at a time of new fashions in art, Homer’s main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more of an alignment with the established French Barbizon school and the artist Millet, then with newer artists Manet and Courbet. This painting is a portrait of the new woman of leisure, reading, depicted in c.1872 after his stay in Paris. There is an odalisque-like quality to the image, the young woman alone and utterly relaxed, her legs and dress casually draped over the side of the hammock that swaddles her, and, though fully clothed, in dishabille.

"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.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Renoir, Auguste


Jacques Bergeret as a child
c.1880
oil on canvas
41 x 32.1 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 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."  "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, October 11, 2013

Manet, Edouard


Victorine Meurent
1862
oil on canvas
42.9 × 43.8 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

Victorine Meurent (1844 - 1927) was a French painter and a famous model for painters. Although she is best known nowadays as the favourite model of Edouard Manet, she also was an artist in her own right, who regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon. Meurent's name remains forever associated with Manet's masterpieces, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which include nude portrayals of her. During this time period she also modeled for Edgar Degas.

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another." (Manet)

Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are no lines in nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.
"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (Manet)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de


Alfred la Guigne
1894
oil on cardboard
64.5 x 49.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washingon, DC, USA

"I paint things as they are. I don't comment." "I have tried to do what is true and not ideal." (Toulouse-Lautrec)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901) ,an aristocrat, was born in southern France. The son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, he was the last in the line of an aristocratic family that dated back a thousand years. Today, the family estate houses the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec.

He is a painter and illustrator, whose immersion in the colorful and theatrical life yielded an oeuvre of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. He is known, along with Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period. He observed and captured in his art the Parisian nightlife of the period.

Henri's father was rich, handsome, and eccentric. His mother was overly devoted to her only living child. They themselves were first cousins, and Henri suffered from a number of congenital health conditions attributed to this inbreeding. As a child, Henri was weak and often sick. But by the time he was 10 years old he had begun to draw and paint. At 12 young, he broke his left leg and at 14 his right leg. The bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He dwelt in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his work. Dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks, prostitutes - all these were memorialized on canvas or made into lithographs. He was very much an active part of this community. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing and drinking, meanwhile making swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings.

In order to join in the Montmartre life - as well as to fortify himself against the crowd's ridicule of his appearance - he began to drink heavily. By the 1890s the drinking was affecting his health. He was confined first to a sanatorium and then to his mother's care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol. He died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at the age of 36, at the family chateau of Malrome. His last words were: "Le vieux con!" ("The old fool!", although the word "con" can be meant in both simple and vulgar terms). This was his goodbye to his father. Since after his death, his paintings and posters - particularly the Moulin Rouge group - have been in great demand and bring high prices at auctions and art sales. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be created in Albi, his birthplace, to house her deceased son's works. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum now owns the world's largest collection of works by the painter.
His debt to the Impressionists, in particular the more figurative painters Manet and Degas, is apparent. His style was also influenced by the classical Japanese woodblock prints which became popular in art circles in Paris.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van


Agostina Segatori in the cafe "Le Tambourin"
1888
oil on canvas
55.5 x 46.5 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Agostina Segatori owned the Cafe du Tambourin that Van Gogh knew intimately. It was a gathering spot for Parisian artists, a place where their work was exhibited. Van Gogh, unable to pay in cash for his meals, exchanged paintings for meals. The paintings then adorned the restaurant. He held a special exhibit of his Japanese prints in the cafe as well. His connection with Agostina and the cafe came to a sad end when she went bankrupt and Van Gogh's paintings were confiscated by creditors.

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, October 8, 2013

Fantin-Latour, Henri


Roses in a Vase
1872
0il on canvas
35.6 x 28.0 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Klee, Paul


Around the Fish
1926
oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard
46.7 x 63.8 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New york, NY, USA

A garnished platter of fish is surrounded by a constellation of seemingly disparate elements - a cross, full and crescent moons, an exclamation point, a forked red flag - all hovering against a dark abyss. Some of Klee's iconography grew out of his teaching; the arrow, which he initially used as a teaching tool to indicate force and emotion for his students at the Bauhaus, here points confrontationally towards a stylized head, possibly alluding to human consciousness. Although they are often enigmatic, Klee believed his personal hieroglyphs and figurative elements had wider connotations: "The object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge of its inner being, through the knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests." (MoMA)

Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter. (Klee)

Paul Klee (1879 - 1940) was born in Switzerland, into a family of musicians, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His childhood love of music was always to remain profoundly important in his life and work.

His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered color theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory, published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci's A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Klee went to Dusseldorf to teach at the Akademie in 1931, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. Forced by the Nazis to leave his position in Dusseldorf in 1933, Klee settled in Bern the following year. Klee died on June 29, 1940, in Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hockney, David


Place Furstenberg Paris
1985
photographic collage
88.9 x 80 cm
private collection

Collage has freed creation by allowing to compose images combining fragments of the representation of reality. The use of collage developed between 1918 and 1939, with avant-garde movements, especially dadaist, futurists, modernists and constructivists, who saw there a means to free themselves from traditional artistic expression.
Hockney made pictures assembling series of rectangular colour images taken at different moments and from various viewpoints. He could thus change the apparent organization of space by fragmenting it and introduce a time dimension to his work.

David Hockney (1937 - ) is an English painter, stage designer and photographer, who is based in London. He is an important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, and is considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century.

Hockney was born in Bradford, England in 1937. He loved books and was interested in art from an early age, admiring Picasso, Matisse and Fragonard. His parents encouraged their son’s artistic exploration, and gave him the freedom to doodle and daydream.
Hockney attended art school in London before moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s. He settled in Los Angeles, California, in 1964, where he immediately fell in love with the light, the culture and the urban landscape of the West Coast. There, he painted his famous swimming pool paintings. In the 1970s, Hockney began working in photography, creating photo collages he called joiners. He continues to create and exhibit art, and in 2011 he was voted the most influential British artist of the 20th century.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Leger, Fernand


The Smokers
1912
oil on canvas
129.2 x 96.5 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA

Fernand Leger (1881-1955), painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, was born at Argentan, France. He began his career as a an artist by serving an apprenticeship in architecture and working as a architectural draughtsman. In 1900 he went to Paris and was admitted to the art school in 1903. The first profound influence on his work came from Cezanne. Leger became friends with Delaunay and maintained ties with great artists, including Matisse, Rousseau, Apollinaire and leading exponents of Cubism. As a painter Leger exerted an enormous influence on the development of Cubism, Constructivism and the modern advertising poster as well as various forms of applied art.

Leger's experiences in World War I had a significant effect on his work. Mobilized in 1914 for service in the French Army, he spent two years at the front in Argonne. He produced many sketches of artillery pieces, airplanes, and fellow soldiers while in the trenches, and painted Soldier with a Pipe (1916) while on furlough. In September 1916 he almost died after a mustard gas attack. During a period of convalescence he painted The Card Players (1917), a canvas whose robot-like, monstrous figures reflect the ambivalence of his experience of war. As he explained: ...I was stunned by the sight of the breech of a 75 millimeter in the sunlight. It was the magic of light on the white metal. That's all it took for me to forget the abstract art of 1912-1913. The crudeness, variety, humor, and downright perfection of certain men around me, their precise sense of utilitarian reality and its application in the midst of the life-and-death drama we were in...made me want to paint in slang with all its color and mobility.

After his experiences in the First World War, he became convinced that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction towards the stylized depiction of real objects, laying great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. By 1920, Leger had achieved a mechanistic classicism, a precise, geometrically and harshly definitive monumental rendering of modern objects such as cog-wheels and screws, with the human figure incorporated as an equally machine-like being. Surrealismus left its mark on Leger in the 1930s, loosening up his style and making it more curvilinear.

Among the most prominent artists in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, Leger was prolific in many media and articulated a consistent position on the role of art in society in his many lectures and writings. His mature work underwent many changes, from a Cubist-derived abstraction in the 1910s to a distinctive realist imagery in the 1950s. Leger taught at Yale University from 1940 until 1945. He attracted numerous students to his various schools, and his ideas and philosophy were disseminated by modern artists throughout Europe and the Americas. By now his dominant motifs were drawn from the workplace and were post-Cubist in form, combined with the representational clarity of Realism.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Schiele, Egon


Cardinal and Nun (The Caress)
1912
oil on canvas
70 x 80.5 cm
Leopold Museum, Vienna, Austria

Schiele’s painting Cardinal and Nun of 1912 is a paraphrase of Gustav Klimt’s Kiss, which had been created five years prior. Everything about Klimt’s painting that was positive, however, is transformed here into its darker manifestation: the gold background is turned black, the gentle embrace has given way the violent clutching of the two delicate, praying hands, and the sensual expression on the face of Klimt’s woman has become a nun’s distraught glance. Schiele called the painting of this strange embrace Liebkosung, or “The Caress”. (Leopold Museum)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Boucher, Francois


Portrait of Madame de Pompadour
1756
oil on canvas
212 × 164 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, otherwise known as Madame de Pompadour, was the mistress of King Louis XV, as well as a prominent patron of Francois Boucher. Unlike the many other mistresses of the king, Madame de Pompadour continued to be a presence at the court by creating a cordial relationship with the Queen, by accompanying the King on hunting trips and social gatherings, and commissioning paintings of herself, which hid her aging looks. Although she did commission works from other artists, the majority of her portraits were done by Boucher.

Francois Boucher (1703 - 1770) was a extremely popular French painter of the rococo age. He began his artistic career working as an engraver and at the age of 17. He was greatly impressed by the delicate style of his contemporary Antoine Watteau. In 1723 Boucher won the Prix de Rome and studied in Rome from 1727 to 1731. He turned what he studied into a uniquely personal style, suitable for large-scale decorations as well as small intimate, so-called cabinet pictures.

He was enormously successful, and well patronized, so his output was prodigious. He designed stage sets, provided models for the porcelain factory, and designs for the tapestry factories. He held a near monopoly in producing the imagery of the mid-century. In 1755, he became director of the Gobelins tapestries and in 1765 he was made first painter to the king, director of the Royal Academy, and designer for the Royal Porcelain Works. His success was greatly facilitated by his patron, the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. Boucher was her favorite, and he painted her portrait several times.

His lovely paintings and decorations, usually portray an idyllic and pastoral world, with little attempt to confront reality. His delicate, lighthearted depictions of classical divinities and unusually well-dressed French shepherdesses delighted the public, who made him the most fashionable painter of mid-century Europe. By the early 1770's, his sentimental and, some said, facile style was too widely imitated and fell out of favor during the rise of neoclassicism. He died in Paris on 30 May 1770.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nattier, Jean-Marc


Portrait of Louis XV of France
1745
oil on canvas
80 × 64 cm (31.5 × 25.2 in)
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685 - 1766), French painter, was born in Paris. His father was a painter and his mother was a miniaturist. He is noted for his portraits of the ladies of King Louis XV's court in classical mythological attire. He was one of the most successful artists at the court of Louis XV, excelling in the vogue for painting women in mythological or allegorical fancy dress - or undress - transforming his matrons into goddesses.

Nattier aspired to be a history painter but the financial collapse of 1720 ruined him, and he found himself forced to devote his whole energy to portraiture. He became the painter of the artificial ladies of Louis XV's court. He subsequently revived the genre of the allegorical portrait, in which a living person is depicted as a Greco-Roman goddess or other mythological figure. His graceful and charming portraits of court ladies in this mode were very fashionable, partly because he could beautify a sitter while also retaining her likeness. His portraits are little concerned with individual characterization, but they show fluency, vivacity, and a relaxed charm. He was at his best with women and has been accused of 'painting with make-up', a comment that suggests the pastel-like delicacy of his handling. Taste was turning against him towards the end of his career and some of his later work shows signs of fatigue.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Boucher, Francois


Portrait of Alexandrine Le Normant d'Etiolles, Playing with a Goldfinch
1749
oil on canvas
54 × 45.5 cm
Private collection

Alexandrine was the daughter of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's celebrated maitresse-en-titre. Her biological father was Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Etiolles, husband of the future marquise de Pompadour, who was not yet Louis XV's mistress at the birth of her daughter. Alexandrine was nicknamed "Fanfan" by her family. She is remarked to have been very thin throughout her very short life, but healthy. Her mother became mistress of Louis XV in 1745. Louis arranged the legal separation of her parents and served as her unofficial stepfather for the rest of her life. At the age of six, Fanfan was put in the convent of the Assumption in the rue Saint-Honore in Paris, a convent for girls of the nobility that served as her finishing school. She was betrothed at age eight to the Duke of Picquigny, son of the Duke of Chaulnes, with the agreement that she would marry Picquigny at the age of twelve. Francois Poisson, Mme de Pompadour's father, doted on his granddaughter, whom he loved dearly. Madame de Pompadour even wrote, "Why must grandpapas always spoil their grandchildren?", referring to Poisson's love for Fanfan.

On 4 June 1754, Fanfan took ill at the convent of the Assumption. Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Etiolles rushed to her side, but Madame de Pompadour, who was at Versailles, could not come. Upon learning of her illness, Louis XV sent two of his own doctors to her side, but the child had already died of acute peritonitis when they arrived. Fanfan was not yet ten years old. Her grandfather, Francois Poisson, died eleven days later, on 25 June 1754, devastated by his dear Fanfan's death. Her mother reportedly never recovered from the loss of her daughter and father within a few days.

Francois Boucher (1703 - 1770) was a extremely popular French painter of the rococo age. He began his artistic career working as an engraver and at the age of 17. He was greatly impressed by the delicate style of his contemporary Antoine Watteau. In 1723 Boucher won the Prix de Rome and studied in Rome from 1727 to 1731. He turned what he studied into a uniquely personal style, suitable for large-scale decorations as well as small intimate, so-called cabinet pictures.

He was enormously successful, and well patronized, so his output was prodigious. He designed stage sets, provided models for the porcelain factory, and designs for the tapestry factories. He held a near monopoly in producing the imagery of the mid-century. In 1755, he became director of the Gobelins tapestries and in 1765 he was made first painter to the king, director of the Royal Academy, and designer for the Royal Porcelain Works. His success was greatly facilitated by his patron, the Marquise de Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV. Boucher was her favorite, and he painted her portrait several times.

His lovely paintings and decorations, usually portray an idyllic and pastoral world, with little attempt to confront reality. His delicate, lighthearted depictions of classical divinities and unusually well-dressed French shepherdesses delighted the public, who made him the most fashionable painter of mid-century Europe. By the early 1770's, his sentimental and, some said, facile style was too widely imitated and fell out of favor during the rise of neoclassicism. He died in Paris on 30 May 1770.