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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

William Morris Hunt

Happy Birthday William Morris Hunt!! This artist was born in America in 1824, a painter and teacher, Hunt was influential in encouraging his students to study what artists were doing in Paris at the time. He studied under Millet, a precursor to Impressionism. His work was largely figurative portraiture, but he did move into landscape murals in his later years. The painting of Niagra Falls is quite large, 62"X99", and truly conveys the enormity of the Falls!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vincent van Gogh

Happy Birthday Vincent van Gogh!! Obviously one of my favorites, van Gogh was born in 1853, in Holland. Born to a pastor, at one time van Gogh also planned to go into the field, but missionary work was quite wearing on him, so he eventually turned to art. He was considered a Post-Impressionist and became immersed in the expressiveness of color. While Impressionists used color in an attempt to capture the true effects of light and atmosphere he began to use thick, pure, vibrant color to create mood, aura, and sensation in his work. His palette gradually became darker as did his mood and rather than seeking to depict harmony, van Gogh began to use color to express his own vision of reality, sometimes quite oppressive and somewhat disturbing. Van Gogh became increasingly depressed and was in and out of assisted care, funded by his brother Theo, his only friend and support. Sadly he ended his own life at the age of only 37, never realizing his own greatness. I have been fortunate enough to see several exhibits of van Gogh’s work, one in LA, when the Van Gogh Museum was being renovated and then in Amsterdam when a few years ago our family was able to visit that museum. Words are inadequate for describing the emotion conveyed through his art. Unfortunately, so are pictures (you should really be standing before it to truly experience the feeling) the one I have decided to include is one of my favorites. The Cherry Blossoms illustrate Van Gogh’s incredible ability to not only be dark and mysterious, but also able to express a quiet sensitivity, demonstrated in the delicate handling of the branches and flowers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Raymond Hood

Happy Birthday Raymond Hood!! The American architect was born in 1881and contributed innovative, modern designs to American architecture during the years 1922-1935. In 1922 he and John Howells won an international design contest for the Chicago Tribune Tower. He was the principal architect for the famed Rockefeller Center in New York City. The Rockefeller family financed the group of 15 Art Deco style buildings. The project began in 1930 and was completed by 1939. Soaring towers surrounded by lower buildings as well as open spaces emphasizes the drama of the group of structures. The walls are without decorative elements but seem to be protective sheaths instead of support for the skyscrapers. It is said to be the largest collection of skyscrapers built on a common theme. The picture below gives a nice group shot from a dramatic vantage point.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grace Hartigan

Happy Birthday Grace Hartigan!! Born in New Jersey, in 1922, Hartigan planned on becoming an actress. This idea fell through when she married right out of high school, began a trek to Alaska, which ended in LA with them out of money and her pregnant. Her husband was was drafted into WWII and she was introduced to Abstract Expressionism, which became her vehicle into the art world. She eventually wound up in New York, friends with Pollock, de Kooning, and Franz Kline and became one of the only women accepted by the male art community. When Jackson Pollock was finally "discovered" he brought her into the limelight as well. Hartigan will be remembered as one of the only successful  women artists to actually be known and sell her art with the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. In reference to art, she said something dear to my heart,  "Art is still the only place in the world where you can do exactly what you want if you pay the price, which is having no one else want it." She was to be married 4 times and with her last husband moved to Baltimore in 1960 where she eventually became an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art for over 40 years. She gradually introduced realistic elements into her work, evidenced in the painting below, from the series Oranges.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Edward Steichen

Happy Birthday Edward Steichen!!  Luxembourg born, American photographer and museum curator was born on this day in 1879. His work was featured in Steiglitz' Camera Work. He furthered his photography career serving in World Wars I and II, later moving to pictorial photography, fashion photography, and finally directed an award winning documentary: The Fighting Lady. He opened well-known New York gallery 291, featuring artists including Matisse, Rodin, Picasso, etc. A print of The Pond--Moonlight, the photo below, was sold at auction in 2006, bringing the highest bid ever for a photograph: $2.9 million.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hubert Gravelot

Happy Birthday Hubert Gravelot!! The French Illustrator was born in 1699. He studied under engraver Francois Boucher. Gravelot immigrated to London in 1732, and became an instructor at the St. Martin’s Lane Academy (the forerunner to the Royal Academy). It is reported that he used intricate mannequins for his models when creating the illustrations, designed in London, jointed even at the fingers! Gravelot introduced the Rococo style to London through his engravings and illustrations. He is credited for creating illustrations in the Rococo style for works written by William Shakespeare and novels such as Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, pictured below.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gutzon Borglum

Happy Birthday Gutzon Borglum!! This artist born in the US in 1867 was responsible for sculpting the monumental Mt. Rushmore. On a personal note, Borglum was born to a polygamist family and kept the multiple wives tradition. He trained in Paris and there met Auguste Rodin (sculptor of The Thinker). He was fascinated with monumental scale and first sculpted a 6 foot head of Abraham Lincoln, began but never finished a huge relief frieze in Georgia and after other smaller creations, finally moved on to the Rushmore project in 1927. He and his son worked off and on, (of course a team of miners, rock climbers and sculptors assisted)on the mountain in South Dakota until 1941, when Borglum died and never realized his dream of a Hall of Records to be built below. It was later completed in 1998 under the direction of his family. The project, depicting the first 150 years of US history, presents the heads of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt, with the theme of Manifest Destiny. It covers 1278.45 acres and cost the US $989,992.32. A small cube of granite was left in each eye, creating a "glint". The figures were originally planned to be carved head to waist, but this dream had to be altered due to budgetary constraints.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

William Morris

Happy Birthday William Morris!! Morris, born in Britain in 1834, began as a painter, moved into architecture, but eventually needed to expand to create total change for man’s existence. He felt the inside as well as the outside of a home had to reflect a complete wholeness. He began with his home built with the help of friend Philip Webb. Not having the funds to buy furnishings, Morris founded his own firm: Morris and Company, and had his start in the crafting of contemporary furniture, textiles, stained glass windows and wallpaper. He initiated the modern axiom of art on an equal footing with “craft”, preferring handcraft to machine mass production. An important accomplishment is the creation of the private press, Kelmscott Press, innovative in book design and printing. I have included a picture of the Morris Chair (the green paint added later and without its cushions) so you can see the handiwork.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Joseph Christian Leyendecker

Happy Birthday Joseph Christian Leyendecker!! Born in 1874, this illustrator was born in Germany and later came to America. His talent was encouraged early on by his parents and at age 15 he apprenticed to an engraving house, JC Mann & Co, taking art lessons at the Chicago Art Institute. By 19 Leyendecker was creating magazine covers and posters. Although we usually associate Norman Rockwell with the Saturday Evening Post covers, Leyendecker created many as well. An idea of his that still holds today is the New Year’s Baby, which he first designed in 1906. Unfortunately I have not been able to find that year, but did find the one from 1908, pictured below.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Anthony van Dyck

Happy Birthday Anthony van Dyck!! Flemish Baroque painter, born in 1599, van Dyck was an apprentice of Rubens. Van Dyck painted for the royal court, primarily King Charles. He was known also for his innovations in watercolor and etching, painting mythology and biblical scenes as well. He dressed flamboyantly, as evidenced in the self-portrait here, where he holds the gold medal given to him by King Charles I and a sunflower, which is said to represent royalty.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hans Hoffman

Happy Birthday Hans Hoffmann!! German born (1880) American painter, Hans Hoffmann is considered the chief personality behind Abstract Expressionism. He stressed the "push/pull" between space and form relationships. His paintings were about spontaneous gestures, quality of shape, textures and line. He was responsible for opening many American artists to the ideas of Abstract Expressionism.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

George Caleb Bingham

Happy Birthday George Caleb Bingham!! Today we celebrate an artist from the Hudson River School, born in 1811, in Virginia. His family pioneered to Missouri when he was eight and becoming interested in painting, he met portrait artist Chester Harding. Later, Bingham studied art at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, concentrated on portrait painting for a time, and finally returned to the  Missouri frontier. Bingham's mastery of the human figure is evident in his subsequent work focusing on frontier genre. Below we take a look at his most well known: Fur Traders Descending the Missouri. The quiet solitude of the still river, traders and reflected fox capture the tranquility of the moment.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Josef Albers

Happy Birthday Josef Albers!! Albers was a painter, an author and educator, a colorist, born in 1888, in Germany. He immigrated to the USA with his wife Anni, in 1933, when the Nazis forced the closure of the Bauhaus, where he was first a student and then a professor. One of my most favorite and enlightening college courses was the study of Josef Albers' work in the Interaction of Color (one of his books) with my college professor Jason Knapp. After establishing the arts center at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, Albers became the chairman of the Department of Design at Yale University School of Art and proceeded to become an abstract painter and one of the foremost art educators of this country, bringing an European influence. His understanding of the relationship and interaction of color is so intriguing to me. When I studied his work we worked from his book Interaction of Color with painted papers that were cut and precisely collaged together to create studies in color subtraction, gradation and transformation; always keeping in mind that color is relative to its surroundings. I also created a collage of a masterwork that led to a project I still do with my students today! Below is the cover of his book, where he makes one color appear as two, with his color subtraction theory. The orange squares in the center are actually the same color, appearing as two, by the simple subtraction of the blue with the blue ground at the top and then taking the orange away from the small square below with the orange ground.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Adam Eilsheimer

Happy Birthday Adam Elsheimer!! Born in 1568, in Germany, Elsheimer worked in Italy, primarily creating paintings on copper plates. He traveled to Italy at age 20, where he remained for the rest of his life. He lived only 32 years, but the paintings he left behind were influential to artists like Rembrandt and Rubens. Although I have not seen his paintings, I have seen Rembrandt’s work on copper plates and the luminescent quality of the copper through the paint is quite beautiful. He was known, in part, for his night scenes. The one below is called Nighttime Flight into Egypt, and in it several constellations as well as the Milky Way can be observed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kate Greenaway

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! And Happy Birthday Kate Greenaway!! English illustrator, Kate Greenaway was born in 1846. Her father was an engraver, her mother a seamstress. Greenaway was educated at home by various women. She was a daydreamer who was hard-pressed to leave her childhood. She often doodled and drew instead of working on her lessons. She loved flowers and gardens, especially well kept “tidy” ones. At age eighteen, Kate did attend Slade School and then Heatherley’s School of Art to study anatomy and drawing. Her father’s influence helped advance her career and her mother’s costumes and creations made appearances in the children Greenaway drew. Book covers, cards and calendars gradually expanded into illustrated children’s books, and Greenaway became quite popular. The illustration below is called May Day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Juan Martinez Montanes

Happy Birthday Juan Martinez Montanes!! The Spanish sculptor was born in1568 and early on studied sculpture with Pablo de Rojas. He lived and worked in Seville. His style was Baroque, but is said to be more dignified and less emotional when compared to other Baroque artists. His sculpture is primarily polychrome, gilded wood, religious figures and crucifixes. He is known as el Dios de la Madera (the God of wood). I chose one of my favorites, a crucifix called The Merciful Christ from a Cathedral in Seville.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shibata Zeshin

Happy Birthday Shibata Zeshin!! Contemporary Japanese lacquer painter, born in 1807, in Edo (Modern day Tokyo) Zeshin began as an apprentice to a lacquerer at age 11. His father and grandfather were carpenters and wood carvers; his father was also a painter. He studied sketching, painting and the formal Japanese Tea Ceremony. He became quite accomplished at ink painting as well as lacquerware. Sadly, much of his work has been lost. The image below is one of a pair of lacquered screens titled Autumn Grasses at Moonlight.

Laquer-A natural sticky sap applied to the surface of screens, tea sets, bowls, etc, making them shiny and waterproof. Zeshin is known to be a master at the craft.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reginald Marsh

Happy Birthday Reginald Marsh!! Marsh was born in America in 1898, graduating from Yale and went on to become an illustrator for magazines and tabloids. He studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller (whom we looked at a few days go) becoming preoccupied with New York life and the constantly active city, Coney Island, burlesque shows, and honky- tonks. He painted with watercolor and ink, mainly using washes of black, gray and white, adding only pale color. Later Marsh was introduced to egg tempera and brought more color into his work. He tended to follow the Baroque and Renaissance artists more that the Impressionists. Battery Belles, exemplifies his style, with the woman clutching her heat and rushing past the ocean liner, The Normandie, the New York harbor in the background.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

William Glackens

Happy Birthday William Glackens!! American, born in 1870, a member of the Eight or the Ashcan School. American art in the late 1800’s was dominated by a dignified group of painters working in, loosely, an impressionistic style. A group led by Robert Henri, known as the Eight, challenged the guidelines of the dominant school, articulating a belief that painters should represent “life rather than style”. Glackens was an influential member of the group, named the “Ashcan School” by their challengers. He began as a newspaper illustrator, advancing to painting large simple forms in vibrant color. His technique still reflects Impressionistic tendencies rather than the Social Realism of some of the others in the group.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Andre le Lenotre

Happy Birthday Andre le Lenotre!! Today we look at a landscape architect for the first time, French born in 1613. Specializing in formal gardens, Lenotre was the prime gardener for King Louis the XIV, responsible for the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. He also designed the formal gardens (covering 63 acres) of the Palace Tuileries, expanding westward, creating the famed avenue Champs-Elysees still in existence today. The Champs-Elysees is the basis of the Axe historique, which is a series of monuments, buildings and roadways radiating from the center of Paris. The gardens exist still today, though the palace burned in 1871. Below, the Gardens before the palace burned and the same view today. You are looking toward the Louvre. Behind you is the Arc de Triomphe.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kenneth Hayes Miller

Happy Birthday Kenneth Hayes Miller!! American born in 1876, Miller was considered an urban Realist. He studied art at the New York School of Art, later becoming a professor there. His paintings are plump. rosy faced Renaissance women in contemporary settings. He eventually moved near Union Square in New York, painting the common woman in the streets outside his studio. The woman in red fingers her brooch, wistfully awaiting her destiny in the painting By the Window, below.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hector Guimard

Happy Birthday Hector Guimard!! French architect born in 1867, Hector Guillard worked in the Art Nouveau style in France after studying the decorative arts in Paris. He created Art Nouveau objects, advancing to designing structures. His most well-known being the entrances to the Paris metro system. Eighty-six of the brass, iron and glass forms still exist today. I’ve seen the natural, organic forms scattered throughout Paris. They seem to rise from the depths writhing with beauty and beckoning one below.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

David Smith

Happy Birthday David Smith!! Contemporary sculptor, American David Smith, was born in 1906 and considered an Abstract Expressionist. He was an accomplished artist in many media including drawing, painting, jewelry, mixed media and sculpture with roots in Cubism. His use of industrial materials and methods parallel that of Antoine Pevsner Naum Gabo. His sculptures have been referred to as “drawings in space”. Cubi XXVIII, below, is the last work of Smith’s Cubi series, group of stainless steel sculptures finished just before his death in an automobile accident in 1965. The sculpture sold for 23.8 million dollars at auction in 2005, the highest price ever fetched for contemporary sculpture.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Anthony Caro

Happy Birthday Anthony Caro!! Today and tomorrow I will look at two contemporary Abstract sculptors, the first of which is Anthony Caro. English sculptor born in 1924, Caro began his apprenticeship at age 13 in the summers, served in the Royal Navy during World War II, studied sculpture at the Royal Academy and finally worked under Abstract sculptor Henry Moore. He has concentrated on large metal sculptors, seated directly on the ground, thus immediately engaging the viewer. His work is monumental in size, sometimes rusted and varnished as the one pictured below. Caro has also worked with handmade paper, odd parts of machinery, and other found objects.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Piet Mondrian

Happy Birthday Piet Mondrian!! Mondrian was born in Amersfoort, Holland, in 1872. His life somewhat parallels that of Van Gogh. His father was a strict Calvinist schoolteacher. Early on, Piet toyed with the idea of becoming a preacher or perhaps a teacher, but an uncle encouraged him to become a painter. He painted crude landscapes and worked in Cubism for a time. Isolated in Holland for 4 years during World War I, he began developing his unique style. Following World War I, many artists sought to re-define society and worked in concert with architects and designers. Mondrian co-founded (with Theo van Doesburg) the group known as De Stijl (The Style). He moved away from his work with the Cubists into pure abstraction or "Neo-Plasticism". While many remain confused regarding the origination, purpose or point of Mondrian’s work, it’s not so hard to imagine when you consider the simple life and countryside he came from. Quiet, placid waters of the canals, simple country structures, imposing windmills, led to canvases devoid of “subject” rich with intersecting lines framing pure color.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Happy Birthday Michelangelo!! The greatest sculptor of all time was born today in 1475, in Italy. The son of a stonemason, Michelangelo was born to sculpt, but of course he painted as well. The Sistine Chapel Ceiling was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 after first summoning Michelangelo to work on a mausoleum that was never finished. He begrudgingly did agree to paint the ceiling, however he always considered himself a sculptor. The masterpiece, 87 feet high was painted over the course of 4 years while lying on his back on a self-constructed scaffolding. While the ceiling is incredible, so is Michelangelo’s sculpture! He began his 3D expression with the Medicci family in 1489 in the “Sculpture Garden” a school of sorts, but political strife forced him to leave Florence. One of his first commissions was the Pieta, followed by his David, securing his fame. It was at this time, in 1501, that the Pope commissioned him to begin his grandiose tomb, which was to be the ultimate expression beyond compare for Michelangelo. (It was to have 40 life sized figures).However jealousy from other sculptors changed the mind of the Pope and Michelangelo left Rome in disgust. He finally did reconcile with Pope Julius II and began, after casting his likeness in bronze, the monumental task of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I have chosen to include my personal favorite here: the Pieta, sculpted in 1499, since Michelangelo's first and foremost love was sculpting. The sculpture is Mary holding Jesus after he has been taken from the cross. The proportions are monumental, if Mary were to stand she would be 16 feet tall! The realistic detail is unbelievable, the quiet, reconciled peace in Mary's face a testament to her faith.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Howard Pyle

Happy Birthday Howard Pyle!! Born in America, in 1853, Howard Pyle was an illustrator, writer and teacher. He sought to bring illustration to another plane, one of action and drama. He is best known for his Merry Adventures of Robinhood. In this adaptation, he attempted to bring Robinhood to the level that children could understand and enjoy. He founded the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art, now known as the Brandywine School. Below is an illustration entitled Friar Tuck Carries Robinhood Across a River.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sir Henry Raeburn

Happy Birthday Sir Henry Raeburn!! The Scottish portrait painter was born in 1756. After being orphaned early on, Raeburn originally began as an apprentice to a goldsmith, but then became a painter of miniatures. Several years later he was commissioned to paint a full portrait where he found his niche. Raeburn married a wealthy widow which allowed him to paint fulltime. He was accomplished at drawing, drawing straight on the canvas with his brush. The portrait of William Blair below is an excellent example of Rembrandt Lighting.

Rembrandt Lighting-lighting technique developed by Rembrandt van Rijn where the subject is portrayed in a bright light with the rest of the background fairly dark. The aim is to create a dominant force or center of interest with the less important information in dim light. The Mona Lisa is also a great example, with her face brilliantly lit and her folded hands not so bright.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Happy Birthday Adrian Adolph Greenberg!! Commonly known as Adrian, the American costume designer was born in 1903. His most widely known costumes were those designed for the Wizard of Oz. He also designed hundreds of gowns for such greats as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn. He exuded the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dr. Seuss

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!! Today the much loved “doctor” was born in 1904. His name was actually Theodor Geisel and he came up with Dr. Seuss, taking his mother’s maiden name (and his middle name) Seuss. His father always wanted him to become a doctor. He also wrote under the pen name Theo LeSieg. He wrote and illustrated nearly 50 children’s books, as well as a few for adults (who wish they were still children?) The first was And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, pages of which are posted below.
The rhyme: “And that is a story that no one can beat.
                   And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street”
came to him on the way home from a trip to Europe with his wife. He began repeating the rhyme to the beat of the ship’s engines, exasperating his wife, who suggested he get it out of his system by writing a children’s book on the theme. He did and the rest is history! Of course most of us know him for his Cat in the Hat series.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Augustus Saint Gaudins

Happy Birthday Augustus Saint Gaudens!! Irish born in 1848, relief and sculptor, Gaudens was raised in New York City. Gaudens was known as an American Renaissance sculptor and sculpted several memorials in tribute to important historical figures including Grief, which I have chosen to feature here,  located in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC.  It was commissioned by Henry Adams, author/historian and sits atop his wife's grave. He wished a rembrance that depicted "acceptance intellectually, of the inevitable". Of particular interest is the male and female qualities of the mysterious features. Eventually he was buried beside her and finally the sculpture was placed above them. Gaudens also designed coins of particular note, including the twenty dollar double eagle gold piece minted in this country from 1905-1907, considered the most beautiful coin ever minted.

Relief-a picture that is raised or protrudes slightly from the picture plane. A coin is a prime example.