Monday, December 31, 2012


Claude Monet (CLAWD maw NEH) (1840–1926) was born in Paris, France. Even as a young teenager it became apparent that he had artistic ability. He would draw caricatures of his teachers on his schoolwork. A caricature is a drawing that represents the person, but certain features will be exaggerated, or made larger than they actually are. He began to charge people to draw their caricatures and was able to have a steady income and even save some money. He served two years in the military in Algeria on the continent of Africa, but he became ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover.
Monet had a small houseboat made. He would go out in the houseboat and paint scenes he saw from that view. He enjoyed painting outdoors observing how the light would change as the day progressed. He painted some scenes over and over again, and each would be different from the others because it was painted at a different time of day when the sun was at a different position in the sky. Monet was fascinated by light; the way it reflected off objects and the water in a pond. In his paintings he tried to capture this effect of light.

Nymphéas 1906
Current Loc Art Institute of Chicago
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection
Source user:Rlbberlin

Water Lilies (The Clouds)

Water Lilies (or Nymphéas, pronounced: [nɛ̃.fe.a]) is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by him. The paintings depict Monet's flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of Monet's artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts. The paintings are on display at museums all over the world, including the Musée Marmottan Monet and the musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the National Museum of Wales, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Portland Art Museum. During the 1920s, the state of France built a pair of oval rooms at the Musée de l'Orangerie as a permanent home for eight water lily murals by Monet.

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

As part of his extensive gardening plans at Giverny, Monet had a pond dug and planted with lilies in 1893. He painted the subject in 1899, and thereafter it dominated his art. He worked continuously for more than twenty years on a large-scale decorative series, attempting to capture every observation, impression, and reflection of the flowers and water. By the mid-1910s Monet had achieved a completely new, fluid, and somewhat audacious style of painting in which the water-lily pond became the point of departure for an almost abstract art.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Spring 1894
The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center

Spring, (1894) depicts the festival of Cerealia in a Roman street. One of Tadema's most famous and popular works, it took him four years to complete. The models for many of the participants and spectators were Tadema's friends and members of his family.
In this painting, Alma-Tadema depicted the practice of sending children out to get flowers on the morning of May Day, or May 1st, but placed the scene in ancient Rome. A great historical researcher, Alma-Tadema was meticulous about portraying the historical elements in his paintings as they actually appeared.
In this painting, he went to great lengths to portray the Roman originals, everything from the music instruments to the architectural details and dress are accurate to Roman history. He had an insatiable curiosity about classical antiquity. This painting was used a reference for Cecil B. De Mille’s movie “Cleopatra,” in 1934.
A procession of women and children descending marble stairs carry and wear brightly colored flowers. Cheering spectators fill the windows and roof of a classical building. Lawrence Alma Tadema here represented the Victorian custom of sending children into the country to collect flowers on the morning of May 1, or May Day, but placed the scene in ancient Rome. In this way, he suggested the festival's great antiquity through architectural details, dress, sculpture, and even the musical instruments based on Roman originals.
Alma Tadema's curiosity about the ancient world was insatiable, and the knowledge he acquired was incorporated into over three hundred paintings of ancient archeological and architectural design. He said: "Now if you want to know what those Greeks and Romans looked like, whom you make your masters in language and thought, come to me. For I can show not only what I think but what I know."
Alma Tadema's paintings also enjoyed popularity later, when his large panoramic depictions of Greek and Roman life caught the attention of Hollywood. Certain scenes in Cecil B. De Mille's film Cleopatra (1934) were inspired by this painting. 
The Floralia is being celebrated, although not by that name, as the ancestor of English May Day festivals. Prepubescent girls lead the procession, like flower girls at an elegant wedding, their innocence proclaiming the innocence of the celebration, itself. The six young women with flowering sprigs who accompany them evoke two other Maying festivals: the May Queen and her attendants, and the Battle of the Flowers, both of which were popular in late-nineteenth-century England.
In this sentimental evocation of a country May Day ceremony, Alma Tadema would seem to have recalled an imagined world of beauty, order, and harmony. But the main participants of the Floralia were prostitutes and the festival, itself, a fertility rite that celebrated the renewal of nature. Although Alma Tadema seemingly has removed any suggestion of such licentiousness, there are subtle but mischievous hints that he has not ignored them all. Satyrs, ithyphallic and sexually insatiable, appear, most obviously in the two silver statues that follow the women playing the tambourines, which are decorated with images adapted from Pompeiian frescoes, one of which shows a satyr and maenad, a devotee of Bacchus given to ecstatic frenzies. Both particpated in Bacchic rites and represent physical and emotional abandon. They also are portrayed on the roundels supported the processional standard suspended high above the revelers, as well as on the capital of the fluted pilaster on the right, playing a panpipe. There, too, in the midst of the flower girls, the only male musician also plays a panpipe, looking suspiciously like a satyr, himself, with tuffs of hair swept up like small horns. There also is a battle depicted on the frieze of the temple to the left, as the Lapiths struggle to wrest their women away from drunken centaurs who have come uninvited to a wedding feast. But it is the standard, itself, so prominently displayed that most subverts the picture.
Identified at the time, it contains two lines from a fragment by Catullus (II): "This inclosure I dedicate and consecrate to thee, O Priapus, at Lampsacus, where is they house and sacred grove, O Priapus." Ithyphallic, a god of fertility and the garden, whose shrine is shown on the roundel below the standard, Priapus certainly belongs at the Floralia but his presence there does introduce another unexpected erotic element to the picture. It is yet another example of Alma Tadema artistically mixing disparate elements, as he does with time and place. The inscription on the architrave in the background, for example, is from the Arch of Trajan at Benevento, Italy; the battle between the Lapiths and centaurs from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, Greece; the river god on the spandrel of the arch, from the Arch of Constantine at Rome; the bronze equestrian statues visible through the arch from marble originals at Herculaneum; and many smaller details from archaeological findings at Pompeii. They all are combined and changed, as well, when he incongruously adds a sheep (ram) and cow (bull) to the spandrel, representing, respectively, the zodiacal signs for April and May, the months in which the Floralia occurred. The tutelary deities for these months were Venus and Apollo, another reminder that love and music were celebrated then.
A familiar festival is decorously celebrated in Rome at the height of its imperial power, the participants surrounded by opulent marble. But then the glory of empire (and, by analogy, Britain's own) is undermined by suggestions of disorder and lasciviousness. It is an ironic portrayal, accessible only to the cognoscente, that, like Alma Tadema's The Roses of Heliogabalus, seemingly depicts no more than a shower of petals, pretty and pink, cascading down upon the banqueters. The knowledgeable viewer, however, will remember the Historia Augusta, which relates that some will die, deliberately smothered beneath the flowers for the amusement of the emperor and his other guests.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Ophelia is a fictional character in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. She is a young noblewoman of Denmark, the daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, and potential wife of Prince Hamlet.
In Ophelia’s first speaking appearance in the play, we see her with her brother, Laertes, who is leaving for France. Laertes warns her that Hamlet, the heir to the throne of Denmark, does not have the freedom to marry whomever he wants. Ophelia’s father, Polonius, enters while Laertes is leaving, and also admonishes Ophelia against pursuing Hamlet, who he fears is not earnest about her.
In Ophelia’s next appearance, she tells Polonius that Hamlet rushed into her room with his clothing askew, and with a “hellish” expression on his face, and only stared at her and nodded three times, without speaking to her. Based on what Ophelia tells him, about Hamlet acting in such a “mad” way, Polonius concludes that he was wrong to forbid Ophelia to see Hamlet, and that Hamlet must be mad because of lovesickness for Ophelia. Polonius immediately decides to go to Claudius (the new King of Denmark, and also Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather) about the situation. Polonius later suggests to Claudius that they can hide behind an arras to overhear Hamlet speaking to Ophelia, when Hamlet thinks the conversation is private. Since Polonius is now sure Hamlet is lovesick for Ophelia, he thinks Hamlet will express love for Ophelia. Claudius agrees to try the eavesdropping plan later.
The plan leads to what is commonly called the ‘Nunnery Scene’. Polonius instructs Ophelia to stand in the lobby of the castle, while he and Claudius hide behind. Hamlet enters the room, in a different world from the others, and recites his “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. Hamlet approaches Ophelia and talks to her. He tells her “get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet becomes angry, realizes he’s gone too far, and says “I say we will have no more marriages”, and exits. Ophelia is left bewildered and heartbroken, sure that Hamlet is insane. After Hamlet storms out, Ophelia makes her “O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown” soliloquy.
Ophelia, 1889
Private Collection

Waterhouse depicts Ophelia lying in a riverside meadow in an attitude of deranged abandon, one hand in her tousled hair, the other grasping flowers. The entry in Academy Notes for 1889 reads: "Ophelia lying in the grass, with the wild flowers she has gathered in the folds of her dress. In one hand she holds a bunch of buttercups; in her rich brown hair, which half hides her face, is a coronet of daisies; in the background through the willow-stems a stream winds, and swallows fly low in the air (no sketch received)."
Ophelia by the pond, 1894
Private Collection

Ophelia takes her time to prepare for her death with flowers. It looks like it takes place in a forest near a lake. The lake is dark, and it is filled with lily pads, showing behind Ophelia. The picture is focused on Ophelia putting flowers in her hair as she sits on a branch leaning over the lake, right on the boundary between land and water. The grass is tall enough to notice in the foreground of the painting. Ophelia is surrounded by the greens and browns of the natural setting. Ophelia is sitting on tall but small branches which are growing out of the water in the left side of the painting. Ophelia is wearing an elegant white long dress with gold trimming around the waist, wrists, and at the bottom of the dress in a fancy design. The gold trim also has pearls or beads, colored red, blue, green, and white. Her head is tilted back, silhouette style, facing away from the painter where the viewer can only see her left eye, the side of her nose, and half her of lips. Her right arm is lifted up near her right ear so the observer can not see her hand. Her left hand is slightly lifted near her neck touching her hair softly. Ophelia’s long, red, stringy hair has red and white flowers tied into it. She has white daisies resting on her lap. This painting has light and dark shading. The trees and the water surrounding Ophelia are dark. Ophelia is the lightest shade of the painting because it is focused on her. She has a rosy tan complexion. She looks as if she is finding peace and pleasure.
With his great accomplishments throughout his oil paintings he had to enter a work of art for his RA diploma. The painting he wanted to submit was titled A Mermaid, but, unfortunately, it was not completed so he suggested that they take a temporary painting until it was completed. He decided to turn in, temporarily, the Ophelia painting of 1888. After the submission the painting was lost until the 20th Century, and it is now displayed in the collection of Lord Lloyd Webber (ArtMagick 2).
John William Waterhouse was interested with women dying in or near water. This gives explanation of his interest with Ophelia, since she died in water. It is said that this idea may have also come to him because of the paintings by Rossetti, Horatio Discovering the Madness of Ophelia and also from the painting by Millais’s, Ophelia.
J.W. Waterhouse imitated Millais’ work by adding some of the same ideas to his work. He added the idea of the lack of sunlight and the foreground. In Trippi’s book J.W. Waterhouse, another version of the Ophelia painting was completed in 1894 (133-5). In this description of Ophelia, J.W. Waterhouse shows her right before her death. The article, entitled “Ophelia,” states that “certain aspects of the composition underline the mortal turn of events: the poppies in Ophelia’s hair, for example, laden with the symbolism of sleep and death”. The time of finishing the same painting varies throughout two different books. In Hobson’s book The Art and Life of J.W. Waterhouse RA, the Ophelia painting was finished in 1910.
Waterhouse started a collection of Ophelia paintings, which were never finished because his illness of cancer started to become unbearable during the year of 1915. Trippi suggests that John William Waterhouse may have revisited Ophelia in early 1909 after his 1894 painting hung in the Academy in the McCulloch collection. His third Ophelia painting was shown in the Summer Exhibition in 1910. In 1915 he started giving “three to five” paintings to the Academy for the next couple of years. Even though the Ophelia series was never finished, a drawing titled A Study for ‘Ophelia in the Churchyard’ was entered in the 1926 sale, years after his death of cancer in 1917. Records show that there is no painting titled the same as what was entered in the sale, so they are considering it to be the Ophelia painting where she is sitting on the branch.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Waterhouse has truly captured the way she might have looked before her suicide, her gazing out at nothing, entranced in thought, mindlessly placing flowers in her hair, driven crazy from grief. Peter Trippi quoted that “the Art Journal noted her ‘wistful-sad look’ and observed that, ‘never can this beautiful creature, troubled with emotion, experience the joys of womanhood” Hamlet having never actually slept with her. This painting is often compared to John Everett Millais’ Ophelia in which she is floating already dead in the water. Millais’ Ophelia was painted from 1851-1852.
(Senex Magister at

Saturday, November 24, 2012


The Milkmaid, c. 1658
The Kitchen Maid
Current Loc Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Milkmaid (De Melkmeid or Het Melkmeisje), sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, is an oil-on-canvas painting of a "milkmaid", in fact a domestic kitchen maid, by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It is housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which esteems it as "unquestionably one of the museum's finest attractions".
The exact year of the painting's completion is unknown, with estimates varying by source. The Rijksmuseum estimates it as circa 1658. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, it was painted in about 1657 or 1658. The "Essential Vermeer" website gives a broader range of 1658–1661.
Despite its traditional title, the picture clearly shows a kitchen or housemaid (a low-ranking servant) in a plain room carefully pouring milk into a squat earthenware container (now commonly known as a "Dutch oven") on a table. Also on the table are various types of bread. She is a young, sturdily built woman wearing a crisp linen cap, a blue apron and work sleeves pushed up from thick forearms. A foot warmer is on the floor behind her, near Delft wall tiles depicting Cupid (to the viewer's left) and a figure with a pole (to the right). Intense light streams from the window on the left side of the canvas.
The painting is strikingly illusionistic, conveying not just details but a sense of the weight of the woman and the table. "The light, though bright, doesn't wash out the rough texture of the bread crusts or flatten the volumes of the maid's thick waist and rounded shoulders", wrote Karen Rosenberg, an art critic for The New York Times. Yet with half of the woman's face in shadow, it is "impossible to tell whether her downcast eyes and pursed lips express wistfulness or concentration," she wrote.
"It's a little bit of a Mona Lisa effect" in modern viewers' reactions to the painting, according to Walter Liedtke, curator of the department of European paintings at The Museum of Modern Art, and organizer of two Vermeer exhibits. "There's a bit of mystery about her for modern audiences. She is going about her daily task, faintly smiling. And our reaction is 'What is she thinking?'"
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
None of the sitters, including the young woman who poses in the Milkmaid, has ever been identified even thought there persists a romantic propension to associate her with a maid of the Vermeer household, Tanneke Everpoel. Whether she is Tanneke or not, the painting was certainly not intended as a portrait. This small painting has been renowned throughout its history.
Twenty years after Vermeer's death it was auctioned with 20 other works by the artist for the sum of 175 guilders while the much larger View of Delft, always highly considered as well, went for 200 guilders. The title given to the painting in 1719 already speaks volumes: "The famous Milkmaid, by Vermeer of Delft, artful."
Later, English painter and critic Joshua Reynolds praised the striking quality of the work. The painting passed through a number of noted collections until it was purchased for the Rijksmuseum in 1908 along with 39 paintings from the famous Six Collection after much public squabbling and the intervention of the parliament. Vermeer, like his contemporaries, possessed a very limited number of pigments when compared to those available to the modern artist. Throughout his career, he seemed to have employed no more than 20 different pigments although he rarely used more than 10 with any regularity. The only difference in Vermeer's palette in respects to his contemporaries was his preference for the costly natural ultramarine, made of crushed lapis lazuli, frequently imported from Afghanistan through Venice. Other painters used the more common and much cheaper azurite.
Although the Milkmaid bears much in common with the technique of the preceding Officer and Laughing Girl, in it we find, perhaps, the most brilliant color scheme of his oeuvre. Lead-tin yellow and natural ultramarine are used full force although the purity of strong local color cannot in itself account the exceptional luminosity of this work. It still has not been explained why the artist passed in space of just two works from a somber and rather conventional rendering of light of the early paintings to the startling sunlight of the Milkmaid.
In any case, artists in Vermeer's time usually set out their palettes differently each day with only those few pigments necessary for the day's work. In fact, once a monochrome underpainting was worked up sufficiently defining basic forms and lighting, each color was worked up piecemeal, one at a time. It is more likely than not that the bread in Vermeer's Milkmaid was not made at home but purchased at the bakery shop, perhaps from one of Vermeer's collectors, Hendrick van Buyten, who owned the largest bakery in Delft. It is known that the Vermeer family had run up a considerable debt for bread which Vermeer's wife, Catharina, paid off Van Buyten with a picture by her late husband. The number of bakeries was considerable in 17th-century Holland, and like most merchants, bakers usually set up their operations in their own homes. Because their ovens were considered fire threats to adjacent property, they were often forced to live and do business in stone buildings. Since rye bread was the main food for the people, the price and quality of the rye bread were strictly regulated, but always low according to the bakers. They tried to make the bread smaller, but the authorities appointed official controllers - obviously unpopular - to measure and weigh the bread in the shops. But beside common rye bread bakers produced fine breads in various kinds of quality and taste. The regulation concerning white bread and other luxurious kinds of bread were not as strict as for rye bread. The bread baker was not allowed to make biscuit, pie or pastry. Since 1497 the guild had been split up and each delicacy had its own guild.
The small picture (18 x 16 1/8 in., or 45.5 x 41 cm) could be described as one of the last works of the Delft artist's formative years (ca. 1654–58), during which he adopted various subjects and styles from other painters and at the same time introduced effects based on direct observation and an exceptionally refined artistic sensibility. Influenced by the detailed realism of Gerrit Dou (1613–1675) and his followers in Leiden, Vermeer created his most illusionistic image in The Milkmaid. To modern viewers, the painting may seem almost photographic in its realism. However, the composition was very carefully designed. This is evident from several revisions made in the course of execution, and from the finished work's subtle relationships of light and shadow, color, contours, and shapes. As in the Woman with a Water Pitcher (89.15.21), of about 1662, Vermeer restricted his palette mainly to the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, and he favored geometric shapes (in The Milkmaid, the right triangle formed by the figure and the table are balanced within the rectangle of the picture field). A low vantage point and a pyramidal buildup of forms from the left foreground to the woman's head lend the figure monumentality and perhaps a sense of dignity. Indeed, several authors have speculated about the activity and character of the "milkmaid" (who is actually a kitchen maid pouring milk)
(Walter Liedtke, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art at

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Napoleon on Horseback at the St. Bernard Pass, 1800
Napoleon Crossing the Alps
Current Loc Musée national du château de Malmaison
R.M.N. Rueil-Malmaison, France

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (also known as Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass or Bonaparte Crossing the Alps) is the title given to the five versions of an oil on canvas equestrian portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David between 1801 and 1805. Initially commissioned by the king of Spain, the composition shows a strongly idealized view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Perhaps the most striking and memorable of the many hundreds of portraits of Napoleon, this is a potent allegory of power that conveys Napoleon’s mastery over man, beast and even nature. In the French painting tradition, the depiction of leaders on horseback was usually the reserve of royalty. David shows a Napoleon totally in command, the saviour of France from the political instability of the post-Revolutionary period. David painted five versions of this portrait.

Charlottenburg version, 1800
Current Loc Charlottenburg Palace
Source The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei

Belevedere version, 1800
Current Loc Kunsthistorisches Museum
Source The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei

First Versailles version, 1801

Second Versailles version, circa 1804
Current Loc Palace of Versailles

Having taken power in France during the 18 Brumaire on 9 November 1799, Napoleon determined to return to Italy to reinforce the French troops in the country and retake the territory seized by the Austrians in the preceding years. In the spring of 1800 he led the Reserve Army across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass. The Austrian forces, under Michael von Melas, were laying siege to Masséna in Genoa and Napoleon hoped to gain the element of surprise by taking the trans-Alpine route.
By the time Napoleon's troops arrived, Genoa had fallen; but he pushed ahead, hoping to engage the Austrians before they could regroup. The Reserve Army fought a battle at Montebello on 9 June before eventually securing a decisive victory at the Battle of Marengo.
The installation of Napoleon as First Consul and the French victory in Italy allowed for a rapprochement with Charles IV of Spain. While talks were underway to re-establish diplomatic relations, a traditional exchange of gifts took place. Charles received Versailles-manufactured pistols, dresses from the best Parisian dressmakers, jewels for the queen, and a fine set of armour for the newly reappointed Prime Minister, Manuel Godoy. In return Napoleon was offered sixteen Spanish horses from the royal stables, portraits of the king and queen by Goya, and the portrait that was to be commissioned from David.
The French ambassador to Spain, Charles-Jean-Marie Alquier, requested the original painting from David on Charles' behalf. The portrait was to hang in the Royal Palace of Madrid as a token of the new relationship between the two countries. David, who had been an ardent supporter of the Revolution but had transferred his fervour to the new Consulate, was eager to undertake the commission. On learning of the request, Bonaparte instructed David to produce three further versions: one for the Château de Saint-Cloud, one for the library of Les Invalides, and a third for the palace of the Cisalpine Republic in Milan. A fifth version was produced by David and remained in various of his workshops until his death.
(Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Napoleon is illustrated as winner in the picture. This picture is also described as “propaganda painting”, because Napoleon is illustrated some weeks before his victory over the Austrian troops. The picture is created during the second coalition war. The crossing over the Alps happened in another way in the reality. Napoleon stretches his right arm victoriously upwards. His horse raises the front hoofs.
Napoleon is known principally as a man of war, perhaps the greatest commander the world has ever seen. He swept a whole generation headlong into ever more bloody battles. Forged by the military, war was his craft and held no terrors for him. In his age it was very much part of the portfolio for a Head of State. Numerous accounts survive of Napoleon’s courage in the thick of action. Frequently in the front line and even leading the assault on occasions, he was thrice wounded …. Scornful of danger, he was intolerant of fear in others. ‘Death is nothing, but to live defeated and abject is to die every day’, he said.
(Thierry Lentz in Napoleon, Revolution to Empire, Catalogue, NGV)
Following his elevation to Emperor, Napoleon continued to triumph over the Coalition of European nations that declared war on him and on whom he in turn declared war. These Napoleonic Wars (from 1803 -1814) at first brilliantly successful, saw Napoleon conquer most of Europe, only to be undone by hubris. His invasion of both Spain and Russia (the latter especially) were ill-judged and proved fatal to Napoleon’s reign. The retreat from Moscow in 1812, when most of his army perished and his “allies” turned against him, was the beginning of the end. He failed to anticipate the rise of Nationalism among his European neighbors – and the negative impact of forced Coalitions. Forced to abdicate in 1814, he returned from exile on Elba to stage one last valiant attempt to regain power and Empire. In his famed One Hundred Days, Napoleon again launched himself into war with England and Europe, but this now legendary Battle of Waterloo was his last. His exile to St Helena ensured the end of his powers. It has been argued that Napoleon was a military genius, revolutionizing warfare, deploying innovative tactical maneuvers - and conducting it on an unprecedented scale thanks to mass conscription. He arguably created Modern Warfare both in scale and conduct. (
During the century that followed Jacques Louis David’s death, three forces struggled for position in French art; classicism, romanticism, and realism. But their initial struggle took place in the art of David. His heroic style, suppressing passion beneath a hard chilly surface, made him the artistic dictator of Europe. Louis XVI, Robespierre, and Bonaparte were united in admiration of David. He emerges from most biographies as one of the least sympathetic personalities in the history of art, an impression not mitigated, for most people, by his painting, which they find as hard and chilling as the man.
Such judgment is somewhat superficial, as there is endless fascination under a layer of iciness. David began his career as a protege of the state under Louis XVI, continued it as a powerful figure in the Revolutionary government, went on from there to become the grand old man of French painting as a favorite of Napoleon’s, and in the process redirected the course of French art at just the time when Paris was emerging as the art center of Europe. Something of a political chameleon, he holds a record for adaptive longevity under hazardous circumstances.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Hide and Seek, 1877
Oil on wood
Source and Loc National Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C., USA

Several children are playing a game of hide and seek in the home and studio of the French painter James Jacques Joseph Tissot (pronounced JAHM ZHOCK JO-SEF TEE-SO).
"READY OR NOT...HERE I COME," shouts the child whose turn it is to look. Ooops! One girl has just peeked from her hiding spot. How many children do you see hiding? Let's take a closer look. Do you think the child in the white dress is a boy or a girl? We're still not positive, but based on the date of the painting and details we know about the artist's family life, we believe that the child on the floor is the artist's daughter. For many years people thought she was Tissot's young son! Back then young boys and girls often wore the same frilly clothing, so it was kind of hard to tell. The children who are hiding may be her cousins, who lived next-door, or playmates. Mom is shown at the far right, reading. The studio is a wonderful place to play hide and seek because it's so cluttered. There are chairs and rugs and tables and screens, each made of a different material and with a different design or pattern on its surface. Each has a different texture (the way something looks and feels: smooth, bumpy, rough, sticky).
In early 1874 Degas wrote, "Look here, my dear Tissot. . . you positively must exhibit at the Boulevard (in the first impressionist exhibition). . . Exhibit. Be of your country and with your friends."
Degas and Tissot, who met as students during the late 1850s, stayed in close communication even after Tissot fled to London in 1871 to avoid punishment for activities in the abortive Commune. Arguing that the benefits of declaring his allegiance to French art outweighed the potential harm it might cause among Tissot's London audience, Degas urged Tissot to show with the impressionists and thereby affirm his ties to France and more particularly to Degas and realism.
Although he chose not to accept the invitation, Tissot, like Degas, worked in a realist vein. Hide and Seek depicts a modern, opulently cluttered Victorian room, Tissot's studio.
After Kathleen Newton entered his home in about 1876, Tissot focused almost exclusively on intimate, anecdotal descriptions of the activities of the secluded suburban household, depicting an idyllic world tinged by a melancholy awareness of the illness that would lead to her death in 1882.
The artist's companion reads in a corner as her nieces and daughter amuse themselves. The artist injected an atmosphere of unease into this tranquil scene by comparing the three lively faces peering toward the infant in the foreground at the left with an ashen Japanese mask hanging near Mrs. Newton in the entry to the conservatory.
Here we’re inside an English room, the artist’s studio. In the fore and middle grounds, four children play at hide and seek (one infant and three faces), while in the background lounges a lovely lady: it’s Kathleen Newton, with whom Tissot lived from 1876. The way Kathleen’s clapped open her paper and wears a slightly sardonic air, while her nieces and daughter amuse themselves, infuses the scene with a kind of cool calm. Once this woman had entered his house and home, Tissot focussed almost only on intimate, everyday depictions of the cut and thrust of the secluded suburban household. So here we get the delicious clutter of a high-end Victorian interior, complete with collapsed cushions on the couches and chaises, animal pelts, angled frames, rimpled rugs and gleaming lamps and ceramics. We also get the delightful froufrou dress on the infant (topped off by a tumble of California curls) and an array of tiny, tense faces behind. Seeping into this room though is a sense of sadness that links to the woman and the way we’d want her to be with the kids. Her separation from them has to do with her health: Kathleen died in 1882 and it’s as if Tissot is trembling with an awareness of her illness here. Just see how he undermines the tranquility with an ashen mask that hangs near Mrs. Newton at the entry to the conservatory.
Just like a real game of hide and seek, the painting "Hide and Seek" by James Jacques Joseph Tissot invites children to be creative and look carefully! Find the painting "Hide and Seek" on the ground level of the East Building in the National Gallery of Art. Take a few minutes to look at this painting. Challenge your children to answer to following questions about the painting:
1) How many chidren do you see?
2) Do you see any toys? Where?
3) What's the adult doing?
4) Can you spot the mask?
5) By looking out the windows in the painting, what kind of day do you think it was?
6) If you were playing hide and seek in this room, where would you hide?
7) How do these children seem different from you (point out their clothes, for example)?
8) How do these children remind you of yourself?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


The Gare Saint Lazare, 1876
huile sur toile. Paris
Musée d'Orsay

After his return to France from London, Monet lived from 1871-78 at Argenteuil, on the Seine near Paris. In January 1877 he rented a small flat and a studio near the Gare St-Lazare, and in the fourth Impressionist exhibition which opened in April of that year, he exhibited seven canvases of the railway station.
This painting is one of four surviving canvases representing the interior of the station. Trains and railways had been depicted in earlier Impressionist works (and by Turner in his 'Rain, Steam and Speed'), but were not generally regarded as aesthetically palatable subjects.
Monet's exceptional views of the Gare St-Lazare resemble interior landscapes, with smoke from the engines creating the same effect as clouds in the sky. Swift brushstrokes indicate the gleaming engines to the right and the crowd of passengers on the platform.
(Senex Magister at
The Gare Saint-Lazare, Arrival of a Train, 1877
Current Loc Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum Cambridge, Ma.
Source Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Monet eventually found that by painting subjects repeatedly--at different times of the day, during different seasons, and under varying light conditions--he could best practice the Impressionist emphasis on light and atmosphere.
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare is one of seven paintings Monet made of the famous Paris train station that served the suburbs along the Seine valley. A completed example of modern iron-frame-and-glass architecture, the station was an enormous vault filled with steam and bustling with movement. Using rapid, often sketchlike, brush strokes, Monet captured the light as it poured through the glass roof and mixed with the whirling clouds of steam. Despite its bold style, the painting is a significant example of the Impressionist focus on city life, as seen in the architectural environment and the train itself.
Later in his career, Monet would largely abandon urban views in favor of depicting the undisturbed world of nature.
(Senex Magister at

Sunday, October 28, 2012


'Gassed', 1918
Current Loc Imperial War Museum London


In 1918, the British Ministry of Information commissioned the American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) to contribute a large-scale work to a planned Hall of Remembrance commemorating Anglo-American cooperation. Travelling to the front in July 1918, Sargent witnessed the harrowing aftermath of mustard gas attacks, which became the subject of this new work,
Gassed - a six-metre-long tableau depicting a procession of wounded men stumbling, blindfolded, towards a dressing station. While this painting, completed in 1919, is not representative of the illustrious portraitist's oeuvre, it has become widely recognised as an embodiment of the pain of war in a strangely serene and dignified manner. Virginia Woolf, in her essay The Fleeting Portrait, wrote of Gassed that it "at last pricked some nerve of protest, or perhaps of humanity". It now hangs in the Imperial War Museum in London. (

Six Studies for Gassed

Two Studies of Soldiers for Gassed

Hands Head, and Figure
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Charcoal Images from

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in.
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
-- Wilfred Owen (1917)

Gassed at the Imperial War Museum
By Shiraz Chakera at   

Gassed is a very large oil painting and depicts the aftermath of a mustard gas attack during the First World War, with a line of wounded soldiers walking towards a dressing station. Sargent was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to document the war and visited the Western Front in July 1918 spending time with the Guards Division near Arras, and then with the American Expeditionary Forces near Ypres.
The painting was voted picture of the year by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1919. It is now held by the Imperial War Museum. The painting measures 231.0 x 611.1 cm (91 x 240½ in; that is, 7½ by 20 feet). The composition includes a central group of eleven soldiers depicted nearly life-size. Nine wounded soldiers walk in a line, in three groups of three, along a duckboard towards a dressing station, suggested by the guy ropes to the right side of the picture. Their eyes are bandaged, blinded by the effect of the gas, so they are assisted by two medical orderlies. The line of tall, blonde soldiers form a naturalist allegorical frieze, with connotations of a religious procession. Many other dead or wounded soldiers lie around the central group, and a similar train of eight wounded, with two orderlies, advances in the background.
Biplanes dogfight in the evening sky above, as a watery setting sun creates a pinkish yellow haze and burnishes the subjects with a golden light. In the background, the moon also rises, and uninjured men play football in blue and red shirts, seemingly unconcerned at the suffering all around them.
In May 1918, Sargent was one of several painters commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee of the British Ministry of Information to create a large painting for a planned Hall of Remembrance.The plan was a complement to the artworks commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund since 1916 at the instigation of Lord Beaverbrook who, by 1918, was serving as the British Minister of Information. Other works were commissioned from Percy Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash, Henry Lamb, John Nash and Stanley Spencer.
The large scale of the works was inspired by Uccello's triptych The Battle of San Romano. The plan for a Hall of Remembrance decorated by large paintings was abandoned when the project was incorporated with that for Imperial War Museum. As an American painter, Sargent was asked to create a work embodying Anglo-American co-operation. Although he was 62 years old, he travelled to the Western Front in July 1918, accompanied by Henry Tonks. He spent time with the Guards Division near Arras, and then with the American Expeditionary Forces near Ypres. He was determined to paint an epic work with many human figures, but struggled to find a situation with American and British figures in the same scene.
On 11 September 1918, Sargent wrote to Evan Charteris:
"The Ministry of Information expects an epic – and how can one do an epic without masses of men? Excepting at night I have only seen three fine subjects with masses of men – one a harrowing sight, a field full of gassed and blindfolded men – another a train of trucks packed with "chair à cannon" – and another frequent sight a big road encumbered with troops and traffic, I daresay the latter, combining English and Americans, is the best thing to do, if it can be prevented from looking like going to the Derby."
The "harrowing sight" referred to the aftermath of a German barrage that Sargent witnessed on 21 August 1918, at Le Bac-du-Sud, between Arras and Doullens, in which mustard gas had been used against the advancing 99th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division and 8th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division of the British Army, during the Second Battle of Arras.
Tonks described the experience in a letter from to Alfred Yockney on 19 March 1920:
"After tea we heard that on the Doullens Road at the Corps dressing station at le Bac-du-sud there were a good many gassed cases, so we went there. The dressing station was situated on the road and consisted of a number of huts and a few tents. Gassed cases kept coming in, lead along in parties of about six just as Sargent has depicted them, by an orderly. They sat or lay down on the grass, there must have been several hundred, evidently suffering a great deal, chiefly I fancy from their eyes which were covered up by a piece of lint..."
Sargent was very struck by the scene and immediately made a lot of notes. It was a very fine evening and the sun toward setting. The War Memorials Committee agreed to change the subject of the commission, and the painting was made at Sargeant's studio in Fulham in 1918-9. The painting was completed in March 1919. It was first displayed at the Royal Academy in London in 1919. It was voted picture of the year by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1919. The painting was not universally liked – E. M. Forster considered it too heroic. It is now held by the Imperial War Museum, along with several charcoal studies for the painting. Other charcoal sketches are held by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. A small 10½ x 27¼ in. (26 x 69 cm) oil sketch, originally owned by Evan Charteris, was sold by Christie's in 2003. It sold for £162,050 ($267,869).
The painting provides a powerful testimony of the effects of chemical weapons, vividly described in Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est. Mustard gas is a persistent vesicant gas, with effects that only become apparent several hours after exposure. It attacks the skin, eyes and mucous membranes, causing large skin blisters, blindness, choking and vomiting. Death can occur within two days, but suffering may be prolonged over several weeks. Sargent's painting refers to Bruegel's 1568 work The Parable of the Blind, with the blind leading the blind, It also alludes to Rodin's Burghers of Calais.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Pollice Verso, 1872
Thumbs Down
Source : Gallery
Current Loc Phoenix Art Museum
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pollice verso or verso pollice is a Latin phrase, meaning "with a turned thumb", that is used in the context of gladiatorial combat. It refers to the hand gesture used by Ancient Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator. The type of gesture described by the phrase pollice verso is unclear. From the historical and literary record it is uncertain whether the thumb was turned up, turned down, held horizontally, or concealed inside the hand to indicate positive or negative opinions. Popularly, it is assumed that "thumbs down" was the signal that a defeated gladiator should be condemned to death; "thumbs up", that he should be spared.
The notion of the pollice verso thumb signal was brought to popular attention by an 1872 painting by French history painter Jean-Léon Gérôme titled Pollice Verso (usually translated into English as Thumbs Down). It is a large canvas that depicts the Vestal Virgins signifying to a Murmillo they decree death on a fallen gladiator in the arena.
The picture was purchased from Gérôme by U.S. department-store magnate Alexander Turney Stewart (1803–1876), who exhibited it in New York City, and it is now in the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona. The painting was a strong influence on the film Gladiator. The producers showed director Ridley Scott a reproduction of the painting before he read the script; "That image spoke to me of the Roman Empire in all its glory and wickedness. I knew right then and there I was hooked", commented Scott. Pollice Verso is also the title of a controversial 1904 drawing of the Crucifixion by Australian artist Norman Lindsay. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
For one thing, Gérôme’s images pervaded popular culture of the early 20th century, both in Europe and the United States. “Entertainers like Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s restaged Gérôme’s pictures in living form,” Gotlieb said. “And directors of early Hollywood spectacles borrowed elements from Gérôme, both sets and plot elements.” But Gérôme’s contribution to cinema was more than costumes and sets. His ingenuity lay in his innovative use of space and time—what Gotlieb calls his “cinematic imagination.”
Pollice Verso is a famous painting (1872) called "Pollice Verso" ("Turned Thumb" by Jean-Léon Gérôme from a phrase in Juvenal) that represents a victorious gladiator facing spectators, who are demanding the death of his defeated opponent.
Gérôme had done research into gladiatorial apparatus. The defeated fighter, a retiarius ("net-man") is depicted accurately; he has no helmet or shield and his weapons are a net and a trident (on the ground nearby - clearly visible only in the large image). The depiction of the victor, however, is problematic. Each item of armor by itself is accurately represented, but the combination is erroneous. The standard opponent of the retiarius is a secutor ("pursuer"), who carried an curved oblong shield, but the victor in the painting carries a round shield (hardly visible even in the larger image) typical of the hoplomachus ('heavily-armed gladiator'). To the right, we see a secutor (with his curved oblong shield) moving in on a retiarius, who has lost his net and his trident (lying on the ground). He still holds his dagger, but he has been badly wounded in the calf and is on the point of giving up. The retiarius is easy to identify because he is the only gladiator with no helmet or shield. Another identifying factor is the high metal shoulder guard (galerus), which is unique to the retiarius. Finally, the protective sleeve called a manica (heavy linen quilting held on by straps) protects his left arm, while the secutor (and all other categories of gladiator) wears the sleeve his right arm. (
Take Gérôme’s most influential painting, Pollice Verso, in which a triumphant gladiator towers over his opponent in a stadium surrounded by onlookers and the bodies of other defeated foes. “Pollice Verso was hands down the most famous of Gérôme’s pictures to travel to the United States,” Gotlieb said. “Crowds lined up to see it.” And crowds continue to line up, as gallery teacher Christine Spier revealed in her discussion of visitors’ comments on the painting. The tracks of the chariot races are still fresh on the ground, and we can imagine the thundering horses and the speeding chariots as they raced by. The gladiator looks toward the vestal virgins in the stands as they all feverishly point their thumbs down, pollice verso, indicating the death of the loser. But the final decision is left to the emperor, who sits in his viewing box, slowly eating from his bowl of figs. What’s special here? “Gérôme spins time on several different axes”, said Gotlieb, who compared the effect to a popular technique in film known as bullet time. Temporally, the scene is slowed so dramatically that we can see events that would normally be undetectable. But spatially, we can still move around the scene as normal, gaining the ability to move around the undetectable event and see it from different perspectives. This effect was popularized in action films like The Matrix, where the main character, Neo, is shown dodging a bullet in slow motion as the camera moves around the scene at normal speed. In Gérôme’s Pollice Verso, the effect is similar. As the gladiator looks to the stands, we feel the fervent shouting and pointing of the vestal virgins. The emperor, however, moves in a different sphere of time, slowly eating away at his figs, unfazed by the chaos before him.
We, the viewers, are free to move around the scene at our own pace. We look from the vestal virgins, to the gladiator, to the emperor, each flowing at a different speed. This technique prefigures the ability of cinema to depict several moments in one shot, to fast-forward, to slow down, to stop. Is it any surprise that Pollice Verso was an inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator? The story goes that upon seeing the painting, Scott decided to sign on to direct the project.
Gérôme was criticized in his day for confusing literature with painting. Before the invention of film, passage of time could only be represented in literature, poetry, and spoken word. Gérôme broke that mold—but his method wasn’t fully understood until moving pictures could capture the experience for us.
(Jean-Léon Gérôme, from “Gladiator” to “The Matrix” by Lorena Patlán on September 7, 2010 under Events, Exhibitions, Film/Video, Getty Center)
Ridley Scott was persuaded to direct the 2000 film Gladiator when he was presented with a reproduction of the 1872 painting Pollice Verso. On visiting the real Colosseum, Scott remarked to the production designer that it was "too small", so they designed an outsized "Rome of the imagination" that was inspired by English and French romantic painters, as well as Nazi architect Albert Speer.
Gladiators (Latin gladiatores) were professional fighters in ancient Rome who fought against each other and against wild animals, sometimes to the death, for the entertainment of spectators. These fights took place in arenas in many cities during the Roman republic and the Roman Empire. The word comes from gladius, the Latin word for a short sword used by legionnaires and some gladiators. The gladiatorial games were originally established by the Etruscans, but were later adopted by the Roman as a means of entertainment. The Etruscans believed when an important man died his spirit needed a blood sacrifice to survive in the after life. 
The first recorded gladiatorial combats took place in Rome in 264 BC. Decimus Junius Brutus staged it in honor of his dead father. It was held between three pairs of slaves, and held in the Forum Boarium. The ceremony was called a munus or duty paid to a dead ancestor by his descendants, with the attention of keeping alive his memory. These were held for notable people and were repeated every one to five years after the person's death. Public spectacles (called munera, singular munus) took place in amphitheatres (like the Colosseum) and took the latter half of the day after the fights against animals (venationes) and public executions (noxii). Initially rich private individuals organized these, often to gain political favor with the public. The person who organized the show was called the editor, munerator, or dominus and he was honored with the official signs of a magistrate. Later the emperors would exert a near complete monopoly on staging public entertainment which included chariot racing in the circus (ludi circenses), hunts of wild animals, public executions, theatrical performances (ludi scaenici) and gladiator fights. There was usually musical accompaniment. Gladiators were typically picked from prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals. There were also occasional volunteers. They were trained in special gladiator schools (ludi).
One of the largest schools was in Ravenna. There were four schools in Rome itself, the largest of which was called the Ludus Magnus. The Ludus Magnus was connected to the Colosseum by an underground tunnel. Gladiators often belonged to a troupe (familia) that traveled from town to town. A trainer of gladiators or the manager of a team of gladiators was known as a lanista. The troupe's owner rented gladiators to whoever wanted to stage games. A gladiator would typically fight no more than three times per year. It should be noted that fights were not generally to the death during the Republic, although gladiators were still killed or maimed accidentally. Gladiators could be also the property of a wealthy individual who would hire lanistae to train them. Several senators and emperors had their own favorites. Criminals were either expected to die within a year (ad gladium) or might earn their release after three years (ad ludum) — if they survived.
Different gladiators specialized in different weapons, and it was popular to pair off combatants with widely different equipment. Gladiators usually fought in pairs (Ordinarii), that is, one gladiator against another. However, sponsor or audience could request other combinations like several gladiators fighting together (Catervarii) or specific gladiators against each other even from outside the established troupe (Postulaticii). Sometimes lanista had to rely on substitutes (supposititii) if requested gladiator was already dead or incapacitated.
A gladiator did not have to die after every match - if the audience felt both men fought admirably, they would likely want both to live and fight for their amusement in the future. A gladiator who won several fights was allowed to retire, often to train other fighters. Gladiators who managed to win their freedom - often by request of the audience or sponsor - were given a wooden sword as a memento. The attitude of Romans towards the gladiators was ambivalent: on the one hand they were considered as lower than slaves, but on the other hand some successful gladiators rose to celebrity status. There was even a belief that nine eaten gladiator livers were a cure for epilepsy. Gladiators often developed large followings of women, who apparently saw them as sexual objects. This may be one reason that many types of gladiators fought bare-chested. It was socially unacceptable for citizen women to have sexual contact with a gladiator, but Faustina, the mother of the emperor Commodus, was said to have conceived Commodus with a gladiator (Commodus likely invented this story himself). Despite the extreme dangers and hardships of the profession, some gladiators were volunteers (called auctorati) who fought for money; effectively this career was a sort of last chance for people who had gotten into financial troubles. 
Gladiator contests could take months to complete. Gaius Marius had gladiators train the legionnaires in single combat. Female gladiators also existed; The Emperor Domitian liked to stage torchlit fights between dwarfs and women, according to Suetonius in "The Twelve Caesars". One of the most famous gladiators was Spartacus who became the leader of a group of escaped gladiators and slaves. His revolt, which began in 73 BC, was crushed by Marcus Licinius Crassus two years later. After this, gladiators were deported from Rome and other cities during times of social disturbances, for fear that they might organize and rebel again. The Greek physician Galen worked for a while as a gladiator's physician in Pergamon. Gladiator fights were first outlawed by Constantine I in 325 but continued sporadically until about 450. The last known gladiator competition in the city of Rome occurred on January 1, 404.


No Swimming
The Saturday Evening Post, June 4, 1921 (cover)
Oil on canvas
The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge (Massachusetts)

These boys sure are hightailing it out of there! Even the dog is hauling tail. Rockwell expert Robert Berridge wrote about this cover in an edition of The Saturday Evening Post magazine. “Franklin Lischke—the freckle-faced lad in the middle,” writes Berridge, was so taken with Rockwell’s work, he ended up studying art himself, becoming a successful commercial artist.
The question remained for decades: what were the boys running from? “Could it have been the pond owner,” Berridge asked, “an irritated bull, or a group of passing girls?. 
(Diana Denny at
Norman Rockwell might have been thinking of his boyhood summer vacations in upstate New York as he captured a simple joy of country life in No Swimming. Rockwell was branded as a kid illustrator during the early years of his career, which were dominated by his association with Boys’ Life magazine and then another children’s magazine, St. Nicholas.
Rockwell perfected documenting life from the point of view of boys and girls in genre paintings such as this one, capturing slices-of-life just as a camera might have. But such images, just a click away for photographers, were a challenge for artists.
Before Rockwell began using photography to aid his painting process, his models had to hold their poses for lengthy stretches, sometimes with limbs propped up by stacks of books or held with ropes and pulleys. Rockwell kept a pile of nickels on a table next to his easel. “Every twenty-five minutes,” he recorded, “I’d transfer five of the nickels to the other side of the table, saying, ‘Now that’s your pile.’ ” - Credit Line Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust.
The calendar proved to be Rockwells best friend when ideas were scant, and he often resorted to seasonal settings for his carefree grandpas, freckle-faced boys, and spotted-mutt dogs. Such traditions as spring fishing, summer visits to the old swimming hole, fall leaf raking, and winter ice-skating proved apt subjects for the Saturday Evening Post. All that he needed to flesh out one of those old "sugar sticks" was a fresh story line. Of course that is always the rub for creators--finding a new twist to an old theme. Still Rockwell produced more consistently than any other Post contributor, forever finding visual bon mots for his illustrations.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


The Homecoming

The May 26, 1945 SEP Cover

Norman Rockwell, typically topical, shows us an American serviceman returning home to his loved ones after serving in World War Two. This young American soldier is home. Finally.
Whether for good or just on leave, he is home. Home.
There's no place like it in all the world. We can be sure this is his home because of all the people who are glad to see him. His mother's face is positively luminous. One little sister is standing on the steps, loudly calling his name. His youngest sister is peeking around from behind the other sister and grinning from ear to ear. His little brother has skipped the steps entirely and has jumped from the porch to the ground. He will be hugging our homecoming soldier with just a few more leaps. But the little dog will beat little brother there. Our soldier's father, pipe in hand is looking out the door, just a couple of steps behind mother and the girls. The man repairing the roof of the porch has taken leave of his task for a few minutes to turn and speak to our soldier as well. All the neighbors in this tight knit community are calling his name. Neighbors are standing on their own porches, leaning out windows and even peering over the fence to see and welcome our homecoming hero. Even the boys climbing trees stop to notice and acknowledge our hero's return. Every home has, displayed in a window, a placard with one or more blue stars on a field of white and a red border. They confer that the family living inside has a serviceman fighting in the war. Those families will also breathe a sigh of relief when their heroes return home, safe and sound.
The first person we notice, stilll waiting quietly to welcome this soldier home, is his sweetheart, the girl he left behind. She is waiting patiently at the corner of the house, possibly unseen and certainly unnoticed by his family. She is patiently waiting her turn, just as she patiently waited for his return. He is doing a valiant job of concentrating on his family when we know he also wants to hug his sweetheart. Maybe that is the contrast in the painting.
Rockwell captured every emotion in this painting. He also captured and recorded every detail, right down to the laundry drying in the breeze on the clothesline.
Norman Rockwell Museum and The Here at Home Committee held a welcome home ceremony for 1st Lt. Andrew Shaw and Sgt. Kelsey Shaw, two soldiers returning to the Berkshire after being deployed abroad. The homecoming ceremony was held at the museum on Saturday, June 23, 2012 starting at 1 p.m. The soldiers and their families were honored by regional dignitaries during the ceremony, which was held in front of Norman Rockwell's rarely seen original 1945 painting "The Homecoming," currently on view thanks to a short-term loan. A reception followed, with homemade apple pie, lemonade, photo re-enactments of Rockwell's wartime illustrations, and the premiere of singer/songwriter Mary Verdi's "Here at Home" music video.
The event was free but does not include museum admission. Norman Rockwell Museum is a committed participant in the Blue Star Museums Program, and extends the program benefits to offer free admission to active military personnel and their families year-round. The Here at Home Committee was formed by Verdi and Rosanne Frieri, director of veteran services for Pittsfield.
The committee has one goal: to welcome back soldiers to the Berkshires with a dignified welcome home greeting and salute their bravery with a billboard letting the community know of their service to the country. During World War II, Rockwell's humanistic portrayals of soldiers on the American homefront were a reassuring presence in the popular press during trying times. The artist received many fan letters from Saturday Evening Post readers who appreciated his artistry and the stories that he chose to tell, and his May 26, 1945 cover illustration of a GI returning home to an overjoyed community of family, friends and neighbors received rave reviews. (

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Edward Antoon Portielje (1861 - 1949), a late nineteenth-, early twentieth-century Belgian painter from Antwerp, showed an interest in seemingly disparate subjects; on the one hand, his images of the domestic woman show a sensitivity toward the female sitter and the encompassing environment, while his depictions of Dutch fisherman suggest a versatility in choice of subject matter and execution. Modern audiences will be more familiar with his works dedicated to the perpetuation of the cult of the female, which romantically look back to eighteenth-century style artists and show glimpses into aspects of daily life.
Edward Antoon Portielje, the son of the Dutch artist Jan Frederik Pieter Portielje, primarily a portrait painter, was born on February 8th, 1861 in Antwerp. Edward’s brother, Geerard Jozef, was also an artist in the family tradition. Edward undertook artistic training at École des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, studying under Charles Verlat, who also taught Van Gogh during the early 1880s. That Portielje and Van Gogh were studying at the same time shows to what point artists diverged during this period. Portielje maintained a refined execution with traditional themes while other artists in Belgium, as in France, began experimenting with other methods of representation. Many of Portielje’s interior scenes are modeled around the fresh color provided by studies of flowers and other botanicals that contrast with the otherwise somber tone of many of his works. These are the elements, in both Portielje’s and Dutch painting in general during this period, that were described as “a small piece which stops us and seduces us.”
(FADA at

Afternoon Tea Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York
Private collection, Georgia

Knotting Net
Images from

The Letter

Two Young Women Sharing a Letter
Two Young Women Sharing a Letter (detail)
Two Young Women Sharing a Letter (detail)
Images from
Working the Lace
The Doting Mother

Portielje held his first foreign exhibition in The Hague in the Netherlands in 1887. In 1891, The Antwerp Salon sold his work to the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Two years later, The Museum of Namur in Belgium also purchased one of his works during an exhibition; his painting was called, "Solace."
By the end of the 19th century, he had also displayed his works in Mons and Reims, France as well as in Leige, Middelburg, Spa and Verviers, Belgium. In the meantime; he developed an extensive customer base from Antwerp to Brussels to Rotterdam.
Portielje's reputation as a leading genre painter grew, capturing the attention of discerning collectors abroad, especially in the United Kingdom as well as the United States. On the occasion of Edward's eightieth birthday, the newspaper, "De Dag" ran a feature on the artist. The article began as follows: "We have had the privilege to visit the workshop of one of the greatest living Flemish painters: Edward Portielje."
On December 18, 1949, Edward Portielje died in his apartment in the Antwerp Tower. The newspaper, "De Gazet van Antwerp" described him as follows: "With the death of Edward Portielje at the age of 89, we lose an important Antwerp figure in the world of art. This highly appreciated painter was considered to be one of the greatest artists over many years and scored an extraordinary success with every one of his exhibitions. His name will be definitively linked with Zeeland's little houses, a theme he made into a genre of its own through his technical virtuosity and exceptional productivity."
Today, Edward Portielje's works can be found in many public and private collections, worldwide. His work is also represented in the Antwerp Museum of Fine Arts, the Chicago Museum of Fine Art, the National Gallery in Melbourne and in museums in Sydney, Australia, Bourges, and Bordeaux, France.
Portielje’s contributions to Belgian painting earned him the respected honor of knighthood from the state. Portielje’s intimate interior scenes, in the artistic lineage of Belgian painter Jean-Baptiste Madou and the most recognizable of Portielje’s image for modern-day audiences, offer light-hearted reflections of leisure time rendered in warm tones that give his images such immensely appealing qualities. His reliance on local exhibitions shows his patriotism to the creation and advancement of typically Belgian art, in both theme and mood.
(FADA at

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