Tuesday, February 24, 2009

THE SPHINX OF DELFT


Johannes or Jan Vermeer (October 31, 1632 - December 16, 1675) was a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of ordinary life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death.
Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours, sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for cornflower blue and yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work. What strikes in most of his paintings is a certain love, which easily could be called a love sickness, for the people and the objects in his paintings. He created a world more perfect than any he had witnessed.
After having been virtually forgotten for nearly one hundred years, Vermeer was rediscovered in 1866 when the art critic Thoré Bürger published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him (only 35 paintings are firmly attributed to him today). Since that time Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
It is not certain where Vermeer was apprenticed as a painter, nor with whom. It is generally believed that he studied in his home town and it is suggested that his teacher was either Carel Fabritius or more likely Leonaert Bramer. It is possible he taught himself or had information from one of his father's connections.
On December 29, 1653, Vermeer became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, a trade association for painters. The guild's records make clear Vermeer did not pay the usual admission fee, a hint that his financial circumstances were difficult. In 1657 he might have found a patron in the local art collector Pieter van Ruijven, who lent him some money.
In 1662 Vermeer was elected head of the guild and was reelected in 1663, 1670, and 1671, evidence that he was considered an established craftsman among his peers.
Vermeer worked slowly, probably producing three paintings a year, and on order. When Balthasar de Monconys visited him in 1663 to see some of his work, the diplomat and the two French clergymen who accompanied him were sent to a baker, probably Hendrick van Buyten, who owned one painting he was very proud of.
In December 1675 Vermeer fell into a frenzy and died at the age of 43, within a day and a half. In a written document Catharina Bolnes attributed her husband's death to the stress of financial pressures. She, having to raise 11 children, asked the High Court to allow her a break in paying the creditors.
The Dutch microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who sometimes worked for the city council, was appointed trustee. The house, with eight rooms on the first floor, was filled with paintings, drawings, clothes, chairs and beds. In his atelier there were among rummage not worthy being itimized, two chairs, two painter's easels, three palettes, ten canvases, a desk, an oak pull table and a small wooden cupboard with drawers. Nineteen of Vermeer's paintings were bequeathed to Catherina and her mother. The widow sold two more paintings to the baker in order to pay off the debts.
In Delft, Vermeer had been a respected artist, but he was almost unknown outside his home town, and the fact that a local patron, van Ruijven, purchased much of his output reduced the possibility of his fame spreading. Van Ruijven's son-in-law Jacob Dissius owned 21 paintings by Vermeer, listed in his heritage in 1695, which were sold the year after in Amsterdam. Vermeer never had any pupils and his relatively short life, the demands of separate careers, and his extraordinary precision as a painter all help to explain his limited output.
Vermeer produced transparent colours by applying paint to the canvas in loosely granular layers, a technique called pointillé (not to be confused with pointillism). No drawings have been positively attributed to Vermeer, and his paintings offer few clues to preparatory methods. David Hockney, among other historians and advocates of the Hockney-Falco thesis, has speculated that Vermeer used a camera obscura to achieve precise positioning in his compositions, and this view seems to be supported by certain light and perspective effects which would result from the use of such lenses and not the naked eye alone. The extent of Vermeer's dependence upon the camera obscura is disputed by historians.
There is no other seventeenth century artist who early in his career employed, in the most lavish way, the exorbitantly expensive pigment lapis lazuli, or natural ultramarine. Vermeer not only used this in elements that are naturally of this colour; the earth colours umber and ochre should be understood as warm light within a painting's strongly-lit interior, which reflects its multiple colours onto the wall.
This working method most probably was inspired by Vermeer’s understanding of Leonardo’s observations that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent object. This means that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural colour.
Even after Vermeer’s supposed financial breakdown following the so-called rampjaar (year of disaster) in 1672, he continued to employ natural ultramarine generously, such as in Lady Seated at a Virginal. This could suggest that Vermeer was supplied with materials by a collector, and would coincide with John Michael Montias’ theory of Pieter Claesz van Ruijven being Vermeer’s patron.

Lady Standing at a Virginal
From Olga's Gallery

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes.
His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendour of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. scientific connotations can be found in his works.

The Kitchen Maid
1658
Oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org

With quiet concentration a woman pours milk into a bowl. With her left hand she supports the can she is pouring from. Around her are various objects: a loaf of bread, a stoneware jug, a basket and a brass bucket. The woman is standing near the window so she can see what she is doing. The light falls on her hands; her silhouette is dark against the white wall. There is a fascinating play of light and shadow in this painting. This is one of Johannes Vermeer's genre pieces in which he establishes an intensely intimate atmosphere. Although the artist observes his model from nearby, she continues with her work, totally unperturbed.
The lighting in Vermeer's Milkmaid is extraordinarily subtle. Light falls from the left through the window. Beneath and beside the window it is somewhat shadowy, but the woman is standing in full brightness. When you look carefully at the painting you see that Vermeer has introduced tiny points of light all over the canvas: on the edges of the jug and the bowl, but also on the fastening of her yellow dress, and on the bread in the basket. Vermeer paid great attention to details. He has painted tiny rough patches into the texture of the white plasterwork. Also, he gives careful thought to a nail set high in the white wall, as well as to the light entering through a cracked windowpane. The structure of various objects is expertly rendered: gleaming brass and crumbly bread.
(© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org)
Only three paintings are dated: The Procuress (1656, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie), The Astronomer (1668, Paris, Louvre), and The Geographer (1669, Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut).

The Procuress
1656
Oil on canvas
Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden

The Astronomer
Oil on canvas, c.1668
Musée du Louvre, Paris
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

The Geographer
Oil on canvas, c.1668
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


The Astronomer and The Geographer were recorded together in 1713, and sold together in 1729. These paintings reflect the blossoming of scientific enquiry in seventeenth century Europe.
The geographer leans over an unrolled map or nautical chart, with a pair of dividers in this hand, deep in thought. He is dressed comfortably and informally, with his long hair pulled behind one ear. The terrestrial globe above him was made by Jodocus Hondius in 1600, and is a twin to the celestial globe in The Astronomer. It is, however, the same room as the twin painting, except that the painting The Finding of Moses has been replaced by a map of Europe, similar to a chart by William Blaeu from the early seventeenth century. There is more light in the geographer's world than the astronomer's: perhaps an indication that the former is less mysterious than the latter.
The painting is signed by Vermeer on the closet just above the geographer's head, and another inscription was added in the nineteenth century at the upper right of the painting.
(Written by Ann Mette Heindorff, Copyright © 1999-2007)
After The Procuress almost all of Vermeer's paintings are of contemporary subjects in a smaller format, with a cooler palette dominated by blues, yellows and greys. It is to this period that practically all of his surviving works belong. They are usually domestic interiors with one or two figures lit by a window on the left. They are characterized by a serene sense of compositional balance and spatial order, unified by a pearly light. Mundane domestic or recreational activities become thereby imbued with a poetic timelessness (e.g. Woman Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie). To this period also have been allocated Vermeer's two townscapes, View of Delft (The Hague, Mauritshuis) and A Street in Delft (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
1662-63
Oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org

A young woman is reading a letter, around her are a table and chairs. She is illuminated by the light from what is presumably a window. On the wall behind her is a map. The artist has achieved a muted tone with his use of blues and browns. Vermeer has played here with the light and shadow. While the map and the chair cast a distinct shadow on the wall, the woman does not. It makes her stands out from the background. The subtle gradations of color and the contrasts in this painting were already greatly admired two hundred years ago. A 1791 auction catalogue remarks on 'the pleasing effects of light and shadow'.
In Dutch genre painting a woman reading a letter was usually a reference to love. The map on the wall may refer to a distant lover, but the painting offers no further clues to a hidden meaning. The map, showing Holland and West Friesland appears in an earlier painting by Vermeer of the Soldier and the Laughing Girl. This picture, painted in 1658, is now in the Frick Collection in New York. Although the young woman appears to be pregnant, this is not necessarily the case. The fashionable wide jacket she is wearing may make her figure appear fuller than it is.
The woman is surrounded by furniture. The table and chairs define the space around her. Vermeer adjusted the balance in his painting by playing with the areas of light and shadow. X-ray photos show that the map on the wall was originally narrower. To improve the composition Vermeer made it wider. He also altered the woman's jacket. Originally it was a wider, fur-trimmed cloak. Vermeer made the jacket simpler and less wide. The woman's back, dark in shadow, stands out sharply against the light wall behind her. The contour of her back is clear and deliberately depicted, while other lines are more fuzzy, such as the illuminated profile of her face.
(© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org)

View of Houses in Delft
"The Little Street"
1658
Oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org


In a cobblestone street are two houses with a gate opening onto the passageway between them. A woman sits in an open doorway, busy sewing; two children are playing on the stoop. Soapy water is washing down a small runnel between the paving stones - probably the woman in the passageway has just scrubbed her part of the stoop. Vermeer has recorded this everyday scene with apparent casualness. Although world-famous, not much is known about Vermeer's Little Street. In fact the original location has never been identified, and indeed may never have existed. But more significant is the atmosphere of the picture. The women are diligently employed while the children are absorbed at play. The scene emanates tranquillity and security.
Vermeer has achieved a great deal with limited means. A detail from the bricks above the gateway illustrates how suggestive his method of painting is. In some places the canvas shows through the paint but together the touches of color combine to create the impression of solid brick. Elsewhere the paint has been thickly applied, as on the shutters in front of the windows and the white plastered portions of the wall. Here the surface of the paint appears flaked, like plaster, while on the shutters it is smooth as if painted on wood.
(© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org)
A few of his paintings show a certain hardening of manner and these are generally thought to represent his late works. From this period come The Allegory of Faith (c 1670, New York, Metropolitan Museum) and The Letter (c 1670, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum).

The Love Letter
1669-70
Oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org

Pulling a curtain to one side, a scene of domestic intimacy is revealed. A well-to-do woman, clothed in yellow, is being handed a letter. She glances up questioningly at her maid and pauses in her lute playing. The room with the two women is brilliantly lit; the space in front of it is darker. Sheet music can be seen on a chair. Perhaps the lady is waiting for a person with whom to play music. On the dark wall at the left of the door opening is a map. Vermeer signed the painting with his characteristic signature, compressed on the left, next to the maid, is the name 'JVMeer'.
Although the lady has not yet opened the letter it is apparent from the picture that it is from a lover. The two pictures in the background indicate this. A painting within a painting often indicates the artist's intention in the picture. Here the lower painting is a seascape. In the seventeenth-century language of imagery the sea stood for love, and a ship for a lover. The emblem written by Jan Krul 'Far from home, never far from my heart' expresses this well. The upper picture shows a man walking along a sandy path: as in the painting of the ship, there is the suggestion of a person on a journey.
An emblem is a picture accompanied by a motto or a verse. Jan Krul's emblem has the motto "Though you are far away, you are always in my heart". The picture shows a ship with Cupid at the sails. The man at the forecastle is addressing his beloved on the quay. His gesture illustrates how precarious love can be. A verse accompanies the picture:
On the unbounded sea of trackless waves,
My amorous heart sails between hope and fear:
Love is like the sea, a lover like a ship,
Your favor a safe harbor, your rejection a rock;
If the ship were to run aground,
All hope of a safe return would be dashed;
Show the harbor of your favor, by a beacon of love,
So that I may escape the Sea of love's fear.
Source: Jan Harmensz Krul, Images of Love: Dedicated to Amorous Youth, Amsterdam 1640.
Vermeer has incorporated even more references to love into his picture. A lute symbolises the harmony produced by love: when one lute is played, other nearby lutes resonate in sympathy. The Dutch writer Jacob Cats illustrated this effect with a so-called emblem. The lute and sheet music in Vermeer's painting The Love Letter suggest that the lady is waiting for another player. In the foreground a pair of slippers and a broom probably refer to a less exalted kind of love.
(© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org)
The often-discussed sparkling pearly highlights in Vermeer's paintings have been linked to his possible use of a camera obscura, the primitive lens of which would produce halation and, even more noticeably, exaggerated perspective. Such effects can be seen in Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman (London, Royal Collection). Vermeer's interest in optics is also attested in this work by the accurately observed mirror reflection above the lady at the virginals.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman
Oil on canvas, 1662-1665
Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace, London
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Only 35 of Vermeer's canvases have survived, and none appears to have been sold. Their small number is the result of Vermeer's deliberate, methodical work habits, comparatively short life, and the disappearance of many of his paintings during the period of obscurity following his death in Delft on December 15, 1675. With a few exceptions, including some landscapes, street scenes, and portraits, Vermeer painted sunlit domestic interiors in which one or two figures are shown engaged in reading, writing, or playing musical instruments. These objectively observed, precisely executed genre paintings of 17th-century Dutch life are characterized by a geometrical sense of order.
Vermeer was a master of composition and in the representation of space. He arranged tonal values and perspective over the foreground, into the middleground, and farther into the distance in such works as Girl Asleep at a Table (circa 1656, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City). In Maidservant Pouring Milk (1660, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Woman with a Water Pitcher (1663, Metropolitan Museum), View of Delft (circa 1660, Mauritshuis, The Hague), and other works, he recorded the effects of light with a subtlety, delicacy, and purity of color that probably never have been surpassed.

A Woman Asleep at a Table
1657
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org

Among his paintings are Soldier and Laughing Girl (1657, Frick Collection, New York City), and Girl with a Red Hat (1667, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

Soldier and a Laughing Girl
1658
Oil on canvas
The Frick Collection, New York
© 14 Oct 2002, Nicolas Pioch at ibiblio.org

The Girl with the Red Hat
1665
Oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington
From artchive.com/artchive


"The Girl with the Red Hat" is small even by Vermeer's standards; it is his only known work that was executed on wood panel; and most importantly, its immediacy and intimacy contrast sharply with the meditative mood of the other paintings.
"Despite its modest dimensions, a strong visual impact results from the large scale of the girl. Brought close to the picture plane, she communicates directly with the viewer. Her direct gaze and slightly parted lips impart a sense of spontaneity and anticipation. Vermeer relies heavily on color to establish the mood of the work. The red of the hat and the blue of the robe contrast strongly with the muted background. The bright red of the hat advances, heightening the immediacy of the girl's glance, while the blue of the robe recedes, balancing the composition. Vermeer retained warmth in the robe by painting the blue over a reddish-brown ground. The materials - the red hat, robe and chair finials - are animated by highlights of reflected light. Subtle highlights on the girl's eye and mouth animate her expression. Finally, the intense white of the girl's cravat, painted as a thick impasto with parts later chipped off, cradles her face, focusing attention on her expression.
"The small size of this work allowed Vermeer to use painstaking detail in its execution. A precise depiction of texture and light is achieved through the duplication of thin glazes over painted ground. To represent the hat, Vermeer firs painted an opaque layer of deep orange red. He then added semi-transparent strokes of light red and orange to render the feathers. The robe highlights allow the underlying blue to show through. With this glaze technique, the underlying layer is used to help model the forms of the composition.
"Most scholars agree that Vermeer utilized a camera obscura in the composition and execution of "The Girl with a Red Hat". It is possible that he chose a wood panel support to replicate the gloss of a camera obscura image, which was normally projected onto glass. In particular, the diffused specular highlights of the lion head chair finial resemble the unfocused effect of an image seen in a camera obscura. Vermeer expert Arthur Wheelock points out, however, that Vermeer did not simply paint on top of an image projected by a camera obscura. While camera obscura effects were emulated in portions of the painting, in other places, the expected effects are not seen.
"Compositional adjustments also contradict the literal reproduction of a camera obscura image. For instance, the left chair finial is larger and angled to the right. If the chair top is extended to the left, it ends up misaligned with the finial. Vermeer adjusted the lines of the chairback to stress the foreground plane of the composition while at the same time, allowing space for the girl's arm to rest." -By Mark Harden at artchive.com/artchive
Vermeer was forgotten after his death and not rediscovered until the late 19th century. His reputation steadily increased thereafter. He is today considered one of the greatest Dutch painters. His work was forged for a time and sold to the Germans during World War II.
(From repropaint.com)
His mature domestic genre pieces have a characteristic pearly light. The eye is drawn into the picture by the careful placing of objects and a clearly defined architectural space. Figures pursue tranquil occupations, and the symbolic meaning of the scene is sometimes revealed through a painting within the painting. Vermeer was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century.
(From the National Gallery)

essentialvermeer homepage
BBC - History - Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

Time Line:
1632 Johannes Vermeer born in Delft, to Reynier Vermeer, a silk weaver, art dealer and owner of a small inn.
1641 Reynier Vermeer purchases the "Mechelen", a large inn on the market square in Delft.
Late in the 1640's Vermeer must have begun his apprenticeship since it took an aspiring artist six years of training before becoming a master.
1652 Vermeer's father dies and he almost certainly inherits the business.
1653 In Dec, Vermeer married Catherina Bolnes, daughter of Maria Thins and registered as a master painter in the St. Luke's Guild.
1662 Vermeer elected headman of the Board of the St. Lukes Guild, a trade association of artists.
1670 Again elected headman of the Board of the St. Lukes Guild, a trade association of artists.
1672 Vermeer moved his family to Maria Thins' house on the Oude Langendijk when the art market collapsed after France invaded the Netherlands. Vermeer's fortune deteriorated very quickly.
1675 Vermeer died and left his wife and eleven children with enormous debts.
1676 Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), the microscopist, was named executor for the Vermeer estate.
1677 Sale of Vermeer's paintings to help satisfy the demands of creditors.
1800's Vermeer is "rediscovered" by Joseph Thore. Thore traveled across Europe to find all of Vermeer's works and his enthusiastic accounts brought Vermeer's name to the public for the first time.
(From mystudios.com)


Monday, February 23, 2009

JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID



Self-Portrait
1791
Oil on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
From paintingdb.com


Self Portrait
Oil on canvas, 1794
Musée du Louvre, Paris
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jacques-Louis David (30 August 1748 – 29 December 1825) was a highly influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era.
Jacques-Louis David was born into a prosperous family in Paris. When he was about nine his father was killed in a duel and his mother left him with his prosperous architect uncles. They saw to it that he received an excellent education at the Collège des Quatre-Nations, but he was never a good student: he had a facial tumor that impeded his speech, and he was always preoccupied with drawing. He covered his notebooks with drawings, and he once said, "I was always hiding behind the instructor’s chair, drawing for the duration of the class". Soon, he desired to be a painter, but his uncles and mother wanted him to be an architect. He overcame the opposition, and went to learn from François Boucher, the leading painter of the time, who was also a distant relative.
Boucher decided that instead of taking over David’s tutelage, he would send David to his friend Joseph-Marie Vien, painter who embraced the classical reaction to Rococo. There David attended the Royal Academy, based in what is now the Louvre.
David attempted to win the Prix de Rome, an art scholarship to the French Academy in Rome, four times between 1770 and 1774; once, he lost according to legend because he had not consulted Vien, one of the judges. Another time, he lost because a few other students had been competing for years, and Vien felt David's education could wait for these other mediocre painters. In protest, he attempted to starve himself to death. Finally, in 1774, David won the Prix de Rome. , he would have had to attend another school before attending the Academy in Rome, but Vien's influence kept him out of it. He went to Italy with Vien in 1775, as Vien had been appointed director of the French Academy at Rome. While in Italy, David observed the Italian masterpieces and the ruins of ancient Rome. David filled twelve sketchbooks with material that he would derive from for the rest of his life. He met the influential early neoclassical painter Raphael Mengs and through Mengs was introduced to the pathbreaking theories of art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann. While in Rome, he studied great masters, and came to favor above all others Raphael. In 1779, David was able to see the ruins of Pompeii, and was filled with wonder. After this, he sought to revolutionize the art world with the "eternal" concepts of classicism.
David's fellow students at the academy found him difficult to get along with, but they recognized his genius. David was allowed to stay at the French Academy in Rome for an extra year, but after 5 years in Rome, he returned to Paris. There, he found people ready to use their influence for him, and he was made a member of the Royal Academy. He sent the Academy two paintings, and both were included in the Salon of 1781, a high honor. He was praised by his famous contemporary painters, but the administration of the Royal Academy was very hostile to this young upstart. After the Salon, the King granted David lodging in the Louvre, an ancient and much desired privilege of great artists. When the contractor of the King's buildings, M. Pecol, was arranging with David, he asked the artist to marry his daughter, Marguerite Charlotte. This marriage brought him money and eventually four children. David had his own pupils, about 40 to 50, and was commissioned by the government to paint "Horace defended by his Father", but Jacques soon decided, "Only in Rome can I paint Romans." His father in law provided the money he needed for the trip, and David headed for Rome with his wife and three of his students, one of whom, Jean-Germain Drouais, was the Prix de Rome winner of that year.

The Oath of the Horatii
Year 1784
Oil on canvas
Louvre Paris, France
Source Web Gallery of Art
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In Rome, David painted his famous Oath of the Horatii, 1784. In this piece, the artist references Enlightenment values while alluding to Rousseau’s social contract. The republican ideal of the general will becomes the focus of the painting with all three sons positioned in compliance with the father. The Oath between the characters can be read as an act of unification of men to the binding of the state. The issue of gender roles also becomes apparent in this piece, as the women in Horatii greatly contrast the group of brothers. David depicts the father with his back to the women, shutting them out of the oath making ritual; they also appear to be smaller in scale than the male figures. The masculine virility and discipline displayed by the men’s rigid and confident stances is also severely contrasted to the slouching, swooning female softness created in the other half of the composition. Here we see the clear division of male-female attributes which confined the sexes to specific roles, under Rousseau’s popular doctrines.

Tennis Court Oath
Year 1791
crayon
Musée national du Château de Versailles Versailles, France
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


After executing the King, war broke out between the new Republic and virtually every major power in Europe. David, as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, which was headed by Robespierre, contributed directly to the reign of Terror. The committee was severe. Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine; an event recorded in a famous sketch by David. Portable guillotines killed failed generals, aristocrats, priests and perceived enemies. David organized his last festival: the festival of the Supreme Being.
These themes and motifs would carry on into his later works Oath of the Tennis Court,1791. This piece, although remaining unfinished, was to commemorate the National Assembly’s resolve to take a solemn oath never to disband until the constitution was established and protected; the commitment to self-sacrifice for the republic. Commissioned by the Society of Friends of the Constitution, David set out in 1790, to transform the contemporary event into a major historical picture, which would appear at the Salon of 1791 as a large pen and ink drawing. As in the Oath of the Horatii, David represents the unity of men in the service of a patriotic ideal. What was essentially an act of intellect and reason, David creates with great drama in this work. The very power of the people appears to be “blowing” through the scene with the stormy weather, in a sense alluding to the storm that would be the revolution.

A study for The Distribution of the Eagle Standards
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Distribution of the Eagle Standards is an 1810 painting by Jacques-Louis David depicting a ceremony arranged by Napoleon after his assumption of power as emperor. In it he sought to revive the military ethos of the Roman empire. However, the ceremony, and the painting that commemorated it, also provided an important model for the use of the Roman salute and its revival at public ceremonies organised by fascists and the Nazis during the 20th century.
The event took place on December 5, 1804, three days after his coronation. Napoleon distributed standards based on the "eagles" of the legions of Rome. The standards represented the regiments raised by the various Departments of France, and were intended to institute feelings of pride and loyalty among the troops who would be the backbone of Napoleon's new regime. Napoleon gave an emotional speech in which he insisted that troops should defend the standards with their lives.
In early sketches of the painting David included a winged figure of Nike,floating over the troops, but Napoleon objected to such an unrealistic feature. He also insisted that his wife Josephine be removed from the composition. He was preparing to divorce her, since she had failed to provide his heir.
The final painting depicted the moment when Napoleon blessed the standards being held out towards him. Napoleon has his arm raised in imitation of ancient "adlocutio" scenes, which depict Classical heroes addressing troops. David's composition was heavily influenced by the friezes on Trajan's column

Le Serment de l'armée fait à l'Empereur
Versailles, musée national du chateau
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In 1787, David did not become the Director of the French Academy in Rome, which was a position he wanted dearly. The Count in charge of the appointments said David was too young, but said he would support him in 6 to 12 years. This situation would be one of many that would cause him to lash out at the Academy in years to come.

The Death of Socrates
Oil on canvas, 1787
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


For the salon of 1787, David exhibited his famous Death of Socrates. "Condemned to death, Socrates, strong, calm and at peace, discusses the immortality of the soul. Surrounded by Crito, his grieving friends and students, he is teaching, philosophizing for the hemlock brew which will ensure a peaceful death... The wife of Socrates can be seen grieving alone outside the chamber, dismissed for her weakness. Plato is depicted as an old man seated at the end of the bed." Critics compared the Socrates with Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling and Raphael's Stanze, and one, after ten visits to the Salon, described it as "in every sense perfect". Denis Diderot said it looked like he copied it from some ancient bas-relief. The painting was very much in tune with the political climate at the time. For this painting, David was not honored by a royal "works of encouragement".

The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons
Year Paris 1789
Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


For his next painting, David created The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons. The work had tremendous appeal for the time. Before the opening of the Salon, the French Revolution had begun. The National Assembly had been established, and the Bastille had fallen. The royal court did not want propaganda agitating the people, so all paintings had to be checked before being hung.

Portrait of Monsieur de Lavoisier
and his Wife, chemist Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze
1788
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife is a double portrait of the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier and his wife and collaborator Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, commissioned from the French painter Jacques-Louis David in 1788 by Marie-Anne (who had been taught drawing by David). It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
David was paid 7,000 livres for it on 16 December 1788 and the painting was left by Marie-Anne to her great-niece in 1836. It remained in the collection of the comtesse de Chazelles and her descendents until 1924, when it was bought by John Davison Rockefeller. Rockefeller gave it to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1927, and it was acquired from this institution by the Metropolitan Museum in 1977.
It shows the couple in his office, with a wood-panelled floor and walls of false marble with three classical pilasters. In the centre the couple face the viewer, with both their heads in three-quarters profile. Marie-Anne is shown standing in profile looking at the viewer. Her costume is that in fashion at the end of the 18th century - a white wig, a white dress with a lace collar and a blue fabric belt. She rests on her husband's shoudlder, with her right hand leaning on the table.
Antoine Lavoisier is seated, wearing a black vest, culottes, stockings and buckled shoes, a white shirt, a white neckscarf and a powdered wig. His face turns towards his wife and he rests his left arm on the table, whilst writing with his right hand using a feather pen. The table is covered with a scarlet tablecloth, many papers, a casket, an inkwell with two more feather pens, a barometer, a gasometer, a water still and a glass bell jar. A large round-bottom flask and a tap are on the floor to the right, by the table. To the table's extreme left is a chair with a large document-case and black cloth on it.
The signature is bottom left, on the table - L DAVID, PARISIIS ANNO, 1788.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The Death of Marat
1793
Oil on canvas
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
© Web Gallery of Art
created by Emil Kren and Daniel Marx


The Death of Marat can be regarded as David's finest work, in which he has perfectly succeeded in immortalizing a contemporary political event as an image of social ideals. David's painting of Marat represents the peak of his involvement in the Revolution where invention, style, fervent belief and devotion combine to produce one of the most perfect examples of political painting. David presented the painting to the Convention on 14 November 1793.
Jean-Paul Marat saw himself as a friend of the people, he was a doctor of medicine and a physicist, and above all he was editor of the news-sheet Ami du peuple. He suffered from a skin disease and had to perform his business for the revolution in a soothing bath. This is where David shows him, in the moment after the pernicious murder by Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the aristocracy. David had seen his fellow party member and friend the day before. Under the impact of their personal friendship David created his painting "as if in a trance," as one of his pupils later reported.
David takes the viewer into Marat's private room, making him the witness of the moments immediately after the murder. Marat's head and arm have sunk down, but the dead hand still holds pen and paper. This snapshot of exactly the minute between the last breath and death in the bathroom had an immense impact at the time, and it still has the same effect today.
David has used a dark, immeasurable background to intensify the significance. The boldness of the high half of the room above the figure concentrates attention on the lowered head, and makes us all the more aware of the vacuum that has been created. The distribution of light here has been reversed from the usual practice, with dark above light. This is not only one of the most moving paintings of the time, but David has also created a secularised image of martyrdom. The painting has often, and rightly, been compared with Michelangelo's Pietà in Rome; in both the most striking element is the arm hanging down lifeless. Revolutionary as the painting of this period claimed to be, it is evident here that it very often had recourse to the iconography and pictorial vocabulary of the religious art of the past.
(© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Kren and Daniel Marx)
Despite the haste in which the portrait of Marat was painted (the work was completed and presented to the National Convention less than four months after Marat's death), it is generally considered to be David's best work, a definite step towards modernity, an inspired (and inspiring) political statement. At the time of its creation, all contemporary sources clearly indicate that the painting was not to be dissociated, neither in its exhibition nor in its evaluation, from The Death of Lepelletier, the two functioning as a pair if not properly as a "diptych". Till David's death in 1825, it remained so, the two paintings sharing the same fate from success to oblivion. The unfortunate disappearance of The Death of Lepelletier does not allow us today to watch The Death of Marat the way David had planned it.
After executing the King, war broke out between the new French Republic and virtually every major power in Europe. David, as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, which was headed by Robespierre, contributed directly to the reign of Terror. The committee was severe. Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine; an event recorded in a famous sketch by David. Portable guillotines killed failed generals, aristocrats, priests and perceived enemies. Soon, the war began to go well; French troops marched across the southern half of the Netherlands (which would later become Belgium), and the emergency that had placed the Committee of Public Safety in control was no more. Then plotters seized Robespierre at the National Convention and he was later guillotined, in effect ending the reign of terror. David was arrested and placed in prison. There he painted his own portrait, showing him much younger than he actually was, as well as that of his jailer. After David’s wife visited him in jail, he conceived the idea of telling the story of the Sabine Women. The Sabine Women Enforcing Peace by Running between the Combatants, also called The Intervention of the Sabine Women is said to have been painted to honor his wife, with the theme being love prevailing over conflict. The painting was also seen as a plea for the people to reunite after the bloodshed of the revolution. This work also brought him to the attention of Napoleon.
When he was finally released to the country, France had changed. His wife managed to get David released from prison, and he wrote letters to his former wife, and told her he never ceased loving her. He remarried her in 1796. Finally, wholly restored to his position, he retreated to his studio, took pupils and retired from politics.
In one of history's great coincidences, David's close association with the Committee of Public Safety during the Terror resulted in his signing of the death warrant for one Alexandre de Beauharnais, a minor noble. De Beauharnais's widow, Rose-Marie Josèphe de Tascher de Beauharnais would later be known to the world as Joséphine Bonaparte, Empress of the French. It was her coronation by her husband, Napoleon I, that David depicted so memorably in the Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine, 2 December 1804.

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I
and Coronation of the Empress Josephine
Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paris
From paintingdb.com


After Napoleon's successful coup d'etat in 1799, as First Consul he commissioned David to commemorate his daring crossing of the Alps. The crossing of the St. Bernard Pass had allowed the French to surprise the Austrian army and win victory at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800. Although Napoleon had crossed the Alps on a mule, he requested that he be portrayed "calm upon a fiery steed". David complied with Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard. After the proclamation of the Empire in 1804, David became the official court painter of the regime.

Napoleon at the St. Bernard Pass
1801
Oil on canvas
Museum of Art History, Vienna
From paintingdb.com


After the fall of Napoleon and the Bourbon monarchy restoration David was banished in 1816 as a regicide, and fled to Brussels, where he spent his last 10 years. During this period he returned to mythological subjects and intimate portraiture. He had a huge number of pupils, and his influence was felt (both positively and negatively) by the majority of French 19th-century painters. He was a revolutionary artist in both a technical and a political sense. His compositional innovations effected a complete rupture with Rococo fantasy; he is considered the greatest single figure in European painting between the late Rococo and the Romantic era. David died on 29 December 1825.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


'SUMMUM BONUM' IN LIFE



© 2007-2009 StasoSphere



From Cornerstone Books Home Page
Ralph Waldo Trine was a philosopher, mystic, teacher and author of many books, and was one of the early mentors of the New Thought Movement. His writings had a great influence on many of his contemporaries including Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. He was a true pioneer in the area of life-transforming thought. No other New Thought author has sold more books than he, his writings reaching far beyond New Thought circles out to the general public, which has bought and read Trine's books without ever knowing that they were New Thought.
Trine was born on 6th September, 1866, in Mount Morris, northern Illinois. He was educated at Carthage College Academy, Knox College, A.B. 1891; and studied at the University of Winsconsin and later at John Hopkins University in the fields of history and political science. He was much interested in social and economic problems, having won a $100 prize for an essay on "The Effects of Human Education on the Prevention of Crime." After spending some time as a graduate student at the latter University, Ralph was a special correspondent for The Boston Daily Evening Transcript. Whilst working in this capacity, he built himself a little cabin on the edge of a pine grove - testament to the peace and simplicity of the man. He married a graduate of the School of Expression (which became Curry College) who became Grace Hyde Trine, an author and poetess in her own right, and together they had a son, Robert. Trine lived for years at Mt. Airy, New York, and was deeply involved in the metaphysical seminars at Oscawana.
He began his writing career in his early 30s. He was much influenced by the writings of Fitche, Emerson and the Scottish scientist, Henry Drummond, his "What All the World's A-Seeking" expanding on a number of the themes covered in Drummond's inspirational classic, "The Greatest Thing in the World." His remarkable seminal book, "In Tune with the Infinite" was launched in 1897 and went on to sell over 2 million copies, and has stood the test of time for over a century. It was read by such luminaries as Queen Victoria, Janet Gaynor and Henry Ford. It is interesting that Henry Ford, pioneer of mass produced automobiles, attributed his success directly to having read "In Tune with the Infinite." After reading the book, Ford ordered it on mass, and distributed copies freely to high profile industrialists. It's a true mark of how powerful the book was and still is!
From New Thought Library
In "What All The World's A-Seeking" Ralph Waldo Trine has written, "What is the summum bonum in life? Human nature seems to run in this way, seems to be governed by a great paradoxical law which says, that whenever a man self-centred, thinking of, living for and in himself, is very desirous for place, for preferment, for honor, the very fact of his being thus is of itself a sufficient indicator that he is too small to have them, and mankind refuses to accord them. While the one who forgets self, and who, losing sight of these things, makes it his chief aim in life to help, to aid, and to serve others, by this very fact makes it known that he is large enough, is great enough to have them, and his fellow-men instinctively bestow them upon him. This is a great law which many would profit by to recognize. Our prevailing thought forces determine the mental atmosphere we create around us, and all who come within its influence are affected in one way or another, according to the quality of that atmosphere; and, though they may not always get the exact thoughts, they nevertheless get the effects of the emotions dominating the originator of the thoughts, and hence the creator of this particular mental atmosphere, and the more sensitively organized the person the more sensitive he or she is to this atmosphere, even at times to getting the exact and very thoughts. So even in this the prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled,—there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.
And would we have all the world love us, we must first then love all the world,—merely a great scientific fact. Why is it that all people instinctively dislike and shun the little, the mean, the self-centred, the selfish, while all the world instinctively, irresistibly, loves and longs for the company of the great-hearted, the tender-hearted, the loving, the magnanimous, the sympathetic, the brave? The mere answer—because—will not satisfy. There is a deep, scientific reason for it, either this or it is not true.
Is it your ambition to become a great states man? Note the very first thing, then, the word itself,—states-man, a man who gives his life to the service of the State. And do you not recognize the fact that, when one says—a man who gives his life to the service of the State, it is but another way of saying—a man who gives his life to the service of his fellow-men; for what, after all, is any country, any State, in the true sense of the term, but the aggregate, the great body of its individual citizenship. And he who lives for and unto himself, who puts the interests of his own small self before the interests of the thousands, can never become a states-man; for a statesman must be a larger man than this.
The one great trouble with our country to-day is that we have but few statesmen. We have a great swarm, a great hoard of politicians; but it is only now and then that we find a man who is large enough truly to deserve the name—statesman. The large majority in public life to-day are there not for the purpose of serving the best interests of those whom they are supposed to represent, but they are there purely for self, purely for self-aggrandizement in this form or in that, as the case may be.
Let our public offices—municipal, state, and federal—be filled with men who are in love with the human kind, large men, men whose lives are founded upon this great law of service, and we will then have them filled with statesmen. Never let this glorious word be disgraced, degraded, by applying it to the little, self-centred whelps who are unable to get beyond the politician stage. Then enter public life; but enter it as a man, not as a barnacle: enter it as a statesman, not as a politician.
Is it the ambition of your life to accumulate great wealth, and thus to acquire a great name, and along with it happiness and satisfaction? Then remember that whether these will come to you will depend entirely upon the use and disposition you make of your wealth. If you regard it as a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind, then well and good, these will come to you. If your object, however, is to pile it up, to hoard it, then neither will come; and you will find it a life as unsatisfactory as one can live.
There is, there can be, no greatness in things, in material things, of themselves. The greatness is determined entirely by the use and disposition made of them. The greatest greatness and the only true greatness in the world is unselfish love and service and self-devotion to one's fellow-men.
It is a great law of our being that we become like those things we contemplate. If we contemplate those that are true and noble and elevating, we grow in the likeness of these. If we contemplate merely material things, as gold or silver or copper or iron, our souls, our natures, and even our faces become like them, hard and flinty, robbed of their finer and better and grander qualities. Call to mind the person or picture of the miser, and you will quickly see that this is true. Merely nature's great law. He thought he was going to be a master: he finds himself the slave. Instead of possessing his wealth, his wealth possesses him. How often have we seen persons of nearly or quite this kind! Some can be found almost anywhere. You can call to mind a few, perhaps many.
True gentlemanliness and politeness always comes from within, and is born of a life of love, kindliness, and service. This is the universal language, known and understood everywhere, even when our words are not. There is, you know, a beautiful old proverb which says, "He who is kind and courteous to strangers thereby shows himself a citizen of the world." And there is nothing so remembered, and that so endears one to all mankind, as this universal language. Even dumb animals understand it and are affected by it. How quickly the dog, for example, knows and makes it known when he is spoken to and treated kindly or the reverse! And here shall not a word be spoken in connection with that great body of our fellow-creatures whom, because we do not understand their language, we are accustomed to call dumb? The attitude we have assumed toward these fellow-creatures, and the treatment they have been subjected to in the past, is something almost appalling.
Never should we forget that we are all the same in motive,—pleasure and happiness: we differ only in method; and this difference in method is solely by reason of some souls being at any particular time more fully evolved, and thus having a greater knowledge of the great, immutable laws under which we live, and by putting the life into more and ever more complete harmony with these higher laws and forces, and in this way bringing about the highest, the keenest, the most abiding pleasure and happiness instead of seeking it on the lower planes.
The wise man is he who, when he desires to rid a room of darkness or gloom, does not attempt to drive it out directly, but who throws open the doors and the windows, that the room may be flooded with the golden sunlight; for in its presence darkness and gloom cannot remain. So the way to help a fellow-man and a brother to the higher and better life is not by ever prating upon and holding up to view his errors, his faults, his shortcomings, any more than in the case of children, but by recognizing and ever calling forth the higher, the nobler, by opening the doors and the windows of his own soul, and thus bringing about a spiritual perception, that he may the more carefully listen to the inner voice, that he may the more carefully follow "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." For in the exact proportion that the interior perception comes will the outer life and conduct accord with it,—so far, and no farther.
Where in all the world's history is to be found a more beautiful or valuable incident than this? A group of men, self-centred, self-assertive, have found a poor woman who, in her blindness and weakness, has committed an error, the same one that they, in all probability, have committed not once, but many times; for the rule is that they are first to condemn who are-most at fault themselves. They bring her to the Master, they tell him that she has committed a sin,—ay, more, that she has been taken in the very act,—and ask what shall be done with her, informing him that, in accordance with the olden laws, such a one should be stoned.
But, quicker than thought, that great incarnation of spiritual power and insight reads their motives; and, after allowing them to give full expression to their accusations, he turns, and calmly says, "He among you that is without sin, let him cast the first stone." So saying, he stoops down, as if he is writing in the sand. The accusers, feeling the keen and just rebuke, in the mean time sneak out, until not one remains. The Master, after all have gone, turns to the woman, his sister, and kindly and gently says, "And where are thine accusers? doth no man condemn thee?" "No man, Lord." "And neither do I condemn thee: go thou, and sin no more." Oh, the beauty, the soul pathos! Oh, the royal-hearted brother! Oh, the invaluable lesson to us all!
We are at life from the wrong side. We have been giving all time and attention to the mere physical, the material, the external, the mere outward means of expression and the things that pertain thereto, thus missing the real life; and this we have called living, and seem, indeed, to be satisfied with the results. No wonder the cry has gone out again and again from many a human soul, Is life worth the living? But from one who has once commenced to live, this cry never has, nor can it ever come; for, when the kingdom is once found, life then ceases to be a plodding, and becomes an exultation, an ecstasy, a joy. Yes, you will find that all the evil, all the error, all the disease, all the suffering, all the fears, all the forebodings of life, are on the side of the physical, the material, the transient; while all the peace, all the joy, all the happiness, all the growth, all the life, all the rich, exulting, abounding life, is on the side of the spiritual, the ever-increasing, the eternal,—that that never changes, that has no end. Instead of crying out against the destiny of fate, let us cry out against the destiny of self, or rather against the destiny of the mistaken self; for everything that comes to us comes through causes which we ourselves or those before us have set into operation. Nothing comes by chance, for in all the wide universe there is absolutely no such thing as chance. We bring whatever comes. Are we not satisfied with the effects, the results? The thing then to do, is to change the causes; for we have everything in our own hands the moment we awake to a recognition of the true self.
We make our own heaven or our own hell, and the only heaven or hell that will ever be ours is that of our own making. The order of the universe is one thing: we take our lives out of harmony with and so pervert the laws under which we live, and make it another. The order is the all good. We pervert the laws, and what we call evil is the result,—simply the result of the violation of law; and we then wonder that a just and loving God could permit such and such things. We wonder at what we term the "strange, inscrutable dispensations of Providence," when all is of our own making. We can be our own best friends or we can be our own worst enemies; and the only real enemy one can ever have is the self, the very self.
Each individual life, after it has reached a certain age or degree of intelligence, lives in the midst of the surroundings or environments of its own creation; and this by reason of that wonderful power, the drawing power of mind, which is continually operating in every life, whether it is conscious of it or not.
We are all living, so to speak, in a vast ocean of thought. The very atmosphere about us is charged with the thought-forces that are being continually sent out.
A stalk of wheat and a stock of corn are growing side by side, within an inch of each other. The soil is the same for both; but the wheat converts the food it takes from the soil into wheat, the likeness of itself, while the corn converts the food it takes from the same soil into corn, the likeness of itself. What that which each has taken from the soil is converted into is determined by the soul, the interior life, the interior forces of each. This same grain taken as food by two persons will be converted into the body of a criminal in the one case, and into the body of a saint in the other, each after its kind; and its kind is determined by the inner life of each. And what again determines the inner life of each? The thoughts and emotions that are habitually entertained and that inevitably, sooner or later, manifest themselves in outer material form. Thought is the great builder in human life: it is the determining factor. Continually think thoughts that are good, and your life will show forth in goodness, and your body in health and beauty. Continually think evil thoughts, and your life will show forth in evil, and your body in weakness and repulsiveness. Think thoughts of love, and you will love and will be loved. Think thoughts of hatred, and you will hate and will be hated. Each follows its kind.
It is by virtue of this law that each person creates his own "atmosphere"; and this atmosphere is determined by the character of the thoughts he habitually entertains. It is, in fact, simply his thought atmosphere—the atmosphere which other people detect and are influenced by.
In this way each person creates the atmosphere of his own room; a family, the atmosphere of the house in which they live, so that the moment you enter the door you feel influences kindred to the thoughts and hence to the lives of those who dwell there. You get a feeling of peace and harmony or a feeling of disquietude and inharmony. You get a welcome, want-to-stay feeling or a cold, want-to-get-away feeling, according to their thought attitude toward you, even though but few words be spoken. Its inhabitants so make, so determine the atmosphere of a particular village or city. The sympathetic thoughts sent out by a vast amphitheatre of people, as they cheer a contestant, carry him to goals he never could reach by his own efforts alone. The same is true in regard to an orator and his audience.
We are all much more influenced by the thought-forces and mental states of those around us and of the world at large than we have even the slightest conception of. If not self-hypnotized into certain beliefs and practices, we are, so to speak, semi-hypnotized through the influence of the thoughts of others, even though unconsciously both on their part and on ours. We are so influenced and enslaved in just the degree that we fail to recognize the power and omnipotence of our own forces, and so become slaves to custom, conventionality, the opinions of others, and so in like proportion lose our own individuality and powers. He who in his own mind takes the attitude of the slave, by the power of his own thoughts and the forces he thus attracts to him, becomes the slave. He who in his own mind takes the attitude of the master, by the same power of his own thoughts and the forces he thus attracts to him, becomes the master. Each is building his world from within, and, if outside forces play, it is because he allows them to play; and he has it in his own power to determine whether these shall be positive, uplifting, ennobling, strengthening, success-giving, or negative, degrading, weakening, failure-bringing.
Every act is preceded and given birth to by a thought, the act repeated forms the habit, the habit determines the character, and character determines the life, the destiny,—a most significant, a most tremendous truth: thought on the one hand, life, destiny, on the other. And how simplified, when we realize that it is merely the thought of the present hour, and the next when it comes, and the next, and the next! so life, destiny, on the one hand, the thoughts of the present hour, on the other. This is the secret of character-building. How wonderfully simple, though what vigilance it demands!
Unconsciously we are forming habits every moment of our lives. Some are habits of a desirable nature; some are those of a most undesirable nature. Some, though not so bad in themselves, are exceedingly bad in their cumulative effects, and cause us at times much loss, much pain and anguish, while their opposites would, on the contrary, bring us much peace and joy, as well as a continually increasing power.
There is nothing more true in connection with human life than that we grow into the likeness of those things we contemplate. Literally and scientifically and necessarily true is it that, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The "is" part is his character. His character is the sum total of his habits. His habits have been formed by his conscious acts; but every conscious act is, as we have found, preceded by a thought. And so we have it—thought on the one hand, character, life, destiny on the other. And simple it becomes when we bear in mind that it is simply the thought of the present moment, and the next moment when it is upon us, and then the next, and so on through all time.
Each one is so apt to think that his own conditions, his own trials or troubles or sorrows, or his own struggles, as the case may be, are greater than those of the great mass of mankind, or possibly greater than those of anyone else in the world. He forgets that each one has his own peculiar trials or troubles or borrows to bear, or struggles in habits to overcome, and that his is but the common lot of all the human race. We are apt to make the mistake in this—in that we see and feel keenly our own trials, or adverse conditions, or characteristics to be overcome, while those of others we do not see so clearly, and hence we are apt to think that they are not at all equal to our own. Each has his own problems to work out. Each must work out his own problems. Each must grow the insight that will enable him to see what the causes are that have brought the unfavorable conditions into his life; each must grow the strength that will enable him to face these conditions, and to set into operation forces that will bring about a different set of conditions. We may be of aid to one another by way of suggestion, by way of bringing to one another a knowledge of certain higher laws and forces,—laws and forces that will make it easier to do that which we would do. The doing, however, must be done by each one for himself.
All life is from within out. This is something that cannot be reiterated too often. The springs of life are all from within. This being true, it would be well for us to give more time to the inner life than we are accustomed to give to it."
-Excerpts from "What All The World's A-Seeking" by Ralph Waldo Trine, New York,
Dodge Publishing Company, 220 East Twenty-Third Street
© 2003-2008 Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation


Sunday, February 22, 2009

POLITICAL IDEALS


Bertrand Russell has written, "Political and social institutions are to be judged by the good or harm that they do to individuals. Do they encourage creativeness rather than possessiveness? Do they embody or promote a spirit of reverence between human beings? Do they preserve self-respect?
In all these ways the institutions under which we live are very far indeed from what they ought to be.
Political and social institutions are to be judged by the good or harm that they do to individuals. Do they encourage creativeness rather than possessiveness? Do they embody or promote a spirit of reverence between human beings? Do they preserve self-respect?
In all these ways the institutions under which we live are very far indeed from what they ought to be.
Institutions, and especially economic systems, have a profound influence in molding the characters of men and women. They may encourage adventure and hope, or timidity and the pursuit of safety. They may open men’s minds to great possibilities, or close them against everything but the risk of obscure misfortune. They may make a man’s happiness depend upon what he adds to the general possessions of the world, or upon what he can secure for himself of the private goods in which others cannot share. Modern capitalism forces the wrong decision of these alternatives upon all who are not heroic or exceptionally fortunate.
Men’s impulses are molded, partly by their native disposition, partly by opportunity and environment, especially early environment. Direct preaching can do very little to change impulses, though it can lead people to restrain the direct expression of them, often with the result that the impulses go underground and come to the surface again in some contorted form.
At present our institutions rest upon two things: property and power. Both of these are very unjustly distributed; both, in the actual world, are of great importance to the happiness of the individual. Both are possessive goods; yet without them many of the goods in which all might share are hard to acquire as things are now.
Without property, as things are, a man has no freedom, and no security for the necessities of a tolerable life; without power, he has no opportunity for initiative. If men are to have free play for their creative impulses, they must be liberated from sordid cares by a certain measure of security, and they must have a sufficient share of power to be able to exercise initiative as regards the course and conditions of their lives.
Few men can succeed in being creative rather than possessive in a world which is wholly built on competition, where the great majority would fall into utter destitution if they became careless as to the acquisition of material goods, where honor and power and respect are given to wealth rather than to wisdom, where the law embodies and consecrates the injustice of those who have toward those who have not. In such an environment even those whom nature has endowed with great creative gifts become infected with the poison of competition. Men combine in groups to attain more strength in the scramble for material goods, and loyalty to the group spreads a halo of quasi-idealism round the central impulse of greed. Trade-unions and the Labor party are no more exempt from this vice than other parties and other sections of society; though they are largely inspired by the hope of a radically better world. They are too often led astray by the immediate object of securing for themselves a large share of material goods. That this desire is in accordance with justice, it is impossible to deny; but something larger and more constructive is needed as a political ideal, if the victors of to-morrow are not to become the oppressors of the day after. The inspiration and outcome of a reforming movement ought to be freedom and a generous spirit, not niggling restrictions and regulations.
The present economic system concentrates initiative in the hands of a small number of very rich men. Those who are not capitalists have, almost always, very little choice as to their activities when once they have selected a trade or profession; they are not part of the power that moves the mechanism, but only a passive portion of the machinery. Despite political democracy, there is still an extraordinary degree of difference in the power of self-direction belonging to a capitalist and to a man who has to earn his living. Economic affairs touch men’s lives, at most times, much more intimately than political questions. At present the man who has no capital usually has to sell himself to some large organization, such as a railway company, for example. He has no voice in its management, and no liberty in politics except what his trade-union can secure for him. If he happens to desire a form of liberty which is not thought important by his trade-union, he is powerless; he must submit or starve.
Exactly the same thing happens to professional men. Probably a majority of journalists are engaged in writing for newspapers whose politics they disagree with; only a man of wealth can own a large newspaper, and only an accident can enable the point of view or the interests of those who are not wealthy to find expression in a newspaper. A large part of the best brains of the country are in the civil service, where the condition of their employment is silence about the evils which cannot be concealed from them. A Nonconformist minister loses his livelihood if his views displease his congregation; a member of Parliament loses his seat if he is not sufficiently supple or sufficiently stupid to follow or share all the turns and twists of public opinion. In every walk of life, independence of mind is punished by failure, more and more as economic organizations grow larger and more rigid. Is it surprising that men become increasingly docile, increasingly ready to submit to dictation and to forego the right of thinking for themselves? Yet along such lines civilization can only sink into a Byzantine immobility.
Fear of destitution is not a motive out of which a free creative life can grow, yet it is the chief motive which inspires the daily work of most wage-earners. The hope of possessing more wealth and power than any man ought to have, which is the corresponding motive of the rich, is quite as bad in its effects; it compels men to close their minds against justice, and to prevent themselves from thinking honestly on social questions while in the depths of their hearts they uneasily feel that their pleasures are bought by the miseries of others. The injustices of destitution and wealth alike ought to be rendered impossible. Then a great fear would be removed from the lives of the many, and hope would have to take on a better form in the lives of the few.
The most dangerous aspect of the tyranny of the employer is the power which it gives him of interfering with men’s activities outside their working hours. A man may be dismissed because the employer dislikes his religion or his politics, or chooses to think his private life immoral. He may be dismissed because he tries to produce a spirit of independence among his fellow employees. He may fail completely to find employment merely on the ground that he is better educated than most and therefore more dangerous. Such cases actually occur at present. This evil would not be remedied, but rather intensified, under state socialism, because, where the State is the only employer, there is no refuge from its prejudices such as may now accidentally arise through the differing opinions of different men. The State would be able to enforce any system of beliefs it happened to like, and it is almost certain that it would do so. Freedom of thought would be penalized, and all independence of spirit would die out.
Unfortunately, in this case laziness is reinforced by love of power, which leads energetic officials to create the systems which lazy officials like to administer. The energetic official inevitably dislikes anything that he does not control. His official sanction must be obtained before anything can be done. Whatever he finds in existence he wishes to alter in some way, so as to have the satisfaction of feeling his power and making it felt. If he is conscientious, he will think out some perfectly uniform and rigid scheme which he believes to be the best possible, and he will then impose this scheme ruthlessly, whatever promising growths he may have to lop down for the sake of symmetry. The result inevitably has something of the deadly dullness of a new rectangular town, as compared with the beauty and richness of an ancient city which has lived and grown with the separate lives and individualities of many generations. What has grown is always more living than what has been decreed; but the energetic official will always prefer the tidiness of what he has decreed to the apparent disorder of spontaneous growth.
The mere possession of power tends to produce a love of power, which is a very dangerous motive, because the only sure proof of power consists in preventing others from doing what they wish to do. The essential theory of democracy is the diffusion of power among the whole people, so that the evils produced by one man’s possession of great power shall be obviated. But the diffusion of power through democracy is only effective when the voters take an interest in the question involved. When the question does not interest them, they do not attempt to control the administration, and all actual power passes into the hands of officials.
For this reason, the true ends of democracy are not achieved by state socialism or by any system which places great power in the hands of men subject to no popular control except that which is more or less indirectly exercised through parliament.
Any fresh survey of men’s political actions shows that, in those who have enough energy to be politically effective, love of power is a stronger motive than economic self-interest. Love of power actuates the great millionaires, who have far more money than they can spend, but continue to amass wealth merely in order to control more and more of the world’s finance. 2 Love of power is obviously the ruling motive of many politicians.
The problem of the distribution of power is a more difficult one than the problem of the distribution of wealth. The machinery of representative government has concentrated on ultimate power as the only important matter, and has ignored immediate executive power. Almost nothing has been done to democratize administration. Government officials, in virtue of their income, security, and social position, are likely to be on the side of the rich, who have been their daily associates ever since the time of school and college. And whether or not they are on the side of the rich, they are not likely, for the reasons we have been considering, to be genuinely in favor of progress. What applies to government officials applies also to members of Parliament, with the sole difference that they have had to recommend themselves to a constituency. This, however, only adds hypocrisy to the other qualities of a ruling caste.
It is a painful fact that the ordinary voter is quite blind to insincerity. The man who does not care about any definite political measures can generally be won by corruption or flattery, open or concealed; the man who is set on securing reforms will generally prefer an ambitious windbag to a man who desires the public good without possessing a ready tongue. And the ambitious windbag, as soon as he has become a power by the enthusiasm he has aroused, will sell his influence to the governing clique, sometimes openly, sometimes by the more subtle method of intentionally failing at a crisis. This is part of the normal working of democracy as embodied in representative institutions. Yet a cure must be found if democracy is not to remain a farce.
One of the sources of evil in modern large democracies is the fact that most of the electorate have no direct or vital interest in most of the questions that arise. The tyranny of the majority is a very real danger. It is a mistake to suppose that the majority is necessarily right. On every new question the majority is always wrong at first. It will be found by those who consider past history that, whenever any new fundamental issue arises, the majority are in the wrong, because they are guided by prejudice and habit. Progress comes through the gradual effect of a minority in converting opinion and altering custom. At one time—not so very long ago—it was considered monstrous wickedness to maintain that old women ought not to be burnt as witches. If those who held this opinion had been forcibly suppressed, we should still be steeped in medieval superstition. For such reasons, it is of the utmost importance that the majority should refrain from imposing its will as regards matters in which uniformity is not absolutely necessary."
-Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Political Ideals by Bertrand Russell, with additional editing, by Jose Menendez from the text edition produced by Gordon Keener.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PRE-RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD



Self portrait
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Self portrait Uffizi
Portait Collection Florence
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A Huguenot (1852)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



"Glory is in love with him" - wrote contemporaries about John Everett Millais. Neither English artists was so succeeded during his life, but he. Whether he was in Pre-Raphaelites' rows or drew sentimental genre pictures or representative portraits the crowd followed him. But it was he, who was called "Fallen Angel of Arts", and there is no analogy of this fall in the history of arts.
He was born in Jersey in very careful prosperous family of saddlers (they were distant relatives of Francois Millais). He was handsome and gifted boy. After the brief period at the Henry Sass's private art school, he was accepted into the of Royal Academy Schools, its youngest-ever student (he was 11). In 1846 he made his debut at the Royal Academy exhibition with the history paiting " Pizzaro Seizing the Inca of Peru", London, Victoria & Albert Museum) and won the golden medal in 1847 for the " Tribe of Benjamin Seizing the Daughters of Shiloh" ( London, Private coll.). Being a student he became friendly with his fellow student William Holman Hunt, who in his turn introduced Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1848 they founded the " Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood".
(From libfl.ru/pre-raph/Millais)
Millais achieved popular success with A Huguenot (1852), which depicts a young couple about to be separated because of religious conflicts. He repeated this theme in many later works.
All these early works were painted with great attention to detail, often concentrating on the beauty and complexity of the natural world. In paintings such as Ophelia (1852) Millais created dense and elaborate pictorial surfaces based on the integration of naturalistic elements. This approach has been described as a kind of "pictorial eco-system".


Ophelia (1852)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ophelia was part of the original Henry Tate Gift in 1894 and remains one of the most popular Pre-Raphaelite works in the Tate's collection. Shakespeare was a frequent source of inspiration for Victorian painters. Millais's image of the tragic death of Ophelia, as she falls into the stream and drowns, is one of the best-known illustrations from Shakespeare's play Hamlet.
John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were the founding members of a group of artists called the Pre-Raphaelites formed in 1848. They rejected the art of the Renaissance in favour of art before Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo (15-16 centuries). The Pre-Raphaelites focused on serious and significant subjects and were best known for painting subjects from modern life and literature often using historical costumes. They painted directly from nature itself, as truthfully as possible and with incredible attention to detail. They were inspired by the advice of John Ruskin, the English critic and art theorist in Modern Painters (1843-60). He encouraged artists to 'go to Nature in all singleness of heart.rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing.'
The Pre-Raphaelites developed techniques to exploit the luminosity of pure colour and define forms in their quest for achieving 'truth to nature'. They strongly believed that respectable divine art could only be achieved if the artist focused on the truth and what was real in the natural world.
(From tate.org.uk)
Millais' friendship with Ruskin introduced him to Ruskin's wife Effie. Soon after they met she modelled for his painting The Order of Release.


The Order of Release
1853
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


As Millais painted Effie they fell in love. Despite having been married to Ruskin for several years, Effie was still a virgin. Her parents realized something was wrong and she filed for an annulment. In 1856, after her marriage to Ruskin was annulled, Effie and John Millais married. He and Effie eventually had eight children including John Guille Millais, a notable naturalist and wildlife artist.


John Everett Millais's wife Effie Gray in middle age
holding a copy of the Cornhill Magazine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ambrotype photograph by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
July 21, 1865
Effie Gray Millais, John Everett Millais
daughters Effie and Mary
7 Cromwell Place, signed "Effie C. Millais"
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


After his marriage, Millais began to paint in a broader style, which was condemned by Ruskin as "a catastrophe". It has been argued that this change of style resulted from Millais' need to increase his output to support his growing family. Unsympathetic critics such as William Morris accused him of "selling out" to achieve popularity and wealth. His admirers, in contrast, pointed to the artist's connections with Whistler and Albert Moore, and influence on John Singer Sargent. Millais himself argued that as he grew more confident as an artist, he could paint with greater boldness. In his article "Thoughts on our art of Today" (1888) he recommended Velázquez and Rembrandt as models for artists to follow.
Later works, from the 1870s onwards demonstrate Millais' reverence for old masters such as Joshua Reynolds and Velázquez. Many of these paintings were of an historical theme and were further examples of Millais' talent. Notable among these are The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower (1878) depicting the Princes in the Tower, The Northwest Passage (1874) and the Boyhood of Raleigh (1871). Such paintings indicate Millais' interest in subjects connected to Britain's history and expanding empire. Millais also achieved great popularity with his paintings of children, notably Bubbles (1886) – famous, or perhaps notorious, for being used in the advertising of Pears soap – and Cherry Ripe.


Bubbles, 1885–1886
Oil on canvas
Unilever, on loan to the Lady Lever Art Gallery
National Museums Liverpool
Copyright © 1893–2009 The Studio Trust


The Graphic's chromolithograph of Cherry Ripe
1879
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


His last project (1896) was to be a painting entitled The Last Trek based on his illustration for his Son's book, depicted a white hunter lying dead in the African veldt, his body contemplated by two indifferent Africans.


The Northwest Passage (1878)
Tate Britain, London
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Such paintings indicate Millais' interest in subjects connected to Britain's history and expanding empire. Millais also achieved great popularity with his paintings of children, notably Bubbles (1886) – famous, or perhaps notorious, for being used in the advertising of Pears soap – and Cherry Ripe.His last project (1896) was to be a painting entitled The Last Trek based on his illustration for his Son's book, depicted a white hunter lying dead in the African veldt, his body contemplated by two indifferent Africans.
Millias was elected as an associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1853, and was soon elected as a full member of the Academy, in which he was a prominent and active participant. He was granted a baronetcy in 1885, the first artist to be honoured with a hereditary title. After the death of Frederic Leighton in 1896, Millais was elected President of the Royal Academy, but he died later in the same year from throat cancer.

-Text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, unless otherwise stated.