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

Note: I found these images (above) from all over the web. If you own a photo’s copyright and think this page violates Fair Use, please contact me.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (or Terbrugghen) (b. 1588 probably The Hague, The Netherlands, d. 1629 Utrecht, The Netherlands) was a Dutch painter, and a leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio — the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti.
Little is known of the early life of ter Brugghen; he could have been born in The Hague, but his family seems to have moved to the strongly Catholic Utrecht in the early 1590s. Here he started painting at the age of thirteen, studying with Abraham Bloemaert. From Bloemaert, a Mannerist history painter, he learned the basics of the art.
Around 1604, however, ter Brugghen travelled to Italy to expand his skills, like many of his Dutch counterparts, with the exception of Rembrandt who is known for his adamant refusal to do so. He was in Rome in 1604, and could therefore have been in direct contact with Caravaggio (who fled the city in 1606 on a murder charge). He certainly studied his work, as well as that of his followers – the Italian Caravaggisti – such as Orazio Gentileschi. Caravaggio's work had caused quite a sensation in Italy.

Boy playing a Fife, 1621

Terbrugghen was chiefly a religious painter, but he also produced some remarkable genre works, notably a pair of Flute Players (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel, 1621), which in their subtle tonality - with dark figures placed against a light background - anticipated by a generation the achievement of painters of the Delft school such as Fabritius and Vermeer. Although he was praised by Rubens, who visited Utrecht in 1627, Terbrugghen was neglected by 18th- and 19th-century collectors and historians. The rediscovery of his sensitive and poetic paintings has been part of the reappraisal of Caravaggesque art during the 20th century.
Supper at Emmaus, 1621
Sanssouci Picture Gallery
Source Web Gallery of Art
A Laughing Bravo with a Bass Viol and a glass, 1625
Acquired by Charles I
returned to the Collection by Sir Peter Lely
Apart from religious compositions, ter Bruggen also painted a number of canvases of musicians either to be shown in pairs or singly. The figures in these paintings are not dressed in contemporary clothes, but almost certainly in theatrical, or occasionally pastoral, costume. A laughing bravo, above, was acquired by Charles I. At the time of the Restoration in 1660 it was in the possession of the painter Sir Peter Lely, who returned it to the crown. The origin of these compositions again lies in Caravaggio (for example, The lute player of 1595, The Hermitage, St Petersburg), who, however, treated the subject, and other related single-figure compositions, as exercises in genre.
Ter Bruggen dispenses with any narrative or anecdotal interest and consequently his pictures are closer to allegories, even though he would have seen itinerant musicians of this kind on his return to Holland. If allegory is the intention in the present painting, then it could be interpreted as illustrating two of the five senses - Taste and Hearing. Some of the musicians depicted by ter Bruggen are introspective, but here the mood is more outgoing, emphasized by the scale of the figure seen from below. The artist used the same model in several other paintings.
The Concert
This painting has a strong claim to be ter Brugghen's finest treatment of a secular subject. He has taken a scene favored by Caravaggio and his Roman followers - a group of flamboyantly dressed musicians seen by candlelight - and treated it in his own distinctive manner, placing the dramatically lit half-length figures against a light background. Paintings of the same subject by Caravaggio (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Bartolommeo Manfredi (Florence, Uffizi) are among the prototypes for this composition. Their large-scale, half-length figures, their crowding together within the composition and their closeness to the edge of the canvas, as well as the bright, colorful palette can all be found in this painting. Ter Brugghen brings to this existing format an individual fluency in modeling the soft edges of his forms and a remarkable subtlety of palette.
Boy lighting a pipe
Knabe mit Pfeife
Singing Boy
Leaning on the globe, the old man complains. Tears trickle down his cheeks. This is the Greek philosopher Heraclitus mourning the world's folly. Hendrick ter Brugghen painted this wise man as a boorish figure with weathered head and hands. Models of this kind were popular among the Utrecht caravaggists, of whom Ter Brugghen is the best known.
Terbrugghen’s paintings were characteristic for their bold chiaroscuro technique – the contrast produced by clear, bright surfaces alongside somber, dark sections – but also for the social realism of the subjects, sometimes charming, sometimes shocking or downright vulgar. Other Italian painters who had an influence on ter Brugghen during his stay in Italy were Annibale Carracci, Domenichino and Guido Reni. Upon returning to Utrecht, he worked with Gerard van Honthorst, another of the Dutch Caravaggisti.
Ter Brugghen's favorite subjects were half-length figures of drinkers or musicians, but he also produced larger-scale religious images and group portraits. He carried with him Caravaggio's influence, and his paintings have a strong dramatic use of light and shadow, as well as emotionally charged subjects.
There are pictures by him in the Royal Coll. and in Amsterdam (Rijkmus.), Augsburg, Basle, Berlin, Bordeaux, Cambridge Mass. (Fogg), Cassel, Cologne, Copenhagen, Deventer (Town Hall), Edinburgh (NG), Gateshead, Gotha, Gothenburg, Greenville SC, Le Harve, London (NG), Malibu Cal., New York (Met. Mus.), Northampton Mass., Oberlin Ohio, Oxford, Paris (Louvre), Rome (Gall. Naz.), Sacramento Cal., Schwerin, Stockholm, Toledo Ohio, Utrecht and Vienna.
(The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, Penguin Reference Books)
Note: I found these images (above) from all over the web. If you own a photo’s copyright and think this page violates Fair Use, please contact me.