Friday, December 30, 2011

Portrait sketches

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.  This week I have been busy gearing up for what will hopefully be a greatly productive 2012.  I happily received 24 blank canvases for Christmas, and I am looking forward to using all of them in the coming year.  The painting sketches below are the two I worked on this week. 

Portrait of a Woman
oil on canvas
20x16 inches

Portrait Figure Sketch
oil on canvas
20x16 inches

I also finally got my copy of Lessons in Classical Drawing by the great Juliette Aristides.  I haven't gotten too far into the reading yet, but I have watched the dvd and it is a great resource for those interested in drawing.  She makes a great point in it by saying that ANYONE can learn to draw.  Like writing or playing an instrument, it's just a skill that takes a lot of work as opposed to a gift that only certain people are born with. 

I will be the first to admit that sometimes my drawings and paintings truly suck (I'm not that particularly fond of the two paintings I posted above).  The problem is that I, like other artists, have typically waited for inspiration to hit me before I start to work on a drawing or a painting.  But if inspiration is even that important, then it needs to be sought out by the artist.  If we simply wait for it to come to us, then we won't ever get anywhere.  Art is not meant to ever be a passive task in any way whatsoever.  The best way to be inspired is to simply work.  The best way to become a master at drawing and painting is to consistently keep drawing and painting.  So if you are an artist that depends on inspiration in order to work, allow me to share with you my greatest artistic revelation this year:  Forget about inspiration.  Just gather your materials together and get to work.  The act of creating will itself become all the inspiration you need.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paintings, updates, and thoughts for 2012

I just hate that feeling of having left something behind, and making people wonder, "Whatever happened to... ?"  Well, rest assured I have not given up on painting things, even though it has been a while since you've seen any from me.  As we speak there are new things drying... one of which I will show you now, and the other you'll see after Christmas.  The one you see here is the latest of my Holy Land-inspired works.  This one is from Egypt again.  It is a canopy located in the gardens at Montazah Palace in Alexandria, Egypt.  A very beautiful place it most certainly was.

Canopy at Montazah Palace
oil on canvas
16x20 inches
And of course, the other project I've been working on will be revealed after Christmas.  At this point, since that particular project is finished, I am happy to have the pressure off for a little bit to move on to some other projects.  I still have some Holy Land ideas in mind, and those will certainly come after the new year.  I've given some thought to the Lenten season as well.  This year's 40 Days of Artists seemed to be a pretty good hit for a number of folks.  I really enjoyed it, and was happy to give my two cents on the greatest masters in art's history.  It was a challenge, and I hope that next year's Lenten season presents something equally challenging for me (if not more), and will be just as interesting (if not more).  I'll be announcing my idea for Lent in a later post.  I'm just hoping the idea I have in mind will be feasible!  Other than that, I'm looking forward to 2012 being a very productive year.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yeah, that's pretty much right.

Andy Rooney's take on postmodern art. Say what you want about the guy. He's right on this.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Preview of Lessons in Classical Drawing - Juliette Aristides

A few months ago I posted a small blurb on the new book by Juliette Aristides coming out in November - Lessons in Classical Drawing.  Well, I just found this little video preview of the DVD that is included with the book, and I am more excited than ever.  Classical art lovers, and fans of Aristides... check this out!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still Life progression

This is something I've been wanting to do for a while... it's just taken me, well, a while.  I was more than a little reluctant to even finish this painting, let alone document its progression.  But now that it is finally done, here is a pictorial step-by-step-ish progression of this still life.  Enjoy!

Preliminary underpainting.

Underpainting, 2nd layer.

Base colors and revisions.

2nd color layers and glazing.

Final painting.
Still Life with Water Jug
oil on canvas
16x20 inches

Friday, August 12, 2011


Well, I.O. Metro finally picked their contest winners, and mine unfortunately was a reject.

So, if anyone would like to purchase this painting, please send me a message at and I will be happy to hook you up!

Stack of Literature
acrylic on canvas
16x20 inches

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Currently reading...

So in addition to painting projects, here are some of the books I'm currently/will soon be reading.  I'm planning to read these at the same time actually so that one may supplement the other.

The first is actually a huge steal from my local Borders, which as we all know is closing.  It is a $150 value that I grabbed for just over $40.  It's an incredible 2-volume set called The Great Painters of the Italian Renaissance (2008), by Eberhard Konig (ed.) and is a combined 20lb, 1304-page comprehensive Renaissance art history monster.  And yes, I plan to read it all, cover to cover.  Good luck, right?
Anyway, the other book I'm reading is, of course, an abridged version of Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, or Lives of the Artists for short.  Or, Lives, for even shorter.  Many of the major figures of the Lives are featured in Konig's texts.  That made me really excited to see that many of them have their own chapters.  Here is the version of the Lives that I am reading:

So without further ado, I'm going to go ahead and get off of this computer and start reading.  Until next time...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I.O. Metro Contest

Okay, here it is.  Been working on this for the past two days, and just finished and submitted it today to I.O. Metro's facebook.  It's acrylic, so it's already dry and varnished.  This is actually a reproduction of a previous painting I did, and I thought it would be a great image for the contest.  Hope you all like it!  And most importantly, I hope I.O. Metro will like it.  We shall see.

Stack of Literature
acrylic on canvas
16x20 inches

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hi everyone! Remember me?

Wow, it has been a freakishly long time since I've updated... I feel ashamed of that :(

Sadly I've been in a bit of an artist's slump lately.. We've all had them.  But hopefully I can get slapped with some motivation.  And I think I just may have today.  There is apparently a contest for artists at IO Metro stores.  All you have to do is submit a picture of your 16x20 painting to their facebook, and they'll be selecting their favorite ones to have reproduced and featured in all of their stores.
Pretty cool!
So why not... I'm going to get some acrylics and throw something together here in the next week, and hopefully have a good painting to show them by their deadline on July 31st.  And if mine is selected, awesome.  But if not, I'll just have something nice to put on Ebay.  Either way, this should be fun, right?  I already have an idea of what I'm going to do, so stay tuned, and hopefully I'll have it posted here early next week. 
See ya!
Oh yes, gotta give a shoutout to Tammie for telling me about the contest!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Figure drawing with Robert Liberace

I was thrilled today to get a new dvd featuring artist Robert Liberace.  It's an instructional figure drawing demonstration called "Figure in Motion," in which Liberace does two drawings, side by side, of the same figure in a slightly different pose.  The idea is to create a drawing that is done from a pose, but appears as a figure in motion caught in a moment in time (if that makes sense). 

I highly recommend Liberace's dvd's for the serious art student or anyone wanting to improve their drawing skills and understanding of the anatomy of the figure.  Although, beware, it is not a cheap dvd and for many it can be considered a bit outrageous that Liberace charges $85 + shipping for his dvds from his website.  I was fortunate enough to find my copy of this particular dvd on Ebay for only $25.  If they are ever available by that means, then I would obviously recommend that rather than the full $85 retail.  However, they did seem pretty popular.  The ebay seller had about 5 of these dvds starting at $25, and after quite a bidding frenzy on a couple of them, they sold for $58-$65.  The seller sold all of them, and made quite a killing. 
But the instruction and demonstration that Liberace gives is great, and the full drawing demonstration is filmed almost completely without editing, down to every tedious detail.  This is by no means a short, 30-minute Bob Ross program.  Here is a short clip from this particular demonstration:

Happy drawing and painting, and I will be back soon with an update on what I've been working on.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Updates 5/22/11

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to take a minute to fill everyone in with a few updates to the blog, and to my little world of art in general.

1. First I want to thank my pastor, Jim Preisig, for featuring me on his blog site. Here is the link to his gracious plug of my work and my current Lattéland exhibition: Art Inspired By the Holy Land

2. I have started work on a new still life painting. I am planning to show a series of images of its progress as a way of giving everyone a little "step-by-step" look at how I compose a painting. Eventually I would like to create some videos of me at work that might help give a clearer look at the process. Eventually.

3. **Important Blog Update** If you would, just glance over to your right and you will see a couple of new features in the side column of my blog. The first that I'd like to point out is that I have provided my official Ryan Delgado Art email link so that you all may easily contact me.

The second new feature that I have added is a Donation button, which you can see underneath the text "Support Ryan Delgado Art." From this point on, I will be accepting your generous free-will donations that will go strictly towards my materials budget for my artwork (i.e., paints, brushes, canvas, framing, etc.) Please note that I will be accepting all donations through PayPal, however it is not necessary that you have a PayPal account in order to donate. You may donate by credit card, and there is no need to set up your own PayPal account if you do not already have one.
As I said, all donations are by your generosity, and you may donate any amount. Rest assured your donation is sincerely appreciated, and I will personally acknowledge my appreciation for it.

More to come soon!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Frightened Bathsheba

Finally, I have this painting done.  I had another version of this that I scrapped altogether.  So I started completely over with a new composition and pose and everything.  That's why it's taken so long to get anything new posted.

Frightened Bathsheba
oil on canvas
24x18 inches
In other news, the Lattéland exhibition is still going with two more weeks to go.  Other than that, now that Bathsheba is complete, time to work on something new.  I've been wanting to get a decent still life set up.  The trick to that is how to make it visually interesting.  We'll see how it goes.  More to come later...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Art and Coffee... so good together.

Today is the opening day for my painting exhibition at Lattéland at the Plaza in Kansas City, MO.  I have 10 paintings hanging up, and of course all of them are for sale.  Anyone in the Kansas City area is invited to go check them out between now and June 2. 
There are two Lattélands at the Plaza, so be sure to go to the Jefferson St. one.  The exact address is 4771 Jefferson, and there is a parking garage about a block or so away right across the street for those worried about finding a place to park in the craziness of the Plaza.  Here are a few shots of my paintings hanging up, but they look so much more inspiring in person!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Anatomical Studies 5/11/11

Just been busy at work today working on some more figure studies.  Just two more days until Lattéland!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Figure Studies 5/10/11

Lately I've been inspired by the figure drawings of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, a 19th century painter and draughtsman.  Now, as it was the 19th century, many artists had abandoned the classical way of drawing upon completion of their education, or altogether regardless of their education.  Many of the impressionists quit their respected academies because they were too classical and traditional.  But Prud'hon was among those that embraced it, and held onto it throughout his career. 
Anyway, here are a few figure drawings of mine from the past week.
Prud'hon copy

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lattéland Exhibition, May 13-June 2

For those of you in the Kansas City area, allow me to extend an invitation for you to check out my art exhibition at Lattéland, located on Jefferson St. at the Country Club Plaza.

May 13 - June 2, 2011
4771 Jefferson St.
Kansas City, MO

For your consideration, all paintings displayed will be for sale, and I'm hoping to have 10 paintings total.  These will be some of my latest, including paintings from my Holy Land trip, including my recent award winner from the Blue Springs Fine Art Show, Camel in Giza.  In addition, I will have two master copy portraits in honor of my favorite art hero - Diego Velázquez. 
And here they are now, anxiously awaiting their first official public showing:

They will look so much better hanging up in the cafe, I'm sure.  So please stop by at your convenience anytime from May 13 - June 2 for a wonderfully delicious cup of coffee and some pretty okay-looking paintings!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Figure Studies 4/30/11

Just a few figure studies that I've done this week.  All are done with just a basic pencil that I always use for sketching.  The first two are from my trip to the Nelson this week. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lessons in Classical Drawing - New book by Aristides!

Some people go nuts over royal weddings.  Some people go nuts over new Harry Potter movies.

As for me, nothing makes me more giddy with excitement than new books by Juliette Aristides.  It doesn't release until November this year... which is going to make this a very long 6 months for me.  However, for those of you like me who are excited about this book's release, and would like to secure your copy right now, it is available right now for pre-order on Amazon.

The book is Lessons in Classical Drawing.  The subtitle is "Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier," and the book also comes with a companion dvd.  So I would assume that this book is going to contain lessons in drawing that Aristides actually teaches in her own atelier at Gage Academy.  Or at least lessons in basic form from her atelier, as well as she can put into writing form.  Which is probably why she has included a dvd.  There's only so much one can learn about drawing from a book, and as excited as I am about this book, I am also excited that I may actually get a visual lesson from Aristides herself on the dvd.  At least I hope that's what it will be.

Here's the link to Amazon in case anyone wants to gift this book to me!
Lessons in Classical Drawing - Juliette Aristides

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Study for Bathsheba

A quick little painting study for Startled Bathsheba.  Just a sketch to practice flesh tone and brushwork techniques.  More to come later...

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Projects and Updates 4/25/11

The newest projects in the works:

1.  I'm currently working on a painting study for a larger painting to come of Startled Bathsheba.  Many versions of the Biblical figure Bathsheba are, let's be honest, figure paintings of a female nude.  I'll be going in a slightly different direction by painting more of an expressive portrait of her that brings the focal point to her face.  It actually won't be a nude figure at all, as you may be able to tell from the underpainting of the study above.  I will be showing its progression later on.

2.  My upcoming exhibition at the Plaza Latte Land is just around the corner, so I am in the process of getting paintings framed and ready for hanging.  I have 10 paintings that I would like to show, provided there is room to hang them all.  Several of which will be Holy Land paintings, in addition to a couple of other recent pieces including my copy of Velázquez's Infanta Margarita.  The exhibition runs from May 13 - June 2 at Latte Land located on Jefferson St. at the Plaza in Kansas City.

3.  Pretty soon I hope to add a "Donate" button to my blog that will appear to the side with the other links.  All donations will be via PayPal, and any that I get will go strictly towards my art budget for supplies.  I also hope to create a "store" of sorts if I can figure out how to do such a thing.  I'm hoping it will be an easy way for everyone to see paintings I currently have for sale, and in keeping with the 21st century, help potential buyers to simply buy my "non-Ebay" work online.  We'll see how it goes.  One little project at a time!

4.  By the way, just a refresher on ways to contact me.
Ebay:  See my "Links and Resources."
And of course, you may certainly comment on any of my blog posts.  But I will delete any spammy messages that have nothing to do with anything related to art.  Particularly my art. :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Velázquez

He was born in Seville, Spain and apprenticed at the age of 11 to the painter Francisco Pacheco, and by the time he was 18, he was already considered a master.  He started out painting solid, technically mastered portraits and religious subjects under the advice of his master Pacheco.  One of these was his Immaculate Conception, in which he is thought to have used Pacheco's daughter as the model for Mary.  He later married her in 1618.  He was already well established as a painter, and sought his inspiration in markets and taverns.  He had an interest in painting common, everyday people in candid scenes known as bodegones.  His paintings freeze time like a snapshot, and combine the technically academic figure with the expressive, painterly quality of work that Frans Hals was known for.  And he managed to master both methods, which brought him to his greatest career, where he would remain for the rest of his life.  His name was Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez.
In 1622, Velázquez made a trip to Madrid to paint a portrait of Luis de Gongora, which would officially give him exposure right inside the capital city, and later he was called back to paint a portrait of the King Philip IV.  Philip IV was so impressed by the portrait that he declared that he wanted no other painter but Velázquez to paint his portrait.  So at the age of 24, Velázquez was appointed as court painter for Philip IV, and remained there as the king's favored painter for the rest of his life.
From that point on, Velázquez quit painting bodegones and began primarily painting portraits as well as mythological, religious, and historical scenes.  But each painting carried with it the candid, common folk influence of his bodegones.  Even some the portraits of the king and other royal and important figures were not always typical royal, "iconic" portraits.  They seemed to depict them as regular people, as one portrait of the king depicts him as a hunter with his dog.  In addition, Velázquez would paint other figures around the royal court that had nothing to do with royalty at all.  He would paint the dwarfs, jesters, and other entertainers of the king, but with the same dignity and pathos as he would the king himself.  Velázquez even did a portrait of his own painting slave and assistant Juan de Pareja as a study, which has since come to be one of Velázquez's greatest and well-recognized portraits.
When he was 30, Velázquez visited Italy for some time, and had become friends with Peter Paul Rubens, and had become influenced by his style as well as the style of older Venetian masters like Titian.  While in Italy, he traveled to Genoa, Venice and Naples and primarily Rome.  He painted two of his greatest multiple portrait paintings - Joseph's Coat and Forge of Vulcan, each demonstrating more loose and scumbled brushwork under the influence of the Venetian masters.
With two travels to Italy, and immensely productive years in the court painting various royal portraits, Velázquez was practically living the dream life that would make any artist - past, present, and future - envious of the lifestyle and the career.  His relationship with Philip IV was the most remarkable between any king and servant in all of history.  They were more brothers than anything else.  The king himself was an avid art enthusiast, and was even known to do a little painting himself.  Velázquez remained the king's favorite painter, and by the time Velázquez was in his 30s and well established as the senior court painter, he could pretty much do whatever he wanted artistically. 
In fact, Velázquez was commissioned to paint his astonishing portrait of the notoriously ill-tempered Pope Innocent X, and right around the same time he also painted The Rokeby Venus, his only nude.  To paint a nude in 17th century Spain was unthinkable, as it was during the heart of the Inquisition, and anything considered indecent as a nude painting would have been destroyed, and the painter subsequently punished.  But due to his status in the royal court, Velázquez was practically immune to such treatment.
One painting, however, would officially establish Velázquez with the reputation of being "Painter of painters."  Painted in 1656, it was Las Meninas.  It is easily the greatest painting of the Spanish Baroque, and for some it is considered the greatest painting in the world.  It is said that the average person in an art museum looks at a particular work for about 8 seconds before moving on.  8 seconds would not even give due justice to the frame for Las Meninas.  The painting shows the Infanta Margarita being tended to by the meninas, or ladies in waiting, and Velázquez himself on the left side working on a large canvas.  The figures are staring directly outward, and the faint image of the king and queen are shown in the mirror in the background.  Who is everyone looking at?  Are the Infanta and ladies in the midst of a painting session of the king and queen, or are the king and queen walking in on a typical scene of everyday royal life for the young Margarita?  One thing is certain - the viewer is getting a glimpse of everything happening, regardless of what is actually happening.  Suddenly it is us as the viewers who become the subject of the painting, as the main figures are looking directly at us looking back at them.  All riddles aside, the technical execution of the painting is by far the best that Velázquez ever painted. 
Velázquez was knighted with the Order of Santiago in 1659, the climactic honor of his life.  He only lived until the following year, as he was stricken ill with a fever, and died on August 6, 1660.  One of the main mysteries of Las Meninas is the appearance of the red cross of the Order painted on Velázquez's chest in the painting.  Since the painting was done in 1656, and he was knighted in 1659, the red cross would not have originally been there.  It has been suggested that Philip IV painted the red cross himself as sort of a posthumous honor to his greatest servant and friend.  Luca Giordano referred to Las Meninas as the "theology of painting," because "just as theology is superior to all other branches of knowledge, so Las Meninas is the greatest example of painting."  I couldn't have said it better myself.

Diego Velázquez
Las Meninas
oil on canvas
318 x 276 cm

Figure Studies

These are a few of my latest attempts at figure drawing. The first is a basic nude, and as you look at it you can probably make out the block-in steps that I took . The second is from a sketch today at the Nelson-Atkins museum, from a painting by Joachim Wtewael.
I've recently been taking tips from the blog by Scott Waddell. This is a great blog with a few youtube videos of simple lessons on figure drawing and anatomy.
More paintings to come soon! I've been experimenting a lot with paint lately, and have been having an interesting balance of problems and solutions along the way. I'm hoping to do a few more painting studies, and perhaps a larger scale painting using some of the more sketchy, spontaneous scumble techniques I used in my Velázquez copy of Infanta Margarita. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Aristides

With only two days left in my Lenten 40 days of artists, I wanted to end with two major artistic influences to me - One is a contemporary of mine, and the other is my very favorite artist of all time.
Recently, I read two books that were written by a contemporary classical realist painter, and she's honestly become one of my newest heroes in art.  Her name is Juliette Aristides.
Her two books are Classical Drawing Atelier and Classical Painting Atelier, and as I understand she is coming out with another handbook later this year that I will certainly be reading as well.  Both of her atelier books were written within the past 5 years and have been instrumental in helping me to learn and re-learn drawing and painting techniques and methods of the old masters of traditional, classical art.
Aristides had her start in 1988 working under artist Myron Barnstone, and later on at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, studying drawing and painting.  Afterwards, she spent some time studying and working in the studio of Jacob Collins before becoming a founding member of the Water Street Studio in Brooklyn.
Today, Aristides has her own atelier program with Gage Academy of Fine Art in Seattle.  The atelier (meaning studio) is a program that trains artists in the classical, academic method in the same manner that the old masters trained.  A small group of students is trained in cast drawing and painting, figure drawing and painting, and in still life compositions over the course of a year under Aristides in her studio.  Her books give a glimpse of the process and also provide small lessons in cast and figure drawing, and making master copies of old works.
Juliette Aristides certainly is not the only contemporary master to provide this atelier style of art education.  One of the most rigorous academic art programs is located at Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.  As if the art capital location of Florence is not daunting enough, the program itself is easily one of the toughest, but most rewarding in the world.  The video below gives a small glimpse of the program at Angel, that is a similar glimpse to the kinds of exercises and the disciplines in the atelier program that Aristides provides in Seattle.
In my own work, Aristides has certainly become my most recent influence in learning this classical style, and her books are more than simply "how-to" books on drawing and painting.  They are both instructional and inspiring, and provide information on the history and the rationale behind the classical methods of drawing and painting.  Her own work is also a great testament to the passion she has put in her craft.

"I have a simple belief that the goal of learning to draw and paint is attainable by anyone who is willing to pursue it. It is as accessible as learning to write or play a musical instrument. There is more than one path a person can follow to be a well-trained artist. What is necessary, however, is a passion for excellence, discipline, and an unflinching desire to pursue truth.
Traditional skills are necessary for developing a foundational base for the artist to work from. It is craftsmanship that opens the door to effective self-expression. I am excited about teaching the methods from our artistic inheritance. I know that once this knowledge becomes commonplace again, it can only enrich our cultural life
."  ~Juliette Aristides
Juliette Aristides
oil on panel
28x26 inches

New Paintings 4/22/11

Here are my two latest paintings I've been working on. I am thankfully finished and ready to move on to new projects.
Portrait of a Woman
oil on canvas
20x16 inches
St. Sebastian
After Guido Reni's St. Sebastian
oil on canvas
20x16 inches

Thursday, April 21, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Dalí

Once upon a time, a young art student at the Academy of Fine Art in Madrid had to give an oral exam to a panel of examiners.  He did not think to highly of the competence level of these professors to begin with, and did not want to do this exam.  He drew the name "Raphael," and upon doing so, said, "Gentlemen, with all due respect, it is impossible for me to talk about this in front of these three professors, because I know more about Raphael than all of them put together."
The young art student was expelled from the school.  His name - Salvador Dalí.
It is also impossible for me to write a "brief" commentary on the life of Dalí as I have typically done for the 40 days of artists.  But I will do my best. 
Born in Figueres in 1904, he was already living a strange life by the age of 5.  His mother allegedly told him that he was his own brother reincarnated (who had passed away 9 months before Salvador's birth).  In the early 1920s, Dalí enrolled in the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid, from where he was subsequently expelled twice for his behavior.  But while enrolled, he experimented with different painting styles.  His first paintings were impressionistic in style, and he also tried his hand at cubism, which particularly got him the most attention from his fellow students.  Later on his style changed once again as he became more influenced by the old masters such as Raphael, Vermeer, and Velázquez.  His paintings often combined the modern avante garde with the classically academic techniques.  His influence from Velázquez inspired Dalí to grow his (in)famously flamboyant mustache.
In the late 20s, Dalí collaborated with the surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel for the film Un Chien Andalou.  He helped write the script, but also had a small role in the film.  Around the same time in 1929, Dalí met the woman who would later become his wife after the death of her husband then, another surrealist artist Paul Éluard.  Her name was Gala.  She would also eventually fall in love with Dalí while she was still married to Éluard.  After Éluard's death, Dalí and Gala were married in a civil ceremony in 1934.  Gala was the greatest of all of Dalí's obsessions throughout his entire life.
A few years earlier, in 1931, Dalí, who had already been greatly influenced by the surrealists and had become part of the group, painted his most widely recognized work The Persistence of Memory.  When he asked Gala if in a few years she would have forgotten the image, she replied that no one could ever forget it once they've seen it.
Several actions of Dalí landed him in trouble with the Surrealist group, particularly because he would make no definitive statement on his political views, while the surrealists were mostly associating themselves with leftist politics.  Dalí was mostly apolitical, and noted that surrealism did not need a political context.  Later in 1934, Dalí was formally expelled from the surrealist group, to which he replied, "I myself am surrealism."
In 1940, at the heart of the second World War, Dalí and Gala moved to the United States, and in this period Dalí would become a practicing Catholic.  In addtion to painting, Dalí was also an active writer and filmmaker.  He was also interested in science and mathematics, and linked the logarithmic spiral growth of rhinoceros horns with a sort of "divine geometry," and would frenquently include the rhino horn motif in his paintings.
By 1960, Dalí was back in his hometown of Figueres building his own museum and theater - which became a work of art in and of itself with various murals on the walls, and rooms designed to look like his paintings.  The museum took about 15 years to complete, with Dalí still making additions to it in the early 1980s.  Meanwhile during that time, Dalí would become even more rich and famous, and the lifestyle began to take over him.  Rather than focus his time on painting, he would literally commercialize himself by appearing on various game shows and talk shows, endorsing a number of products in television commercials, and creating mass products of his own, including his own signature perfume and jewelry.
By 1980, Dalí's health began to significantly decline, and his wife Gala died in 1982.  After the death of his beloved Gala, Dalí himself lost the will to live and was suspected to have performed a few suicide attempts.  By the late 80s, Dalí was badly burned in a fire in his bedroom, and this coupled with his rapidly declining health and Parkinson's-like symptoms took a great toll on his artistic abilities.  Dalí died on January 23, 1989 at the age of 84 and was buried in the crypt of his own museum in Figueres. 
The thing about Dalí is that every biography or commentary written about him always includes details that I never knew about his life.  The hardest part is distinguishing which parts are true, only slightly true, or not true at all.  With Dalí, who could really ever know?

Salvador Dalí
The Persistence of Memory
oil on canvas
24 x 33 cm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Magritte

In the late 19th century, critics thought the Impressionists were an odd group of painters.  Little did they know, art was about to become even more odd.  In the early 20th century, with the start of the first World War, there emerged a group of anti-war propagandists known as the Dadaists.  The movement's leading figure was Marcel Duchamp, who was influenced and had worked out of post-impressionism and early cubism.  The Dada artists weren't concerned with making art in the traditional sense, but more with making symbolic statements on culture, politics, and what they felt to be the overall frivolity of the modern world.  For them it was not art at all, it was anti-art.
Out of dadaism came another movement based on the automatism of the mind - where the uncensored thoughts of the mind provided the inspiration for writings and art.  It came to be known as Surrealism.  One of the great masters to join this movement was the Belgian artist Rene Magritte.
Magritte began his career as a teenager doing impressionistic paintings, and he was also inspired by the cubist and futurist movements in the early 1920s.  In 1926, Magritte created his first surrealist work, but the critics were underwhelmed by it and by the exhibition in which it was featured.  He moved to Paris after the failed exhibition and met Andre Breton, the initial founder of the surrealist movement.  Though he never had much more success in Paris, Magritte's friendship with Breton helped to establish himself in the surrealist movement.
Magritte's work was more symbolic and representational than dreamlike and automatic.  He is known for juxtaposing objects and creating paradoxical settings and compositions.  For instance, Magritte's Empire of Lights shows a view of a home at night with an outdoor light illuminated, but with a daytime sky above the dark silhouette of the trees.
Magritte died in 1967 from pancreatic cancer.  His use of everyday objects in juxtaposed situations had a great influence in later pop artists, though Magritte never acknowledged having a connection to pop art himself.  Still many scholars, critics, and artists today frequently examine Magritte's influence and connection to contemporary art.  Though I am of the attitude that contemporary and pop art is far too straight-forward to have much connection with the deeper and often inexplicable representations seen in the work of Magritte.

Rene Magritte
The Son of Man
oil on canvas
116 x 89 cm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Monet

In 1872, Claude Monet painted a landscape of Le Havre port called Impression, Sunrise.  One art critic Louis Leroy reviewed it, and poking fun at the title, called the manner of painting "impressionism."  Much like John Wesley did with "methodism," Monet and a small group of other painters took the light insult and appropriated it for themselves.  From that point on, they were known as the impressionists.
Monet was born in 1840 in Paris, and entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts when he was only 10 years old.  But he would still manage to sell some of his charcoal drawings for a small price.  When he was a teenager, Monet met Eugene Boudin, who undertook Monet as a student and taught him en plein aire oil painting.  Later on, Monet tried his hand at art school, but much like we saw with Pissarro, the traditional academic style taught in these schools simply did not work for him.  So Monet went on to become a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris.  There, Monet came into contact with other painters like Renoir and Sisley, and they each shared a certain enthusiasm for plein air painting, and the quick approach of alla prima (completing a painting in one sitting).  Of course, this manner would later on be known as Impressionism.  Monet's Impression, Sunrise in 1872 would go on to hang in the very first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
Monet married his wife Camille in 1870, and with her had two sons.  But Camille had fallen ill around the time they conceived of their second son Michel, and she died in 1879.  From this, Monet painted his most heart-wrenching painting of Camille Monet on Her Deathbed.  It was painted in very limited and muted color, and clearly shows the pain and lack of energy and motivation of Monet's hand with every brush stroke.
In the early 1880s, Monet moved his two sons to Paris from their previous home in Vetheuil, and later on in around 1883, Monet made his home near Giverny where he had his large garden that became the subject and setting for many of his greatest paintings such as his Water Lilies.  At this point, Monet also traveled around the Mediterranean to places in Italy, and further north in London, and painted several plein air scenes from his travels such as his Houses of Parliament and The Grand Canal in Venice.
Monet developed cataracts in his eyes around the 1920s, and had operations to remove them in 1923, which had a considerable effect on how he saw color.  Before his operation, many of his paintings had a warm reddish tone, and afterwards his paintings became much more blue in tone.  Monet died from lung cancer in 1926 and was buried in his last home town of Giverny.  Monet's home and garden in Giverny still exist today and are open to the public.

Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise
oil on canvas
48 x 63 cm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Pissarro

Camille Pissarro was one of the great figures in 19th century Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.  Though he was of Portuguese-Jewish descent, he moved to France as a teenager to attend secondary school.  During his studies there, Pissarro gained an appreciation for the arts, and was inspired by the French realists Corot and Courbet.  Upon his return to his native St. Thomas Islands, Pissarro's father had him working for the family business, but the 17 year old Camille would manage to work on drawings during his free time.
At the age of 21, Pissarro left the family business to pursue a full time career in painting.  He left St. Thomas with his friend and teacher Fritz Melbye to live in Venezuela drawing and painting landscapes.  A few years later, he would move back to Paris to work alongside Fritz's brother Anton Melbye.  He studied the paintings of some of the best French masters of the time - Courbet, Millet, and Corot among others.  Pissarro also enrolled in a few classes at a couple of different schools including the École des Beaux-Arts.  The strict academic method taught in these classes did not work out very well for him, so he would eventually seek out instruction from Corot himself.
In 1859, Pissarro exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon after having been instructed and tutored by Corot.  Pissarro was inspired by Corot to paint en plein aire, on the spot landscapes.  He became inspired to the point of leaving the city to live near rural areas so he could have better access to these landscapes.  He simply painted what he saw, and painted how his eye could best interpret, and often in one sitting. 
Perhaps Pissarro's greatest period were his impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, in which Pissarro would paint with pure, unmixed color in such a way that when viewed at a distance, the eye would visually mix the colors and make sense of the painting.  This was his predominate style during the 1880s after he had met other post-impressionists such as Signac and Seurat, who also painted in a similar manner known as pointillism.  Pissarro had befriended other painters who embraced the impressionist style such as Renoir, Monet, and Degas.  Together with this group of artists, Pissarro exhibited in an alternative show to the Paris Salon, and the critics did not know what to think, except that there was not much positive to say.  Critics were so much more used to religious, mythological scenes, and the impressionists were showing crudely painted rural scenes of everyday peasant life.
Pissarro's last years had him painting outdoor scenes from elevated hotel rooms due to an eye infection.  He died in 1903 in Paris.  Pissarro is widely considered one of the first great impressionists, and is one of the only artists to paint within two different movements during his lifetime - Impressionist and Post-Impressionist.

Camille Pissarro
Two Women Chatting By the Sea
oil on canvas
28 x 41 cm.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Church

Today for our 40 days of artists, I wanted to cover the first of two American artists (the latter of which will come later this week).  Frederic Edwin Church is also a shift not only because he is American, but because he is the only exclusive landscape artist that I'm covering during the 40 days.
Church was born in 1825 in Hartford, Connecticut.  He was one of the main figures in what is known as the Hudson River school of artists.  It's chief figure was Thomas Cole, and these were a group of American landscape artists that were influenced by the Romanticism in art of the day.  Their objective was to paint landscapes in the same romanticized and dramatic beauty as the portrait artists did during the time, such as Bouguereau.  Church became a student of Thomas Cole when he was 18 years old.
By the late 1840s, Church had become a well-established landscape painter, settling in New York and taking his first student, William James Stillman.  Church loved to travel all over the world, and his paintings document his travels, and the beautiful scenery became the object of his success.  One of the first places he traveled to was South America, where he stayed for four years and immersed himself in the landscape.  After returning to the U.S., Church painted Heart of the Andes, and unveiled it to a crowd in New York in 1859.  This large painting, approximately 5x10 ft., was Church's first major success, and he managed to sell it for $10,000.  The painting now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Later on in the 1860s, Church married and started a family.  It was then that they began to travel to other places together, including places in Europe and the Middle East.  He would go on to paint more large-scale works inspired from his travels in these places.  One in particular that stands out especially for myself can be seen at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.  Not only because it is located in my hometown, but because it is a painting that depicts a place I have actually been blessed to see for myself.  The painting is Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  Standing before this large painting, one can easily point out specific details of buildings that are in the painting such as the Dome of the Rock and the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Church was very careful to include these details in his painting, and it really is as if you are standing on the Mount of Olives and seeing the panorama of the city of Jerusalem.
In the 1870s, Church was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, and eventually had to paint left-handed as a result.  Church died in 1900, but has certainly earned his reputation of not only one of the greatest landscape painters, but as one of the greatest American painters of all time.

Frederic Church
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
oil on canvas
137 x 213 cm.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Bouguereau

William-Adolfe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France in 1825.  His family were harvesters and merchants of olive oil and wine, but it was his uncle, a Catholic priest, who first introduced him to classical and Biblical subjects.  He showed promising artistic talent at an early age, and by 1846, he was enrolled in the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and won the Prix de Rome in 1850.
During his stay in Rome for the Prix de Rome scholarship, Bouguereau painted very classical, Renaissance-type nudes, religious subjects and portraits - each with an uncanny, almost photographic nature.  He painted in this traditional academic style for his entire career, and would regularly exhibit his work at the Paris Salon.
Bouguereau's classical approach to composition and his ability to paint his female sitters with such charm and beauty heightened his reputation.  His painting of skin tones and features such as hands and feet were some of the most admirable qualities in his paintings.  In the 1850s, Bouguereau came into contact with a few wealthy art dealers, and through their connections, he met a number of others who would help him in his rise and success.  He received a number of commissions to decorate private homes, churches, and other buildings.
In his own time, Bouguereau was highly regarded as a successful painter, and his work was in high demand by private and public institutions as well as wealthy private patrons and dealers.  He was well known in a number of countries including Spain, Belgium, and the United States.  A great number of his works are still privately owned.  Altogether, Bouguereau painted over 800 paintings in his career, and he was certainly one of the most consistent painters as he was hardly ever known to have changed his style unless he was commissioned to do so. 
Bouguereau died in 1905, and his reputation deteriorated from that point.  However, with the rise of new classical realist painters of today, in response to what I would consider the frivolity and lack of discipline associated with postmodern art, Bouguereau's academic style is rising back into popularity, and he is perhaps the highest regarded artist of the Art Renewal Center, one of the most extensive online reference sites dedicated to furthering the discipline of traditional academic art (see my links).

William-Adolfe Bouguereau
The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ
oil on canvas
212 x 309 cm

Friday, April 15, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Courbet

Gustave Courbet was another French realist, and learned under a minor painter and in various ateliers.  Though later on, he claimed to be self-taught.  He gradually evolved his style into a classically realistic manner.  Courbet painted everything - still life, landscapes, portraits, and nudes.  He incorporated much of the classical style in his figures, as well as some influence of Caravaggio in his chiaroscuro. 
At times, the light/dark contrast was overly emphasized to the point of looking unnatural.  This can be seen in a seemingly daylight scene with two Wrestlers, whose figures are shown with dramatic shadows, but with no cast shadows on the ground, and really no reason for such shadows to begin with.  Courbet clearly painted the figures in a studio, separate from the landscape setting.  Courbet most likely did this with a lot of other paintings as well where the lighting does not match up.
Courbet was also quite outspoken on matters of philosophy, education, politics and the Church.  In a letter to a group of students, Courbet basically stated that art cannot be taught, and that the only way to learn it is by doing it.  Though he learned through an atelier, he held the attitude that he was self taught.  He was also outspokenly anti-Imperialist and anti-clerical.  One painting in particular mocked Catholic priests, and has since been destroyed.
But probably Courbet's most notorious paintings were his nudes.  Some of them were simply nothing more than elegant, classical depictions of bathers and such.  But two in particular caused quite an outrage of being grossly indecent - Sleep and Origin of the World.  Origin was painted in 1866, but was hardly ever publicly displayed in a gallery until 1995 when the Musée d'Orsay acquired it.  The model for the painting is thought to be the lover of another painter James Whistler.  Courbet and Whistler had been close friends, but Origin is the most likely reason for their eventual brutal estrangement and separation.
Courbet's reputation and outspoken cynicism and vanity were about as notorious as some of these paintings, though his attitude and philosophy of realism and beauty in art were demonstrated through his work.  Courbet died in France on December 31, 1877.

Gustave Courbet
Self Portrait (Man with Pipe)
oil on canvas
45 x 37 cm.