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Showing posts from 2016

Frederic Leighton

The Garden of the Hesperides‎, 1892

Sir Frederic Leighton was born in Scarborough, England on December 3, 1830. He is one of Britain's most well-known artists from the Victorian Age, typifying a style of Romantic sensual Academic Classicism that foreshadows Art Nouveau. Leighton gives all his figures an elegance and grace—sometimes forced— yet somehow musical to watch, a visual poetry. He has a similar sensibility to the Dutch artist of the same era: Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Leighton also has a strong sense for colour that is more organic than his contemporaries. His use of reds, oranges, yellows, greens and blues are never garish or unnatural. Portraiture was also something he was easily well-versed in, capturing his sitters with a dignity and poise that was distinctive. He often used a lovely female actress of the day as his model whose beauty still inspires today.



In The Garden of the Hesperides‎ above, Leighton's feminine side dominates the composition and tone. In Greek mytho…

Claude-Joseph Vernet, French Painter of Views

A Calm at a Mediterranean Port, 1770



Born on August 14, 1714, Claude-Joseph Vernet was a French Romantic painter from Avignon. Vernet's vedute are strongly influenced by painters such as Giovanni Paolo Panini and Claude Lorrain, whom both worked in Rome. Vernet distinguished himself from his contemporaries by seeking more dramatic light effects, particularly moonlight, and early dawn as well as experimenting with weather itself including fog and rain as subjects to reinforce his Romantic themes, something foreign in most landscape painting at that time. Vernet also worked mainly from imagination, using sketches as reference and incorporating some known landmarks from Rome but combining them into his own capricci but with fishermen and marine subject matter as his main themes.

In A Calm at a Mediterranean Port above, Vernet's use of light and clouds is mesmerizing. Look up close and that beautiful golden yellow glaze on the sky against the blue is superb, which he continues wit…

Leonardo Da Vinci's Drawing Materials

In this fascinating video from the Royal Collection in Windsor, Leonardo's materials are recreated using similar pigments and organic materials to give an idea of how he worked. This curator is someone whose brain I could pick for hours!


Leonardo's Drawing Materials



source Vimeo

Copenhagen's Painter

A Fire on Kultorvet, 1900




Born in Copenhagen on July 22, 1860, Paul Gustav Fischer was a Danish Naturalist painter. Fischer has a palette and tone that is more British than many of his fellow countrymen, although his depiction of everyday life in pure Naturalist form is definitely Danish. His work has an atmosphere, a narrative that asks questions more than it illustrates—in short, he conveys presence.

I love A Fire on Kultorvet above. Look at how we are placed right in the middle of the action, without explanation, as if happening right in front of us. This painting works on so many levels: historically, compositionally, atmospherically, and of course visually in terms of palette and texture. Off to the right a firefighter feeds coal into a steam-powered fire engine, a complex and very heavy machine...revolutionary for its time. Note off to the far left a firefighter operates what was back then a modern invention, the fire hydrant. The huge crowd watching is conveyed brilliantly wit…

Van Gogh

Self-Portrait, 1887

Born March 3, 1853 in southern Netherlands, Vincent Van Gogh, the infamous Dutch Post-Impressionist artist, tortured soul and a key figure in Modern Art. Biographies abound in Van Gogh's dramatic and psychological personal life as a troubled man with mental health issues that lead to his own suicide at the young age of 37, but here I'd like to explore what makes Van Gogh unique as a painter. His brushwork and use of bold colors is the most expressive and powerful of arguably any artist in the history of Western Art. Although I cannot say I understand a lot of his work, in particular his portraits, flower arrangements and street scenes, nonetheless it is his use of color and paint that I find fascinating and worth delving further into. For those wishing to read more about his life, click here.

Of his numerous self-portraits he painted, above is a legendary example of his idiosyncratic technique. Look up close and those seemingly neat arrangement of pointilli…

Anton Mauve, The Power of Simplicity

The Vegetable Garden, ca.1885-1888


Anthonij (Anton) Rudolf Mauve was a Dutch painter born on September 18, 1838 in Zaandam, northern Holland. He was a leading member of the Hague School of painters in the late 1800's, and outside Holland not well-known except for his connection to Vincent Van Gogh, whom he influenced greatly. Mauve's work focused on rural motifs that captured the everyday farm-life under the often characteristic overcast skies that define Dutch landscape art and the Hague School, hence earning them the curious nickname the Gray School. Mauve's early art instruction were from more formulaic Dutch painters that Mauve sought to break free from into a more naturalist approach using color and mood to heightened effect. Action and composition were not the primary forces that motivated Mauve, but rather the way people moved, how they worked, and the scenic atmosphere under which they lived. Mauve would eventually evolve into another school or rather art colony, ca…

Jacob Maris, Dutch Poet of the Sky

Bluff-bowed Fishing Boat on the Beach at Scheveningen, 1899


Jacob Hendricus Maris was a Dutch painter born on August 7, 1837 in The Hague, Netherlands. A key member of the Hague School, a group of Dutch landscape artists in the late 1800's known for their subdued, low-key palette, which gave them the nickname the Gray School. Not every single painting was gray, of course, but it was rather the way in which they used gray as inspiration for mood in depicting pastoral scenes. Clouds became the focal point instead of just a background element. Using gray to its fullest range, experimenting with temperature and values created beautiful and pensive landscapes that furthered the incredible work a couple of generations before in France with the Barbizon School and in particular the brilliant work of Corot.

In Bluff-bowed Fishing Boat on the Beach at Scheveningen above, we quickly understand how Maris used gray to full effect. We can almost hear those seagulls hooting in the distance with …

René-Antoine Houasse, French Classical Master

Dispute between Minerva and Neptune over the Naming of the City of Athens, 1689




Born in 1645 in Paris, René-Antoine Houasse was a French painter who worked in the Château de Versailles under his teacher, Charles Le Brun. Despite the initial impression of Classical formality, Houasse actually was quite musical and rhythmic in his compositions and had a very French palette. His figures are quite sculptural while retaining an elegance and grace regardless of gender.

In the above Dispute between Minerva and Neptune over the Naming of the City of Athens, Houasse divides the painting with light to add a stark drama to an otherwise Classically formal composition. Taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the first king of Athens, King Cecrops was looking for a patron god or goddess for his beautiful city, and both Mineva and Neptune fought to win the favor of the gods. Neptune creates the sea by striking his mighty trident into the ground, and while impressive, the gods didn't much care for s…