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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Erich Heckel

Happy Birthday Erich Heckel!! Born in Germany in 1883, Erich Heckel was a member of Die Brucke (The Bridge). Die Brucke was a group of artists led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner who were attempting to “bridge” from provincial Dresden to cosmopolitan Paris. They wished to reveal to the world a new vision of art using flat, bright colors and dark outlining, described by some as clumsy. One member stated, “We no longer paint for the sake of art, but for the sake of people.” The group later moved from Dresden to Berlin, which had become an intellectual capital of Northern Europe. The group was especially interested in woodcuts and lithographs. Their subject matter revolved around the seedy side of nightlife as well as the healing open air of mountains and beaches.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Henry Moore

Happy Birthday Henry Moore!! English sculptor born this day in 1898, Henry Moore was the seventh child in a supportive family. He became an elementary school teacher for a time, then joined the army and served in World War I. He was not traumatized by war as so many others; instead it was a springboard for the rest of his life as an artist. He went to Leeds School of Art and then won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. This was to be a major turning point for Moore, “I was in a dream of excitement. When I rode on the open top of a bus I felt that I was traveling in Heaven almost. And that the bus was floating on the air.” Although Henry Moore’s sculpture is contemporary, it represents a continuation of traditional sculpture. His goddesses are Earth Mothers rooted in nature. The viewer has a sense that the reclining female figures are of the soil, rising up with great dignity. Parts are exaggerated, bringing us to full understanding of maternal, organic aspects. While his work is abstracted it is not ever totally abstract. His contribution to modern sculpture is immense.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Francesco Mochi

Happy Birthday Francesco Mochi!! Said to create the first Baroque sculpture, Mochi was born in 1580 in Italy. This piece is his Annunciation group and was finished in 1609 for the Orvieto Cathedral. In addition, he sculpted equestrian statues in Piacenza and his most famous, St. Veronica, at St. Peter’s. This huge statue is one of four saints, the other three sculpted by Bernini, Bolgi, and Duquesnoy. St. Veronica was a woman Christ healed and then later wiped His brow on His way to Calgary. The veil she used is said to bear the imprint of Christ's face and so is an important relic displayed there on Holy days. Veronica is so called since the name means "true icon".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beatrix Potter

Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter!! The English illustrator, born in 1866 has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. I grew up being read to by my parents the little books by this favorite author and illustrator. Her fanciful animals dressed in quaint costumes delighted my imagination. Timmy Tiptoes, Tom Kitten and, of course, Peter Rabbit became familiar names around our house. Beatrix Potter was brought up in a strict household and discouraged against pursuing any type of education, but she was quite interested in flora and fauna and eventually did become an expert of mycology (the study of fungi). Potter discovered an important relationship between fungi and algae. She made a set of 270 detailed watercolors of fungi, which is in the Armitt Library, Ambleside. Her parents appointed her their housekeeper at age 15 and she worked in that capacity until age 30, secretly recording thoughts and fantasies in journals in her own special code. She published Peter Rabbit at age 30 and proceeded to become quite loved as a children’s book author and illustrator. Peter Rabbit became the oldest licensed character when the soft toy was patented in 1901. I have chosen to include a picture of one of my favorite characters: Tom Kitten.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Louis Vivin

Happy Birthday Louis Vivin!! Born in 1861, the French painter studied art at the secondary school, Epinal. Unable to support himself at his art, he was hired by the postal service and traveled around rural France. He was finally able to pursue his art after retirement and is known as a primitive or naïve artist. His work is quaint and simple as exemplified below. Note the geometric lines used to define the details in the Paris Opera House.

Monday, July 26, 2010

George Grosz

Happy Birthday George Grosz!! German born painter from 1893, George Grosz was a member of the Berlin based Dada movement. His work was exaggerated portraiture, which became increasingly satiristic and pointed. Through his art, he criticized the current ruling class with paintings reminiscent of the German primitives. Note the painting below titled Portrait of the Poet Max Hermann –Neisse, 1924. Max Hermann-Neisse was a German poet who emigrated away from his homeland and wrote poetry describing the isolation felt by the "banished sons". The color choices and drawn in look of the saddened poet in this painting certainly lets us glimpse his despair.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maxfield Parrish

Happy Birthday Maxfield Parrish!! American illustrator born in 1870, in America, Parrish painted crisply precise fantasy images. His father was a painter and engraver; his parents encouraged him to pursue art. He was a well-known illustrator for books, calendars and magazines such as Life, Collier’s and others. He also created numerous ads. Parrish is credited for furthering American illustrative art at the turn of the century. He drew from Pre-Raphaelite painting for his inspiration, painting woodland scenes with fair maidens and chivalrous knights. His beautiful women on rocks became a favored subject, so much so, that in 1931 he claimed to “be through with women and rocks”! Parrish used a glazing technique where brilliant colors were separated by thick layers of varnish, creating incredible depth in his scenes. He usually used a bright blue with white for his under color and his blue became a signature color, Parrish Blue. He also had a unique technique for depicting figures wearing black and white geometric patterned fabrics. The painting I have included here is perhaps his most famous from his women and rocks series: Ecstasy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giacomo Balla

Happy Birthday Giacomo Balla!! Italian painter born in 1874, Balla began as an Expressionist but signed the Futurist Manifesto of 1910 and painted in that vein for a time. It is said that he painted the only humorist painting of the movement: Dog on a Leash. (Remember, Futurists were interested in depicting movement.) He later returned to Expressionism. When considered, Balla’s work would appear to be but abstract, popular Parisian belief at the time regarded only mindless patterning to be truly abstract, therefore his work was termed “cosmic symbolism or painting exercises”.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Philipp Otto Runge

Happy Birthday Phillipp Otto Runge!! Born in Germany in 1777, Runge apprenticed to be a merchant, as his father, but, always being artistic, took drawing lessons at age 20. He began to paint in oils in the Romantic style. He eventually married and with the birth of his children his career also took off. He painted large format pictures such as the one below. Runge died at the early age of 33 of tuberculosis.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alexander Calder

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder!! The American sculptor was born in 1898. He began as an engineer and gravitated to art, credited for inventing the mobile. The kinetic sculptures are flat shapes that suspend and float through the air. “Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe.” He also created “stabiles” mobiles rooted to the ground on a base. His work has been described as playful unions of engineering and sculpture. Calder is known as the most influential sculptor of our time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sir John Gilbert

Happy Birthday Sir John Gilbert!! Born in England in 1817, Gilbert was known as the Shakespeare artist of the 19th century, painting and illustrating for numerous Shakespearean plays, in the Romantic tradition. He was self taught, unable to enter the Royal Academy. He learned wood engraving and created hundreds of illustrations for Shakespeare’s works. His biggest endeavor was illustrating The Works of Shakespeare 1864, creating over 750 illustrations for the three-volume set. Queen Victoria knighted Sir John in 1872. The engraving below is titled Macbeth Visits the Three Witches.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lazlo Moholy Nagy

Happy Birthday Lazlo Moholy Nagy!! Hungarian born in 1895, Lazlo Moholy Nagy was a painter and photographer influenced by Constructivism. He put together his surname from the town where he grew up: Mohol, and a friend of his mother’s: Nagy. Moholy Nagy originally strove to be an author, writing poetry, and wrote several books and journals throughout his lifetime. He served in World War I, recording through drawing, his tour on the backs of postcards, providing an insightful commentary on his experiences. Following the war, he began to take art classes, leaning toward Expressionism, but also interested in the effects of color on composition. He began to study photography in 1919, experimenting with photography techniques, photograms, and collage for the rest of his life. He became acquainted with Walter Gropius, who asked him to become a professor at the Bauhaus school. The goal of the Bauhaus was to be a school of design and industrial integration. Moholy Nagy became quite involved in Constructivism, the state of the world, and improving society through art by instilling social responsibility. He immigrated to the US, in 1937, eventually establishing the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1944. Sadly, Moholy Nagy died of leukemia at age 50.

Photogram-exposing photo paper to light with objects placed on top, creating a collage with varied light effects.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Edgar Degas

Happy Birthday Edgar Degas!! The painter was born in Paris in 1834. His father was a French banker and his mother an American from New Orleans. He received permission to copy Old Master’s paintings in the Louvre at age 18, a practice many 19th century beginning painters employed. Degas was a member of the original seven artists who introduced the world to Impressionism. Thought to be a loner, Degas resented anyone and anything that robbed him of time for his art. He was closest to Impressionist, Mary Cassatt, who was considered one of his disciples. Degas did not adhere to all the practices of his peers, for instance he rarely painted outdoors and was not married or nearly as social as perhaps Monet or Renoir. Degas painted his beloved horse races, café scenes and ballet dancers. His worst fear was to lose his eyesight, and this unfortunately came true at the close of his life. He switched from oils to pastels, partially because of his bad right eye and deteriorating left one. He painted dancers to capture movement as well as to explore spatial composition. He had no qualms about cutting off parts of the figures as apparent in the pastel below, in the interest of composition. The dark dress of the assistant, behind, contrasts and draws the eye to the primary dancer in the center.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hyacinthe Rigaud

Happy Birthday Hyacinthe Rigaud!! Born in 1659, the Baroque French painter was the court painter for Louis XIV. His most well known portrait is of Louis XIV (below), but he painted numerous other court dignitaries as well. In the painting below, Rigaud is said to portray the pomp and majesty that goes along with a ruler with absolute power. Note the fine fabrics and textures in the garments.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Berenice Abbott

Happy Birthday Berenice Abbot!! Born in Ohio in 1898, Abbott moved to New York to study journalism, but eventually decided on sculpture and photography. In 1921, Abbott traveled to Europe and worked as an assistant to Man Ray for a time. Together they created portraits of artistic and literary figures. After returning in the early 20th century in New York, she concentrated primarily on architecture. Manhattan was growing fast and the height and close proximity of the structures made for dynamic photos. She published a book of these photographs: Changing New York, in 1939. Later Abbott became fascinated with capturing the laws of physics on film. I have included a shot of Manhattan: The Exchange Place here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Andrea del Sarto

Happy Birthday Andrea del Sarto!! Born in 1486, the Italian painter was working in Florence during the time Michelangelo and Raphael were in Rome. He had incredible feel for color and tone in his fresco painting. Soft light bathes his scenes in a Mannerist style. Unfortunately Del Sarto died prematurely at age 45, probably from the plague. I have included his Madonna del Arpie, which is considered a precursor for Mannerism.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Happy Birthday Rembrandt!! Born in Holland in 1606, Rembrandt van Rijn was the son of a miller and grew up in a shack next to a windmill. He was a portrait painter as well as painter of genre and historical scenes. He was quite prolific, completing some 650 paintings, 300 etchings and nearly 2000 drawings! His family was often his models, his son Titus his favored model for Jesus. To look at his paintings, one would not know the unhappiness Rembrandt experienced, losing his entire family, one by one, long before he died in 1666. The house where he lived and worked is still standing in Amsterdam, Holland, and my family and I were privileged to visit it in 2006. The rooms remain as they stood when he lived there and I was most impressed by the storage room for his painting “props” a great room filled with rocks, shells, vases, feathers, hats and scarves for his patrons to wear and pose with. The studio is as if he left yesterday, palette and brushes in place, unfinished painting on the easel. My favorite is Supper at Emmaus, housed at the Louvre, depicting the risen Christ with two of his disciples at a humble table. I simply love the humanistic quality of Rembrandt’s Christ, subtly lit, creating a halo around his head, proclaiming His greatness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gustav Klimt

Happy Birthday Gustav Klimt!! Mentioned yesterday, Gustav Klimt was born in Austria in 1862 and is considered by most to be Austria’s most talented artist. He was a painter, muralist, designer and member of the Vienna Secession group of artists at the turn of the century. He also was commissioned to create several murals, some of which were not displayed at the time, due to their explicit sexual content. Klimt is best known for his use of gold leaf decorative touches in his paintings. His finest work is considered to be The Kiss, which I can attest is spectacular! The gold opulence adds to the sensuous quality of his paintings from his “Gold Phase”. Exhibited in the Gallery at the Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria, it is said to display Gustav Klimt’s exploration of the transformative power of love. It deviates from his usual depiction of the woman as femme fatale. Here we see the touching mutual embrace of the couple, obviously in love, their ornately patterned costumes set off by the bronze background.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Otto Wagner

Happy Birthday Otto Wagner!! Austrian born architect (1841), Wagner was a proponent of Architectural Realism, very interested in urban planning. He was Professor of Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He and Gustav Klimt, among others, founded the Vienna Secession group of artists. Wagner published a textbook: Modern Architecture in 1896, in it stating, “New human tasks and views call for a change or reconstitution of existing forms.” Wagner felt if the architect simply observed the function of the building, the form would follow naturally. His art theory made him an important figure in Viennese modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While in Vienna, we were fortunate to visit his greatest work, the Austrian Postsparkasse, which is still a working bank, to change currency. It was innovative in his day, combining checking and savings businesses in one hall. Note the winged angel figures at the top corners and the aluminum features.

Vienna Secession-Group of artists whose primary goal was to provide exhibition opportunities for young, avant-garde artists.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Josiah Wedgwood

Happy Birthday Josiah Wedgwood!! The English potter, born in 1730, was the grandfather to the naturalist Charles Darwin (Origin of Species). He began at an early age apprenticed to his older brother at the Churchyard Pottery. He suffered from polio and at age 12 lost his leg making it impossible to push the foot pedal on the potter’s wheel. Wedgwood spent his time studying and working on the design and industrialization of pottery. His workshop eventually became the first true pottery factory. He is credited with the famed “Wedgwood” china design  which is a matte, jasper (blue) base with white sculpted relief (usually Greek or Roman mythical scenes) overlay.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Roger de la Fresnaye

Happy Birthday Roger de la Fresnaye!! Born in 1885 into a French aristocratic family, de la Fresnaye received an excellent classical education. He was a member of the Section d'Or group and greatly influenced by Cubists Picasso and Braque. His work in naturalistic, however and has more structure. The Conquest of the Air is considered his greatest work. It pictures him with is brother, note the balloon in the sky, and of course the French flag in the corner. Following his term in the French army during WWI he was weakened and never really regained his strength for painting anything of any magnitude.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Camille Pissarro

Happy Birthday Camille Pissarro!! Born today in 1831 in St. Thomas in the West Indies, Pissarro was a clerk in his father’s general store before running way with another painter to Venezuela and then to Paris in 1855. His timely arrival enabled him to see the famed World Fair exhibition in which Courbet showed his rejected paintings. (these paintings were rejected by the Salon, the controlling entity of fine art at the time) He was deeply affected by the attitude and the work and began painting in earnest, first under Corot, then falling in with the Impressionists, including Courbet, Manet, and Monet. He was forced to flee before the German invasion in 1870 and ended up in Pontoise. The paintings he left behind were destroyed. Pissarro exhibited in the first Impressionist show in 1874 and is said to be the most consistent Impressionist painter, never veering from the style. He has paintings in most major museums. The one below, Hoarfrost, 1873, is at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Minor White

Happy Birthday Minor White!! Born in America in 1907, Minor White was a photographer working in what was known as the west coast style of the 1950’s. He expanded on Alfred Stieglitz’s philosophy of the photograph as visual metaphor. White saw the goal of photography as the attempt “to get from the tangible to the intangible.” He strove to photograph real objects thus allowing the photograph to function as metaphor for the viewer’s imagination. The negative image of the photo below has been printed, giving the eerie illusion of the feet floating above the wood grain floor. The cuffs of the pants appear to flare and flame, further enhancing the supernatural impression.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kathe Kollowitz

Happy Birthday Kathe Kollowitz!! This inspired artist was born in Prussia (now Russia) in 1867. She was one of 5 children and took art lessons early on in drawing and plaster casting. She went to art school in Berlin, where she met her husband who eventually became a doctor for the poor. They made their home in Germany and Kathe had a wealth of ideas and subjects in her husband’s patients. She was a printmaker and sculptor who expertly conveyed her incredible empathy for the weak and downtrodden through her expressive and naturalistic style. She tended to work on series or groups of works on a common theme, war, poverty, human suffering and death among the most favored. Death and Woman is the title for etching below.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marc Chagall

Happy Birthday Marc Chagall!! French born Marc Chagall is a well known Russian Expressionist painter, born in 1887. He attended a minor art school and also worked as a sign painter. Like many other artists of his time, Marc Chagall was drawn to Paris in the early 1900’s where he was influenced by Cubism. He was Commissioner of Fine Arts in Russia and founded an Academy. He returned to Paris in 1923 with his imaginative style in place. His forms are rooted in dreams and fantasy, with rich, vibrant colors. Russian villages, love and later religion seem to be his inspiration. Chagall was a great influence to the Surrealists to follow. He traveled to the US, where he remained for the remainder of his life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Frida Kahlo

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo!! Born today in Coyoacan, Mexico in 1907, Frida Kahlo was one of the greatest influential Mexican painters. She blended Symbolism and Surrealism in her own style of Folk Art to paint pain and suffering as it related to her world, both personally and politically. Suffering from a lame leg, due to polio as well as lifelong injuries from a horrific bus crash when she was just a teen, Frida lived the majority of her life in great pain. Her art stemmed from the countless hours lying in bed healing and reflecting on life. She painted herself as well as the fruit, monkeys and birds she loved. An incredible beauty, described as an Aztec Queen, Frida commanded attention wherever she went. She wore the flowing skirts, shawls and wraps of a Mexican peasant with rings on every finger, great medallions and her hair swept up with magnificent flowers and fruit. She was married to Diego Rivera, Mexican muralist, also deeply involved in the politics of Mexico. The painting I have chosen to include here is actually a photograph of Kahlo as she works on a large self portrait titled The Two Frida's, 1939. I regret that I cannot include a color photo, but I thought it important for the reader to see a photographic image of her as well as the painted images.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jean Cocteau

Happy Birthday Jean Cocteau!! Jean Cocteau was a French artist born in 1889, wishing to be known as a poet, Cocteau was also a playwright, designer, artist and filmmaker. He wrote the volume of poems, Aladdin’s Lamp, at age 19. His friends were Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Channel and Raymond Radiguet among others and they struggled with how to best exemplify a classical avant-garde. He was loosely connected to Dada and Surrealism, although he denied being a member of any group. Some feel The Infernal Machine was his best play, written in the 1930’s. In the 40’s he produced Beauty and the Beast and Orphee. He earned the nickname The Frivolous Prince, taken from the title from one of his works. He fought addiction to opium and was said to be obsessed with death and immortality. Toward the end of his life he painted a series of murals, including one at the Church of Notre Dame, London, depicting his version of the crucifixion of Christ from a distinctly different vantage point. I am including a close-up of a portion of the mural here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Joseph Pennell

Happy Birthday Joseph Pennell!! We will celebrate America’s independence by taking a look at the work of this printmaker born in Philadelphia in 1857. Pennell was also an author, often working in collaboration with his wife Elizabeth Robbins Pennell. He was friends with Whistler and immigrated to England also. Pennell wrote Whistler’s biography, publishing it in 1908. He tackled a series of “municipal” subjects including the poster below designed for Liberty Loans, depicting the Statue of Liberty, her head rolling as New York City burns in the background, urging Americans to purchase US Bonds.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

John Singleton Copley

Happy Birthday John Singleton Copley!! This American portrait painter was born in 1738. Self-taught, he developed a distinguished and direct portrait style. Copley was well-traveled and left America for good in 1774, settling in London. Competition with other portrait artists led to a change in Copley’s style, leaving him best loved for his images of children. His primary achievement however, is the large scale historical and genre scenes, such as the one below: Brook Watson and the Shark. The painting is of an actual shark attack in Havana, Cuba harbor. Brook Watson was a 14-year-old orphan who worked on a trading ship and was swimming alone when he was attacked. He was rescued after multiple bite wounds and lived a full life!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Michael Thonet

Happy Birthday Michael Thonet!! Austrian furniture designer, born in 1796, Thonet was the son of a tanner. He apprenticed with a cabinetmaker and set up a workshop in Boppard shortly after. He experimented with bending laminated wood and eventually invented the Boppard Chair. Not only was he important for the initial introduction of bent wood furniture, but he made the furniture in modules that were prefab, thus setting the stage for furniture mass production. The Boppard Chair pictured is a well-known favorite even today!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ilya Bolotowsky

Happy Birthday Ilya Bolotowsky!! The American painter was born in 1907 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was a leading abstract painter of the early twentieth century, in New York City, having immigrated to America in 1923. Mondrian’s influence can be seen in his early work, but he did move away from the primary colors and right angles so familiar in the aforementioned artist’s paintings. He attended the National Academy of Design and later taught at Black Mountain College. Bolotowsky was a member of the group The Ten, known for their rebellion against the strict guidelines of the Academy. He was also a founder of the American Abstract Artists, a group who sought to bring understanding of abstract art to the public.