Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2012

Rubens Rocks

Legend of Tomyris, 1622-1623

In the art world of the Baroque, Rubens' bio reads like the stuff of legend: scholar, art collector, diplomat, polyglot (spoke seven languages), knighted by three kings, independently wealthy and one of the most prolific painters in history. Although he ran an enormous workshop of nearly a hundred artists, his design and finishing touches were on every single piece, and he painted on a scale that even today makes anyone's jaw drop. In fact, Rubens painted so much and often scenes of vast complex figures that it is challenging to pick only a few, not to mention his incredible drawings and studies that often give insight into his techniques. In this post I will attempt to show a sample from one of his various categories.

In the above painting, Rubens has separated the women on the left and the men on the right. The kneeling figure holds the head of Cyrus the Great before Queen Tomyris of Massagetae—he is actually draining the blood into an urn. Noti…

Giovanni Paolo Pannini

Portrait of Giovanni Paolo Pannini by Louis Gabriel Blanchet


One of my favourite vedutisti, Pannini was born on this day in 1691. During the Rococo of the late 1600's two major ideas evolved in landscape painting: the capriccio and the veduta, which eventually sort of merged into a kind of scenic cappriccio. The Capriccio, meaning caprice or fancy, evolved from the idea of imagination triumphing on the base of Classical architecture, often depicting it with deep shadows and bold colours, whereas the veduta. or view, arose from the British who frequently visited Spain, France and Italy (the Grand Tour) where they became so inspired by the glorious vistas they wanted to take a souvenir back home with them, a veduta. This of course launched the careers of some artists, especially Canaletto. Pannini, although he didn't invent the style, was the one who inspired all of them and as we can see by his portrait above by Blanchet, Pannini was held in high regard in his lifetime.




The Piaz…

Courbet

Self-Portrait with Pipe, 1848-1849

The rebel. Innovator. Realist. Gustave Courbet painted landscapes, portraits, still-lifes, seascapes, and nudes. Born in 1819 on June 10, he was the man who wore many hats and refused to be categorized by any of them. He was among the first to paint rural and poverty scenes in a social and political context, without melodrama or pretense, and more often than not in a plain and "ugly" way, as some critics called him. In the above famous self-portrait, he is smoking marijuana in his pipe, which explains the "fuzzy" look in his eyes; few self-portraits have this much character.




Stream in the Jura Mountains, 1872

In the above painting Courbet uses strong diagonals to contrast with a heavy horizontal middleground. This piece is all about contrast. The color palette here uses cool against warm, and even the textures of this composition contrast jagged rocks against smooth green grass and trees, deep blue sky above against cool grey strea…

Velázquez, Painter of Painters

Self-Portrait, ca. 1645


Yesterday was the birthday of Spain's greatest painter, Diego Velázquez, the man who inspired the awe of several painters from his own era right up to the modern day including Manet, who referred to him as the "painter of painters". And justly so. It is hard to overestimate the influence of Velázquez as portraitist and allegorical painter. Everyone from art critics to philosophers have written about him; his Las Meninas changed art and painting in a way that still ripples deeply today, and it's meaning is not entirely certain. Having been born in the same year as Anthony Van Dyck, Velázquez lived a full nineteen years longer and unlike Van Dyck who painted the aristocracy exclusively, Velázquez painted everyone from King Philip's court including dwarfs, court fools, giants, dancing bears, and gypsies.

In his self-portrait above we see a man with full confidence. What makes Velázquez so unique is how he varies his brushwork in such a way th…

Father of the Modern Poster

Taverne Olympia advertisement, ca.1896-1900


Jules Chéret, lithographer and painter who created posters for cabarets, theatres, music halls and various other advertisements of the day, was born on May 31, 1836. Why I include him here in this blog is because of his very colorful and well-designed approach to his posters, which are both works of art and effective advertisements. Capturing the spirit of the late 1800's, known as the Belle Époque, Chéret took his influences of the Rococo and made it into something fun and eye-catching without being tacky or melodramatic. In fact, Chéret displays an uncanny ability to utilize colour harmony with effortless charm, and his drawing style is based on a Classical sensibility but slightly exaggerated for the sake of entertainment.

In the above example despite its simplicity we see design elements at work, from the way her dress points downward to the restaurant info to the way the two figure's glasses are raised unevenly to heighten the …