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.
Email:  ryandelgadoart@gmail.com
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
1656

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 http://scottssketchbook.blogspot.com/ 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

http://aristidesarts.com/
http://www.aristidesatelier.com/
Juliette Aristides
Image
oil on panel
28x26 inches
2005

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
2011
St. Sebastian
After Guido Reni's St. Sebastian
oil on canvas
20x16 inches
2011

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.
1931

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.
1964

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.
1872

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.
1856

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.
1870

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
1880

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.
1848-49

Thursday, April 14, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Corot

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot began his early training as a landscape painter under a couple of other minor landscape artists Michallon and Bertin.  By 1825, Corot was in Italy, staying mainly in Rome where he began painting en plein aire (in open air) while also painting religious and classical works for exhibition.
A few years later, Corot went back to his native France, but would occasionally return to Rome for a few months at a time.  For everywhere he went, Corot would create small, on-the-spot sketches of the landscapes and the scenery.
By the 1850s, Corot's style had changed a bit from the directness of his observational paintings on the spot.  Many of his landscapes had a certain fuzzy looseness in the brushwork.  Corot was a realist, but many of his landscapes had captured more of an impression of the scenery.  This was particularly evident in the trees and foliage.  The treatment of these landscapes eventually became quite popular, and could be considered as the early beginnings of a new movement of open air landscape painting that emphasized color and light, and emphasized this manner of brushwork that allowed the eye to optically put the painting into focus.  The movement, of course, was French impressionism.
But Corot never went that far to become the first "impressionist" to intentionally make this manner of painting is official style.  Later on in his career, Corot did a few figure studies and portraits that were completely free of this fuzzy approach, but were much more controlled and representative of his realistic style. 
Corot was a diligent and efficient painter up until his death, and created a large number of works throughout his life.  Almost every art museum today all over the world features at least one work by Corot.  There are still several works in the process of attribution, as well as some that have been de-attributed to Corot.  One in particular at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City is still in the process of re-attribution after discovering the signature of Corot was a forgery.  An incident such as this is certainly not uncommon, as Corot is estimated to have created over 3000 paintings in his lifetime.

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
The Woman with the Pearl
oil on canvas
70 x 55 cm.
c. 1869

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Ingres

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a student of David's studio before he went on to become another of the greatest Neoclassical masters in the 19th century.  Ingres won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1801, but did not get to travel to Rome until 1807.  In this six-year period, Ingres painted his first portraits of himself and some acquaintances.  Even his early portraits featured some of his trademark qualities of smooth contours and color-handling.
When he finally made it to Rome, Ingres began painting his series of nude portraits, in addition to a few other minor portraits.  The first of his nudes continues to be one of his most well known, and perhaps one of his greatest paintings of all.  It was simply called The Bather, and was painted in 1808.  The natural light and naturalistic texture of the bather's skin makes it Ingres' most striking nude.  Ingres actually incorporated a copy of the figure in a much later painting called The Turkish Bath in 1862.  It was painted with the same warmly saturated color as in The Bather, which makes the figure stand out even more from the rest of the figures, which are painted with a much more muted tone.
Ingres remained in Rome even after his Prix de Rome scholarship ran out, and lived off of a few major commissions, including two for the Palace of Napoleon in Rome.  Ingres moved to Florence in 1820 where he received some influence by Raphael and other Italian Renaissance masters.  Here, he painted his Vow of Louis XIII, in which the influence of these masters comes through.  By the mid 1820s, Ingres was living back in Paris where he worked on two major commissions for the Louvre and the Cathedral of Autun.
Ingres made one more trip to Rome where he stayed for another 7 years until moving permanently back to France.  In the later years of his life, Ingres' wife passed away, but he remarried a few years later.  The Turkish Bath was painted when he was in his early 80s, and is one of his last great paintings.  Ingres died in 1867, and left a large portion of his work to his home town of Montauban, and remain there today in the Musée Ingres.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
The Bather
oil on canvas
146 x 97 cm.
1808

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

40 Days of Artists: David

We're jumping ahead about 100 years from the Baroque period to one of the leading figures in Neoclassical painting.  Jacques-Louis David was born in Paris in 1748, and studied under Joseph-Marie Vien in Rome, and in the process was awarded the Prix de Rome.  During his stay in Rome, David became influenced by the classical style, and had met some of the initial figures of the new classical movement.  In 1780, David returned to Paris with his passion and influence of the new classical art as a response to the very odd and frivolous Rococo movement (This is why I have skipped about 100 years from the Baroque, as I consider the Rococo to be like the "disco era" of art history).
One particular painting brought David back to Rome in 1784 - The Oath of the Horatii.  David worked in a very methodical, academic manner on the painting.  Working from live models and doing several preliminary drawings for the figures, it was certainly a classically executed work.  Upon its completion, it became David's rise to fame, and even the pope desired to view it.  The painting's austere and patriotic depiction made it a powerful expression of the new classical style of painting in the 18th century.
David followed up on the Horatti with two more classical themes - Brutus and His Dead Sons and Death of Socrates.  They were both highly acclaimed by critics and hailed as perfectly classical in every sense. 
As an active supporter of the French Revolution, David was inspired to paint a series of three "martyrs" of the Revolution, and one of them became perhaps his greatest masterpiece.  It was The Death of Marat, painted in 1793.  Marat was assassinated by a knife to his chest by Charlotte Corday.  Of the three paintings, this particular one stands out as David's most sympathetic and reverent towards a figure of the Revolution, as Marat had been a close friend of David's.  Marat was known to have a skin disease, but David's depiction of him makes no reference to it.  On the contrary, Marat's body is quite idealized, and even shown to have some color left in his flesh as it is depicted in the moment of his last breath.  The painting is quite often compared to Michelangelo's Pieta, especially in the modeling of the lifeless arm hanging over, and the tilt of his head resting on his shoulder.
David also became a major supporter of Napoleon.  Another of his greatest works, and one of the largest paintings in the world on canvas is Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine, which currently covers an entire wall in a large room at the Louvre in Paris.  It is considered one of the last of David's most revered works.

Jacques-Louis David
The Death of Marat
oil on canvas
162 x 128 cm.
1793

Monday, April 11, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Zurbarán

Francisco de Zurbarán was perhaps the greatest painter and interpreter of the Monastic life because he represented, with paint, the extreme piety of this life. That is, his paintings were so simple in terms of their color and many had the Caravaggesque, tenebrist contrast of dark and light. And particularly for the Spanish Geronomite Monastic order that commissioned him in the late 1630s, it represents perfectly what life was all about - black and white. One is either in God's light or in the shadows.
Zurbarán was a painter of saints and clergy, and was particularly known for his monastic portraits like St. Francis. He used a very sharp contrast of dark and light that seemed to heighten the mystical, spiritual nature of the scenes. This mysticism coupled with the realistic modeling of his figures made Zurbarán a quintessential figure in Spanish art of the 17th century.
Zurbarán was born in 1598, and worked under a minor Spanish artist as an apprentice. One of his earliest influences was Michelangelo, and later on in his career he gained some influence from Ribera and Murillo. So Murillo and Zurbarán were seemingly influenced by each other as Murillo would mimic the tenebrist, monastic portraits. Zurbarán in turn would paint versions of the Immaculate Conception, very similar to Murillo's famous images of this theme.
He lived in Seville for most of his career with the exception of a couple years spent as a court painter in Madrid for Philip IV. Zurbarán died in 1664. Some of his greatest pieces are the eight paintings commissioned by the Geronomite friars in 1637 that still hang in the space in which they were originally designed for. They are the dark portraits of members of the Spanish Geronomite order that are typical to Zurbarán's mysterious and haunting style.

Francisco de Zurbarán
St. Francis
oil on canvas
65 x 53 cm.
c. 1660

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Infanta Margarita

This is a painting I have been wanting to pursue for a long time... a copy of the Infanta Margarita portrait from Velázquez's Las Meninas.  I have been intrigued by this portrait for quite some time, not only for the portrait itself, but for the extraordinary way that Velázquez handled the paint.  I can really look at his paintings for hours at a time and imagine in my mind the swift moves of his brush across the canvas.  They are so effortless, and almost appear to be a chaotic mess when you look at them up close.  And yet, though they may be spontaneous, each dab of paint is intentional.  This is what made this copy so challenging.  I tried as much as I could to imitate each scumbled brush stroke, but also at the same time to be as spontaneous as he was.  I can only hope I created a positive note on this master's legacy.

Infanta Margarita
Master copy after Velázquez
oil on canvas
20x16 inches
2011

Detail of Infanta Margarita
Detail of Infanta Margarita

40 Days of Artists: Murillo

If you have ever seen a painting of the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, where she is draped in blue, standing on a cloud with several putti flying around her, then chances are it was painted by or inspired by Esteban Bartolomé Murillo. 
The Immaculate Conception was without question Murillo's favorite theme, as he did countless paintings of it, and many of them look very similar to the others.  They are pretty much as described above.  She is a shy, humble young girl dressed in white and draped with a blue cloth with little putti (or Charmin babies, as one of my college art professors called them) fluttering around and fading into the background.  Murillo painted over thirty versions of the Immaculate Conception, each one similar but with subtle differences every time. 
Most of Murillo's work was religious in theme, and quite often featured details specific to the Catholic tradition such as the Virgin Mary.  One of Murillo's influences for his early paintings was Zurburán (tomorrow's featured artist).  This can be seen as Murillo painted a series of tenebrist portraits of the Franciscan saints, particularly that of St. Francis of Assisi being his best known.  Other themes that Murillo was well known for included a series of beggar children.  These were portraits of young children portrayed with a certain innocence and charm.  Murillo was perhaps the only Baroque painter to portray poverty with this kind of care and empathy, and at times a light-hearted humor as seen in his paintings Boys Eating Grapes and Melon and The Toilette. 
Murillo worked mainly in Seville throughout his life, and co-founded an academy of painting in the city with two other artists, and served as the academy's first president.  He died in 1682, but his influence and style were carried on by his students and assistants, and for future generations in Seville all the way into the 19th century.

Esteban Bartolomé Murillo
Immaculate Conception
oil on canvas
206 x 144 cm.
1665-70

Friday, April 8, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Ribera

For the past few days, we've looked at some of the great masters of the northern, Flemish Baroque.  For the next three artists, we will go to perhaps my favorite area and period - the Spanish Baroque.  And one great example to start off with is Jusepe de Ribera.
Much of the art of Spain can be summed up with two words:  Catholicism and death.  Though to be fair, there is certainly much more to it than that.  Jusepe de Ribera brought both of these aspects into his work, but he managed to do so with such raw emotion.  We've seen before artists from Giotto to Frans Hals who had a knack for painting emotion and expression into their works.  Ribera did so in such a way that the pain of his subjects actually grips the viewer, and brings the viewer into their suffering.
Ribera's focus for many of his paintings was the martyrdom of saints.  But these weren't featureless portraits of martyrs going to their own death willingly.  Ribera painted the pain in their faces as they suffered horrendous tortures.  One of Ribera's most famous martyrdom scenes is the Martyrdom of St. Philip.  Here we see the Saint during the moment of his crucifixion.  But the scene is not of him hanging on the cross or being tied down to it.  Rather it shows him as he is being pulled up by the cross beam, with the expression of agony and fear on his face. 
Ribera was practically obsessed with the theme of martyrdoms, and each one that he painted depicted the horror and the darkness, and the brutally honest pain of the deaths that they are sometimes difficult to look at.  Ribera painted a couple of versions of the Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, who was executed by being skinned alive.  Ribera's graphic detail of Bartholomew's skin being ripped from his body, and exposing the muscle underneath while Bartholomew watches in agony is perhaps the most disturbing depiction of the saint.
Ribera also managed to deviate from the traditional Spanish paintings of fervent Catholocism and paint a few mythological subjects.  Much of Ribera's work was done in Naples, and he was known there as "Lo Spagnoletto," or the little Spaniard.  His later work seemed to have a bit of influence from the Venetian school as seen in artists such as Titian, as they were very rich in color and soft in modeling.  This can be seen in his paintings of the Holy Family, which were much more tender and light, in contrast to his dark, Caravaggesque scenes of martyrdom.  In any case, Ribera's work was a prime example of the powerful imagery and brilliant compositions that made the Spanish Baroque stand out from other movements in art history.

Jusepe de Ribera
The Martyrdom of St. Philip
oil on canvas
234 x 234 cm.
1639

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Latte Land Exhibition: May 13 - June 2, 2011

For those of you in the Kansas City area, I hope you will check out my exhibition taking place at Latte Land on Jefferson St. located on the Plaza, from May 13 - June 2.  I will be displaying paintings from my Holy Land series, including my recent award winner - Camel in Giza.  All of these paintings will be for sale, so I hope you will come by and check them out and consider a purchase.  If nothing else, just come by and see them while enjoying a nice cup o' joe!  Here are a few that you'll see:

Camel in Giza
oil on canvas
16x20 in.


The Bread Seller
oil on canvas
20x16 in.

Cafe in Taormina
oil on canvas
16x20 in.

View of Galilee
oil on canvas
16x20 in.

40 Days of Artists: Vermeer

Second to Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer is the most renown of northern masters in 17th century painting.  He was also one of the slowest paced painters to have ever lived.  Vermeer clearly had a lot of patience and methodical discipline when it came to painting.  Only about 40 paintings by Vermeer exist today. 
This is understandable, knowing how he worked.  Each painting would be worked up in layers that he would allow to dry before putting on the next layer.  The majority of the modeling for many of his portraits was likely done with a mannequin, since certainly no model would be able to pose in the time that it took Vermeer to complete a work.  Though his pace was slow, the results were some of the greatest pieces of Flemish Baroque painting. 
With only a brief visit to the Hague in the 1670s, Vermeer remained in his native Delft throughout his career.  The setting for many of his paintings was right in his studio, showing the famous natural light shining through the windows and the checkered floor pattern seen in a number of works.  Some of his greatest works that are featured in this room are The Milkmaid and Woman with a Water Jug.  But many consider his landscape View of Delft to be his masterpiece.  The majority of this painting consists of a cloudy sky with a hint of blue peeking through the clouds.  It presents a very idealized view of his hometown
But it really is Vermeer's portraits of typical, day-in-the-life scenes of his domestic servants that seem to be the most intriguing.  Perhaps one of Vermeer's most mysterious paintings is the portrait Girl with a Pearl Earring.  It is believed that there is a religious significance associated with the large pearl earring - that it represents the "oriental pearls of the gospel" according to Francis de Sales' Devout Life.  The pearls in this case being "chaste words."  The portrait is also thought to have probably been painted on the occasion of the sitter's marriage.
There are no known drawings from Vermeer, and it is pretty well certain he did not do any underdrawing for any of his paintings.  It is almost certain, however, that Vermeer used optics to capture the exquisite details of his paintings, specifically with use of a camera obscura.  This device was basically a projector in the 17th century that used natural light and a lens to project a full color image onto his canvas.  Many artists, even before Vermeer, are thought to have used optics similar to this to capture accuracy of detail - particularly the northern Renaissance master Jan Van Eyck.

Johannes Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring
oil on canvas
47 x 40 cm.
c. 1665


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden.  He joined the University of Leiden at the age of 14, but left the school to pursue studies in art.  It makes one wonder Rembrandt was studying before, and what he would have become had he not left to study art.  Thankfully, we will never know.
Rembrandt was studying under a couple of artists, and by the age of 22, he had mastered his craft and was already taking pupils of his own.  He moved to Amsterdam in 1631 and later married in 1634.  His wife was a lady named Saskia van Uylenburgh and was the cousin of a wealthy art dealer, so Rembrandt's career was set to take off on a successful path as well.  Through his connections with other wealthy individuals, he received a number of commissions for portraits.  He also received commissions for a number of mythological and religous scenes.  Long story short, the 1630s were very successful years for Rembrandt, as his work was in great demand by a number of wealthy patrons.
In addition to his success as an artist, Rembrandt also had great success as a teacher in this period.  His studio was filled to capacity with pupils wanting to learn from him, including artists who were already pretty well trained and established.  Rembrandt had so many students, that to this day identifying and attributing pieces by Rembrandt is its own academic discipline.  One particular self-portrait that had been attributed to Rembrandt has recently been discovered as a copy by one of his students.
While Rembrandt's career was successful and the envy of many other artists, his personal life was marked with great misfortune and tragedy.  His wife gave birth to four children, but only one survived.  Her own death came shortly after in 1642.  Rembrandt was shattered, and went into a period of self-destructive behavior.  Specifically, since all he had was money, he would do a lot of impulse buying of random objects that he suggested were props for still lifes and other paintings.  But it eventually became a case of hoarding, and by 1656 Rembrandt had declared bankruptcy.
In spite of his personal tragedy, Rembrandt's success as an artist managed to continue, though his financial problems also remained.  However, he executed some of his best pieces in his later years.  Each one, particularly his self portraits, indicated in its style and expression the hardships he was facing in his personal life.  The rugged brushwork of his self portraits described perfectly his level of sorrow and his aged appearance.  Each painting was a symbolic testimony to how Rembrandt felt about his life.  Rembrandt fell in love with his housekeeper Hendrickje Stoffels, and featured her in a few paintings as well.  But she also passed away in 1663, as did Rembrandt's only surviving son Titus in 1668 at the age of 27.  By this time, Rembrandt was crippled with deep sorrow, and less than a year after his son's death, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.
If anything, Rembrandt's work is a statement to his legacy - he was a survivor.  And to this day, his work not only survives, but is revered more than ever.

Rembrandt van Rijn
Self Portrait
oil on canvas
114 x 91 cm.
1661

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Copying a Master II - Infanta Margarita

This is my second attempt to copy a Velázquez.  This time I am attempting the Infanta Margarita portrait from his masterpiece Las Meninas.  I have found along the way that I have quite a few problems to solve, especially as I progress.  I honestly can't be sure how Velázquez went about painting this.  I can only guess that I'm handling it differently, and somewhat impatiently.  The difficult part about copying his style is that he was so quick and spontaneous with his brushwork, and when trying to mimic his technique, I can't help but try too hard.  So we shall see where this goes.  It is a total trial-and-error project.  But I get the feeling that Velázquez may have been somewhat of a trial-and-error painter himself.

Diego Velázquez
Detail of Las Meninas
oil on canvas
1656


40 Days of Artists: Frans Hals

They always say that artists are way ahead of their time.  Frans Hals is a perfect example of that, especially when it comes to his painting style.  The portraits he created are delights to look at because Hals gave true expression to the faces, and his paint handling was certainly ahead of its time - about 200 years ahead of its time.
Hals was a Dutch painter and spent most of his life in Haarlem.  Little is known about his early life and career, but the first indication of his artistic interest was in 1610 when he joined the Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem - a society dedicated to advancing artists.  Hals began his career with portraits, both individual and groups of local guilds and military.  Later on in the 1620s, Hals began painting different subjects for his portraits, which became the start of his well-known trademark of painting expression in a series of character portraits.
Frans Hals took portraiture to a new level.  These were not the stiff, rigid portraits of noble, royal, or religious figures.  They were portraits of common folk that Hals painted full of life and with every detail in tact - warts and all, so to speak.  They had big smiles, rosy cheeks, and ragged clothing.  The personality of the sitter shines through each painting, and much of how our perspective realizes these personalities is through the way in which Hals painted.  The academic way of painting would have been to plan out each portrait with preliminary drawings, and carefully paced layering of the paint and glazes.  On the contrary, Hals was quite spontaneous and loose with his painting.  Looking at many of his later portraits, if we didn't know any better, we would think it was a painting from 19th century impressionism.  The brush strokes are handled with what I would refer to as intentional randomness.  They are quick and spontaneous, but are somehow in the right place with just the right amount of color and pressure applied to the canvas.  Only one other artist in the 17th century painted with this beautiful spontaneity, and I would argue he also mastered it to perfection.  We'll get to that artist later on in our 40 days.  As for Frans Hals, there is no doubt that the Impressionists and Expressionists of the 19th century own him a debt of gratitude for introducing a style of painting that would develop into the most important art movement in the 19th century. 


Frans Hals
The Laughing Cavalier
oil on canvas
83 x 67 cm.
1624

Monday, April 4, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Artemisia

One of the great contemporaries of Caravaggio was Artemisia Gentileschi, whose paintings demonstrated some of the same skillful techniques used by Caravaggio, such as the intense tenebrism - the dramatic contrast of the light and shadow in the figures.  What set Artemisia apart from Caravaggio, and every other painter of the time for that matter, was that she was a woman.
Artemisia was born in 1593, and was the daughter of another respected painter, Orazio Gentileschi.  She was born in Rome and worked there and in Florence before she finally settled in Naples in the 1630s.  She was certainly a rare talent with a rare personality to match, as she lived a life of independence that was unthinkable for a woman in the 17th century. 
In 1610, around the age of 17, Artemisia completed one of her earliest signed works Susanna and the Elders, which was most likely a response to Rubens' painting of the same subject, which was painted a couple years before.  Later in 1612, Agostino Tassi, a teacher of Artemisia and collaborator with Orazio, was accused and tried for raping Artemisia.  Tassi was eventually convicted and imprisoned for the rape.  Later that year, Artemisia married and left Rome.
Around the age of 23 in 1616, Artemisia became the first woman to join the Accademia del Disegno.  Though described as a portraitist, few examples of her works survive from this period.  The dating of her paintings is very hazy and only a few of her earliest works have a clear date assigned to them.  From 1620 onward, there are only a few surviving paintings whose dates span over the years.  One of the earliest paintings from Naples that she signed and dated was The Annunciation.  Later on in the 1630s, she had started completing fewer works, and had traveled to England for a while to care for her elderly father until his death in 1639.  Artemisia lived out the rest of her life in Naples, and though we only have a few of her works in existence today, she certainly built up a strong reputation in Europe as one of the great masters of the Caravaggesque Baroque, and perhaps the greatest, if not the only female name in 17th century painting.

Artemisia Gentileschi
Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting
oil on canvas
97 x 74 cm
1630s


Sunday, April 3, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish master who combined the great painting traditions of Flemish realism with Italian Renaissance, and the result was nothing short of outstanding.  Rubens is renown for his painting of the human figure, particularly that of women.  He was known for choosing the most voluptuous and curvy-figured women for his models because they were the ideal figure in the Baroque period.  To this day, women with such figures are known as beautifully "Rubenesque."
He was known to be quite a methodical painter, and was fueled by learning from the great masters of and before his time.  Some of his influences were Raphael and Titian, as well as those contemporary to his time such as Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens.  In terms of Italian masters, he tended to focus his attention to the Roman and Venetian masters, but he still felt a strong influence of the classical method, and he is best remembered for his religious and mythological themes.
Rubens began his training in Antwerp at the age of 10.  He spent some years in Rome as well, learning and gaining influence from the works of Titian and Tintoretto, as well as the Carracci brothers.  After his period in Rome, he returned to Antwerp, where he created some of the greatest pieces of his career.  One in particular was an altarpiece for the cathedral of St. Walburga's called The Raising of the Cross.  Being as methodical as he was, Rubens was able to create many works in an efficient amount of time and probably had a very well organized studio and group of apprentices, so demand for his work was high.  He also collaborated with some of his contemporaries like Van Dyck.
Rubens certainly had one of the greatest reputations of any western master.  His influence spread throughout Europe beyond his humble beginning in Antwerp from Italy to Spain and France - probably because he received commissions from all of these places and from some of the highest sources, and his work continued to play a crucial role in the influence of contemporary to future masters in these areas.

Peter Paul Rubens
The Raising of the Cross
oil on panel
460 x 340 cm.
1610

Friday, April 1, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Poussin

Today we are taking a trip out of Italy and going to France, at least in terms of an artist's nationality. Nicolas Poussin was born in France, though he spent most of his painting career in Rome as one of the leading figures in classical Baroque painting.
Poussin was about 18 years old when he first began his interest in painting, and he had a very raw beginning in his career in France. He was not very experienced and did not know where or how to find a suitable master to study under, so he started out studying under several different painters. As it turns out, he was not very successful and had become ill, so he ended up returning home to recover. Later on, he would bounce back on his feet with a new plan.
The following year, Poussin returned to his studies, and had decided to pursue study in Rome, where he knew he would find adequate work as a painter. As it turns out, the court poet for Marie de Medicis, Giambattista Marino, discovered Poussin and commissioned him for a series of drawings. Poussin managed to have a commission from St. Peter's for an altarpiece, though it could not compete with the Italian masters of the day. Poussin's stay in Rome would influence him in themes of classical antiquity and mythology, and he would paint several mythological paintings under the influence of Titian, with a poetic Venetian feel to them in terms of color and painting handling.
By the 1630s, Poussin turned back to his classical influence from Raphael, and painted several religious scenes that he felt had deep moral significance. Several of which were Old Testament scenes, though he also painted traditional Catholic themes - particularly that of his Seven Sacraments series.
Poussin returned to Paris in 1640 reluctantly, as he was sought out by the court of Louis XIII for some commissions for the Louvre palace. The pieces he completed did not receive the greatest praise that Poussin had expected. This was either because they did not match the style that the court was expecting, or because Poussin just simply did not want to be there. Whatever the reason, Poussin returned to Rome in 1642 where he remained until his death in 1665. Though French in origin, Poussin was certainly destined to be a major figure in Italian classical Baroque. It was only later in the 17th century after his death that his style would be appreciated and glorified in his native land by the French Academy.


Nicolas Poussin
The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and John the Baptist
oil on canvas
172 x 134 cm.
c. 1655