Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, Biography (1606-1669) b.Netherlands

Nightwatch - Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn

The Music Party

Aristotle with the Bust of Homer

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden the Netherlands He was the ninth child born to Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Willemsdochter van Zuytbrouck. [7]His family was quite well-to-do; his father was a miller and his mother was a baker's daughter. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leidenalthough according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting; he was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou.

In 1629 Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens the father of Christiaan Huygens (a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist), who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646.[9]
At the end of 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success. He initially stayed with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburg and in 1634, married Hendrick's cousin, Saskia van Uylenburg[10] Saskia came from a good family: her father had been lawyer and burgemeester (mayor) of Leeuwarden. When Saskia, as the youngest daughter, became an orphan, she lived with an older sister in Het Bildt. They were married in the local church of St. Annaparochie without the presence of his relatives. In the same year, Rembrandt became a burgess of Amsterdam and a member of the local guild of painters. He also acquired a number of students, among them Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck.

Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburg ca. 1635.
In 1635 Rembrandt and Saskia moved into their own house, renting in fashionable Nieuwe Doelenstraat. In 1639, they moved to a prominent house (now the Rembrandt House Museum) in the Jodenbreestraat in what was becoming the Jewish quarter; the mortgage to finance the 13,000 guilder purchase would be a primary cause for later financial difficulties.[11] He should easily have been able to pay it off with his large income, but it appears his spending always kept pace with his income, and he may have made some unsuccessful investments.[12] It was there that Rembrandt frequently sought his Jewish neighbors to model for his Old Testament scenes.[13]Although they were by now affluent, the couple suffered several personal setbacks; their son Rumbartus died two months after his birth in 1635 and their daughter Cornelia died at just 3 weeks of age in 1638. In 1640, they had a second daughter, also named Cornelia, who died after living barely over a month. Only their fourth child, Titus, who was born in 1641, survived into adulthood. Saskia died in 1642 soon after Titus's birth, probably from tuberculosis. Rembrandt's drawings of her on her sick and death bed are among his most moving works.
During Saskia's illness, Geertje Dircx was hired as Titus' caretaker and nurse and probably also became Rembrandt's lover. She would later charge Rembrandt with breach of promise and was awarded alimony of 200 guilders a year. Rembrandt worked to have her committed for twelve years to an asylum or poorhouse (called a "bridewell") at Gouda, after learning Geertje had pawned jewelry that had once belonged to Saskia, and which Rembrandt had given her.
In the late 1640s Rembrandt began a relationship with the much younger Hendrickje Stoffels who had initially been his maid. In 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia, bringing Hendrickje a summons from the Reformed church to answer the charge "that she had committed the acts of a whore with Rembrandt the painter". She admitted this and was banned from receiving communion. Rembrandt was not summoned to appear for the Church council because he was not a member of the Reformed church. The two were considered legally wed under common law, but Rembrandt had not married Henrickje, so as not to lose access to a trust set up for Titus in his mother's will.

Rembrandt's son Titus, as a monk, 1660.
Rembrandt lived beyond his means, buying art (including bidding up his own work), prints (often used in his paintings) and rarities, which probably caused a court arrangement to avoid his bankruptcy in 1656, by selling most of his paintings and large collection of antiquities. The sale list survives and gives us a good insight into his collections, which apart from Old Master paintings and drawings included busts of the Roman Emperors, suits of Japanese armour among many objects from Asia, and collections of natural history and minerals; the prices realized in the sales in 1657 and 1658 were disappointing. He also had to sell his house and his printing-press and move to more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht in 1660. The authorities and his creditors were generally accommodating to him, except for the Amsterdam painters' guild who introduced a new rule that no one in Rembrandt's circumstances could trade as a painter. To get round this, Hendrickje and Titus set up a business as art-dealers in 1660, with Rembrandt as an employee.
In 1661 he (or rather the new business) was contracted to complete work for the newly built city hall, but only after Govert Flinck the artist previously commissioned, died without beginning to paint. The resulting work, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, was rejected and returned to the painter; the surviving fragment is only a fraction of the whole work. It was around this time that Rembrandt took on his last apprentice, Aert de Gelder. In 1662 he was still fulfilling major commissions for portraits and other works. When Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany visited Amsterdam in 1667, he visited Rembrandt at his house.
Rembrandt outlived both Hendrickje, who died in 1663, and Titus, who died in 1668, leaving a baby daughter. Rembrandt died within a year of his son, on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anthony van Dyck - (Antonis van Dijck) Flemish b.1599 - d.1641

Children of Charles 1
Anthony van Dyke,
Windsor Castle, Royal Collection

Portrait of Charles V on Horseback
Anthony van Dyke

The Virgin and Child, Anthony van Dyke, Louvre, Paris, France

Anthony van Dyck (Antonis van Dijck) is one of the greatest Flemish painters. He was born on the 23rd of March, 1599 in Antwerp, 7th child in the family of a well-to-do silk merchant Frans van Dyck. After the early death of his mother he, at the age of 10, was sent to be trained by painter Hendrick van Balen in his workshop. In 1615, he already had his own workshop and an apprentice. In 1618, he was accepted as a full member of the Lucas Guild of painters.

In 1639, Van Dyck married Mary Ruthven, grand-daughter of the Earl of Gowrie. His only daughter was born on the 1st of December, 1641 and on the 9th of December, 1641 he died in London. He was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.

In his court portraits Van Dyck established a style of characterization that was to persist all over the Europe for more than two centuries: in his visions of tall and aloof, yet relaxed, elegance, he showed the most subtle ability to bring a precise physical likeness into compositions of fluent and elaborate Baroque splendor.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - French Academic Painter

Work Interrupted, 1891
Adolph-William Bouguereau
Meade Art Museum, Amherst College

Le Repose, 1879
Adolphe-William Bouguereau

Self Portrait, 1879
Adolphe-William Bouguereau

William-Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle France on November 30, 1825, into a family of wine and olive oil merchants. He seemed destined to join the family business but for the intervention of his uncle Eugène, a curate who taught him classical and biblical subjects, and arranged for Bouguereau to go to high school. Bouguereau showed artistic talent early on and his father was convinced by a client to send him to the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, where he won first prize in figure painting for a depiction of Saint Roch. To earn extra money, he designed labels for jams and preserves.

Through his uncle, Bouguereau was given a commission to paint portraits of parishioners, and when his aunt matched the sum he earned, Bouguereau went to Paris and became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts. To supplement his formal training in drawing, he attended anatomical dissections and studied historical costumes and archeology. He was admitted to the studio of François-Edouard Picot, where he studied painting in the academic style. Academic painting placed the highest status on historical and mythological subjects and Bouguereau won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1850, with his Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes. His reward was a stay at the Villa Mediciin Rome, Italy, where in addition to formal lessons he was able to study first-hand the Renaissance artists and their masterpieces.
Bouguereau, completely in tune with the traditional Academic style, exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Paris Salon for his entire working life.

Detail from The Birth of Venus by Bouguereau.
An early reviewer stated, “M. Bouguereau has a natural instinct and knowledge of contour. The eurythmie of the human body preoccupies him, and in recalling the happy results which, in this genre, the ancients and the artists of the sixteenth century arrived at, one can only congratulate M. Bouguereau in attempting to follow in their footsteps…Raphael was inspired by the ancients…and no one accused him of not being original.”

Raphael was a favorite of Bouguereau and he took this review as a high compliment. He had fulfilled one of the requirements of the Prix de Rome by completing a old-master copy of Raphael’s The Triumph of Galatea. In many of his works, he followed the same classical approach to composition, form, and subject matter.

In 1856, he married Marie-Nelly Monchablon and subsequently had five children. By the late 1850s, he made strong connections with art dealers, particularly Paul Durand-Ruel (later the champion of the Impressionists), who helped clients buy paintings from artists who exhibited at the Salons. The Salons annually drew over 300,000 people, thereby providing valuable exposure to exhibited artists. Bouguereau’s fame extended to England by the 1860s and then he bought a large house and studio in Montparnasse with his growing income.

Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects—both pagan and Christian—with a heavy concentration on the female human body. Although he created an idealized world, his almost photo-realistic style brought to life his goddesses, nymphs, bathers, shepherdesses, and madonnas in a way which was very appealing to rich art patrons of his time. Some critics, however, preferred the honesty of Jean-François Millet’s truer-to-life depiction of hard-working farmers and laborers.

Bouguereau employed traditional methods of working up a painting, including detailed pencil studies and oil sketches, and his careful method resulted in a pleasing and accurate rendering of the human form. His painting of skin, hands, and feet was particularly admired. He also used some of the religious and erotic symbolism of the Old Masters, such as the “broken pitcher” which connoted lost innocence.

One of the rewards of staying within the Academic style and doing well in the Salons was receiving commissions to decorate private houses, public buildings, and churches. As was typical of these commissions, sometimes Bouguereau would paint in his own style, and other times he had to conform to an existing group style. Early on, Bouguereau was commissioned in all three venues, which added enormously to his prestige and fame. He also made reductions of his public paintings for sale to patrons, of which The Annunciation (1888) is an example. He was also a successful portrait painter though many of his paintings of wealthy patrons still remain in private hands.

Bouguereau steadily gained the honors of the Academy, reaching Life Member in 1876, and Commander of the Legion of Honor and Grand Medal of Honor in 1885. He began to teach drawing at the Académie Julian in 1875, a co-ed art institution independent of the École des Beaux-Arts, with no entrance exams and with nominal fees.

In 1877, both his wife and infant son died. At a rather advanced age, Bouguereau was married for the second time in 1896, to fellow artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, one of his pupils. He also used his influence to open many French art institutions to women for the first time, including the Académie française.

Near the end of his life he described his love of his art, “Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come…if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable”. He painted eight hundred and twenty-six paintings.

Bouguereau died in La Rochelle at age 80 from heart disease.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marc Chagall - Rain (La Pluie) 1911

Rain (La Pluie), 1911. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 34 1/8 x 42 1/2 inches (86.7 x 108 cm). The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 76.2553.63. Marc Chagall © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Other Peggy Guggenheim Collection WorksVIEW AS SLIDESHOW

More Works By Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall’s early work is characterized by a neo-primitive style derived primarily from Russian icons and folk art. When he moved from Russia to Paris in the summer of 1910, the artist took with him several of these paintings depicting the life and customs of his native Vitebsk. During the next year he reworked them and also painted new compositions with similar motifs, infused with nostalgia for his homeland, but now adapted according to techniques and concepts he acquired from exposure to current French art.
Nondescriptive, saturated color is used in Rain in combination with assertive areas of white and black to produce a highly ornamental and vivid surface. Chagall’s use of color was influenced by that of Henri Matisse and Robert Delaunay, whose work he saw almost immediately upon his arrival in Paris. The breaking up of some areas of the composition into shaded planes, for example the roof of the house and the left foreground, has its source in Cubism, though this device is handled somewhat randomly.
Lucy Flint

After Marc Chagall moved to Paris from Russia in 1910, his paintings quickly came to reflect the latest avant-garde styles. In Paris Through the Window, Chagall’s debt to the Orphic Cubism of his colleague Robert Delaunay is clear in the semitransparent overlapping planes of vivid color in the sky above the city. The Eiffel Tower, which appears in the cityscape, was also a frequent subject in Delaunay’s work. For both artists it served as a metaphor for Paris and perhaps modernity itself. Chagall’s parachutist might also refer to contemporary experience, since the first successful jump occurred in 1912. Other motifs suggest the artist’s native Vitebsk. This painting is an enlarged version of a window view in a self-portrait painted one year earlier, in which the artist contrasted his birthplace with Paris. The Janus figure in Paris Through the Window has been read as the artist looking at once westward to his new home in France and eastward to Russia. Chagall, however, refused literal interpretations of his paintings, and it is perhaps best to think of them as lyrical evocations, similar to the allusive plastic poetry of the artist’s friends Blaise Cendrars (who named this canvas) and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Years after Chagall painted The Soldier Drinks he stated that it developed from his memory of tsarist soldiers who were billeted with families during the 1904–05 Russo-Japanese war. The enlisted man in the picture, with his right thumb pointing out the window and his left index finger pointing to the cup, is similar to the two-faced man in Paris Through the Window in that both figuratively mediate between dual worlds—interior versus exterior space, past and present, the imaginary and the real. In paintings such as these it is clear that the artist preferred the life of the mind, memory, and magical Symbolism over realistic representation.
In Green Violinist Chagall evoked his homeland. The artist’s nostalgia for his own work was another impetus in creating this painting, which is based on earlier versions of the same subject. His cultural and religious legacy is illuminated by the figure of the violinist dancing in a rustic village. The Chabad Hasidim of Chagall’s childhood believed it possible to achieve communion with God through music and dance, and the fiddler was a vital presence in ceremonies and festivals.
Jennifer Blessing

Rene Magritte - Voice of Space

Voice of Space (La Voix des airs), 1931Oil on canvas, 72.7 x 54.2 cmPeggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 75.2553 PG 101© René Magritte, by SIAE 2008

Influenced by Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte sought to strip objects of their usual functions and meanings in order to convey an irrationally compelling image. In Voice of Space, the bells float in the air. By distorting the scale, weight, and use of an ordinary object and inserting it into a variety of unaccustomed contexts, Magritte confers on that object a fetishistic intensity. The disturbing impact of the bells presented in an unfamiliar setting is intensified by the cool academic precision with which they and their environment are painted. The dainty slice of landscape could be the backdrop of an early Renaissance painting, while the bells themselves, in their rotund and glowing monumentality, impart a mysterious resonance.
René François Ghislain Magritte was born on November 21, 1898, in Lessines, Belgium. He studied intermittently between 1916 and 1918 at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Magritte first exhibited at the Centre d’Art in Brussels in 1920. After completing military service in 1921, he worked briefly as a designer in a wallpaper factory. In 1923 he participated with Lyonel Feininger, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, and the Belgian Paul Joostens in an exhibition at the Cercle Royal Artistique in Antwerp. In 1924 he collaborated with E. L. T. Mesens on the review Oesophage. In 1927 Magritte was given his first solo exhibition at the Galerie le Centaure in Brussels. Later that year the artist left Brussels to establish himself in Le Perreux-sur-Marne, near Paris, where he frequented the Surrealist circle, which included Jean Arp, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, and Joan Miró. In 1928 Magritte took part in the Exposition surréaliste at the Galerie Goemans in Paris. He returned to Belgium in 1930, and three years later was given a solo show at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Magritte’s first solo exhibition in the United States took place at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1936 and the first in England at the London Gallery in 1938. He was represented as well in the 1936 Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Throughout the 1940s Magritte showed frequently at the Galerie Dietrich in Brussels. During the following two decades he executed various mural commissions in Belgium. From 1953 he exhibited frequently at the galleries of Alexander Iolas in New York, Paris, and Geneva. Magritte retrospectives were held in 1954 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and in 1960 at the Museum for Contemporary Arts, Dallas, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. On the occasion of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965, Magritte traveled to the United States for the first time, and the following year he visited Israel. Magritte died on August 15, 1967, in Brussels, shortly after the opening of a major exhibition of his work at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

Vasily Kandinsky - Upward (Empor)

Upward (Empor), October 1929Oil on cardboard, 70 x 49 cmPeggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 35© Vasily Kandinsky, by SIAE 2008

Vasily Kandinsky here achieves an effect of energy rising upward, while anchoring the forms together by balancing them on either side of a continuous vertical line. Geometric shapes and sections of circles combine in a structure suspended in a field of rich turquoise and green. A partial circle rests delicately on a pointed base. Another fragment of a circle glides along its vertical diameter, reaching beyond the circumference of the first form to penetrate the space above it. A linear design in the upper right corner of the present canvas echoes the vertical thrust of the central motif. This configuration resembles the letter E, as does the black cutout shape at the base of the central motif. These forms may at once be independent designs and playful references to the first letter of Empor, the German title of the painting.The physiognomic character indicates Kandinsky’s association at the Dessau Bauhaus with fellow Blaue Vier artists Paul Klee and Alexej Jawlensky. Jawlensky showed sixteen abstract heads in an exhibition of the Blaue Vier in 1929, which offered Kandinsky the model of large, abstract faces composed of geometric planes of non-naturalistic color and accented by bar-shaped features. However, Kandinsky’s working method more closely resembled that of Klee, who began with intuitively chosen forms that gradually suggested counterparts in the natural world, than that of Jawlensky, who began with the model and moved toward abstraction.
Vasily Kandinsky was born December 4, 1866, in Moscow. From 1886–92, he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, where he lectured after graduation. In 1896, he declined a teaching position in order to study art in Munich with Anton Azbe from 1897 to 1899 and at the Kunstakademie with Franz von Stuck in 1900. Kandinsky taught in 1901–03 at the art school of the Phalanx, a group he had cofounded in Munich. One of his students, Gabriele Münter, would be his companion until 1914. In 1902, Kandinsky exhibited for the first time with the Berlin Secession and produced his first woodcuts. In 1903 and 1904, he began his travels in Italy, the Netherlands, and North Africa and his visits to Russia. He showed at the Salon d’Automne in Paris from 1904.In 1909, Kandinsky was elected president of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM), a newly founded group that in the same year gave its first show at the Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich. In 1911, Kandinsky and Franz Marc withdrew from the NKVM and began to make plans for Der Blaue Reiter Almanac. In December of the same year the Blaue Reiter group’s first exhibition was held at the Moderne Galerie in Munich and Kandinsky’s published On the Spiritual in Art. In 1912, the second Blaue Reiter show was held at the Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich; Der Blaue Reiter Almanac was published, and Kandinsky’s first solo show was held at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin. In 1913, one of his works was included in the Armory Show in New York and the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon at the Der Sturm gallery in Berlin. Kandinsky lived in Russia from 1914 to 1921, principally in Moscow, where he held a position at the People’s Commissariat of Education.Kandinsky began teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922. In 1923, he was given his first solo show in New York by the Société Anonyme, of which he became vice-president. Lyonel Feininger, Alexej Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Paul Klee made up the Blaue Vier group, formed in 1924. He moved with the Bauhaus to Dessau in 1925 and became a German citizen in 1928. The Nazi government closed the Bauhaus in 1933 and later that year Kandinsky settled in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris; he acquired French citizenship in 1939. Fifty-seven of his works were confiscated by the Nazis in the 1937 purge of “degenerate art.” Kandinsky died December 13, 1944, in Neuilly.

Salvador Dali - Birth of Liquid Desires

Birth of Liquid Desires (La Naissance des désirs liquides), 1931–32 Oil and collage on canvas, 96.1 x 112.3 cmPeggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 100© Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, by SIAE 2008

By the time Salvador Dalí joined the Surrealist group in 1929, he had formulated his “paranoid-critical” approach to art, which consisted in conveying his deepest psychological conflicts to the viewer in the hopes of eliciting an empathetic response. One of his hallucinatory obsessions was the legend of William Tell, which represented for him the archetypal theme of paternal assault. The subject occurs frequently in his paintings from 1929, when he entered into a liaison with Gala Eluard, his future wife, against his father’s wishes. Here father, son, and perhaps mother seem to be fused in the grotesque dream-image of the hermaphroditic creature at center. William Tell’s apple is replaced by a loaf of bread; out of the bread arises a lugubrious cloud vision inspired by the imagery of Arnold Böcklin. The infinite expanse of landscape recalls Yves Tanguy’s work of the 1920s. The biomorphic structure dominating the composition suggests at once a violin, weathered rock formations, the architecture of the Catalan visionary Antoni Gaudí, the sculpture of Jean Arp, a prehistoric monster, and an artist’s palette. The repressed, guilty desire of the central figure is indicated by its attitude of both protestation and arousal toward the forbidden flower-headed woman (presumably Gala). The shadow darkening the scene is cast by an object outside the picture and may represent the father’s threatening presence, or a more general prescience of doom.

Max Ernst - Attirement of the Bride

Attirement of the Bride (La Toilette de la mariée), 1940Oil on canvas, 129.6 x 96.3 cmPeggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 78© Max Ernst, by SIAE 2008
Attirement of the Bride is an example of Max Ernst’s veristic or illusionistic Surrealism, in which a traditional technique is applied to an incongruous or unsettling subject. The pageantry and elegance of the image are contrasted with its primitivizing aspects—the garish colors, the animal and monster forms—and the blunt phallic Symbolism of the poised spearhead. The central scene is contrasted as well with its counterpart in the picture-within-a-picture at the upper left. In this detail the bride appears in the same pose, striding through a landscape of overgrown classical ruins. Here Ernst has used the technique of decalcomania invented in 1935 by Oscar Domínguez, in which diluted paint is pressed onto a surface with an object that distributes it unevenly, such as a pane of glass. Ernst had long identified himself with the bird, and had invented an alter ego, Loplop, Superior of the Birds, in 1929. Thus one may perhaps interpret the bird-man at the left as a depiction of the artist; the bride may in some sense represent the young English Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.
As shown at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection