Landscape with Snow (1888)

Landscape with Snow (1888)
Painted in February of 1888, Van Gogh painted the dreary furrowed fields of winter. A lone figure with his dog trudge toward home. Located in the Guggenheim, I was moved to view this painting this past weekend.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Max Pechstein

Happy Birthday Max Pechstein!! (and my good friend Teri Linhart) German Expressionist painter, born in 1881, was one of the founders of Die Brucke. Pechstein studied art formally in Dresden, began as a painter, but later became a printmaker, doing woodcuts as well as lithographs. Pechstein was fired from his professor position at Berlin Academy by the Nazis in 1933, but later regained that position with the fall of the Nazis in 1945. His painting borrowed heavily from Van Gogh and Matisse, but gradually became more primitive and incorporated heavy dark outlining. Below, see his most renowned work: Our Father Who Art in Heaven, depicting God reigning Supreme, in the clouds. The German phrases, Our Father, at the top, The Dubist (you are?), in the center and In the Sky, at the bottom. The "all seeing eye" in the center of the forehead is reminiscent of Egyptian practice. The heavy bold lines are quite primitive in this handpainted woodcut. Pechstein produced over 850 prints in his lifetime, including woodcuts, lithographs, and etchings.

Die Brucke or the Bridge (in English) was a group of German expressionists (1905-13) who chose the name to signify their desire to link with like minded artists. They were influenced by the Fauves, Van Gogh and Gauguin in particular. They were instrumental in renewing the woodcut and other graphic arts.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Balthasar Neumann

Happy Birthday Balthasar Neumann!! This German architect was born in 1687. He was a German military engineer who then became an architect in the Rococo style. He is best known for his design of the Wurzburg residence, an impressive, well-proportioned palace and the Basilica of the Fourteen Helpers, which is considered his most notable work. The chapel has a legend that tells of a child coming to a shepherd 3 separate times and finally comes with 13 others, claiming to be helpers. Miraculous healings then began and the brothers who the land belonged to had the Basilica built.

Rococco-After the death of Louis XIV, French life moved from centering in Versailles (and all its grandiose style and splendor) to Paris and focused on smaller more comfortable homes. Rococco refers to “rock-work” and is an interior style of the 1730’s which did extend somewhat to painting. It consisted of small C curves and scrolls, joyful and pretty, with porcelain, gold and silversmith work. The style fell out of favor by the 1740’s, only really popular in France and somewhat in Germany and Austria.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Peter Voulkos

Happy Birthday Peter Voulkos!! American born in Montana, 1924, Voulkos is a considerably celebrated Abstract Expressionist, working in ceramic sculpture. His work crossed the line from craft to fine art. He taught at several colleges and universities, including Archie Bray Foundation, University of California, Berkley, (where he founded the art ceramics department) and University of Montana. He offered many visiting artist seminars, summer workshops, etc. one of which I was lucky enough to attend at the University of New Mexico. His work was quite large, torn, slashed, gouged, weighty, and crudely painted. He fired much of his work in wood fired kilns after learning from Peter Callas the process, in 1979. He suffered a heart attack and died while giving a demonstration at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, in 2002, he was 78. Voulkos was the recipient of six honorary doctorate degrees.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jackson Pollock and Claes Oldenburg

Happy Birthday Claes Oldenburg and Jackson Pollock! Two artists celebrate birthdays on this day and I could not possibly choose between the two! Hence, we look at both Claes Oldenburg and Jackson Pollock today. American born, Jackson Pollock (1912) is perhaps the most celebrated Abstracted Expressionist of the 20th century. He took the abstract compositions of layered, dripping paint of Mark Tobey to a much larger scale. His paintings, averaging 10X20 feet were monumental, experimental performances. In Pollock’s words, “he didn’t paint the picture of how he felt, he acted how he felt it”. Tragically, Pollock died at age 42 in a car accident after driving while intoxicated. The world lost a legend too soon.

 Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1929, Oldenburg is known for his enlarged common household objects (clothespin, chair, bottle, etc) His art of the popular culture, or Pop Art, is a refreshing look at everyday life by placing the mundane object in the humorous, out of context position as public sculpture. Much of Odenburg’s works are happenings or performance art. He collaborates with his wife on many of his projects such as Dropped Cone (39ft 10 inX19 ft), installed in Cologne, Germany in 2001.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lewis Carroll

Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll! Most people know of Lewis Carroll through his writing of Alice in Wonderland, however Carroll was also a photographer. Born in England in 1832 as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, he assumed the pseudonym: Lewis Carroll, after his first literary work, a poem, Solitude, in 1856. He experimented with photography in 1856, even considered making it his profession. Below is a picture of Alice Lidelle whom most believe to be, in part, the inspiration for the “Alice” in Carroll’s Wonderland.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Giovanni Lanfranco

Happy Birthday Giovanni Lanfranco! Italian born in 1582, Lanfranco was a Baroque painter who apprenticed under Agostino Carracci. He painted frescoes on walls, ceilings and altar panels in various chapels. His Assumption of the Virgin, located in the dome of church Sant Andrea della Valle, in Rome, is considered one of Baroque’s key works. He experimented with other styles, Mannerism, for example and used a colorful but tenebrist palette.

Fresco is a painting technique of painting tempera on wet plaster, creating a very strong bond. This is the technique Michelangelo used when painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Tenebrist is similar to chiaroscuro; only the darkness is complete negative space…lacking any color or shape. The positive shapes in the light take on a much more substantial, solid quality.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hendrick van Avercamp

Happy Birthday Hendrick van Avercamp! Dutch painter born in 1585, in Amsterdam, van Avercamp was deaf and mute. He painted wonderfully intricate, colorful ice scenes, studying first under portrait painter, Pieter Isaacks. His winter landscapes are spotted with busy people in various activities: skating, sledding, and walking. His perspective is crude with high horizon lines, leaving plenty of foreground for his figures. Delicate tree branches weave a web across the overcast skies. His style is unique as he led a solitary life, alone in his painting. The Winter Landscape, below, is a prime example of the bustling feel of van Avercamp’s work.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Robert Motherwell

Happy Birthday Robert Motherwell! Robert Motherwell was an abstract Expressionist, born in 1915, America. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford in philosophy and began graduate work at Harvard, before traveling Europe and “discovering” himself as a painter. He moved to Greenwich Village in 1941 to begin painting fulltime. He worked for a time at Jackson Pollock’s studio. For abstract expressionists, the act of painting is just as or more important as the final work. “Through gestural movements the artist is attempting to unleash their raw emotions, not paint pretty pictures.” Motherwell created his art through drawing, painting and collage, becoming the first abstract expressionist to embrace printmaking, printing limited editions of his work. Below is a painting from perhaps his most “famous” series, Elegy to The Spanish Republic. Robert Motherwell died in 1991.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Edouard Manet

My apologies! I am so late in posting today because we have had several days of extreme winter weather (we are not used to that in Arizona!) and I have had no internet connection. Yesterday there was a 2 hour window of access and I was able to get on, but today was another story!

Anyway...Happy Birthday Edouard Manet! Born in 1832 to wealthy parents, Manet was trained in the strict academic tradition under Thomas Couture, French portrait painter. He later rebelled against the rigid Salon’s rules and began to paint the “lower class” or seamier side of life. . He painted with immediacy in extreme light and shadow directly from his models. Finally aligning himself with the Impressionists, Manet abandoned the use of black and turned to lighter color palette and subjects. The painting below shows Manet’s expertise in portraiture as the young woman’s eyes seem to glaze over in boredom in A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. The vague crowd reflected in the mirror behind has been described as seemingly a “daydream”. The light in the painting is expertly handled. This was to be the artist’s last great work. What a shame his talent was never recognized by the Salon in whose tradition he was trained and excelled.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Richard Upjohn

Happy Birthday Richard Upjohn! Born in England in 1802. Although he was trained as a cabinetmaker, he began working as a draftsman with architects after arriving in America in 1829. After some time designing Gothic villas, Upjohn was hired to repair the roof of Trinity Church in New York. Instead, he designed a new church in the Gothic tradition and winning favor, the new building was completed in 1849. It sits at one end of Wall Street surrounded by skyscrapers. The towering spire, arches, windows, finials still create a  powerful vision today. Below we view the scene "then" as well as present-day...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christian Dior

Happy Birthday Christian Dior! Born in 1905, Christian is a well known French fashion designer. He began by selling his sketches on the street for 10 cents! He studied Political Science for a time, but left school and opened a gallery in 1928, selling works by Picasso and others. Family disaster forced him to close the gallery and he began selling his sketches to haute couture houses. In 1945 he opened his own business and began designing voluptuous dresses, saying "I have designed flower women." His creations were termed the New Look. War times had previously caused fashions to be slim and use little fabric; however Dior’s creations were cinched at the waist with flared skirts and flattering hemlines. His designs gave women curvaceous figures. An example of such is below…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

John Goddard

Happy Birthday John Goddard! The American cabinetmaker was born in 1723, and raised a Quaker in Rhode Island. He apprenticed with a cabinetmaker, Job Townsend for 8 years beginning at age 13, married his mentor’s daughter, and moved into his own home and shop. The two families are considered top craftsmen of the day. Goddard worked basically in the Queen Anne tradition, pioneering (with Townsend) the block front style, furniture which is divided vertically with convex and concave sections alternating on either side. The mahogany furniture has short curved legs in the Queen Anne style, with shell carvings on the block front. The high chest viewed below was built in 1755.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paul Cezanne

Happy Birthday Paul Cezanne! French born in 1839 to a wealthy banker, Cezanne is considered a Post-Impressionist. He studied law for a time, but also took art courses. Some say he is perhaps the greatest painter of the past 100 years. In the 1860’s, Cezanne became aligned with the Impressionists, but eventually moved away from the lack of structure in their work, wanting to “make of Impressionism something solid and durable”. As the Impressionists, Cezanne often painted outdoors, a practice which would ultimately lead to his death after being caught in a rainstorm, falling ill and later dying from the exposure. The Still Life with Apples and Oranges (1899) pictured here demonstrates Cezanne’s quest for durability, the forms simplified and darkly outlined, the cloth expertly shaded with blended values.

Post-Impressionists were not so much against Impressionism, rather wanted to go a step further. Impressionists were essentially colorists, fascinated with light and color and the effects of light, atmosphere, and sunlight on their subject matter. They were caught up in the surface or impression of the object, while Post-Impressionist wanted to control or organize reality, desiring a more personal interpretation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Antoine Pevsner

First and foremost let us say Happy Birthday to Dr. Martin Luther KingJr.! American civil rights activist who was shot down before he could realize his dream for our country.

Happy Birthday Antoine Pevsner! Russian sculptor born in 1886, Antoine Pevsner was the older brother to Naum Gabo. Eventually Pevsner moved to Paris, becoming a French citizen. Both men were front runners of modern sculpture, Constructivists, advancing sculpture into welded metal kinesthetic structures. Pevsner was first to use the blowtorch for his work. Pictured below we see one of Pevsner’s works from 1933 currently displayed in the Guggenheim in New York. The Anchored Cross is fabricated from painted brass and crystal, 33 1/2 inches in length diagonally. Constructivism rejected the idea of “art for art’s sake”, but used art as a vehicle for social consciousness. They founded the publication Realist Manifesto in 1920.

Realistic Manifesto: A publication written by Pevsner and Gabo, detailing their artistic theories that art should be separated from conventions such as line, form, color, etc. “The plumb-line in our hand, eyes as precise as a ruler, in a spirit as taut as a compass . . . we construct our work as the universe constructs its own, as the engineer constructs his bridges, as the mathematician his formula of the orbits.” Believing art must be a part of all aspects of every man’s life: "at the workbench, at the office, at work, at rest, and at leisure; work days and holidays, at home and on the road, so that the flame of life does not go out in man." Their works were constructed from contemporary industrial materials.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laurent Delvaux

Happy Birthday Laurent Delvaux! Flemish sculptor, born in 1696, Delvaux worked in England and Rome, finally returning to Flanders in 1733. He sculpted in marble and wood, primarily for churches and the court. His work is quite ornate and referred to as “cold” combining French neoclassicism and Italian baroque styles. Sampson is located in the Louvre.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Samuel McIntire

Happy Birthday Samuel McIntire! The American architect was born in 1757, in Salem, Massachusetts and began as a wood carver, evolving into an architect. He is the most well known designer of Federal-style buildings, simple, distinguished structures, usually 3 stories high with flat or low roofs hidden by cornices and balustrades. McIntire’s forms are simple with restrained ornamentation. The interiors are refined with carved moldings, mantles, and high ceilings. Most rooms are rectangular, sometimes with oval ends, bays and niches. Pictured below is the Pierce-Nichols Home.

Federal-style-Type of architecture developed by Samuel McIntire, greatly influenced by the Palladian method of Roman architecture which followed strict mathematical guidelines. McIntire was further predisposed to the patriotic spirit of the period, including stars, eagles and his personal addition: sheaves of wheat.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ferdinand Waldmuller

Happy Birthday Ferdinand Waldmuller! Austrian (1793) born, Waldmuller was a Romantic painter of primarily portraits. He studied the Viennese masters, copying their work. Later, Waldmuller became immersed in painting landscapes in great, meticulous detail, as exemplified in Dog by a Basket of Grapes. Disputes arose about his preoccupation with painting nature (it did not fit with their credo) and he was eventually removed from his position as professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He was eventually "forgiven" and was knighted in the 1860s. He continued painting incredible portraits and landscapes until his death in 1865.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cecil Beaton

Happy Birthday Cecil Beaton! London born in 1904, Beaton became the most well known portrait and fashion photographer of the day (1920’s). He worked on the staff of Vanity Fair and Vogue, photographing celebrities in Hollywood as well. Beaton designed stage costumes also, the most renown being My Fair Lady and Gigi. Audrey Hepburn is in the photo below, being photographed by Cecil Beaton in a costume he designed for My Fair Lady.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jan van Goyen

Happy Birthday Jan van Goyen (as well as my good friend Mary Jane Cline)! Dutch painter, born in 1596, van Goyen continued the trend of landscape painting of familiar places, which began in Holland. He worked on thin sheets of oak painted with several layers of thin animal hide glue. Into this he scraped white lead to use as a ground, tinting it with yellow ochre or a warmer tone. The image was sketched in pen and walnut ink before painting. River Scene feels so realistic to us with the distant town, the wet air, elements of a boatyard, the viewer immediately relaxes into the mood van Goyen has created.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

John Singer Sargent

Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent! Born in Florence in 1850, John Singer Sargent was the son of a wealthy family originally from Philadelphia. He is primarily known as a portrait painter but also painted murals and watercolors. His work tends to be a bit detached from his subjects, revealing little about their innermost thoughts or emotions. His lines are flowing and handling of the paint superb. Following a visit to Spain and the study of Velasquez’ work advanced Sargent’s style. This growth is apparent in Daughters of Edward Boit. Note the spacious asymmetrical composition as well as the repetition of form in the large vertical vase mimicked by the young girl’s pinafore.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Alexander Calder

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder! American, born in 1898, Calder was initially an engineer. His father was a sculptor. Alexander invented Stabiles and Mobiles which is the union of engineering and sculpture. He is probably best known for his mobiles and kinetic sculpture works. The airy movement and counterbalance of his projects added charm and whimsy to the sculpture scene. The work is wire and metal; the lines and shapes combine to remind one of Miro. The mobile below is Lobster Trap and Fish Tail.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Barbara Hepworth

Happy Birthday Barbara Hepworth! Born in 1903, in Britian, Hepworth was an abstract sculptor who was friends with well known Henry Moore. She trained at Leeds School of Art. Hepworth worked with wood and stone and was quite passionate about carving. She felt emotion could best be expressed through abstract forms. "I do not want to make a stone horse that is trying to and cannot smell the air. How lovely is the horse’s sensitive nose, the dog’s moving ears and deep eyes; but to me these are not stone forms and the love of them and the emotion can only be expressed in more abstract terms." Tragically, Barbara Hepworth died in a fire in her studio in 1975.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Simon Vouet

Happy Birthday Simon Vouet! Today we look at another Baroque painter born 1590, in France. Both his father and brother were also painters. Vouet lived in Italy from 1613-1627, where he adopted the Baroque style, immersing it into French painting upon his return to France. His work was greatly influenced by Champaigne (cool colors) and Poussin (composition). The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is an example of Vouet's painting. The crisp clear figures are similar to the handling of Michelangelo. Note the awkward handling of perspective in the steps at the bottom right. Perspective drawing was perfected by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 1400’s, however it took some time to catch on and many artists had difficulty with the technical aspects of the technique of showing depth in a picture.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Elisabetta Sirani

Happy Birthday Elisabetta Sirani! Born in 1638, Italian Sirani was a Baroque painter who also set up a school for women artists. Although she died at the early age of 27, she produced over 200 paintings, primarily portraits. Her father was a painter who fell ill, requiring her to support her family of 5 entirely through her art. She worked with an amazing speed, leading to speculation that exhaustion may have contributed to her early demise. Virgin and Child is an example of her classic baroque style portraiture.

Baroque-style of art, succeeding Mannerism, practiced primarily in Italy, lasting into the 18th century. Artists attempted to create (even overwhelm the spectator with) great emotional charm by use of color, light and illusion.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Albert Bierstadt

Happy Birthday to Albert Bierstadt(and my brother John Walter Crittenden as well)! Born in 1830, German-American Albert Bierstadt was a painter of the American West. The beautiful light and attention to detail of his paintings is a characteristic reminiscent of today’s Thomas Kinkade. Oregon Trail depicts a familiar subject of the covered wagon, in a rugged forest setting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gustav Dore

Happy Birthday Gustav Dore! French born (1832) Dore was foremost a book illustrator who produced hundreds of Biblical illustrations (as well as others). His medium was primarily woodcuts, however he also sculpted stone. The Agony in the Garden is a prime example of his powerful style. Remember, this is a woodcut! This means it was carved from wood (with the blackest black being the highest point in the cut and the white, the lowest) and printed. Amazing!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bernard Leach

Happy Birthday Bernard Leach! Leach is known as the “dean of English potters” although he was born in Hong Kong in 1887. After being educated in the English school system, he returned to Japan and studied with a master potter. His forms are simple and void of unnecessary decoration. He did not subscribe to the “art for art’s sake” mantra, instead believed ceramics should be functional and accessible to the average man.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Marsden Hartley

Happy Birthday Marsden Hartley! American, born in 1887, was a painter and member of the “Stieglitz Circle”, a group of Modernist painters, who painted primarily abstracted landscapes. His painterly, colorful style is well represented in Mountain Lake-Autumn. This painting can be compared to Cezanne’s Le Mount Sainte Victoire.

Painterly (Ger.-malerisch) is a term referring to feeling of form rather than outlining, with use of color patches, extreme lights and darks, and thick use of the paint. Background and foreground seem to merge with one another in spots. In Renaissance painting, Rembrandt would be considered painterly, while Michelangelo decidedly not. The technique became quite popular with the Impressionists.

Hartley                                                                                                                                        Cezanne

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jack Levine

Happy Birthday Jack Levine! American, Levine was born in 1915, a Social Realist painter and printmaker who disliked the corrupted hypocritical aspects of society. His work consisted of mainly satires on society, political, and Biblical excerpts. His editorial style is described as painterly, influenced by Rubens as well as Soutine. Welcome Home expresses his aversion to success and authority with the unfavorable depiction of an American General. Note the exaggerated heads and features, creating a cartoonish feel to the scene. In 1989 Levine was the subject of a documentary film Feast of Pure Reason.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ernst Barlach

Happy Birthday Ernst Barlach! German sculptor Ernst Barlach was born in 1870 on this day. Akin to Gauguin, Barlach discovers inspiration from the peasants of Russia (as Gauguin does from islanders of the Pacific) believing man to be at the mercy of outside forces. His sculptures seem to emerge from massive blocks of wood or bronze. The Avenger, is a prime example of action dictated by an invisible force. Barlach sculpted this work at the beginning of World War I (when he was a German national) and is said to represent the unstoppable might of the German army. A wooden version of the bronze, as well as other war memorials sculpted by the artist, were confiscated by the Nazis in the late 1930’s, believed to be “offensive to the National sensibility”.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Alfred Stieglitz

Happy New Year...and
Happy Birthday Alfred Stieglitz! This American photographer was born in 1864. Stieglitz, believing photography could become a major art form, published the quarterly Camera Work. Long time partner of Georgia O’Keefe, Alfred Stieglitz devoted his life to recording exact characteristics of situations through the camera. An excellent example of this innovative modernist photography is The Steerage.