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, June 30, 2010

Horace Vernet

Happy Birthday Horace Vernet!! French born in 1789 this painter was from a family of painters. He is best known for his battle and horse scenes. His primary work was the gigantic gallery of Battles at Versailles that was painted for Louis Philippe. One of these is pictured here, The Battle at the Bridge of Arcole. Doesn’t the dynamic composition as well as the expressive features on the figures capture your attention?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

John Storrs

Happy Birthday John Storrs!! American Modernist sculptor born in 1885, John Storrs was from Chicago. He traveled to Berlin to study singing, but switched to sculpture. He later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He went to Paris and studied with Rodin and the Academie Julien. Storrs was detained a couple of times in Germany by the occupied forces but returned to his studio in Mer greatly weakened and died in 1956. He is most well known for his machine like sculptures such as the one below.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Peter Paul Rubens

Happy Birthday Peter Paul Rubens!! Born in 1577, the Flemish painter considered a Baroque painter, influenced by Renaissance artists, especially Titian and Michelangelo. He painted portraits, religious works, historical and mythological scenes, etc. Rubens was a court painter as well as a diplomat for the Spanish Netherlands. After the death of his first wife, Rubens, 53, married his second wife who was 16. She was a model for many of his subsequent paintings, including the one below, titled Helene Fourment in a Fur Wrap, said to model her after previous classical sculptures of Venus such as Medicci’s Venus.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Philip Guston

Happy Birthday Philip Guston!! Born in Canada 1913, Philip Guston was an American painter, considered an Abstract Expressionist from the New York School. His family moved to California at an early age and he was a classmate and friend of Jackson Pollock. He only attended art school a short time so was largely self-taught. He worked with a muralist in Mexico and then went to New York to join Pollock. Guston participated in several mural projects there before settling into painting canvases. He worked with the opposing ideas of naturalism and abstraction in an attempt to meld the two. Guston taught at various universities including New York University and Pratt Institute. The image below is titled The Studio.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

George Morland

Happy Birthday George Morland!! The English painter was born in 1763. His father was an engraver and George showed talent at an early age, even exhibiting some paintings at the Royal Academy by age 10. His fondness of nature was apparent in his art, as he favored rustic genre scenes of farm animals and country folk. Unfortunately Morland lived beyond his means and spent quite a bit of time dodging creditors. The last eight years of his life he produced over 900 paintings and 1000 drawings! His power of observation and the skill of execution were superb. Inside of a Stable is one of his finest works.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Antoni Gaudi

Happy Birthday Antoni Gaudi!! Born in Reus, Spain, in 1852, Antoni Gaudi is one of my favorites. His parents were coppersmiths. Gaudi was sick with rheumatic fever in his youth, causing him to be alone much of the time perhaps leading to his love of nature. Although he worked during the Art Nouveau period, he had his own style. Known primarily as an architect, Gaudi had an unusual organic approach to his structures. He was also incredibly adept at mosaic work with broken tiles, called trencadis. His most spectacular feat was the (unfinished) La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral in Barcelona. He worked with the Gothic structure and transformed it into a spectacular, natural wonder. It is still being worked on, with completion speculated for 2026. My husband and I were fortunate enough to visit this incredible vision in Barcelona as well as his Parc Guell, also never fully realized. Gaudi's patron, Eusebi Guell envisioned his property as a garden city for the rich with the land divided into 60 plots. Only 3 of the plots were sold, two to a family who still own them and the other to Gaudi himself. The idea was to have homes above in the natural surroundings with viaducts below creating an underground space for a marketplace. Gaudi worked with the existing land formation (a bald mountain) planting Mediterranean trees and vegetation. Rock rubble columns support the underground structure. A serpentine mosaic tile bench snakes around the top, creating a spectacular, panoramic view of the city below. You may have noticed in my blog portrait, I am sitting on that bench. Street musicians can be found playing in the cave-like area below ground, while artisans peddle their wares above. Many of Gaudi's plans were cut short with his untimely death in 1926 after being hit by a tram. A visit to Barcelona reveals several of his architectural visions and countless examples of his influence as his dreams live on. I have included two pictures of the park, one above and one underground.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

John Michael Rysbrack

Happy Birthday John Michael Rysbrack!! (Known as Michael) The Flemish sculptor was born in 1693. His father, Peter, was a landscape painter. Michael began as an architect assistant but then turned to sculpture, becoming England’s most highly regarded sculptor of the day. He created numerous busts and funerary works for prominent personalities. Perhaps his most well known work is his Hercules which exhibits the ideal male figure. It is said he used wrestlers and boxers as his models, taking the “best parts” for his final sculpture.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Carl Milles

Happy Birthday Carl Milles!! The Swedish sculptor was born in 1875 and best known for his sculptural fountains. He planned to manage a gymnastics school in Chile, but after a stop in Paris he became interested in art. He was an assistant to Rodin for a time, working in his workshop in Paris. He married an artist, Olga and following a 2 year stay in Munich, they moved to Sweden in 1906, and built Millesgarden. This was to be their home, eventually becoming a foundation donated to the Swedish people. The couple traveled to America where Milles was a visiting sculptor at Cranbrook Educational Community. He created several sculptures for various sites across the US. They returned to Millesgarden in 1951 and lived there until his death in 1955. Many of his sculptures remain on the grounds there. The sculpture below is titled Statue of God, Putting Stars in the Sky, and stands in Stockholm, Sweden’s harbor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Francisco Ribalta

Happy Birthday Francisco Ribalta!! Spanish painter born in 1555, Ribalta was an artist of the Baroque period who began by studying Spanish painter in Madrid and developing a Mannerist style. He eventually settled in Valencia, where he remained for the rest of his life. His paintings exhibit a tenebrist style, featuring darkness and heavily modeled figures. A deeply spiritual man, he painted primarily religious subjects. The painting below is an excellent example of tenebroso, Deposed Christ Hugging St. Bernard.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paolo Soleri

Happy Birthday Paolo Soleri!! Born in Italy, in 1919, this visionary architect studied with Frank Lloyd Wright after moving to the US in 1946. He is known as perhaps the most innovative Utopian planners of the twentieth century, planning for a day when mankind lives in complete harmony with nature. Aside from Frank Lloyd Wright, his work is also greatly influenced by Antonio Gaudi (whom we will discuss on his birthday in a few days). Among his many plans for self sufficient cities designed to support large amounts of people while enhancing the natural surroundings are a unique ceramics factory in Italy, a partially underground home, Cosanti, in Arizona and Arcosanti also in Arizona. Arcosanti is a model for Arcology, Soleri's vision for an intertwining of architecture and ecology. He saw it as vital that each interact and work together in a harmonious fashion in vertical layering rather than the horizontal sprawl we have slipped into. He dreamed of working, living and natural environments as "superorganisms" one relying and depending on the other. The project is located 70 miles north of the Phoenix suburbs on 10 acres of land, designed to support at least 3000 people. It includes workshops and performing arts facilities and is planned to be 20 stories high. Apprentice workers live in  12 foot cubicles with porthole windows as they continue to build the prototype.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kurt Schwitters

Happy Birthday Kurt Schwitters!! Born in Germany in 1887, this collagist was incredibly innovative in advancing the idea of "found object collage". He was considered a forerunner of Dada in Hanover (he was not politically correct enough for Berlin at the time), and wanted to "free art from  the tyranny of traditional materials. He used anything to create his constructions and collages, transforming everyday trash into organized, orderly art pieces. Schwitters did not attempt to hide the original meaning or purpose of the items, seeking only bits and pieces to serve his form, color and texture desires. Schwitters has been a great influence on my own practices in found object art, as I subscribe to many of his beliefs. His particular handling in found object art and poetry became known as Merz, the nonsensical title belonging to him alone, taken from a bit of headline from a collage of his, stating Kommerzbank (Commerce Bank). He eventually left Germany, seeking a quiet place (away from the Nazis) to create his art and went to Norway and finally England, where he died in 1948. Below is a collage of bits of paper, cork, wood, etc. titled Merz Pictures 32A, The Cherry Picture.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thomas Sully

Happy Birthday Thomas Sully!! and my brother Brian Alan Crittenden! Thomas Sully was born in 1783 from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was a popular portrait painter, also working on landscapes and historical genre scenes. In Mother and Son, his talent at depicting romantic mood is quite apparent. The viewer's eye is led through the portrait with the opposing values of the mother's brilliant white dress and the inky black shadowing on the young boy. Their wistful expressions lend further to the peaceful mood.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Allart van Everdingen

Happy Birthday Allart van Everdingen!! Born in 1626, the Dutch painter Allart van Everdingen was known as a landscape painter. After visiting Scandinavia he came back to Holland painting a new mountainous landscape with foreign elements such as pine trees and waterfalls, surprising his countrymen. His work influenced upcoming Dutch painters. His landscapes are all similar in theme, rustic cabins, and water tumbling down in the foreground, leading him to be known as the inventor of cascades. Not many of his paintings exist today, more drawings and etchings to be found.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Charles Eames

Happy Birthday Charles Eames!! The American designer was born in 1907, in St. Louis, and with his wife, Ray, made major contributions to furniture and architecture design. His father was an architect and by age 14 Charles was learning drawing, engineering, and architecture and developing his design sense. He studied in St. Louis and met his first wife, they married in 1929, but divorced in 1941. Eames studied and worked at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he met his second wife, Ray. They married and moved to California where they worked together for the rest of their lives. The Eames worked on architecture, furniture and film innovations. The best known project was their own home, called the Eames House or House Case Study #8, built in 1949, in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California. It is a showpiece to this day, a marvel of modern architecture, constructed entirely of industrial steel pieces.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jim Dine

Happy Birthday Jim Dine!! American Pop artist, Jim Dine, was born in 1935. He first gained attention with his performance series called Happenings. These were a light contrast to Expressionism, popular in New York at the time. In the 60’s he exhibited various with artists such as Claus Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstien, and helped establish Pop Art. He lived in London for a time, but returned to the US. His work has moved from the everyday objects of Pop Art to nature now and Dine continues to show drawings, paintings and sculpture. Pinocchio has been a favorite subject of Dine; he sees him as a metaphor for art; a walking, talking stick. The nine meter bronze sculpture was installed in Boras, Sweden in 2008.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Malvina Hoffman

Happy Birthday Malvina Hoffman!! Born in 1887, her father was concert pianist, and music teacher, Richard Hoffman. As a result, Malvina was exposed to the arts at an early age. She did not attempt sculpture until her father’s health failed and she created a marble bust likeness of him in commemoration. After producing a couple more sculptures, she persuaded Rodin to take her on as a pupil. Hoffman became known for her talent at bronze sculpting, a feat that requires great expertise as well as strength for the foundry work. She mastered this and went on to create her masterpiece, The Hall of Man, a representation of mankind in 104 heads, busts and full sized figures. She and her husband traveled the world in search of models from the various regions and cultures. Controversy arose, however, after the work was exhibited nearly 30 years, as to the purpose of such a showing of “idealized racial types” and the exhibit was dismantled, some put into storage. The image below is Hoffman’s Kalahari Bushman Mother and Child.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Margaret Bourke-White

Happy Birthday Margaret Bourke-White!! Born in 1904, this American photographer attended several universities studying herpetology (the study of reptiles), finally graduating from Cornell. She took up photography in college as a hobby, but quickly moved into the photojournalism scene, becoming one of the first women photojournalists. She worked for Life magazine for a time, (in fact she had the first cover)photographing combat zones and the death camps during World War II. Throughout the years she wrote several books about her experiences, including an autobiography Portrait of Myself, in 1963, after she developed Parkinson's disease and was no longer to take photos. The picture below is Ghandi with his Spinning Wheel.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Happy Birthday Christo!! Today is Christo's birthday, Bulgarian born in 1935, he worked with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, on land installations. Together they have created a new way of seeing familiar landscape. The two artists have stated that their work has no deeper meaning other than to create an aesthetic appeal. One obvious unique feature is that they do not have a physical artwork after the installation. They are left with only preliminary sketches, memories and photographs of the projects. Some familiar works are the Running Fence, Curtained Canyon, and The Umbrellas. His wife died in 2009, but Christo continues to plan future projects. In regard to his work he states, "I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain." Below is a selection of various projects.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Anni Albers

Happy Birthday Anni Albers!! Wife of Josef Albers, Anni was born in Berlin, in 1899, an American textile designer. She studied at the Bauhaus and is considered one of the most influential textile artists of the 20th century. She taught at Black Mountain College and wrote several essays. Her work is said to bridge the gap between art and craft. She approached weaving almost as a sculpture, even using “found” items in her weaving such as rope, cellophane, etc. She took up printmaking late in life and soon was printing exclusively. Josef and Anni traveled extensively and she continued to do so after his death in 1976.

Friday, June 11, 2010

John Constable

Happy Birthday John Constable!! English painter, born in 1776, to a miller, and living in the peaceful English countryside, Constable claims, “These scenes made me a painter.” He began by painting portraits as well as landscapes, but after his marriage he concentrated solely on landscapes. He created his landscapes by first making a study, painting outside in oils, next he using this as the basis of his final work. Clouds were a focus in many of Constable's paintings. He was made a member of the Royal Academy just 8 years before his death, his genius not realized until much later after his death. The Hay-Wain was displayed at the Salon in Paris in 1924 and was greatly received.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gustav Courbet

Happy Birthday Gustav Courbet!! Although Gustav Courbet was born at the “right time” for Impressionistic influence in 1819, and he knew Monet personally, the painter missed it when he fled France in 1873. He was a Realist; realism bridged the gap between Romanticism and Impressionism. He primarily painted landscapes and genre scenes, he also did some risqué paintings of nudes and couples, at least one of which was not shown publicly until the late 1980’s. Courbet was considered an innovative artist, using his art to put forth his social commentary, as well as writing essays on democratic and social ideas. When three of his paintings were rejected in 1855 at the Exposition Universelle, he created his own showing of forty paintings in a temporary “salon” including the Artist’s Studio shown below. Of this painting, Courbet says he depicts his life, friends on the left surround him with the model in the center and foes and antagonists on the right.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pieter Saenredam

Happy Birthday Pieter Saenredam!! The Dutch painter was born on this day, in 1597. He specialized in church interiors, creating sunlit visions in “cool, silvery tones”. Following the Protestant Reformation churches were stripped of any Catholic symbols and were quite austere. Saenredam painted these interiors, first drawing them out with pencil and chalk in technical perspective, then value shading and adding pale tones of watercolor. It is speculated, however that he was more interested in the perspective and interpretation of the Gothic elements rather than religion. In his The Buurkerk at Utrecht (1654) a sense of vastness and light is created.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright

Happy Birthday Frank Lloyd Wright!! American architect, born in 1867 to a clergyman, Frank Lloyd Wright was a country boy. He wanted to study architecture (there were no classes as such) so he went to Chicago to study engineering, then worked for Thomas Sullivan (creator of the skyscraper) until he managed to begin his own company. Rather than reaching for the sky with his creations, Wright desired to integrate with the landscape and developed his Prairie style. He married and settled in Oak Park, Chicago where he designed and built several homes. My husband and I were fortunate to do a walking tour of most of these in 2006. The homes are low slung, Japanese inspired, with flat rectangular shapes and overhangs; meant to blend in to the prairie landscape. Accompanying his rise to success was a personal life in turmoil and Wright went through several marriages and divorces. A great example, however, of his mature artistic style is Falling Water located in Bear Run, Pennsylvania.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paul Gauguin

Happy Birthday Paul Gauguin!! One of my favorites, Paul Gauguin was born in France, in 1848 and began as an Impressionist painter. Although he was born in Paris, he spent some of his childhood in Peru, where his mother’s family was from. He also spent 6 years at sea from 1865-71. He was a contemporary and friend (even roommate at one time) of Vincent van Gogh. After a period of time in France, exhibiting with the Impressionists, Gauguin went to Tahiti and later the South Sea Islands, where he was to spend the rest of his life (with a trip or two back to France). A favorite topic for painting was island women and in fact I was privileged to see some of his work from Samoa on display in Auckland, New Zealand. Unlike the Impressionists, Gauguin worked in smooth, flat shapes, using bright symbolic colors. He was influenced by the patterns and shapes of his new life with primitive people, as well as Japanese prints. The painting Nevermore features a reclining nude, but with further inspection, the symbolic qualities are evident. Note the title in the upper corner with Poe’s raven sitting on the shelf. The island girl appears nervous with her eyes rolling toward the two women whispering in the background. All elements add up to a sinister feel to the painting. Thus we see Post-Impressionism merged with Symbolism to reveal Gauguin’s mature style.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Happy Birthday Velasquez!! (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez) One of the few Spanish painters known by just his surname, born in 1599, Velasquez was a painter for the Spanish court during the Baroque period. His portraits of various prominent figures of the court and historical scenes became quite well-known and he was an influence for such artists as Manet, Picasso and Dali. He traveled to Italy several times to view the work of the Italian masters. His greatest work is considered to be Las Meninas, a scene including one of the “infant” daughters of the queen’s, Velasquez, himself (painting), and other court figures. The intriguing quality is the various gazes and gestures of the figures, a “snapshot” of life; the characters beckon us into their presence. Note the faded image of, presumably, the queen and king in the background of the tableau. Are they Velasquez' models reflected in a mirror, is it a portrait of court life, or a foretelling of what is to become of Spain?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thomas Chippendale

Happy Birthday Thomas Chippendale!! Well-known for his cabinetry, Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley, England in 1718. His family was in the timber and woodworking trade, so he apprenticed with his father. He published a book of furniture designs entitled The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Directory in 1754, which became quite popular for new designs. Aside from designing furniture, Chippendale also designed interiors, even the wall color. The chair below is a design typical of Chippendale with Gothic splat design.

Splat-the central vertical element in the back of a chair. Chippendale’s chair splats were quite decorative.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nathalie Gontcharova

Happy Birthday Nathalie Gontcharova!! One of the rare Russian women painters, Gontcharova was born in 1881. She was an illustrator, costume and set designer, and avant-garde painter in the “Cubo-Futuristic style. Her great aunt was married to Alexander Pushkin, considered to be the greatest Russian Poet. She began by studying sculpture, but then moved to painting. She and her husband helped organize the Donkey’s Tail exhibit in 1912, a showing of Russian work meant to establish Russian art separate from European influence. She eventually became a French citizen and designed sets for various ballets. Gontcharova’s work leaned toward Futurism, as exemplified in the painting titled Cyclist below.

Futurism-Primarily an Italian style, Futurism attempts to transform the still surface of reality to movement.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Johan Barthold Jongkind

Happy Birthday Johan Barthold Jongkind!! Dutch born landscape painter, Jongkind is considered the forerunner to Impressionism and was a teacher and great influence for Monet. He lived primarily in France. Although his early work is reminiscent of previous Dutch landscape painters we've looked at, he quickly developed his own style. He painted outdoors (a new practice) and was fascinated with painting “slices of life” of the streets of Paris. He became acquainted with Manet and later Monet. His painting below is of a familiar Parisian view called The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Solomon Willard

Happy Birthday Solomon Willard!! The American carver and architect was born in 1788. His father was a carpenter and Solomon followed in his footsteps. His greatest achievement may have been the designing and overseeing of the first “obelisk” (tall, narrow tapering monument ending in a pyramid) in Massachusetts: The Bunker Hill Monument. It is 221 foot tall, constructed of granite and commemorates the infamous Battle of Bunker Hill. It was constructed from 1827-43.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Red Grooms

Happy Birthday Red Grooms!! American born in 1937, Grooms a multi- media artist is best known for his installation pieces, experimental film, and printmaking. The work is comprised of large icons of Americana, caricatures, and satirical messages. His media included fiberglass, paper mache, wood, etc. One of his most famous installations is Ruckus Manhattan. In Groom’s words ruckus is a southern word, meaning ”disorderly commotion”. Viewers become participants in the interactive extravaganza.