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Showing posts from August, 2012

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Portrait of Claude-Henri Watalet, 1763


Tomorrow is the birthday of French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze, born in 1725, in the east central region of France. His style of portraiture has at times a strong British influence, yet other times he is distinctly French, and other times the influence of Venetian color is highly evident. Greuze would later become eclipsed by other French giants such as David and Ingres, but what he may have lacked in consistency of style he made up for in emotion and mood, when he did get it right. His greatest strength was his draftsmanship, as his drawings that survived prove he could draw, and draw incredibly well. He had a unique cross-hatching style that is deceptively complex to imitate, and he often imbued those portraits with more character and personality than many of his very best paintings.

The above portrait of Claude-Henri Watalet, respected engraver, painter, writer, art lover and expert on gardens, reveals a man highly esteemed by Greuze. The way …

John William Godward

The Old Old Story, 1903

John William Godward was born on August 9, 1861 in London. Here was an artist at the end of the Neoclassical era, a disciple of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who had such deep respect for the Classical world, who would both research their works with strict attention to authentic architecture and costume, so much that decades later film directors used Tadema's paintings as visual reference and inspiration for their films. While Alma-Tadema's career was successful up until his later years, Godward unfortunately was too late. The Victorian Neoclassicism that England loved during the 1800's would eventually become obsolete from the transmogrification of art movements in the 20th century that challenged everything and anything that came before it. Tenets such as beauty and harmony suddenly became profane and old-fashioned, and art critics acceded to their modern thrones quick to denounce anyone who didn't follow their creeds. The world was changing fast,…

Eduard Charlemont

A Drink for the Drummer, 1889


A Viennese painter born on August 2, 1848, Eduard Charlemont represents a natural Classical realism from among the last of the great artists born before the 20 century. Inspired by and trained in the Dutch Old Master painting techniques of the Baroque, Charlemont remains one of those underrated treasures you stumble upon and savour like an unexpected rare wine, ripe and full, only getting better with time.

Above shows a drummer savoring a drink, quite possibly wine, in a room with soft shadows and cool northern light. Charlemont's gift for natural body language, detailed costume and expression is musical, to make a pun on the subject: the musician smiles broadly as if having just said a joke, and the woman smiles bashfully while cleaning her copper pot. Notice how the angle of the drum and her pot are similar, facing us the viewer. Hers is empty for a reason: there is a clear difference in social class, by the manner of dress in these two people and y…

Sebastiano Ricci

Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa, ca.1710



One of my favourite Italian Baroque painters, Sebastiano Ricci was born on August 1, 1659 in Belluno, north of Venice. He represents everything that Venetian painters are known for, namely colour and great compositions yet he is also a storyteller, breathing life into mythology and religion with fervent sensuality. At times his figures seem Mannerist, and yet in others his figures are powerful, beautifully lit characters in an opera or play. His women seem to glow, and his men ranged from nobility to violent fighters, surrounding all of them in natural landscapes or architectural capriccios, and his colors seem to dance effortlessly with his compositions. Ricci is a painter's painter.

Above we see a famous scene from Greek mythology that Ricci depicts with captivating drama. Note how the figures surrounding Perseus in one-point perspective from his helmet. I love how Ricci contrasts the warm flesh tones of Perseus with t…