Monday, December 21, 2009

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Born November 14, 1840, in Paris, France. Claude Monet was raised in Le Havre, where he developed a reputation as a caricature artist by the time he was 15. In 1858, the young artist met landscape painter Eugène Boudin, a mentor who first introduced him to outdoor painting. Monet was reluctant to leave the studio and the familiarity of indoor scenes, but plein air painting eventually became the basis for his life’s work.

Against his parents’ wishes, Claude Monet left home for Paris in 1859 to pursue a career in painting. There, he was inspired by the work of Eugène Delacroix, Charles Daubigny, and Camille Corot. He studied at the free Académie Suisse, where he met Camille Pissarro, and was a frequent patron of the Brasserie des Martyrs, a gathering place for fellow realist artists such as Gustave Courbet.

Claude Monet took a brief hiatus from his artistic pursuits to serve in the military in Algeria from 1860 to 1862. Upon his return to Paris, he picked up where he left off, studying art, experimenting with new styles, traveling, and forming important friendships with fellow painters, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Édouard Manet. He also worked in the forest at Fontainebleau with the Barbizon artists Théodore Rousseau, Jean François Millet, as well as with Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.

During the 1960s, Claude Monet was constantly traveling, having become captivated by natural light, atmosphere, and color. The artist continually sought to convey the remarkable variety and subtle particulars of each new landscape. Terrace at Sainte-Adresse (1867) exemplified this experimentation with its shimmering array of bright, natural colors, eschewing the somber browns and blacks of the earlier landscape tradition. Tragically, few of Monet's canvases from this early period survived. The artist was financially unstable and frequently destroyed his own paintings rather than have them seized by creditors.

In 1870, Claude Monet married his wife, Camille, and the two traveled to London and eventually settled at Argenteuil. His best-known, most popular works were produced during this time at Argenteuil, where he often painted alongside Renoir, Sisley, Caillebotte, and Manet. Monet regularly exhibited his paintings in the private Impressionist group shows, which first took place in 1874. During that first show his painting Impression: Sunrise (1872) inspired a hostile newspaper critic to call all the artists "Impressionists," a name that persists to characterize the artistic movement today.

Claude Monet's paintings from the 1870s, notably Red Boats at Argenteuil (1875), are fine examples of the new Impressionist style. The paintings are essentially illusionist, but ring with a chromatic vibrancy. Monet worked directly from nature and revealed that even on the darkest, gloomiest day, an infinite variety of colors exist. To capture the fleeting lights and hues, Monet had to employ a new painting technique using short brushstrokes filled with individual color. The result was a canvas alive with painterly activity, the opposite of the smooth blended surfaces of the past.

While traditional landscape artists painted what they saw in their mind, Claude Monet, sought to paint the world exactly how he saw it, not how he knew it should look. So rather than painting a myriad of separate leaves, he depicted splashes of constantly changing light and color. It’s important to note that in this aspect, Monet belongs to the tradition of Renaissance illusionism. In depicting the natural world, he based his art on perceptual rather than conceptual knowledge.

In 1883 Claude Monet moved to Giverny, and likewise most of his Impressionist colleagues left the security of the cohesive group to explore their own directions. While his home was in Giverny, he never ceased traveling—to London, Madrid, and Venice, as well as within his native country. Thanks to the art dealer Durand-Ruel, Monet gradually gained critical and financial success during the late 1880s and the 1890s. A lifelong supporter of Monet and his work, Durand-Ruel sponsored one-man exhibitions as early as 1883 and organized the first large-scale Impressionist group show in the United States.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Spot a Real Rembrandt

A new Getty show offers tricks for telling the difference between master and pupils


A show that opened this week at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles features dozens of authentic Rembrandt drawings—and just as many that aren't. The idea is to reveal to museum-goers the tricks experts and art scholars use to identify his unsigned artwork, something the museum world rarely publicizes.

The "fake" Rembrandts in the Getty's show are all drawings attributed to the Dutch master painter for hundreds of years, until as recently as a few years ago. Over the past 30 years, new scholarship and cataloguing techniques have helped scholars determine that at least half of the more than 1,000 "Rembrandt" drawings were by others.

One reason for all the confusion: Rembrandt had one of the largest teaching practices in his day, with at least 50 pupils studying closely alongside him in his sprawling Amsterdam studio. The curriculum included close imitations of his style and subject matter, says Lee Hendrix, the Getty curator for the show.

In the 17th century, some students eventually became more famous than Rembrandt, though of course that's not true today. (In the latter years of his life, Rembrandt's naturalistic style fell out of favor with wealthy patrons, who came to prefer a more flattering, less realistic painting, says Ms. Hendrix.) The Getty show features early training drawings by several of his best-known pupils, including Ferdinand Bol.

Another problem for scholars has been that although Rembrandt drew prolifically, very few of his drawings are signed. Scholars have used the signed drawings, and drawings connected to signed paintings, to find themes and symbols common to the unsigned work. These characteristics—like his use of storytelling, expressive faces and directional light— form the basis for determining modern historians which unsigned works are actually Rembrandts.

"Most people see [authenticating artwork] as a sort of scary, mystical process," says Ms. Hendrix. "It's not."

The Getty has organized the show in several galleries. In each, it has paired drawings side by side, on the left a real Rembrandt and on the right a work done by a student, with text explaining the clues to authorship. There's a central room that viewers can visit and revisit to check, via touch-screen video and text, the tips for identifying Rembrandts.

One pair includes one drawing that depicts St. John the Baptist preaching to a group (Rembrandt often painted biblical subjects), another of St. Paul preaching. On the left, Ms. Hendrix points out, the listeners' eight faces each have a distinct expression (bored, fascinated, confused, skeptical). In the other, the listeners are roughly sketched, their faces similar. These drawings were chosen to illustrate Rembrandt's tendency to focus on facial expressions.

Several pairs at the Getty depict the same nude model or street scene, but drawn from slightly different angles, a tip-off to scholars that one might not be a Rembrandt. Ms. Hendrix says the master would often join his students in drawing exercises—but of course would have a slightly different view, depending on where he was standing. Two drawings titled "A Quack and His Public" roughly sketch a snake-oil salesman putting on a show for a street crowd. For years they were both thought to be Rembrandts, but the one painted from a side view shows a defined emotion in the charlatan's face, while student Gerbrand van den Eeckhout has drawn the man from behind, with no expressions on faces in the crowd, Ms. Hendrix says.

Further confusing the matter is that some drawings even feature corrections done by Rembrandt himself, or lines drawn to show students what they should have done.

The exhibition is one of several devoted to the artist's work opening soon in Southern California. On Jan. 9 a show featuring Rembrandt prints will open at the Hammer Museum in L.A. On Jan. 22, the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego opens a show focusing on Rembrandt's New Testament prints from the 1650s. The Getty show closes Feb. 28 and won't travel: The drawings are too delicate.

Ms. Hendrix says that even though scholars generally agree that the drawings designated as Rembrandts in the Getty's show are legit, "in the end, it is always hypothetical."

Write to Candace Jackson at

Sunday, December 6, 2009 Open To The Trade And Retail. Contemporary Art And Famous Masterpieces: Gustav Klimt - Son of Gold Engraver Open To The Trade And Retail. Contemporary Art And Famous Masterpieces: Gustav Klimt - Son of Gold Engraver

Gustav Klimt - Son of Gold Engraver

Gustav Klimt was born at the XIV district of Baumgarten in Vienna on 14 July 1862 as son of a gold engraver. In 1876 he began his studies at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule under the influence of the history painter Hans Makart, which was apparent in his first orders for theatre decorations and ceiling paintings. Soon Klimt received prizes for his works. At the turn of the century - he was just designing wall and ceiling decorations for the university - he developed a new two-dimensionally-ornamental, decorative style, which combines naturalistic details of bodies with abstract, colourful, mosaic-like patterns. His orderers protested resolutely and legal proceedings erupted. In 1905 Klimt was allowed to keep the designs in return of his payment. At the same time the Vienna Secession emerged and Klimt was a founding member and its first president from 1897 to 1905. In 1902 Klimt executed the famous Beethoven frieze for Josef Maria Olbrich's Secession building, which can still be visited in the basement of the building. In 1905 Klimt and a group of like-minded people left the Secession due to conflicts with the artist association's naturalistic wing. Klimt's motifs were partly provocatively erotic, partly playfully ornamental. He created impressing portraits, especially of ladies from the Viennese high society, but also intensively dense landscape paintings. Like no other artist and as the favourite of certain circles of the Viennese society of the ending monarchy he was able to depict the spirit of the feudal bourgeoisie with its aspirations to cultivate the aesthetic and its yearning for the pleasures of life at the Fin-de-Siècle. Klimt travelled extensively - one of his most important works is not in Austria, but in Brussels: he executed the decoration of the dining room in Josef Hoffmann's Palais Stoclet, a Gesamtkunstwerk of Viennese Art Nouveau. The artist's international approval was proven by numerous exhibitions and finally moved the conservative spirits, who honoured him: Although a professorship for Klimt was repeatedly refused, he became honorary member of the academies in Vienna and Munich. Gustab Klimt died from a stroke in his hometown Vienna on 6 February 1918.