Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bosch, Hieronymus

Garden of Earthly Delights
oil on panel
Central panel (Ecclesia's paradise) 220x195 cm
Left wing (The Earthly Paradise -Garden of Eden) 220x97 cm
Right wing (Hell) 220x97 cm
Museo Del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Bosch's work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives. He stands apart from the prevailing Flemish traditions in painting. The triptych depicts several biblical scenes on a grand scale. It was probably intended to illustrate the history of mankind according to medieval Christian doctrine. The masterpiece reveals Bosch at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery.
The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting to Adam the newly created Eve, while the central panel is a broad panorama of sexually engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation.

Hieronymus, or Jerome, Bosch (c.1450-1516), who lived somewhat later than Memling, spent his entire artistic career in the small Dutch town of Hertogenbosch, from which he derived his name. His work was influenced by the Flemish school of painting, but whereas the Flemish painters created a world of serenity and reality, the world of Bosch is one of horror and imagination. His style was unique, strikingly free, and his symbolism, unforgettably vivid, remains unparalleled to this day. Marvellous and terrifying, he expresses an intense pessimism and reflects the anxieties of his time, one of social and political upheaval. Some writers saw him as a sort of 15th century surrealist and linked his name with that of Salvator Dali. For others, Bosch's art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, Bosch remains the most extravagant painter of his time.
He was an orthodox Catholic and a prominent member of a local religious brotherhood, but his most characteristic paintings are so bizarre that in the 17th century he was reputed to have been a heretic.

Bosch married well and was successful in his career. In his own time his fame stood high and a generation or so after his death his paintings were avidly collected by Philip II of Spain. Through the medium of prints his works reached a wider public and were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Little is known of Bosch’s life. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records and local account books.

At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. Standing alone in its lifetime, his work has a timeless and modern quality that greatly endeared him to Surrealists in the twentieth century. About forty genuine examples of his work survive, but none is dated and no accurate chronology can be made.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Durer, Albrecht

The Virgin Mary in Prayer (Betende Maria)
oil on panel
53 × 43 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

The Virgin Mary in Prayer was part of a diptych whose matching pair was probably a representation of an Ecce Homo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cranach, Lucas the Elder

A Prince of Saxony
oil on wood
43.6 × 34.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

There is a companion piece showing a princess (see Nov.27 exhibit). The two children, dressed in characteristic Saxon costumes of the finest type, have been thought to be brother and sister, perhaps the children of Duke George the Bearded. The crown worn by the boy, however, signifies his engagement to be married, and the girl is likely to be his future bride. Cranach, court painter at Wittenberg and the leading artist in Saxony, was in great demand as a portraitist; these two paintings well explain the master's popularity.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known as a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation.

He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86), and others, continued to create versions of his father's works for decades after his death.

Venus Standing in a Landscape is an example for the fashionable body of the period. The body is elongated with sloping shoulders, small breasts that are fairly far apart. Cranach emphasized the rounded abdomen, giving the appearance of pregnancy, a desirable body image of that time. In relation to the torso, the legs and arms are long, and the color of the skin is very pale and marble-like. All of these features indicate Cranach depicted fashionable body rather than a natural one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranach, Lucas the Elder

A Princess of Saxony
Mixed media on limewood
43.4 x 34.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

There is a companion piece showing a prince (see Nov.28 exhibit). The two children, dressed in characteristic Saxon costumes of the finest type, have been thought to be brother and sister, perhaps the children of Duke George the Bearded. The crown worn by the boy, however, signifies his engagement to be married, and the girl is likely to be his future bride. Cranach, court painter at Wittenberg and the leading artist in Saxony, was in great demand as a portraitist; these two paintings well explain the master's popularity.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known as a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation.

He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86), and others, continued to create versions of his father's works for decades after his death.

Venus Standing in a Landscape is an example for the fashionable body of the period. The body is elongated with sloping shoulders, small breasts that are fairly far apart. Cranach emphasized the rounded abdomen, giving the appearance of pregnancy, a desirable body image of that time. In relation to the torso, the legs and arms are long, and the color of the skin is very pale and marble-like. All of these features indicate Cranach depicted fashionable body rather than a natural one.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tiziano, Vecellio ; (Titian)

oil on canvas
79 × 63 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze, Italy

The work portrays an idealized beautiful woman, a model established in the Venetian school by Titian's master Giorgione with his Laura. Her left hands holds a pink-shaded mantle, while another holds a handful of flowers and leaves. The woman was portrayed by Titian in numerous other works of the period. The meaning of the painting is disputed: some, basing for example to inscriptions added to the 16th century reproductions, identifies the woman as a courtesan; other consider it a symbol of nuptial love, although her dress is not a dressing one. The identification with Flora, the ancient goddess of Spring and vegetation, derives from the presence of Spring flowers in her hands.
In the 18th century, this painting was erroneously attributed to Palma the Elder.

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio  (c.1488 - 1576) known in English as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth. He received important part of his training in the studio of Giovanni Bellini, then came under the spell of Giorgione, with whom he had a close relationship.

Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars", Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. During the 1530s Titian's fame spread throughout Europe. In 1530 he first met the emperor Charles V in Bologna and painted a famous portrait of him. Charles was so pleased with it that he appointed Titian court painter and elevated him to the rank of Count Palatine and Knight of the Golden Spur - an unprecedented honor for a painter. At the same time his works were increasingly sought after by Italian princes. His influence on later artists has been profound: he was supreme in every branch of painting and revolutionized the oil technique with his free and expressive brushwork. During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may
not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art. His painting methods would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.
His greatness as an artist was not matched by his character, for he was notoriously avaricious. In spite of his wealth and status, he claimed he was impoverished, and his exaggerations about his age (by which he hoped to pull at the heartstrings of patrons) are one of the sources of confusion about his birthdate.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holbein, Hans, the Younger

Portrait of Prince Edward, later King Edward VI of England
oil and tempera on oak
56.8 × 44 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Holbein's portrait of Prince Edward is very probably the one given to Henry VIII as a New Year's Gift on 1 January 1539. In return, Holbein received a silver-gilt covered cup.

The following text is inscribed across the bottom:
Little one, emulate thy father and be the heir of his virtue; the world contains nothing greater.
Heaven and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass that of such a father.
Do thou but equal the deeds of thy parent and men can ask no more.
Shouldst thou surpass him, thou hast outstript all, nor shall any surpass thee in ages to come.
(English translation)

Hans Holbein the Younger (c.1497 - 1543) was a German artist born in Augsburg, Bavaria, and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire, and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history of book design. He is called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.

The first half of his life was mostly spent in Basel. He showed his diverse talents early in his career by designing woodcuts and glass paintings, illustrating books, and painting portraits and altarpieces. From youth he enjoyed the friendship of the great humanist Erasmus, and he made pen drawings illustrating Erasmus's Praise of Folly.

In 1519 Holbein was admitted to the painters' guild of Basel. In the works between 1519 and 1526, he, now mature, shows his full genius without relinquishing the polished surface and enameled color of the earlier paintings. He reveals Italian influence in his larger conception and monumental composition and in the design and idealism of the characterization. A bold and subtle line, both precise and flowing, distinguishes these works. In 1523, during a trip to France, he becomes acquainted with the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

From 1526 to 1528, Holbein travelled to England in search of work, with a recommendation from Erasmus. He was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, where he quickly built a high reputation; he painted a fine group of portraits there including Sir Thomas More. In 1532, he settled in England and worked on portraits and wall paintings. In 1536 he became court painter to Henry VIII and made numerous portraits and drawings of the king and his wives. He also designed the king's state robes and made drawings that were the basis of all kinds of items used by the royal household, from buttons to bridles to bookbindings. At age 46, in 1543, he died of the plague in London while working on a portrait of the king.

Holbein's paintings are characterized by their bright and often cool colors and high measure of detail. Much of his hand paintings, in particular his murals, has been lost, but owing to his practice of drawing pre-studies, much is known about his work. He left to the world magnificent preliminary portrait drawings in which he combined chalk, silverpoint, pen and ink, and other media. Today they are prized as highly as his paintings and may constitute a freer expression of his gift for exquisite characterization. In the beautiful simplicity of their design and in the subtle suggestion of both form and character, they are unsurpassed. Also famous are his woodcuts, which include the Dance of Death series and illustrations for Luther's Bible.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tintoretto, Jacopo

Women Playing Music
year unknown
oil on canvas
142 x 214 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Dresden, Germany

Tintoretto (1518-1594), real name Jacopo Comin, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterized by its muscular figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining color and light typical of the Venetian School. In his youth, Tintoretto was also known as Jacopo Robusti as his father had defended the gates of Padua in a way that others called robust, against the imperial troops during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509-1516).

His nickname derives from his father's profession of dyer (tintore). Although he was prolific and with Veronese the most successful Venetian painter in the generation after Titian's death, little is known of his life. He is said to have trained very briefly with Titian, but the style of his immature works suggests that he may also have studied with Bonifacio Veronese. Almost all of his life was spent in Venice and most of his work is still in the churches or other buildings for which it was painted. He appears to have been unpopular because he was unscrupulous in procuring commissions and ready to undercut his competitors. By 1539 he was working independently, but the little that is known of his early work suggests that he was not precocious.

Tintoretto used to make small wax models which he arranged on a stage and experimented on with spotlights for effects of light and shade and composition. This method of composing explains the frequent repetition in his works of the same figures seen from different angles. He was a formidable draughtsman and he had inscribed on his studio wall the motto 'The drawing of Michelangelo and the colour of Titian'. However, he was very different in spirit from either of his avowed models, more emotive, using vivid exaggerations of light and movement. His drawings, unlike Michelangelo's detailed life studies, are brilliant, rapid notations, bristling with energy, and his colour is more sombre and mystical than Titian's.

Like Titian, Tintoretto kept a huge workshop. The system in the Tintoretto workshop differed from that in use in the Titian and Veronese workshops in that instead of limiting his assistants to close versions, copies or preparatory work on a commission, he employed them mainly on enlargements and extensively altered variants of his original compositions. Tintoretto had great influence on Venetian painting, but the artist who most fruitfully absorbed the visionary energy and intensity of his work was El Greco.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Veronese, Paolo

The Feast in the House of Levi (Le repas chez Levi)
oil on canvas
555 x 1280 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venise, Italy

The Feast in the House of Levi or Christ in the House of Levi is one of the largest canvases of the 16th century. It was painted by Veronese for the rear wall of the refectory of the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, a Dominican friary, as a "Last Supper", to replace an earlier work by Titian destroyed in the fire of 1571. However, the painting led to an investigation by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Veronese was called to answer for irreverence and indecorum, and the serious offence of heresy was mentioned. He was asked to explain why the painting contained buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs and other such scurrilities as well as extravagant costumes and settings, in what is indeed a fantasy version of a Venetian patrician feast. Veronese was told that he must change his painting within a three-month period; instead, he simply changed the title to "The Feast in the House of Levi", still an episode from the Gospels, but less doctrinally central, and one in which the Gospels specified "sinners" as present; after this, no more was said.

Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance, born at Verona but active in Venice. He was the fifth child to a stone-cutter. Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto constitute the triumvirate of pre-eminent Venetian painters of the late Renaissance (16th century).

He was one of the greatest of all decorative artists, delighting in painting enormous pageant-like scenes that bear witness to the material splendor of Venice in its Golden Age. Marble columns and costumes of velvet and satin abound in his work, and he used a sumptuous but delicate palette in which pale blue, orange, silvery white, and lemon yellow predominate. He painted many religious scenes as well as mythological and allegorical works and portraits, but his penchant was for feast scenes from the Bible rather than incidents from Christ's Passion. His studio was carried on after his death by his brother and sons. He had no significant pupils, but his influence on Venetian painting was important, particularly in the 18th century, when he was an inspiration to the masters of the second great flowering of decorative painting in the city.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Botticelli, Sandro

Portrait of a young woman (probably Simonetta Vespucci)
circa 1476 -1480
tempera on panel
47.5 × 35 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

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

Alessandro Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli, (c.1445 - 1510) began his career during the Italian Renaissance period. He was born in Florence around 1445 where he would live out the rest of his life. As the youngest of five children, Botticelli’s father, a tanner, allowed him to become an apprentice to a goldsmith. During this apprenticeship, the goldsmith he worked with gave him the name Botticelli, meaning ‘small wine cask’. After a time, Botticelli convinced his father that he wanted to study painting and was chosen to be apprentice to the well known painter Fra Filippo Lippi. Botticelli quickly became recognized as a gifted artist under Lippi, and by the time he was 15 years old, he was able to open a workshop dedicated to his own work.
Botticelli stressed line and detail using them to bring his characters alive - as if acting out a scene. He included in his style a flowing characteristic and Neo-Platonism. This meant that he would bring together in one painting ideas that belong to both Christianity and pagan ideas which may have included mythology. In 1481, he was invited to Rome to take part in the painting of the Sistine Chapel. He joined artists such as Perugino, Ghirlandaio and then Michelangelo in contributing to the most well known piece of Italian art.

As Botticelli grew older, he became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a prominent civic leader in Florence and Botticelli's style underwent a remarkable change. Many of his previous paintings were considered ungodly and were burned. When Savonarola’s popularity ended being burnt in the center of Florence, many followers fled the city but Botticelli stayed in Florence, and continued to paint. Botticelli’s later years seemed to be a disturbing time for him. As times changed in Florence, he often took on difficult commissions that other painters turned down. His rotating style reflected that he was struggling as a painter and his paintings were full of emotion. He died at the age of 65.

At the height of his fame, he was one of the most esteemed artists in Italy. His work was most in demand by the Medici family. After his death, his name all but disappeared until the late 19th century, his work lay forgotten for over 400 years after his death, when a developing appreciation for Florentine arts and culture brought about a renewed interest in his work. Since then his work has been seen to represent the linear grace of Early Renaissance painting. Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

Botticelli never wed, and expressed a strong aversion to the idea of marriage. The popular view is that he suffered from an unrequited love for Simonetta Vespucci. According to popular belief, she had served as the model for The Birth of Venus and recurs throughout his paintings, despite the fact that she had died years earlier, in 1476. Botticelli asked that when he died, he be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. His wish was carried out when he died some 34 years later, in 1510. He was buried near her in the same church.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Raffaello Sanzio

Bindo Altoviti
c. 1515
oil on wood
59.7 x 43.8 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

The influence of the works of Leonardo, which Raphael studied astutely during this period of his career, are strikingly evident in this particular piece. This painting was mistakenly thought in the nineteenth century to be a Raphael self-portrait. However, we know today that this handsome young man was Bindo Altoviti, a wealthy Florentine banker and friend of Raphael in Rome. He was a cultured man who loved the arts.

Bindo and Fiammetta, daughter of a prominent Florentine family, were married in 1511, when Bindo would have been about twenty. The couple had six children, but Fiammetta continued to live in Florence while Bindo's business with the papal court required his presence in Rome. This portrait, which apparently hung in the couple's home in Florence, would have provided Fiammetta with a vivid reminder of her absent husband.

"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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ghirlandaio, Domenico

Portrait of a Woman (Portrait of Giovane Donna)
tempera on wood panel
57.2 x 44.1 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lempicka, Tamara de

oil on canvas
25.7 x 36.1 cm
location unknown

In March 1939, Lempicka arrived in New York. After her last exhibition in Los Angeles, in 1941, the spread of war relegated such mundane events as opening receptions to the sidelines. Consequently, Lempicka withdrew to her country house in Connecticut. Here, she devoted herself to a series of still lifes comprised of commonplace objects, vegetables and fruits, affording her occasion to attain a state of peace far removed from the era's upheavals. She became less sharply precise, attending more to the solidity of her compositions, and using skilfully gradated contours to build up rounded volumes, which nonetheless retain their fullness.

"I liked to go out in the evenings and have a good-looking man tell me how beautiful I am or how great an artist I am." (Lempicka)

Tamara de Lempicka (1898 - 1980), born in Moscow, in the Russian Empire, was a Polish Art Deco painter and "the first woman artist to be a glamour star." She took advantage of the growing interest in women who were entering the arts following the First World War, and indeed, she strongly believed that she stood out among them. She wrote, "I was the first woman who did clear painting---and that was the success of my painting. Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine. And the galleries began to put me in the best rooms, always in the center, because my painting attracted people. It was neat, it was finished".

She is best known for her Art Deco-styled portraits. Sexy, bedroom-eyed women in stylish dress are rendered in haunting poses. Perhaps it was her own dramatic life mirrored in her art. Married twice to wealthy, she moved from her native Poland to Russia, and then to Paris. In 1925 she exhibited her works at the first Art Deco show in Paris. She moved to America in 1939 with her second husband. Her works appeared exclusively at many galleries and museums, but her artistic output decreased. In 1960 she changed her style to abstract art and began creating works with a spatula. After her husband died in 1962 she ceased painting and moved to Mexico permanently, buying a beautiful house in Cuernavaca, built by a Japanese architect.
She despaired of growing old and in her last years sought the company of young people. She mourned at the loss of her beauty and was cantankerous to the end. She died in her sleep on March 18, 1980 with her daughter at her side. Her wish to be cremated and have her ashes spread on the top of the volcano Popocatepetl was carried out.
American singer-songwriter Madonna is a huge fan and collector of her work.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Macke, August

oil on cardboard
51 x 57 cm
Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munchen, Geermany

"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.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hopper, Edward

Two Puritans
oil on canvas
76.2 x 101.6 cm
Private collection

"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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cassatt, Mary

Sarah in a Green Bonnet
oil on canvas
42.0 x 34.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Matisse, Henri

Woman with a Hat
oil on canvas
79.4 × 59.7 cm
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, USA

Woman with a Hat (La femme au chapeau) depicts Matisse's wife, Amelie. It was exhibited with the work of Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and several other artists, now known as "Fauves" at the 1905 Salon d'Automne, Paris.

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)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Modigliani, Amedeo

The Zouave
oil on canvas
63 x 48 cm
Private Collection

Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The chief distinguishing characteristics of such units were the zouave uniform, which included short open-fronted jackets, baggy trousers and often sashes and oriental headgear. The Zouaves saw extensive service during the French conquest of Algeria. Recruited through voluntary enlistment or transfer from other regiments of men with at least two years service, the Zouaves quickly achieved the status of an elite amongst the French Army of Africa.

 “What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.” (Modigliani)

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He was born as the forth and the youngest child in the family, which belonged to the secularized Jewish bourgeoisie. Today, he is known for his paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. He had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when he was 26. Anna was tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-green eyes, she embodied Modigliani's aesthetic ideal and the pair became engrossed in each other, although in later years they became apart. In 1914, the First World War broke out and he wanted to enlist but was exempted from military service for health reasons. In 1917, he met the 19-year old Jeanne Hebuterne (1898-1920), student of the academy and started to live together. "She was gentle, shy, quiet and delicate. A little bit depressive". She became his major model until his death, he painted her no less than 25 times. In 1918, Modigliani and Jeanne left Paris, which was under the threat of occupation by Germans, and went for the southern coast. In Nice and its environments he produced most of the paintings that would later become his most popular and highest-priced works. In November, 1918 in Nice, Jeanne  gave birth to a girl.

After returning to Paris, by the end of 1919, he became seriously ill with tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics, and he died on January 24, 1920, at the age of 35. When he died, his pregnant wife of nearly nine months was emotionally destroyed by his death. The day after his death, she jumped out of a fifth storey window and killed herself and her unborn child. They were finally buried together in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Their orphan daughter was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani : Man and Myth.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Boccioni, Umberto

Nudo di spalle
oil on canvas
60 x 55.2 cm
Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento, Italy

The woman represented in Naked shoulders with the open back is the mother of the Calabrian. The light seems fragmented into a thousand flashes that are made on the woman’s skin through endless filaments of pure color, next to one another in line with the pointillist painting technique combined with Post-Impressionist influences.

Umberto Boccioni (1882 -1916) was an Italian painter, sculptor, and theorist of the Futurist movement in art.
He was born in Reggio Calabria, the southernmost tip of mainland Italy. His father was a minor government employee, originally from the Romagna region in the north.
He was trained from 1898 to 1902 in the studio of the painter Giacomo Balla, where he learned to paint in the manner of the Pointillists. In 1907 he settled in Milan and gradually came under the influence of the poet Filippo Marinetti, who launched the literary movement Futurism, which glorified the dynamism of modern technology. He adapted Marinetti’s ideas to the visual arts and became the leading theoretician of Futurist art. In 1910 he and other painters drew up and published the Technical Manifesto of the Futurist Painters, promoting the representation of the symbols of modern technology - violence, power, and speed.

Boccioni was probably influenced by Cubism in 1911-12, and about this time he also became interested in sculpture. In 1912 he published the Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture, several of whose suggestions anticipated developments in modern sculpture. Boccioni advocated the use in sculpture of non-traditional materials such as glass, wood, cement, cloth, and electric lights, and he called for the combination of a variety of materials in one piece of sculpture. He also envisioned a new type of sculpture that would mold and enclose the space within itself.

Boccioni enlisted in the army at an artillery regiment near Verona during World War I, and was killed by a fall from a horse during a cavalry training exercise in 1916, at the age of thirty-four. He was the most talented of the Futurist artists, and his untimely death marked the virtual end of the movement.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hammershoi, Vilhelm

Interior of Woman Placing Branches in a Vase on Table
oil on canvas
40.3 x 39.7 cm
The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Danish Art Collection

Vilhelm Hammershoi, in English Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864 - 1916), was a Danish painter. He is known for his poetic, low-key paintings. He painted portraits, landscapes and many room interiors which frequently contained a single figure that was seated or standing. He married Ida in 1891 and she provided the inspiration for many of his future works and is often the lone figure seen in his paintings. They lived a quiet life, apart from Ida's reported fiery temperament, and had no children.

Hammershoi worked mainly in his native city Copenhagen. They also often travelled together throughout Europe. They journeyed to the surrounding countryside and locations beyond, where he painted rolling hills, stands of trees, farm houses, and other landscapes. Later in his life he lived in the old merchant house in Copenhagen with his wife, and he painted the interior of this house more than sixty times. He died of throat cancer in 1916 in Copenhagen at the age of 52.

He is now one of the best-known artists in Scandinavia, and comprehensive retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marc, Franz

Deer in the snow
oil on canvas
84.7 x 84.5 cm
Staedtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Germany

"Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two." (Franz Marc)

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.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dali, Salvador

Portrait of Dorothy Spreckels Munn
oil on canvas
78.7 x 63.8 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California, USA

Dorothy Spreckels Munn (1913 - 2000) was the younger daughter of Adolph Spreckels, the California sugar king, founder of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. She was a prominent San Franciscan and a generous patron of the arts, she lived in Paris for many years, finally moving to Palm Beach, Florida with her husband, Charles Munn.

"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing." (Dali)

Salvador Domenec Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech, Marquis de Pubol (1904 - 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dali , was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Spain. After passing through phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting, he joined the Surrealists in 1929 and his talent for self-publicity rapidly made him the most famous representative of the movement.

Dali was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. Dali's expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Dali attributed his "love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes" to a self-styled "Arab lineage", claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.

He took over the Surrealist theory of automatism but transformed it into a more positive method which he named `critical paranoia'. According to this theory one should cultivate genuine delusion as in clinical paranoia while remaining residually aware at the back of one's mind that the control of the reason and will has been deliberately suspended. He claimed that this method should be used not only in artistic and poetical creation but also in the affairs of daily life.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Picasso, Pablo

Child with a Dove
oil on canvas
73 x 54 cm
location unknown

"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)

Child with a Dove, one of Picasso's earliest paintings, was created in Paris before the age of 21. This is an iconic Picasso painting, and has a long history in British collections. This is one of Picasso's key early works, and marks a transitional moment in his career. The piece comes at the beginning of the Picasso Blue Period, a clear difference from earlier works.

Picasso grew up with pets when he was young as his father loved and kept many of them. It seemed that Picasso is most fond of birds, especially dove. It became one of his favourite subjects and appeared in many of his paintings. In Child with a Dove, there seems to be a clear sense of innocence and almost sympathy for the young child. By painting the child and the dove together, Picasso may be expressing his hope for a better world in the future. The canvas is painted in thick layers of paint and may have been painted over an earlier picture.

After spending 85 years in the UK, in 2012 this painting was sold in a private sale brokered by auction house Christie's and is said to be heading to a gallery in Qatar.

"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, November 8, 2013

Manet, Edouard

oil on canvas
154 × 115 cm
Kunsthalle de Hambourg, Germany

Manet’s painting, depicts a young, beautiful Parisian mistress, who is standing in front of a mirror. Her dress is incomplete in that she is wearing a short, sleeveless bodice, a slip, silk stockings, and high-heeled shoes. The decor of the room suggests a boudoir, and behind the woman is a settee, with a gentleman caller seated, who is dressed very elegantly with a top hat, is staring at her as she is turned to face the viewer. The title and visual depiction suggest that the subject is an upper-class courtesan.

Symbolic meaning which is suggested, is the ibis on the wallpaper symbolizing the unclean bird in the Bible, and the extinguished taper candles may symbolize a lack of affection or love. Manet painted Nana in alla prima style, meaning that the painting was completed all at once. Instead of layering the oil paints, or glazing over an underpainting, Manet painted the realistic scene as he perceived it, and quickly at the moment, in a direct and expressive style with thick lines, and darker colors.

Nana was a common term used in the nineteenth century, for a lady of the evening. Painting a picture with a courtesan being more important than a gentleman, was not accepted readily in the nineteenth century. Manet’s painting titled Nana was refused at the Salon of Paris, the official art exhibition of the Academie des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, in 1877, the year that it was completed. The subject matter was deemed controversial, and contemptuous of the morality of society at that time. Emile Zola, defended Manet’s painting, and soon after, published a novel entitled Nana as a ninth volume to his Les Rougon-Macquart series. Manet is now heralded as an innovative influence for future artists, and his works mark the genius of modern art which he was central in introducing.

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (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." (Manet)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Velazquez, Diego

Infanta Margarita Teresa
oil on canvas
129 x 100 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Margarita Teresa (1651 - 1673) was the first-born child of King Philip IV of Spain and his second wife Maria Anna of Austria. Philip had been a widower since 1644. Two years later, after the premature death of the Infante Balthasar Carlos, the king's only son and heir to the throne, he decided to remarry. His bride-to-be, the young Archduchess Maria Anna, had previously been engaged to Balthasar Carlos. She was the daughter of Philip's sister Maria with the Emperor Ferdinand III and therefore his niece. In October 1649, the fourteen-year-old was married to the Spanish king per procuram in Vienna. Shortly thereafter, she traveled via Trento and Milan to Madrid.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez (1599 - 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was called the "noblest and most commanding man among the artists of his country." "His men and women seem to breathe," it has been said; "his horses are full of action and his dogs of life."

From the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velazquez's artwork was a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Edouard Manet. Since that time, more modern artists, including Spain's Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, as well as the Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velazquez by recreating several of his most famous works.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Murillo, Bartolome Esteban

The Madonna and Child
oil on canvas
157 x 107 cm
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy

Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682) was a Spanish painter, active for almost all his life in his native Seville.
He was the youngest son in a family of fourteen and his father was a barber and surgeon (his parents died when he was still very young, and he was largely brought up by his aunt and uncle).

His early career is not well documented, but he started working in a naturalistic tenebrism style, showing the influence of Zurbaran. After making his reputation with a series of eleven paintings on the lives of Franciscan saints for the Franciscan monastery in Seville (1645-46), he displaced Zurbaran as the city's leading painter and was unrivalled in this position for the rest of his life. In 1660, he founded an academy of painting at Seville and became its first president.

He was the first Spanish painter to achieve renown throughout Europe. In addition to the enormous popularity of his works in Spain, he was much admired in other countries, particularly England. Although he is best known for his religious works, his lively, realist portraits of flower girls and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times. Most of his paintings are of religious subjects, appealing strongly to popular piety and illustrating the doctrines of the Counter-Reformation church, above all the Immaculate Conception, which was his favourite theme.

He died at Seville in 1682, evidently from the after-effects of a fall from scaffolding. He had many assistants and followers, and his style continued to influence Sevillian painting into the 19th century. His fame in the 18th century and early 19th century was enormous.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Elinga, Pieter Janssens

A Woman Reading a letter and a Woman Sweeping
oil on canvas
83.7 x 100 cm
Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Pieter Janssens Elinga (1623 - 1682) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, active in Amsterdam. He was the son of a painter in Bruges, Flanders. Although he probably first studied with his father, his name does not appear in the register of the local painters' guild. He was active as a painter of both interior genre scenes with perspective effects and still lifes. His interiors are calm, the figures are motionless. Very little is known about the life of Pieter Janssens Elinga.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Van Dyck, Anthony

"George, Lord Digby" and "William, Lord Russell"
oil on canvas
size unknown
The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599 - 1641) was a Flemish painter known as "the Mozart of painting". His portraits, like the music of Mozart, are precise, expertly observed, and idealized variations on established forms. He was an extremely famous European court painter throughout the 17th century, matched only by Rubens.

He was born in Antwerp as a son of a rich silk merchant, and his precocious artistic talent was already obvious at age 11, when he was apprenticed to a Flemish historical painter. He was admitted to the Antwerp guild of painters before his 19th birthday. He spent the next two years as a member of the workshop of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. His work during this period is in the lush, exuberant style of Rubens, and several paintings attributed to Rubens have since been ascribed to Van Dyck.
He settled in London from Antwerp, in 1632, as chief court painter to King Charles I, who knighted him shortly after his arrival. He painted most of the English aristocracy of the time. He contributed heavily to both English portraiture and Italian Renaissance Art, and was unmatched in rendering his sitters' psychological world through expression and pose. He is also considered to be one of the most brilliant colorists in the history of art.

Van Dyck set a new style for Flemish art and founded the English school of painting. His style became lighter and more luminous, with thinner paint and more sparkling highlights in gold and silver occasionally showing a certain hastiness or superficiality as he hurried to satisfy his flood of commissions. He died in London on December 9, 1641 and was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vermeer, Johannes

The Music Lesson
oil on canvas
74.6 x 64.1 cm
Royal Collection, St. James' Palace, London, UK

The Music Lesson or Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman is a painting of young female pupil receiving the titular music lesson. This painting has been part of the Royal Collection of Great Britain since the reign of King George III. However, when the piece was acquired it was believed to be a work by Frans van Mieris the elder because of a misinterpretation of the signature. The painting wasn't correctly attributed to Vermeer until 1866. Some scholars are skeptical whether it was Vermeer or not.

"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, November 2, 2013

Bruegel, Pieter the Elder

The Wedding Dance
oil on panel
119.4 × 157.5 cm
Museum Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA

This painting is believed to be one of a set of three Bruegel works from around the same time, The Wedding Dance, The Peasant Wedding and The Peasant Dance. It depicts 125 wedding guests. As was customary in the Renaissance period, the brides wore black and men wore codpieces. Dancing was tabooed at the time by the authorities and the church, and the painting can be seen as both a critique and comic depiction of a stereotypical peasant class of the times.

Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder (c.1525 - 1569) was a Flemish Renaissance painter, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. He received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' or 'Bruegel the Peasant' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant in order to mingle at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings.

Making the life and manners of peasants the main focus of a work was rare in painting in Bruegel's time, and he was a pioneer of the Netherlandish genre painting. He developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative, or story-telling, meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes and parables of Christ to such mythological portrayals as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; religious allegories in the style of Hieronymus Bosch; and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. Using abundant spirit and comic power, he created some of the early images of acute social protest in art history. On his deathbed he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution.

He was the father of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Both became painters, but as they were very young children when their father died, it is believed neither received any training from him. Bruegel died in Brussels between Sept. 5 and 9, 1569. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Rest on Flight to Egypt
oil on canvas
133.5 x 166.5 cm
Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome, Italy

According to the legend, Joseph and Mary stopped on the flight in a grove of trees; the Holy Child ordered the trees to bend down so that Joseph could take fruit from them, and then ordered a spring of water to gush forth from the roots so that his parents could quench their thirst.
Caravaggio ingeniously uses the figure of an angel playing the violin with his back to the viewer to divide the composition into two parts. On the right, before an autumnal river-front scene, Caravaggio shows Mary asleep with the infant Jesus, while on the left, a seated Joseph holds a manuscript for an angel who is playing a hymn to Mary on the violin. The ass, a traditional ingredient of the legend and a foretelling of the ass that would one day bear Christ into Jerusalem, watches.

Michelangelo Merisi (1571 - 1610), called later Caravaggio, was born in either Milan, or a town of Caravaggio near Milan, as the son of a ducal architect. He was active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. Few artists in history have exercised as extraordinary an influence as this tempestuous and short-lived painter. Even in his own lifetime, Caravaggio was considered enigmatic, fascinating, rebellious and dangerous. Caravaggio was destined to turn a large part of European art away from the ideal viewpoint of the Renaissance to the concept that simple reality was of primary importance. Caravaggio was one of the first to paint people as ordinary looking. Almost all of his subjects emphasize sadness, suffering, and death.

Caravaggio, orphaned at age 11, trained as a painter in Milan under Peterzano who had himself trained under Titian. In his early twenties he moved to Rome where many huge new churches and palazzi were being built and paintings were needed to fill them. During the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church searched for religious art with which to counter the threat of Protestantism, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate.

Caravaggio's novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro. This came to be known as Tenebrism, the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value. He burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissioned artwork. Thereafter Caravaggio never lacked commissions or patrons, yet he handled his success poorly. Since 1600, because of his violent temper Caravaggio was constantly in trouble with the law and was regularly mentioned in police records, under accusations of assault, libel and other crimes. "after a fortnight's work he will swagger about for a month or two with a sword at his side and a servant following him, from one ball-court to the next, ever ready to engage in a fight or an argument, so that it is most awkward to get along with him." (An early published notice on him, dating from 1604 and describing his lifestyle three years previously) Caravaggio was jailed on several occasions and ultimately had a death warrant issued for him by the Pope, when he became involved in killing a young man in a brawl in 1606. He fled from Rome finding refuge with a price on his head. He was involved in a brawl in Malta in 1608 again, and another in Naples in 1609, possibly a deliberate attempt on his life by unidentified enemies. This encounter left him severely injured. A year later, at the age of 38, he died under mysterious circumstances in Porto Ercole, reportedly from a fever while on his way to Rome to receive a pardon from the Pope.

Famous while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation. Heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques".
"What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting." (Andre Berne-Joffroy)