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Showing posts from 2015

Danish Genius

Fishermen hauling nets, North Beach, Skagen, 1883






Peder Severin Krøyer was a Danish Painter born in Norway on July 23, 1851. He was a key member of the so-called Skagen Painters, a group of en plein air artists from Northern Denmark who took a more Realist style that emphasized figures and fishermen, rather than the predominant Impressionism that swept France during the same period. Although Krøyer studied in Europe and especially Paris during this time, his style has an immediacy and presence that is warm and inviting, closer in style to Sorolla but with an emphasis on adults and families. He uses a very earthy palette leaning towards greens and yellows, but it is his use of light that is captivating.

In Fishermen hauling nets above, we see a strong sense of movement and physicality that is not often portrayed in artwork of fishermen. We can actually feel the struggle of them tugging hard on that net, all seven of them, with their feet pressing deeply into the wet sand as the sun sets…

The French Modern Tenebrist

Femme à la fenêtre attendant l'arrivée d'une personne

Born in Northeastern France on March 19, 1862, Marcel Rieder was a French painter whose use of light is captivating and warm. Rieder was a sort of modern tenebrist reminiscent of Matthias Stom, Gerard van Honthorst, Joseph Wright of Derby and Georges de La Tour. His style seems to be somewhat Hopperesque. What makes Rieder unique is that all of his figures are women, predominantly, and his type of genre painting has a mysterious quality in that the figures are pensive, lost in their own world. This type of psychology is an interesting element that draws us toward his subjects and makes us reflect on our own thoughts.


In the above painting a woman stands by the window with a soft light coming through the window, waiting for someone. The composition is not terribly inventive (although the use of perspective draws us in), and the surrounding elements seem rather dull, but it is the way Rieder painted this woman that is captiva…

Noël Hallé

Eglée barbouillant Silène de mûres pour le forcer à chanter l'histoire du monde, 1771


Born September 2, 1711 in Paris, Noël Hallé was a French painter and printmaker. Hallé is a lesser-known artist among his contemporaries yet his work exudes a poetry and drama that is distinctly French—he was the nephew of Jean Jouvenet. However his brushwork is sometimes loose and this loose style is reminiscent of Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini and Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Hallé's graceful use of figures and body language along with vivid color are what make him interesting to study.

In the above painting, Hallé's Silenus is quite different than the usual portrayal by painters such as Rubens, who often depicted him as obese and disgusting. Here, Silenus is obviously drunk but in a very relaxed manner, yet exudes a certain Classical grace. I don't understand the entire context of this narrative but Eglee is a naiad who smears blackberry on his face in an attempt to extract his profound wi…

William Orpen, Irish Portrait Master

John Andrew Hamilton, Viscount Sumner, 1931?



Irish portrait and WWI painter William Orpen was born on November 27, 1878 in Dublin. Orpen is an interesting figure in the period he was born in, and by reading his bio one gets the impression that his life may have made an interesting film. Successful during his career, Orpen painted a large amount of military and formal portraits with a freshness and candor not often seen in British painters, especially in his portraits that are "unfinished". Orpen is essentially unknown today but his work deserves merit for his immediacy and presence, no matter who he painted, and his portraiture also serves as a snapshot of an era in British history that photographs could not capture quite the same way.

In the above study of John Andrew Hamilton, Orpen achieves a strong presence with a great economy of brushstrokes. Note the stern gaze and tightness of lips that convey a figure with authority. Even with a quirky grayish-blue swash of backgrou…

Gaertner: A Visual Beethoven

Rear view of the Houses at Schloßfreiheit, 1855

Eduard Gaertner was a German architectural painter born on June 2, 1801 in Berlin. Known for his stunning attention to detail and his natural use of light, Gaertner was a Romantic who captured the everyday life of Germany with a fondness for the world he lived in. By this time it seems the era of the veduta had waned since Canaletto, yet Gaertner's views are more personal and real. He lived during the early years of photography and this had a marked effect later in his career. Looking at his beautiful scenes, we can sense a yearning for experiencing the moment and not just capturing it, as a camera can. The love of nature and architecture together summarize the sharp eye of Gaertner and in these examples we'll explore why.

In Rear view of the Houses at Schloßfreiheit above, Gaertner uses perspective in a Classic veduta style with prominent architecture, but it is the way that late afternoon sun bathes the buildings while leaving t…

Paolo Veronese: Grand Poet of Story and Color

Martyrdom of St Justina, 1556


Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese was born in Verona, the city of his namesake in 1528. Last year at the National Gallery in London there was an exhibit of his work which garnered rave reviews on Twitter and the internet. Known for his incredible use of color and composition, Veronese is a Venetian giant whose work cannot be fully appreciated here online---it was intended to be seen in person. The sheer scale of his work, often life-size figures, fill a wall or room in a way that separates him from many of his contemporaries and indeed many Old Masters. And although some modernists criticize his work for a lack of emotional connection it is the sheer grandeur and drama he portrayed that was all his own. He was a theatrical painter, a master of grand narrative, and not in the dark way that the tenebrists of Caravaggio would convey nearly a century later. His subtle use of color places him in a category that few painters hold, unique even among other V…

The Quirky French Genius of Louis-Léopold Boilly

"Laughing Man" Study for a self portrait. Chalk, early 1800's

Born July 5, 1761 Louis-Léopold Boilly was a prolific French portrait painter and draftsman. If there was ever an artist who whose biography would inspire a truly entertaining movie, Boilly would be the one. His career was active throughout the French Revolution and Napoleon, and yet his keen portrayal of the French middle class has a unique charm that makes him very likeable. As a draftsman, Boilly was one of a kind, probably better than his paintings, and his numerous oil sketches are excellent studies in themselves. Looking at his self-portrait above, you can instantly sense the vivacity and humor of this man without even reading a biography.








Entrance to a free show at the Ambigu-Comique Theatre, 1819

Here we can immediately grasp Boilly's brilliant sense of group composition, action and space. Boilly takes a horizontal arrangement of figures and groups them by foreground, middle and background. The fore…