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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

George Jensen

Happy Birthday George Jensen!! The Danish silversmith was born in 1866 in Radvaad, Denmark, north of Copenhagen in the lush countryside. His father was employed in a knife making factory as a grinder and George was soon recognized as one with artistic talent. His family moved to Copenhagen so he could pursue his art through an apprenticeship to a goldsmith. He would eventually win a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen, as a sculpture student. Although he never did succeed as a sculptor, his silversmithing was greatly enhanced by this talent. Jensen was known as the “Father of Scandinavian Silver”. His work would later reflect nature in a unique style picked up in his silversmith studio and echoed still today. The gently flowing tea set below is named Blossom.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Theo van Doesburg

Happy Birthday Theo van Doesburg!! Dutchman born in 1883, Christian Emile Marie Kupper signed his work with his stepfather’s (whom he regarded his natural father) name: Theo Doesburg. He added the “van” which was a common practice. He was actually the son of photographer Willhelm Kupper. Vincent van Gogh influenced his early desire to become a painter. Later van Doesburg became convinced that abstract painting was the only true reflection of what was in one’s mind. The painter was quite avant-garde in approach after he became acquainted with Piet Mondrian and founded De Stijl. Note the similarities between the two artists in van Doesburg’s Simultaneous Counter-Composition 2, 1929. (I wrote about Mondrian on March 7). I am fascinated with this particular canvas with the underlying composition of colored geometrical shape offset by the bold black grid over top, hence "counter composition".

De Stijl-or The Style began as a magazine promoting the ideas of Mondrian, van Doesburg and Neo-plasticism. Neo-plasticism being strict abstract art relying on geometric shapes in primary colors with black and white, set at right angles to the vertical or horizontal axis.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

John Leech

Happy Birthday John Leech!! This English caricaturist and illustrator was born in 1817. His father was from Ireland and the landlord of the London Coffee House. He passed his love for drawing on to his son and John was said to begin drawing at age 3. He began selling his art at age 18, with a collection of studies of characters from the streets of London. His engravings, woodcuts and lithographs were precise in line and design. He conveyed a liberal political message with his caricatures of societal classes. His lithographs and engravings illustrated the political magazine Punch beginning in 1841. Punch was a British weekly including humor and satire known for its anti-Catholic and anti-Irish stance The illustration below is simply titled Paddy, 1845. The apelike character is “Paddy” in an obvious slur toward Irishmen.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Morris Graves

Happy Birthday Morris Graves!! Born in 1910, American painter Morris Graves painted in what was termed Romantic Expressionism. This was a dreamy, contemplative style connected with communicating mood. He was self taught and traveled to Japan after dropping out of high school in his sophomore year. There his eyes were opened to the art world. He returned to the Seattle area and Fidalgo Island where he spent the majority of his career. Together with Guy Anderson, Mark Tobey, and Kenneth Callahan he founded an art movement called the Northwest School. The group created visions of Puget Sound, the Sagit Valley and depended heavily on Asian influences. Graves worked primarily in oils gouache and tempera, his work becoming progressively more abstract. The painting below is Time of Change, painted in 1943, an example of Graves' recurrent bird theme.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Man Ray

Happy Birthday first to my Grandbaby Isabella Paz who turns 2 years old today!! And also to Man Ray!! Born in 1890 this modernist American painter/photographer was connected with the Dada and Surrealist movements of the mid 1900s. Man Ray lived most of his adult life in Montparnasse, section of Paris (a favored artist quarter). He was also a fashion and portrait photographer and renamed his photographs “rayographs” after himself. These were experimental in the technique of solarization, where the image is portrayed as the negative, or light areas are dark and dark areas light. His most discussed work, though is probably the enigmatic assemblage, The Gift, an antique iron with a row of tacks glued down the center of the smooth side. ARTnews magazine named him one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jacques Emile Ruhlmann

Happy Birthday Jacques Emile Ruhlmann! Art Deco style cabinetmaker, Ruhlmann was born in Paris in 1879. He assumed the family decorating business at age 28. Ruhlmann worked in the Art Deco style, which reached its height in the 1920s and was even named Art Deco’s greatest artist by the New York Times. He designed exotic one of a kind furniture pieces of the finest materials such as Macassar ebony or rosewood inlaid with ebony or tortoiseshell. His furniture tended to be elegant and curvaceous, as well as comfortable. His work became progressively more modern as time went by.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jacob Maris

Happy Birthday Jacob Maris!! The Dutch painter was born in 1837 to a family of painters. He and his brothers belonged to the group known as The Hague School. Jacob studied art at Antwerp University as well as in Paris with Hubertus van Hove, for 6 years. His important work is primarily landscapes featuring bridges, windmills and magnificent skies. A prime example is his Village Near Schiedam, below. Maris was interested in achieving effect rather than particularly realism; perhaps a glimpse of Impressionism yet to come?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Alphonse Mucha

Happy Birthday Alphonse Mucha!! Czech designer born in 1860, worked in the Art Nouveaux style. He is notorious for his highly decorative designs of women. His skill at singing earned him the right to attend school for the arts, where he began his career in illustration. An advertisement poser in 1895 set off a frenzy of creative work in jewelry, carpet and wallpaper design, etc. Although he shied away from the fact, he created a new stylized highly decorative art form termed Mucha Style, eventually becoming known as Art Nouveau. He claimed instead to be searching for expression of his innermost self and his Czech birthright. Mucha spent several years working on what he considered his masterpiece, a representation of Czech history and Slavic people in 20 large paintings. His creations are primarily women with neoclassical robes and finery, floral patterns, halos and sometimes spiritual quotations accompany the designs. His work experienced a revival of interest in the 1960s.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hannah Frank

Happy Birthday Hannah Frank!! Daughter of Jewish Russian refugee, Frank was born in Scotland in 1908. Her father was a camera maker and Hannah followed his career path to become an artist after studying art at University of Glasgow. She wrote poetry and created drawings, but then moved into sculpture. As a persecuted Jew, her work dealt with the grim realities of her life as well as that of her family members. A poetry competition is held in her name, in Scotland. The Bust pictured below is representative of her work: spare, anonymous figures in various poses, made of clay. Many of her sculptures have been cast in bronze, however due to her stipulation, no more than 12 of any sculpture can be cast for sale.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jaques Lipchitz

Happy Birthday Jacques Lipchitz!! Lithuanian born sculptor, in 1891, Lipchitz worked in the Cubist style. His father was a building contractor, but after working with him for a time, he moved with his mother to Paris. He was greatly influenced by Auguste Rodin, Symbolist/Impressionist sculptor. Lipchitz methodically de-constructed the human figure to then re-assemble in a new and enlightening way. Figure (1926-30) represents one of the few examples of 20th century monumental sculpture. Created from bronze, the sculpture stands 7’1” high and is installed at the Guggenheim Museum, in New York.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Aubrey Beardsley

 Happy Birthday Aubrey Beardsley!! The English illustrator was born in 1872 on this day. He was an artist from the Art Nouveau style and his black and white drawings are perfect representations of that flavor. He contracted tuberculosis at age seven and that may have led him to explore his talents in the arts. He played piano before the age of five. Beardsley first earned fame with his illustrations of Salome by Oscar Wilde. His work in finely executed with vast blank areas contrasted with inky black. He co-founded The Yellow Book, a quarterly literary journal, with Henry Harland from 1894-97, of which he was the art editor. Sadly, Beardsley died at the young age of 25 from complications from tuberculosis. He left behind countless drawings and illustrations. The Peacock Skirt, from Salome is shown below.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eliel and Eero Saarinen

Happy Birthday Eliel and Eero Saarinen!! Father and son were architects, born in 1873 and 1910 on this same day in history! Eliel was born in Finland, his son, Eero, an important American architect. Eliel was educated and began his career in Helsinki, Finland. He also completed commissions in Estonia and Budapest before moving to the US in 1923. He was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. Eliel went on to design the campus for and then become president of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932. His son Eero, studied sculpture and furniture design there, and was close friends with famed designers Charles and Ray Eames. He followed his father’s footsteps and headed an architectural firm responsible for many landmark structures including the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial or the St. Louis Arch as it is more commonly called. Eliel is best known for the Gulf Building (Houston), which was originally an entry of his for the Tribune Tower (Chicago) competition (for which he was awarded 2nd place).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bradley Walker Tomlin

Happy Birthday Bradley Walker Tomlin!! American Abstract Expressionist painter, born in 1899, Tomlin wanted to be an artist beginning in high school. He studied art in Syracuse, New York, at the College of Fine Arts, then further in Paris, France. He seemed to constantly strive toward perfection where his forms would realize inner harmony. It is thought his work did finally reach that point in the last 5 years of his life. The painting below was created in 1949. The overall pattern of interlocking, overlaid, intersecting ribbons lends a calm, soothing peaceful feel to the abstract work.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pietro Belluschi

Happy Birthday Pietro Belluschi!! Although born in Italy, in 1899, this architect started his career in Portland, Oregon. While still in Italy, Belluschi studied civil engineering in Rome and after moving to the US on an exchange program, continued his study at Cornell. He eventually took over the architectural firm he worked for and also was appointed dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Belluschi was a forerunner for modern architecture in America. The photo below shows the Pan Am Building (now the Met Life building) with New York’s Grand Central Station in the foreground. When built in 1963, it was the largest commercial office building in the world, 59 stories tall.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Walter Tandy Murch

Happy Birthday Walter Tandy Murch!! He was born in Canada in 1907 and studied art at the Ontario School of Art. Murch painted still life including machine parts, broken dolls and toys, brickwork, etc. The artist also created book illustrations, magazine covers and murals. He moved to New York in 1927 where he was to live for the rest of his life. His style is described as Realist, but the strange pairings and juxtaposition of objects suggest Surrealism or what has even been called "Magic Realism". Some of his works, such as the painting Gravity Experiment appear to be seen through frosted glass.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Agostino Carracci

Happy Birthday Agostino Carracci!! This Italian Baroque painter was born in 1557 and came from a family with artistic history. His brother Annibale was a better known artist. In addition to painting, Agostino was also an engraver and teacher of art. He created engravings from drawings of the human body so accurate they were still commonly used as teaching tools 200 years later! The Carracci family established the Academy of the Initiated, which became the primary art institute in Bologna. Angels were an integral part of Italian Baroque art. His Whispering Angels contrasts the image of angels as sweet cherubs; his are sly, mischievous and appear to be plotting something as they peer from under the foliage.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walter Crane

Happy Birthday Walter Crane!! English illustrator, Walter Crane, was born in Liverpool, in 1845. His father Thomas Crane was an artist also. He apprenticed as a wood engraver as a young man, and at that time became familiar with the intricacies possible with engraving; later becoming fascinated with Japanese color prints. Walter was known for his illustrations for children's books as well as designs for wedgewood ceramics decoration. He wrote several books on illustration and design. He was connected to the Socialist Movement in the effort to bring art to all social classes. Crane helped found the Art and Craft Exhibition Society in 1888. The illustration below is from Beauty and the Beast. Please note the attention to detail in the wallpaper background, elegant furnishings and descriptive characters.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Claude Vernet

Happy Birthday Claude Vernet!! The French painter was born in 1714 and was the best known in a family of painters. He painted landscapes, many of which were imaginary, and lived in Italy for many years. Then, Louis XV commissioned him to paint the Ports of France, so he returned to his homeland. Vernet completed 16 of these dramatic representations of France. He also is known for his shipwreck scenes, as the one below, which lean toward Romanticism.

Friday, August 13, 2010

James Gillray

Happy Birthday James Gillray!! British illustrator born in 1757, Gillray was a satirical caricaturist and printmaker. He began his career apprenticed to a letter engraver at an early age; the earliest surviving engraving from age 12. Bored with that he wandered with a group of traveling musicians for a time, returned and went to the Royal Academy. His political cartoons were aimed at “radicals” as well as religious leaders. When asked why he had strayed from his liberal views of the past he stated that he had to please the buyers controlling the purse strings in order to make a living! His cartoons eventually fell out of favor and Gillray slipped into insanity, being cared for in the last 5 years of his life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

George Bellows

Happy Birthday George Bellows!! Born in the Columbus, Ohio, USA in 1882, Bellows was a painter working in the Realist style of John Sloan, Grant Wood and Thomas Benton, among others. He falls into the category of “contemporary” art rather than “modern”, as discussed previously with John Sloan. He began work as a commercial artist in college at Ohio State, working on the yearbook. He continued in that vein for a time, gradually moving into realistic painting. He painted urban scenes depicting New York City, creating a series contrasting the stark blue glow of snow on the filthy inner city. His most successful work, though, is considered his fight records, showing many famed boxing matches. The knock out punch of Dempsey against Firpo (1924) is shown below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

David Roentgren

Happy Birthday David Roentgen!! The German cabinetmaker was born in 1745. Although his work has been described as clumsy, he is the most celebrated German cabinetmaker of the 18th century. He was known for his secret drawers and mechanical fittings. He learned his trade in cabinet making from his father and eventually took over his manufacturing firm. Roentgren was expert at intricate marquetry (inlaid patterns of light and dark wood). Note the inlaid scenery in the Roll Top Desk below.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reuben Nakian

Happy Birthday Reuben Nakian!! Born in America in 1897, Nakian was a sculptor. He studied in New Your, and was friends with Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Marcel Duchamp. He was also a teacher at Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art and Pratt Institute in New York. Nakian’s sculpture usually had to do with Greek and Roman mythology. The sculpture below is titled Leda and the Swan.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Xavier Mellery

Happy Birthday Xavier Mellery!! The Symbolist painter and illustrator was born today in Belgium, in 1845, the son of a gardener at the Royal Palace at Laeken. He was a student at Brussels Academy of Fine Arts for many years, and then traveled to Italy to study the Renaissance masters. Although not well known, I did manage to find out a little information about the artist. His paintings are primarily intimate, mystical searches for true meaning or an attempt to get to the essence of his subjects. I particularly love the painting below: Letting Out Secrets, graphically illustrating the web we weave when we reveal a secret!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Andy Warhol

Happy Birthday Andy Warhol!! American Pop artist, born in 1931, Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial artist. Fascination with the pervasive, mass produced objects of the culture led Warhol to become the most prominent figure of the Pop movement of the 1960's. His work ranges from paintings to silkscreen, from film to installations.  Much of his art is housed in a seven-floor warehouse in Pittsburgh, which I visited in 2000. As you exit the elevator on each floor you enter yet another aspect, another world, through Warhol's eyes. One of the most memorable was his Silver Clouds installation, a room filled with amorphous helium filled silver clouds made of mylar which floated and gently caressed and nudged you as you dared to venture in. His most prominently exhibited work is probably his portraiture, as he immersed himself in the world of popular society figures as well. I am including his familiar Marilyn Monroe silkscreen image here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Emil Nolde

Happy Anniversary to my parents Todd and Betty Lou Crittenden, who had my Dad still been alive, would have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary today!

Happy Birthday Emil Nolde!! German born Expressionist painter and printmaker from 1867, Nolde, painted landscapes and Bilblical scenes. His work has a primitive quality and depicts rather fierce, even tormented, images. Nazi persecution could have played a part in his “rugged, unrefined” handling of the subject matter. His Christians are portrayed as German peasants in The Last Supper (below). In 1907 he came in contact with Die Brucke in Dresden, who no doubt had an impact on his art as he, theirs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

John Robertson Reid

Happy Birthday John Robertson Reid!! Born in 1851, this painter from England came from a family of artists, with his two sisters painters also. Reid was influenced by the French Realists as well as rural Naturalists and painted landscapes, largely on location. In fact his depictions of cricket matches drew the attention of cricketing historians. Reid later went on to become the president of The Society of British Artists. The painting below is titled Country Cricket.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Naum Gabo

Happy Birthday Naum Gabo!! Russian born in 1890 and brother of Anton Pevsner, Gabo is credited with inventing Constructivism. Certainly influenced by Cubism and the Futurists, the revolutionary artist was intent on a world where art served society and used materials from the machine age therefore was constructed out of space and time. In defense of Constructivism, he wrote the Realistic Manifesto in 1920 after exhibiting his constructions for the first time. His art inspired many to achieve a new art, lying somewhere between painting and sculpture reluctant to totally abandon “fine” art.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

John Twatchman

Happy Birthday John Twachtman!! This American painter was born in 1853 and considered an Impressionist. He was a member of The Ten, a group of American painters who removed themselves from the Society of American Artists in protest of “too much business and too little art”. Twatchman studied in Europe then returned to the states to settle in Connecticut. He worked in pastels and as well as oil paints, but also favored etchings as a way to spontaneously “sketch” scenes for future paintings. The artist died at the early age of 49 of a brain aneurysm. A favorite of mine is The White Bridge, reminiscent of Monet’s bridge in his Water Lily series.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joseph Paxton

Happy Birthday Joseph Paxton!! Born in 1803 (his birth year is often misreported as 1801) in England, Paxton was an architectural engineer, but more commonly known as a landscape gardener. His interest in gardening began at a young age and he worked as a garden boy and met the Duke of Devonshire who offered him the position of head gardener at Chatsworth at age 20. These gardens were renowned as the finest gardens at that time. He developed the grounds with various projects including fountains, water lilies and especially an interest in glass houses. This led him to create his greatest work, The Crystal Palace, a project made possible by advances in the manufacture of glass and cast iron. It was originally erected in Hyde Park, London to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Later it was moved to Sydenham Hill in a well-to-do area of London, where it still stands today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

John Sloan

Happy Birthday John Sloan!! The American painter was born in 1871. After his father experienced a breakdown when he was 16, John Sloan supported his family as a bookstore cashier. It was here that he began to sketch and create etchings to sell out of the store. He eventually attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Sloan was a contemporary artist during the modern era, which brings us to a discussion of contemporary artists versus modern artists. “Modern” has a rather narrow meaning in that a picture is a picture rather than a picture “of” something. To quote Gertrude Stein, “ a picture is a picture is a picture”. Contemporary art, while created in modern times can be the modern handling of a subject. In other words it still relies on subject matter at least in part, while “modern” art can simply be colors, form, texture without being “of” anything. John Sloan belonged to a group of realists called the Ashcan School by critics. Their name comes from their subject interest in the sordid side of city life (presumably belonging in the ashcan). Sloan painted quite slowly, leading an acquaintance to refer to him as "the past participle of slow"! His work is frank realism bathed in glowing light as exemplified in the painting below: Jefferson Market 1917 in New York City, with the 6th street El Train (now gone) in the foreground. The market remains basically the same today.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Richard Wilson

Happy Birthday Richard Wilson!! The painter was born in England in 1714 to a Welsh clergyman and received a classical education. He began as a portrait painter in London but switched to landscapes as early as 1746. His “Italian period” was the turning point in his career; he resided in Rome and Campagna, then returned to England but continued to paint Italian landscapes. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy and served as the librarian beginning in 1776. His greatest work is considered to be Snowdon, (the highest peak in Wales) in which he achieved pure classicism in the beautiful design and glowing light. He repeated the design in many renditions that can be found in most English galleries today.