Saturday, April 21, 2018

Odilon Redon, born April 20, 1840, the master of the mysterious

Crying Spider, 1998

Born yesterday (born April 20, 1840* - July 6, 1916), Redon does not get the credit that he is due for exploring the dark side of the unconscious a long time before the Surrealists were born as well as creating some of the most beautiful works in European art. Of his own work Redon wrote, "My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They place us,as music does, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined." 
 Goldwater, Robert; Treves, Marco (1945). Artists on Art. Pantheon.

"In the prints and drawings he made beginning in the 1860's, Redon created macabre and cryptic images inspired in some cases by the writings of Poe and Baudelaire, in others by the paintings of Goya. His renditions of flowers sprouting skulls and of skeletons with antlers, and his references to Hindu symbols for death and to mythical creatures like Pegasus and the Sphinx, prompted the Parisian critics to label him as a purveyor of ''le fantastique reel,'' ''that desolate region which exists on the borders of the real and the fantastic - a realm populated by formidable phantoms, monsters, monads and other creatures born of human perversity,'' explained the critic Emile Hennequin in an 1882 review of Redon's lithographs." (NYTimes) 


His mother had an unusual background - she was a Creole born in Louisiana, where his father met her - a lonely childhood and highly atypical training all helped to exacerbate his originality. He studied watercolor painting in Bordeaux, spent a year architectural studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which he did not enjoy, and another year in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérome, the academic painter whose teaching and brusqueness he loathed. At the age of 25, he was back in Bordeaux, studying engraving with Rodolphe Bresdin. In the late 1860's he produced a series of small masterpieces, a charcoal landscape, dark still life works mixed with his carefully painted scenes, inspired by medieval poetry. His work was produced in a bewildering variety of styles, sometimes verging on kitsch, except for his brilliant color. A Symbolist phase followed his macabre etchings and works in charcoal, predating Dali by a century. Inspired by Gustave Flaubert's temptation of St. Anthony, Redon created three lithograph albums. 

--> In the early 1900's, he painted some of the most beautiful flower still lifes in European painting, moving his visionary art from the darker side of the human psyche into the light.

Opelia among the flowers
Arbres sur un fond jaune, one of the panels painted in 1901 for the dining room of the Château de Domecy-sur-le-Vault

In 1899, his commissions from Baron de Domecy to create decorative panels for the dining room of his chateau marked Redon's transition from ornamental to abstract painting and increased his popularity. Although he remained a very private person, he received the Legion of Honor in 1903 and his increased popularity led to greater financial security by the end of his life. 

April 22 according to another source.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Three items invented by women

Liquid paper, the dishwasher and the disposable diaper:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

In honor of Paolo Veronese

Self Portrait

Veronese's house in Venice

The Feast in the House of Levi

One of the problems with trying to write a post on an artist's birthday is that we don't HAVE the birthday's for many pre-19th century artists. In Paolo Veronese's case (also known as Palo Callari), we have his date of death which is today, April 19, 1588). Born in Verona in 1528, his father was a stonecutter and apprenticed his son Paolo at the age of 14 to a local artist. Paolo soon began to develop his own style of using lighter colors in a wider range. 

In 1543, he had moved to Mantua and worked on frescos in the city's cathedral. Ten years later he arrived in Venice where he was to produce his most memorable works of art. He specialized in large format paintings of works from mythology and the Bible. He became part of the great artists- Titian, Tintoretto - who dominated 15th century art and that of the late Renaissance. "His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colorful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings. Most of these works remain in situ, or at least in Venice, and his representation in most museums is mainly composed of smaller works such as portraits that do not always show him at his best or most typical." Wikipedia

Twenty years after his arrival in Venice, Inquisitors challenged Veronese, asking him to account for the presence of "buffoons, drunkards, dwarfs, Germans, and similar vulgarities" in his painting of the Last Supper for a monastery in Venice. Veronese defended himself by invoking the artist's right to creative freedom. By the end of his life, Veronese's paintings were in such high demand that his brother, two sons, and a nephew had to carry out the remainder of his numerous commissions after his death.

Susannah and the Elders
He has always been appreciated for "the chromatic brilliance of his palette, the splendor and sensibility of his brushwork, the aristocratic elegance of his figures, and the magnificence of his spectacle", but his work has been felt "not to permit expression of the profound, the human, or the sublime", and of the "great trio" he has often been the least appreciated by modern criticism.[ Nonetheless, "many of the greatest artists ... may be counted among his admirers, which include  RubensWatteauTiepoloDelacroix and Renoir".

Monday, April 16, 2018

Frans van Mieris, the elder. Born on this day in 1635

Frans van Mieris, the elder (16 April 1635 – 12 March 1681), was a Dutch Golden Age genre and portrait painter. The leading member of a Leiden family of painters, his sons Jan (1660–1690) and Willem (1662–1747) and his grandson Frans van Mieris the Younger (1689–1763) were also accomplished genre painters.

He belonged to an illustrious family of goldsmiths and painters. After an apprenticeship with his cousin, Van Mieris studied painting with Gerrit Dou, the first and most famous member of the fijnschilders (fine painters) in his native Leiden. Dou called him the "Prince of my Pupils." 

In the style of the fijnschilders--minutely proportioned subjects with bright colors, a shiny finish, and precise attention to detail--Van Mieris painted on wood or copper panels rarely larger than fifteen square inches. He represented common incidents in the lives of the working class as well as the habits and customs of the wealthy. His paintings were highly acclaimed in his lifetime and earned Van Mieris a great deal of money. 

Unfortunately, he wasted his fortune through alcoholism and poor management of his finances. Although contemporaries recognized Van Mieris as one of the leading Dutch artists of the 1600s, his paintings fell into relative obscurity in the 1700s.

Images and information from Wikipedia and The Getty on Line

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Happy birthday to Leonardo da Vinci

Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci ('The Codex Arundel'). A collection of papers written in Italian by Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452, d. 1519), in his characteristic left-handed mirror-writing (reading from right to left), including diagrams, drawings and brief texts, covering a broad range of topics in science and art, as well as personal notes. The core of the notebook is a collection of materials that Leonardo describes as 'a collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place according to the subjects of which they treat' (f. 1r), a collection he began in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli in Florence, in 1508. To this notebook has subsequently been added a number of other loose papers containing writing and diagrams produced by Leonardo throughout his career. Decoration: Numerous diagrams.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Thomas Lawrence. (April 13, 1769-January 1, 1830). Pictorial chronicler of the Regency

Lady Peel, 1827

Pinkie. How many of us had this poster on our bedroom walls when we were children? 

Elizabeth Farren, Actress, then Countess of Derby
Thomas Lawrence (Born April 13, 1769) was a child prodigy. His rather ran an inn and the young Thomas sketched all the passengers. By the age of 10, he was supporting his family with his pastel portraits. At eighteen, he went to London and established his reputation by his portrait of Queen Charlotte. Self-taught, he stayed at the top of his profession until his death at the age of 60 (January 1, 1830).

He was the pictorial chronicler of the Regency, the President of the Royal Academy, always popular but always in debt and unhappy in love.

"...Lawrence was painting his own generation, and effectively bringing it on to the stage of history. He supplied them with stormy or melodramatic backgrounds, dashed in with fast, free brushstrokes, as if liberating them from an old world of conventions. In contrast with the previous generation of artists – the smoothness of Reynolds, or the feather-light touch of Gainsborough – he rendered their clothes with thickly applied paint, strongly contrasted colours, and glittering, almost metallic, highlights. With these techniques, Lawrence expressed a new age of patriotism, flamboyance and bold individuality."

Art News Weekly Update

From the Met's new director to who bought the highly controversial Rockwell painting, it's all here:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Robert Delaunay, Born on this day in 1885.

"Painting is by nature a luminous language." -- Robert Delaunay, artist and co-founder of the Orphism art movement, born on this day in 1885. 

Red Eiffel Tower, painted in 1911 to celebrate his engagement to fellow artist, Sonia Terk, (later Sonia Delaunay)

The Orphism movement was noted for is use of strong colors and geometric shape. But Delaunay's later work was more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee. 

Influenced by neo-Impressionism and Signac's pointillism, he created forms using mosaic shaped squares of color. He would leave small areas blank to create a sense of space and light; his influence on painters such as Kandinsky was immense. 
His work developed into proto-Cubism in which complex geometric shapes were fragmented. These dynamic canvases celebrated urban life as evidence by Delaunay's often repeated motif of the Eiffel Tower. 

Delaunay wrote that the "breaking up of form by light creates colored planes... [that] are the structure of the picture... nature is no longer a subject for description but a pretext." Eventually, he abandoned "images or reality that come to corrupt the order of color" - thus turning to complete abstraction.