Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Summer, Lake Ontario by Jasper Francis Cropsey 1857

Cropsey,_Jasper_Francis_-_Summer,_Lake_Ontario_-_Google_Art_ProjectTitle: Summer, Lake Ontario by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900)

Genre: landscape art

Date: 1857

Medium: oil on canvas

Collection: Indianapolis Museum of Art

What I love about this painting:

Cropsey paints a summer evening in New York State, along the shore of one of Lake Ontario’s bays. Near the bottom center, a pair of fishers are placed on the wooden bridge over a creek. This image has a fantasy quality, as if it depicts a dream or a fond memory.

Our point of view is from a hill, looking down to the creek, the bridge, and the bay shore, and then across low hills to the great lake beyond. Cropsey gives equal importance to the earth below and sky above.

Cropsey’s signature deep colors are featured in this panoramic view of a summer evening. Warm reds, browns, yellows, and dark greens are lightened by wispy mists rising in the early evening air, lit by the setting sun.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jasper Francis Cropsey (February 18, 1823 – June 22, 1900) was an important American landscape artist of the Hudson River School.

Cropsey was born on his father Jacob Rezeau Cropsey’s farm in Rossville on Staten Island, New York, the oldest of eight children. As a young boy, Cropsey had recurring periods of poor health. While absent from school, Cropsey taught himself to draw. His early drawings included architectural sketches and landscapes drawn on notepads and in the margins of his schoolbooks.

Trained as an architect, he set up his own office in 1843. Cropsey studied watercolor and life drawing at the National Academy of Design under the instruction of Edward Maury and first exhibited there in 1844. A year later he was elected an associate member and turned exclusively to landscape painting; shortly after he was featured in an exhibition entitled “Italian Compositions.”

Cropsey traveled in Europe from 1847–1849, visiting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. He was elected a full member of the Academy in 1851. Cropsey was a personal friend of Henry Tappan, the president of the University of Michigan from 1852 to 1863. At Tappan’s invitation, he traveled to Ann Arbor in 1855 and produced two paintings, one of the Detroit Observatory, and a landscape of the campus. He went abroad again in 1856, and resided seven years in London, sending his pictures to the Royal Academy and to the International exhibition of 1862.

Returning home, he opened a studio in New York and specialized in autumnal landscape paintings of the northeastern United States, often idealized and with vivid colors. Cropsey co-founded, with ten fellow artists, the American Society of Painters in Watercolors in 1866. He also made the architectural designs for the stations of the elevated railways in New York. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Image: Summer, Lake Ontario by Jasper Francis Cropsey 1857. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Cropsey, Jasper Francis – Summer, Lake Ontario – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Cropsey,_Jasper_Francis_-_Summer,_Lake_Ontario_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=618625179 (accessed June 30, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Jasper Francis Cropsey,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jasper_Francis_Cropsey&oldid=1093620569 (accessed June 30, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin, 1870 (revisited)

Barge Haulers on the Volga by Ilya Repin  (1844–1930)

  • Date: 1870
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 131.5 cm (51.7 ″); Width: 281 cm (110.6 ″)
  • Current location: Ж-4056 (Russian Museum)
  • Inscriptions: Signature and date: И. Репин / 1870-73

What I love about this painting:

A burlak was a person who hauled barges and other vessels upstream from the 17th to 20th centuries in the Russian Empire. Most burlaks were landless or poor peasants.

These men are shown working, painted with brutal truth. They are beyond exhausted. Their skin is darkened and weathered from years of work in the unremitting sun, except for the young man in the middle. One day he will be like the older men, hardened to the misery and enduring his lot in life.

Each face is filled with emotion, with a story of their own. Who knows what tragedies brought them to agree to this terrible existence, this seasonal slavery of physically towing boats upriver?

For the women and men who towed the barges, winter was even worse, because once the river froze over these burlaki were unemployed. Their life was a constant circle of starvation and hellish labor under the harshest conditions.

This post first appeared in November of 2019. Each time I view this painting, I am moved by the unwritten stories, the tragedies that led these people to the life of a burlak, and the hardship shown so clearly here.

About this Painting (via Wikipedia)

Barge Haulers on the Volga or Burlaki (Russian: Burlaki na Volge, Бурлаки на Волге) is an 1870–73 oil-on-canvas painting by artist Ilya Repin. It depicts 11 men physically dragging a barge on the banks of the Volga River. They are at the point of collapse from exhaustion, oppressed by heavy, hot weather.[1][2]

The work is a condemnation of profit from inhumane labor.[3] Although they are presented as stoical and accepting, the men are defeated; only one stands out: in the center of both the row and canvas, a brightly colored youth fights against his leather binds and takes on a heroic pose.

Repin conceived the painting during his travels through Russia as a young man and depicts actual characters he encountered. It drew international praise for its realistic portrayal of the hardships of working men, and launched his career.[4] Soon after its completion, the painting was purchased by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and exhibited widely throughout Europe as a landmark of Russian realist painting. Barge Haulers on the Volga has been described as “perhaps the most famous painting of the Peredvizhniki movement [for]….its unflinching portrayal of backbreaking labor”.[5]

The characters are based on actual people Repin came to know while preparing for the work. He had had difficulty finding subjects to pose for him, even for a fee, because of a folklorish belief that a subject’s soul would leave his possession once his image was put down on paper.[8] The subjects include a former soldier, a former priest, and a painter.[9] Although he depicted eleven men, women also performed the work and there were normally many more people in a barge-hauling gang; Repin selected these figures as representative of a broad swathe of the working classes of Russian society. That some had once held relatively high social positions dismayed the young artist, who had initially planned to produce a far more superficial work contrasting exuberant day-trippers (which he himself had been) with the careworn burlaks. Repin found a particular empathy with Kanin, the defrocked priest, who is portrayed as the lead hauler and looks outwards towards the viewer.[10] The artist wrote,

“There was something eastern about it, the face of a Scyth…and what eyes! What depth of vision!…And his brow, so large and wise…He seemed to me a colossal mystery, and for that reason I loved him. Kanin, with a rag around his head, his head in patches made by himself and then worn out, appeared none the less as a man of dignity; he was like a saint.”[11]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Barge Haulers on the Volga,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Barge_Haulers_on_the_Volga&oldid=918607811 (accessed November 1, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: River Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder 1614

A_Wooded_River_Landscape_with_a_Landing_Stage,_Boats…_by_Jan_Brueghel_the_ElderArtist: Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625)

Title: River Landscape (Wooded river landscape with a landing stage, boats, various figures and a village beyond).

Date: 1614

Medium: oil on copper

Dimensions: height: 25.9 cm (10.1 in); width: 37 cm (14.5 in)

What I love about this painting:

Men, women, and children fill the boats for a day on the river, dressed in colorful garb. Everyone is in good spirits, looking forward to a day of relaxing and perhaps a little fishing. Onshore, crews will fillet and smoke or salt whatever can’t be eaten right way. When weather is fine and the fish are plentiful, the party is on. Everyone will eat well for a few days.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel’s father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, is regarded as an important innovator of landscape art. By introducing greater naturalism in his Alpine mountain settings, his father had expanded on the world landscape tradition that had been founded mainly by Joachim Patinir. Some of Pieter the Elder’s works also foreshadowed the forest landscape that would start to dominate landscape painting around the turn of the 16th century. Pieter the Elder also developed the village and rural landscape, placing Flemish hamlets and farms in exotic prospects of mountains and river valleys.

Jan developed on the formula he learned from his father of arranging country figures traveling a road, which recedes into the distance. He emphasized the recession into space by carefully diminishing the scale of figures in the foreground, middle-ground, and far distance. To further the sense of atmospheric perspective, he used varying tones of brown, green, and blue progressively to characterize the recession of space. His landscapes with their vast depth are balanced through his attention to the peasant figures and their humble activities in the foreground.

Jan Brueghel’s landscape paintings with their strong narrative elements and attention to detail had a significant influence on Flemish and Dutch landscape artists in the second decade of the 17th century. His river views were certainly known to painters working in Haarlem, including Esaias van de Velde and Willem Buytewech, whom Brueghel may have met there when he accompanied Peter Paul Rubens on a diplomatic mission to the Dutch Republic in 1613. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel (also Bruegel or Breughelthe Elder 1568 – 13 January 1625) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. He was the son of the eminent Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. A close friend and frequent collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens, the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century.

Brueghel worked in many genres including history paintings, flower still lifes, allegorical and mythological scenes, landscapes and seascapes, hunting pieces, village scenes, battle scenes and scenes of hellfire and the underworld. He was an important innovator who invented new types of paintings such as flower garland paintings, paradise landscapes, and gallery paintings in the first quarter of the 17th century. He further created genre paintings that were imitations, pastiches and reworkings of his father’s works, in particular his father’s genre scenes and landscapes with peasants. Brueghel represented the type of the pictor doctus, the erudite painter whose works are informed by the religious motifs and aspirations of the Catholic Counter-Reformation as well as the scientific revolution with its interest in accurate description and classification. He was court painter of the Archduke and Duchess Albrecht and Isabella, the governors of the Habsburg Netherlands.

The artist was nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel, “Flower” Brueghel, and “Paradise” Brueghel. The first is believed to have been given him because of his mastery in the rendering of fabrics. The second nickname is a reference to his fame as a painter of (although not a specialist in) flower pieces and the last one to his invention of the genre of the paradise landscape. His brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger was traditionally nicknamed “de helse Brueghel” or “Hell Brueghel” because it was believed he was the author of a number of paintings with fantastic depictions of fire and grotesque imagery. These paintings have now been reattributed to Jan Brueghel the Elder. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Image:  River Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1614. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:A Wooded River Landscape with a Landing Stage, Boats… by Jan Brueghel the Elder.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:A_Wooded_River_Landscape_with_a_Landing_Stage,_Boats%E2%80%A6_by_Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder.jpg&oldid=358393285 (accessed June 17, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder&oldid=1082625249 (accessed June 17, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: The Bird Concert by Jan Brueghel the Younger ca. 1640 – 45

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Artist: Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678)

Title: the Bird Concert

Date: between circa 1640 and circa 1645

Medium: oil on copper

Dimensions: height: 13.2 cm (5.1 in); width: 17.9 cm (7 in)

Collection: Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum

What I love about this painting:

This is a joyous, surreal exploration of all the birds the artist had ever seen in his native Antwerp, and many rare birds that he could only imagine. Brueghel has gathered birds from all over the world into a mystical, fairytale glen, posing them around a songbook.

They are learning to sing a in a language they all can understand, a wonderful allegory of the aspirations of the artist for humanity in the turbulent times during which he lived.

This painting also celebrates the new discoveries made by European explorers, as Brueghel had only seen scientific drawings of many of these birds. Even though he hadn’t seen some of these birds personally, he paints them as if they are before him.

The amazing flock of birds gathered here gives us an insight into the mind and sense of humor of Jan Brueghel the Younger, a man not too different from us even though he lived over 300 years ago.

This composition must have been important to Brueghel and says something about him. He went to the expense of getting copper as the base upon which he painted this scene. He was comfortable but not rich, so that tells me he intended this painting to last, to be something he would be remembered for.

About the medium of Oil on Copper, via Wikipedia:

Oil on copper paintings were prevalent in the mid sixteenth century in Italy and Northern Europe. The use of copper as a substrate for an oil painting dates back to Medieval times. The Flemish masters and other artists including Jan Breughel the ElderClaudeEl GrecoGuido ReniGuercinoRembrandtCarlo SaraceniAmbrosius Bosschaert IICopley Fielding and Vernet painted on copper. They favored copper for its smooth surface which allowed fine detail, and its durability. Copper is more durable than canvas or wood panel as a support for oil painting, as it will not rot, mildew or be eaten by insects. Contemporary painters also use copper as a base for paintings, some of them allowing the metal or patina to show through.

The old masters prepared the copper for painting first by rubbing it with fine pumice abrasive. The copper surface was then treated with garlic juice which is believed to improve adhesion of the paint. Finally a white or grey ground layer of oil paint was applied as a primer. After drying the copper panel was ready for the artist to begin painting. Later artists used the patina process, in which the copper is oxidized with the use of various acidic solutions, as part of the art work itself. The resulting patina or verdigris includes darkening of the metal, green and blue tones, depending on the chemical solution used. Patina is characterized by beautiful, variated patterns and textures which occur on the metal’s surface. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel the Younger was born in Antwerp on 13 September 1601 as the son of Jan Brueghel the Elder and Isabella de Jode. His mother was the daughter of the cartographer, engraver and publisher Gerard de Jode. He trained and collaborated with his father in his workshop. His father was a friend and close collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens. Brueghel likely assisted with his father’s large-scale commissions.

On the wishes of his father he traveled around 1622 to Milan where he was welcomed by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. The cardinal was a patron and friend of his father who had met in Rome about 30 years earlier. In what was likely an act of rebellion against his father, he went to Genoa where he stayed with his cousins, the Antwerp painters and art dealers Lucas de Wael and Cornelis de Wael. Their mother was a sister of Brueghel’s mother. At the time his friend and fellow Antwerp artist Anthony van Dyck was also active in Genoa. He later worked in Valletta on Malta in 1623. From 1624 to 1625 he also resided in Palermo on Sicily at the time when van Dyck was also working there.

Brueghel learned that his father had died on 13 January 1625 from cholera only after his return to Northern Italy in Turin. Wanting to return to Antwerp immediately, he had to delay his departure for 16 days due to a severe fever. After recovering from his illness, he set off for his homeland by way of France. In Paris he met the Antwerp art dealer and painter Peter Goetkint the Younger, who was the son of Peter Goetkint the Elder, the master of Jan’s father. Goetkint was eager to return to Antwerp because his wife was expected to deliver a baby soon. The child was born on 25 August, the day on which Breughel arrived in Antwerp with his traveling companion who himself died a few days later.

Brueghel took over the management of his father’s workshop, sold the finished works of his father and finished some of his father’s unfinished paintings after completing them. In the Guild year 1624-1625, Brueghel became a master painter of the Guild of Saint Luke of Antwerp.

In 1626 he married Anna Maria Janssens, daughter of Abraham Janssens, a prominent history painter in Antwerp. He continued to operate the large workshop of his father. He became dean of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1630. That same year he was commissioned by the French court to paint a series of paintings on the life of Adam. It seems that his studio declined after this period and that he started to paint smaller scale paintings which commanded lower prices than those produced earlier.

In later years, he worked independently in Paris in the 1650s and produced paintings for the Austrian court in 1651. He is recorded again in Antwerp in 1657 where he remained until his death. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Oil on copper,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oil_on_copper&oldid=1060711380 (accessed June 9, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Younger,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Younger&oldid=1086952033 (accessed June 9, 2022).

Image: The Bird Concert by Jan Brueghel the Younger ca. 1640 -1645, PD|100. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Bruegel Vogelkonzert@Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum (1).JPG,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media

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#FineArtFriday: Sheep Grazing in the Dunes on an Italian Coast by Edith Corbet

Edith_Corbet_Sheep_Grazing_in_the_Dunes,_on_an_Italian_CoastTitle: Sheep Grazing in the Dunes, on an Italian Coast

Artist: Edith Corbet (1846 – 1920),

Description: Landscape Art

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 83.5 x 203 cm. (33 x 80 in.)

What I love about this painting:

There is a softness to this image, and yet it feels as if we are there, viewing the beach and the sheep. We know it was painted in late spring, as the sheep have just been shorn, and a few lambs can be seen with their mothers. To the right of the scene, the sky has darkened, and a storm is moving in.

The beach grass, the color of the dunes, and the shades of the water reflecting the ever-changing colors of the sky feel real, perfectly recreated for us by the artist’s hands. She gives us a peaceful serene moment, a chance to just breathe deeply and let go of the stress of our modern lives.

This kind of day is familiar to me, a scene that could be found on many beaches here in my Northwestern part of the world. I love it when a brief storm moves in over the dunes, stirring the waters, and showing how the sky is the most important part of the scene. It’s as if the sky says to the sea, “You may be big and important, but I am larger and more powerful.”

Little is known about Edith’s life. She travelled a great deal and loved Italy. I suspect her first marriage, to illustrator Arthur Murch, was difficult, as he was in poor health much of the time. It has been said that while he was talented, he rarely finished a project. His reputation was based on the two illustrations he produced for Dalziels’ Bible Gallery, while Edith’s landscapes had begun to bring her some fame. Murch died in Germany, and most of Edith’s life at that time was in Italy.

By the time she painted this scene, in 1897, Edith and her second husband, Matthew Ridley Corbet, may have been living in England for at least part of the year.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Edith Corbet née Edenborough (28 December 1846 – 1920) was a Victorian landscape painter, having close associations with the Macchiaioli group (also known as the Tuscans or Etruscans), who, in a break with tradition, painted outdoors in order to capture natural light effects and favoured a panoramic format for their paintings.

She married the Victorian painter and illustrator Arthur Murch and moved to Rome, where she painted with Giovanni Costa, leader of the Macchiaioli group. In 1876 they both stayed in Venice. Olivia Rossetti Agresti wrote: Costa had a very high opinion of this artist’s gifts and used to remember with pleasure how on that occasion they used to go out together to paint from nature at Fusino (Agresti, 1904).

She frequently exhibited from 1880 to 1890 at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery. In 1891, after the death of her first husband, she married Matthew Ridley Corbet, one of the Macchiaioli group’s leading members, after which she exhibited mainly at the Royal Academy, visiting Italy and living in London for the remainder of her life. Corbet exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. She died in Hampstead, north London, in 1920. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Image: Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Edith Corbet Sheep Grazing in the Dunes, on an Italian Coast.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Edith_Corbet_Sheep_Grazing_in_the_Dunes,_on_an_Italian_Coast.jpg&oldid=617254333 (accessed June 2, 2022).

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In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae #MemorialDay

Here in the US, we are celebrating Memorial Day. Originally known as Decoration Day, it’s a federal holiday dedicated to honoring those who died while serving in the US military. It used to be observed on May 30 regardless of the day of the week but in 1970 it was moved to the last Monday in May.

The beautiful image of poppies that graces this post is by Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders and was found on Wikimedia commons. The beauty and serenity of the poppies, rising from the fields where such terrible conflict once happened, is a fitting accompaniment for the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, the text of which follows the picture.

From Wikipedia:  “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with “grow” instead of “blow.” (…)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

While bed-ridden and recovering in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, after World War II, my father had little to do but read or crochet. To keep busy, he and the other recovering soldiers in his ward made endless numbers of Remembrance Poppies to commemorate fallen American soldiers. Dad always wore his poppy on his left lapel, as it was close to his heart.

Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here in the US, more than just an Indy car race. Families have always cared for their family graves, but it became a designated day after the American Civil War in 1868, established  as “Decoration Day.” It was a specific time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Every family had soldiers who served and gave their lives in the never-ending wars, as we do today.

Officially, Memorial Day is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.

My paternal grandmother never failed to keep our family’s graves neat and tidy, bringing flowers every week for my uncle, who had died while serving in the Korean War. As she got older, this tradition aggravated my father, who just wanted to listen to the Indianapolis 500 car race on the radio. He couldn’t bear dwelling on the loss of his brother, or the friends he had lost in France in WWII.

But he took her to the cemetery, anyway.

After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.

With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it, today less than ever.


Sources and Attributions

In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years

John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.

Wikipedia contributors. “In Flanders Fields.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 May. 2018. Web. 24 May. 2018

Poppies Field in Flanders, image By Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium. File:Poppies Field in Flanders.jpg. (2018, January 13). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 15:55, May 24, 2018.

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#FineArtFriday: Boston Common at Twilight by Childe Hassam ca. 1885

Childe_Hassam,_'Boston_Common_at_Twilight',_1885–86

Title: At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight) by Childe Hassam

Date: between 1885 and 1886

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 42 in (106.6 cm); width: 60 in (152.4 cm)

Collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Massachusetts

What I love about this painting:

Childe Hassam was known for his bold landscapes but by the mid-1880s, Hassam began painting cityscapes. This painting, Boston Common at Twilight was of his first cityscapes.

I particularly like the way he used a dark palette of blacks and browns, colors rarely used with such abandon by strict Impressionists (such as his contemporary, Claude Monet). The dark of the buildings and the clothes of the people are contrasted with many shades of white. The dirty snow trodden on the sidewalk shows us the truth of winter in an urban setting.

The contrasting of darkness against lightness on the land below forces the viewer’s eye upward to the dusky-blue sky and the rosy glow of sunset peeking from behind the trees, to the twilight mist forming in the chill evening air.

Two small girls use these last moments of light to play, perhaps to make snowballs under the eye of their mother or governess.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Frederick Childe Hassam was known to all as “Childe” (pronounced like child), a name taken from an uncle. Hassam was born in the family home on Olney Street on Meeting House Hill in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, on October 17, 1859. His father, Frederick Fitch Hassam (1825–1880), was a moderately successful cutlery businessman with a large collection of art and antiques. He descended from a long line of New Englanders. His mother, Rosa Delia Hawthorne (1832–1880), a native of Maine, shared an ancestor with American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.

His father claimed descent from a seventeenth-century English immigrant whose name, Horsham, had been corrupted over time to Hassam. With his dark complexion and heavily lidded eyes, many took Childe Hassam to be of Middle Eastern descent—speculation which he enjoyed stoking. In the mid-1880s, he took to painting an Islamic-appearing crescent moon (which eventually degenerated into only a slash) next to his signature, and he adopted the nickname “Muley” (from the Arabic “Mawla”, Lord or Master), invoking Muley Abul Hassan, a fifteenth-century ruler of Granada whose life was fictionalized in Washington Irving‘s novel Tales of the Alhambra.

In 1882, Hassam became a free-lance illustrator (known as a “black-and-white man” in the trade) and established his first studio. He specialized in illustrating children’s stories for magazines such as Harper’s WeeklyScribner’s Monthly, and The Century. He continued to develop his technique while attending drawing classes at the Lowell Institute and at the Boston Art Club, where he took life painting classes.

Having had relatively little formal art training, Hassam was advised by his friend and fellow Boston Art Club member Edmund H. Garrett to join him on a two-month “study trip” to Europe during the summer of 1883. They traveled throughout the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain, studying the Old Masters together and creating watercolors of the European countryside. Hassam was particularly impressed with the watercolors of J. M. W. Turner. Sixty-seven of the watercolors that Hassam painted on this trip formed the basis of his second exhibition in 1884. During this period, Hassam taught at the Cowles Art School. He also joined the “Paint and Clay Club”, expanding his contacts in the art community, which included prominent critics and “the readiest and smartest of our younger generation of artists, illustrators, sculptors, and decorators—the nearest thing to Bohemia that Boston can boast.” Friends found him to be energetic, robust, outgoing, and unassuming, capable of self-mockery and considerate acts, but he could be argumentative and wickedly witty against those in the art community who opposed him. Hassam was particularly influenced by the circle of William Morris Hunt, who like the great French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, emphasized the Barbizon tradition of working directly from nature. He absorbed their credo that “atmosphere and light are the great things to work for in landscape painting.” [1]


Credits and Attributions:

[Image] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Childe Hassam, ‘Boston Common at Twilight’, 1885–86.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Childe_Hassam,_%27Boston_Common_at_Twilight%27,_1885%E2%80%9386.jpg&oldid=618750219 (accessed May 26, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Childe Hassam,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Childe_Hassam&oldid=1087821182 (accessed May 26, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Street Scene in Montmartre Vincent van Gogh 1887

Scène_de_Rue_à_MontmartreArtist: Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Title: Street Scene in Montmartre

Genre: landscape art

Date: 1887

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 46.1 cm (18.1 in); width: 61.3 cm (24.1 in)

Collection: Private collection

What I love about this painting:

Street Scene in Montmartre is a relatively unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh, unknown because it has been held in private collections and not exhibited to the public. It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2021, and the image was posted to Wikimedia Commons courtesy of that auction.

The scene feels like an afternoon scene in winter, with a man and woman walking, and two children playing.

Vincent paid particular attention to the visual construction and texture of the fence, and also to the tangle of garden behind. This is the smaller of two windmills featured in several more well-known paintings in the subset of paintings from Van Gogh’s Montmartre series.

While there are people walking down the dirt lane in this scene, they aren’t the focus. Instead, our eye is directed to the way the windmill rises over the ramshackle fence, neglected garden, and above it all, the flag bravely flying.

The dirt lane, the fence, the winter-barren garden, and the windmill falling to ruin beneath the cold sky offer us a glimpse into Vincent’s mood. He finds beauty in the textures of life, both visual and metaphysical – in the cycle of growth aging to ruin. The flag flying in the breeze and the children playing offer us the hope of brighter days and new possibilities.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

The Montmartre paintings are a group of works that Vincent van Gogh created in 1886 and 1887 of the Paris district of Montmartre while living there, at 54 Rue Lepic, with his brother Theo. Rather than capture urban settings in Paris, van Gogh preferred pastoral scenes, such as Montmartre and Asnières in the northwest suburbs. Of the two years in Paris, the work from 1886 often has the dark, somber tones of his early works from the Netherlands and Brussels. By the spring of 1887, van Gogh embraced use of color and light and created his own brushstroke techniques based upon Impressionism and Pointillism. The works in the series provide examples of his work during that period of time and the progression he made as an artist.

In van Gogh’s first year in Paris he painted rural areas around Montmartre, such as the butte and its windmills. The colors are somber and evoke a sense of his anxiety and loneliness.

The landscape and windmills around Montmartre were the source of inspiration for a number of van Gogh’s paintings. The Moulin de la Galette, still standing, is located near the apartment he shared with his brother. Built in 1622, it was originally called Blute-Fin and belonged to the Debray family in the 19th century. Van Gogh met artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Signac and Paul Gauguin who inspired him to incorporate Impressionism into his artwork resulting in lighter, more colorful paintings.

Windmills also featured in some of van Gogh’s landscape paintings of Montmartre.

Montmartre, sitting on a butte overlooking Paris, was known for its bars, cafes, and dance-hall. It was also located on the edge of countryside that afforded Van Gogh the opportunity to work on paintings of rural settings while living in Paris.

When Van Gogh painted he intended not just to capture the subject, but to express a message or meaning. It was through his paintings of nature that he was most successful at accomplishing his goal. It also created a great challenge: how to portray the subject and create a work that would resonate with the audience. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Vincent Willem van Gogh, 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He was not commercially successful, struggled with severe depression and poverty, and committed suicide at the age of 37.

Van Gogh was born into an upper-middle-class family, While a child he drew and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often traveling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially; the two kept a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the South of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series of olive trees, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions, and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation between the two when, in a rage, Van Gogh severed a part of his own left ear with a razor. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression persisted, and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver, dying from his injuries two days later. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

Image: Scène de Rue à Montmartre, Vincent van Gogh PD|100, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Scène de Rue à Montmartre.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Sc%C3%A8ne_de_Rue_%C3%A0_Montmartre.jpg&oldid=617922499 (accessed May 19, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Montmartre (Van Gogh series),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Montmartre_(Van_Gogh_series)&oldid=1086671125 (accessed May 19, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Vincent van Gogh,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vincent_van_Gogh&oldid=1087073450 (accessed May 19, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Twilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux 1888 (revisited)

Twilight_Confidences_by_Cecilia_BeauxTwilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux  (1855–1942)

Date: 1888

Medium:  oil on canvas

Dimensions: 23 1/2 x 28 inches, 59.7 x 71.1 cm

Inscriptions: Signed and dated: Cecilia Beaux

What I love about this painting:

There is an honesty, a real sense of intimacy depicted here. The feeling of sisterhood between the two women is conveyed across the years. One holds an object with a personal meaning. She tells the other something about that object, something she feels she may be judged for. The other takes in what she has been told and accepts it for what it is.

About this painting via Wikimedia Commons:  

Cecilia Beaux was a leading figure and portrait painter and one of the few distinguished and highly recognized women artists of her time in America. Her figures are frequently compared to Sargent’s, but her style relates also to other international leaders of late-19th Century portraiture, including Anders Zorn, Giuseppe Boldini, Carolus-Duran and William Merritt Chase. She was born and lived mostly in Philadelphia, traveling frequently to Europe, especially France from a young age, and exhibited widely in Paris, Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere. Her first acclaimed work, Les Derniers jours d’enfance, a mother and child composition, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1887, and Beaux followed it there the next year, spending the summer of 1888 at the art colony at Concarneau in Brittany. Here she painted her remarkable Twilight Confidences of 1888, preceded by numerous studies, which are in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Lost for many years, this much admired canvas is Beaux’s first major exercise in plein-air painting, in which the figures and the seascape are artfully and exquisitely juxtaposed, and sunlight permeates the whole composition.


Credits and Attributions:

Twilight Confidences, Cecilia Beaux, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Twilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Twilight_Confidences_by_Cecilia_Beaux.jpg&oldid=355146645 (accessed April 16, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: The Gondoliers’ Siesta, John Singer Sargent 1904 (revisited)

The Gondoliers’ Siesta, John Singer Sargent 1904  

Artist: John Singer Sargent  (1856–1925)

Title: English: Gondoliers’ Siesta

Date: circa 1904

Medium: watercolor

Dimensions: 35.6 x 50.8 cm

Collection: Private collection, courtesy of Adelson Galleries

Current location: New York

Source/Photographer   Beyeler Foundation

What I Love About this Painting:

John Singer Sargent shows us a moment in time, set in Venice of 1904. It is an image capturing the heat of midday and the well-deserved rest of two men whose lives are spent on the water. They are well-employed, earning a good living by ferrying passengers from one end of town to another. During their heyday as a means of public transports, teams of four men would share ownership of a gondola — three oarsmen (gondoliers) and a fourth person, primarily shore based and responsible for the booking and administration of the gondola (Il Rosso Riserva).

About Singer’s Watercolors, via Wikipedia:

During Sargent’s long career, he painted more than 2,000 watercolors, roving from the English countryside to Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida. Each destination offered pictorial stimulation and treasure. Even at his leisure, in escaping the pressures of the portrait studio, he painted with restless intensity, often painting from morning until night.

His hundreds of watercolors of Venice are especially notable, many done from the perspective of a gondola. His colors were sometimes extremely vivid and as one reviewer noted, “Everything is given with the intensity of a dream.” In the Middle East and North Africa Sargent painted Bedouins, goatherds, and fisherman. In the last decade of his life, he produced many watercolors in Maine, Florida, and in the American West, of fauna, flora, and native peoples.

With his watercolors, Sargent was able to indulge his earliest artistic inclinations for nature, architecture, exotic peoples, and noble mountain landscapes. And it is in some of his late works where one senses Sargent painting most purely for himself. His watercolors were executed with a joyful fluidness. He also painted extensively family, friends, gardens, and fountains. In watercolors, he playfully portrayed his friends and family dressed in Orientalist costume, relaxing in brightly lit landscapes that allowed for a more vivid palette and experimental handling than did his commissions (The Chess Game, 1906). His first major solo exhibit of watercolor works was at the Carfax Gallery in London in 1905. In 1909, he exhibited eighty-six watercolors in New York City, eighty-three of which were bought by the Brooklyn Museum. Evan Charteris wrote in 1927:

To live with Sargent’s water-colours is to live with sunshine captured and held, with the luster of a bright and legible world, ‘the refluent shade’ and ‘the Ambient ardours of the noon.’

Although not generally accorded the critical respect given Winslow Homer, perhaps America’s greatest watercolorist, scholarship has revealed that Sargent was fluent in the entire range of opaque and transparent watercolor technique, including the methods used by Homer.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

John Singer Sargent born January 12, 1856 – died April 14, 1925, was an American expatriate artist, considered the “leading portrait painter of his generation” for his evocations of Edwardian-era luxury. He created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings. His oeuvre documents worldwide travel, from Venice to the Tyrol, Corfu, the Middle East, Montana, Maine, and Florida.

He was born in Florence to American parents, and trained in Paris before moving to London, living most of his life in Europe. He enjoyed international acclaim as a portrait painter. An early submission to the Paris Salon in the 1880s, his Portrait of Madame X, was intended to consolidate his position as a society painter in Paris, but instead resulted in scandal. During the next year following the scandal, Sargent departed for England where he continued a successful career as a portrait artist.

From the beginning, Sargent’s work is characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush, which in later years inspired admiration as well as criticism for a supposed superficiality. His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism. In later life Sargent expressed ambivalence about the restrictions of formal portrait work, and devoted much of his energy to mural painting and working en plein air. Art historians generally ignored “society” artists such as Sargent until the late 20th century.

Sargent’s early enthusiasm was for landscapes, not portraiture, as evidenced by his voluminous sketches full of mountains, seascapes, and buildings. Carolus-Duran’s expertise in portraiture finally influenced Sargent in that direction. Commissions for history paintings were still considered more prestigious, but were much harder to get. Portrait painting, on the other hand, was the best way of promoting an art career, getting exhibited in the Salon, and gaining commissions to earn a livelihood.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:John Singer Sargent, Gondoliers’ Siesta.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:John_Singer_Sargent,_Gondoliers%E2%80%99_Siesta.jpg&oldid=149791025 (accessed May 22, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “John Singer Sargent,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Singer_Sargent&oldid=956888160 (accessed May 22, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gondola,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gondola&oldid=950230627 (accessed May 22, 2020).

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