Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nicolai Fechin

Portrait of Varya Adoratskaya
oil on canvas
size unknown
State Art Museum of Tatarstan, Kazan, Russia
Fair use

His work appeared in America for the first time at the 1910 International Exhibit of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. In both western Europe and America, he was greeted with instant acclaim. Among such distinguished contemporaries as Claude Monet, Pisarro, Gaston Latouche, Sisley and John Sargent, he won his first prizes and medals. He was called a "Moujik in art", the "Tartar painter."

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin (1881-1955) was a Russian-American painter known for his portraits and works featuring Native Americans, the Pueblo, Apache and Navajo tribes.

He was born in Kazan, Russia. the son of an accomplished icon maker, woodcarver, and gilder. At the age of thirteen he attended the Kazan School of Art (1895-1901) and then the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts, where he was taught by the great Russian master, Ilya Repin. After graduating with the highest marks from the Academy and traveling in Europe under a Prix de Rome, he returned to his native Kazan, where he taught and painted.

He exhibited his first work in the United States in 1910 in an international exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1911, place of honor in the Annual Winter Exhibition of the National Academy of Design in New York was assigned to a painting by him, thirty-year old then.

His “savage, splendid, and heterogeneous” canvas displayed a “barbaric mastery of form and color.” Fechin’s early preference for thick layers of color and pigment with very little oil, and a penchant for conflating the real and the abstract, would bring him international acclaim in the first decades of the 20th century.

Fleeing disease, hunger and the turmoil of post-revolutionary Russia, he and his family immigrated to New York, USA in 1923. Here he continued to attract attention. Though his “bold, striking technique” was praised by critics, he developed tuberculosis in New York, and moved West for a drier climate.

In 1926, he and his family settled in Taos, New Mexico, where a small community of artists also made their home. There he became fascinated by Native Americans and the landscape. He purchased a house in the middle of seven acres adjoining the Indian reservation. He spent the next several years handcrafting every viga, corbel, lintel and swinging door and niche for icons. For seven years, he took great delight in the abundance of subject matter the Taos area provided him. He worked with vibrant hues to paint the native people and traveled south to Mexico to sketch in charcoal, pencil and pastel the many faces of its people. (The adobe house which he renovated in Taos is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is used as the Taos Art Museum.)

In 1933 he and his wife divorced and he returned to New York. After New York, he traveled to Southern California, Mexico, Japan, and the Pacific Islands of Java and Bali. Soon he bought a spacious house in Hollywood, but in 1948 sold it and moved into a studio in Santa Monica. There he taught small groups of students, painted, and happily entertained guests. In 1955 he died in Santa Monica.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kandinsky, Wassily

Composition VIII
oil on canvas
140 x 201 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA

“The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.” (Kandinsky)

This painting is the 8th in a series of total 10 Compositions, begun in 1911, in which Kandinsky expresses what he is trying to achieve. He wanted to explore the medium of painting rather than be concerned with subject matter. His goal was to paint what music sounds like. Regrettably, the first 3 paintings (Composition I, II, III) were destroyed during World War II.

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, He 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.

"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)

He 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, his artistic career began when he left a legal career to pursue artistic studies after seeing Monet’s “Haystacks.” Passionately compelled to create, he 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 he 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 his name became world famous. He was proclaimed the theoretician and leading figure of abstract painting. In addition to teaching courses, he became actively involved in delivering lectures; his exhibitions took place almost yearly in Europe and America. In 1921, he 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 he and his wife became French citizens. He continued painting almost until his death. He died on December 13, 1944 in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 78.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pavel Chistyakov

Patriarch Hermogenes refuses to sign a letter to the Poles
oil on canvas
size unknown
Museum of Fine Arts Academy, St. Petersburg, Russia

Hermogenes was installed as Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus by the assembly of the holy hierarchs at Moscow's Dormition cathedral. When the tsar, Vasily IV was dethroned and the Poles took hold of the Moscow Kremlin, Patriarch Hermogenes staunchly opposed their plans to put Wladyslaw IV on the Russian throne, unless he converts to Orthodoxy. Despite knife threats from some of the boyars, he refused to sign any petitions to the Polish king, thus preventing Wladyslaw from coronation.

“The founder of Russian painting”, “universal teacher of Russian artists”, “our common and only teacher” - so said about him by his contemporaries. Today, unfortunately, the name of Pavel Chistyakov was known only to specialists.

Pavel Petrovich Chistyakov (1832-1919), an outstanding Russian artist and educator, was the founder of the artistic school of Russian realism. The most famous of Russia’s artists of the 19th century were all taught by Chistyakov. His system of teaching art developed in constant struggle with the stagnant system of academism and played an enormous role in the development of realism in Russian art of the second half of the 19th century. His goal was the preparation of a citizen-artist of high professional skill. His teaching method presupposed the blending of the artist’s direct perception of the subject with a scientific study of it. In his own work he strove for drama in his historical compositions and psychological depth in his historical and genre portraits.

He was born in the Tver province (north of Moscow) in a family of peasant serfs, but was granted freedom from the moment of his birth. At 17 years old, he enrolled in the Imperial Academy of the Arts in St Petersburg. As a bursary grantee of the Academy from 1862 to 1870, he travelled abroad and worked in Rome and Paris. In Rome, he took an interest in theoretical aspects of art. In studying the works of the great Renaissance masters, he also studied the subjects and methods they used to teach their students. In his notes on the theory of teaching art, he repeatedly cites Leonardo Da Vinci.

Returning to his lecturer’s duties at the Academy in St Petersburg in 1870, he began to successfully apply his newly developed teaching system. The primary objective is to give students a foundation in the realistic school of art, which is based on the laws of perspective, pictorial harmony and the development of students’ feel for colour. Great attention was paid to the study of nature and its colour palette, and also to the anatomical structure of humans and animals. To the end of his days, he was the most loved and respected teacher of the Academy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Karl Briullov

Last Days of Pompeii
oil on canvas
456.5 x 651 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Sir Walter Scott is reported to have looked at the painting for an hour and declared afterwards that it "wasn't a painting, but an epic".

Karl Pavlovich Brulloff (1799-1852) was a Russian painter of the first half of the 19th Century, one of the transitional artists between the schools of neoclassicism and romanticism and the first Russian painter to gain widespread recognition in the West. His contemporaries called him The Great Karl. His most famous work, The Last Day of Pompeii (1833), created a sensation in Italy and established Bryullov as one of the finest painters of his day. Italian critics compared Brulloff to the greatest artists of the past, such as Rubens, Rembrandt, and Van Dyke.

He was born in St. Petersburg into a family of Italian extraction. He entered the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1809. He never fully embraced the style taught by the Academy. After distinguishing himself as a promising and imaginative student and finishing his education, he left Russia for Rome. Here he worked until 1835 as a portraitist and genre painter, though his fame as an artist came when he got involved in historical painting. While teaching at the Academy (1836-1848) he continued his own artistic efforts, but was unable to produce a work comparable to his The Last Day of Pompeii.

By the late 1840s, his health was deteriorating due to his unrestrained lifestyle, unhappy marriage and his hard work on frescoes in St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, which he was unable to finish. In 1849, he went abroad, in the hopes that warmer climates would help his recovery. He died of a stroke in Rome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Leon Bakst

Ballettfigurine zu: Feuervogel (Firebird)
Wasserfarben, Papier
25 × 18 cm
Bearn Collection

Leon Samoilovitch Bakst (1866-1924) was a Russian painter and scene-and-costume designer. He belonged to the young generation of European artists who rebelled against 19th century stage realism, which had become pedantic and literal, without imagination or theatricality. His fame lay in the ballets he designed for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and huge pageant spectaculars for dancer and patron, Ida Rubinstein. He designed exotic, richly coloured sets and costumes for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. These were Cleopatra (1909), Scheherazade (1910), Carnaval (1910), Narcisse (1911), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), and Daphnis et Chloe (1912).

He started his career as a book illustrator and painter, achieving only moderate success as a portraitist. There were no specialist trained theatre designers, so painters like Leon Bakst turned their painting skills to theatre design. In 1890 he met Alexandre Benois and joined the Nevsky Pickwickians (an informal circle of art-loving and intellectual friends who were students at the University of St.Petersburg), through whom he also met Diaghilev. From 1893-97 he lived in Paris on and off, studying at the Academie Julian under the Academist painter, Jean-Leon Gerome, whose interest in Orientalism and Greek mythology were relayed to Bakst. He visited Spain, Germany, Tunisia, Algeria and Greece, settling permanently in Paris in 1912 after being exiled from Russia. From 1898-1904, he was Diaghilev’s art assistant for Mir Iskusstva. In 1901 he designed his first theatre work for Diaghilev. From that time he concentrated on designing both sets and costumes for various theatres in St Petersburg. In 1909, he was invited to design productions for the first Saison Russe in Paris. He continued working with the Ballets Russes, becoming the artistic director in 1911, until 1919. He designed more of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes productions than any other artist associated with the company, while also working as a freelance dress and costume designer for select clients. He died in 1924 in Paris.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ivan Shishkin

Rye Fields
oil on canvas
107 × 187 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin (1832-1898) was a Russian landscape painter closely associated with the Peredvizhniki movement. Among the Russian landscape painters Shishkin was the staunchest and most consistent exponent of the materialistic aesthetics-to depict nature in all its pure, unadorned beauty. For contemporaries, Shishkin’s personality embodied Russian nature itself; they called him “forest tzar”, “old pine tree”, and “lonely oak”. He owned a dacha in the south of St. Petersburg. There he painted some of his finest landscapes. His works are notable for poetic depiction of seasons in the woods, wild nature, animals and birds.

He was born in Yelabuga of Vyatka Governorate (today Republic of Tatarstan) into the family of a merchant. He graduated from the Kazan gymnasium. Then, he studied in the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture. He continued his studies in St. Petersburg, in the Academy of Arts. He graduated with the highest honours and a gold medal, and he received the Imperial scholarship for his further studies in Europe. From 1862, he spent 3 years in Germany, Switzerland, Czech, France, Belgium and Holland. Gradually he got disappointed in his foreign teachers and European authorities in landscape painting. In 1865, he returned to Russia and settled in St. Petersburg. He became a member of the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg and was professor of painting from 1873 to 1898. At the same time, he headed the landscape painting class at the Highest Art School in St. Petersburg. His painting method was based on analytical studies of nature. He died in St. Petersburg, Russia, while working on his new painting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ivan Kramskoi

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
oil on canvas
75.5 × 99 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

The identity of the model is unknown and depicts a woman of "quiet strength and forthright gaze". It is one of Russia's best-known art works, although a number of critics were indignant when the painting was first exhibited and condemned what they saw as a depiction of a haughty and immoral woman. Its popularity has grown with changes in public taste.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837-1887) was a Russian painter and art critic. He came from a poor petit-bourgeois family. He was an intellectual leader of the Russian democratic art movement in 1860-1880. From 1857 to 1863 he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts; he reacted against academic art and was an initiator of the "revolt of fourteen". Influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats, he asserted the high public duty of the artist, principles of realism, and the moral substance and nationality of art.

His democratic ideals found their brightest expression in his portraits of peasants, which portrayed a wealth of character-details in representatives of the common people. The democratic orientation of his art, his acute critical judgments about it, and his persistent quest for objective public criteria for the evaluation of art exerted an essential influence on the development of democratic art and aesthetics in Russia in the last third of the nineteenth century.

In one of Kramskoi’s most well known paintings, Christ in the Desert (1872), he continued Alexander Ivanov's humanistic tradition by treating a religious subject in moral-philosophical terms. He imbued his image of Christ with dramatic experiences in a deeply psychological and vital interpretation, evoking the idea of his heroic self-sacrifice.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ivan Aivazovsky

View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus
124.5 x 195.5 cm
oil on canvas
location unknown

“The artist who only copies nature becomes a slave to nature. The motions of live elements are imperceptible to a brush: painting lightning, a gust of wind or the splash of a wave. The artist must memorize them. The plot of the pictures is composed in my memory, like that of a poet; after doing a sketch on a scrap of paper, I start to work and stay by the canvas until I’ve said everything on it with my brush.” (Aivazovsky)

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was a famous Russian artist specializing in seascape and landscape portraits. He did most of his painting outside, watching the elements, and only going indoors to put the finishing touches on his masterpieces. His art was greatly influenced by Romanticism. Aivazovsky, although a romantic, was also a very practical man. He was among the first artists to personally exhibit his creations in major cities. He enjoyed a generous income and spent much of his wealth on the welfare of his hometown. Dostoevsky was an admirer of Aivazovsky’s art.

He was born into the family of a destitute Armenian merchant in the Crimean city. At the time of his birth the city was devastated after a recent war and was still suffering from the consequences of a plague epidemic that had affected the region in 1812. His childhood was spent in poverty on the outskirts of the city facing the beautiful Feodosia Bay in the Crimean city and the ruins of an ancient Greek fortress.

Young Ivan was mesmerized by the grandeur of the view and the heroic stories told about the Greeks and the famous battles of the past. His talent was discovered at a very early age. He was taken on as an apprentice by a local architect and later sent to a gymnasium in Simferopol where he showed such amazing artistic skills that influential locals helped him move to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of Art. He was trusted by the academy to continue his work on his own and moved back to Crimea where he set up a shop and started painting his beloved Black Sea.

His life in the quiet coastal Feodosia was quite uneventful. He spent days in his workshop mixing paints and producing seascapes and in winters went to St. Petersburg to exhibit his works for the sophisticated public of the Russian capital. Although he lead a secluded life, Aivazovsky kept in constant touch with his great contemporaries, welcomed them at his home in Feodosia and arranged meetings with them in St. Petersburg.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Levitan, Isaac

March, 1895
oil on canvas
60 x 75 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

"What can be more tragic than to feel the grandeur of the surrounding beauty and to be able to see in it its underlying mystery... and yet to be aware of your own inability to express these large feelings" (Levitan)

Isaac Ilyich Levitan (1860-1900) was a classical Lithuanian-Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of the "mood landscape". He was born in Lithuania, into a poor but educated Jewish family. At the beginning of 1870, the family moved to Moscow, where he studied at the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture. He lost his mother in 1875 and his father two years later. He was left penniless and homeless in Moscow, sleeping alternately in the homes of relatives and friends, sometimes spending the night in the empty classrooms of the school. A nightwatch took pity on the youth and let him sleep in his cubicle. The School waived his tuition fee "because of extreme poverty and in recognition of his singular success in art".

The work of Isaac Levitan belongs to the highest achievements of Russian culture. Its significance is compared with the works of such classics as Anton Chekhov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Konstantin Stanislavsky. His attitude towards nature and the poetry of his art were in many points akin to the works of Anton Chekhov, who became his friend from the late 1870s. He spent the last year of his life at Chekhov’s home in Crimea.
Leo Tolstoy once said, "The basis of human happiness is the possibility to be together with nature, to see it and to talk to it". Levitan was granted this happy feeling as hardly any other human being ever was. He also knew the joy of recognition by his contemporaries and of friendship with the best among them. Levitan ranks among the most appreciated and loved of Russian artists. In spite of the effects of a terminal illness, his last works are increasingly filled with light. They reflect tranquility and the eternal beauty of Russian nature.

He was buried in Dorogomilovo Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 his remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov's necropolis. He did not have a family or children. His hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.
"Painting is not a record but an explanation of nature with paints and brush." (Levitan)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christoffel van Sichem II

Judith with the Head of Holofernes
13.5 x 10.4 cm
Baillieu Library Collection, The University of Melbourne, Australia

Christoffel van Sichem II (1581-1658) was a 17th-century Dutch woodcut artist. He was known primarily for his book illustrations, he also created prints in series. His best-known book is the Dutch language Biblia Sacra, published in Antwerp and and Amsterdam in 1657, sometimes known as the van Sichem Bible. He also made woodcuts after portraits by leading artists such as Abraham Bloemaert, Hendrick Goltzius and Maarten van Heemskerck, among others. He made these for various publications and then he bundled and published them himself.

He was the son of the Dutch artist Chirstoffel van Sichem I (1546-1624). He was born in Basel, he moved with his family to Amsterdam in 1598, where he worked for the rest of his life. He was the brother of Karel Sichem who published many of his prints. His father, Christoffel van Sichem I was the first of a family of artists.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gogh, Vincent van

The Sower (Sower at Sunset)
Arles, June 1888
oil on canvas
64 × 80.5 cm
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)
Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, in April 1885, "One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR."

Gogh painted an autumnal scene of sowing. The motif of the peasant sowing had fascinated him since his earliest months as an artist. In letters written in June he referred directly to Millet's Sower but he complained that it lacked colour. It was one of van Gogh's aims to correct this, in a sense to update the subject Millet had made so famous, and which was for Gogh so resonant, by repainting the motif using modern colour theory. In the autumn of 1888 he made two paintings named "The Sower".

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".

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jan van Goyen

Landscape with two oaks
oil on canvas
88.5 x 110.5 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Dutch painter, was one of the foremost pioneers of realistic landscape painting in the Netherlands. He was one of the first painters to capture the quality of the light and air in a scene and to suggest the movement of clouds. He created a distinctive type of monochrome landscape in browns and greys with touches of vivid blue or red to catch the eye. His many drawings show that he travelled extensively in Holland and beyond. Most of his paintings seem to be based on drawings made as he travelled about the countryside, and he evidently used the same drawings again and again because the same themes and motifs recur repeatedly in his works. Some 1,200 paintings and 800 drawings are known. His finest work has a sense of poetic calm as well as great freshness and luminosity of atmosphere.

Van Goyen the son of a shoemaker was born at Leiden, and trained in Haarlem. After returning to Leiden he moved to The Hague in 1631, where he chiefly worked until his death. He was hugely prolific and had many pupils and imitators. His daughter married his pupil Jan Steen, the famous painter of genre scenes, in 1649. Despite his other career as a picture dealer, he constantly had financial difficulties and died insolvent because he kept speculating in land, houses, and tulip bulbs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ary Scheffer

The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil
oil on canvas
size unknown
The Louvre Museum, Paris, France

This painting shows a scene from Dante's Inferno of Dante and Virgil viewing Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta in Hell. There are three other versions of this painting by Ary Scheffer (Wallace Collection, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Louvre, Cleveland Art Museum in Cleveland, OH).

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), Dutch-French Romantic painter, often painted subjects from literature, especially the works of Dante, Byron and Goethe. He did not show much affinity with Romanticism and developed his own style, which has been called "frigidly classical". He was also an accomplished portrait painter, finishing 500 portraits in total. His subjects included composers Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt, the Marquis de la Fayette, Pierre-Jean de Beranger, Alphonse de Lamartine, Charles Dickens, Duchess de Broglie, Talleyrand and Queen Marie Amelie. After 1846, he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fall out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Shut up in his studio, he produced many paintings that were only exhibited after his death in 1858. By the time of his death, his reputation was damaged. Though his paintings were praised for their charm and facility, they were condemned for poor use of color and vapid sentiment. But nowadays he is considered a major player in the Romantic movement.

Scheffer was the son of a portrait painter. He was taught by his parents and attended the Amsterdam drawing academy from the age of 11. In 1808 his father became court painter of Louis Bonaparte in Amsterdam, but he died a year later. In 1811 he moved to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1819 he was asked to make a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. Perhaps because of Lafayette's contacts, he was politically active throughout his life and he became a prominent Philhellene. He was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848. As a captain of the Garde Nationale he escorted the royal family in their escape from the Tuileries and escorted the Duchess d'Orleans to the Chambre des Deputes where she in vain proposed her son to be the next monarch of France. He fought in the army of Cavaignac during the popular uprising in Paris, but he was so shocked by the cruelty and hatred from the government's side and the misery of the lower classes that he withdrew from political activity and refused to make portraits of the family of Napoleon III. In 1850 he became a French citizen. He continued his frequent travels to the Netherlands, and made trips to Belgium, Germany and England, but a heart condition slowed him down and in 1858 took his life in his summerhouse in Argenteuil. He is buried in the Cimetiere de Montmartre.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

Tobit and wife waiting for return of son
oil on pamel
40.3 x 54 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

"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, he entered the Philosophical Faculty of Leiden University to study Classics.

Rembrandt 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, his 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 his 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 his 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 he 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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bartholomeus van der Helst

Portrait of a Family
oil on canvas
235 x 345 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670), born in Haarlem, the son of a Haarlem innkeeper, was a Dutch portrait painter, active in Amsterdam. When he moved to Amsterdam in 1636, Rembrandt van Rijn was at the height of his popularity. The dazzling elegance of the Flemish painter Anthony Van Dyck had reached Amsterdam, and the city's military heroes and the wealthy members of the regent class loved the new style, and Van der Helst quickly adapted himself to their tastes with the flattering portrayals in the style of Anthony van Dyck.

In the 1640s he took over from Rembrandt as the most popular portraitist in the city, his detailed, tasteful, and slightly flattering likenesses appealing more to the fashionable burghers than the Rembrandt's work, which was becoming more individual and introspective. As Rembrandt's work grew deeper and more personal, many patrons were demanding more elegant, less intense portraits. Patrons turned to Van der Helst, who firmly established his reputation in 1643. He was highly influential during his lifetime. For example, Rembrandt's talented pupils Bol and Flinck abandoned the style of their master in order to follow his more popular manner.

He died at Amsterdam in 1670. Upon his death, his widow offered all of his works for sale, including many large pieces, that are painted by himself as well as respected other masters, probably necessary because of the depressed Dutch economy. His colorful realism remained fashionable into the next century.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gerard ter Borch (the Younger)

Woman writing a letter
oil on panel
39 × 29.5 cm
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, Hague, The Netherlands

Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681) was a significant Dutch genre painter, who lived in the Dutch Golden Age. He is noted for small portraits and genre scenes of great refinement. He is known for his rendering of texture in draperies. His works are comparatively rare, About eighty have been catalogued.

He was born in the province of Overijssel in the Dutch Republic. He received an excellent education from his father Gerard ter Borch the Elder, who in his youth had spent some years in Rome and returned with drawings he had made as well as some he had collected in Italy. His son, the Younger, precociously revealed his gifts. His early paintings were mainly scenes of military life, painted with great subtlety of color and values. Later he showed a predilection for small, dainty interior scenes, in which he revealed his delight in the sheen of satin and the grace of charming women.

He traveled widely. In 1634 he was in Haarlem, in 1635 in London, in 1640 probably in Rome, then visits to Spain, France, Germany, etc.. He finally settled in Deventer, the Netherlands, where he became a member of the town council, as which he appears in the portrait now in the gallery of the Hague.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vermeer, Johannes

Girl reading a letter at an open window
oil on canvas
83 x 64.5 cm
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Germany

"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 Golden-Age 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 born in Delft, Netherlands. After his baptismal record at a local church, he seems to disappear for nearly 20 years. He likely had a Calvinist upbringing. His father worked as a tavern keeper and an art merchant, and he inherited both of these business upon his father's death in 1652. The following year, he married Catherina Bolnes. Bolnes was Catholic, and he converted to her faith. The couple moved in with her mother, and would eventually have 11 children together. His paintings commanded high prices and he was able to support his large family, but he struggled financially in his final years, due in large part to the fact that the Dutch economy had suffered terribly after the country was invaded by France in 1672. He was deeply indebted by the time of his death. He died in Delft.

With Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Vermeer ranks among the most admired of all Dutch artists, but he was much less well known in his own day and remained relatively obscure until the end of the nineteenth century. The main reason for this is that he produced a small number of pictures, perhaps about forty-five (of which thirty-six are known today), primarily for a small circle of patrons in Delft. Adding to his image as an isolated figure are the fact that Vermeer's teacher is unknown, and that he evidently had no pupils. However, he was a respected member of the painters' guild in Delft, and he exchanged pictorial ideas with painters active in that city and in the region. 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. The influence of Caravaggio is apparent in Vermeer's early works, including "The Procuress" (1656).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jan Steen

Beware of Luxury
oil on canvas
105 x 145 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

“Life is a stage; we play our part and receive our reward,” wrote Vondel, the great poet of the Netherlands, expressing the moral preoccupation of 17th-century Dutch culture. The 17th century was a time of geographic exploration and economic prosperity for the famed lowlands. Laboriously claimed from the sea, crisscrossed by canals and spotted with windmills, the tiny country produced a vibrant bourgeois society with an astonishing artistic legacy, in what has been called the Dutch golden age. Jan Steen, along with Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and many others who populated the local guilds, brilliantly chronicled the emergence of the distinct civilization that Oliver Cromwell said preferred “gain to Godliness”.

Jan Steen (c.1625-1679), born in the Netherlandish town of Leyden, the first son of successful Catholic brewers who ran the tavern The Red Halbert for two generations, was one of the most prominent Dutch genre painters during The Dutch Golden Age of painting. He was known for his humor and vivid rich colors. He traveled and worked throughout the Netherlands in towns such as Delft, Warmond and Haarlem, settling eventually back in Leyden. In his final years he acquired the position of president at the Guild of Saint Luke at Leyden.

His genre paintings were full of life, humor and insights into everyday life. His vivid depiction of domestic scenes survives even today in the Dutch proverb a Jan Steen household, meaning a busy and somewhat messy scene. His themes are usually invested with his own humorous, moralizing or satirical comment. He can at times play the showman, tweaking the beholder's elbow lest he miss something. Behind his pictures one feels the genial, sensitive and quizzical man. Among his c.800 works also are historic paintings, biblical work, still lifes, portraits and landscapes. Some 350 works have survived the ages.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Michiel van Musscher

Portrait of a Lady with her dog and a maid
oil on canvas
43.2 × 38.7 cm
location unknown

Michiel van Musscher (1645-1705) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, born in Rotterdam. He showed a talent for drawing at a young age. At the end of the 17th century he was the most successful portraitist in Amsterdam.

His work distinguishes itself by a combination of a very meticulous and technically skilled way of reflecting details. This becomes apparent in the painting of textiles such as silk, but also in the way in which tapestry is reproduced. Typical of his portraits is the exuberant way in which the Dutch regents had themselves displayed. In the last quarter of the 17th century wealthy citizens kept a virtual regal lifestyle. This bourgeois culture with ‘royal’ allure is magnificently visible in the portraits and genre paintings by him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Paulus Potter

Figures with Horses by a Stable
oil on panel
45 x 38 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

In the shaded yard in front of a stable, a man attempts to mount his horse with the assistance of another man. The woman standing next to them has momentarily turned her attention away from the infant she is nursing in order to watch the scene.

Paulus Potter (1625-1654) is a Dutch painter and etcher. He was a pioneer in the painting of landscapes with animals. He created portraits of animals, making them his picture's focus, not just a backdrop for human action. Animals appear prominently in all of his works, sometimes singly but usually in small groups silhouetted against the sky, or in greater numbers with peasant figures and rustic buildings in an extensive landscape.

He was born at Enkhuizenand and probably trained by his father. Farm scenes and small-scale paintings of animals became popular in Holland from the middle of the 17th century. He is said to have wandered the Dutch countryside, sketchbook in hand, equally sensitive to how farm animals behave at different times of day and to light's vicissitudes from morning to dusk. Few of his contemporaries were more attuned to nature's moods or to the timeless harmony of beast, landscape, and weather. His strong feeling for composition is seen in the way he grouped forms and used silhouette. His most successful paintings are small.

When he died of tuberculosis before he was thirty years old, he had already profoundly influenced the way animals are depicted in European art.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mondrian, Piet

A Farm Building
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter. His basic vision was rooted in landscapes, and in particular, the flat topography of his native Holland. At the outbreak of World War I, Mondrian was in Holland, at that time, he returned to the subjects and themes of his early career, describing them in simple horizontal and vertical lines and colors. Although he continued to develop the abstract style he had begun in the years before the war, he also worked in a more representational style.

He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism. He seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist. He is recognized as the purest and most methodical of the early abstractionists. He radically simplified the elements of his artwork in an effort to reflect what he believed to be the order underlying the visible world. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art. Abstract artists believed that painters, sculptors and architects must work together to build a new world, where people can live in balance with the laws of the universe. The forms that fit this philosophy had to be clear. Straight lines and corners were used.

His earliest paintings are generally realist landscapes with static compositions and the use of opaque colors. After his encounter with fauvism and his study of the Dutch avant-garde (Van Gogh, in particular), his colors become increasingly pure and less naturalistic. His next change reflects his awareness of cubism. The faceted exploration of subject matter and the language of painting is of less interest to him than the architectonic grid in the analytic cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque around 1912 and 13. His own paintings begin to demonstrate more centralized compositions, greater use of linearity, and a sense of expansion from a central focus.

A contemporary and disciple of the famous cubists Picasso and Braque, Mondrian challenged the definition of art itself, working with simple lines, right angles, correct geometric figures and pure, primary colors. His work attained a level of abstraction far beyond that of even his most progressive colleagues. His art and theory influenced the Bauhaus movement and the development of the International style in architecture.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jan Lievens

Portrait of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
oil on panel
57 x 44.7 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Jan Lievens (1607-1674) and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) were born in Leiden just over a year apart, studied with the same master, and lived near one another, their names are forever conjoined. It is evident that as aspiring artists, they developed a symbiotic relationship that benefited them both. Rembrandt’s posthumous fame as the greatest artist of the Dutch golden age has left Lievens in his shadow, described as a follower or student, even though Leivens began his career some years before his compatriot.

He was already an apprentice painter at the age of eight. First in his native Leiden and from 1617 to 1619 under Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, later, he moved back to Leiden, where he worked together with Rembrandt for over five years. After 1631, he spent three years in London and his style began to change under the influence of Anthony van Dyck’s portraits. And when he saw Rubens’s work in Antwerp in 1635, he adopted the Baroque style completely. In 1644, he returned to Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life. He received major commissions in the Dutch Republic. The city of Amsterdam was another major patron.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pyke Koch

Female Sleepwalker resting
oil on canvas
45 x 75 cm
location unknown
Fair use

The resting sleepwalker is an important theme in the oeuvre of Pyke Koch. He executed four versions of this subject since 1959. His oeuvre can be seen as a series of masquerades, metaphores, metamorphoses and mystifications, strongly influenced by painters like Henri Rousseau and Paul Delvaux.

Pieter Frans Christiaan Koch, known as Pyke Koch (1901-1991), was a Dutch artist who painted in a magic realist manner. He is considered to be one of the foremost representatives in the Netherlands of Magic Realism, a style of painting in which the scenes depicted seem realistic yet uncanny or unlikely. His paintings show many details. Some believe these details contain hidden messages and references to his personal life. The work does contain many references to earlier periods in the history of art. He was very much inspired by painters of the Italian quattrocento, most notably the work of Piero della Francesca. He was a perfectionist in the extreme. He worked slowly and destroyed many of his works because he was not satisfied with the result. His oeuvre is therefore quite small. Still it has been incorporated in all major collections in the Netherlands.

He was born in Beek, a small village near Nijmegen in the Netherlands as only son of the local doctor. He went to school first in Nijmegen, later to a boarding school in Zeist. There he was given the nickname Pike (as in the fish). The name stuck, even when he moved to Utrecht to study law at the University, although he changed the spelling to 'Pyke'. Music was an important part of Koch family life. He played the violin and was interested in music from Bach to gipsy music. During his student days he played with a student gypsy band.

From the very start his paintings were admired for their technical perfection, even though he had no formal training. In fact he had no practical training whatsoever. Koch was fond of his image as a self taught painter. He was most impressed with the painters of the Italian Renaissance Piero della Francesca, Masaccio and Mantegna. He also admired some modern painters, notably Chirico and Magritte. In 1931 one of the foremost museums in the Netherlands, the Museum Boymans van Beuningen bought one of his paintings. This meant he was considered one of the Great Painters of the Netherlands. During the 1930s his work became very popular. It was often called Magic Realism, a term he quite liked. After the war his work became less popular. Abstract expressionism and other more conceptual forms of art became the norm. All forms of realism were considered old fashioned. He was also active as a designer for graphic work. He designed postage stamps and for instance, the Utrecht street lights.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hals, Frans

Jester with a Lute
oil on wood
71 x 62 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Frans Hals (c.1580-1666) was the first great artist of the 17th-century Dutch School and is regarded as one of the most brilliant of all portraitists. He is notable for his loose painterly brushwork, and he helped introduce this lively style of painting into Dutch art. Much later the dazzling virtuosity of his brushwork became an important precedent for the achievements of the 19th-century French artist, Manet. It is thought that he met Rubens who visited the city in 1624. The rapidity of Hals's technique and his incisiveness can be contrasted with the studied fluidity of Rubens's works. 

He was born into the family of a cloth-maker of Dutch origin in Antwerp, but worked for most of his life in Haarlem. The life of him was not eventful and is little known. He painted the wealthy of Haarlem on special occasions. His works before he became thirty are not known. His surviving work includes about 300 paintings, and the majority of these are portraits and group portraits. These are generally regarded as his masterpieces.

He was fond of daylight and silvery sheen, while Rembrandt used golden glow effects based upon artificial contrasts of low light in immeasurable gloom. Both men were painters of touch, but of touch on different keys - Rembrandt was the bass, Hals the treble. Hals seized, with rare intuition, a moment in the life of his subjects. What nature displayed in that moment he reproduced thoroughly in a delicate scale of color, and with mastery over every form of expression. He became so clever that exact tone, light and shade, and modeling were obtained with a few marked and fluid strokes of the brush.

He knew fame during his lifetime, but died in poverty. Despite his success, he experienced severe financial difficulties throughout his life. During his last years he was destitute and the municipal authorities of Haarlem awarded him a small annual stipend four years before his death. He was twice married, had at least ten children, and was constantly in financial trouble.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Govert Flinck

Isaac blessing Jacob
oil on canvas
117 x 141 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Govert Teuniszoon Flinck (1615-1660) was a Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age. He was born at Kleve, capital of the Duchy of Cleves, which was occupied at the time by the United Provinces. He painted portraits, genre, and narrative subjects. He was a pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life.

His style was at first extremely close to that of Rembrandt. His early works are so similar that collectors once bought them as Rembrandts. With aspirations as a history painter, however, he looked to the swelling forms and grand action of Peter Paul Rubens, which led to many commissions for official and diplomatic painting. He achieved great contemporary success, being awarded major commissions for public buildings. For Amsterdam’s new town hall, Flinck was commissioned to paint on the theme of the Batavian revolt against the Romans. Unfortunately, he died before completing the series.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maurits C. Escher

Print Gallery
Fair use

In 1956, in a letter to his son, Escher wrote about the Print Gallery: "The odd print I told you about last time is finished, though not yet printed. I don't think I have ever done anything as peculiar in my life. Among other things, it shows a young man looking with interest at a print on the wall of an exhibition that features himself. How can this be? Perhaps I am not far removed from Einstein's curved universe".

M. C. Escher (1898-1972), graphic artist born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, is known for his repeating patterns of interlocking motifs, tessellations of the Euclidean and the hyperbolic plane and his drawing representing impossible figures. Without having any mathematical knowledge, he managed to represent many mathematical concepts belonging to non-Euclidean geometry and many of his drawings are used by mathematicians to illustrate examples.

He had an ability to visualize distinct spatial patterns from childhood, and, though not faring well in much of his earlier studies, he attended Haarlem's School for Architectural and Decorative Arts. There, he decided to take up graphic arts under the recommendation of his mentor. His earlier work included nudes and innovative portraiture captured in woodcuts, linoleum cuts and lithographs.

He traveled to the Mediterranean in the early 1920s and was profoundly influenced by the wonders of the Moor-designed Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Establishing a home in Rome with his family, he worked on engravings and prints that captured natural landscapes and architecture, startlingly playing with perspective, orientation and shadow.

With the rise of fascism in Italy, he relocated to Switzerland in 1935, though he soon took a maritime journey to Spain, returning to Alhambra Palace and visiting La Mezquita ("Mosque") of Cordoba as well. He was inspired by the structures' complex designs, and further focused his work on tessellation and repeating patterns, often featuring overlapping, interlocked images morphing into something else. He moved to Belgium in 1937, but with the invasion of Nazi forces, left for Holland in 1941. He continued to create eye-opening dreamscape work. In addition to eventually becoming a lauded international artist with mounted exhibitions, he was embraced by mathematicians and scientists, as much of his heavily researched, precise output embodied or explored concepts around geometry, logic, space and infinity.

His work went almost unnoticed until the 1950’s, but by 1956 he had given his first important exhibition, was written up in Time magazine, and acquired a world-wide reputation. Among his greatest admirers were mathematicians, who recognized in his work an extraordinary visualization of mathematical principles. He died in 1972, in Laren, Netherlands, leaving a legacy of more than 2,000 pieces.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

George Breitner

Girl in a White Kimono
oil on canvas
59 × 57cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Inspired by Japanese prints, Breitner made at least twelve paintings around 1894 of a girl in a kimono. She assumes different poses and the kimono often has a different colour. The dreamy girl is sixteen-year-old Geesje Kwak, a hat-seller and one of Breitner’s regular models. She was born in 1877 in the province of North Holland. When she was 16, she moved to Amsterdam and her path crossed that of the artist Breitner. In 1892 Breitner visited an influential exhibition of Japanese art in The Hague (which style had earlier inspired Vincent van Gogh, among others), and he enthusiastically acquired several kimonos and some decorative room screens as a result. Now a year later, Breitner asked young milliner Geesje Kwakthe to pose as a model in the kimonos on a paid professional basis. There is an existing notebook in which he recorded the various dates and hours when Geesje posed for him, and the amounts which she was paid for her time.

George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) was a Dutch painter and photographer, born in Rotterdam.
An important figure in Amsterdam Impressionism, he is noted especially for his paintings of street scenes and harbours in a realistic style. He introduced a social realism to the Netherlands that created shock waves similar to that of Courbet and Manet's in France. He painted en plein air, and became interested in photography as a means of documenting street life and atmospheric effects as reference materials for his paintings.

In 1876, he enrolled at the academy in The Hague. He preferred working-class models: labourers, servant girls and people from lower-class neighbourhoods. He saw himself as 'le peintre du peuple', the people's painter. In 1886, he moved to Amsterdam, where he recorded the life of the city in sketches, paintings and photos. Sometimes he made several pictures of the same subject, from different angles or in different weather conditions. Photos might serve as an example for a painting, as for his portraits of girls in kimonos, or as general reference material. By the turn of the century he was a famous painter in the Netherlands. Although he exhibited abroad early on, his fame never crossed the borders of the Netherlands.

In the early months of 1882, he came into contact with Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh appears to have been introduced to him by his brother Theo, and the pair sketched together in the working-class districts of The Hague. Two years after van Gogh's death, Breitner wrote that he did not like van Gogh's paintings:"‘I can’t help it, but to me it seems like art for Eskimos, I cannot enjoy it. I honestly find it coarse and distasteful, without any distinction, and what’s more, he has stolen it all from Millet and others."

Monday, November 3, 2014

David Bailly

Vanitas still life with a self-portrait
oil on panel
65 x 97.5 cm
Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, the Netherlands

Vanitas is an explicit genre of art in which the artist uses gloomy and moody symbolic objects in order that the viewer becomes very aware of the brevity of life and the inevibility of death. The origins of the term vanitas can be traced back to the Latin biblical adage from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “…vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas…” which when translated means: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity…”. This specific artistic genre was very popular in the 16th and 17th century especially in the Netherlands, Flanders and France.

David Bailly (1584-1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. He was born at Leyden in the Dutch Republic, the son of a Flemish immigrant, calligrapher and fencing master. He apprenticed with a surgeon-painter in Leiden and then with a portrait painter in Amsterdam.In the winter of 1608, Bailly took his Grand Tour, travelling to Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg Hamburg, and via Tirol to Venice, and from there to Rome. On his return he spent five months in Venice, all the while working as a journeyman where he could, before crossing the alps again in 1609. On his return voyage, he worked for several German princes including the Duke of Brunswick. Upon his return to the Netherlands in 1613, he began painting still-life subjects and portraits, including self-portraits and portraits of his students and professors at the University of Leiden.

He is known for making a number of vanities paintings depicting transience of this life, with such ephemeral symbols as flowers and candles. He also included portraits of himself in these paintings, meaning to illustrate the ephemeral nature of his own artistic accomplishments. Though he sometimes intended his drawings as models for engravings, more often he made them as independently displayed works of art. In 1648 he became headman of the Leiden Guild of St. Luke.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bosch, Hieronymus

The Last judgement
oil on wood triptych
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria

Left panel (167.7 x 60 cm): The left panel depicts the Garden of Eden of the biblical history.
Central panel (164 x 127 cm): The central painting depicts a Last Judgement, basing on John's Book of Revelation. Above is Christ as a judge, surrounded by Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the apostles.
Right panel (167.7 x 60 cm): Thematically, the hell at right is not different from the Last Judgement. Satan, in the center, receives the damned souls.

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.

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, his art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, he 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.

He 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 his 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, he 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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Uros Predic

The Kosovo Maiden
oil on canvas
115 x 88 cm

The Kosovo Maiden or Maiden of the Blackbird Field is the central figure of a poem with the same name, part of the Kosovo cycle in the Serbian epic poetry. In it, a young beauty searches the battlefield for her betrothed husband and helps wounded Serbian warriors with water, wine and bread after the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 between Serbia and Ottoman Empire. She finally finds wounded and dying warrior Pavle Orlovic who tells her that her fiancee Milan Toplica and his blood-brothers Milos Obilic and Ivan Kosancic are dead. Before the battle they had given her a cloak, golden ring and veil for the wedding as a promise of safe return, but they were slain and Pavle pointed to the direction of the bodies. The poem finishes with;
    "O wretch! Evil is your fortune!
    If I, a wretch, were to grasp a green pine,
    Even the green pine would wither."
The poem became greatly popular as a symbol of womanly compassion and charity.

Uros Predic (1857-1953) started work on this painting on the eve of World War I and finished it in 1919. The sketch was made in 1914 at the request of the Kolo Srpskih Sestara charity and was to be used for making picture postcards sold for humanitarian purposes. He was inspired by the national myth about the first Serbian nurse.

He was born in Orlovat, Servia and graduated from the Art academy in Vienna in 1880. Hee was an assistant professor at the Art academy in Vienna in the period from 1883to 1885. Then he returned to his native village Orlovat, where he painted a series of paintings about the life of his fellow villagers. From 1886 until his death, he mainly lived and worked in Belgrade. He was elected as a member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was one of the founders of the Society of painters in Belgrade, and was its first president. He painted the icons for the Becej orthodox church, and the icons for the chapel of Bogdan Dunderski. He died in Belgrade, at the age of 96, as the longest living Serbian painter.