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Friday, January 31, 2014

Cezanne, Paul


Still Life with Apples
c.1890
oil on canvas
35.2 x 46.2 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Apple is a symbol of Venus and an attribute of Eve. Apples were at the centre of Cezanne's attention. The passions that had from youth tormented Cezanne, a fear of women that was almost pathological, found expression in a number of his works.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gogh, Vincent van


Still Life with Lemons on a Plate
1887
oil on canvas
21 x 26.5 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)

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". "One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR." (Gogh)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Manet, Edouard


The Lemon
1880
14 x 22 cm
oil on canvas
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Masaccio


The Tribute Money
1427
Fresco
255 x 598 cm
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy

The Tribute Money is a fresco by the Italian renaissance painter Masaccio, and completed by his senior collaborator, Masolino. It is widely considered among Masaccio's best work, and a vital part of the development of renaissance art. This painting is part of a cycle on the life of Saint Peter, and describes a scene from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus directs Peter to find a coin in the mouth of a fish in order to pay the temple tax. It owes its importance in particular to its revolutionary use of perspective and chiaroscuro.

In this fresco, a Roman tax collector (in a short orange tunic and no halo) demands tax money from Christ and the twelve apostles who don't have the money to pay. Christ (centrally located, wearing a pink robe gathered in at the waist, with a blue toga-like wrap) points to the left, and says to Peter "so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

Masaccio (1401 - 1428) was the first great painter of the Quattrocento period of the Italian Renaissance, whose innovations in the use of scientific perspective inaugurated the modern era in painting. He was born in a village near Florence, located in the valley of the Arno River. He was the best painter of his generation because of his skill at recreating lifelike figures and movements as well as a convincing sense of three-dimensionality. What that does is make the fresco so much more real.

He was one of the first to use linear perspective in his painting, employing techniques such as vanishing point in art for the first time. He also moved away from the International Gothic style and elaborate ornamentation of artists like Gentile da Fabriano to a more naturalistic mode that employed perspective and chiaroscuro for greater realism. He is the first artist since classical antiquity to paint cast shadows.

His remarkably individual style owed little to other painters, except possibly the great 14th-century master Giotto. He was more strongly influenced by the architect Brunelleschi and the sculptor Donatello, both of whom were his contemporaries in Florence. From Brunelleschi he acquired a knowledge of mathematical proportion that was crucial to his revival of the principles of scientific perspective. From Donatello he imbibed a knowledge of classical art that led him away from the prevailing Gothic style. He inaugurated a new naturalistic approach to painting that was concerned less with details and ornamentation than with simplicity and unity, less with flat surfaces than with the illusion of three dimensionality. Together with Brunelleschi and Donatello, he was a founder of the Renaissance.

He died in Rome at twenty-six and little is known about the exact circumstances of his death. Despite his brief career, he had a profound influence on the course of later Florentine art and particularly on the work of Michelangelo. The majority of his work has been destroyed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mantegna, Andrea


Agony in the Garden
1459
tempera on panel
71 × 94 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tours, France

Left panel of the predella of the San Zeno altarpiece which is a triptych by the Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. It is located in the Basilica di San Zeno, the main church of Verona. During the reign of Napoleon over Italy all panels of the altarpiece were taken to France; the predella panels were never returned to Verona. This is the original panel. In Verona a replica is on display. The painting shows an agonized Jesus. He seems truly afraid of what he feels will happen to him. In the background soldiers led by Judas are already approaching. The disciples Peter, John and James are sleeping. In this moment of fear Jesus is thus left to himself by the people he asked to remain awake.

Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506) was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, and son in law of Jacopo Bellini. He was born near Padua and worked for local artist. Believing his talents were being exploited, he broke their agreement and in 1453 married into the rival Venetian firm of the Bellinis.

He developed a painting technique which enabled him to imitate the look of classical sculpture. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He produced engravings which helped spread his designs and fame beyond Italy. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500. He worked in Padua, Verona and Venice before moving to Mantua in 1460, where he spent the rest of his life. From possibly humble origins he rose to become a valued retainer court artist of the Gonzaga in Mantua. He was knighted by 1484, a rare honour for an artist.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bellini, Giovanni


Agony in the Garden
c. 1465
Tempera on wood
81 x 127 cm
National Gallery, London, UK

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane while three of his disciples - Peter, James and John - sleep. An angel reveals a cup and a patten, symbols of his impending sacrifice. In the background, Judas approaches with the Roman soldiers who will arrest Jesus. This painting is closely related to 'The Agony in the Garden' (probably slightly earlier in date), by Bellini's brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna. The two pictures both probably derive from a drawing by Giovanni's father, Jacopo Bellini. In Giovanni Bellini's version, the treatment of the dawn light is particularly noteworthy. (National Gallery)

Both works were for long considered to be by Mantegna. However, the dramatic way in which the two painters approach the subject is different: Mantegna's harsh and embossed in the dark contrast of strong colours; Bellini's more subtly lyrical and humanly resigned.

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

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

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Botticelli, Sandro


The Virgin and Child
c. 1490
Tempera on wood
size unknown
The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Workshop, Cambridge, MA, USA

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.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Perugino, Pietro


The Delivery of the Keys (Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter)
1482
Fresco
335 x 550 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican, Italy

The scene, part of the series of the Stories of Jesus, is a reference to Matthew 16 in which the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" are given to Saint Peter. These keys represent the power to forgive and to share the word of God thereby giving them the power to allow others into heaven.

The commission of the work originated in 1480, when Perugino was decorating a chapel in the Old St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Pope Sixtus IV was pleased by his work, and decided to commission him also the decoration of the new Chapel he had built in the Vatican Palace. Due to the size of the work, Perugino was later joined by a group of painters from Florence, including Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and others. (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Raffaello Sanzio


Transfiguration
1520
oil on wood
405 cm × 278 cm
Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City, Italy

The Transfiguration is the last painting by Raphael. Commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Medici, the later Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) and conceived as an altarpiece for the Narbonne Cathedral in France, Raphael worked on it until his death in 1520. The painting exemplifies Raphael's development as an artist and the culmination of his career. Unusually for a depiction of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Christian art, the subject is combined with an additional episode from the Gospels in the lower part of the painting. The Transfiguration stands as an allegory of the transformative nature of representation. It is now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Vatican City. (Wikipedia)

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, January 22, 2014

Miller, Alfred Jacob


Yell of Triumph
c.1860
20.5 x 31.5 cm
watercolor on paper
The Walters Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

The Indian hunters in selecting a buffalo from the herd for themselves are generally much more influenced by the luxuriant coat of hair he wears, in reference to making a robe, than tenderness of beef for roasting purposes. The party here have secured an animal whose hide will make a first class robe. Placing him on his haunches in an upright position the conquerer is mounting the animal in full war dress and in his exultation sounds the key note for a 'Yell of Triumph' in which all join.

 "and one has mounted the back of the animal to join in an Indian yell and song;- partly as a species of requiem to the Buffalo for the game quality he has exhibited, but mainly as an act of self glorification for giving the "coup de grace" to the bull. " (Miller)

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) was an American painter best known for his paintings concerning the northwestern United States. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After doing some painting in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in 1833 he went to Europe to perfect his skills. He spent considerable time in Paris. He was admitted as an auditor to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He studied technique, color and line by copying Old Masters in the museums, as was the practice at the time.

After returning to Baltimore in 1834, he opened a small studio, which was not successful. Seeking a change, he relocated to New Orleans in 1837. There he met the Scottish adventurer William Drummond Stewart, who hired Miller to accompany him and record his hunting journey to the Rocky Mountains. That same year, along with representatives of the American Fur Company, they ventured as far as Fort William and Green River. After returning to New Orleans later that year, Miller started working up his sketches in oils. The scenes and incidents of the hunting journey were the foundation of a series of paintings documenting aboriginal American life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pelton, Agnes Lawrence


The Primal Wing
1933
oil on canvas
60.96 cm x 63.5 cm
The San Diego Museum of Art, CA, USA (Fair use)

Agnes Lawrence Pelton (1881-1961), born in Stuttgart, Germany to American parents, was a pioneering American modernist who spent most of her childhood in Switzerland and France. After her father's death in 1890, she and her mother returned to Brooklyn, where her mother, who had earned a teaching certificate in piano from the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music, taught piano. Due to poor health as a young child, she was tutored at home. She studied piano with her mother and also with Arthur Whiting, a recognized pianist.

At age 19, she graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York and later studied with Arthur Dow. Dow emphasized structure, spirit, imagination, creation, and the non-naturalistic use of color, a technique he taught using Japanese prints to demonstrate space relations and the appropriate use of light and dark masses. Dow believed that the Japanese had already found the essence of the painting ideals that Modernism was still striving to achieve. Dow's influence was critical to her development of abstractions based on interior, spiritual values.

Her early work was mostly portraits and representational subjects, but in 1925 she began to change to abstraction. Arthur Dow's influence led to her "Imaginative Paintings" of ethereal seeming figures expressing the moods of nature and the dichotomies between contemplation and animal impulse. She began visiting the Southwest in the 1920s and became one of the leading voices of radical abstraction in New Mexico. She was part of a group of ten New Mexico painters who called themselves the Transcendental Painting Group, dedicated to radical abstraction in the 1930s when realism prevailed. In 1931, she moved to California where she settled in Cathedral City and spent the rest of her career painting the West, especially surreal scenes of blooming desert. She died just before she turned eighty and was cremated, leaving this world through the element of fire. Throughout her painting career, she had continued to express the spiritual in art and the possibilities within human reach.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Katz, Alex


The Red Smile
1963
oil on canvas
200 × 291.5 cm
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA (Fair use)

Alex Katz's portraits are some of the most recognizable images in contemporary art. His model and muse for half a century has been his wife, Ada, who appears in over 250 of his paintings including this one. 

"(The) one thing I don’t want to do is things already done. As for particular subject matter, I don’t like narratives, basically." (Katz)

Alex Katz (1927-) is an American figurative artist associated with the Pop art movement. In particular, he is known for his paintings, sculptures, and prints and is represented by numerous galleries internationally.

He was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, as the son of an emigre who had lost a factory he owned in Russia to the Soviet revolution. In 1928, at the outset of the Depression, his family moved to St. Albans, a suburb of Queens, that had sprung up between the two wars. His mother had been an actress and possessed a deep interest in poetry and his father, a businessman, also had an interest in the arts. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School for its unique program that allowed him to devote his mornings to academics and his afternoons to the arts. In 1946, he entered The Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan, a prestigious college of art, architecture, and engineering. Upon graduating in 1949, he was awarded a scholarship for summer study at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine, a grant that he would renew the following summer. Skowhegan exposed him to painting from life, which would prove pivotal in his development as a painter and remains a staple of his practices today. He explains that Skowhegan’s plein air painting gave him “a reason to devote my life to painting.”

In the late 1950s, he became increasingly interested in portraiture, and painted his friends and his wife and muse, Ada. He embraced monochrome backgrounds, which would become a defining characteristic of his style, anticipating Pop Art and separating him from gestural figure painters and the New Perceptual Realism. In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, he began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. After 1964, he increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s, portraying the social world of painters, poets, critics, and other colleagues that surrounded him. He began designing sets and costumes for choreographer in the early 1960s, and he has painted many images of dancers throughout the years. In the 1980s, he took on a new subject in his work: fashion models in designer clothing. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he focused much of his attention on large landscape paintings. At the beginning of the new millennium, he also began painting flowers in profusion. More recently he began painting a series of dancers and one of nudes. His work continues to grow and evolve today.

"He may not have the pop-culture fame of someone like Andy Warhol in his lifetime, but he's one of the few living artists with a very recognizable style. He has created a visual vocabulary.... (Karl Willers, director of the Nassau County Museum of Art)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lee-Smith, Hughie



Confrontation
c.1970
oil on canvas
83.8 x 91.4 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., USA (Fair use)

Hughie Lee-Smith's art conveys the alienation and isolation experienced by many African Americans during the middle decades of the twentieth century, yet his work speaks in larger terms about our inability to reach out and connect with others on grounds larger than race. He explored psychological corners of the human experience grounded in separation and displacement. Confrontation suggests the tension between the girls and their situation. They radiate alienation - from each other, and from the crumbling infrastructure of their surreal, beachfront surroundings.

"I think my paintings have to do with an invisible life - a reality on a different level." (Lee-Smith)

Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999) is one of America's foremost contemporary black artists. His signature works were slightly surreal in mood, often featuring distant figures seen under vast skies in desolate urban settings. He was born in Eustis, Florida, but his family moved north when he was a boy, settling in Cleveland, Ohio. There he studied at the Karamu House, a regionally well-known center for black artists and performers, and later at the Cleveland School of Art. He transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit where he completed a B.S. degree in art education.

He continued to live and work in Detroit until 1969, when he accepted a two-year appointment as artist-in-residence at Howard University in Washington, D.C.. Since 1972 he has taught at the Art Students League in New York. In 1975 he was one of the artists featured in the Whitney Museum's important exhibit.

Many years after winning a top prize for painting from the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1953, he recalled I was no longer called black artist, Negro artist, colored boy. When I won that prize, all of a sudden, there was no longer a racial designation.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hopper, Edward


Summer Evening
1947
oil on canvas
30 x 42 in.
private collection (Fair use)

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Klee, Paul


Ad Parnassum (Polyphony2)
1932
oil on canvas
126 x 100 cm
Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland

This painting, considered Klee’s masterpiece, is an example of Klee’s masterful skill with color. His studies in the related fields of natural history, comparative anatomy and anthropology had brought him to the belief that nature was characterized by the permutation and movement of fundamental units of construction. He wanted to achieve an equivalent way of working in painting. From 1923 Klee created a series of imaginative color constructions which he called 'magic squares' in which he applied his theories. This series came to a conclusion in 1932 with Ad Parnassum. Klee likened each element in the painting to a theme in a polyphonic composition. He defined polyphony as 'the simultaneity of several independent themes'.

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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kandinsky, Wassily


Autumn in Bavaria
1908
oil on cardboard
33 x 45cm
Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

"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, January 15, 2014

Marc, Franz


Blue-Black Fox
1911
oil on canvas
46 x 64cm
Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, 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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Modigliani, Amedeo


Portrait of a Woman
1918
oil on canvas
65.0 x 48.3 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, USA

“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.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pollock, Jackson


Male and Female
1943
oil on Canvas
186.1 x 124.3 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

This painting was included in Pollock's stunning solo exhibition at Art of This Century, in November 1943, the innovative New York art gallery run by legendary art patron Peggy Guggenheim. As its title suggests, the work depicts a male figure, embodied in the black columnar form at right, with its mysterious arithmetic graffiti, and a curvy female figure at left, with marvelous catlike eyelashes. Standing on tiny triangular feet, both figures are surrounded by splashed and smeared oil paint that enhances the sense of energy inherent in the two vertical forms, while also foreshadowing the famous "drip" technique that Pollock would develop later that decade. (Museum of Art, Philadelphia)

"When I am in a painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." (Pollock)

Paul Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), American painter, known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement along with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Instead of using the traditional easel, Pollock affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with sticks, trowels or knives, sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods.

Pollock was born in Wyoming and grew up in California and Arizona. He was expelled from two high schools during his formative years, the second one being Los Angeles Manual Arts School, where he was encouraged to pursue his interest in art.
In 1930, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New York to study art, and secured a job under the WPA Federal Art Project, a New Deal project, which allowed him to earn a living from his painting. This provided him the opportunity to develop his techniques. As he was gaining professional and social success, Pollock fought the addiction of alcoholism and recurring bouts of depression. He began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism in 1937, and he briefly suffered a nervous breakdown next year. He was subsequently under the care of psychoanalysts who used his own drawings in therapy sessions. Peggy Guggenheim contracted with Pollock to hold his first showing at her gallery in New York in 1937.

He married Lee Krasner in 1945, a painter, and moved to East Hampton on Long Island, where he would remain the rest of his life. In the barn behind the house, which he converted to his studio, Pollock developed a new and completely novel technique of painting using what he called his “drip” technique. Using hardened brushes, sticks, and turkey basters, and household enamel paints, Pollock squirted, splashed, and dripped his paint onto canvas rolled out over his studio floor. In 1956, Time magazine gave Pollock the name “Jack the Dripper,” referencing his unique style of action painting.

Pollock had become a symbol of the new artistic revolt, abstract expressionism, and he enjoyed considerable fame. He had a volatile personality, struggled with alcoholism for most of his life, and he died at the age of 44 in a single-car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible, killing himself and one of his passengers, while driving under the influence of alcohol, which occurred less than a mile from his home.

"On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting."  "The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them." (Pollock describing his painting on the floor)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rousseau, Henri


FIght Between a Tiger and a Buffalo
1908
oil on canvas
170 × 189.5 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA

In this painting, what Rousseau is mainly showing is the central beasts locked in struggle. He intended to show the carnivorous hungers of the great jungle beasts, a special hunger for only blood and meat, even though the jungle is full of bananas and other fruits growing in the trees .

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gauguin, Paul


Day of the God (Mahana no Atua)
1894
oil on canvas
68.3 x 91.5 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA
    
Late in 1893, Paul Gauguin returned to France from Tahiti and spent much of 1894 either in Paris or in the small Breton village of Pont Aven. His health was poor and his financial situation even worse. Day of the God is one of a small number of paintings of Tahitian subjects that Paul Gauguin made in France. An imaginary rather than realistic depiction of the South Seas, it is dominated by an idol of the goddess Hina. To the right of her, women dance the upaupa, a suggestive ancient Tahitian dance that missionaries and colonial authorities tried to suppress. In a middle ground of pink sand sits a female bather flanked by ambiguously gendered figures lying on their sides. Although the arrangement of this trio seems symbolic - perhaps of birth, life, and death - Gauguin made its exact meaning an enigma.
    
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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Pissarro, Camille


Lacroix Island, Rouen, The Effect of Fog
1888
oil on canvas
46.7 x 55.9 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Pissarro created this painting from an earlier composition in his studio rather than in front of the motif, which was his usual practice. He had visited Rouen in 1883 and made several drawings and etchings of the Seine that he consulted five years later when painting this foggy view of factories and barges on the river.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chagall, Marc


Birthday
1915
oil on cardboard
80.6 x 99.7 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

It’s her birthday and in a moment of emotion and passion, her husband decides that the flowers he got her are not enough. And so, he literally ‘leaps’ to kiss her, catching her by a wonderful surprise… Chagall said “Love and fantasy go hand in hand “.
"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." (Chagall)

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)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Monet, Claud


Vetheuil in Summer
1880
oil on canvas
60 x 99.7 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Monet painted this view of the small town of Vetheuil from the opposite side of the Seine. The flicker of individual brushstrokes reflects his concern with recording sensations of color and light as accurately as possible.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gogh, Vincent van


View of the Roofs of Paris
1886
oil on canvas
54.0 x 72.5 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Gogh used darker colors for his early paintings in Paris. The colors reflect his earlier works and his Dutch background.

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)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cezanne, Paul


Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley
1887
oil on canvas
26 x 35 3/8 in.
Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

The peak of Mont Sainte-Victoire near Aix attracted Cezanne all his life. He identified with it as the ancients with a holy mountain on which they set the dwelling or birthplace of a god.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Picasso, Pablo


The Green Still Life
1914
oil on canvas
59.7 x 79.4 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA

Picasso painted “The Green Still Life” in the summer of 1914 in Avignon. It can be read as a response to Matisse’s “The Red Studio” of 1911.

                                           The Red Studio by Matisse



"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.”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Corot, Jean-Baptiste Camille


Idylle
1859
oil on canvas
162.5 x 130 cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France

Idyll (Idylle - French) is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life. The term is used in music to refer generally to a work evocative of pastoral or rural life, and more specifically to a kind of French courtly entertainment (divertissement) of the baroque era where a pastoral poem was set to music, accompanied by ballet and singing. In the visual arts, Idyll is a painting depicting the same sort of subject matter to be found in idyllic poetry, often with rural or peasant life as its central theme.

"In my eyes, nobody taught me anything. When one finds oneself alone confronted by nature, one extricates oneself as best one can, and naturally one invents one's own style." (Corot)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) , French landscape painter, was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. He developed, through painting on the spot, his sensitive treatment of light, form and distance in terms of tonal values rather than by color and drawing. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed "There is only one master here, Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing." His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important; Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot's influence.

His reputation was established by the 1850s, which was also the period when his style became softer and his colors more restricted. In his late studio landscapes, which were often peopled with bathers, bacchae and allegorical figures, he employed a small range of colors, often using soft colored greys and blue-greens, with spots of color confined to the clothing of the figures. His influence on later 19th-century landscape painting, including the Impressionists, was immense, particularly in his portrayal of light on the landscape.
He died in Paris of a stomach disorder and was buried at Pere Lachaise.

"What there is to see in painting, or rather what I am looking for, is the form, the whole, the value of the tones…That is why for me the color comes after, because I love more than anything else the overall effect, the harmony of the tones, while color gives you a kind of shock that I don’t like. Perhaps it is the excess of this principal that makes people say I have leaden tones." In his aversion to shocking color, Corot sharply diverged from the up-and-coming Impressionists, who embraced experimentation with vivid hues.
"Corot is not a simple landscapist, he is a painter, a true painter; he is a rare and exceptional genius." (Delacroix) "Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. (Corot) "

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn


The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out, known as the ‘Night Watch’
1642
oil on canvas
363 x 437 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The painting is said to have been commissioned by the Captain and seventeen members of his Kloveniers (civic militia guards) to hang in the banquet hall of the newly built Kloveniersdoelen (Musketeers' Meeting Hall) in Amsterdam. In the 18th century the painting became known as the Night Watch. This is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is prominently displayed in the Rijksmuseum as the best known painting in its collection.

"Choose only one master -  Nature." (Rembrandt)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), born in Leiden as the eighth of nine children of well-to-do millers, was a Dutch painter and etcher. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. He was the first and the only of their sons who was sent to the school for Latin. After seven years’ schooling (1613-1620), at the age of 14, Rembrandt entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt's later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia (his wife) gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived; her own death came in 1642 - at the age of 30. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper about 1649, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures. Despite Rembrandt's financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his penchant for ostentatious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. Yet these problems in no way affected Rembrandt's work. His etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high. His personal life, however, continued to be marred by sorrow. His beloved Hendrickje died in 1663, and his son, Titus, in 1668 - only 27 years of age. Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.

His paintings are characterized by luxuriant brushwork, rich color, and a mastery of chiaroscuro. He was a master of light and shadow whose paintings, drawings, and etchings made him a giant in the history of art. Numerous portraits and self-portraits exhibit a profound penetration of character. His drawings constitute a vivid record of contemporary Amsterdam life. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom were already trained artists.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Manet, Edouard


The Luncheon on the Grass (Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe)
1863
oil on canvas
208 × 265.5 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

In 1863, Manet shocked the French public by exhibiting this painting. Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) - originally titled Le Bain (The Bath) - is not a realist painting in the social, but it is a statement in favor of the artist's individual freedom. The shock value of a nude woman casually lunching with two fully dressed men, which was an affront to the propriety of the time, was accentuated by the familiarity of the figures. Manet's wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both posed for the nude woman. The two men are Manet's brother, Gustave Manet and his future brother-in-law, Ferdinand Leenhoff. Rejected by the Salon jury of 1863, Manet seized the opportunity to exhibit this painting in the 1863 Salon des Refuses where the painting sparked public notoriety and controversy.

Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for historical subjects. The style of the painting breaks with the academic traditions of the time. He did not try to hide the brush strokes; the painting, indeed, looks unfinished in some parts of the scene.

"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)