Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: A Back Road, by Childe Hassam 1884 (reprise)

We have been talking about world-building all this week. World-building can be a challenge at times. Some days, we need a visual boost to get our minds working. Historical fiction and fantasy authors have a marvelous resource in the images of great art that has been compiled and is available for viewing on Wikimedia Commons.

For instance, if you want to know what a road looked like to travelers before the advent of blacktop and concrete made the modern freeways and highways possible, turn to art.

The above painting by Frederick Childe Hassam, shows what a good road looked like.  It goes across the land, cut into the earth by the travelers who use it. Along the better roads, such as this one, ditches were dug to enable drainage.

No bridge crosses the small creek–travelers must cross the water on foot or in the wagon. In winter it becomes a mushy, muddy track, and in summer it’s sun baked and hard. In spring, the grass grows green, making it a pleasant place.

A Back Road (1884) was painted in his early years, while Hassam was still influenced by the works of William Morris Hunt, who like the great French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, emphasized the Barbizon tradition of working directly from nature.

From Wikipedia: In 1885, a noted critic, in part responding to Hassam’s early oil painting A Back Road (1884), stated that “the Boston taste for landscape painting, founded on this sound French school, is the one vital, positive, productive, and distinctive tendency among our artists today…the truth is poetry enough for these radicals of the new school. It is a healthy, manly muscular kind of art.”

I like the composition of this piece, the way the land is larger than the sky. The grass feels damp and the clouds herald more spring rain–this painting has life.

In his later years, Hassam moved away from realism and became known as one of the best of the American impressionists.


Credits and Attributions:

A Back Road, Childe Hassam 1884 [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Childe Hassam,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Childe_Hassam&oldid=831999910 (accessed April 6, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet 1857

Title: The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet  (1814–1875)

Genre: genre art

Date: 1857

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 83.5 cm (32.8 in); Width: 110 cm (43.3 in)

***

Wikipedia says: Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.

In nearly all paintings showing this labor, artists painted poor women doing the work of gleaning. Historically, the majority of impoverished families were headed by single, usually widowed, working women, who had few opportunities for employment and were paid less for their labor than men. This trend of lower pay for women overall continues, with the US Census reporting on Sep 10, 2019 that the median income for households maintained by single women  was $45,128,  as compared to households maintained by single men, who had a median income of $61,518 in 2018.

***

About the Artist: 

Jean-François Millet (October 4, 1814 – January 20, 1875) was a French artist and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. Millet is noted for his paintings of peasant farmers and can be categorized as part of the Realism art movement. Toward the end of his career he became increasingly interested in painting pure landscapes. He is known best for his oil paintings but is also noted for his pastels, conte crayon drawings, and etchings.

About The Gleaners (1857) via Wikipedia:

This is one of the most well known of Millet’s paintings. While Millet was walking the fields around Barbizon, one theme returned to his pencil and brush for seven years—gleaning—the centuries-old right of poor women and children to remove the bits of grain left in the fields following the harvest. He found the theme an eternal one, linked to stories from the Old Testament. In 1857, he submitted the painting The Gleaners to the Salon to an unenthusiastic, even hostile, public.

(Earlier versions include a vertical composition painted in 1854, an etching of 1855–56 which directly presaged the horizontal format of the painting now in the Musée d’Orsay.)

A warm golden light suggests something sacred and eternal in this daily scene where the struggle to survive takes place. During his years of preparatory studies, Millet contemplated how best to convey the sense of repetition and fatigue in the peasants’ daily lives. Lines traced over each woman’s back lead to the ground and then back up in a repetitive motion identical to their unending, backbreaking labor. Along the horizon, the setting sun silhouettes the farm with its abundant stacks of grain, in contrast to the large shadowy figures in the foreground. The dark homespun dresses of the gleaners cut robust forms against the golden field, giving each woman a noble, monumental strength.


Credits and Attributions:

The Gleaners, by Jean-François Millet / Public domain. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jean-François Millet – Gleaners – Google Art Project 2.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Millet_-_Gleaners_-_Google_Art_Project_2.jpg&oldid=371550893 (accessed July 31, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gleaning,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gleaning&oldid=952834082 (accessed July 31, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Jean-François Millet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,  https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Millet&oldid=956877005 (accessed July 31, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Kidd’s Omnibus outside the Angel Inn, Brentford, c. 1840, by James Pollard

Title: Kidd’s Omnibus Outside the Angel Inn, Brentford

Artist: James Pollard

Genre: Genre Calendar Illustrations

Medium: Aquatint

Date: circa 1840 [1]

Today’s Fine Art Friday offering is Genre Art, a scene originally published in a calendar. In most working class homes, the only secular art that was hung on the walls were prints, many of which originated in calendars, as most people couldn’t afford to buy original art.

Since the mid-1700s, printed wall calendars have historically been a good source of advertising for small to large businesses. To this day, many supermarkets and hardware companies give illustrated wall calendars away for free to customers as promotional merchandise.

About the Artist, via artnet and Wikipedia:

James Pollard was a British painter best known for his depictions of horse-drawn carriages, fox hunting, and other equestrian scenes. Born in 1792 in Islington, United Kingdom to the painter and publisher Robert Pollard the Elder, he went on to work for his father’s firm as a draftsman and engraver. While working for his father, he was commissioned by a print seller named Edward Orme to paint an inn’s signboard, which would depict a mail-coach with horses and passengers. This commission launched the artist’s career, for the signpost was seen by many prospective patrons. Pollard went on to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy and the British Institution in London. Today, his works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Denver Art Museum, among others. Pollard died in 1867 in London, United Kingdom. [2]

Between 1821 and 1839, James Pollard exhibited at the Royal Academy. He exhibited at the British Institution in 1824 and 1844. During his career, he also worked with John Frederick Herring, Sr. on several horse racing paintings in which he painted the backgrounds and spectators while Herring painted the horses. [3]

What I like about this image:

This painting of Kidd’s Omnibus was created for a circa 1840 calendar by James Pollard, who was considered an adequate draftsman and illustrator in his day. It was most likely printed in his father, painter and publisher, Robert Pollard’s, printshop, as he was his father’s primary illustrator. [4]

In this illustration, we see the historical origination of urban public transportation – the Horsebus, or Omnibus. We have shortened the term to just ‘bus’ in the context of public transportation. Most  omnibuses were like cabs, in that they were owned by the drivers. However, since the drivers plied their trade on a regular route, they could carry more people. They could charge a lesser fare that the working class could afford, and still make a living.

According to Wikipedia:

horse-bus or horse-drawn omnibus was a large, enclosed and sprung horse-drawn vehicle used for passenger transport before the introduction of motor vehicles. It was mainly used in the late 19th century in both the United States and Europe and was one of the most common means of transportation in cities. In a typical arrangement, two wooden benches along the sides of the passenger cabin held several sitting passengers facing each other. The driver sat on a separate, front-facing bench, typically in an elevated position outside the passengers’ enclosed cabin. In the main age of horse buses, many of them were double-decker buses. On the upper deck, which was uncovered, the longitudinal benches were arranged back to back. [5]


Credits and Attributions

[1] Kidd’s Omnibus outside the Angel Inn, Brentford, c. 1840, by James Pollard, via Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Kidd’s Omnibus outside the Angel Inn, Brentford, c. 1840, by James Pollard.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Kidd%27s_Omnibus_outside_the_Angel_Inn,_Brentford,_c._1840,_by_James_Pollard.jpg&oldid=195379488 (accessed July 23, 2020).

James Pollard (Life time: (1792–1867) – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. (Original text: Original publication: UK Immediate source: Sammlung Fane de Salis: ephemera, from an old calendar.) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.

[2] James Pollard, Biography, artnet contributor, via artnet: http://www.artnet.com/artists/james-pollard/ accessed 23 July 2020.

[3] James Pollard, Wikipedia contributors, “James Pollard,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_Pollard&oldid=838787787 (accessed July 23, 2020).

[4] Wikipedia contributors, “Robert Pollard (engraver),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Robert_Pollard_(engraver)&oldid=918903796 (accessed July 23, 2020).

[5] Wikipedia contributors, “Horsebus,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Horsebus&oldid=956355839 (accessed July 23, 2020).

 

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#FineArtFriday: Forest Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Title: Forest landscape

Artist: Jan Brueghel the Elder

Genre: landscape art

Date: between circa 1605 and circa 1610

Medium: oil on oak panel

Dimensions: 40 x 32 cm

What I love about this painting:

Today’s Fine Art Friday offering is a further exploration of the works of the Flemish artist, Jan Brueghel the Elder. I began this two part series last Friday with his painting, the Great Fish Market.

The level of detail down to the leaves and the bark on the trees is amazing, but the rich colors are what attracted me, drawing me in. The heron on the rock seems poised to take flight.  Beyond the heron, on the other side of the creek, a path leads deeper into the forest, calling to us to cross over and see where it leads. The scene is beautiful the way a fantasy is, likely because it is, in a way. Brueghel most probably painted it from sketches and memory.

I quoted this last week when discussing the Great Fish Market, but it bears repeating:

“In his forest landscapes Brueghel depicted heavily wooded glades in which he captured the verdant density, and even mystery, of the forest. Although on occasion inhabited by humans and animals, these forest scenes contain dark recesses, virtually no open sky and no outlet for the eye to penetrate beyond the thick trees.” via Wikipedia.

In many ways, Jan Brueghel’s paradise landscapes paved the way for the great plein air painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is most definitely a Mannerist landscape painting, as it is highly romanticized.

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 Brueghel 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 also 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 specialization in flower still lifes and the last one to his invention of the genre of the paradise landscape.


Credits and Attributions:

Forest Landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder / Public domain

Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder&oldid=963723468 (accessed July 17, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Brueghel (I) – Forest landscape.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Brueghel_(I)_-_Forest_landscape.jpg&oldid=354133728 (accessed July 17, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: The Great Fish Market by Jan Brueghel the Elder 1603

Title: Great Fish Market

Artist: Jan Brueghel the Elder  (1568–1625)

Date: 1603

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions:  Height: 59 cm (23.2 in); Width: 92 cm (36.2 in)

Collection: Alte Pinakothek  Current location: room 19

Inscriptions: Signature and date, bottom left: BRVEGHEL 1603

What I love about this painting:

Here we see a composite of all the places Jan Brueghel the Elder had visited. The scene is a fusion of his Flemish homeland and impressions of places he’d sketched on his travels.

In the middle of the picture is the Neapolitan Castel dell’ Ovo, on the right, in the distance, is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. We have a little of Italy thrown in with the Flemish, his effort to create the feeling of a busy, prosperous market. He shows his imaginary city from a high perspective, the god-like view.

In writing, this would be the omniscient point of view.

The elements presented in this painting, the harborscape, the ruins, and even the sections that are simply landscapes are all features that later became genres in their own right.

The scene contains many elements of Mannerist landscape painting. According to the Tate website, mannerist is a sixteenth-century style of art and design characterized by artificiality, elegance, and an aesthetic portrayal of the human figure.

In other words, they painted fantasy. And why not?

Flemish genre painting is strongly tied to the traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It was a style that continued directly into the 17th century through copies and new compositions made by his sons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

In this painting, the story opens with a view across a downward-sloping foreground. It teems with life, hundreds of figures of many races, grouped around the stalls and booths of a fish market. The group at the center of the foreground is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist and his family. It was common for artists to insert self-portraits in their works, and Jan often included his family.

One of Jan Brueghel’s most significant contributions to the craft of painting landscapes was how he depicted perspective. The eye is drawn towards the harbor in the background. We look out across the bay, along the coastline, and see entire towns, with ruins, wharves, and castles. Beyond that, we see distant mountains, painted with a blue that merges with the blue of the sea.

This blending of shape and color into the distance is how a landscape appears in real life.

These painters, and the Brueghel family in particular, were the generation who paved the way for artists like Rembrandt. Their works were the foundation upon which the masterpieces of the middle-to-late 17th century were built.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jan Brueghel was the son of the eminent Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel 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.

He was born in Brussels as the son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Maria Coecke van Aelst. His mother was the daughter of the prominent Flemish Renaissance artists Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Mayken Verhulst. His father died about a year after Jan’s birth in 1569. It is believed that after the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, together with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie, went to live with their grandmother Mayken Verhulst, who was by then widowed. Mayken Verhulst was an artist in her own right. The early Flemish biographer Karel van Mander wrote in his Schilder-boeck published in 1604 that Mayken was the first art teacher of her two grandsons. She taught them drawing and watercolor painting of miniatures. Jan and his brother may also have trained with local artists in Brussels who were active as tapestry designers.

Jan Brueghel 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.

Like his father, Jan Brueghel also painted various village landscapes. He used the surrounding landscapes as the stage for the crowds of anecdotal, colorfully dressed peasants who engage in various activities in the market, the country roads and during the rowdy kermesses. 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.

Jan Brueghel was, along with artists such as Gillis van Coninxloo one of the prime developers of the dense forest landscape in the 17th century. Jan Breughel in fact experimented with such works before Coninxloo’s first dated wooded landscape of 1598. In his forest landscapes Brueghel depicted heavily wooded glades in which he captured the verdant density, and even mystery, of the forest. Although on occasion inhabited by humans and animals, these forest scenes contain dark recesses, virtually no open sky and no outlet for the eye to penetrate beyond the thick trees.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Brueghel the Elder-Great Fish market.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder-Great_Fish_market.jpg&oldid=406069557 (accessed July 9, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Brueghel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder&oldid=963723468 (accessed July 9, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Rembrandt as Shepherd with Staff and Flute, by Govert Flink 1636

About the artist: Born at Kleve, capital of the Duchy of Cleves, which was occupied at the time by the United Provinces, Govert Flinck was apprenticed by his father to a silk merchant, but in 1627 he was sent to Leeuwarden, where he boarded in the house of Lambert Jacobszoon. Jaobszoon was a Mennonite (one of the historic peace churches known for their commitment to pacifism). While Jacobszoon is better known as a preacher, he was a talented painter and an excellent teacher.

While studying there, Flinck met some of Jacobszoon’s neighbors, relatives of Saskia van Uylenburgh, who had married Rembrandt in 1634. That same year he began studying with Rembrandt.

Flinck is acknowledged as one of Rembrandt’s best pupils.

I really enjoy this romantic painting of Rembrandt dressed as a shepherd, holding a flute, and thinking about…what? Rembrandt’s contemplative expression seems peaceful.  The details are wonderful – from the finely worked trim on his garments down to the jewel dangling from his right ear, a gem that softly glows. The grains of the wood in both the flute and staff are subtle and real. The light falls perfectly – Flinck captured the personality of the master as a handsome young man during the happiest time of his life, and it seems as if Rembrandt himself enjoyed posing for it.

For more than a decade, Flinck’s work echoed that of Rembrandt, clearly influenced by the master’s style in the work which he executed between 1636 and 1648. As time passed, he began to desire to be a history painter, a genre in painting that  is defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style, and turned to the work of Peter Paul Rubens. In later years, Flinck had great commercial success, receiving many commissions for official and diplomatic paintings.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt als herder met staf en fluit Rijksmuseum SK-A-3451.jpeg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_als_herder_met_staf_en_fluit_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-3451.jpeg&oldid=225225289 (accessed August 16, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: The Money Changer and His Wife by Quentin Matsys, 1514

  • Artist: Quentin Matsys  (1456/1466–1530)
  • Title: The Moneylender and his Wife
  • Date: 1514
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • Dimensions: Height: 70.5 cm (27.7 in)
  • Current location: Louvre Museum
  • Inscriptions: Signature and date

The Money Changer and His Wife is a 1514 oil on panel painting by the Flemish renaissance artist Quentin Matsys.

What I love about this painting:

The colors are rich and vivid, and the lines sharp and clean. The artist included the smallest details in the prayer book, the pewter plate in the background, and the crystal jar by the man’s right hand, showing a prosperous, well-educated young couple. In some ways, Matsys’ style reminds me of the work of the lesser known Flemish painter, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, who was born long after Matsys’ death, but whose original works also leaned toward caricatures and grotesques.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

A man, who is weighing the jewels and pieces of gold on the table in front of him, sits next to his wife who is reading a book of devotion with an illustration of the Virgin and Child. The couple is not dressed as members of nobility, but rather as well-to-do burghers of Antwerp, where the painting was made. At the time, Antwerp had grown with the influx of many southern immigrants fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Among this international community there was a demand for money-changers and money-lenders, as international commerce was increasing in the port city.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Most early accounts of Matsys’ life are composed primarily of legend and very little contemporary accounts exist of the nature of his activities or character. According to J. Molanus’ Historiae Lovaniensium, Matsys is known to be a native of Leuven with humble beginnings as an ironsmith. One of four children, Matsys was born to Joost Matsys (d. 1483) and Catherine van Kincken sometime between 4 April and 10 September 1466. Legend states that Matsys abandoned his career as a blacksmith to woo his wife, who found painting to be a more romantic profession, though Karel van Mander claimed this to be false, and the real reason was a sickness during which he was too weak to work at the smithy and instead decorated prints for the carnival celebrations.

Matsys work is considered to contain strong religious feeling—characteristic of traditional Flemish works—and is accompanied by a realism that often favored the grotesque. Matsys’ firmness of outline, clear modelling and thorough finish of detail stem from Van de Weyden’s influence; from the Van Eycks and Memling by way of Dirck Bouts, the glowing richness of transparent pigments. Matsys’ works generally reflect earnestness in expression, minutely detailed renderings, and subdued effects in light and shade. Like most Flemish artists of the time he paid a great deal of attention to jewelry, edging of garments, and ornamentation in general.


Credits and Attributions:

The Money Changer and His Wife by  Quentin Matsys, 1514 Public domain. The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Wikipedia contributors, “The Money Changer and His Wife,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Money_Changer_and_His_Wife&oldid=937629150 (accessed June 26, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Quentin Matsys,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Quentin_Matsys&oldid=960328863 (accessed June 26, 2020).

 

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#FineArtFriday: Self Portrait, Rembrandt 1659

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, commonly known simply as Rembrandt, is considered the finest artist of the 17th century. Some art historians consider him the finest artist in the history of art, and the most important artist in Dutch art history.

Speaking strictly as a Rembrandt fangirl and abject admirer, I consider his self-portraits to be more honest than those of any other artist.

Quote from Wikipedia: His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

This honesty comes across in all his works featuring himself as the subject, even those where he portrays himself as a shepherd or the prodigal son. Each portrait shows an aspect of his personality, his sense of humor, his affection for his first wife, Saskia, who was the love of his life, and his wry acceptance of his own human frailties.

Money was a mystery to Rembrandt. He had no understanding of a budget, mishandled his son’s inheritance, spent far more than he earned, and didn’t pay his taxes. In short he was always in trouble with the authorities, always skirting the edges of disaster.

Rembrandt knew he was talented, but didn’t see himself as a creative genius. He was just a man with a passion for art, who lived beyond his means and died a pauper, as did Mozart, and as do most artists and authors.

I feel I know this man, more so than I do the person he was in his earlier self-portraits. He’s matured, lost some of the brashness of his youth. When I observe the man in this self-portrait, painted ten years before his death, I see a good-humored man just trying to live a frequently difficult life as well as he can. His face is lined and blemished, not as handsome as he once was. But his eyes seem both kind and familiar, filled with the understanding that comes from living with all one’s heart and experiencing both great joy and deep sorrow.

The art of Rembrandt van Rijn shows us his world as he saw it. Others may disagree with me, but I feel his greatest gift was the ability to convey personality with each portrait. This gift allowed him to portray every person he painted as they really were, blemished and yet beautiful. This is a gift he taught his students, and they were able to copy his style quite effectively, making discerning his true work difficult even for the experts.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Rembrandt,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rembrandt&oldid=844357531(accessed June 8, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt van Rijn – Self-Portrait – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_van_Rijn_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=292800848 (accessed June 8, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Home, Sweet Home by Winslow Homer (reprise)

We now live in challenging times with the pandemic and social upheavals occupying our conscious minds and social media. I’ve chosen to revisit one of Winslow Homer‘s most poignant images as a reminder of our humanity, that we can come together and be better than we were.

Homer traveled with the Union Army, but the story of the moving event that he depicted in this painting is told by a Confederate soldier who was present. That story follows, toward the bottom of this article.

Home, Sweet Home is one of the most famous paintings of the American Civil War, depicting a moment in time, painted by Winslow Homer. On opposite shores of the Rappahannock River, opposing armies are caught up in an awareness of brotherhood, as music becomes the medium that lays bare the humanity of the soldiers on both sides.

Winslow Homer was best known for his landscapes featuring the many moods of the ocean, but he also painted many iconic images of that turbulent time before, during, and after the American Civil War. His art captures a sense of familiarity, a feeling that the viewer knows these people and their stories intimately.

Wikipedia says, “Harper’s (magazine) sent Homer to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865), where he sketched battle scenes and camp life, the quiet moments as well as the chaotic ones. His initial sketches were of the camp, commanders, and army of the famous Union officer, Major General George B. McClellan, at the banks of the Potomac River in October 1861.

“Although the drawings did not get much attention at the time, they mark Homer’s expanding skills from illustrator to painter. Like with his urban scenes, Homer also illustrated women during wartime, and showed the effects of the war on the home front. The war work was dangerous and exhausting. Back at his studio, Homer would regain his strength and re-focus his artistic vision. He set to work on a series of war-related paintings based on his sketches, among them Sharpshooter on Picket Duty (1862), Home, Sweet Home (1863), and Prisoners from the Front (1866). He exhibited paintings of these subjects every year at the National Academy of Design from 1863 to 1866. Home, Sweet Home was shown at the National Academy to particular critical acclaim; it was quickly sold and the artist was consequently elected an Associate Academician, then a full Academician in 1865.[10]”

The story behind the painting, Home, Sweet Home, is told poignantly in the autobiography, Reminiscences of a Private, by Frank Mixson, who served in the Confederate Army.

“The Yankee band would play the popular airs of theirs amid much yelling and cheering; our bands would do the same with the same result. Towards the wind-up the Yankee band struck up “Yankee Doodle.” Cheers were immense. When they stopped our band struck up “Dixie,” and everything went wild. When they finished this, both bands, with one accord and simultaneously, struck up “Home, Sweet Home.” There was not a sound from anywhere until the tune was finished and it then seemed as if everybody had gone crazy. I never saw anything to compare with it. Both sides were cheering, jumping up and throwing up hats and doing everything which tended to show enthusiasm. This lasted for at least a half hour. I do believe that had we not had the river between us that the two armies would have gone together and settled the war right there and then.”

Quote from: Reminiscences of a Private, by Frank Mixson (1910)


Sources and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Winslow Homer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Winslow_Homer&oldid=817253575 (accessed January 4, 2018).

Home, Sweet Home: “Had we not had the river between us,” posted by Marek,  https://civilwarfolkmusic.com/2013/12/15/1862-home-sweet-home/ accessed 04 January 2018.

Reminiscences of a Private, by Frank Mixson (published 1910 by Columbia, S.C., The State Company)

Home, Sweet Home (oil on canvas) by Winslow Homer – circa 1863 | Winslow Homer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed 04 January 2018.

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#FineArtFriday: Off the Coast of Cornwall by William Trost Richards 1904

Artist: William Trost Richards  (1833–1905)

Title: Off the Coast of Cornwall

  • Genre: landscape art
  • Date: 1904
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions : Height: 55.9 cm (22 in); Width: 91.4 cm (35.9 in)
  • Collection   Private collection
  • Inscriptions: Signature and date bottom left: W.T. Richards.04.

What I love about this painting:

It is a blustery day, along a rugged seacoast. Intermittent rain squalls blow through, and when one passes the sun peeps out, the bright lull between storms. The sea is that dark greenish color reflecting the sky, a quality stormy waters here in the North Pacific coast often have. It is of a shore in Cornwall, England, but it feels as familiar as if it were the coast of my home, Washington State.

What I love most about how Richards depicted the water is the milk-glass opaqueness of the green water and the way the light seems to shine through the waves.

About the Artist via Wikipedia:

William Trost Richards  rejected the romanticized and stylized approach of other Hudson River painters and instead insisted on meticulous factual renderings. His views of the White Mountains are almost photographic in their realism. In later years, Richards painted almost exclusively marine watercolors.

In the summer of 1874 Richards visited Newport, Rhode Island, and became enthralled with the area’s sublime coastline. He purchased his first of several Newport area homes in 1875 and continued to paint there for the rest of his life, dividing time between Newport and Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he purchased a farm near the Brandywine in 1884. Richards made many excursions to Europe, especially Britain and Ireland, where he produced an important body of work.

He was married to the the poet and playwright Anna Matlack, with whom he had eight children, only five of whom lived past infancy. Matlack educated the children at home to a pre-college level in the arts and sciences. One of their sons, Theodore William Richards, would later win the 1914 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Anna Richards Brewster, their sixth child, went on to become an important painter in her own right, having received an early arts education from her father as well.

Richards was one of the few 19th century American landscape artists who was equally skilled as a watercolorist and a painter in oils. His drawings are considered among the finest of his generation. Many of his drawing still survive.

Today, Richards is highly regarded for the luminist seascapes, images imbued with light and atmosphere, that he created along the Rhode Island, New Jersey and British coasts. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky.


Credits and Attributions:

Off the Coast of Cornwall, by William Trost Richards / Public domain

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:William Trost Richards – Off the Coast of Cornwall.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:William_Trost_Richards_-_Off_the_Coast_of_Cornwall.jpg&oldid=288660467 (accessed June 4, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “William Trost Richards,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Trost_Richards&oldid=939570835 (accessed June 4, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Anna Matlack Richards,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Anna_Matlack_Richards&oldid=933481876 (accessed June 4, 2020).

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