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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Henri Matisse

Happy Birthday Henri Matisse!! Born on the last day of 1869, Matisse came from a poor family in the Northern part of France near the Belgian border.  Although he studied law and even passed the bar exam, Matisse discovered his true passion in art while recovering from an illness. He began to paint with the supplies his mother gave him and found his calling. He attended the Academie Julian for a time, leaving to create and experiment on his own. Matisse produced his most ambitious work from the period 1905-1915, establishing himself as a leader in the "Fauvist" style. For Matisse, flat planes, expressive color and sometimes patterned backgrounds united to create art that was "devoid of any relaxing as a comfortable arm chair". He regarded himself as an expressionist, stating, “Expression to my way of thinking does not consist of the passion mirrored upon a human face or betrayed by a violent gesture. The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive.” The painting included here today is titled "The Dance".

It is hard to believe that it has been a full year since I began this blog. I have had such an incredible experience, learned so much, with my commitment to post each day. As I reminisce over the past 365 days I have gone back and forth whether to commit to a second year of celebrating artists' birthdays. On one hand it has been tricky with the traveling we do, sometimes to find a computer, post each day. On the other hand, though, I can hardly imagine not beginning each day imparting my knowledge to others, so I have come to the realization that I do need to keep going forward with this experience. So, Happy New Year and see you in 2011!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eugene Smith

Happy Birthday Eugene Smith!! The American photographer was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1918. His first photographs were of airplanes, being interested in aeronautical engineering, but soon turned to photography as his career choice. He attended Notre Dame University on a scholarship set up especially for him but left after a year to pursue his career, joining the staff of Newsweek. He worked for various other publications including Life, Colliers and The New York Times, but seemed most satisfied with his freelance work. Smith was one of the most famous photojournalists of all time, creating series on the Vietnam War, Spanish Village, Country Doctor, Man of Mercy (Albert Schweitzer in Africa) and more. He was injured in the Vietnam War while shooting in an active war zone and during his recovery took one of the most touching photos of his children: A Walk to Paradise Garden (1946).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Madame de Pompadour

Happy Birthday Madame de Pompadour!! Born today in 1721, Frenchwoman, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson was not only known as an accomplished engraver, but also important art patron and mistress to the King. Although from a poor family, she was refined and educated in culture and the arts, marrying at 17, establishing herself as an engraver, and founding her own salon for intellectuals including Voltaire, at Etoilles. However after attending a masked ball, it is said she caught the eye of King Louis XV and became his mistress. He installed her as Marqius de Pompadour by purchasing the Pompadour Estate for her in 1745. As Royal Mistress to the King, Mme. Pompadour was responsible for bringing art into the palace, installing a royal sculptors and portrait artists, introducing Rococo intricacies to the d├ęcor, and hosting plays and concerts. The rather controversial figure died at age 42 from tuberculosis. The portrait of Madame de Pompadour, below was painted by Francios Boucher in 1750.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Felix Vallotton

Happy Birthday Felix Vallotton!! Born in 1865, this painter/printmaker came from a poor family from Lausanne, Switzerland. Beginning at age 17, he studied art at the Academie Julian in Paris for 3 years. He was connected to Les Nabis, an artistic group including members Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. Vallotton was instrumental in the development of the woodcut, creating over 200 in his lifetime. 1700 paintings, drawings and sculptures as well as novels, essays and stage plays are credited to Vallotton.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thomas Fearnley

Happy Birthday Thomas Fearnley!! Norwegian painter, Fearnley was born in 1802. He trained for the military but dropped that to become an artist. He traveled Europe, sketching and painting mostly landscapes. The painting included here is probably Southern Italy, maybe Capri, painted in 1833. The mountainous rocky cliff, peaceful reflective water and delicate background space draws in the viewer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Juan Lovera

Happy Birthday Juan Lovera!! Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1778, Lovera is considered the country's primier artist. After receiving training from the Dominican monks and Antonio Jose Landaeta, Lovera went on to pursue his own career in painting. He painted historical as well as religious works. The painting below is titled: Nuestra Senora del Carmen (1941).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Raphael Soyer

Happy Birthday Raphael Soyer!! Born on Christmas Day, this Russian born American artist was known as an American scene painter. After being born in Russia, his family relocated to New York in 1912. Raphael, his identical twin brother Moses and their other brother Isaac were all painters. New York and its people were the favored theme in his work. Soyer was an adamant believer in realism and representational art, rejecting abstract art. In addition to painting, he was also a teacher. The painting included here is titled Men at the Mission (1935).

American scene painting-a movement of American painters who rejected modernism and abstract art, preferring instead a representational style. They were also tied to "social realism". Everyday American life was the focus, with some tendency toward nationalism and Romanticism.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Edgar Brandt

Happy Birthday Edgar Brandt!! The French metalworker was born in 1880 and worked in the Art Deco style. He was born in Paris and moved with his family when he was 4 to Orleans. He served 2 years in the French military and there became enamored with weapons design. Following his stint in the military he was instrumental in weaponry as well as ornamental iron. Brandt designed and built monumental gates, balustrades, and smaller pieces. His designs introduced French Art Deco to the world with stylized organic ornamentation. He opened galleries in New York and Paris. He lived the last 20 years of his life in Switzerland.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

John Marin

Happy Birthday John Marin!! American painter, born in 1870, Marin was influenced in style and technique by French artists such as Cezanne, but he definitely developed his own American subjects and themes. He traveled abroad from 1905-10 and then returned and was taken under Alfred Stieglitz' wing. His compositions are simple; his color intense and expressive. Cezanne and the Fauves' influences are seen in the painting included here: Tunk Mountains, Autumn, Maine (1945).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Max Bill

Happy Birthday Max Bill!! Swiss artist, born 1908, was an architect, graphic designer, and painter. He studied at the Bauhaus and then moved to Zurich where he eventually founded a school of arts. Bill is thought to be the most influential figure in Swiss graphic design, writing and creating profoundly progressive work. His designs are said to be elegant, precise and proportionate. He integrated science and mathematical theories into his art. Two examples are displayed at the Mercedes-Benz  Museum: Construction from 30 Identical Elements with the “Mercedes Star” in the center, and his sculptural variation of the Mobius Strip in white granite.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Happy Birthday Masaccio!! Considered the greatest master painter of the Italian Renaissance, this painter, born in 1401, achieved much in his scant 27 years. He was appointed Master of the Florentine Guild at age 21. His grand, realistic style far surpasses most of his contemporaries and his frescoes have been used as a “school” for students. He painted Biblical characters and scenes, landscapes and architectural structures using the newly developed perspective technique for achieving depth on a flat pictorial plane. Perhaps his most successful surviving work is the series of Fresco panels in the Brancacci Chapel. St. Peter is the theme and three artists worked with him on the endeavor. There has been much discussion as to who painted which, but it is recognized that Masaccio painted the one here: St. Peter and the Tribute Money.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pieter de Hooch

Happy Birthday Pieter de Hooch!! Born in 1629 in Holland, Hooch was a genre painter. His father was a bricklayer, his mother a midwife. He was a contemporary of master painter Jan Vermeer. His work made everyday life special with his treatment of light, color and experimentation with perspective. It is unclear whether Vermeer influenced him or vice versa, but both painters left behind incredible legacy. He married and had 7 children, putting great strain on him to provide for his large family and to make matters worse, his wife died when he was 38. Sadly, de Hooch died in 1684 in an insane asylum. The painting included here today is titled A Farm Servant in the Backyard.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Joshua Johnson

Happy Birthday Joshua Johnson!! Born in 1783, Joshua Johnson was the first successful African American artist. Self-trained portrait artist, Johnson was declared a free man at age 20. Little historical information is available about Johnson. Actually more is known about his clients that the artist himself. His portraits are described as rather stiff and formal, his figures usually holding objects.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paul Klee

Happy Birthday Paul Klee!! The Swiss painter was born in1879, near Berne. His father was a music teacher from Bavaria and his mother was from Switzerland and had lived for a time in France. Klee was raised in a cultured, musical atmosphere and received a classical education. He proved at an early age not only be an artist, but a violinist and poet. He was trained in Munich. After serving time in the German army, Klee went to teach at the Bauhaus with Walter Gropius. He was never connected to any particular style or movement, preferring instead to experiment with many styles and methods. The Twittering Machine is a favorite of mine.


Friday, December 17, 2010

John Townsend

Happy Birthday John Townsend!! The American cabinetmaker was born in 1733 and from the New England seaport Newport, Rhode Island. John Townsend was a member of the well-known Townsend cabinetmakers and along with the Goddard family led the colonial trade. He is one of the few to sign and date his furniture pieces. His designs include block and shell fronts, claw and ball feet, and absolutely beautiful mahogany. He has been called a compulsive perfectionist because of his meticulous attention to detail. The card table, here, is purple mahogany, with ball and claw feet, signed and dated 1762.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remedios Varo

Happy Birthday Remedios Varo Uranga!! (known just as Remedios Varo) Female Surrealists are a rare find, but Remedios Varo was born in 1908, in Spain and after fleeing to Paris during the Spanish Civil War, she became connected to the movement. She met her second husband, Benjamin Peret, a Surrealist poet, and relocated to Mexico City after being exiled from France by the Nazis. She met Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, but preferred to associate with other exiles, meeting her third husband Walter Gruen, a concentration camp survivor from Austria. She developed a style in strong support of feminist ideals, painting finely detailed oils on masonite boards. Varo’s work attempts to point out women’s plight of forceful repression, being rendered one-dimensional. The work here is titled Useless Science or the Alchemist (1955).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oscar Niemeyer

Happy Birthday Oscar Niemeyer!! Brazilian architect, born in 1907, specializes in modern architecture. Known for his curved forms exuding grace, elegance and light, Niemeyer has been called a “sculptor of monuments”. His work has earned him the stature of a national living treasure for Brazil. “It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve — the curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the body of the beloved woman.” In the late 1950’s, Niemeyer, inspired by the president of Brazil, designed the buildings for the new capital, Brasilia. The Cathedral of Brasilia is pictured below.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

Happy Birthday Pierre Puvis de Chavannes!! This French painter was born in 1824. He was an inspiration to many Post and Neo-impressionists, in part, because of his experimentation with light. He attempted to recreate the beautiful glowing light achieved in the Italian frescoes, with oils. His flat, pale decorative canvases can be founds on many French Town Halls, official buildings including the Pantheon in Paris and the Library in Boston. Chavannes was admired for his symbolism, bright light and great architectural settings. Christian Inspiration, oil on paper, mounted on canvas, is located in the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Antonio Tapies

Happy Birthday Antonio Tapies!! Born in 1923, in Barcelona, Antonio Tapies began studying law, but abandoned it for painting in 1943. Influenced by Joan Miro and Paul Klee, Tapies was originally a Surrealist, but moved toward a more informal artistic style and began incorporating other materials into his work, known as mixed media. This would be his most important contribution to the art world. He helped found the movement known as Dau-ul Set, and used clay, marble dust and other waste materials in his low relief “paintings”. He currently lives in Barcelona, where a museum has been established in his name.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Edvard Munch

Happy Birthday Edvard Munch!! The Norwegian was born in 1863 and closely associated with the Post-impressionists, and probably most aptly termed a “Symbolist”. He left Norway and went to Paris where he met Gauguin. Mentally unstable and plagued with alcoholism, Munch sought the answers to life through his art, treating it as a sort of self-analysis. In addition to painting, Munch also did graphic work in lithographs, and woodcuts. The image below is The Scream, stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, in 2004, but later recovered. It is tempera and oil pastel in cardboard.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mark Tobey

Happy Birthday Mark Tobey!! Born in 1890, this American painter is was born in Centerville, Wisconsin, but relocated to Seattle, Washington. Influenced by the Orient, Tobey's compositions are intricate and complex. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute for a time, and was a fashion illustrator for McCall's magazine. Following a teaching stint in England and a tour of China and Japan, Tobey's work turned toward abstract expressionism. The painting here is titled Broadway, 1936.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adolphe Loos

Happy Birthday Adolphe Loos!! The Austrian architect was born in 1870. When contemplating architecture, he believed reason should determine the design. After spending a year in the army, he studied at the College of Technology in Dresden. Loos worked for a time in the US and was influenced by architect Louis Sullivan. He returned to Austria to eventually open his own practice. The Steiner House, built in 1910, was an important design in modern architecture that established Adolphe Loos’ reputation.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roy DeCarava

Happy Birthday Roy DeCarava!! Born in 1919, the American photographer won a scholarship to Cooper Union School of Art but transferred to Harlem Community Art Center. He took up photography initially to record events and images to use in his painting but ended up preferring it as a medium. He was the first African American to win the Guggenheim Award. His series of jazz musicians is his best known work and I am including one taken in 1967, of Duke Ellington, pianist, composer and big band leader.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Diego Rivera

Happy Birthday Diego Rivera!! Born today in Mexico, in 1886, Diego Rivera was one of the dominant modern Mexican artists. He has stated that the earliest memory he has is of drawing. He began art training at age 12 and at 20 after winning a scholarship to Europe, he settled in Paris. Following a period of Cubism, Rivera began to explore ways for art to reach more people, specifically the common man. The end of the revolution in Mexico gave him his answer and he began to paint murals celebrating cultural heritage and illustrating social issues. Returning to Mexico, he became the most influential muralist of the 20th century. Diego Rivera was married three times, but his  well known partner was artist Frida Kahlo. His most famous mural is titled Man at the Crossroads, but today I have decided to post one of his Calla Lily series instead: Vendedora de Flores.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Happy Birthday Gian Lorenzo Bernini!! Italian sculptor and architect, born in 1598, Bernini is considered the most important Roman Baroque sculptor. His father was a sculptor and Gian Lorenzo himself a master of sculpting at age 8 and began receiving several commissions at the age of 16. He drew inspiration from Michelangelo. In addition to sculpting, Bernini also wrote and starred in plays as well as designed sets and composed music. It is said that he created Baroque, constantly searching for new ways of expression, even experimenting with mixed media of colored marble, bronze, stucco and colored glass with light shining through.  The figure Longinius, below, is sculpted from marble and represents the centurion who is said to have pierced Christ’s side during the crucifixion.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frederic Bazille

Happy Birthday Frederic Bazille!! Impressionist artist, born in 1841, in Montpellier, France, Bazille studied medicine as well as painting in Paris. He was associated with Monet, Renoir and Sisley, becoming close friends and painting “plein air”. He gave up his medical studies to paint full time. He supported Monet for a time and they shared a studio; later he shared studio space with Renoir. He painted landscapes and portraits. Unfortunately Bazille was killed in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 before truly realizing his talent.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Walt Disney

Happy Birthday Walt Disney!! Chicagoan born in 1901, Disney was interested in art at an early age. He was one of 5 children, one girl and four boys. His family moved to Missouri, where he spent his childhood. After rejection for military service, Disney joined the Red Cross in 1918 and was sent overseas to France. Upon his return he went into commercial art, opening his own company Laugh-O-Grams that went bankrupt propelling him to go to Hollywood for a fresh start. His first full-length musical success was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937. In 1955, Walt Disney realized his dream of a family oriented amusement park and opened Disneyland. Color television programming further launched his success and Disney is considered a 20th century folk legend.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wassily Kandinsky

Happy Birthday Wassily Kandinsky!! The Russian painter was born in 1866 and relocated to Munich in 1910. Before becoming a painter, he was a student of law and economics. He was to become a leader of the German avant-garde painters. With Mondrian, Kandinsky is said to be the first to create non-objective art, or art which was not dependent on the “object” but focused on expressive color with composition the unifying element. “One thing became clear to me—that objectiveness, the depiction of objects, needed no place in my paintings and was indeed harmful to them.” I was fortunate to see a collection of his work recently at the Guggenheim in NYC. Composition 8 (1923) was part of that collection.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gilbert Stuart

Happy Birthday first to my good friend Merle Treadway!! And also to Gilbert Stuart!! The American portrait painter was born in 1755. Stuart went back and forth between Scotland, London and the US. He is best known for his painting of George Washington, which was done in 3 different versions.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Georges Seurat

Happy Birthday Georges Seurat!! French painter was born in 1859; Seurat was a Post-Impressionist, working in the pointillist or divisionist style. Although Seurat died early (32), probably from diptheria, he made quite an impact on neo-impressionists. Seurat was fascinated with color theory and what he termed "Chromolumnarism". He believed harmony and emotion could be created through color. His canvases were very large, completed following many smaller “sketches” or compositional studies. His major painting La Grande Jatte (or Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte) is considered an icon of 19th century painting. Sixty studies were painted for this pointillist work that took him two years to complete. When studying La Grande Jatte, his figures vary in their spatial relationships and solidity when compared to his previous works. While the canvas is crowded with figures, few of them overlap or touch each other. Various social classes are represented as they enjoy activities in the park. One wonders at the purpose or aim of the ambitious work that appears to be a slice of life or a frieze of activity.

Pointillism-optical mixtures of tiny dots or points of primary color mixtures (for instance yellow and blue) placed tightly together, creating the illusion of a secondary color (green). More advanced work includes a third color, for instance sunny areas might have orange added to the yellow and blue to create the illusion of sunlit grass. The idea is for the eye to mix the colors optically rather than the painter to physically mix them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Etienne Maurice Falconet

Happy Birthday Etienne Maurice Falconet!! This French sculptor was born today in 1716. After being accepted into the Academy in 1744, Falconet was made director of sculpture in 1757. In that capacity he oversaw the creation of sculpture, many from his own models. In 1766 he began his masterpiece, in Russia, a tribute to Peter the Great. This was a bronze equestrian with the horse  rearing up on hind legs, displaying amazing balance. Falconet was also a writer, expressing his opinions on sculpture.