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Showing posts from July, 2012

Salvator Rosa

Lucrezia as Poetry, ca.1641


Born on July 21, 1615, Salvator Rosa was an Italian Baroque painter from Arenella, near Naples. Rosa is one of the only artists from the era to have had an influence on the Romantic artists, namely Turner, for his emotionally charged landscapes and highly independent attitude of being an artist, often rejecting lucrative commissions and only painting "my brushes when I am in ecstasy". An accomplished poet, he wrote many satires and was highly cynical in matters of the heart and marriage, quoted as saying that Un buon cavallo e una bella donna sono due care bestie— a good horse and a beautiful woman are two dear beasts.

This painting above of his wife, Lucrezia shows a stylized yet perceptive manner of portraiture. Judging by her appearance she was younger than him by more than a few years. This image here from Wikipedia is not the best for detail but it illustrates Rosa's understanding of body language and facial expression.



Astraias' Fare…

Delaroche

Central portion of "L'Hémicycle des Beaux-arts", 1841-42

Hippolyte Delaroche, aka Paul Delaroche, was a French painter born on July 17, 1797. A true Classical painter to the end, Delaroche breathes life into whatever subject matter he paints with a unique realism, whether portraiture, mythological or historical. Delaroche is the one you have to see in person in a museum to fully appreciate.

The above painting is actually a section of a massive curved mural (over 27' long) at the École des Beaux Arts, hence the name Hémicycle. Taking over three and a half years to complete, seventy-five artists from the past to Delaroche's era are represented here in life-size scale, and some are easily spotted such as Rubens, Raphael, Michelangelo, Velazquez, and Van Dyck. This painting was done apparently in both oil and encaustic, which shows the incredibly vivid colors quite well. Why this theme of honoring the great artists of the past was not continued is quite sad, actually…

Hyacinthe Rigaud

Portrait of Charles de Saint-Albin, Archbishop of Cambrai, 1723

Known primarily for his portraits of King Louis XIV and other aristocracy, Hyacinthe Rigaud was born on July 18, 1659. His type of portraiture is obviously quite formal and not quite as accessible as the Impressionists I've been talking about these last couple of posts, but Rigaud deserves to be noted for his superb technique and exquisite drapery and color. In the above painting of Charles de Saint-Albin we see incredible detail in the greyish-blue robe...highlights that would have taken ages to paint. Note the shadow of the book on his robe.




Etudes pour le portrait de Philipp-Ludwig Wenzel von Sinzendorf, 1739




Jean-Baptiste de Montginot, 1688

The solidity of this man has a sculptural quality to it. In this world of aristocracy and pomp, the clothes definitely make the man, and Rigaud goes to considerable length to describe them to us. What is curious about this work is the expression of pride in the man's face for…

Eugene de Blaas

The Serenade 1910

Eugene de Blaas was born on July 24, 1843 to Austrian parents in Albano, near Rome. He learned to paint from his father, Karl Von Blaas who then moved the family to Venice where Eugene stayed for most of his career. Blaas has a style known for vivid colors, theatrical body language, graceful figures, intricate costumes, and the contrast of fishing community against the rustic walls of Venice. I have never seen his work in person yet, unfortunately, and some might find his art overly sentimental or dated but I think he deserves attention as a unique artist that was able to merge his academic art training with the world around him not as a realist per se, but a storyteller and creator of mood. I suspect he inspired many illustrators of the 1940s and 50s with his particular use of body language and facial expression to create a context that captures our attention.

In The Serenade we see four women respond individually to the guitar of this barefoot fisherman. There ar…

Corot, Poet of the Landscape

Ville d’Avray, 1867

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was born in Paris on July 16, 1796. He was a giant of the Barbizon school and humbled his contemporaries with brushwork that almost defies description along with a poet's understanding of light. His landscapes speak. The trees themselves are like figures in a scene. And yet he could also paint people quite well, bathing women in soft light and delicate features like the landscapes of his French countryside. In the Renaissance and Baroque the landscape was often depicted in sunrise or glowing sunset, as if revealing the untapped potential of humanity itself, whereas with Corot overcast skies and trees blowing in the wind foreshadow the progress of man looming over nature. He still manages to make breathtaking work in the process.

In Ville d’Avray he makes the ordinary surreal, using strong horizontals but makes the two trees vibrate with his characteristic blurred brushstrokes that are even more impressive seen in person. Corot realiz…

Degas

Ballet Rehearsal,1873

Master of pastel, and an artist that really needs no introduction, Edgar Degas was born July 19 (day before my birthday!!) 1834 in Paris. Degas is interesting in that he started as a very Classical artist that changed direction towards a realist study of modern society with keen powers of observation and attention to color. Technically, Degas deserves particular merit for his experimentation with materials, especially in the way he would prepare his pastels such as combining them with water and steam into a thick paste, and even mixing them with oil paint sometimes. Gracefulness (as well as awkwardness) is a common theme in his work, especially in the numerous works of ballet dancers and women bathers, yet he also depicted people with casual realism, neither enobling them nor making them ugly. He was also a pioneer in making use of the camera as a reference tool for his art.

Above we see ballet dancers in an airy room with light spilling onto the subjects from la…

Andrea Del Sarto

Portrait of a Man (possible self-portrait?), ca.1518
click here for zoomable version

One of my favourite Renaissance painters, Andrea Del Sarto, who was called by Vasari as the artist "senza errori"—without errors—represents a Classicism with a poetic sensibility that borrows from Raphael and Da Vinci but evolved into his own brand of genius. Michelangelo was a good friend and one of his biggest fans, ultimately recommending him as a teacher to Vasari himself. Del Sarto has a way of synthesizing beauty and perfection with vivid color and a full-range of values that may have had an influence on Baroque painters much later on. Although another underrated artist today, his work really does have few faults. In fact, he would have made a formidable sculptor, judging by his confident anatomy and figures, with real facial and hand expressions that are hypnotic.

The above portrait shows a young man of uncertain identity, yet somehow the prevailing art historians believe it is not a …

Pissarro

Pissarro Building, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

While on holidays on a cruise a few years back in the Caribbean I passed by this curious museum which, unfortunately was closed at the time and I couldn't return later much to my disappointment. Camille Pissarro was born and raised here on July 10, 1830, in this heaven-on-earth island, but he spent most of his adult life painting in Paris. Although not exactly a household name to many familiar with Impressionism, he was a huge influence and father figure to many artists of that era including Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat and Gauguin. What makes Pissarro cool is that he seems to get only better with age, and his urban landscapes are light years ahead of any painter in the genre.





The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning, 1897

A perfect snapshot of the era and a stunning painting, this kind of work seems remarkably simplistic up close but step back and it has a photographic realism to it. This is obviously true of all Impressionism, but …

Rembrandt, Painter of Light

The original painter of light, Rembrandt van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, Netherlands. He is one of the most imitated painters in terms of brushwork, although his particular use of chiaroscuro is truly unique and personal. His etchings are also what make him one of the greatest in that genre, producing an enormous amount in his lifetime, and lastly, his self-portraits are among the most famous of any artist in history for their sincerity and penetrative insight. Of the many he painted the example above is one of his finest, in my opinion, for its execution and presence: he was 34 years old, towards the peak of his success. Years ago I watched the film of his life made in 1936 by Charles Laughton, and is still the best film I've seen on an artist to date. Laughton was perfect for the role.




Danaë, ca.1636-47

Rembrandt's interpretation of this often painted mythological scene is intimate and real, and Danaë's body language is what makes this painting so spontaneo…

The Gentileschi's

The Penitent Mary Magdalen, ca. 1622David Contemplating the Head of Goliath, ca. 1610
Artemisia Gentileschi                                                          Orazio Gentileschi



Probably the only father-daughter artist team in history, the Gentileschi's were to capture the essence of Caravaggio and the Baroque. I had the pleasure of seeing a lot of both artist's work in Rome a couple of years back, and I always found their paintings moving and vibrant. Artemisia's fame eventually outshone her father's, and even to this day as a feminist icon with a film and a documentary made of her life she inspires women, but the study of Orazio as an influential painter and father needs to be recognized also. Comparing the two very different paintings above we see a stylistic similarity in graceful body language and expressiveness. Where the father and daughter similarities end is in use of light— Artemisia more deeply influenced by chiaroscuro and drama where Orazio favoured v…