10 de julho de 2017

James Tissot - Holyday

James Tissot - Holyday
If there was a painter who had the ability of portraying fashion, James Tissot (1836-1902) is by far my favourite of all times. Fashion and the subtil elegance of his beautiful contemporary women, is shown in various scenes of everyday life, choosing as background random scenarios as the streets of Paris around the Opera or just a relaxed picnic in the park among friends.
James Tissot was born in France - Nantes, and being the son of a drapery merchant involved on the fashion industry it is believed that all the fashionable environment where he lived may have been surely an influence on his painting style, as he depicted women’s clothing in fine detail giving an outstanding contribution to fashion history.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit in London an incredible Impressionist exhibition where fashionable 19 century dresses where flanked by Tissot’s paintings showing live some of the dresses which were portrayed by his models and depicted on his paintings.

On his painting “Holiday” the scenario is framed by yellowing leaves of a chestnut tree besides a pond where a group of well dressed friends enjoy a rich picnic. The young woman, adorned probably with one of the latest fashionable stripped dresses, captivates our attention by her happy pose, irradiating beauty, giving us a sense of relaxed athmosfere spent with joyful friends which certainly play an important role on her life.

The canvas, painted in the backyard of Tissot’s London house sparkles with colour and exquisite detail. In his depiction of daily life in an outdoor setting, Tissot shares the realism of French artists as Manet (Déjeuner sur L’herbe) but his style is also akin to the Impressionists, contemporary of Tissot, having nevertheless differences regarding the elegant society subjects and the crystal-clear visions of portrayed details.

18 de junho de 2017

Francisco Goya - The Black Paintings

Francisco Goya - 1746-1828
Everytime I visit Prado Museum in Madrid I tend to review the inexplicable Francisco Goya’s (1746-1828) black paintings drawn on the walls of “Quinta del Sordo”, where the painter lived between 1819-23. “Quinta del Sordo” was a country villa with farmland which stood on the Manzanares River banks on the outskirts of Madrid. Goya felt seriously hill after moving to this property and while recovering he decorated the walls of the main two rooms, on the ground and first floors, with mural paintings. Under these paintings, X-Rays showed that there were beautiful landscapes with bright colours and gentle countryside perspectives giving harmony and tranquility to the walls decoration. But over those peaceful paintings Goya felt the need to full all walls with black and terrifying paintings which inevitably shocks everyone who stands for a while looking at such a dark art made with such strong anger and deep outbreak nonconforming feelings. The compositions are enigmatic but it’s commonly accept among art critics that undoubtly evil, terror, ignorance and death surely underlyed on Goya’s motivations. 
Goya - Saturn Devouring his Son - 1819-23
One of the paintings that puzzles me the most is the terrifying “Saturn devouring his Son”. The strong image, which inevitably creates us a feeling of strangeness is empowered by the exaggeration of gesture and attitude, making us wonder how can a father project over his son such a demoniac anger reaching to the point of wanting to kill him in the most desperate way, by ripping him apart, peace by peace, so that nothing could be left to tell about his existence. 

The image of a father killing his son, even if we are looking at Titans, has the power to makes us feel terribly anguish and perplex raising immediate questions to find answers for such an unjustifiable act. What could possibly have lead to such a desperate situation? Various interpretations have been forward but two of them have been credited as the most viable. On one hand critics say that the painting is related with Goya’s inner conflicts between youth and old age and the disappearance of  his main faculties due to aging specially those related with sexual abilities and impotence.

Goya expressed himself on those walls with total freedom letting reveal only to himself a tormented and a disturbed character which certainly was not meant to be exposed to the public. 
Subsequent to Goy’s death, these surrealistic paintings were removed from the villa’s walls and transferred to canvas. After being restored, on the 19 century, they were publicly exihibited at Prado Museum perplexing visitors since then and having a major effect, as a starting point, for several later art movements like Surrealism and Expressionism.

6 de junho de 2017

The Art of Simulation

René Magritte
Being away for quite a long time, due to professional reasons, gave me a nostalgic feeling of wanting so much to come back to this magic place and restart exactly where I’ve stopped. Here I found a place where creativity it’s possible without feeling strained by prejudice or society canons. Freedom allows me to push forward my imagination assuming different characters, dressing or undressing a variety of clothes, using as many masks as I please giving me the sense of performing a role as if I was an actor on my own play. And then, wings come attached with that freedom and flying was never so easy. The sense of being an actor on my own play doesn’t make me feel like those Beckett characters where nothing happens in spite of all efforts. Being here gives me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of subjects which I’m interested on and where nowhere else I ‘d have the proper incentive to look upon so throughly. And this is also valid for those Arnold Geulincx quotes, which Beckett rephrased on “Murphy”, saying that “where you are worth nothing, there you will wish for nothing”. Actually where I am now worth the world to me, for a huge number of reasons but mainly because here I can be absolutely free, one day being a characters in one of those roles created by Beckett, being Estragon, Kafka cockroach, get inside a Buñuel social caos, being the Virgin Mary, a cat or Wonder Woman. Being here means you can be whatever you want to be. And that means light up your day with an absolutely bright light, making you feel as free as a bird with huge wings and no barriers to express what you feel like in a variety of ways.

The "allegory of simulation" was expressed by several painters and I found quite a few works of art which highlighted the topic. Surrealism played a major role being Magritte one of the painters which made several approaches to the theme suggesting that every time we leave our house we tend to choose a different mask according to our mood. Is this true to everyone? 

Lourenzo Pitti "The Allegory of Simulation"
Looking further back in time, other painters also expressed the art of social theatre behind masks. Lorenzo Lippi (1606-65) was one of those giving us in his painting "The Allegory of Simulation" the ability to speculate about faces, gestures, lack of a smile, sharp looks, masks and fruits placed in a certain manner  wondering what they represent. Is the girl going to put the mask on or is she just taking it out? Her impassive expression surely doesn’t give us an idea of what she is thinking. Although we may speculate we can't  foreseen  on her expression what in the world is she really thinking. Is she part of a play? Is she offering a fruit or is just about to eat it herself?

This kind of contradictory questions do not help us to understand the subtitles of the mystery. Actually they only serve to emphasise our inability to see what's behind a motionless and inexpressive face. Strangelly, if we look at the mask somehow it looks to have life, colour, and a talking expression which makes us wonder if the mask isn’t the only opportunity that the girl has, maybe acting through some theatre character, to experience drama, love, fear, laughter, dead or desire. Subjective impressions most of the times led to nowhere. Impressions tend to be speculative and dishonest conclusions may arise pretending we understand something which actually we do not.

Emotions are well vivid in a play and surely actors may stand out in their performances if they are good enough on convincing the public. CRV©

24 de março de 2014

Rembrandt - "The Soap Bubble Boy" is back Home

Rembrandt - "Soap Bubble Boy"
It reminded me some of the works of Jean-Baptiste Chardin who later on the 18th century also used the children amusement with Soap Bubbles to enlight his paintings.

But this Rembrandt's special Soap Bubble Boy has a stolen history associated.
In 1999, this painting was stolen from a museum nearby the city of Draguignan, in France, probably targeted by art connoisseurs, so the police thought. At the time police believed that the thieves escaped through a back door in the museum during the town's Bastille Day celebrations and since then the picture was never seen again.
15 years later, last week, the picture was recovered  in Nice, while it was being traded by two art dealers, on the black market, who later were arrested. 
Estimated on 3.9 million euros it seems that the burglars were expecting an huge profit with the selling of unique pieces which involves millions annually.

19 de janeiro de 2014

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - Publications on Line

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, one of the largest and most important museums in the world, has released part of its publications on line.

I'm talking about 474 books, all of them available for free download here, published between 1964 and 2013 and comprise the whole period of art history - emphasizing the distinctive and influential artistic features, classifying the different forms of culture and establishing comprehensive timelines for better frame famous artists.

In addition to several studies, the collection also includes biographical studies of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Claude Monet, Rosa Bonheur, Georgia O'Keeffe, John Singer Sargent and Utagawa Hiroshige. 

Books are available for download in PDF format or they can be read on line.
Good examples we can get from "The Age of Caravaggio" where his outstanding chiaroscuro technic is explained or from the "American Paradise" with its famous artists and paintings from an era where the continent was still being explored.

12 de janeiro de 2014

James A. Flood - Exhibition "What if?"

RMS Titanic Arriving at Chelsea Piers, 17 April 1912 

Painting #2 in James Flood Series 
'What-If ' Depicting a Successful Voyage
Would you dare to pretend that destiny would led the course of events to an happy ending?
Wouldn't it be incredible if time could be rewinded and some tragic events could be avoided just by correcting what went wrong ?

Artist James A. Flood, on a series of paintings, imagined Titanic's victorious arrival at Chelsea Piers, New York Harbor, White Star Line, Pier 59, in the morning of April 17th, 1912, as if nothing abnormal or tragic had occurred.
On these painting RMS Titanic did not sink into the Atlantic arriving indeed to New York on Tuesday, nearly a day ahead of schedule, having an exuberant reception as it was expected.

"What if?" it would have been…

These two paintings are part of the series of the exhibition‘ What If?’, created by artist James A Flood, where the artist intents to deliver a message regarding the RMS Titanic’s. 
"All the historic events around the ship hold a special place in the collective memory that would have never been achieved without the tragic demise. Over the passing decades Titanic has gradually resurfaced into a new fabric and in a poignantly timely fashion, the advent of the ship' s anniversary merging with an universal longing for something that was lost". 

Upon arrival Titanic spends the evening at anchor for Customs, and heads for berth early Wednesday morning. Here the rounded curves of living horses, the opulent glory of carriages, the classic (and since destroyed) pier architecture, and the elegant period clothing - all come together to be part of the day that "should have been"one of the happiest and most memorable in New York history.

On these paintings, celebration bursts from the docks, crowds cheering in sequence as ship maneuvers her way up the Hudson River. On the background New York's  prominent buildings, from the glorious skyline Lower Manhattan, still in there youthful beauty.

Titanic waits the ageless crowd, gathered in anticipation for the return of the giant to a world that perhaps never was. A world where beauty, symmetry, and perfection would have flourished, but the course of events lead to a tragic end.

RMS Titanic is depicted making its way to New York Harbor
White Star Line, Pier 59

6 de janeiro de 2014

Van Gogh - Sunset at Montmajour

When we think that there's no possibility, whatsoever, to find an unknown master piece from a world famous artist, sometimes the unthinkable happens.

Sunset at Montmajour, a large oil landscape of oak trees in the south of France, was painted in 1888 when Van Gogh was at the height of his powers in Arles. In 1908 was bought by a Norwegian industrialist, Christian Nicolai Mustad, but he was told that the painting was fate so it ended up forgotten in his attic until his dead.
When Mustad died, in 1970, his real estate was reunited and it was by then that speculations started around whom was the artist.

Technical expertise were made and sign of Van Gogh's signature were found as well a references to a landscape on one of Vincent's letters to Theo mentioning a similar landscape that he had painted on the previous day:

"Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill, and wheatfields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold."

The painting comes from one of artist most prolific years. The time which Van Gogh spent in Arles, on the southern of France, when he created works such as The Yellow House and The Sunflowers.
Writing in the Burlington Magazine, three Dutch experts from the Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, responsible for the studying said the work was "absolutely sensational". 
There is ample evidence of his hand, says the article, not least "the diversity of the brushstrokes and the creaminess of the paint, as well as in the rapidity and liveliness with which it was applied". 

The newly attributed painting is in the hands of a no doubt thrilled, but anonymous, owner but has been on display in AmsterdamVan Gogh Museum, since September 2013. from here

16 de dezembro de 2013

Jee Young Lee - "Stage of Mind"

We can always turn a very small and tiny place into our own majestic world, projecting our imagination and our way of looking at things into a very personal and peculiar form of art. 

Korean artist Jee Young Lee dared to express her perceptions in her very small studio in Seoul (3,6m x 4,1m x 2,4m), building different scenarios based on her life experiences, on some traditional Korean fables and on the diverse cultural heritage around the world. 

Lee's work, was recently presented through her surrealistic (and Photoshop-free) photography exhibition named “Stage of Mind” where highly dramatic, psychedelic and scenes visually intense were meticously detailed. When the sets are done the artist incorporates herself in them in various different ways and takes these stunning self-portraits which all tell a story considering her work a deep self-reflection and a means to explore her psychological identity.

Jee Young’s original work will be on display at the OPIOM Gallery in Opio France from Feb. 7 to March 7, 2014.

My Chemical Romance

Black Birds

Panic Room

3 de fevereiro de 2013

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze - Washington Crossing the Delaware

Washington Crossing the Delaware - 1851
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art - USA
Any visitor to the American Wing, in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, will not forget seeing Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-68) Washington Crossing the Delaware. More than twelve feet tall and twenty-one wide, this iconic picture is truly larger than life. 
The painting depicts Washington and his army, dramatically crossing an icy Delaware river, on the night of 25th December 1776. 


"After the defeat at Long Island, George Washington led the American army in retreat across New Jersey. Chasing behind him was the significantly larger, better trained, and better equipped British army. Reaching the Delaware River, Washington rounded up every available boat and lit fires all along the Pennsylvania shore to guide the evacuation of his army across the river to the safety of the Pennsylvania shore. Ninety percent of the Continental Army that existed at Long Island was gone from casualties and desertions. What is worse is the fact that on December 26th, the enlistments of the remaining soldiers would be up and Washington would no longer have an army to lead. 

In a desperate and bold move, Washington assembled his men and offered them a bonus if they would stay for one for month. Unfortunately, none of the soldiers stepped forward to take such an offer. Washington then started to ride away, but turned back to his soldiers and made a speech where he told them that never again would they have such a unique opportunity to serve their country. Stirred by Washington’s words, this time the soldiers stepped forward to stick it out for one more month. As a consequence, on the night of December 25, 1776 and on into the morning of December 26th, Washington led his men in boats backed across the Delaware River in order to mount an attack on the Hessian garrison in Trenton, New Jersey. 

The password that Washington picked for that night was “Victory or death.” 

Leutze uses every imaginable device to heighten the drama and elicit an emotive response in the viewer; jagged chunks of ice, whinnying horses, wounded soldiers, and a morning star speak of danger, courage, and hope. 

The heroic Washington stands noble and erect at the center of the scene. His demeanor suggests fortitude and moral purpose. He brings with him an army of Americans ready to face any hardship and battle, any foe in the name of freedom and truth. Emphasized by an unnaturally bright sky, his faces catches the upcoming sun as a premonition of the upcoming future. 

On the boat, people struggle to fit in, due to its small proportions. People depicted can be addressed to the American colonies, including a man in Scottish bonnet, a man with an African descent, facing backwards, and a man, at the back of the boat, that looks to be a Native American. 

Strangely enough, this symbol of America was actually painted in Germany. The German American Leutze insisted on using American students at the famous Dusseldorf Academy as his models. At the time, the United States had recently expanded its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean through its victory in the Mexican War. Leutze, while painting the Delaware, imagined the spirit of Washington crossing western rivers, bringing the stars and stripes and thousands of American settlers with it. The original version of the painting has been destroyed in the bombing of Bremen, Germany, in 1942, ironically, by the British. This surviving replica was completed in 1850 and exhibited in New York in 1851. After exchanging owners several times was later donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Stewart Kennedy in 1897. 
Credits: Daniel Robert Koch, net, Wikipedia.

20 de setembro de 2012

"Villa dei Misteri" - Pompeii

Villa dei Misteri - "Triclinium" - Pompeii - Italy
On the horizon, the shadow of a bluish gray volcano overlooks, like a dormant giant, the city of Pompeii. The black Vesuvio remains silently steamy, bursting in its guts, with a false serene pose, waiting undisturbed for its next uncontrolled natural explosion.
The Vesuvio and excavations at
Villa dei Misteri - Pompeii - Italy - CRV©
After a full day visiting Pompeii, trying to imagine how terrible it should have been the day of all cataclysms I arrived at the "Villa dei Misteri", a suburban rural-residential Villa, with a close relationship to the city, although located a few hundred meters outside the northern walls. Buried by the eruption of Vesuvius, in 79 AD, excavated since 1909, the "Villa" is one of the most visited buildings in Pompeii, especially for the series of well preserved frescoes at the triclinium (the roman dinning room), representing some mysterious rituals, from which the property takes its name. 

Under meters of ash and other volcanic material, the Villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption and the majority of its walls, floors, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged in many rooms of the house. Excavations continued till today with a wide open area uncovered but with so much more to discover. 
Dionysus Cult - Villa dei Misteri - Pompeii - Italy    
After scoured some rooms of the house I end up in a large chamber with a composition frieze that runs continuously around the walls with twenty-nine figures all involved in some sort of ritual which still continues unrevealed.

Although hotly debated, the most common interpretation of the images is that they represent scenes of the initiation of a woman into a special cult of Dionysus, also called "bacchanalia".
The Dionysian cults used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual in order to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves and foreigners.

What has startled the dancing woman is uncertain, but it is thought likely to the apprehension of hearing Silenus (center, playing the lyre), that he is divining her future. The seated woman (far left) is a priestess and appears to be preparing to cleanse her hands.

Villa dei Misteri - "Triclinium" - Pompeii - Italy 
The composition of the frieze is typical of the Second Style (80-20 BC), which is marked by its representational people, creating the illusion of receding space.
The use of the most expensive color scheme, including blues and greens, suggests that the owner was a wealthy man that spared no expense to decorate the Villa. As is the case of many private homes, in the city of Pompeii, it is not certain who this owner was. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues. A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, led us to the powerful Istacidii family.
Sources: Wikipedia, net

11 de junho de 2012

Tamara de Lempicka - Self-Portrait in the Green Buggatti

Self-Portrait in The Green Buggatti - 1925
"Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine, my goal was: 
Do not copy. 
Create a new style, ... colors light and bright."

Independent women have always fascinated me. Bold and unprejudiced, particularly at a time when her role was confined to the backstage of science, art and politics. Stuart Mill gave us the kick-off in his book "The subjection of women" exposing, on the first half of the 19th century, the inconsequential ambiguities of assigning, to every women, a subordinate role in society.

For all these reasons Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) biography caught my attention. Born Maria Gorska from affluent society parents in Poland soon she moved to St. Petersburg, after her parents' divorce, to live with her aunt Stéphanie. When she was sixteen, she felt in love with a young lawyer, Tadeusz Lempicka, who she met one night at the opera. Although he was reputed as one of the most handsome bachelors in Warsaw, he really had no money of his own. Nevertheless, the wild Tamara soon decided that she was ready to be independent. Her uncle provided her a dowry and, at the age of 16, she got married in St. Petersburg, in a high fashion wedding, giving a few months later birth to her only child Kizette. Soon came the Bolsheviks revolution and the couple after some arrested odyssey fled to Paris, where she changed her name, starting a new life near the russian refugees.

Portrait Madame Allan Bott - 1935
Fighting for her independence and facing economic difficulties, Tamara decided to study art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Influenced by what Lhote sometimes referred to as "soft cubism" and by Maurice Denis' "synthetic cubism" picturing and exploring a cool, yet sensual, side of the Art Deco movement, Tamara de Lempicka soon ascended to a very singular place on the Art Deco movement, brilliantly capturing the whirlwind decade of the 1920's on canvas by painting the portraits of the illustrious and renowned socialites of Europe. Her male and female figures, whether nude or clad in sensual fabric, are usually set against imposing urban settings.

With a keen critical sense, Tamara expressed her biding and demolished point of views, towards her contemporaries, with a total lack of prejudice and a sense of freedom which is clearly reflected in her painting as a pure expression of sex and power.
In her opinion, Picasso "embodied the novelty of destruction". About the Impressionists she thought that they drew badly and employed "dirty" colors.
 Tamara had no scruples regarding her freedom of mind and soul, expressing her points of view without any tabus showing an indomitable character which placed her among the big stars of her time. Either on her life and on canvas her controversial views and her liberal approach to life signed unique ways of dealing with art and with her very own private life.

"Self-Portrait In the Green Buggatti" clearly express her sophisticated and independent style. Tamara de Lempicka, the Baroness of her own Art Deco movement, reflects on her self-depiction her strong personality. Inside her green car, she glances at the viewer before departing to her life in a very own distant and  luxurious private style. Looking at her quick glance the observer can't help feeling some curiosity about all the mysteries that subtly hide beneath her way of living.

When World War II began, she and her husband moved to Hollywood, where she became a “painter to the stars”. She married a second time and, subsequently lived in Manhattan and Houston, Texas, before moving to Mexico where she ended up her days. According to her will, her ashes were spread on the top of the Popocatepetl volcano, the right place to rest for whom spent an explosive, rich, intense and tumultous life.
Her daughter Kizette sleeping - 1930

29 de abril de 2012

James Tissot - Seaside

 Seaside - 1878
The Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland - USA

When I discovered James Tissot's (1836-1902) works I was absolutely fascinated by his accurate depictions of the sumptuous fashions of his days. Tissot reveled an enormous interest in painting the upper classes live style, giving his personal interpretation of feminity has he saw it. His paintings are full of looks and poses, strong characters and luminous personalities, ravissant costumes and accessories, full of laces and immaculate colors that fill in all the painting. Both paintings, "Seaside" and "The Reception" depict women as central figures, beautiful, full of light, where viewers glimpse and chat about their rentreé. At the "Seaside" there's a quiet lightning surrounding his model. Is she in the middle of a conversation or just waiting for someone?
The Reception - 1883-5

Born in Nantes, France, Tissot moved to Paris at the age of 20. The artists and writers he met there were to have an enormous influence on his career and his style of painting. He was particularly indebted to James McNeill Whistler, whose work Tissot strongly emulates and surely one of his master Jean-August Ingrès. From Ingrès, Tissot adopted his obsessive attention to detail, developing an enviable technique which gave him an enormous prestige amount the "new rich".
Tissot's interest in fashion helped his works to become highly collectible and they sold well, although critics were less enamored with him than the public.

In 1871, he fled to London, running away from the dangers of the Paris Commune (in which it was rumored he had played a part when he fought at the Franco-Prussian war). His works became as sought after in England as they had been in France, and he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy. 
In London, Tissot studied etching with Sir Seymour Haden, drew caricatures for Vanity Fair, and painted portraits as well as genre subjects. 

Sometime in the 1870s Tissot met a divorcee, Mrs. Kathleen Newton, who became his companion and the love of his life, modeling for many of his paintings. Mrs. Newton moved into Tissot's household in 1876 and lived with him until her suicide as a terminal tuberculosis patient, in the late stages of consumption, in 1882, at the age of 28.
The death of Kathleen, spurred him to return to Paris and a second era became evident on his style. Tissot never again painted social events and underwent through a religious conversion, painting only religious scenes. He travelled to the Middle East where he made many sketches, which he worked into illustrations for versions of the Bible.
Bench Garden - 1882
Private Collection

Kathleen Newton is seen here with her children, Cecil George (which was always told it was Tissot's son), Violet (her daughter from her marriage) and her niece Lilian Hervey.
The children, who lived with Kathleen's sister, were frequent visit to Tissot and Kathleen's house, in Grove End Road, which was just some blocks away from her sister's house.

25 de março de 2012

Henri Rousseau - Tiger in a Tropical Storm

Tiger in a Tropical Storm - 1891
National Gallery - London - U.K.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was born in Laval, in the Loire Valley, and raised within fairly impoverished circumstances. He spent four years in the army before moving to Paris, in 1868, and working as a clerk in a law office. Rousseau did not turn to art until late in his life: his first known work, “Landscape with a Watermill” is dated 1879, when he was 35, and he did not launch his public artistic career until 1885, at his 41.

The native and primitive style of  work is instantly recognizable, yet in his time and for some years, after his death, the artist's works were repeatedly mocked, desvalued and misunderstood, being several times is work called “childish” and naive.
But among his critics Félix Vallotton, a young Swiss painter who was later to be an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut, said:

"His tiger surprising its prey is a 'must-see'; it's the alpha and omega of painting and so disconcerting that, before so much competency and childish naïveté, the most deeply rooted convictions are held up and questioned".
“Tiger in a Tropical Storm" (or Surprised!) is the first of the series of jungle scenes that Rousseau painted, and was exhibited at the Salon des Independants, in 1891 after being rejected by his contemporary critics.

It shows a tiger, illuminated by a flash of lightning, preparing to pounce on its prey in the midst of a raging gale. The artist claimed that he had encountered such exotic jungle scenes while serving as a regimental bandsman in Mexico, in 1860., but in fact, he had never left France. It is more likely that his inspiration came from the botanical gardens in Paris including the Jardin des Plants.
On the painting the tiger's prey is beyond the edge of the canvas, so it is left to the viewer's imagination what the outcome will be, although Rousseau's originally titled the painting "Surprised!" it suggests the tiger has the upper hand upon the situation. Rousseau later stated that:
"The tiger was about to pounce on a group of explorers". 
Despite their apparent simplicity, Rousseau's jungle paintings were built up meticulously in layers, using a large number of green shades to capture the lush exuberance of the jungle. He also devised his own method for depicting the lashing rain by trailing strands of silver paint diagonally across the canvas, a technique inspired by the satin-like finishes of the paintings of William-Adolphe Bouguereauwhich added unusual three-dimensional effects.
Though derided by critics of the period, Rousseau’s work was much admired by some of his fellow artists, including Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Robert Delaunay and undoubtedly one of the names that made a difference and created a new era on the history of paintings.
Nothing would ever be the same in art, after "Les Independants", of the 19 century.

Source: Tamsin Pickeral, Wikipedia

10 de março de 2012

Jacques-Laurent Agasse - Two Leopards Playing

 Two Leopards Playing - 1808
Private Collection

For popular amusement in the early nineteenth century, an array of wild beasts – from tigers to boa constrictors – was exhibited at Exeter Change, in London, a building on the north side of the Strand with an arcade where animals were kept in small cages and displayed to the curious public for educational purposes. The menagerie became a creative place where artists such as Swiss-born Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849) and poets such as Wordsworth and Byron visited frequently in order to get inspiration for their paintings and poems.
Exeter Change - 1820 - Londo
Exeter Change presented a unique and invaluable opportunity for Agasse, who had trained in dissection and veterinary science, to intimately observe animals in motion. “Two leopards playing” depicts the beasts languid movement, but also sympathecally represents the discomfort of their living conditions, confined to small cages and without any possibility of freely movements. For Agasse the advantages of being near the cage ' bars allowed him to demonstrates his evocative skills and a wonderful look at nature.
The two leopards appear as if captured in the middle of an intimate play. The lying female leopard’s left leg arched, suggestively against the dominant male’s belly, tells us that she is not dead or even defeated – she is still in charge of the game. The contrast between the animals’ feral flirtation and the indignity of captivity gives the painting its potent emotional charge. Agasse illustrates these tentions with characteristic physical accuracy and emotive sensitivity. Agasse’s empathy for animals and ability to represent their physical and psychological states made him renowed in Victorian England as the creator of some of the nineteenth century’s most exquisite animal studies.
Source: Wikipedia, Sara White Wilson

22 de fevereiro de 2012

Sandro Botticelli - Primavera

Primavera - 1477-82
Galleria degli Uffizi - Florence - Italy

After starting his professional life as a training goldsmith Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) became apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-69). Lippi had developed a style of portraying expressive interactions between figures, and employing highly decorative detailing inherited from the late Gothic period, when art became more expressive and the bridge between Middle Age Art and Renaissance was being built. Botticelli was also influenced by Antonio Pollaiolo (1432-98), whose muscular modeling announced a new approach to figurative work, accounting for human anatomy and proportion. Botticelli painted on many scales, and his delicate evocations of landscape and figuration ensure his place as one of the most beloved painters of all time.
Some scholars have argued that his painting is an example of Botticelli’s interest in Neoplatonism – a blending of pagan and Christian identities which was raised by the hand of Cosimo de Medici in Florence, after rescuing The Platonic texts following the fall of Constantinople and its conquest by the Otomane Empire. The texts were on the basis of the Florence Platonic Academy founded by the Medici and lead by Marsilio Ficino.

La Primavera (Spring) celebrates the Florantine Renaissance - a cultural, political and economic rebirth of the Republic. The painting was originally hung in the summerhouse of the Medici family as a companion piece to the Birth of Venus. In La Primavera, Botticelli has created a  lively scene that included, from left to right, the mythological figures of Mercury; the Three Graces; Venus, goddess of love; the nymph Chloris; Flora, goddess of fecundity; and the west wind Zephyr. Above them, Cupid, the god of erotic love, aims his dart at the Three Graces.

They seem to be performing the slowest of dances in a garden full of flowers touching the ground with only the tips of their toes and breathing a spirit of serenity in the midst of nature in all her majesty. All of them seem too light to be real and too elegant to have had to learn their dance steps. All of them look perfect far away from the human vices and from the turbulent relationships which affect humans. That's why they are Gods and Graces, and Nymphs and we feel so far away from their perfection that we can only enjoy the opportunity to attend this uplifting performance.

In the center, Venus lifts up her hand as if she was giving us a sign, although the gesture may not be directed at us, after all. If we look carefully, Venus, the goddess of love,  is the only figure which is motionless and yet her head is above all. The painting was said to be ordered either to celebrate platonic love, between Giuliano de Medici and Simoneta Vespucci, or as a wedding gift for Lourenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, who married in 1482. Maybe that's why Spring, the tall young woman on the right, with fair hair and a dress spangled with flowers, whose movement with her hands suggest she is sowing seeds, appears as a renovation and the advent of a new season. Around Venus serenity, we can sense a strong wind, blown by an energetic god whose cheeks are distended. He is trying to catch a scared young nymph. Helplessly she tries unsuccessfully to escape from this force of nature but she is caught, issuing flowers from her mouth as an intermediary figure of coming Spring.
On the left, the Three Graces seem to perform the harmonious movements of a dance, and by twinning their arms together, they preserve an innocence which sets us apart from carnal love, overlooking Cupid, who is trying to harrowing Chastity.
Hermes, on the left, represents everything which is fake and misinterpreted. Being the god of the thieves, of the crossroads, of the forging links between language and the mind, Hermes busies himself chasing away the clouds that were forming a shield above him and waits that everything changes to a coming Spring which we'll never see but we can surely anticipate.

Finally, looking at the all painting we cannot help feeling some melancholy. No matter where the gods are coming from, and although they look perfect, they always give us a sense of far away exile, where they can never be reached. We are sure that their world is not ours. That their divine immortality is here to stay as if we were looking at them through a colored glass, seeing their different lives shining with its particularly forms and bright colors. Something which was always known, although seldom said.
Sources: Wikipedia.

25 de janeiro de 2012

Vincent Van Gogh - The Bedroom in Arles - 3 versions

Bedroom in Arles - First Version - 1888
Van Gogh Museum - Amsterdam - Netherlands

When Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) lived in Arles, he decorated most of the rooms of the house with yellow paintings. It was buy that time that the famous 7 sunflowers paintings were depited. Vincent also painted his room in 3 versions.

The first version of this painting in the Autumm of 1888, during one of the happiest interludes in his life. He belived that his move to Arles would mark a new chapter in his art. He asked his brother, Theo to persuade Paul Gaugain to come and join him and rapidly painted a series of pictures to hang on the walls and create a welcoming atmosphere for his new guest. To a large extent, these paintings were designed simply as decorations for the house, but Van Gogh also wanted to show that his own works could bear comparison with those of Gaugain’s, whose talent he was in awe of.

Recently this first version was thoroughly restored before being sent to an exhibition in Japan. Already returned to Amsterdam, conservationists from the Van Gogh Museum designed a 2D and 3D room in order to have a perspective of how it was. It can be seen here.
Following what Vincent had written to his brother Theo, conservationists tried to achieve the equivalent tones originally used by Vincent. "Calm" or "Repose" is suggested, in a way to avoid contrasts. This means using colors that are equally light or dark – in other words, equivalent tones.

If we look at The bedroom this way, we immediately see what is wrong with it: namely, the walls and the blanket. The walls are too light in tone, and the blanket too dark. The digital impression restores the lavender color of the walls (by removing the white) and brightens the red of the blanket, bringing the tonal values into balance and restoring the sense of repose.

Vincent writes that the only white he wanted in the painting was the reflection in the mirror. As he puts it, the fourth pair of complementary colors, white and black, is represented by the mirror and its frame. At present, this effect is cancelled out by the abundance of white in the walls.
Bedroom in Arles - Second Version - 1889
Museum Fine Arts - Chicago -U.S.A.

In the Bedroom at Arles, many of the items are shown in pairs – two chairs, two pillows, two pairs of pictures – signaling his expectation of companionship. Yet his friendship with Gaugain turned sour just two months after his arrival and Van Gogh had a mental breakdown.

Recuperating in a lunatic asylum in St. Rémy, he painted the third version of the painting, for his mother. Although structurally very similar to the first two, certain details are significantly different. In the first version, Van Gogh painted the floor a rosy pink; on the third he used a brownish-gray color, reflecting his more depressed mood. The two top right-hand paintings are different in each version as well. In the first two versions, the portraits are indistinct and cut off. In this third version, though, they are very much discernible – the one on the left is Van Gogh himself and the one on the right is of his sister, Wil. Ten months after he painted this picture, Van Gogh died in mistery. Today we aren't sure if he killed himself or was killed by a group of children by accident. Will we ever find out the truth?
Bedroom in Arles - Third Version - 1889
 Musée D'Orsay - Paris - France

29 de dezembro de 2011

Camille Pissarro - Boulevard Montmartre by Night

Boulevart Montmartre by Night - 1897
National Gallery - London - U.K.
Camille Pissarro 1830 – 1903) was the leader of the a French Impressionist movement. Born on the island of St Thomas (today US Virgin Islands) his father was a french merchant, a portuguese descendent jew, who immigrated to the island to deal with business affairs. When Camille was twelve his father sent him to France in order to continue his studies. In Paris he worked as assistant to Danish painter Anton Melbye and studied paintings by other artists whose style impressed him: Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny, Jean-François Millet, and Corot.

Although initially Pissarro painted according with the standards at the time in order to be displayed at the Paris Salon, (the official body whose academic traditions dictated the kind of art that was acceptable) soon he started to show his own tendencies sharing with his master Camille Corot, who tutored him an interest on rural scenes painted from nature. With Corot, Pissarro was inspired to paint outdoors, also called "plein air" painting. Pissarro later explained the technique of painting outdoors to a student: ”Work at the same time upon sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on and equal basis and unceasingly rework until you have got it. Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.”

Cézanne would later called him “the first Impressionist”. In 1873 he helped establish a separate collective, called the "Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs," which included fifteen artists like Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Degas. Pissarro created the group’s first charter and became the “pivotal” figure in establishing and holding the group together. With a youthful temperament and creativity Pissarro gave wings to imagination, turning up side down the way people saw nature's depiction setting up with his pears what was known as the "Impressionist Movement".

By the 1880s, Pissarro began to explore new themes and methods of painting in order to break out of what he felt was an artistic “mire”. As a result, Pissarro went back to his earlier themes by painting the life of country people, which he had done in Venezuela in his youth. Degas described Pissarro’s subjects as “peasants working to make a living”. This period also marked the end of the Impressionist due to Pissarro’s leaving the movement and the begin of a decade with influences from Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, which led to Pissarro's Neo-Impressionism.

It was by the end of the 80's that Pissarro decided to rent a room in the Grand Hôtel de Russie, on the corner of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Drouotin, in Paris. From his bedroom window he'd lookout of the left of his window onto one of Paris’s grandest boulevards. He had come here specifically to paint a series of Parisian views, of the Boulevard Montmartre, at different times of the day partly because his eyesight was falling, and painting out of doors was being increasingly difficult.

This particular picture shows the boulevard in the evening. As with the whole 14 paintings series, the strong central shape of the receding boulevard, flanked by rows of trees and impressive buildings, dictates the simple, powerful composition and perspective, given drama by the high viewpoint. Strong brushstrokes on the sky and roas help to draw the eye down this busy thoroughfare. Sketchily painted figures and carriages, like blurred photos, add a bustling movement, although the effect of pearly winter sun diffused through mist makes this view calmer than some of the others. In many places, such on a road surface, a broad pointillism is used.

Pissarro had previously experimented with this technique, and abandoned it, but its influence remains. By the 1890’s Pissarro felt that series paintings such as this gave him the artistic direction he craved. They showed that his heart was in exploring the changing light and weather effects found all around us – a major impressionist preoccupation.
Source: Ann Kay, net, wikipedia
Four views of the Boulevart Montmartre, taken in different hours of the day - 1897 (Image take here)

17 de dezembro de 2011

José Gutiérrez Solana - The Clowns

The Clowns - 1919
Museo Centro de Arte Reina Dona Sofia - Madrid - Spain

José Gutiérrez Solana (1886-1945) was born in Madrid, where he spend much of his life, and his work reflects both the asthetic qualities of the Spain he experienced from day to day and his concept of the character of the times. As a young man, he spent his days in the slums and suburbs of Madrid and in the Cantabrian harbours, studying the most wretched aspects of Spanish life. These journeys were the basis for his gloomy and corrosive literary works, Scenes and Customs of Madrid, 2 vol. (1912, 1918), and for his intense and dramatic paintings. He started his artistic training in 1893, taking private lessons before entering the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, in Madrid, in 1900.

In 1904 Solana became involved with the Generation of 1989 movement - a group of writers and philosophers attempting to re-create Spain as an intellectual and literary leader in response to the sociopolitical disaster of its defeat in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Solana's paintings and writing reflect the group's somber, ironic attitude, and throughout his career his work remained largely melancholic.

The clown figures can be seen here with a mirror behind. Maybe by showing their back on the mirror, Solana is telling the viewer that all clowns wear a mask and by looking closely their performances we understand that  there's an hidden man inside, different, storng or fail, we'll never know. The two clowns look like fragil figures, specially the one on the right. Both are trying to express themselves with a visible overwhelming effort and, for their faces, it looks like the audience is not much focuses on their performances. Both, do not show a confident pose, although the one with the accordion is evidently performing with his maximum involvement and commitment, surely expecting to captivate his audience attention. This Vaudeville performance has an athmosfere steeped into both tragic and comic and for some reason we get the perception that it'll not leave any good rememberence neither in the audience nor, surely, for both clows. In a way, the viewer ends up being pity for the unconfortable pose of the men wishing that their struggling performance ends up as soon as possible. Solana, expresses here the performance of anguished and tortured souls, when men act in unatural ways and at the end suffer beneeth their masks. Staring impassively with a disquieting detachment, Solana's clowns evoke neither sympathy nor fear, but a polarity of menace and tragedy. Drawn in a precisely linear manner and colored with the subdued palette that was typical of his work, the two clowns border on the mechanical, which further emphasizes the surreal quality of the painting.

The clown theme was adopted by several artists of the era as the ultimate parody - the tragic hero defined by the comic mask of his existence, and there was an identification between artists and the clown in the struggle for their art in the face of modern criticism. Solana was greatly influenced by fellow artists and countrymen Juan de Váldes Leal (1622-90) and Francisco Goya 1746-1828).
Source: Wikipedia, Tamsin Pickeral, net

28 de novembro de 2011

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss

The Kiss - 1907-08
Osterreichische Galerie - Vienna - Austria

The Vienna Secession of 1900 included Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the The Glasgow Four who were to influence the direction of European art and craft. Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) was a brilliant iconoclast and a key figure in the Viennese Secession and the art nouveau movement. Although he left the group in 1905, he was influenced by Margaret MacDonald, Mackintosh's wife, whose linear style included the use of semiprecious gems. Klimt major works include paintings, mural, sketches, and other art objects. His primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism. He attempted the subject of fulfillment, most notably in the final panel of Beethoven Frize, of 1902, which refers to a phrase from Shiller's Ode of Joy, "the kiss to the whole world". Klimt turned Schiller's wider political meaning into something much more personal and located the embrace in a womblike space, which remains in "The Kiss".

"The Kiss" is probably Klimt's most famous work. He began working on it in 1907 and it became the highpoint of his so-called 'Golden Period', when he painted a number of works in a similar style. It depicts a couple embracing, their bodies largely hidden by elaborate robes decorated in a style that bears little relation to any historical textile designs. The painting is decorated with circular biomorphic forms. Both figures are situated at the edge of a patch of flowery meadow. The man is wearing a robe with black and white rectangles irregularly placed on a gold background containing spiral decoration, and wears a crown of vines. The woman wears a tight-fitting dress with flower-like round or oval motifs on a background of parallel wavy lines. Her hair is sprinkled with flowers and is worn "up" in the style of the day; it forms a halo-like circle that highlights her face, and is continued under her chin by what seems to be a necklace of flowers. As well as conventional oil painting, gold leaf has been used, one of the aspects of the work that gives it a strikingly modern appearance, while evoking memories of much earlier art.

Both patterns have developed from Klimt's own personal symbolism. The image is so seductive that it is easy to miss the other, photo-Expressionist element of Klimt's style, which can be seen in the hideously bent toes and contorted hand of the woman, and in the coloration of her flesh, which suggests putrefaction. This expressive graphic style sits provocatively alonside the voluptuous decorative excess in Klimt's work, led him to be under attack for "pornography" and "perverted excess" particularly in those works commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the University of Vienna", which a good example are the paintings Medicine, Jurisprudence and Philosophy", received at the time with revultion. However, it was this aspect of his work that later would influence his younger contemporaries.Source: Wikipedia, Wendy Osgerby, net

21 de novembro de 2011

Vincent Van Gogh - The Yellow House

The Yellow House - 1888
Van Gogh Museum - Amsterdam - Holland

"The subject is frightfully difficul, but that is just why I want to conquer it. It's terrific, these houses, yellow in the sun, and the incomparable freshness of the blue. And everywhere the ground is yellow too."
- Vincent on a letter to his brother Theo.

When Vincent van Gogh arrived at Arles it was snowing. So much for the warm and sunny south as described by Toulouse-Letrec. Arles was a small city with no more than 200.000 inhabitants. It had once been much grander. Julius Caesar brought it under Roman rule about 46 BC, and  it developed into one of the greatest centres of the Western Roman Empire, as is still evident from the amphitheatre (part ruined but still usable) and the remains of other Roman buildings, including the palace of Constantine. Arles never regained its ancien eminence, but in Vincent's time it was not just a sleepy little market town. The railway had reached it comparatively early, and many italien immigrants setled on nearby villages. When Vincent lived in Arles there was no tourists and the city had few amusements. Vincent found lodging in almost the first place he came to from the station, in an attic room of the Hotel-Restaurant Carrel. He soon started painting, founding on a small shop nearby all the paints and canvas he needed although pigments quality supplied in town were not as good as he wanted. Soon Vincent asked Theo to send him a large quantity of paints directly from Paris.

From his first week in Arles, Vincent had mentioned the desirability of having his own establishment. In May, of that year 1888, he rented the famous Yellow House, It was a two-up, two-down dwelling, one of an adjoining pair, whose twin pedimented facades, on the corner of the "Place Lamartine" just outside the city walls, faced one of the medieval gates. Van Gogh rented four rooms. Two large ones on the ground-floor to serve as atelier and kitchen, and, on the first floor, two smaller ones facing Place Lamartine. The window on the first floor near the corner with both shutters open is that Van Gogh's guest room, where Paul Gauguin lived for nine weeks from late October, 1888. Behind the next window, with one shutter closed, is Van Gogh's bedroom. The two small rooms at the rear were rented by Van Gogh at a later time. In a letter to his sister he described the house:

"My house here is painted in yellow colour of fresh butter on the outside with glanringly green shutters; it stands in the full sunlight in a square which has a green garden with plane trees, oleanders and acacias. And it is completely whitewashed inside, and the floor is made of red bricks. And over it there is the intensively blue sky. In this I can live and breath, meditate and paint".

Vincent intended to use the house as a studio and store, while making one room fit to sleep in. He spoke already of showing his friends'paintings there and later of persuading them to come and stay. Although his dream of an artists' community was one motive, Vincent's move was expedited by his dissatisfaction with his present circunstances in the Carrel Hotel. Not only did he have no proper studio, he believed that, in addition to the grudging service of which he complained, he was being overcharged. The rent for the Yellow House was 15 francs a month, a lot less than the 4 francs a day he paid to the Carrel.
On the building  painted pink, close to the left edge,Van Gogh used to have his meals It was run by Widow Venissac, who was also Van Gogh landlady, and who owned several of the other buildings depicted. 
Later, the building suffered various rebuilding, before it was severely damaged in a bombing raid, by the Allies, on June 25th, 1944. Later, it turn out to be demolished.

The "Yellow House" painting never left the artist's estate. Since 1962, it is in the possession of the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, established by Vincent Willem van Gogh, the artist's nephew, and on permanent loan to the Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam.
Source: net, Van Gogh Museum, Wikipedia