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Nicolas Poussin 1594 to 1665

November 17th, 2023

Nicolas Poussin 1594 to 1665

Born in Les Andelys, Normandy, and active in Paris from 1612 to 1623, Poussin, like many European artists of his generation, was drawn to Rome. He arrived there in 1624 an unformed painter, but would become a central figure for the Roman and European art of his time—despite the fact that he defined himself against the prevailing Baroque tastes of his adopted city and steadfastly followed his own artistic path. Poussin brought a new intellectual rigor to the classical impulse in art, as well as a unique, somewhat reticent poetry. His sensitivity to the nuances of gesture, design, color, and handling, which he varied according to the theme at hand, permitted him to bring a very focused expression to his art and to create for each narrative a memorable and enduring form. The wide range of his oeuvre includes scenes of subdued tenderness, bacchic revelry, mourning, righteous civic virtue, and other more difficult to identify states of mind or being.

In Rome, Poussin was welcomed into the lively group of intellectuals centered around Cassiano dal Pozzo, the remarkable archaeologist, philosopher, and naturalist employed by the Barberini family. Cassiano became Poussin’s close friend and patron, as well as a link to other well-placed collectors. His intense curiosity about the lives and thought of the early Greeks and Romans, and his dedication to recording the monuments of their civilization, would exert a strong influence on the young painter.

In 1628, with Cassiano’s help, Poussin received his only papal commission. The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, painted for the Church of Saint Peter (now Vatican Museums)—one of his largest and most Baroque compositions—was coolly received, and was followed by the loss of an important commission for the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. At this point it became clear to Poussin that he would not be sought out to decorate the churches and palaces of Counter-Reformation Rome, and that this was not, in fact, where his real strength lay. The large, theatrical saints in ecstasy and scenes of apotheosis so popular at the time clearly struck no responsive chord in Poussin, and with remarkable vision and determination he set off in his own direction. Within the circle of Cassiano and for a small group of discerning patrons in France, he gradually developed an audience for the paintings of relatively modest size—rationally ordered, subdued, often exquisitely poetic works—for which he is now so well known.

Poussin’s Subject Matter

A man of extraordinary learning and intellectual sophistication in his own right, Poussin played a significant role in the choice of subject for many of his private commissions. Some are themes of his own invention or subjects that no previous artist chose to depict; frequently his paintings carry a moral or philosophical message, or draw attention to man’s precarious position in the universe. They are inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, ancient history, certain stories from the Old Testament, and—late in his career—the Seven Sacraments (The Confirmation, from the series of The Seven Sacraments, Collection of the Duke of Rutland, Belvoir Castle) conceived within the early Christian church. Toward the end of his life, he would create a group of transcendent landscapes with Stoical themes, including four paintings representing the Seasons, now in the Louvre, Paris. All of these subjects he painted with extraordinary empathy and near-identification. Although they might suggest conflicting systems of belief—pagan, Jewish, Christian, Stoic, pantheistic—Poussin seems to have taken on each type of narrative as an even-handed, respectful interpreter, representing each as a product of human culture and history and of our essential need to create order out of what might seem chaos. These pictures appear to be about “faith” as a phenomenon as much as they are about a particular faith.

Early Works

During his first years in Rome, Poussin sampled many different artistic styles, but he chose his influences carefully. He was clearly impressed by the paintings of the great Venetian colorist Titian (ca. 1485/90?–1576), as well as by the friezes he found on Greco-Roman tombs. The wonderful little Rest on the Flight into Egypt may date as early as 1627 and reveals a clear debt to Titian. The playful horde of putti, the highly keyed reds, blues, and whites of the Virgin’s robe, and the intensely blue sky—as well as the optimistic spirit of the picture as a whole—reveal Poussin’s admiration for Titian’s Bacchanals, then in the Aldobrandini collection in Rome. What Poussin brings to the picture that we would not expect to find in a similar work by Titian is its intimacy (due in part to the small scale) and a very tender poetry.

The first painting by Poussin to be acquired by an American museum, Midas Washing at the Source of the Pactolus (ca. 1627), is one of many works by the artist inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The painterly handling is typical of Poussin’s earlier works and a stark contrast to the cleanly drawn and regimentally ordered pictures from his middle years such as The Abduction of the Sabine Women (ca. 1633–34). The composition of the Midas is beautifully and subtly laid out; it is deeply satisfying but does not call attention to itself. The same can be said for the picture’s subdued palette and fluid brushwork. In comparison to the dazzling altarpieces of his Baroque contemporaries, this painting is a “soft sell,” and reveals the independence of Poussin’s eye and mind. The story of Midas, the unfortunate king who asked Bacchus that all he touched be turned to gold, carries with it the aura of the earth at an earlier stage of development so common in Poussin’s mythological scenes, but also suggests—in its questioning of material wealth—the Stoicism that figures prominently in the artist’s later work and that was a true reflection of his character and way of life.

Tasso’s epic poem about the Crusades, Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), completed in 1575, was the source for a group of Poussin’s canvases from the early 1530s. These paintings have the gentle, otherworldly quality of a fairy tale—in spite of the fact that for Poussin, the appeal of the subject seems to have been the conflict between pleasure (or enchantment) and duty (the Crusades). In The Companions of Rinaldo, a picture once owned by Cassiano dal Pozzo, Rinaldo is out of sight in the lair of the sorceress Armida, and his companions, Carlo and Ubaldo, have come to rescue him from temptation and recall him to duty and more manly adventures. They have been ferried to the “Fortunate Isles” in the exotic little boat in the background, modeled after a similar vessel the artist must have known from a Roman sarcophagus. Their movements are exquisitely graceful, yet somehow tentative (they are hardly figures of impulsive determination), and the startling blue and copper of their costumes adds to the richness of their characterization. These fine young men, like so many of Poussin’s figures, seem to be poised for all time just so, frozen in pursuit, and this is part of their poignant charm.

Middle Years

It was not unusual for the artist to paint several versions of a subject, rethinking the composition and the expressive quality of the picture in the process; this was the case with Poussin’s two paintings of The Abduction of the Sabine Women, which have been described as scenes of “subdued mayhem.” Both paintings, with their powerfully opposing diagonals, are examples of the vigorous and assertive style that Poussin adopted for many of his scenes from ancient history. In what appears to be the earlier version (ca. 1633–34), he has dispersed the figures in several frieze like planes parallel to the foreground, and the architecture seems to stop the eye from moving back into the distance. In the version in the Louvre, from about 1637, the artist draws our eye into the distance with diagonals created by the architecture on the right, and he has taken pains to develop groups of figures here and there that introduce random diagonal elements into the center of the composition and bring a breath of fresh air to the tightly structured scene. It was to aid in the creation of such complex and carefully organized narratives that Poussin probably used the small stages with wax figures and painstakingly arranged draperies described by his contemporaries.

Later Works

Poussin may well have used such a stage to plan the rigorous composition of Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man, a painting from 1655 that shows the artist responding to the imposing and solid classicism of Raphael’s School of Athens, a fresco of 1510 for the Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican, Rome). Raphael’s masterpiece was the source for a compositional type that Poussin returned to again and again, manipulating the conventions of classical art: the draped figures, rhetorical gestures, and architecture. Here these components are pared down to their most minimal, unadorned aspect. In a mute performance, the figures sit, stand, turn from and face us, gesturing expressively as they enact the narrative. With each painterly adjustment or formal decision, however, we sense the remarkable authority and spirit of invention that the artist brings to the sometimes rigid confines of the classical idiom. The intense blues, golds, and oranges employed here were inspired by the highly saturated colors discovered in Roman wall paintings by contemporary archaeologists.

Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun, from 1658, is among Poussin’s late masterpieces, and intuitive rather than systematic in design. The artist appears to have surrendered control and lapsed momentarily in his love of order and geometry, permitting his imagination to lead him. There is, nevertheless, a sureness to the composition that reveals the master hand and mind at work. Poussin apparently followed Natalis Comes’ sixteenth-century commentary on the story of Orion, which gives a meteorological interpretation of the myth. Beyond the specific roles played by the main characters—the giant Orion, Cedalion on his shoulders, and Diana in the clouds—the image of a blind and clearly vulnerable giant feeling his way across a vast primeval landscape with the aid of several benevolent smaller figures is extraordinarily touching. We know that he will find the rising sun and regain his sight with their help. In the midst of a pagan landscape, there is a sense that, beyond the myth of Orion, we may also be dealing with something approximating a vision of earthly as opposed to heavenly salvation, or the struggle of each individual human being to find his way. Poussin’s sight was weakening during the years he produced his late landscapes, and they have an almost pointillist technique, which is particularly well suited to their subject matter.

Understanding Poussin

In a letter to his close friend and patron Paul Fréart de Chantelou, Poussin instructs us in appreciating his art. After hearing of Chantelou’s disappointment when he compared a more sober canvas he had just received from the artist with a more sensuous and pleasing painting he had made for another French collector, the artist patiently explained to him that various subjects made different demands on an artist, and required very different expressive means to properly fulfill them. Just as the Greeks created “Modes” to write music with a different spirit or mood for different contexts, Poussin tells his friend, so he, in a similar manner pursued his art, always seeking the design, handling, and formal means appropriate to a given subject. From such remarks developed the “Theory of the Modes” that has been linked with Poussin’s name since the seventeenth century, and which helps us to understand his artistic process. These remarks also reveal Poussin’s unusual self-awareness and his tendency to be analytical where his work was concerned.

Sometimes associated with an uncompromising, almost ascetic formalism, Poussin’s art is, in fact, a marriage of poetry and reason, sensibility and intellect, a balance of two aspects of one character. Sometimes they sit comfortably together in a finished work. Sometimes, in a particular painting, intellect or sensibility might prevail to a lesser or greater degree, not with unhappy consequences. We may even sense, in his more austere or sober productions, a renunciation: of elegy, tenderness, the world of the senses. One looks to these paintings as much to read the extraordinary character of their creator, as for their beauty and interest as works of art.

Poussin’s paintings would have a profound influence on many later artists, in particular such classical and classicizing painters as Jacques Louis David, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso.

AIVAZOVSKY IVAN KONSTANTINOVICH 1817 to 1900

May 12th, 2021

AIVAZOVSKY IVAN KONSTANTINOVICH 1817 to 1900

Seascape painter

Ivan Aivazovsky was born to the family of Armenian small trader in Feodosia. He began to draw since early childhood. He studied under the guidance of local architect. In 1831 Aivazovsky was admitted to the Taurida gymnasium. In 1833–1837 he studied at St. Petersburg Academy of Art under the guidance of the landscape painter M. N. Vorobiev and the French seascape painter F. Tanneur. Tanneur taught Aivazovsky the main devices of waterscape.


In autumn 1833 Aivazovsky exposed at the academician exhibition five seascapes, which were highly appreciated in press. In 1835 Aivazovsky was awarded silver medal for the sketch The air over the sea. In 1837 he was awarded big gold medal and conferred a title of an artist for two paintings Calm in the Gulf of Finland and Kronstadt roadstead. At that time he was proposed to paint several landscapes of the Crimea, in particular the Crimean towns. This trip had a significant influence on the future of the artist. There Aivazovsky met P. S. Nakhimov, M. P. Lazarev and V. A. Kornilov; he became interested in sea battle-scene painting. In spring 1838 Aivazovsky returned to Feodosia and arranged his own studio. At that time he painted mostly from nature.

In 1840 Aivazovsky together with other pensioners of the Academy of Arts traveled to Rome in order to continue his education and to improve his technique of landscape painting. Aivazovsky studied classical art in the museums of Rome, Venice, Florence, and Napoli. He visited Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France, England, Spain and Portugal. Soon Aivazovsky became one of the most famous European painters. He participated in many exhibitions all over the world, including famous exhibitions of his works in Paris in 1843. Aivazovsky’s romantic seascapes Storm, Chaos, Neapolitan night brought fame to him. He was the first foreign painter who was awarded the Legion of Honor; exhibition of Aivazovsky’s paintings in the Louvre produced big impression on the French. The painting Chaos (in non-typical for him mystical genre) was bought by Vatican; Pope Gregory XVI awarded the gold medal to Aivazovsky for this painting.

In 1844 Aivazovsky returned to the homeland as a master of standing reputation, academician of the Rome, Paris and Amsterdam Academy of Arts.

In 1845 Aivazovsky became an academician, in 1847 — professor, in 1887 — honored member of the Academy of Arts. He worked as a painter under the Head Naval Staff. Aivazovsky as a member of the expedition of the navigator and geographer F. P. Litke visited Turkey, Greece, and Asia Minor. Aivazovsky also visited the Caucus, Egypt, Nice, and Florence; at the end of life he traveled even to America (1898).

Aivazovsky’s painting of 1840s–1850s was characterized by the influence of romantic traditions of K. P. Bryullov. Aivazovsky like Bryullov tried to create grandiose colorful paintings, which could glorify the Russian art. Bryullov’s and Aivazovsky’s manners of painting were characterized by brilliant painting skills, virtuosic technique, and quickness of execution.

Besides landscapes Aivazovsky painted a lot of historic battle-scene paintings about victorious battles of the Russian fleet. His painting Chesmensky battle (1848) was dedicated to the famous sea battle in 1770.

Aivazovsky was the last representative of the romanticism in the Russian art. His romantic paintings of the second half of 1840s — 1850s such as Storm on the Black Sea (1845), Monastery of St. George (1846), Entrance into Sevastopol Harbour (1851) were painted in epic heroic style.

There were also romantic features in the painting The tenth wave (1850). Aivazovsky succeeded in depicting power, greatness and beautifulness of the wave. Despite dramatic nature of the painting, it did not made gloomy impression; the painting was full of light and air, with optimistic sunbeams. The work was painted in bright colors with different tints of yellow, orange, rose, violet for sky and tints of green, blue, purple for water.

In 1865 Aivazovsky founded the first art school in Feodosia. In 1867 he began to work on the big cycle of paintings, which was dedicated to the revolt of Crete inhabitants because of vassalage of Turkish sultan.

In 1871 Aivazovsky was engaged in building of the archeological museum by his own design and at his own expenses. He also founded the first public library. In 1880 Aivazovsky arranged the picture gallery in Feodosia. The building of concert hall, the dacha of the editor of the newspaper Novoye Vremya (“New Time”) and famous writer of political essays A. S. Suvorin were built and designed with the participation of Aivazovsky. The sea commercial port and railway were also built by the projects of the artist.

Aivazovsky was the first who began to organize exhibitions in province towns, before the organization of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (TPKhV). More than 120 exhibitions were held during the life of the artist not only in Russia, but also abroad. Several personal exhibitions were held in France in 1857, 1879, 1887, 1890.

Later bright color gamma of Aivazovsky’s paintings changed to the tonal unity. In latest works of the artist such as Black Sea(1881) he used fine gradations of treatment of light and shade in order to depict vast expanses of sea, movement of water and light. At the end of life Aivazovsky painted a lot of works in grey color gamma.

In 1898 Aivazovsky painted the picture Among the waves, which became summit of glory of the artist.

Ivan Aivazovsky died in Feodosia.

Konstantinos Volanakis 1837 to 1907

February 8th, 2021

Konstantinos Volanakis 1837 to 1907

Konstantinos Volanakis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Βολανάκης; 1837, Heraklion - 29 June 1907, Piraeus) was a Greek painter who became known as the "father of Greek seascape painting".

His parents came from a small village near Rethymno. Later, they moved again for business reasons, and he completed his basic education on Syros in 1856. Afterward, urged on by his brothers, he went to Trieste and became an accountant for a family of Greek merchants who were related to his family by marriage. While there, he made sketches of ships and harbors in his account books. Rather than dismiss him, the family recognized his artistic talent, and made arrangements for him to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, under Karl von Piloty, joining a group of Greek students that included Nikolaos Gyzis, Georgios Jakobides, Nikiphoros Lytras and Polychronis Lembesis. His instructors discouraged any sort of landscape painting, because it was "in decline", so he concentrated on portraits.

His break came in 1869, three years after the Battle of Lissa, when Emperor Franz Joseph held a drawing competition to memorialize the event. Volanakis won the contest, receiving 1000 gold Florins and free travel cruises with the Austrian navy for three years. He took full advantage of this, producing numerous canvases and sketches. In 1883, despite warnings from Gyzis that it would ruin his career, he returned to Greece and settled in Piraeus, where his family had a pottery factory, citing pressure from his wife, whose health was suffering from the cold winters in Germany.

From then until 1903, he was a teacher at the Athens School of Fine Arts, where one of his best-known students was Michalis Oikonomou. He also operated his own private school. Another of his pupils was Sophia Laskaridou In 1889, he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of the Redeemer. He was, however, very poor in his later years, due to his very large family and declining interest in his art. In an effort to increase his income, he reversed the usual method of painting first, then framing, by working with a group of framers who would make luxurious carved frames first, then creating paintings to fit them.

He died from complications related to a major hernia. His funeral was on an important election day, so very few people attended. Most of his works are in private collections.

Edward Mitchell Bannister 1828 to 1901

February 8th, 2021

Edward Mitchell Bannister  1828 to 1901

Bannister created a sensation when one of his paintings won first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. He was also a respected and knowledgeable art critic.

Paintings by African Americans from the collection of the National Museum of American Art: A Book of Postcards (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art in cooperation with Pomegranate Artbooks, 1991)

“All that I would do I cannot—that is, all I could say in art —simply from lack of training, but with God’s help I hope to deliver the message he entrusted to me.” George W. Whitaker, ​“Reminiscences of Providence Artists,” Providence Magazine, The Board of Trade Journal (Feb. 1914): 139.


Edward Mitchell Bannister’s determination to become a successful artist was largely fueled by an inflammatory article he read in the New York Herald in 1867, that stated ​“the Negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it.” Ironically, less than a decade later, in 1876, Bannister was the first African-American artist to receive a national award.

Bannister was born in November 1828 in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. His father was a native of Barbados, West Indies. The racial identity of Bannister’s mother, Hannah Alexander Bannister, who lived in New Brunswick and whom Bannister credited with fostering his earliest artistic interests, is not known. Bannister’s father apparently died early, and after the death of his mother in 1844 he lived with a white family in New Brunswick. Bannister left his foster home after several years and took a job at sea, as was customary for many young men from St. Andrews.

In 1848 Bannister moved to Boston where he held a variety of menial jobs before he became a barber and eventually learned to paint. Bannister painted in the Boston Studio Building, and also enrolled in several evening classes at Lowell Institute with the noted sculptor-anatomist Dr. William Rimmer. Only a few of Bannister’s paintings from the 1850s and 1860s have survived, preventing a stylistic assessment of his early period in Boston. While Bannister lived in Boston he must have seen and been influenced by the Barbizon School-inspired paintings of William Morris Hunt who had studied in Europe and held numerous public exhibitions in Boston during the 1860s. American landscape painters were increasingly aware of the simple rustic motifs and pictorial poetry of French Barbizon paintings by Jean-Baptiste Corot, Jean-François Millet, and Charles-François Daubigny in the midnineteenth century.

On June 10, 1857, Bannister married Christiana Cartreaux, a Narragansett Indian who was born in North Kingston, Rhode Island. The couple had no children. Christiana worked as a wigmaker and hairdresser in Boston, and her Rhode Island background might have prompted the Bannisters to move from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island, in 1870.

Since Bannister’s artistic studies were limited, it is remarkable, indeed, that within five years after his arrival in Providence, one of Bannister’s paintings was accepted in thePhiladelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. The painting, Under the Oaks, was selected for the first-prize bronze medal. Bannister related in considerable detail that the judges became indignant and originally wanted to ​“reconsider” the award upon discovering that Bannister was African American. The white competitors, however, upheld the decision and Bannister was awarded the bronze medal. The location of the painting has not been known since the turn of the century.

Following the Centennial Exposition, Bannister’s reputation grew and numerous commissions enabled him to devote all his time to painting. He executed a large number of landscapes, most of which depict quiet, bucolic scenes rendered in somber tones and thick impasto. While Bannister’s initial influence probably stemmed from the Barbizon-inspired works of William Morris Hunt, his paintings are reflective of an artist who loved the quiet beauties of nature and represented them in a realistic manner. Bannister’s middle-period landscapes of the 1870s were generally executed in broad masses of heavy impasto with few details. They also evoke a tranquil mood that became one of the hallmarks of Bannister’s style. Later landscapes of the 1880s and 1890s employed a more gentle impasto and loosely applied broken color similar to impressionist techniques.

Many of Bannister’s landscapes are small and have darkened considerably with age. His paintings contain no social or racial overtones, and the small figures seen frequently in his landscapes appear to be white. Although the majority of Bannister’s paintings are landscapes, he also painted figure studies, religious scenes, seascapes, still lifes, and genre subjects. Bannister was attracted primarily to picturesque motifs including cottages, castles, cattle, dawns, sunsets, and small bodies of water, and he portrayed nature as a calm and submissive force in his works.

In spite of his limited training and experience, Bannister was among Providence’s leading painters during the 1870s and 1880s. He was well liked and respected by his fellow citizens. On January 9, 1901, Bannister died while attending a prayer meeting at his church. Shortly after his death, the Providence Art Club mounted a memorial exhibition of 101 of Bannister’s paintings owned by Providence collectors. Bannister’s grave in North Burial Ground, Providence, is marked by a rough granite boulder ten feet high bearing a carving of a palette with the artist’s name and a pipe. A bronze plaque also adorns the monument and is inscribed with a poem, which reads in part, ​“This pure and lofty soul … who, while he portrayed nature, walked with God.” Edward M. Bannister was the only major African-American artist of the late nineteenth century who developed his talents without the benefit of European exposure.

Regenia A. Perry Free within Ourselves: African-American Artists in the Collection of the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art in Association with Pomegranate Art Books, 1992)

Edward Mitchell Bannister was one of the few African American painters of the nineteenth century to win significant recognition. He grew up on the coast in New Brunswick, and spent several months working as a ship’s cook. He lost both his parents when he was young and moved to Boston, where he took sculpture classes and learned photography. Bannister faced an uphill battle to become a professional artist. In 1867 the New York Herald stated that ​“the Negro seems to have an appreciation of art” but went on to assert that blacks were ​“manifestly unable to produce it” (Driskell, Two Centuries of Black American Art, 1976). Bannister decided to prove the article wrong and in 1876 achieved his goal when one of his paintings won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. When he arrived to claim his prize, however, he was refused entry because he was black. Bannister was a founder and member of the Providence Art Club and was an original board member of the Rhode Island School of Design.


Gustave Caillebotte 1848 to 1894

January 23rd, 2021

Gustave Caillebotte 1848 to 1894

Gustave Caillebotte was one of the leading figures of the French Impressionist movement, although he painted more realistically than other impressionists. He was born in 1848 into a wealthy upper-class Parisian family. Despite being a trained engineer, he took an interest in painting and began studying under painter Léon Bonnat and later entered the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1874, he befriended Impressionist painters Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and gradually became acquainted with art outside of academic circles.

Caillebotte’s earliest masterpiece The Floor Scrapers (1875) is one of the first paintings depicting the urban working class. Although the painting demonstrated Caillebotte’s academic training, it was rejected by the Salon in 1875. The Jury, who was likely shocked by the crude realism of the painting, criticized the artist’s ‘vulgar’ choice of subject. The rejection propelled Caillebotte to join the Impressionists, and he participated in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, where he presented several paintings including The Floor Scrapers.

Throughout the 1870s, Caillebotte focused on depicting the modern urban environment of Paris, a result of the sweeping renovation commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III and directed by his prefect of Seine, Baron Georges Haussmann. Large canvases like Le Pont de l’Europe (The Europe Bridge) (1876) and Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) shows the urban landscape of Paris populated by the bourgeois and the working class. Although these were typical Impressionist subjects, Caillebotte’s meticulous and crisp brushwork stood in contrast to the free and quick brushwork of colleagues like Monet and Renoir. Rather than creating the impression of a dynamic and fleeting moment, Caillebotte’s paintings capture a frozen time, resembling photographic snapshots.

Caillebotte’s work was characterized by his bold use of perspective: he experimented with expanded perspectives, sharp angles, and tilted vantage points. The artist was influenced by the advent of photography, sometimes using photographs as source material and imitating photographic effects such as cropping and zooming in. He also showed an interest in Japanese prints, which influenced his compositions and led him to experiment with flattened forms. These experiments can be seen in paintings such as View of Roofs (Snow Effect) (1878) and The Boulevard Viewed From Above (1880).

In the latter half of his career, Caillebotte’s brushwork became freer and looser, resembling the style of his Impressionist colleagues. He painted a variety of subjects, rural landscapes, boating scenes, still-lifes, and portraits. Many of his later works were scenes surrounding his property at Petit-Gennervillers, on the banks of the Seine near Argenteuil. Notable examples include Sailing boats at Argenteuil (1888) and The Plain of Gennevilliers from the Hills of Argenteuil (1888).

In addition to being an active member of the Impressionist group, Caillebotte was also an important patron and benefactor of the movement. After receiving his inheritance, he helped to fund, organize, and promote Impressionist exhibitions as well as purchased the works of Monet, Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, and others. Caillebotte died of pulmonary congestion in 1894 at the age of 45.

Despite his pivotal role in the Impressionist movement, Caillebotte is the least known of the French Impressionists. Being of financial means, Caillebotte never depended on his art for income, overtime he exhibited less frequently, and he also had no reason to sell his paintings. Because of this, most of his works remained out of the public eye and rarely entered public collections. In his will, Caillebotte bestowed his collection to the French state, and the collection became a cornerstone of Impressionist art in French national museums. In part, it was his generous contribution and role as an art benefactor that overshadowed his artistic accomplishments. Around seventy years after his death, art historians began reassessing Caillebotte’s oeuvre, studying and acknowledging his contribution to Impressionism.


Theodore Robinson 1852 to 1896

January 23rd, 2021

Theodore Robinson 1852 to 1896

TRAINING AND EARLY CAREER

Theodore Robinson was born in Irasburg, Vermont. His family moved to Wisconsin, and Robinson briefly studied art in Chicago. In 1874 he journeyed to New York City to attended classes at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League.

In 1876 he traveled to Paris to study under Carolus-Duran and, at the École des Beaux-Arts, with Jean-Léon Gérome.He exhibited his first paintings in Paris in 1877, and spent the summer of that year at Grez-sur-Loing. After trips to Venice and Bologna, he returned to the United States in 1879 for several years.

During this time Robinson painted in a realist manner, loosely brushed but not yet impressionistic, often depicting people engaged in quiet domestic or agrarian pursuits.


ROBINSON AT GIVERNY

In 1884 Robinson returned to France where he would live for the next eight years, visiting America only occasionally. Robinson gravitated to Giverny, which had become a center of French impressionist art under the influence of Claude Monet.

Historians are unclear when Robinson met Monet, but by 1888 their friendship was enough for Robinson to move in next door to the famous impressionist. Robinson's art shifted to a more traditional impressionistic manner during this time, likely due to Monet's influence. While a number of American artists had gathered at Giverny, none were as close to Monet as Robinson. Monet offered advice to Robinson, and he likewise solicited Robinson for opinions on Monet's own works in progress.

At Giverny, Robinson painted what art historians regard as some of his finest works. These depicted the surrounding countryside in different weather, in the plein air tradition, sometimes with women shown in leisurely poses. An example of his mature work during this period is La Débacle (1892) in the collection of Scripps College, Claremont California.


RETURN TO AMERICA

Robinson left France and Monet for the final time in 1892, although he meant to return. Back in America, Robinson obtained a teaching post with the Brooklyn Art School and conducted summer classes in Napanoch, New York, near the Catskill Mountains, where he painted several canal scenes. He also taught at Evelyn College in Princeton, New Jersey, and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

With New York City as his base, Robinson circulated among a growing number of American artists pursuing Impressionism. He was particularly close to John Henry Twachtman and Julian Alden Weir, and spent time at the nearby Cos Cob Art Colony in Connecticut. There he painted a series of boat scenes at the Riverside Yacht Club which have come to be regarded as among his finest works.


FINAL YEARS

While his reputation as an important American impressionist was growing, Robinson still needed to teach to support himself. He also harbored doubts about the quality of his work.

In 1895 enjoyed a productive period in Vermont, and in February 1896 he wrote to Monet about returning to Giverney, but in April he died of an acute asthma attack in New York City. He was 43 years old.



Claude Monet 1840 to 1926

December 29th, 2019

Claude Monet  1840 to 1926

Claude Monet was a key figure in the Impressionist movement that transformed French painting in the second half of the nineteenth century. Throughout his long career, Monet consistently depicted the landscape and leisure activities of Paris and its environs as well as the Normandy coast. He led the way to twentieth-century modernism by developing a unique style that strove to capture on canvas the very act of perceiving nature.

Raised in Normandy, Monet was introduced to plein-air painting by Eugène Boudin, known for paintings of the resorts that dotted the region’s Channel coast, and subsequently studied informally with the Dutch landscapist Johan Jongkind (1819–1891). When he was twenty-two, Monet joined the Paris studio of the academic history painter Charles Gleyre. His classmates included Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and other future Impressionists. Monet enjoyed limited success in these early years, with a handful of landscapes, seascapes, and portraits accepted for exhibition at the annual Salons of the 1860s. Yet rejection of many of his more ambitious works, notably the large-scale Women in the Garden (1866; Musée d’Orsay, Paris), inspired Monet to join with Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Renoir, and others in establishing an independent exhibition in 1874. Impression, Sunrise (1873; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris), one of Monet’s contributions to this exhibition, drew particular scorn for the unfinished appearance of its loose handling and indistinct forms. Yet the artists saw the criticism as a badge of honor, and subsequently called themselves “Impressionists” after the painting’s title, even though the name was first used derisively.

Monet found subjects in his immediate surroundings, as he painted the people and places he knew best. His first wife, Camille, and his second wife, Alice, frequently served as models. His landscapes chart journeys around the north of France and to London, where he escaped the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Returning to France, Monet moved first to Argenteuil, just fifteen minutes from Paris by train, then west to Vétheuil, Poissy, and finally to the more rural Giverny in 1883. His homes and gardens became gathering places for friends, including Manet and Renoir, who often painted alongside their host. Yet Monet’s paintings cast a surprisingly objective eye on these scenes, which include few signs of domestic relations.

Following in the path of the Barbizon painters, who had set up their easels in the Fontainebleau Forest earlier in the century, Monet adopted and extended their commitment to close observation and naturalistic representation. Whereas the Barbizon artists painted only preliminary sketches en plein air, Monet often worked directly on large-scale canvases out of doors, then reworked and completed them in his studio. His quest to capture nature more accurately also prompted him to reject European conventions governing composition, color, and perspective. Influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Monet’s asymmetrical arrangements of forms emphasized their two-dimensional surfaces by eliminating linear perspective and abandoning three-dimensional modeling. He brought a vibrant brightness to his works by using unmediated colors, adding a range of tones to his shadows, and preparing canvases with light-colored primers instead of the dark grounds used in traditional landscape paintings.

Monet’s interest in recording perceptual processes reached its apogee in his series paintings (e.g., Haystacks [1891], Poplars [1892], Rouen Cathedral [1894]) that dominate his output in the 1890s. In each series, Monet painted the same site again and again, recording how its appearance changed with the time of day. Light and shadow seem as substantial as stone in his Rouen Cathedral series. Monet reports that he rented a room across from the cathedral’s western facade in 1892 and 1893, where he kept multiple canvases in process and moved from one to the next as the light shifted. In 1894, he reworked the canvases to their finished states.

In the 1910s and 1920s, Monet focused almost exclusively on the picturesque water-lily pond that he created on his property at Giverny. His final series depicts the pond in a set of mural-sized canvases where abstract renderings of plant and water emerge from broad strokes of color and intricately built-up textures. Shortly after Monet died (a wealthy and well-respected man at the age of eighty-six), the French government installed his last water-lily series in specially constructed galleries at the Orangerie in Paris, where they remain today.

Vincent van Gogh 1853 to 1890

December 29th, 2019

Vincent van Gogh 1853 to 1890

Vincent van Gogh, the eldest son of a Dutch Reformed minister and a bookseller’s daughter, pursued various vocations, including that of an art dealer and clergyman, before deciding to become an artist at the age of twenty-seven. Over the course of his decade-long career (1880–90), he produced nearly 900 paintings and more than 1,100 works on paper. Ironically, in 1890, he modestly assessed his artistic legacy as of “very secondary” importance.

Largely self-taught, Van Gogh gained his footing as an artist by zealously copying prints and studying nineteenth-century drawing manuals and lesson books, such as Charles Bargue’s Exercises au fusain and cours de dessin. He felt that it was necessary to master black and white before working with color, and first concentrated on learning the rudiments of figure drawing and rendering landscapes in correct perspective. In 1882, he moved from his parents’ home in Etten to the Hague, where he received some formal instruction from his cousin, Anton Mauve, a leading Hague School artist. That same year, he executed his first independent works in watercolor and ventured into oil painting; he also enjoyed his first earnings as an artist: his uncle, the art dealer Cornelis Marinus van Gogh, commissioned two sets of drawings of Hague townscapes for which Van Gogh chose to depict such everyday sites as views of the railway station, gasworks, and nursery gardens.

Van Gogh’s admiration for the Barbizon artists, in particular Jean-François Millet, influenced his decision to paint rural life. In the winter of 1884–85, while living with his parents in Nuenen, he painted more than forty studies of peasant heads, which culminated in his first multi-figured, large-scale composition (The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); in this gritty portrayal of a peasant family at mealtime, Van Gogh wrote that he sought to express that they “have tilled the earth themselves with the same hands they are putting in the dish.” Its dark palette and coarse application of paint typify works from the artist’s Nuenen period.

Interested in honing his skills as a figure painter, Van Gogh left the Netherlands in late 1885 to study at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium. Three months later, he departed for Paris, where he lived with his brother Theo, an art dealer with the firm of Boussod, Valadon et Cie, and for a time attended classes at Fernand Cormon’s studio. Van Gogh’s style underwent a major transformation during his two-year stay in Paris (February 1886–February 1888). There he saw the work of the Impressionists first-hand and also witnessed the latest innovations by the Neo-Impressionists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. In response, Van Gogh lightened his palette and experimented with the broken brushstrokes of the Impressionists as well as the pointillist touch of the Neo-Impressionists, as evidenced in the handling of his Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, which was painted in the summer of 1887 on the reverse of an earlier peasant study. In Paris, he executed more than twenty self-portraits that reflect his ongoing exploration of complementary color contrasts and a bolder style.

In February 1888, Van Gogh departed Paris for the south of France, hoping to establish a community of artists in Arles. Captivated by the clarity of light and the vibrant colors of the Provençal spring, Van Gogh produced fourteen paintings of orchards in less than a month, painting outdoors and varying his style and technique. The composition and calligraphic handling of The Flowering Orchard suggest the influence of Japanese prints, which Van Gogh collected. The artist’s debt to ukiyo-e prints is also apparent in the reed pen drawings he made in Arles, distinguished by their great verve and linear invention. In August, he painted the still lifes Oleanders and Shoes; each work resonates with the artist’s personal symbolism. For Van Gogh, oleanders were joyous and life-affirming (much like the sunflower); he reinforced their significance with the compositional prominence accorded to Émile Zola’s 1884 novel La joie de vivre. The still life of unlaced shoes, which Van Gogh had apparently hung in Paul Gauguin‘s “yellow room” at Arles, suggested, to Gauguin, the artist himself—he saw them as emblematic of Van Gogh’s itinerant existence.

Gauguin joined Van Gogh in Arles in October and abruptly departed in late December 1888, a move precipitated by Van Gogh’s breakdown, during which he cut off part of his left ear with a razor. Upon his return from the hospital in January, he resumed working on a portrait of the wife of the postmaster Joseph Roulin; although he painted all the members of the Roulin family, Van Gogh produced five versions of Madame Roulin as La Berceuse, shown holding the rope that rocks her newborn daughter’s cradle. He envisioned her portrait as the central panel of a triptych, flanked by paintings of sunflowers. For Van Gogh, her image transcended portraiture, symbolically resonating as a modern Madonna; of its palette, which ranges from ocher to vermilion and malachite, Van Gogh expressed his desire that it “sing a lullaby with color,” underscoring the expressive role of color in his art.

Fearing another breakdown, Van Gogh voluntarily entered the asylum at nearby Saint-Rémy in May 1889, where, over the course of the next year, he painted some 150 canvases. His initial confinement to the grounds of the hospital is reflected in his imagery, from his depictions of its corridors to the irises and lilacs of its walled garden, visible from the window of the spare room he was allotted to use as a studio. Venturing beyond the grounds of the hospital, he painted the surrounding countryside, devoting series to its olive groves and cypresses, which he saw as characteristic of Provence. In June, he produced two paintings of cypresses, rendered in thick, impastoed layers of paint (Cypresses, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo), likening the form of a cypress to an Egyptian obelisk in a letter to his brother Theo. These evocative trees figure prominently in a landscape, produced the same month. Van Gogh regarded this work, with its sun-drenched wheat field undulating in the wind, as one of his “best” summer canvases. At Saint-Rémy, he also painted copies of works by such artists as Delacroix, Rembrandt, and Millet, using black-and-white photographs and prints. In fall and winter 1889–90, he executed twenty-one copies after Millet; he described his copies as “interpretations” or “translations,” comparing his role as an artist to that of a musician playing music written by another composer. During his last week at the asylum, he extended his repertoire of still life by painting four bouquets of Irises and Roses as a final series comparable to the sunflower decoration he made earlier in Arles.

After a year at Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh left, in May 1890, to settle in Auvers-sur-Oise, where he was near his brother Theo in Paris and under the care of Dr. Paul Gachet, a homeopathic physician and amateur painter. In just over two months, Van Gogh averaged a painting a day; however, on July 27, 1890, he shot himself in the chest in a wheat field; he died two days later. His artistic legacy is preserved in the paintings and drawings he left behind, as well as in his voluminous correspondence, primarily with Theo, which lays bare his working methods and artistic intentions and serves as a reminder of his brother’s pivotal role as a mainstay of support throughout his career.

By the time of his death in 1890, Van Gogh’s work had begun to attract critical attention. His paintings were featured at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris between 1888 and 1890 and with Les XX in Brussels in 1890. As Gauguin wrote to him, his recent works, on view at the Indépendants in Paris, were regarded by many artists as “the most remarkable” in the show; and one of his paintings sold from the 1890 exhibition in Brussels. In January 1890, the critic Albert Aurier published the first full-length article on Van Gogh, aligning his art with the nascent Symbolist movement and highlighting the originality and intensity of his artistic vision. By the outbreak of World War I, with the discovery of his genius by the Fauves and German Expressionists, Vincent van Gogh had already come to be regarded as a vanguard figure in the history of modern art.

Edouard Manet 1832 to 1883

December 29th, 2019

Edouard Manet 1832 to 1883

Édouard Manet—the eldest son of an official in the French Ministry of Justice—had early hopes of becoming a naval officer. After twice failing the training school’s entrance exam, the teenager instead went to Paris to pursue a career in the arts. There he studied with Thomas Couture and diligently copied works at the Musée du Louvre.

The biennial (and later, annual) Paris Salons were considered the most expedient way for an artist to make himself known to the public, and Manet submitted paintings to Salon juries throughout his career. In 1861, at the age of twenty-nine, he was awarded the Salon’s honorable mention for The Spanish Singer. His hopes for continued early success were dashed at the subsequent Salon of 1863. That year, more than half of the submissions to the official Salon were rejected, including Manet’s own. To staunch public outcry, Napoleon III ordered the formation of a Salon des Refusés. Manet exhibited three paintings, including the scandalous Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). The public professed to be shocked by the subject of a nude woman blithely enjoying a picnic in the company of two fully clothed men, while a second, scantily clad woman bathes in a stream. While critics recognized that this scene of modern-day debauchery was, to a certain degree, an updated version of Titian’s Concert champêtre (a work then thought to be by Giorgione; Musée du Louvre, Paris), they ruthlessly attacked Manet’s painting style.

Manet’s submissions to the Salon of 1864 were again condemned by critics, who found errors of perspective in his Incident at a Bullfight (fragments of which are now at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Frick Collection, New York) and a lack of decorum in The Dead Christ with Angels. The latter picture, in particular, was denounced for its realistic touches, such as the cadaverous body of Christ and the seemingly human angels. It was argued that the painting lacked any sense of spirituality; the figure of the battered Christ was said to more closely resemble the body of a dead coal miner than the son of God.

Despite his efforts, Manet’s modern scenes remained a target of criticism throughout the decade. Olympia (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) was considered the most shocking work in the 1865 Salon. Its debt to Titian‘s Venus of Urbino (Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence) only accentuated the wide gulf of public opinion vis-à-vis a reclining nude woman as subject matter: a goddess was perfectly acceptable, but a contemporary prostitute awaiting her client was not.

Dejected by the critical response to his art, Manet traveled to Spain in August 1865. His interest in Spanish culture already had been apparent for years, with paintings such as The Spanish Singer, Mademoiselle V…, and Young Man in the Costume of a Majo. He garbed his studio models in Andalusian costumes and outfitted them with Spanish props, often in fanciful ways. For example, the left-handed model of The Spanish Singer presses on nonexistent chords of a guitar strung for a right-handed player. A stereotypical Spanish still life rests next to his espadrille-clad feet. Similarly, Victorine Meurent, the female model of Mademoiselle V…, is shown wearing men’s clothes, as well as shoes that are impractical for a bullfighting ring. Stylistically, many of these paintings reveal a clear debt to the art of Velázquez and Goya.

After being rejected from the Salon of 1866 and learning that he was to be excluded from the Exposition Universelle of 1867 as well, Manet grew anxious to find an audience for his art. He used his inheritance to construct a pavilion across the street from one of the entrances to the Exposition Universelle. Inside were fifty of his pictures, including several large works now in the Metropolitan’s collection: A Matador and Young Lady in 1866 (Woman with a Parrot). Earlier that year, the artist’s first champion, Émile Zola, had published a lengthy and glowing article about Manet. “The future is his,” Zola proclaimed. He insisted that the much-maligned Déjeuner sur l’herbe (which was included in Manet’s 1867 exhibition) would one day hang in the Louvre. Zola proved prophetic; it took almost seventy years, but the painting entered the collection of the Louvre (now Musée d’Orsay) in 1934.

By all accounts, the sociable Manet was on good terms with many of his peers. He had met Edgar Degas in 1859, when they both copied paintings at the Louvre; he befriended Berthe Morisot, who eventually married his younger brother; and he spoke with countless others during the now-famous evening gatherings at the Café Guerbois. His first encounter with Claude Monet was strained due to Manet’s belief that Monet was copying his style in “despicable pastiches,” then signing them with a signature too close to Manet’s own. After the confusion was cleared, the men became close, as is obvious in a work such as The Monet Family. Boating, also painted during the summer of 1874, records a moment when Manet, Monet, and Auguste Renoir painted together at Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of Paris. That spring, Degas, Monet, and Morisot were among the artists who exhibited together as the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (an event more commonly referred to as the first Impressionist exhibition). Manet declined invitations to participate in this or any of the seven subsequent exhibitions organized by the group. They nonetheless influenced one another and shared an interest in modern subjects, plein-air painting, bright colors (often purchased ready-made, in tube form), and visually arresting cropping (inspired by both photographs and Japanese prints).

When Manet’s health began to deteriorate toward the end of the decade, he was advised to take a cure at Bellevue. In the summer of 1880, he rented a villa in that Parisian suburb, and he painted his last portrait of his wife, the Dutch-born pianist Suzanne Leenhoff, in the villa’s garden. The following spring, he won a second-class medal at the Salon for his portrait of Henri Rochefort (Kunsthalle, Hamburg), and in the fall he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He continued to work until his premature death in April 1883.

Within a year, a posthumous exhibition of 179 of his paintings, pastels, drawings, and prints was organized at the École des Beaux-Arts, the officially sanctioned art school. At least one critic commented on the irony of the location for an artist whose works had been ridiculed and refused by so many Salon juries. It seems unlikely that Manet would have minded. He himself wrote that he had “no intention of overthrowing old methods of painting, or creating new ones.” The critic Louis Gonse viewed things slightly differently. “Manet is a point of departure, the symptomatic precursor of a revolution,” he wrote. To this day, Manet is still considered by many art historians to be the father of modernism.

My Digital Restoration Project. What is it?

December 29th, 2019

My Digital Restoration Project. What is it?

I want to make a comment on the words "Digital Restoration Project', we know there are many people who uploads vintage art by many artists. So in a category many of the same art will appear. What makes the art work different? Well, when art work is photographed, depending on the quality of the digital art, it goes though several stages, these stages can be actual digital repairs to the work, in many cases the photo images have pixels from the flash or scan that are not part of the art. So during my restoration effort, which may take from few hrs to several months, I repair the photographic imperfections and perform repairs on any noticeable surface anomalies on the actual artwork as if I had the actual art present. This effort helps create a better digital print on canvas for everyone to enjoy.

 

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