Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Les Baigneuses de Fontainebleau (The Bathers Fontainebleau)
oil on canvas
71.5 x 98.5 cm
Private collection

Charles Auguste Emile Durand (1837-1917), known as Carolus-Duran, was a French painter and art instructor. He is noted for his stylish depictions of members of high society in Third Republic France.

He came from a humble background and, by the age of 11, he was taking lessons at the Academie in Lille from a sculptor who taught him to sketch. In 1853 he moved to Paris. He copied in the Louvre. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1859. His first period in Paris shows the influence of Gustave Courbet. He soon befriended Courbet, Manet and the Realist artists, painting their portraits with a serious Realism full of concentrated energy. In 1861, he traveled to Italy and Spain for further study, especially devoting himself to the pictures of Velazquez.

He became best known as a portrait painter, and, as the head of one of the principal ateliers in Paris, a teacher of some of the most brilliant artists of the next generation who were his pupils. Among his pupils were John Singer Sargent. In 1889, he was made a commander of the Legion of Honour. In 1890, he participated in the creation of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts. He became a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1904, and in the next year, was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Watteau, Jean-Antoine

Italian Comedians
circa 1720
oil on canvas
64 × 76 cm
National Gallery of Art,  Washington, D.C., USA

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement (in the tradition of Correggio and Rubens). He revitalized the waning Baroque style, and indeed moved it to the less severe, more naturalistic, less formally classical Rococo. He had an impact on the development of Rococo art in France and throughout Europe lasting well beyond his lifetime.

Living only thirty-six years, and plagued by frequent illness, Watteau nonetheless rose from an obscure provincial background to achieve fame in the French capital during the Regency of the duc d'Orleans. His paintings feature figures in aristocratic and theatrical dress in lush imaginary landscapes. Their amorous and wistful encounters create a mood but do not employ narrative in the traditional sense. During Watteau's lifetime, a new term, fete galante, was coined to describe them. Watteau was also a gifted draftsman whose sparkling chalk sheets capture subtle nuances of deportment and expression.

After Watteau’s death, his art fell out of fashion. During the French Revolution, some eighty years after the work was painted, his depictions of lavishly set pastoral escapades were associated with the old days of the monarchy and a frivolous aristocracy. In the early 19th century the curator at the Louvre was forced to place it in storage. It was not until the 1830s that Watteau and the Rococo returned into fashion. His influence on the arts (not only painting, but the decorative arts, costume, film, poetry, music) was more extensive than that of almost any other 18th-century artist. According to the 1911 Britannica, "in his treatment of the landscape background and of the atmospheric surroundings of the figures can be found the germs of Impressionism".

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Claude-Joseph Vernet

Seaport by Moonlight
oil on canvas
98 × 164 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), born in Avignon as a son of a decorative painter, was a French landscape and marine painter whose works constitute a remarkable record of 18th-century life.

In 1734, he left for Rome to study landscape designers and maritime painters, where we find the styles and subjects of his paintings. After returning to Paris he became a member of the French Royal Academy and was commissioned by King Louis XV to paint the port series.

He catered to a new taste for idealized, somewhat sentimentalized landscapes. His shipwrecks, sunsets, and conflagrations reveal an unusually subtle observation of light and atmosphere.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nicolas Vleughels

The Holy Family
oil on panel
36 x 27 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Nicolas Vleughels (1668-1737), born in Paris, is a French painter of Flemish origin. He was a painter, draughtsman, pastellist of portraits, genre scenes, religious and mythological compositions and nudes in the Baroque and Neoclassical style.

He trained with his father, a Flemish painter who had moved to Paris in 1642. In 1694 he came second in the Prix de Rome competition, despite repeated attempts, he failed to win the first prize. He became a close friend of Watteau and was, like him, greatly influenced by Flemish painting, notably that of Rubens. In 1704 he travelled to Italy. From his base in Rome he made trips to Venice and Modena, and was much influenced by the work of the Venetian colourists, particularly Veronese, whose works he copied. In 1716, back in Paris, he was approved by the Academie Royale. The influence of Veronese can be seen in the preparatory studies in oil and pastel for his paintings of this period. From 1724 until his death in Rome he was director of the French Academy in Rome.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jehan Georges Vibert

The Fortune Teller
year unknown
Oil on canvas
68.58 x 101.6 cm
Private collection

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902), French painter, a native of Paris, was a witty man of many talents, and interests. His paintings in oils and watercolors made him a much-admired artist in his native France, as well as in America. He dared to use his knowledge of colors, medium, styles, and subject matter to differentiate himself from other artists of his time. His humorous attacks were viewed however, as a part of the growing democratization of Europe, and made him most famous. In addition to his art, he had a long and active association with the stage and all aspects of theatrical life in Paris. He was also a published author, writing for Century Magazine as well as plays for the Palais Royale, Varietes and the Vaudeville. He wrote several comedies, many of which were successfully produced at Paris theaters.

He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1857 at the age of sixteen and by 1864 had already won a medal at the Salon . In 1866, the young Vibert exhibited at the Salon a work done in collaboration with Spanish-born artists. He had met the Spanish artist in 1860 and perhaps under their influence traveled several times to Spain. From that point on he became a genre painter. He became a master of the small-scale amusing anecdotal scenes, which had wide appeal among the sophisticated art patrons of Paris.

In 1870, while Paris was under siege to the Prussians, he fought and was wounded at the battle of Malmaison. His courage, though, earned him the honor of being made a Knight of the Legion of Honor. In 1882, he was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor, for his painting this time. This growing reputation made him one the the most sought after atelier masters at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. This lead him to being one of the seven most influential artists of his time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Alexis Simon Belle

Portrait of Louis XV of France
oil on canvas
226 × 18 cm
Palace of Versailles, Paris, France

Alexis Simon Belle (1674-1734), part of a French family of painters, born in Paris, was a fashionable portrait painter of the early 18th century.

In 1670 he won the Prix de Rome of the Academie Royale, but he turned down the opportunity to complete his education at the Academie de France in Rome, preferring to build up a clientele in Paris.

He became a pupil in the early 1690s of Francois de Troy, one of the painters at the exiled court of James II at St Germain-en-Laye. Troy, at the time the only painter working for James II, was commissioned to produce more portraits than he could manage and he enlisted Belle, his most able pupil, to collaborate.

He painted numerous portraits of members of the French court and associated notables, among them those of Louis XV and of his one-time fiancee Maria Anna Victoria, Infanta of Spain, as well as those of Louis's wife Marie Leczinska and her father Stanislav I Leszczynski, King of Poland.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jacques-Raymond Brascassat

A goatherder and his flock in an Italianate landscape
oil on canvas
38 x 47cm
location unknown

Jacques-Raymond Brascassat (1804-1867) devoted himself to animal painting, in which his reputation as an artist was made. He was remarkable for his accuracy of observation and correct drawing.

He was born in, Bordeaux, France. After studying in his home town, he attended L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1825 his painting won a Prix de Rome. A special award from King Charles X enabled him then to travel to Italy where he stayed from 1826-1829. Here he painted a number of landscapes and mythological works.

On his return to France, he continued to produce landscapes and historical subjects, before turning almost exclusively to animal painting. Critical acclaim followed in the early 1830s and 1840s, until his style became eclipsed. He was elected a member of the Institute in 1846.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Auguste Toulmouche

oil on canvas
65.4 x 55.2 cm
Private Collection

Auguste Toulmouche (1829-1890), born in Nantes, was a French painter who painted in the academic realism style. This trend in art was towards realism but also towards greater idealism, which is contrary to realism. The figures depicted were made more abstract and idealized. His themes were in the Regency revival style of genre painting. This would involve both generalizing the forms seen in nature, and subordinating them to the unity and theme of the artwork.

He began his career as a painter of portraits and historical objects, moving on to specialize in interiors, particularly intimate scenes with elegantly dressed Parisiennes. He exhibited his work at the Salon from 1848 onwards, receiving numerous accolades, including a silver medal at the Salon of 1861 and a bronze medal at the 1878 Universal Exposition.

Married to a cousin of Monet's Aunt Lecadre, his place in French art history is secured by his important influence on the early career of Claude Monet. Not only did Toulmouche play a key role in persuading the young Monet to enter Gleyre’s studio at the end of 1862, he served as his artistic advisor if not mentor during the early Paris years of the great impressionist’s career.

Although he also produced portraits and landscapes, he is primarily known for his intimate interior scenes of domestic life. In 1870 he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ary Scheffer

The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil
oil on canvas
172.7 × 238.8 cm
Walace Collection, London, UK

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) was a French painter of Dutch origin. He was the son of a distinguished painter who was a court painter of King Louis Napoleon of Holland.  His paintings of literary and religious subjects made him one of the foremost romantic painters. His compositions reflect a mystical inspiration and dreamy. He often painted subjects from literature, especially the works of Dante, Byron and Goethe. His style has been described as "cold classicism."

He was taught by his parents and attended the Amsterdam drawing academy from the age of 11. Early Scheffer paintings received little attention, but in 1817 he won his first medal at the Salon and was recommended as art teacher of Princess Marie of Orleans, daughter of King Louis-Philippe, itself talented sculptor.

Scheffer, a republican at heart, was much engaged in politics. He was promoted to Commander of the Legion of Honor 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.

After 1846, he ceased to exhibit and withdrew increasingly from public life. In 1850 he became a French citizen. He continued his frequent travels to the Netherlands, 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. In general, he had been an immensely popular artist, working in various styles; at times, however, he was criticized for overt sentimentality and lack of technique.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Poussin, Nicolas

A Dance to the Music of Time
oil on canvas
82.5 × 104 cm
The Wallace Collection, London, UK

Four figures, holding each other by the hand, dance in a circle, as Time plays a lyre on the right. The scene is set in the early morning, with Aurora, goddess of dawn, preceding the chariot of Apollo the sun-god in the sky behind; the Hours accompany him and he holds a ring representing the Zodiac. Today it is widely accepted that Dance to the Music of Time was meant to represent the passing of time, and the different stages of life on the rapidly revolving wheel of fortune: poverty, labor, wealth, and pleasure.

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), the greatest French artist of the 17th century, is considered one of the founders of European classicism, a movement in art, based on antique and Renaissance heritage.
He spent most of his working life in Rome, except for a short period when Cardinal Richelieu ordered him back to France to serve as First Painter to the King, Louis XIV.

Poussin's work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His paintings had a profound influence on many later artists, in particular such classical and classicizing painters as Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

oil on canvas
147 × 200 cm    
San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas, USA

"In painting, I'm an idealist. I see only the beautiful in art and, for me, art is the beautiful. Why reproduce what is ugly in nature? I don't see why it should be necessary." (William Bouguereau)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) was a French academic painter. He was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects with a heavy emphasis on the female human body. His sense of idealism was his guiding principle, regarding the ugly as worthless for representation. He has left a large body of work and he is undoubtedly a key figure in 19th century French art.

He was born in La Rochelle. He showed talent in drawing from an early age and studied under Louis Sage who himself had trained under Ingres. In 1846, after winning first prize in a figure painting competition in Bordeaux, he travelled to Paris and entered the atelier of Francois Picot. His early work mainly consisted of the production of academies (cast drawings and pencil life studies) and to studies of anatomy and perspective.

In 1848 he joined the National Guard to fight on the side of the monarchy in the French revolution. In 1850 he won a three year fellowship at the Villa Medici. He travelled widely around Italy painting many landscapes which were to inform many of his later genre paintings. In 1870, he took part in the Franco-Prussian War and, upon returning to his artistic pursuits was elected to the Academie des Beaux Arts de l'Institute de France in 1876. In 1888 he was named Professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and became one of the most influential teachers at the school. He painted 826 paintings.

Near the end of his life he described his love of his art: "Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come ... if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Leon Bonnat

Roman Girl at a Fountain
oil on canvas
170.2 × 100.3 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Leon Bonnat (1833-1922) was a notable French portrait painter and teacher of several well-known artists. He was born at Bayonne, France and was educated,  sponsored by the city of Bayonne, in Spain under Madrazo at Madrid. His long series of portraits shows the influence of Velazquez and the Spanish realists.

In 1869 he won a medal of honor at Paris, where he became one of the leading artists of his day. In 1888 he became professor of painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and he became its director in 1905. He was an influential teacher, his students included Thomas Eakins, Gustave Caillebotte, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and he ran a busy studio for more than three decades. The writers Emile Zola and Theophile Gautier were among Bonnat's supporters. Gautier hailed him as "the antithesis of Bouguereau," because of the stark naturalism and lack of surface finish that characterize Bonnat's work.

He painted about 200 portraits, most of them featuring photographically accurate draftsmanship and subdued colouring. His vivid portrait-painting is his most characteristic work. His excellent and wide-ranging art collection is part of the Bonnat Museum in Bayonne.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hyacinthe Rigaud

Portrait de Louis XV
oil on canvas
271 x 194 cm
Versailles, musee national du chateau, France

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) was one of the most prolific and successful French portrait painters of the Baroque period, the period associated with the era of Louis XIV. He made an outstanding contribution to French painting, and was particularly noted for his portrait art depicting members of the French royal family.

He was trained at Montpellier before moving to Lyon and finally to Paris in 1681, where he devoted himself to portraiture. By 1688, when he received his first royal commission, he already had a considerable reputation among the wealthier bourgeoisie of Paris. From 1690 onward, his work, primarily for the court, consisted almost entirely of portraits. He painted over 400 pictures. His clientele spread outside France. Elected to the Academie Royale as a history painter in 1700, he later taught there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Charles Le Brun

Entry of Louis XIV into Paris
between 1655 and 1661
oil on canvas
295 x 351 cm
Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) was a French painter and art theorist. Born in Paris, he was the son of a sculptor. Declared by Louis XIV "the greatest French artist of all time", he was a dominant figure in 17th-century French art and much influenced by Nicolas Poussin.

He was made first painter to the king, given an enormous salary, and until his death occupied a position of paramount importance in the artistic life of France not equaled until the advent of the painter Jacques-Louis David at the end of the 18th century.

Possessing both technical facility and the capacity to organize and carry out many vast projects, he personally created or supervised the production of most of the paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects commissioned by the French government for three decades during the reign of Louis XIV. Under his direction French artists created a homogeneous style that came to be accepted throughout Europe as the paragon of academic and propagandistic art.

In 1662 he was ennobled. In 1663 he was made chancellor for life of the academy, keeper of the Royal Collections, and director of the Gobelins manufactory. In 1666 he organized the French Royal Academy in Rome.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Signac, Paul

oil on canvas
150 × 150 cm
Private collection

Paul Signac (1863-1935) was a French neo-impressionist painter.He is one of the principal neoimpressionist painters worked with Georges Seurat in creating pointillism (or divisionism). He followed a course of training in architecture before deciding at the age of 18 to pursue a career as a painter after attending an exhibit of Monet's work.

Unlike Seurat, he had virtually no formal training; he taught himself to paint by studying the works of Claude Monet and others. After he and Seurat met, they developed their technique of painting with dots (points) of colour, which led to the name pointillism. As Signac explained, they used the pure impressionist palette but applied it in dots that were to be blended by the viewer's eye. What Signac called "muddy mixtures" were to be banished from painting and replaced by luminous, intense colours. Many of Signac's paintings are of the French coast. He loved to paint the water. He left the capital each summer, to stay in the south of France in the village of Collioure or at St. Tropez.

As president of the annual Salon des Independants (1908-34), Signac encouraged younger artists by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists. At the age of seventy-two, he died on 15 August 1935 in Paris from septicemia. His body was cremated and buried at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Seurat, Georges

Le Chahut
oil on canvas
171.5 x 140.5 cm
Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands

 "Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science." (Seurat)

Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891), Post-Impressionist painter, born into a very rich family in Paris, is one of the icons of 19th century painting. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and his teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.

Seurat is the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying the play of light using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colors became known as Pointillism. He spent his life studying color theories and the effects of different linear structures. He is the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. Using Pointillism technique, he created huge compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure color too small to be distinguished when looking
at the entire work but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. In 1883, panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon. After his painting was rejected by the Paris Salon, Seurat turned away from such establishments, instead allying himself with the independent artists of Paris. In 1884 he and other artists (including Maximilien Luce) formed the Societe des Artistes Independants. There he met and befriended fellow artist Paul Signac. Seurat shared his new ideas about pointillism with Signac, who subsequently painted in the same idiom.

Before actually painting the picture, he would sketch out parts of his artwork so that the models would not have to wait forever while he found the exact color. He took to heart the color theorists' notion of a scientific approach to painting. He believed that a painter could use color to create harmony and emotion in art in the same way that a musician uses counterpoint and variation to create harmony in music. He theorized that the scientific application of color was like any other natural law, and he was driven to prove this conjecture. He kept his private life very secret. On 29 March 1891, Seurat unexpectedly died. The cause of his death is uncertain. His last ambitious work, The Circus, was left unfinished at the time of his death.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Monet, Claud

oil on canvas
50 × 65 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rousseau, Henri

The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope
oil on canvas
200 × 301 cm
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Basel, Switzerland

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

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

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

Rousseau was buried in a pauper's grave, and soon after his death his greatness began to be widely acknowledged. he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality, though ridiculed during his life. His work exerted influence on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso, including Leger and the Surrealists.
"If you remove these lines in the painting, the colors are no longer effective." (Rousseau)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Courbet, Gustave

Poor Woman of the Village
oil on canvas
86 × 126 cm
private collection

Jean Desire Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting.
He was born into a wealthy bourgeoisie family in Ornans, France. In 1841, Courbet left the countryside where he grew up to study law in Paris. However, this is where he discovered the joy of painting, and soon all interest in the law was gone. In 1844 his self-portrait, Courbet with a Black Dog, was accepted by the Salon.

Courbet lived a Bohemian lifestyle, sacrificing many bourgeoisie comforts to paint in a creative environment. He attempted to show his political leanings through his choice of lifestyle and the subjects of his paintings.

He was always at odds with vested authority, aesthetic or political. For his choice of subjects from ordinary life, and more especially for his obstinacy and audacity, his work was reviled as offensive to prevailing politics and aesthetic taste. Enjoying the drama, Courbet rose to defend his work as the expression of his newfound political radicalism. While he continued to provoke the
establishment by submitting works to the Salon that were twice rejected in the mid-1860s, within that decade he triumphed as the leader of the realist school.
His influence became enormous, reaching its height with his rejection of the cross of the Legion of Honor offered him by Napoleon III in 1870. Under the Commune of Paris (1871), Courbet was president of the artists' federation and initially active in the Commune; he was later unfairly held responsible, fined, and imprisoned for the destruction of the Vendome column.
In 1873 he fled to Switzerland, where he spent his few remaining years in poverty. Although his aesthetic theories were not destined to prevail, his painting is greatly admired for its frankness, vigor, and solid construction.

Courbet died, at the age of 58 in Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking.
“Painting”, in Courbet's view, “should consist solely of the reproduction of things the artist can see and touch.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Delacroix, Eugene

Horse Frightened by a Storm
23.6 x 32 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary

"Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible." (Baudelaire)

Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) was the most important of the French Romantic painters. He was the son of a politician, C. Delacroix, but there is some evidence to indicate that his real father was the diplomat Talleyrand, a friend of the family. His mother came of a family of notable craftsmen and designers.

His basic artistic education was obtained by copying Old Masters at the Louvre, where he delighted in Rubens and the Venetian School. In the Salon of 1822 he had his first public success with The Barque of Dante (Louvre). It was bought by the State (with Talleyrand perhaps pulling strings in the background), as was The Massacre at Chios (Louvre) two years later, ensuring the success of his career.
From the late 1830s his style and technique underwent a change. In place of luminous glazes and contrasted values he began to use a personal technique of vibrating adjacent tones and divisionist color effects in a manner of which Watteau had been a master, making color enter into the structure of the picture to an extent which had not previously been attempted. In spite of being hailed as the leader of the Romantic movement, his predilection for exotic and emotionally charged subject-matter, and his open enmity with Ingres, Delacroix always claimed allegiance to the classical tradition, and for his large works followed the traditional course of making numerous preparatory drawings. He was inspired by Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the "forces of the sublime", of nature in often violent action.

In his later career he became one of the most distinguished monumental mural painters in the history of French art. Baudelaire said of him that he was the only artist who 'in our faithless generation conceived religious pictures' and van Gogh wrote, 'only Rembrandt and Delacroix could paint the face of Christ.'

Delacroix's output was enormous. After his death his executors found more than 9,000 paintings, pastels, and drawings in his studio and he prided himself on the speed at which he worked, declaring 'If you are not skillful enough to sketch a man falling out of a window during the time it takes him to get from the fifth story to the ground, then you will never be able to produce monumental work.' Among great painters he was also one of the finest writers on art. He was a voluminous letter writer and kept a journal from 1822 to 1824 and again from 1847 until his death - a marvelously rich source of information and opinion on his life and times. His influence, particularly through his use of color, was prodigious, inspiring Renoir, Seurat, and van Gogh among others. Delacroix's studio in Paris is now a museum devoted to his life and work, but the Louvre has the finest collection of his paintings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier

The Campaign in France 1814 (Napoleon and his staff returning from Soissons after the Battle of Laon)
oil on wood
52 x 77 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) was a French Classicist painter and sculptor famous for his depictions of Napoleon, his armies and military themes. He was immense1y successful with his historical paintings and from the 1840s received the highest official honours, including the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour - he was the first painter to win this award. There are large collections of his work in the Musee d'Orsay and in the Wallace Collection, London. His landscapes are attractive descriptive exercises and impressed Delacroix. He became the highest paid painter in the second half of the century and his work commanded enormous prices.

He enjoyed great success in his lifetime, and was acclaimed both for his mastery of fine detail and assiduous craftsmanship. Like Alexandre Dumas, he excelled at depicting scenes of chivalry and masculine adventure against a backdrop of pre-Revolutionary and pre-industrial France, specialising in scenes from seventeenth and eighteenth-century life. It is said thet he had a personal enmity for Courbet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Renoir, Auguste

The Large Bathers
oil on canvas
117.8 x 170.8 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

"Go and see what others have produced, but never copy anything except nature. You would be trying to enter into a temperament that is not yours and nothing that you would do would have any character."  (Renoir)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.

He was born in Limoges and brought up in Paris, where his father, a tailor with a large family, settled in 1845. From the age of thirteen he worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates. This early apprenticeship left a certain trace on his art, which was always decorative in spite of its later realism. After machines for coloring ceramics had been introduced, he had to switch to decorating fans and screens. Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley and Bazille; some time later he met Pissarro and Cezanne.

Renoir's work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it. His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.

Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his subjects - pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all lovely women - have instant appeal. His paintings present a vision of a forgotten world, full of sparkling color and light. He was so passionate about painting that he even continued when he was old and suffering from severe arthritis. He then painted with the brush tied to his wrists. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes, next to his wife Aline.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Degas, Edgar

The Rehearsal Onstage
circa 1874
pastel over brush-and-ink drawing on thin cream-colored wove paper, laid down on bristol board and mounted on canvas
53.3 x 72.4 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, USA

"Art is vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it." (Degas)

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance, and over half his works depict dancers. These display his mastery in the depiction of movement, as do his racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are considered to be among the finest in the history of art.

Early in his career, his ambition was to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

Certain features of his work remained the same throughout his life. He always painted indoors, preferring to work in his studio, either from memory or using models. The figure remained his primary subject; his few landscapes were produced from memory or imagination. It was not unusual for him to repeat a subject many times, varying the composition or treatment. He was a deliberative artist whose works were prepared, calculated, practiced, developed in stages. They were made up of parts. The adjustment of each part to the whole, their linear arrangement, was the occasion for infinite reflection and experiment.  "In art, nothing should look like chance, not even movement." (Degas)

In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an "old curmudgeon", and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. Profoundly conservative in his political opinions, he opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant. "The artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown." "In painting you must give the idea of the true by means of the false." (Degas)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Utrillo, Maurice

Rue Saint-Rustique sous la neige (Rue Saint-Rustique, Montmartre in the snow)
oil on cardboard
57 x 81 cm (22 3/8 x 31 7/8 in)
private collection

“The people here are idiots-idiots! There's not an hour I don't think of it. I'm shut out here and they won't let me go. I would rather be there than anywhere.” (Maurice Utrillo)

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) was a French painter who specialized in cityscapes. Born in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, as the illegitimate son of the painter Suzanne Valadon, he learned the skills from his mother, who wanted to keep him away from his addiction to alcohol. He soon showed real artistic talent. With no training beyond what his mother taught him, he drew and painted what he saw in Montmartre. After 1910 his work attracted critical attention, and by 1920 he was internationally acclaimed. In 1928, the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion d'honneur.

In middle age he became fervently religious and in 1935, at the age of fifty-two, he married Lucie Valore and moved to just outside of Paris. By that time, he was too ill to work in the open air and painted landscapes viewed from windows, from post cards, and from memory. Throughout his life, he was plagued by alcoholism and his mental disorder resulted in his being interned in mental asylums repeatedly.

His paintings up until 1907 are dominated by the colors yellow, turquoise, wine red and zinc white. From 1909 to 1914 he confines his palette to white and shades of gray. In order to attain a greater realistic effect with his paintings, he mixed sand and gypsum into the paint. This so-called "Periode blanche" (White Period) marks the highlight of Utrillo's creation.

From Wikipedia: Concerning Utrillo's paternity
An apocryphal anecdote told by Diego Rivera concerning Utrillo's paternity is related in the unpublished memoirs of one of his American collectors, Ruth Bakwin: "After Maurice was born to Suzanne Valadon, she went to Renoir, for whom she had modeled nine months previously. Renoir looked at the baby and said, 'He can't be mine, the color is terrible!' Next she went to Degas, for whom she had also modeled. He said, 'He can't be mine, the form is terrible!' At a cafe, Valadon saw an artist she knew named Miguel Utrillo, to whom she spilled her woes. The man told her to call the baby Utrillo: 'I would be glad to put my name to the work of either Renoir or Degas!'"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Suzanne Valadon

Still Life with Tulips and Fruit Bowl
oil on canvas
80 x 60 cm
Private collection

Suzanne Valadon, original name Marie-clementine Valadon (1865-1938), French painter noted for her robust figures and bold use of colour. She was the mother of the painter Maurice Utrillo.

She was the illegitimate daughter of a laundress, and, even before reaching her teens, she was surviving without her mother’s support. She took a variety of jobs, including those of waitress and circus acrobat. In the early 1880s she became an artist’s model, posing for such artists as Chavannes, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Renoir. By observing the artists for whom she modeled, she began to learn technique and to draw and produce pastels. When she was eighteen years old, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, the future artist Maurice Utrillo. Posing regularly for Renoir, she became his lover, as well as the lover of others, including Erik Satie and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

About 1890, her own art won the admiration and support of Edgar Degas, with whom she shared a close friendship. Yet many were disturbed by her works, especially her candid and earthy nudes which, like her sexual conduct, defied convention. After an attempt at marriage to a respectable businessman, she fell in love with Andre Utter, an artist twenty-one years her junior. In 1909 she ended her marriage, and about that time her mature style began to emerge. At nearly fifty years of age, she wed Utter and returned to a bohemian life. Her subjects were nudes, still-lifes, portraits, and landscapes. Her sensitive observation combined with bold linework and patterns won her much acclaim. She exhibited frequently and in the 1920s and ’30s became internationally known.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cezanne, Paul

La montagne Ste Victoire
oil on canvas
65 x 81 cm
private collection

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pissarro, Camille

Tropical Landscape with Farmhouses and Palm Trees
oil on cardboard
24.8 × 23.7 cm
Galeria de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Henri Le Sidaner

Sunday (El domingo)
oil on canvas
192 x 113 cm
Musee de la Chartreuse, Douai, France

Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939), French painter and pastellist, was born to a French family in Port Louis, Mauritius. At the age of ten his family moved to Dunkirk and in 1880 he left for Paris where he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1882. He received most of his tutelage there. Later he traveled extensively throughout France. He also visited many cities around the globe, as well as villages throughout Europe.

The subject-matter and smoothly painted surfaces of some of his early paintings, such as Sunday (1898), a picture of evanescent young girls in long white dresses against a very low horizon, caused him to be compared with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood but also allied him with the Symbolists. From 1900, he began to paint urban landscapes and gardens, often in a deserted state. He began at that time to favour broken brushwork reminiscent of Georges Seurat, while working primarily from memory rather than from direct observation. After a stay in Venice in 1905 he painted a series of views, that were hugely successful when exhibited in London and at the Salon de la Societe Nationale in 1906. Although the work of him appears to be impervious to the artistic changes taking place at the beginning of the twentieth century he was not totally unaffected by the development of Impressionism and neo-Impressionism. His work is very much in the realist style but at the same time evocative and poetic.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Edgar Maxence

Woman with Orchid
oil on canvas
57 x 43 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Edgard Maxence (1871-1954), was a French Symbolist painter. He was born in Nantes. He was taught by Elie Delaunay and Gustave Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The meeting between Maxence and Moreau was absolutly decisive for the young artist who stayed in his master’s studio until 1896, and remained faithful to his teaching all along his life. He combined highly trained technique with a taste for medieval and mythical subjects. Since 1893, he regularly exibited at the Salon of French Artists and Salon of Rose-Croix. His paintings were very attached with the Symbolist movement to whom he took his subjects. In 1900, he was awarded with a gold medal at the Word Fair and gained the Legion of Honour.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Henri Harpignies

Railway bridge over the Briare (Pont ferroviaire sur la Briare)
oil on canvas
size unknown
Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916) was a French landscape painter and engraver of the Barbizon school, whose finest works include watercolours showing the influence of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

He was born at Valenciennes. His parents intended for him to pursue a business career, but his determination to become an artist was so strong that it conquered all obstacles, and at the age of twenty-seven he was allowed to enter Jean Achard's atelier in Paris. From this painter he acquired a groundwork of sound constructive draughtsmanship, which is so marked a feature of his landscape painting. After two years under this exacting teacher he went to Italy, whence he returned in 1850. During the next few years he devoted himself to the painting of children in landscape setting, and fell in with Corot and the other Barbizon masters, whose principles and methods are to a certain extent reflected in his own personal art. To Corot he was united by a bond of warm friendship, and the two artists went together to Italy in 1860. On his return, he scored his first great success at the Salon, in 1861. After that year he was a regular exhibitor at the old Salon. Many of his best works were painted at Herisson in the central France region of Bourbonnais, as well as in the Nivernais and Auvergne regions. He also did some decorative work for the Paris Opera.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Boucher, Francois

A Summer Pastoral
oil on canvas
259 x 197 cm
Wallace Collection, London, UK

This painting and its companion piece, An Autumn Pastoral, were commissioned by the financier Trudaine for his new chateau at Montigny-Lencoup.

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

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

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