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Showing posts from May, 2012

Pontormo

L'Alabardiere, 1529-1530


Jacopo Carrucci (known as Jacopo da Pontormo or Pontormo) is one of those painters who fully embraced Mannerism in a way that makes him quite likeable in spite of himself. He is not easy to define though. His style ranges from bright colors to a dark, sombre Baroque-like palette; his drawings are exciting to study, full of energy and, like many artists, more accurate than his paintings. As a portraitist, Pontormo is in a category unique to the Florentines, both real and unreal at the same time due to his Mannerism; being the teacher of Bronzino we see strong similarities.

In the above example, we see an Alabardiere (Halbardier) or guard with the distinctive two-handled pole spear but Pontormo focuses on the young man himself, proud and confident, yet with an innocent face. Pontormo bathes him in warm window light against a dark wall of some sort, again to heighten the textures and colours of the guard. In typical Mannerist fashion, his physique is impossib…

Hubert Robert

The Old Bridge, ca. 1775


Born in Paris on this day in 1733, Robert was not only one of the active vedutisti, or highly realistic scene painter but also a set designer for plays and landscape garden designer. Having studied in Rome for 11 years—part of that under the studio of Giovanni Paolo Panini—Hubert made numerous sketches and capricci which lead to paintings with a distinct flavour for dramatic light, antiquity and architecture that puts him in a category that few others can match. And living during the tumultuous French Revolution where he narrowly escaped death himself makes his life all the more interesting as a person; someone should make a film of his life.


In the above example, Robert uses strong chiaroscuro for this bridge in two point perspective. The fact that he shows every dilapidated stone to illustrate its age and character contrasts with a youthful sky and bright blue river underneath it...Robert seems to make a statement on the age of man-made creations that cannot…

Carlo Cignani

Shepherd and Shepherdess, ca.1670


Yesterday marked the birthday of another great Carlo, who was born in 1628, a few years after Carlo Maratta. Cignani studied under Francesco Albani, who in turn learned from the Carracci's and became a great teacher himself, influencing not only Cignani but others including Andrea Sacchi and Francesco Vaccaro. The commonality between all these artists were the use of chiaroscuro and color together with inventive composition, avoiding the overly dark and often dreary tenebrism that Caravaggio and his realism brought. Personally, I enjoy both styles, having seen plenty of both on my trip to Rome in 2010...and there is plenty to learn from each artist.

In the above example, Cignani creates a pyramidal composition that is lyrical and musical— the eye flows around this piece in circular motions despite the complex details and textures depicted here. The body language and positioning of the two children is natural and frames the goat. Curiously, the twi…

Carlo Maratta

Self-portrait, ca. 1640-1713


Born either on May 13 or 15, (depending on whether you read the Italian or English entry on Wikipedia) Carlo Maratta—sometimes written as Maratti— was born in 1625. At the age of 11 he entered the studio of Andrea Sacchi where his training was heavily influenced by the Bolognese school and the teachings of Annibale Carracci. Here Maratta also learned the fundamentals of draftsmanship from Sacchi, who was incredibly skilled at drawing figure studies, something that Maratta maintained throughout his life. In fact, this concept of drawing, or disegno encompassed a way of seeing and working in art that involved choice and discretion or "prudence", not merely copying reality as Caravaggio had done but contemplating nature and reworking it to one's artistic ideals. This idea was also carried by Maratta's friend and contemporary Giovanni Pietro Bellori, who would write his own biography of the artists alla Vasari but with this philosophy of art.




Gérôme le Grand

The Carpet Merchant,1887

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Academic painter and sculptor was born on this day in Vesoul, Eastern France in 1824. It's hard to define Gérôme in terms of style or subject matter, since he painted so many different types of subjects and themes...historical scenes, Orientalist portraits and landscapes, Napolean, animals, nudes, religious scenes, and occasionally breathtaking landscapes. It seems that whatever his brush touched, stunning beauty was always the result. In many ways, Gérôme's art is a summary of everything that came before his time in that what he absorbed from the Renaissance, the Venetians, Baroque, and his French contemporaries he was able to merge into his own vision. While most artists have certain strengths that make them distinctly recognizable, Gérôme is one of those artists who seems to have had few weaknesses (except for his draftsmanship, which cost him membership into the Prix de Rome). He was a master of color also. His portraits defined mo…

Jules Breton, Poet of Light

Yesterday was the 185th birthday of one of my favourite French painters, someone who could merge figures and landscape together beautifully like no other artist, someone who made fields of harvesters against the setting sun seem real yet dreamlike. Welcome to the world of Jules Breton...



The Song of the Lark, 1884


This is like music. Squint your eyes and the golden glow of that late sun spreads across that orange sky and down that empty field...the woman is barely silhouetted against that sky, sickle in hand, listening to the sound of a lark after a long day's work. Breton is telling us to stop and appreciate the natural world around us. He also maintains the dignity and character of all his subjects, not as poor and ignorant, but real people who help to feed the world. The Barbizon School sought to cherish nature and the landscape, to preserve it from the oncoming Industrial Revolution and factories that would later lure people out of the countryside and into the city for work. Br…