Saturday, February 28, 2015

Francois de Troy

Marie de Bourbon as the Duchess of Orleans (The youngest legitimised daughter of Louis XIV)
other detail unknown

Francois de Troy (1645-1730) was a French painter and engraver, part of a family of painters. He became principal painter to King James II in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Director of the Academie Royale de peinture et de sculpture.

Antoine de Troy (1608-1684) was a painter of modest renown in the Languedoc region. His elder son Jean de Troy (1638-1691) established an academy of art in Montpellier. Antoine's younger son Francois de Troy became a fashionable portrait painter in Paris, with a style of portraiture based on Flemish and Dutch models that included van Dyck and Rembrandt. The son of Francois, Jean-Francois de Troy, made his name as a painter of portraits, history subjects and tapestry designs, but he is known chiefly for his Rococo 'tableaux de modes', representing fashionable life and amorous encounters.

Francois de Troy was taught the rudiments of painting by his father. Some time after 1662 he moved to Paris to study with the portrait painter Claude Lefebvre. In 1671, he was approved by the Academie Royale. After Lefebvre's death in 1675, he dedicated himself to portraiture in the hope of attracting the same clientele as his late teacher.

In 1679 he received his first important commission, for a portrait of a Swedish ambassador, and a year later was commissioned for the portrait of Anne-Marie of Bavaria. Following these successes, his clients included Mme de Montespan and her descendants, especially her son by Louis XIV, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine, and his wife. Henceforth, he worked continuously in court circles for nearly five decades and was highly praised for his ability to capture the nobility's preoccupation with manners, sartorial modes and social position.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Guillaume Fouace

Leaving for Jersey (Le Depart pour Jersey)
c. 1883
oil on canvas
size unknown
Musee des beaux-arts Thomas Henry, Cherbourg, France

On this painting, he shows, with a concern for social realism, a bourgeois family waiting for the boat that can be seen on the horizon. It indicates that he learned of Impressionism.

Guillaume Fouace (1837-1895) was a French painter. He produced over 700 paintings in a realist style, mainly portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Born to farmers in a hamlet of Jonville, he took over the family farm aged 24 after his father's death.

He had produced drawings since he was a child and his talent was recognized by the museum curator in Cherbourg, who gained him two municipal bursaries from Cherbourg to study art in Paris. There he studied before setting up a studio as a portrait painter. He then fought in the Franco-Prussian War. In 1870, three years after arriving in Paris, he exhibited at the Paris Salon. After the war he moved permanently to Paris with his wife, the daughter of a pharmacist in Cherbourg. He died of a pulmonary disease after receiving the medal of a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Marcel Gromaire

La guerre (War)
oil on canvas
127.6 x 97.8 cm
Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France

"To the deformation, I oppose the assertion of the object." - Marcel Gromaire

Marcel Gromaire (1892-1971) was a French Expressionist painter, graphic artist, and designer born in Noyelles-sur-Sambre, whose father was an educator in Paris. He painted many works on social subjects, and is often associated with Social Realism. His art is not nearly as well known as his contemporaries, but his artistic talent is undeniable, and his compositions are still highly valued at auction today.

He originally studied law in Paris, and even received his diploma, but he is essentially drawn to art. He quickly abandoned his judiciary career path. He had no formal training, but from 1910 he frequented artists' studios in Paris, being influenced by such painters as Matisse, Cezanne, and later by Fernand Leger. Before the outbreak of the First World War he visited the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and England; he was impressed by contemporary Expressionism and also by the naturalism of the Old Masters of the Low Countries.

In 1912, he performed his military service in Lille when the war began and spent the next six years in the army and was wounded in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. While serving in the war, he continued to draw and sketch while traveling and fighting all over Europe. Not surprisingly, the war was also an influence on his work and is echoed in a number of his compositions. During his time in the war, he gathered the basic impressions which would determine his later artistic career. He returned to Paris in 1919 and worked as a film critic at first. His work was finally recognized in his exhibition of 1933 in the De Bale art gallery. In 1937, he carried out the decoration of the pavilion of the porcelain manufacturer Severes at the World Exhibition in Paris. From 1933 to 1944, he was part of the renewal of the tapestry movement and therefore belongs to the definitive pioneers of a new Gobelin tradition. He went to the United States in 1950 and received the renowned Carnegie Prize in 1952.
After much sickness, he died in Paris. He depicted a variety of subjects (although his main interest was in portraying the life of the people) and he did some of his best work as a decorative artist.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jean-Leon Gerome

Reception of ambassadors of Siam by Napoleon III at Fontainebleau, 27 June 1861
oil on canvas
128x260 cm
Chateau de Versailles, France

Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904) was a French painter, sculptor, and teacher, one of the most prominent late 19th-century academic artists in France. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax.  He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period, and in addition to being a painter, he was also a teacher with a long list of students. He was exceedingly hostile to the Impressionists and, as late as 1893, urged the government to refuse a bequest of 65 of their works.

He went to Paris in 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, whom he accompanied to Italy (1843-1844). He visited Florence, Rome, the Vatican and Pompeii, but he was more attracted to the world of nature. Taken by a fever, he was forced to return to Paris in 1844. On his return he followed, like many other students of Delaroche, into the atelier of Charles Gleyre and studied there for a brief time. He then attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1846 he tried to enter the prestigious Prix de Rome, but failed in the final stage because his figure drawing was inadequate. He abandoned his dream of winning the Prix de Rome and took advantage of his sudden success. Some of his paintings took a second-class medal in 1848.

He died in his atelier . He was found in front of a portrait of Rembrandt and close to his own painting "The Truth". At his own request, he was given a simple burial service without flowers. But the Requiem Mass given in his memory was attended by a former president of the Republic, most prominent politicians, and many painters and writers. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in front of the statue Sorrow that he had cast for his son Jean who had died in 1891. He was also successful as a sculptor. During the last 25 years of his life he concentrated on sculpture. His father was a goldsmith.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Antoine Coypel

Susannah accused of adultery (Susana acusada de adulterio)
oil on canvas
147 x 215 cm
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

Antoine Coypel (1661-1722), born in Paris, French painter who was an important influence in encouraging the Baroque style in French art. He always had grand ambition.

He was an artistic prodigy. At the age of 11 he went to Rome with his father, Noel Coypel, who was appointed director of the French Academy there. He studied under his father, but as a young adult, his paintings and drawings more often reflected the influence of Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, emphasizing the interaction of colors to create the illusion of physical space. After three years in Rome, he spent one year in northern Italy studying Correggio and the Bolognese and Venetian schools.

In 1676 he returned to Paris, where in 1681 he was received as a member of the French Royal Academy. His style evolved in an eclectic fashion. His admiration of Rubens emerged in his Democritus (1692), and soon afterward the influence of Poussin was felt. This combination of influence is seen in his most noted works - a series of large biblical compositions. He became director of the Academy in 1714 and was appointed first painter to the king in the following year.

In 1702 the Duke of Orleans commissioned him to decorate the big gallery of the Palais Royal with illustrations from the story of Aeneas; the ceiling is an outstanding example of the Baroque style in French art. His ceiling for the chapel of Versailles in 1708 is even bolder; in it he follows a Roman Baroque model. He is also noted for several engravings.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Caillebotte, Gustave

Caillebotte's mother along with his aunt, cousin, and a family friend (Portraits a la campagne)
oil on canvas
98.5 x 111 cm
Musee Baron Gerard, Bayeux, France

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) was a French painter, member of artists known as Impressionists group, though he painted in a much more realistic manner. He was a painter of great originality. Like the Impressionists, he pursued an instant of vision, recording it with a fullness of truthful detail. He, however, attempted to portray the rhythms of an industrial society with his regimented figures and the clock-like precision of his Paris. In 1875, wishing to make his public debut, he submitted a painting to the Salon jury, which rejected it. That work was probably the Floorscrapers, which Caillebotte then decided to exhibit in a more hospitable environment, that of the second Impressionist group exhibition of 1876. His work, highly acclaimed, stole the show and helped to make the second exhibition far more of a popular success than the first.

Caillebotte was born into a wealthy family who had made their money in textiles and real estate during the redevelopment of Paris in the 1860s. Wealthy and generous, Caillebotte financially supported his Impressionist friends by purchasing their works at inflated prices and underwriting many of the expenses encurred for the exhibitions. In 1876 he drew up a will providing money for an Impressionist exhibition to be held after his death, and bequeathing his collection of Impressionist paintings to the State. This bequest was made on the condition that the paintings should first be exhibited in the Luxembourg (the museum dedicated to the work of living artists), and later to the Louvre. He intended that the State should not hide the paintings away in an attic or provincial museum.

He was an engineer by profession and a generous patron of the Impressionists, whose own works, until recently, were neglected. His reputation as a painter was superseded, for many years, by his reputation as a supporter of the arts. His art was largely forgotten until the 1950s when his descendents began to sell the family collection. Art historians began reevaluating his artistic contributions, seventy years after his death. His striking use of varying perspective is particularly admirable and sets him apart from his peers who may have exceeded him in other artistic areas.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chavannes, Pierre Puvis de

oil on canvas
263.5 x 148.5 cm
Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was the foremost French mural painter of the second half of the 19th century. He is the greatest French decorative painter who is noted for painting murals.
His paintings were done on canvas and then affixed to the walls, but their pale colors imitated the effect of fresco. His simplified forms, respect for the flatness of the picture surface, rhythmic line, and use of non-naturalistic color to evoke the mood of the painting appealed to both the Post-Impressionists and the Symbolists.

He had only modest success early in his career, but he went on to achieve an enormous reputation, and he was universally respected even by artists of very different aims and outlook from his own. Gauguin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec were among his professed admirers.
His reputation has since declined, his idealized depictions of antiquity or allegorical representations of abstract themes now often seeming rather anemic. He remains important, however, because of his influence on entire generation of painters and sculptors.
He became the president and co-founder of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jean Fouquet

Madonna and Child (Virgin with Child and Angels), showing Charles VII's mistress Agnes Sorel  - right panel of the Melun dyptich
circa 1452-1455
oil on panel
94.5 × 85.5 cm
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium

Jean Fouquet (ca. 1420-ca. 1480) was the leading 15th-century artist in France, the French court painter, a master of both panel painting and manuscript illumination, and the apparent inventor of the portrait miniature. He was the first French artist to travel to Italy and experience first-hand the early Italian Renaissance, though little is known of his early life. He was especially adept in his miniature illustrations for manuscript books.

He was born at Tours, the illegitimate son of a priest. His leap to fame is attested to by the probability that he accompanied a French mission to Rome in 1446. In Rome, he would have seen the frescoes in the Vatican by Fra Angelico, and the style of the famous Florentine had a deep and lasting effect on his own. Upon his return to France, he opened a workshop in Tours and created a new style, combining the experiments of Italian painting with the exquisite precision of characterization and detail of Flemish art.

He received commissions from Charles VII and members of his court and from Louis XI, who made him official court painter in 1474. His work can be associated with the French court's attempt to solidify French national identity in the wake of its long struggle with England in the Hundred Years' War. His work consistently displays clear, dispassionate observation rendered with intricate delicacy and alternates accurate perspective with a flat, non-illusionistic sense of space.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Jean Clouet

Portrait of Crown Prince Francis III, Duke of Brittany
year unknown
oil on panel
16 x 13 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium

Jean Clouet (1480-1541), a miniaturist and painter, was celebrated in his lifetime, but no documented works survive. He was undoubtedly a very skillful portrait painter, although no work in existence has been proved to be his. Paintings attributed to him with very strong probability belong to the school of Flemish naturalism that dominated French portraiture at this time, but the drawings are more personal and often of very high quality. They have often been compared to those of Clouet's contemporary Hans Holbein the Younger, with which they share a keenness of observation; whereas Holbein's drawings are overwhelmingly linear, however, Clouet's are subtly modelled in light and shade with a delicate system of hatching that recalls Leonardo, whose work he could well have known.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Buffet, Bernard

The Clowns Musicians (Os Palhacos Musicos)
other details unknown

"Painting, we do not talk about it, we do not analyze it, we feel it." (Bernard Buffet)

Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) was a French painter of Expressionism and a member of the anti-abstract art group "L'homme Temoin" (the Witness-Man).

He was born in Paris, and studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of the Fine Arts) and worked in the studio of the painter Eugene Narbonne. Sustained by the picture-dealer Maurice Garnier, he produced religious pieces, landscapes, portraits and still-lifes. In 1946, he had his first painting shown, a self-portrait, at the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans at the Galerie Beaux-Arts. He had at least one major exhibition every year.

In 1955, he was awarded the first prize by the magazine Connaissance des arts, which named the 10 best post-war artists. In 1958, at the age of 30, the first retrospective of his work was held at the Galerie Charpentier. Pierre Berge was Buffet's live-in lover until Berge left Buffet for Yves Saint Laurent. In 1973, the Bernard Buffet Museum was founded by Kiichiro Okano, in Surugadaira, Japan. He created more than 8,000 paintings and many prints as well.

He committed suicide at his home in Tourtour, southern France, on 4 October 1999. He was suffering from Parkinson's disease and was no longer able to work. Police said that Buffet died around 4 p.m after putting his head in a plastic bag attached around his neck with tape.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de

At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance
oil on canvas
100.5 × 150 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Alfred Agache

oil on canvas
size unknown
Palais des beaux-arts de Lille, France

Alfred Agache (1843-1915) was a French academic painter. Little is known of Agache. He was born in Lille, France, and exhibited his work frequently in Paris until his death. He seems to have specialized in portraits and large-scale allegorical paintings. He was a member of the Societe des Artistes Francais, and won a third-class medal in 1885 for his work. He may have been friends with American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler and French writer Auguste Angellier; the latter dedicated a book to him around 1893. He was awarded the Legion d'honneur.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fini, Leonor

The Guardian of the Black Egg (La Guardiana del Huevo negro)
oil on canvas
other detal unknown

"Marriage never appealed to me, I've never lived with one person. Since I was 18, I've always preferred to live in a sort of community - A big house with my atelier and cats and friends, one with a man who was rather a lover and another who was rather a friend. And it has always worked." (Leonor Fini)

Leonor Fini (1907-1996) was born in Buenos Aires, raised in Trieste, Italy, moved to Milan at the age of 17, and then to Paris, in either 1931 or 1932. There, she became acquainted with, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, Georges Bataille, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, and Alberto Moravia. She painted portraits of many celebrities such as Jean Genet.

It has been said about her that she is the only artist to paint women without apology.
Many of her paintings feature strong, beautiful women (many times resembling herself) in ceremonial or provocative situations. Men are often portrayed as lithe figures who are under the protection of her females.

She never considered herself a Surrealist at all, though she maintained close personal relationships with several members of the group and included work in several important Surrealist exhibitions in the 1930s. Although she shared the Surrealist interest in dream, reverie, psychic transformation, and a poetics of suggestion and allusion, her work remains firmly rooted in the traditions of Symbolism, Metaphysics and Italian and German Romanticism.

She illustrated many works by the great authors and poets, including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Shakespeare, as well as texts by new writers. She was very generous with her illustrations and donated many drawings to writers to help them get published. She is best known for her graphic illustrations for Histoire d'O.

She was equally adept at etching, drawing, watercolor and oil painting. she wrote three novels, Rogomelec, Moumour, Contes pour enfants velu and Oneiropompe.

She lived with many cats; up to a total of 23 at one time. The illness of one of her cats could send her into a deep depression. She later employed an assistant to join the household, which he described as "a little bit of prison and a lot of theatre". One of his jobs was to look after her beloved Persian cats. Over the years she acquired 17 of them; they shared her bed and, at mealtimes, were allowed to roam the dining-table selecting tasty morsels.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Gauguin, Paul

When Will You Marry? (Nafea Faa Ipoipo?)
oil on canvas
101 x 77 cm
owner unknown (reportedly in Qatar)

When Will You Marry? (Tahitian: Nafea faa ipoipo?), a painting by Gauguin whose work won little or no acclaim in his lifetime, was sold privately by the family of Rudolf Staechelin to an unknown buyer, reportedly to Qatar Museums, in February 2015 for close to $300m (£197m), the highest price ever paid for a work of art. This painting had been on loan to the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland for nearly a half-century.

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.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Matisse, Henri

The Conversation
oil on canvas
177 × 217 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

This painting portrays Matisse and his wife, facing each other in a blue room. He eloquently displayed himself and his wife while having a conversation of sorts. In the painting, Matisse wears the fashionable pajamas, which were introduced from India, where they were the traditional garb of tea-planters. Matisse found them so comfortable that he would paint in them, making them his working clothes. The Conversation is a masterfully crafted painting that visually shows the dynamic between a man and a woman. The vibrant colors, the intricate brush strokes and interesting details set the stage for a classic painting by Henri Matisse. Matisse painted The Conversation at a time when he abandoned the open, spontaneous brushwork of his Fauve period in favor of a flatter and more decorative style.

"It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character." (Matisse)

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

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

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bonnard, Pierre

Dining Room in the Country
oil on canvas
164.5 x 205.7 cm
location unknown

In 1912, Bonnard bought a country house called Ma Roulotte ("My Caravan") at Vernonnet, a small town on the Seine. This painting shows the dining room there, with cats perching on the chairs and the artist's wife, leaning on the windowsill. Bonnard, who considered himself "the last of the Impressionists," emphasized the expressive qualities of bright colors and loose brushstrokes in this picture. Unlike the Impressionists, however, Bonnard painted entirely from memory. And like the Symbolists, he wanted his works to reflect his subjective response to the subject. Bonnard developed a passion for the countryside and the seasons. The daily intimacies of family life add warmth to his art, but there is nothing casual in his presentation. He believed that in landscape the human figure "should be part of the background against which it is placed," and he deliberately controlled the viewer's eye. He knew exactly what he wanted us to see, but he didn't want everything in the picture to be evident at first glance. "It is still color, it is not yet light." (Bonnard)

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was a French painter, and a founding member of Les Nabis, a group of young artists committed to creating work of symbolic and spiritual nature. He led a happy and carefree youth as the son of a prominent official of the French Ministry of War. At the insistence of his father, he studied law, graduating and practicing as a barrister briefly. However, he had also attended art classes on the side, and soon decided to become an artist. His wife Marthe is an ever-present subject and is seen seated at the kitchen table or nude as in a series of these paintings.

He, sometimes called an intimist, is known for his intense use of color. He was not a plein air painter like Monet or Cezanne, any more than Picasso was. He did not paint from life but rather drew his subject, sometimes photographing it as well, and made notes on the colors. He then painted the canvas in his studio from his notes. He made copious drawings and notes that served as designs for more than one painting. Working on unstretched canvas, he developed a complex process of manipulating paint, rather in the way that contemporary painters do in seeking out color and textural possibilities. The format and content of the painting could then be altered by cropping the canvas.

Still, his often complex compositions, typically of sunlit interiors of rooms and gardens populated with friends and family members, are both narrative and autobiographical. The process of making a painting would extend over months, even years. He was deeply conscious of the complexities of visual perception: He carefully plotted his paintings, so that what is seen in them depends upon the active participation of the viewer, as happens when we perceive scenes in the world.

Picasso was very critical of Bonnard : "That’s not painting," Picasso said. "Painting can’t be done that way. Painting isn’t a question of sensibility; it’s a matter of seizing the power, taking over from nature, not expecting her to supply you with information and good advice."  Matisse was supportive, however, remarking : "Yes! I certify that Pierre Bonnard is a great painter, for today and for the future."  "Painting has to get back to its original goal, examining the inner lives of human beings." (Bonnard)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Manet, Edouard

The Cafe Concert
circa 1879
oil on canvas
47.3 × 39.1 cm
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Manet often captured cafe scenes depicting social life at the end of the nineteenth century.

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)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Morisot, Berthe

The Cradle
oil on canvas
56 x 46 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

The Cradle was painted in Paris in 1872. It shows one of the artist's sisters, Edma, watching over her sleeping daughter, Blanche. Berthe Morisot showed The Cradle at the Impressionist exhibition of 1874 - the first woman to exhibit with the group. The painting was scarcely noticed although important critics commented on its grace and elegance. After unsuccessful attempts to sell it, Berthe Morisot withdrew it from display and The Cradle stayed in the model's family until it was bought by the Louvre in 1930.

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

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Redon, Odilon

c. 1900-05
Pastel on paper mounted on board
50.5 x 67.3 cm
The Woodner Collection, USA

Before 1900 Redon made drawings almost exclusively in black and white; afterward he began to focus on paintings and pastels in sensuous color. Many of his late works in color took nature’s small beauties, such as butterflies, seashells, and flowers, as objects of contemplation and presented them with a fantastic intensity. Redon was a Symbolist; he believed that art could transcend the everyday and open onto a marvelous world of the mind. Around 1905 he spoke of the painter’s task as a privileged one: "Painting consists in using a special sense, an innate sense for composing a beautiful substance. To do as nature does: create diamonds, gold, sapphires, agates, precious metal, silk, flesh: it is a gift of delicious sensuality." (Redon)

Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (1840 - 1916), French, was one of the outstanding figures of Symbolism. He studied under Jean-Leon Gerome; mastered engraving from Rodolphe Bresdin, who exerted an important influence; and learned lithography under Henri Fantin-Latour.
Redon's aesthetic was one of imagination rather than visual perception. His imagination found an intellectual catalyst in his close friend, the Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme. He had a retiring life, first in his native Bordeaux, then in Paris, and until he was in his fifties he worked almost exclusively in black and white, in charcoal drawings and lithographs. There is an evident link to Goya in Redon’s imagery of winged demons and menacing shapes.

Redon produced nearly 200 prints, beginning in 1879 with the lithographs collectively titled In the Dream. He completed another series dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, whose poems had been translated into French with great success by Mallarme and Charles Baudelaire. Rather than illustrating Poe, Redon’s lithographs are poems in visual terms, themselves evoking the poet’s world of private torment.
Redon remained virtually unknown to the public until the publication of J.K. Huysmans's novel A Rebours in 1884; the book's hero who lives in a private world of perverse delights, collects Redon's drawings, and with his mention in this classic expression of decadence, Redon too became associated with the movement.

Redon's aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind. His work represents an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to place the visible at the service of the invisible. Well before the Surrealists, he focused on his inner world, on the fantastic, some-times frightening, and always mysterious creatures of his imagination, to evoke a realm of dreams, distant memories, and indefinable emotions.
Much of his early life had been unhappy, but after undergoing a religious crisis and a serious illness, he was transformed into a much more buoyant and cheerful personality, expressing himself in radiant colors in mythological scenes and flower paintings. The flower pieces, in particular, were much admired by Matisse, and the Surrealists regarded Redon as one of their precursors. He was a distinguished figure by the end of his life, although still a very private person.
Redon occupies a major place in the history of modern art, not only for the intrinsic beauty of his works, but also and perhaps most importantly for the daring quality of his imagination.
"My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the undetermined. They are a kind of metaphor." (Redon)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Turner, Joseph Mallord William

Shipwreck of the Minotaur
circa 1810
oil on canvas
size unknown
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal

The Minotaur was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched in 1793 at Woolwich. She was named after the mythological bull-headed monster of Crete. She fought in three major battles - Nile, Trafalgar, and Copenhagen (1807) - before she was wrecked, with heavy loss of life, in 1810.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is perhaps the best-loved English Romantic artist. He became known as 'the painter of light', because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes. His works include water colours, oils and engravings. Unlike many artists of his era, he was successful throughout his career. He left a large fortune that he hoped would be used to support what he called "decaying artists." His collection of paintings was bequeathed to his country. At his request he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His work is regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism.

He was born near Covent Garden in London. His father was a barber, his mother died when he was very young and he received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. He is the one of the finest landscape artists whose work was exhibited when he was still a teenager.

His entire life was devoted to his art. Wherever he visited he studied the effects of sea and sky in every kind of weather. He became interested in contemporary technology. He developed a painting technique all his own. Instead of merely recording factually what he saw, he translated scenes into a light-filled expression of his own romantic feelings. In 1840 he met the critic John Ruskin, who became the great champion of his work. At the time his free, expressive treatment of these subjects was criticized. He was considered a controversial figure in his day. As he grew older he became an eccentric. Except for his father, he had no close friends. He allowed no one to watch him while he painted. One day he disappeared from his house. His housekeeper, after a search of many months, found him hiding in a house in Chelsea. He had been ill for a long time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

William Turner of Oxford

Stonehenge - Twilight
about 1840
27.0 x 39.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, California, USA

William Turner (1789-1862) was an English landscape painter who is often confused with his more famous namesake and contemporary, J.M.W. Turner. The confusion arises because both artists were active at the same time, shared the same surname, and dealt mainly with landscape painting. Despite the shared surname, skills and interests, they were not related to each other. William is often referred to as Turner of Oxford to distinguish him from J.M.W. Turner.

He was born in a village of Oxfordshire. His father died when he was just two years old, leaving his mother to bring up William and his two sisters. Eventually, he went to live with his father’s brother when he was fourteen years old. He had always shown a keen interest in drawing and painting. He was granted an exhibition of his works at the Royal Academy in London in 1807, his first public exhibition. In 1808 he was elected to full membership of the Watercolour Society.

He returned to his native Oxfordshire in 1810, first living in Woodstock and then at various addresses in and around Oxford, and spent the remainder of his life there. He taught many amateur artists as well as university students and produced numerous landscapes of Oxford city and surrounding areas. He worked predominantly in watercolours but occasionally used oils. He exhibited prolificly throughout his career.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Charles Spencelayh

A Japanese Beauty
oil on canvas
76.2 x 50.8 cm
Private collection

Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958) was an English painter of figure subjects, genre scenes and portraits in the Academic style. He specialized in anecdotal domestic scenes in the tradition of Victorian genre painting, most typically showing old codgers pottering around in junk shops or other cluttered interiors.

He was born in Rochester in Kent, as a son of an engineer, and first studied at the National Art Training School, South Kensington. He continued his training in Paris where he exhibited at the Paris Salon, but he  exhibited predominantly in Britain. He worked in many media achieving great acclaim as a miniaturist, watercolorist and etcher.

His work hung in many of the leading London venues including the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour. Critics generally regarded his work as trivial and outmoded, but he was admired and supported by several influential collectors, among them Queen Mary. He was a founder member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters.

Friday, February 6, 2015

William Hogarth

An Election Entertainment
oil on canvas
100 x 127 cm
Sir John Soane's Museum, London, United Kingdom

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects". Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as "Hogarthian".

He was born in London, the son of a Latin teacher. His father opened a coffee-house in London but the venture was unsuccessful and in 1707 he was confined to Fleet Prison for debt. He was released five years later during an amnesty. When he was sixteen he was apprenticed to a silverplate engraver. By 1720 he had own business engraving book plates and painting portraits. During the 1720s he worked for the printseller. He also started to produce political satires and painting pictures that told a moral story. The first of these shows the downfall of a country girl at the hands of people living in London.

By the 1730s he was an established artist but he suffered from printsellers who used his work without paying royalties. In 1735 he manages to persuade his friends in Parliament to pass the Engravers' Copyright Act. Later that year, he established St. Martin's Lane Academy, a guild for professional artists and a school for young artists. After a period painting portraits of the rich and famous, he returned in 1751 to producing prints of everyday life. He produced several series of prints depicting the sordid details of everyday life among the lower classes, and political satire.

With his growing success came a growing interest in using his art to make social and political statements, often targeting the urbanization of London and the ensuing prevalent crime. In 1762 he published his anti-war satire The Times. This work upset a large number of the Member of Parliament and one of the country's leading politicians, John Wilkes attacked him in his newspaper, The North Briton. He retaliated by producing his engraving, John Wilkes, Esq. In the engraving Wilkes is wearing a horn-like wig and holds his symbolic cap of liberty in such a way as to make a halo for himself. Soon after producing his print of Wilkes, he became seriously ill. In 1763 he had a paralytic seizure but the following year he started work again and in 1764, produced his final print.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gainsborough, Thomas

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews
oil on canvas
70 x 119 cm
National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was, of all the 18th century English painters, the most inventive and original, always prepared to experiment with new ideas and techniques, best known for his portraits. He was the only important English portrait painter to devote much time to landscape drawing. His landscapes are of idyllic scenes. During his last years he also painted seascapes and idealized full-size pictures of rustics and country children. He never sold his drawings and, although many of them are closely related to pictures, they are not studies in the ordinary sense but works of art in their own right.

He was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, the youngest son of a cloth merchant. He showed artistic skills at an early age. When he was 13, he persuaded his father to send him to London to study drawing and etching with the French engraver Hubert Gravelot. Gravelot had been a pupil of the great French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, whose influence on Gainsborough was strong.

Around 1749, he returned to Suffolk and settled in Ipswich, where he lived and worked for a decade. There, his portraits were mainly of local gentry and merchants. In 1759, ambitious to obtain a wider public, he moved to the fashionable spa town of Bath, where his studio was soon thronged with fashionable sitters. He moved in musical and theatrical circles. His passion for music and the stage continued throughout his life. His sitters were now authors, actors and members of high society. As he became famous, he adopted a more formal manner that owed something to Anthony Van Dyck.

In 1768, he was elected a founder member of the Royal Academy of Arts. In 1774, he moved to London, settling in Schomberg House on Pall Mall where he built a studio in the garden. In 1780, he was commissioned to paint portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte. He became a royal favourite. In 1784, he quarrelled violently with the Royal Academy over the hanging of his pictures. He withdrew them and from then on exhibited his pictures in his own studio. In spite of the demand for portraits, he continued to paint landscapes. He claimed to prefer painting landscapes to portraits, but the latter were much more lucrative and it is for portraits that he is most famous. He died of cancer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Joshua Reynolds

Lady Caroline Howard
oil on canvas
143 x 113 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Lady Caroline Howard (1778) was the daughter of Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle. She was a spirited child, according to her father, and was seven years old when she sat to Reynolds.

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) was the leading English portraitist of the 18th century. He attempted to lead British painting away from the indigenous anecdotal pictures of the early 18th century toward the formal rhetoric of the continental Grand Style. Through study of ancient and Italian Renaissance art, and of the work of Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, he brought great variety and dignity to British portraiture.

He was born at Plympton in Devon, the son of a headmaster and fellow of Balliol College, Oxford: a more educated background than that of most painters. He received a good classical education; he loved literature and became well-read in classical Greek and Roman authors. He revealed his interest in and talent for painting rather early. He was apprenticed in 1740 to a fashionable London portraitist who also trained Wright of Derby. He spent 1749-52 abroad, mainly in Italy, and set up practice in London shortly after his return. He soon established himself as the leading portrait painter. He was a key figure in the intellectual life of London.

Among his models were aristocrats and the gentry, state and political figures, military men, poets and writers, actors and scientists, upper-class ladies and women of questionable reputation. Having a lot of commissions, Reynolds produced more than 100 paintings a year. Naturally, to keep up such an output, he had to hire several assistants. The employment of drapery and landscape painters for adding backgrounds to portraits was a normal practice in England at the time. It was not uncommon for Reynolds to paint the face and hands, leaving the rest of the picture to be completed by his assistants.

When the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, he was elected its first President and knighted by King George III. As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he did more than anyone to raise the status of art and artists in Britain. His Discourses on Art, delivered to the students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790, are the most eloquent and widely respected body of art criticism by any English writer.

In 1784 he was appointed the court painter of King George III, though they never had close relations because of Reynolds’ political views and support for the Whig party. Although believing that history painting was the noblest work of the painter, he had little opportunity to practice it, and his greatest works are his portraits. His paintings are not perfectly preserved due to faulty technique. The carmine reds have faded, leaving flesh-tones paler than intended, and the bitumen used in the blacks has tended to crack. Three years before his death he became blind and had to stop his work. He was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral with honors as a man of national fame in Britain. A bronze statue of him was placed in the courtyard in front of the Royal Academy in 1912.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

John William Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott
oil on canvas
153 × 200 cm
Tate Britain, London, United Kingdom

The Lady of Shalott is a representation of a scene from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1832 poem of the same name, in which the poet describes the plight of a young woman, loosely based on the figure of Elaine of Astolat from medieval Arthurian legend, who yearned with an unrequited love for the knight Sir Lancelot, isolated under an undisclosed curse in a tower near King Arthur's Camelot. Tennyson reworked the story.
According to Tennyson's version of the legend, the Lady of Shalott was forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world; instead she was doomed to view the world through a mirror, and weave what she saw into tapestry. Her despair was heightened when she saw loving couples entwined in the far distance, and she spent her days and nights aching for a return to normality. One day the Lady saw Sir Lancelot passing on his way in the reflection of the mirror, and dared to look out at Camelot, bringing about a curse. The lady escaped by boat during an autumn storm, inscribing 'The Lady of Shalott' on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and certain death, she sang a lament. Her frozen body was found shortly afterwards by the knights and ladies of Camelot, one of whom is Lancelot, who prayed to God to have mercy on her soul. The tapestry she wove during her imprisonment was found draped over the side of the boat.

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was an English painter of classical, historical, and literary subjects, known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He embraced the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting despite the fact that it had gone out of fashion in the British art scene several decades before. Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend. Although not as well known as earlier Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, his work is currently displayed at several major British art galleries, and the Royal Academy of Art organised a major retrospective of his work in 2009.

He was born in Rome to the English painters, in the same year that the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, were first causing a stir in the London art scene. His early life in Italy has been cited as one of the reasons why many of his later paintings were set in ancient Rome or based upon scenes taken from Roman mythology. In the 1850s the family returned to England. Before entering the Royal Academy of Art in 1870, he assisted his father and mother in his studio. He was referred to as "Nino" throughout his life. In 1885 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and a full member in 1895. Despite suffering from increasing frailty during the final decade of his life, he continued painting until his death from cancer in 1917.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Joseph Wright of Derby

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump
c. 1768
oil on canvas
183 x 244 cm
National Gallery, London, United kingdom

Joseph Wright (1734-1797), English landscape and portrait painter, was commonly called Wright of Derby, because he resided in Derby, England. He was the first artist to capture the awe and wonder inspired by inventions and technology of the Industrial Revolution. He was an artist whose style and technique challenged the somewhat rigidly formulated painting genres. He incorporated a number of art genres into his works, and cast a glow into future artistic styles. His residence in Derby, although provincial, turned out to be a lucky one, because it was here that the Industrial Revolution was at most visual, through blacksmith shops, glass and pottery cones, factories, new machines and engines.

He painted with oils on canvas, using chiaroscuro, or using contrasts of light and dark, which was influenced by the artist Caravaggio. Wright’s paintings are realistic, melodramatic, and romantic. His detailed depictions of facial features, display awe, wonderment, delight, disgust, and anticipation. Success as a portrait painter made money for him, but it was his scientific and industrial paintings, full of dramatic contrasts of light and darkness, which distinguished him from other contemporary artists and assured his unique position in British Art.

Wright had a keen interest in science and technology, and many of his friends were philosophers and scientists. Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, was his friend and physician. He also spent time with John Whitehurst, a clock and instrument maker and, Peter Burdett, a surveyor and mathematician. Two of his most prestigious patrons were Josiah Wedgewood, manufacturer of pottery, and Richard Arkwright, creator of the cotton industry factory system. Erasmus Darwin was a member of the Lunar Society, which brought leaders of industry, science, and philosophy together, and Wright occasionally either joined the group, or heard about meeting discussions from Darwin. His experimentation with light sources and their effects, intrigued him, as well as his viewers. He worked with both natural and artificial light sources, and also the atmosphere created by moonlight. When painting landscape scenes, he might paint the exact same scene again using different lighting.

He was born in Derby, into the well-established middle class family of an attorney and Town Clerk of Derby. He was the third of five children. He enjoyed copying prints, and eventually taught himself to draw from imitation. He was educated at Derby Free Grammar School, and in 1751, studied with a portraitist in London, becoming his assistant. In 1753, he returned to Derby and painted portraits, with his developed technique of chiaroscuro, or prominent contrasts. Only four years after his first exhibition in 1765 he was already widely known by the label, Wright of Derby, which was initially given him by the reviewers of the Society of Artists in order to avoid mixing him up with another Richard Wright. Many of his landscape paintings remained unsold during his lifetime and  his Industrial Revolution themed paintings were ahead of their time. His genius in painting would not be truly recognized until after his death.

He and his wife had six children, and tragically, three of whom died in infancy. He was asthmatic, and as time progressed, his condition worsened. His wife died in 1790, and although his health was failing, he continued to paint until the year before he died, in 1797.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Thomas William Roberts

Shearing the rams
oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

It seems to me that one of the best ideas spoken to an artist is, ‘paint what you love and love what you paint’ and on that I have worked; on so it came that being in the bush and feeling the delight and fascination of the great pastoral life and work, I have tried to express it. (Thomas Roberts)

Thomas William Roberts (1856-1931) was born in Dorchester. When his father died his mother moved the family to Melbourne Australia. He attended the East Collingwood School of Design and, in 1874, at the age of 18 he enrolled in the Gallery School of Design. He worked as a photographer, supplementing his meagre earnings with paintings produced as an evening art student. In 1881 he went to England to study at the Royal Academy in London and toured Spain and France, where he was exposed to Impressionism. In France, he briefly studied at the Academie Julian in 1884 in Paris. Returning to Melbourne in 1885, he founded the first of the artists’ camps in the Australian bush. He took Barbizon and Impressionist ideas and went directly to nature for the inspiration breaking with an older generation of painters that worked in the studio mimicking European motifs in Australian scenes. In 1895 he became the founding member and the first president of the Society of Artists.

He was commissioned to paint the opening of Australia’s First Federal Parliament in 1901 taking two years to complete the project (the painting is 304.5 x 509.2 cm). On completion of the painting he entered what he called his black period having trouble with his eyesight and difficulty finding inspiration to paint. He travelled back to Europe visiting Holland, Italy and England. During the First World War he worked as an orderly in a London Hospital. In 1919 he returned to Melbourne and made painting trips to Sydney, Tasmania and New Zealand. His art would influence generations of Australian painters. His high key impressionist paintings have defined landscape painting in Australia for over 100 years.