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Famous Painters: Max Beckmann

Posted by Susan Benford

Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Rembrandt (1606-1669) and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), are three famous painters known for creating numerous self-portraits over their entire lifetimes.

Over the course of Beckmann's, he painted forty self-portraits, portraying himself in roles max beckmann selfportrait florence resized 600including clown, medical attendant, circus director, king and acrobat, and in garb ranging from prisoner wear to formal evening wear.  

It is fitting that the earliest surviving painting by Max Beckmann is a self-portrait (left). 

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait, Florence, 1907.  Oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 35 1/2". Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg.   

Born into a wealthy family in Leipzig, Beckmann became well-versed in early Renaissance painters from the Netherlands and Germany as well as famous Dutch painters of the 17th century.  In 1903 he settled in Berlin, a hub for Art Nouveau and German Impressionism, and began creating murals and depicting contemporary disasters such as The Sinking of the Titanic.  

In that work, lifeboats are overflowing with hordes of desperate passengers mashed together while in the distance, the Titanic remains upright.  The water teems with flailing arms and legs, and dead bodies.  Max Beckmann Titanic resized 600Although Beckmann had no personal connection to the sinking of the Titanic - it is believed he painted this rendition from newspaper photographs - he clearly was influenced by grand history paintings like Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

Max Beckmann.  The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912-13.  Oil on canvas, 8' 8" x 10' 10".  St. Louis Museum of Art. 

Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the St. Louis Museum of Art, comments that in The Sinking of the Titanic

"(Beckmann) is trying to project himself in the German art world as an ambitious, grand painter of contemporary life." 

Beckmann served in the medical corps in the trenches of Flanders during World War I, after which he suffered Beckmann Self Portrait Red Scarf resized 600major depression and hallucinations. He abandoned his earlier academic, classical style of painting and adopted a more expressive style, focusing most frequently on themes of the inner self and the mysteries of life.  This lifelong search for internal reality appears in many Max Beckmann paintings, like Self-Portrait with Red Scarf of 1917.  His post-war anxiety and angst is palpable, even in the security of his studio.  

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait with a Red Scarf, 1917.  Oil on canvas, 31" x 24".  Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart.

By 1927, Max Beckmann was recognized as one of the leading German painters.  The government honored him, and awarded him a prestigous teaching position in Frankfurt.  Beckmann wrote an essay titled, "The Artist in the State", which articulated his belief that artists belonged to the social elite and should be included in the leadership of the Weimar Republic.  

That confidence dominates his Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, in which Beckmann's stripped down, max beckmann self portrait in tuxedodetail-less image fills the frame.  

Color has been stripped down, too, with backlighting emphasizing his shadowy head and hand. Beckmann stares directly at the viewer in a conflicted image: is he showing his discomfort with German politics? Is he exuding arrogance or confidence? Is his stance a swagger or not?

Max Beckmann.  Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927.  Oil on canvas, 55 1/2" x 37 3/4".  Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA

It became clear that Hitler didn't believe modern artists belonged in Germany, let alone in its ruling class.

After Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he vowed to excise all modern art in Germany 590 Max Beckmann paintings were confiscated from German art museums (including Self-Portrait with a Red Scarf), he was fired from his teaching post, and when the Degenerate Art Show opened in Munich, with ten Max Beckmann paintings, he and his wife fled Germany for Amsterdam.

Self-Portrait in Tuxedo was seized by the Nazis and sold abroad in 1937.

After a decade of hiding from the Nazis, Beckmann accepted a teaching post at Washington University in St. Louis, living in the United States for the rest of his life.

In the thirties and forties, Beckmann continued to shun all labels describing his work- for instance, he never considered himself a disciple of Expressionism, widespread in 1920s Germany - and continued his figurative painting which often used, like the Expressionists, bold colors and distorted shapes. 

In the last twenty years of his life, Beckmann created nine triptyches, inspired by those of Hieronymus Bosch. Departure, one of the best known, is laden with allegory and symbolism echoing his early study of the Old Masters. max beckmann departure

Max Beckmann. Departure, 1932-35. Side panels 7' 3/4" x 39 1/4", center panel 7' 3/4" x 45 3/8".  Oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Alfred Barr, the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, described Departure as

an allegory of the triumphal voyage of the modern spirit through and beyond the agony of the modern world. 

The side panels show life as an endless misery of torture, sadism and agony.  Although Beckmann claimed to be apolitical, the left panel surely references the rise of dictatorship that prompted widespread emigration from Germany.  Beckmann commented about Departure:

On the right wing you can see yourself trying to find your way in the darkness, lighting the hall and staircase with a miserable lamp dragging along tied to you as part of yourself, the corpse of your memories, of your wrongs, of your failures, the murder everyone commits at some time of his life - you can never free yourself of your past, you have to carry the corpse while Life plays the drum.

The center panel, which Beckmann called The Homecoming, resolves this despair with its message of freedom.  According to him, "The King and Queen have freed themselves of the tortures of life - they have overcome them... Freedom is the one thing that matters - it is the departure, the new start."

Beckmann seldom spoke of the meaning of his paintings, believing that viewers' interpretations would be similar to his so he didn't need to provide a "key."  His description of Departure is rare - do you interpret it as he did? Let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: famous painters, Max Beckmann, Max Beckmann paintings

Famous Painters: Horace Pippin

Posted by Susan Benford

Horace Pippin (1888-1946), now one of the most renowned African American artists, began painting as physical therapy to recover from an arm injury sustained in World World I. Horace Pippin self portrait resized 600This self-taught artist kept an illustrated journal of his war time experiences that would later inform his artwork.

Horace Pippin. Self Portrait, 1944. Oil on canvas adhered to cardboard, 8 1/2" by 6 1/2". Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

During the onset of Pippin's painting career in the 1930s, the lifestyle of the South was being explored and celebrated in media like George Gershwin's opera, Porgy and Bess (1935), and the book Gone With the Wind (1936). It was during this period that Horace Pippin was discovered through his painting, Cabin in the Cotton.  

The art critic and curator, Christian Brinton (1870-1942) and the illustrator, N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) spotted Cabin in the Cotton in the window of a shoe repair shop in Pippin's home town, West Chester, Pennsylvania.  After the popular actor Charles Laughton purchased Cabin in 1940, Horace Pippin was on his way to becoming one of the most lauded American painters of the mid-twentieth century.

The range of subjects Pippin painted was diverse: interior scenes, portraits, landscapes and even a series of works about the abolitionist, John Brown (whose killing was allegedly seen by Pippin's grandmother, a former slave).  It was his fortune that self-taught American painters and their "primitive" styles were in vogue in the 30s when Cabin in the Woods was discovered. Its saturated palette and thick, textured brushstrokes became typical of Pippin's style.

horace pippin cabin in woods

According to the Art Institute of Chicago, the painting's composition references the opening and closing scenes in a 1932 film starring Bette Davis and titled... Cabin in the Woods.  That same year, two popular singers, Cab Calloway and Bing Crosby, each produced his own version of a song of the same name.  

I'd add "brilliant marketer" to Pippin's list of talents!

Horace Pippin.  Cabin in the Cotton, 1933-37.  Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite, 18" by 33".  Art Institute of Chicago. 

Domino Players is one of the most famous paintings by Horace Pippin, and is horace pippin domino playersa characteristically intimate interior setting.  By invoking childhood memories of every day life of his family and friends - as they played games, sewed, tended children, smoked - he offered a rare, insider's glance into African American family life.  Here, a young boy, likely Pippin or his younger brother, peers directly at the viewer, pleading for sympathy with his boredom.  The cold neutral palette of the spartan room is punctuated by the colors of the quilt and the intense reds scattered throughout the painting.  

Horace Pippin.  Domino Players, 1943.  Oil on composition board,  12 3/4" by 22".  Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

There is an undercurrent of ambiguity and danger here, too: the open scissors on the floor seem disproportionately scaled and the flames in the fire resemble pointed, sharp teeth.

Although different in mood than Domino Players, The Barracks shares a similar palette of "restrained colors, black, white, gray, with touches of red", according to Duncan Phillips, the founder of the Phillips Collection.   It clearly references his stint in the New York 15thHorace Pippin Barracks resized 600

National Guard, an African American unit that became the 369th Infantry Regiment after incorporation into the U. S. Army.  

Horace Pippin.  The Barracks, 1945.  Oil on canvas, 25 1/4" by 30".  Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

In The Barracks, Pippin captures the stark, claustrophobic life of the soldier while painfully reminding the viewer that even in war and national crisis, segregation prevailed.  

Despite his recognition as one of the leading America painters of his time, Pippin's total output comprised only about 140 paintings, mainly due to his immobile arm.  One of the last of these was his Self-Portrait (above, left), one of only two self portraits painted during his brief life of 56 years.

Question: Do you see lurking danger in the scissors and fire (and perhaps even in the jagged red flames of the oil lamp)?

 

Tags: famous painters, american painters, Horace Pippin, African American artists

Famous Painters: Piero della Francesca

Posted by Susan Benford

Piero della Francesca (ca. 1420-1492) is in a legion of famous painters who were lost to art history for centuries -- in his case, for over four. The works of Piero, along with artists including Sandro Botticelli (1446-1510) and Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), were among those "re-found" in the 19th century by artists, collectors, critics, and art historians.  

None was more influential in rediscovering Piero della Francesca than Roberto Longhipiero della francesca baptism resized 600 (1890-1970), an Italian art historian.   Through his 1914 article, "Piero dei Franceschi e lo sviluppo della pittura veneziana," ("Piero Francesca and the Development of Venetian Painting"), 

Piero della Francesca.  The Baptism of Christ, 1450s.  Tempera on wood, approximately 5' 6" by 3'10".  National Gallery, London.

Longhi launched Piero's journey from relative obscurity to present acclaim as one of the most famous painters of the Italian Renaissance.  Longhi's subsequent book, Piero della Francesca, was published in 1927 and is still considered the preeminent formal analysis of Piero.

Influenced by investigations into perspective by Paulo Uccello (ca. 1397-1475), Piero became so knowledgeable that he published a treatise in 1474.  This fascination with linear
perspective and mathematical and geometrical precision is evident in one of his earliest extant works, The Baptism of Christ.

In Christian belief, the Trinity is the collective name for "the one nature of God" - God the Father; God the Son, who is Christ; and the Holy Spirit.  In The Baptist of Christ, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit witnessing Christ's baptism (note how its shape resembles a cloud).

geometric analysis piero della francescaRight: Geometric Analysis of The Baptism of Christ. 

It is speculated that a portrayal of God the Father may have been in a roundel or medallion above the work; it is certain that The Baptism of Christ was originally the central section of a polyptych, a work comprised of four or more painted or carved panels hinged together. 

The Baptism of Christ exemplifies many developments in painting during the first portion of the 15th century, including:

  • chiaroscuro, or using shadow and lighting to create three dimensional shapes;

  • realism (the greenish hue to Christ's skin is a result of green underpainting wearing through and is not the original color of his flesh); 

  • perspective and proportionality; and

  • descriptive landscape (behind Christ is Piero's home town of Sansepolcro in Tuscany).

Compositionally, Baptism has a pronounced central vertical: the dove is aligned with the baptismal water St. John the Baptist is pouring; it is aligned with the tip of Christ's beard; the beard is positioned just above Christ's praying hands, which are aligned with his navel.  

Yet despite the exacting linear perspective in The Baptism of Christ, this monumental composition doesn't feel mathematical or contrived but is instead mysteriously spiritual and quiet.  

Perhaps that is why Piero della Francesca is widely recognized as a timeless artist, and is deservedly one of the most famous painters in the early Renaissance.

Why do you believe Baptism has such stillness to it? What has Piero done to convey this?

 




Tags: famous painters, Piero della Francesca

Famous Painters: Francisco de Goya

Posted by Susan Benford

Of all the famous painters whose artwork graces the Prado Museum, none is more extensively represented than Franciso de Goya (1746-1828).

With nearly 150 Goya paintings, 500 hundred drawings, and his series of engravings, the Prado holds the most thorough collection of Goya artwork in the world. 

goya duchess of alba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Francisco de Goya. The Duchess of Alba, 1797. Oil on canvas, 82 1/2" by 58 1/6". The Hispanic Society of America, New York

Charles III of Spain appointed Goya court painter in 1786; his successor, Charles IV, named him principal painter in 1789.  By then, Goya was one of the most sought-after portrait painters, having worked during the 1780s for the aristocracy, including the dukes and duchesses of Osuna and Alba.

By 1789, Goya was one of the most sought-after portrait painters, having worked during the 1780s for the aristocracy, including the dukes and duchesses of Osuna and Alba.  

Two pivotal events shaped the rest of Goya's life:

  • an illness in 1792 rendered him nearly stone deaf, leaving him embittered yet more sympathetic to others' suffering, and

  • the Spanish War of Independence (1808-1814), which left Goya disillusioned after the Napoleonic invasion brought cruelty and death rather than Enlightenment ideals to absolutist Spain. 

Here is a brief overview of some of the most influential works by Goya.

Duchess of Alba

One of Goya's best known portraits, the Duchess of Alba was widely considered to be one of the best-looking women in Spain.  She is clothed in the maja style, swathed with ornate, expensive fabrics in her veil and dress.  With her right forefinger, the Duchess points to an inscription just uncovered in modern times.  It reads, "Solo Goya" or "Only Goya".  The rings on her right hand are inscribed with the names "Alba" and "Goya", hinting at a romantic relationship between the two.   

That supposition has persisted for over two centuries but has never been proven.

The Family of Charles IV

This crown commission displays the royal family in a grand hall suggested by the scale of the paintings behind the family.  In Goya's early years as court painter, he painted what became one of his most famous paintings, The Family of Charles IV.goya family charles iv

Here, the influence of Velazquez is visually apparent - Goya includes himself as a painter in the left of this royal family portrait, just as did Velazquez in his own royal portrait, Las Meninas.

Francisco de Goya.  The Family of Charles IV, 1800.  Oil on canvas, 9'2" by 11'.  Prado Museum, Madrid. 

In the left foreground dressed in blue is Prince Ferdinand, who went on to stage a coup d'etat, overthrowing his parents in 1808. He installed himself as a despot, eliminated free speech and ousted liberals like Goya, who fled Spain in 1824.  Read more about the history of The Family of Charles IV.  

The Third of May, 1808

With his profound disgust at the horrors of war, Goya became one of the early creators of artwork for ordinary people rather than for church or state.  As the Spanish War for Independence dragged on and the promised institution of Enlightenment became a lost cause, he commented:

I witnessed how the noblest ideals of freedom and progress were transformed into lances, sabres, and bayonets.

No where is this sentiment more powerfully articulated than in The Third of May, 1808.

goya third of may

Two rebel Spaniards fired on 15 soldiers in Napoleon's army, which resulted in French troops subsequently executing nearly 1,000 citizens from Madrid and nearby towns.   This ruthlessly direct portrayal of man's inhumanity remains one of Goya's most memorable paintings.  Read more about The Third of May, 1808

Francisco de Goya.  The Third of May, 1808.  Oil on canvas, 1814.  8'9" by 11'4".  Prado Museum, Madrid.

The Black Paintings

None of Goya's artwork is more haunting than the 14 works called the "Black Paintings."

In 1819, Goya (1746-1828) purchased a country house, whose walls he covered with a series of murals which became the "Black Paintings."  Although there were some minor goya saturn devouring his son resized 600modifications to the works when they were conserved and transferred to canvas, the series shares common themes of death, fright and evil.

And unclear meaning. 

None of these Goya paintings was commissioned, so it seems reasonable to conclude that the "Black Paintings" convey his preoccupations as an elderly man – and his abandonment of the academic training that characterized his earlier career as a court painter.

Three of these Goya paintings convey a general feel for these enigmatic "Black Paintings."

Saturn Devouring His Son

The theme of Saturn Devouring His Son is derived from Greek mythology.  After a prophecy foretold that one of Saturn's twelve children would overthrow him, he countered by devouring them.  The children, though, were actually immortal gods who were transformed into the Olympians -- and who fulfilled the prophecy. 

Saturn Devouring His Son is so powerful and grotesque that it is difficult to inspect closely.

Luminous blood – made all the more dramatic by its contrast with the near-black background - gushes over a limp, genderless child and

Francisco de Goya.  Saturn Devouring His Son, 1821-23.  Oil on wall, transferred to canvas, approximately 4’ 8” by 2’ 8”.  Prado, Madrid.

Saturn’s hands as he crushes and consumes it. Saturn’s frantic, manic energy, pulsating in his crazed eyes, feels barely containable within the confines of the canvas. 

Perhaps Goya is suggesting that the evils of mankind – here, cannibalism and murder – are barely containable as well. 

Two Old Men Eating

Although titled Two Old Men Eating, it’s not clear that the figure on the right actually is a goya two old mean eatingman. His ghostlike, cadaverous appearance suggests he might be an apparition, or even Death itself.   

Goya has chosen a near monochromatic palette for the barely formed figures who are painted in deep, thick paint with fast, wide brushstrokes; the intensely, near-black background contributes to the nightmarish quality.

Francisco de Goya.  Two Old Men Eating, 1820-23.  Mixed technique on wall, transferred to canvas. Approximately 19” by 33” .  Prado, Madrid. 

Half-Submerged Dog, or The Dog

Half-Submerged Dog, conversely, has an abstract beauty to it (possibly because I prefer imagining that the dog is swimming, not drowning).  The dog’s eyes are eerily human and convey anxiety and struggle, with an uncertain outcome.  The looseness of the brushwork, the simplified composition and the lack of formal organization seemingly presage abstract Goya the dogpainting.

Few famous painters have left such an enduring legacy on subsequent generations.

The loose, free-flowing brushwork in his late paintings anticipated Impressionism, while his incorporation of the world of dreams and the freedom of his response to reality presaged developments in 20th century art, especially Expressionism and Surrealism.

Which painters do you think have been most influenced by Goya? What do you think his most profound legacy is?

Francisco de Goya. Half-Submerged Dog, 1819-23.  Mixed technique on wall, transferred to canvas, approximately 4’ 4” by 2’ 7”.  Prado, Madrid.

Tags: famous painters, Francisco de Goya

Famous Painters: Juan Sanchez Cotan

Posted by Susan Benford

It's remarkable that one of the most famous painters of the Spanish Golden Age has only six existing works after shaping Spanish still life painting for nearly a century.

Introducing Juan Sanchez Cotan.

Near the end of the 16th century, still life painting emerged as a specific genre at nearly the same time in Spain, theJuan Sanchez Cotan still life with game vegetables fruitjpg resized 600

Juan Sanchez Cotan. Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit, 1602.  Oil on canvas, approximately 27" by 35".  Prado, Madrid.

Netherlands and Northern Italy.  Three factors were behind this simultaneity:

  1. the Baroque taste for naturalistic portrayal of nature; 
  2. the growing affluence of the bourgeois, who sought art with new subject matter; and
  3. the revived interest in ancient erudition and efforts to surpass the creations of Zeuxis, an ancient Greek painter who allegedly portrayed grapes so realistically that birds pecked his canvases. 

The first known painter of Spanish still lifes was Blas de Prado, although none of his works survives.  It is believed he instructed Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1627), who is the first Spanish still life painter with existing works. 

The earliest of these Cotan paintings – and likely the earliest known Spanish still life, or bodegon - is Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit. It exemplifies the mastery that Juan Sanchez Cotan brought to the genre: everyday objects are instilled with a dignity that monumentalizes them.

In Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit, everyday objects are arranged in different planes protruding from the pictorial space.  On the far right is a cardoon, a thistle-like relative of the artichoke.  juan sanchez cotan still life with thistle resized 600

Juan Sanchez Cotan.  Still Life with Thistle, 1602.  Oil on canvas, approximately 24" by 32".  Granada Museum of Fine Arts, Granada.

Its dominant curves soften the composition’s rigid right angles and geometry. Intense lighting from the side creates volumes and shadows with tenebrism contemporaneous to Caravaggio’s.  

That same year, Cotan created Still Life with Thistle, which shares similarities with Still Life with Game.  He again features a cardoon or thistle; the pictorial plane is parallel to the viewer; and volume is again accentuated by the contrast between the vegetables and the near black background. 

But Still Life with Thistle is a far simpler composition in which the typical focus point - the center - is nothing but blackness.  As with all still lifes, the objective is realism -- and Cotan achieves it masterfully.

The best known Juan Sanchez Cotan painting is his Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber.  Here the irregularly rounded vegetables and fruits are juxtaposed against the geometry of a cupboard, which often had foods juan sanchez cotan still life quince cabbage melon cucumber resized 600

Juan Sanchez Cotan.  Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber, c. 1602.  Oil on canvas, 27 1/8" by 33 1/4".  San Diego Museum of Art.

suspended from string to prevent rot.  A strong arc bending from the upper left to lower right corner draws the eye into this trompe l'oeil rendering. 

For nearly all of the 17th century, Spanish still life painting followed Juan Sanchez Cotan's model of a brilliant light source illuminating objects against a solid, dark background Although Sanchez Cotan enjoyed some success as a painter - it's known that he loaned a substantial amount to his friend, El Greco - Spanish still life paintings weren't highly sought after until the mid 20th century. Until then, the Spanish court preferred still lifes from the Netherlands as decorations for their courts. 

Shortly after completing Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, Sanchez Cotan renounced his earthly possessions, abandoned his studio (including this painting) and joined
cotanthe Carthusian monks. Some viewers see religious overtones in Cotan's paintings, claiming that he through his realism he strove to demonstrate the brilliance of God's creations; others see these works simply as phenomenal still lifes. 

In either case, it is inarguable that Sanchez Cotan rightfully belongs in the ranks of famous painters for his enduring contributions to Spanish still life painting.

Question: How and why do Juan Sanchez Cotan paintings feel timeless over 400 years after their creation?

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Tags: famous painters, Baroque painters, Juan Sanchez Cotan

Dutch Painters from the Mauritshuis

Posted by Susan Benford

 Although Vermeer is the headline act in the art exhibition, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch  Paintings from the Mauritshuis, other renowned Dutch painters are included as well.

The Goldfinch, 1654. Oil on panel, apporximately 13" by 9".</em> <em>Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.
Carel Fabritius. The Goldfinch, 1654.
Oil on panel, apporximately 13" by 9".
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

According to Emilie Gordenker, director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, which owns these Dutch paintings:

What you get from this exhibition is an overview of Dutch paintings at the hand of the very best examples you can imagine."

Among the Dutch painters featured are:

  • the other two leading Dutch painters of the Delft school, Pieter de Hooch and Carel Fabritius
  • Jacob van Ruysdael, (or Ruisdael) the most prominent landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age;
  • Rembrandt; and
  • Jan Steen.

Here's a look at these famous Dutch painters (and here's more about Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring):

Carel Fabritius (1622-1654)

Although often undersold as a link between Rembrandt and Vermeer - or merely as the teacher of the better known Vermeer - Carel Fabritius (1622-1654) is becoming recognized as one of the most accomplished Dutch painters of the Golden Age.

Fabritius' life was cut tragically short by a munitions explosion and fire that destroyed a quarter of Delft, levelling homes, killing individuals, and flattening Fabritius' studio and destroying most of his works. Two of the few remaining Fabritius paintings are View of Delft and The Goldfinch, both of which showcase his brilliance in creating optical effects.

Believed to have been designed for a perspective box, or a "peepshow" cylindrical optical device used to simulate an interior space, View from Delft shows a vendor of musical instruments with a viola da gamba and lute in the foreground. If this painting were mounted onto a curved canvas, its foreshortening would disappear.

Fabritius view delft

Carel Fabritius. View from Delft, 1652. 3'3" by 6'9". National Gallery, London.

Fabritius' skill with illusionistic effects, in demand from wealthy patrons, is further demonstrated in his painting, The Goldfinch (above right) one of the other stars of Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis. In this diminutive work, approximately 12" by 9", Fabritius paints to scale a goldfinch against a creamy, crumbling plaster wall. The bird, shackled to its perch by a looping, delicate chain, was likely kept as a household pet, many of which were taught to perform tricks.

The sharp angle at which the bird is painted and the angle of the box suggest that The Goldfinch was intended to hang high on a wall. Carel Fabritius' extraordinary trompe l'oeil creates such a convincing effect that one is tempted to touch the bird.

Pieter de Hooch (1628-1684)

In A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking in a Courtyard, Pieter de Hooch combines a genre painting and a landscape painting in which the clothing provides clues to the identities of the subjects. The man's attire suggests that he is the homeowner, while the simpler clothing of the woman suggests she is his servant. The figure on the right, although wearing a skirt, is actually a boy; it was typical for boys to wear skirts until the age of five.

pieter de hooch man smoking woman drinking

Pieter de Hooch. A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking, 1658-1660. Oil on canvas, approximately 31" by 26". Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

The textural detail in A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking in a Courtyard is remarkable: the brick courtyard is convincingly worn, uneven and bumpy.

Ruisdael View Haarlem Bleaching Grounds

Jacob van Ruysdael. View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds.
Oil on canvas, 1670-1675. Approx. 22" by 24".
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Jacob van Ruysdael (1628/29 - 1682)

View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds demonstrates why Ruysdael was considered the best Dutch landscape painter in the Dutch Golden Age. Although View of Haarlem captures the dunes and pastures typical of the Dutch landscape, it's really all about sky and clouds, which command nearly 2/3 of the canvas.

Clouds range from threatening gray to luminous white, with sunshine breaking through to fields of white linen bleaching in the sun.

Because water from these dunes was pure, bleaching fields like this surrounded 17th century Haarlem.

Rembrandt

In the 17th century, a "tronie" was a headshot portrait in which the sitter often wore a costumer or unusual garb (Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is likely the best known tronie). Rembrandt's "Tronie of a Man with a Feathered Beret" delivers a portrait of a pompous man, turned toward the viewer as if on the verge of speaking. Rembrandt flaunts his skill with light and shade to capture a seemingly spontaneous moment.

Rembrandt Tronie Man Feathered Beret

Rembrandt.  "Tronie" of a Man with a Feathered Beret", 1634 - 40.
Oil on panel, 5'3" by 3'11".
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

Unlike many aging painters, Rembrandt continued to innovate and produce remarkable works.

Among these are his Portrait of an Elderly Man of 1667, painted two years before his death and one of Rembrandt's last dated portraits.

The unknown, unshaven sitter is slouching in his chair, with an unbuttoned jacket and untied collar. While his face is rendered with exacting precision, Rembrandt created the sitter's hands and cuffs with a few decisive strokes, even scratching into wet paint to create the sitter's hair.

rembrandt portrait elderly man 1667 resized 600
Rembrandt. 
Portrait of an Elderly Man, 1667.
Approximately 2' 8" by 2' 3". 
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

Even toward the end of his career, Rembrandt was able to capture the essence of his sitter, making faces feel real and contemplative.

 

.

Jan Steen (ca. 1626 - 1679)

Jan Steen, a son-in-law and pupil of Jan van Goyen, was a highly regarded Dutch genre painter who portrayed the lives of the Dutch middle class, whereas most works of the time featured the royal and upper classes.

In many of his nearly 800 works, Steen provides an underlying moral lesson, as seen in As the Old Sing, so Twitter the Young.

Steen As Old Sing So Twitter

 Jan Steen.  As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young, ca. 1665.  Approximately 53" by 64".  Royal Picture Gallery, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Here, a jovial christening feast has run amok, although the adults are seemingly too busy having fun to notice.

The grownups appear inebriated, and one is even offering alcohol to a child while other children smoke pipes. Steen inserted himself and his children into many paintings - the Rijksmuseum claims that he is likely the bagplayer near the window.

The moral lesson of As the Old Sing, so Twitter the Young isn't subtle but is timeless - because children mimic parents and other adults, it's wise to consider the behavior one is modelling. Or twittering!

Who do you consider to be the most accomplished Dutch Golden Age painter? Or the most impressive Golden Age painting? Perhaps these posts about Dutch painters will provide answers:

Do tell!

Exhibition Schedule

All 35 Dutch paintings in Girl with a Pearl Earring:Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis are at Atlanta's High Museum of Art until September 29, 2013; an abbreviated version of the show, titled Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Paintings from Mauritshuis, will feature 15 Dutch paintings and will be at the Frick Collection in New York from October 22, 2013 until January 19, 2014. Fear not -- it includes Girl with a Pearl Earring (which will again have an exhibition gallery of her own) and The Goldfinch!

Tags: famous painters, dutch golden age, Dutch painters

Famous Painters: Frans Hals

Posted by Susan Benford

Art history has long taught that Frans Hals (1582/83 – 1666) wasn’t known as one of the famous painters of the Golden Age until he was "rediscovered" by the French art critic Theophile Thore-Burger in the 19th century. 

That’s bunk, according to the Frans Hals Museum of Haarlem. 

frans hals banquest officers st georgeAdditionally, the museum discovered within the last year that Frans Hals, like Tintoretto, painted in the alla prima manner in which a portrait is completed in a single setting without a preliminary study; further, the museum claims that Frans Hals was highly esteemed by some of Europe’s most famous painters and art collectors of the 17th century.

Frans Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard.  Oil on canvas, 1616.  10'8" by 5'9" Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.

Frans Hals' legacy was, I believe, his uncanny ability to paint the essence of a brief moment with precise realism but few details.  Hals’ teacher, the writer and painter Karel van Mander (1548 – 1606), encouraged his students to paint either very precisely (“neat”) or very coarsely (“rough).  

The latter was already seen in late Titian paintings, which were highly regarded. According to van Mander, this style was far harder to achieve - but these paintings from the Frans Hals Museum show that his star pupil mastered it. 

Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard, 1616 

One of the earliest known Frans Hals paintings, Banquet (above) was ground-breaking because it resembled a photograph – it’s as if the celebrating Guards have abruptly turned to confront an intruder. The work was so highly valued that around 1685, the Haarlem burgomasters requisitioned it to hang in the Prinsenhof, the town hall in which the most frans hals pekelharing painting resized 600 prized paintings were exhibited.

Pekelharing, c. 1628 – 1630 

Pekelharing, literally Dutch for "pickelled herring", was a reference to a “tankard-gazer”, or what English speakers call a drunkard.  Like many Frans Hals portraits -- which comprise 85% of his known works - the sitter is lively, smiling with his head cocked back, and inebriated.

Frans Hals, Pekelharing.  Oil on canvas, c. 1628-1630.  75 x 61, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel© Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel

One of Frans Hals’ best-known genre paintings, Pekelharing is the sole painting on which he signed his surname in full, suggesting that Hals considered this one of his best paintings. 

Two Laughing Boys, c. 1628 

Frans Hals’ adoption of the “rough manner” echoed the same earlier style found in Tintoretto and Titian paintings.  Although many painters shied away from the difficulty of painting laughter, Hals embraced it, making laughing faces one of his trademarks. 

frans hals two laughing boys.jpg!xlMedium resized 600The looseness of Frans Hals' brushwork creates movement, as seen in the faces of Two Laughing Boys.  Yet Hals could perfect details, too -- the fur hat nearly protrudes from the canvas.

Here, one boy pretends to be a pekelharing, prompting giggles from both of them.  Hals has brilliantly depicted the spontaneity of a joyful, fleeting moment, a hallmark that would come to define his works.

This work was stolen in 2011 from its museum, and found five months later, intact.

Frans Hals, Two Laughing Boys.  Oil on canvas, c. 1628.  Hofje van Aerden, Leerdam.

Nicolaes van der Meer, 1631

Frans Hals was commissioned in 1630 to paint a portrait of Nicolaes van der Meer, rubens portrait of jan vermoelen resized 600a prominent Haarlem magistrate and rich brewer. 

It would be hard to imagine that Hals didn’t know (and reference) two portraits:

  • Peter Paul Rubens’ Portrait of Jan Vermoelen, 1616 (right), and

  • van dyck portrait 55 year old man resized 600Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of a 55 Year Old Man, c. 1618 (left).

All three works are three-quarter length portraits of a man dressed in black near a chair upholstered in gold-tooled leather. 

Rubens introduced this composition; Van Dyck, Rubens’ star pupil, tweaked his teacher’s portrait by relocating the chair, having the sitter lean into it, and using a light grey background to produce a cooler feeling than in Rubens’ portrait. 

Frans Hals introduced his personal "rough" brushwork to create the liveliest portrait of these three (below).

frans hals portrait nicolaes van der Meer resized 600

Regents of St. Elisabeth’s Hospital, 1641

In the Golden Age, the administrators and governors of charitable institutions relished having their portraits

Left. Frans Hals.  Nicolaes van der Meer, 1631.  Oil on panel, approximately 3'3" by 4'2". 1631.  Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.

painted while in office.  The result, known as regents’ portraits, were a uniquely Dutch painting subject.  

Frans Hals painted the earliest Haarlem regents’ portrait, Regents of St. Elisabeth's Hospital. With painterly, loose brushwork, Hals captures each of the hospital governors distinctively in a seemingly swift style.  The sunlight streaming in on the left is likely related to the place where this work was to be exhibited. Immediacy and movement are masterfully conveyed with one man in the throes of standing up. 

Perhaps the composition seems familiar. Twenty-one years later Rembrandt unmistakably replicated Hals' composition, adopting his technique of conveying movement and liveliness in Syndics of the Drapers' Guild (below, left). 

Frans Hals Regents St Elisabeth Hospital

Frans Hals.  Regents of St. Elisabeth's Hospital, c. 1641.  Oil on canvas, 5' by 8'3".  Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem.  Gift from St. Elisabeth's Hospital 2011.

Frans Hals rightfully belongs in the ranks of famous painters of the 17th century for his unusual ability to capture these fleeting, spontaneous moments in a portrait; for his commanding group rembrandt syndics drapers guildportraits; and for his newly discovered talents with painting alla prima.

Left. Rembrandt.  Syndics of the Drapers' Guild, 1662. Oil on canvas, 6'3" by 9'2".  Rijksmusem, Amsterdam.

Although traditional portraiture demanded as close a likeness as possible, Hals was ultimately able to meld realism with his trademark brushwork to create dynamic portraits.

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Tags: famous painters, frans hals

Famous Painters: El Greco

Posted by Susan Benford

Few famous painters ever created a religious painting as masterful and awe-insiring as El Greco's Burial of Count Orgaz.

And even fewer famous painters can claim their commissions resulted from a lawsuit!

burial-count-orgaz-church-view-resized-600

Domenikos Theotocopoulos (El Greco). The Burial of Count Orgaz, 1586. Oil on canvas, 15' 1" by 11' 10". Church of Santo Tome, Toledo, Spain.

Burial of Count Orgaz commemorates the life and death of the Lord of Orgaz, Don Gonzalo Ruiz, who died in 1323 after years of supporting the small, simple church of Santo Tome in Toledo, Spain. The inscription at the lower edge of Burial of Count Orgaz reveals its story:

When the priests were preparing to bury him [Count Orgaz]... St. Stephen and St. Augustine descended from heaven and buried him there with their own hands.  WHY? They said Orgaz bequeathed 2 sheep, 16 hens, 2 skins of wine, 2 wagon loads of wood and 800 coins... all to fall each year from the inhabitants of the domain of Orgaz.

Problem was that "the inhabitants of the domain of Orgaz"  - or Orgaz's heirsrefused to honor this bequeathal to the church. Its priest, Andre de Nunez, sued and won a lawsuit in 1570, leaving this tiny church awash in unfathomable wealth.

Enter one of the most famous painters of his time, Domenikos Theotocopoulos (1541-1614), known as "El Greco".  Born in Crete, which was then a Venetian possession, El Greco went to Venice where he worked in the studio of Titian but was more impressed by Tintoretto's artwork.  He also absorbed the art of other famous painters including the Italian Mannerists, Michelangelo and Raphael; he left for Spain in 1576/77, where he spent the rest of his life.

The Burial of Count Orgaz was commissioned in 1586, more than 2/12 centuries after the Count's demise. 

First note the size of Burial of Count Orgaz -- 15' 1" by 11' 10" -- and try to imagine it on site (image, top). It's 6 feet off the floor in a chapel only 18 feet deep, so viewers have to crane their necks to see the uppermost part of the painting. 

The stone plaque is at eye level and becomes the front of the sarcophagus into which the Count is being placed by St. Stephen, in the ornately embroidered robe on the left, and St. Augustine, who wears a robe embroidered with images of saints and is recognized by his bishop's miter.  

The bottom half of the painting is remarkably realistic; El Greco's Venetian training comes

Domenikos Theotocopoulos (El Greco).  The Burial of Count Orgaz, 1586.  Oil on canvas, 15' 1" by 11' 10".  Church of Santo Tome, Toledo, Spain.

through in the sensuous colors and textures of the clothing.

His talents as a portraitist are readily apparent in the array of men featured here, all prominent Spaniards of the 1580s.  

Here are the characters identified in this portion of Burial of Count Orgaz:

  • In the left foreground is a son of El Greco, who is gazing directly at the viewer like his father, who is directly above the head of St. Stephen (detail, lower right)
  • Andres Nunez, who devoted two years to winning the Count's bequest, is the priest in the gauzy, diaphonous surplice in the far right foreground;
  • To the right of Nunez is another religious official whose crucifix unites the terrestial and celestial scenes;
  • the soul of Count Orgaz, which looks like like a quasi-child swaddled in gauze, is transported to heaven by a winged angel in the  center, and 
  • the Virgin Mother, who is dressed in red and blue, sits at the feet of Christ with St. John the Baptist across from her.

The exacting and static realism of the bottom portion of Burial is replaced in the upper half by frenetic energy, swirling masses of fabric, and ethereal lighting as all are entranced by famous painters el greco detail resized 600the commanding figure of Christ.  

Among those seated in the crowd of men behind John the Baptist is none other than the King.  Ironically, King Phillip II wasn't partial to El Greco paintings, despite El Greco's status as one of the most famous painters in 16th century Spain. (1).

El Greco paintings fell out of favor until they were "discovered", like the works of other famous painters including Vermeer, Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, by collectors, painters and critics in the 19th century. It's hard to fathom how anyone wouldn't be moved by the expressiveness of El Greco paintings.

For Discussion: How does the power and awe inspired by Burial of Count Orgaz compare to other religious works like van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece? Or Fra Angelico's Annunciation? Or the Isenheim Altarpiece?

Please send your comments (all of which must be moderated, so they won't appear immediately).  And thanks! 

1. Penelope J. E. Davies et al, Janson's History of Art: Western Tradition, 7th edition, (c) 2007. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ, page 630.

 

 

 

 

Tags: famous painters, El Greco, El Greco paintings

Survey of Famous Painters

Posted by Susan Benford

This survey of famous painters is geared toward those without an art history degree. These posts are intended to make art history engaging by unearthing little known and fascinating facts about this famous artwork, which spans Renaissance paintings to early Pop art paintings

bonheur horse fair resized 600

For instance, the Renaissance painter Rosa Bonheur was forbidded in 1850s Paris to enter the horse markets where she wanted to study equine anatomy.  

Undeterred, she disguised herself as a man and snuck in. It was recently discovered that she painted her self-portrait into her masterpiece above, Horse Fair. Talk about having the last laugh!

Discover more art history about these famous painters

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair.

Botticelli Primavera.  Sandro Botticelli.  Above: Primavera, c. 1482.  Tempera on wood panel, 6'8" by 10'4". Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

carvaggio card sharpsCaravaggio, The Cardsharps and The Fortune Teller.  Above: The Cardsharps, 1595-96.  Oil on canvas, 37 1/8" x 51 5/8".  Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas 

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings 

Copley, Paul Revere.

David, Death of Marat

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de KooningExcavation and Painting, 1948

de KooningWoman I. 

delacroix liberty leading people

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. Above: Eugene Delacroix.  Liberty Leading the People, 1830.  Oil on canvas, approx. 8'6" by 10'8".  Louvre, Paris.

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson

Durer, The Four Apostles

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman. 

Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting

Ghent Altarpiece.  Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck. Below: Ghent Altarpiece (open).  Completed 1432. Tempera and oil on wood,  11'6" by 15'1".  Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent.  Explore Ghent Altarpiece via zoom

ghent altarpiece

GiorgioneThree Philosophers

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, The Third of May 1808

Hals, The Laughing CavalierKahlo love embrace universe resized 600

Ingres, Grande Odalisque

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings. Right. Frida Kahlo, The Love-Embrace of the Universe, 1949. Oil on masonite,  approx. 28" x 24". The Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art Collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman.

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta

Leonardo, Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi)

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.  

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere.  

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

matisse red studioMatisse, The Red Studio. Right. Henri Matisse. The Red Studio, 1911.  Oil on canvas, 5' 11 1/4" by 7' 2 1/4".  The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund.

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings 

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein. 

Picasso, Las Meninas series. 

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

velazquez juan de parejaRembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sargent, Madame X. Right. John Singer Sargent. Madame X. Oil on canvas.  82 1/8" x 43 1/4".  Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1916 (16.53).  Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja.  Above.  Diego Velazquez.  Juan de Pareja, 1648.  Oil on canvas, 32" by 27 1/2".  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Rogers Fund, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton deGroot.

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat. 

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn.

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Tags: famous paintings, famous painters, famous painters survey

Famous Painters: Ingres

Posted by Susan Benford

Ingres was one of the most famous painters in France during the first half of the 19th century.  His father, a musician, sculptor and painter, permitted 16 year old Ingres to move to Paris and apprentice with Jacques-Louis David, the founder of Neoclassicism

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) stood at a crossroads in the history of painting.  He ultimately became the last standard-bearer of French Classicism, as practiced by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) two centuries prior, in its rivalry with Romanticism, as defined by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and championed by Ingres' rival, Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). Although Ingres ultimately failed in ousting Delacroix's vision (Ingres sniped that Delacroix was "the apostle of the ugly"), Ingres is still considered one of France's most famous painters, primarily due to his brilliant portraits. 

ingres grande odalisque resized 600Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres.  Grande Odalisque, 1814.  Oil on canvas, 35 7/8" by 63".  Louvre, Paris.

Grand Odalisque was commissioned in 1813 by Caroline Murat, Napoleon's sister and the queen of Naples. Although now considered one of Ingres' most famous paintings, Grande Odalisque was reviled for these reasons when it was first exhibited at the Salon of 1819:

  • its lack of anatomical reality;
  • Ingres' deviation from pure Neoclassicism;
  • the Odalisque's lack of mythological narrative; and
  • her impossibly long neck and elbowless right arm. 

Although its subject - the reclining female nude - harks back to ancient Greek, Ingres nods to contemporary themes in two ways:

  • the odalisque (oda is a room in a Turkish harem) reflects the Romantic interest in all things exotic or foreign.  According to Marilyn Stokstad, Grand Odalisque is one of the earliest examples of Orientalism in the history of painting, as the Western interest in the Muslims of North Africa and Near East was labelled. This "exoticism" is further conveyed with the concubine's fan and turban, and with the incense burner and hash pipe.

  • the concubine's features, though, are pure European, reflecting tastes of the Parisian public (and prevalent Eurocentric attitudes).

ingres vow louis xiiiIngres claimed that his painting muse was Raphael, whom Ingres felt embodied the essence of Classicism. This influence is readily apparent in comparing Ingres' Vow of Louis XIII (left) with Raphael's Sistine Madonna (right).

raphael sistine madonna

Although these two famous paintings have similar compositions, Raphael's Pope Julius II in the lower left corner has been replaced by Louis XIII. Instead of a religious painting depicting entry to 

Right: Raphael.  Sistine Madonna, 1513.  Oil on canvas, 8' 8 1/2" x 6' 5".  Gemäldegalerie, Dresden.

Paradise, Ingres refashioned Raphael's masterpiece into a contemporary political painting.  Napoleon had fallen in 1815; his court painter, David, was in exile in Brussels; and a new generation of Romantic painters surged.  When The Vow was exhibited at the Salon of 1824, critics claimed that Ingres was the savior of the Classical tradition.  

Jean-August-Dominque Ingres.  The Vow of Louis XIII, 1824.  Montauban Cathedral, Montauban

Although Ingres' history paintings established his early reputation, it is his portraits andingres madame moitessier their mastery of line that cemented his tenure in the history of painting.  Nowhere is this more apparent that in his masterful Portrait of Madame Ines Moitessier

Ingres initially refused the 1844 request of Sigisbert Moitessier to paint a portrait of his wife but recanted after meeting her.  Seven years later, though, Ingres hadn't finished this initial portrait and painted a standing portrait (right) instead.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.  Madame Moitessier, 1851.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  

Ingres completed the seated portrait in 1856 after numerous re-workings.  As in many of his portraits, he melded the actual with the ideal.  

Here (below left), Madame Moitessier is an earth-bound goddess, with flawlessly smooth skin, sensual arms and shoulders, and a Raphaelesque face.  The complexity of the composition - with the richly detailed fabric, the fan of peacock feathers, the dog-topped urn - is successful due to Ingres' precision with texture and shape.

Madame's pose with her hand touching her cheek is likely derived from an ancient Roman fresco in Herculaneum, while the profile (impossibly) reflected is Greek.  
ingres portrait madame ines moitessier resized 600Portrait of Madame Moitessier, though, is riveting because she nonchalantly meets the viewer's gaze, as if she, too, is assessing a painting.

In my mind, this portrait alone secures Ingres' status among the most famous painters.  At the least, Portrait of Madame Ines Moitessier was worth the wait!

Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres.  Portrait of Madame Ines Moitessier, 1856.  Oil on canvas, 47 1/4" by 36 2/4".  National Gallery, London

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Botticelli, Primavera

Caillebotte, Gustave, The Floor Scrapers; The House Painters; Pont de l'Europe; Paris Street, Rainy Day; Fruit Displayed on a Stand

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers 

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Degas, The Bellilli Family, The Dance Class, In a Cafe (Absinthe Drinker)

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Impression, Sunrise

Monet, Nymphaes, Le Pont de l'Europe

Monet Paintings at the Marmottan Monet Museum

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Peeters, Clara

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

van Gogh, Three Pairs of Shoes

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her Children, Self Portrait, Self-Portrait with Julie

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her ChildrenSelf PortraitSelf-Portrait with Julie

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionExplore famous paintings at the Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

10 Famous Paintings at the Prado. Don't miss a one of these.

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  Self-Portrait; Marie Antoinette and Her Children; Self-Portrait with Julie

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia

Coatlique 

Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors