Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: The Stonebreakers by Gustave Courbet 1849

Gustave_Courbet_-_The_Stonebreakers_-_WGA05457Artist: Gustave Courbet  (1819–1877)

Title: The Stonebreakers

Date:1849

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 165 cm (64.9 in); width: 257 cm (101.1 in)

Current location: destroyed in fire, 1945 (Dresden, Germany)

Today’s image comes to us via the miracle of 20th century photography and modern digital photographic restoration.

The exact number of paintings and other art masterpieces that were either destroyed or are still missing since World War II is not known, but is estimated that during World War II, the Nazis looted some 600,000 paintings from Jews and Art Museums, at least 100,000 of which are still missing. Unfortunately, the original canvas of this painting was a casualty of war, destroyed in the bombing of Dresden.

About this image, via Wikipedia: Considered to be the first of Courbet’s great works, The Stone Breakers of 1849 is an example of social realism that caused a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1850. The work was based on two men, one young and one old, whom Courbet discovered engaged in backbreaking labor on the side of the road when he returned to Ornans for an eight-month visit in October 1848. On his inspiration, Courbet told his friends and art critics Francis Wey and Jules Champfleury, “It is not often that one encounters so complete an expression of poverty and so, right then and there I got the idea for a painting.”

While other artists had depicted the plight of the rural poor, Courbet’s peasants are not idealized like those in works such as Millet’s The Gleaners. [1]

Also via Wikipedia: The Stone Breakers (FrenchLes Casseurs de pierres) was an 1849 painting by the French painter Gustave Courbet. It was a work of realism, depicting two peasants, a young man and an old man, breaking rocks.

The Stone Breakers was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1850. As a work of realism the subject matter addressed a scene of everyday life. This painting was intended to show the hard labor that poor citizens experienced. Courbet did not show the figure’s faces, they represent the “every man” and are not meant to be specific individuals. At the same time the clothing of the figures implies some degree of individuality, the younger man’s pants are too short and the older man’s vest is striped.

The painting was destroyed during World War II, along with 154 other pictures, when a transport vehicle moving the pictures to the castle of Königstein, near Dresden, was bombed by Allied forces in February 1945. [2]

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (UK/ˈkʊərbeɪ/ KOOR-bay,[1] US/kʊərˈbeɪ/ koor-BAY,[2] French: [ɡystav kuʁbɛ]; 10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists. His independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work.

Courbet’s paintings of the late 1840s and early 1850s brought him his first recognition. They challenged convention by depicting unidealized peasants and workers, often on a grand scale traditionally reserved for paintings of religious or historical subjects. Courbet’s subsequent paintings were mostly of a less overtly political character: landscapesseascapeshunting scenesnudes, and still lifes. Courbet, a socialist, was active in the political developments of France. He was imprisoned for six months in 1871 for his involvement with the Paris Commune and lived in exile in Switzerland from 1873 until his death four years later. [1]

Credits and Attributions:

Image: Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Gustave Courbet – The Stonebreakers – WGA05457.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Gustave_Courbet_-_The_Stonebreakers_-_WGA05457.jpg&oldid=661589775 (accessed December 1, 2022).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gustave Courbet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gustave_Courbet&oldid=1123079028 (accessed December 1, 2022). [1]

Wikipedia contributors, “The Stone Breakers,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Stone_Breakers&oldid=1070869064 (accessed December 1, 2022). [2]

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#FineArtFriday: The Dutch Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, revisited

Pieter_Brueghel_the_Elder_-_The_Dutch_Proverbs_-_Google_Art_ProjectToday I’m revisiting one of the best allegorical paintings of all time, The Netherlandish Proverbs (also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, which was painted in 1559. A master at humor, allegory, and pointing out the follies of humanity, Brueghel the Elder is one of my favorite artists.

Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Year: 1559
Medium: Oil-on-panel
Dimensions: 117 cm × 163 cm (46 in × 64 in)
Location: Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Quote from Wikipedia:

Critics have praised the composition for its ordered portrayal and integrated scene. There are approximately 112 identifiable proverbs and idioms in the scene, although Bruegel may have included others which cannot be determined because of the language change. Some of those incorporated in the painting are still in popular use, for instance “Swimming against the tide”, “Banging one’s head against a brick wall” and “Armed to the teeth”. Many more have faded from use, which makes analysis of the painting harder. “Having one’s roof tiled with tarts”, for example, which meant to have an abundance of everything and was an image Bruegel would later feature in his painting of the idyllic Land of Cockaigne (1567).

The Blue Cloak, the piece’s original title, features in the centre of the piece and is being placed on a man by his wife, indicating that she is cuckolding him. Other proverbs indicate human foolishness. A man fills in a pond after his calf has died. Just above the central figure of the blue-cloaked man another man carries daylight in a basket. Some of the figures seem to represent more than one figure of speech (whether this was Bruegel’s intention or not is unknown), such as the man shearing a sheep in the centre bottom left of the picture. He is sitting next to a man shearing a pig, so represents the expression “One shears sheep and one shears pigs”, meaning that one has the advantage over the other, but may also represent the advice “Shear them but don’t skin them”, meaning make the most of available assets.

You can find all of the wonderful proverbs on the painting’s page on Wikipedia, along with the thumbnail that depicts the proverb.

My favorite proverbs in this wonderful allegory?

Horse droppings are not figs. It meant we should not be fooled by appearances.

He who eats fire, craps sparks. It meant we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome if we attempt a dangerous venture.

Now THAT is wisdom!


Credits and Attributions:

The Netherlandish Proverbs (Also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Netherlandish Proverbs,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Netherlandish_Proverbs&oldid=829168138  (accessed November 24, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Rembrandt through his own eyes, 1659 (revisited)

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 Saskia who was the love of his life, and his wry acceptance of his own human frailties.

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: Peace at Sunset (Evening in the White Mountains) by Thomas Cole, ca 1827

Peace_at_Sunset_(Evening_in_the_White_Mountains)_Thomas_ColeArtist: Thomas Cole (1801–1848)

Title: Peace at Sunset (Evening in the White Mountains)

Date: circa 1827

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 68.9 cm (27.1 in); width: 81.9 cm (32.2 in)

Collection: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

What I love about this painting:

This is one of Cole’s early works. He was able to show us the kind of autumn day we love, with rain trying to sweep in, but held back by the sunshine. It’s good day, despite the chill breeze attempting to scour the leaves from the trees. Clouds brush the hilltops, but the reds and golds seem to glow in the sunlight.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Thomas Cole (February 1, 1801 – February 11, 1848) was an English-American painter known for his landscape and history paintings. He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, an American art movement that flourished in the mid-19th century. Cole’s work is known for its romantic portrayal of the American wilderness.

After 1827 Cole maintained a studio at the farm called Cedar Grove, in the town of Catskill, New York. He painted a significant portion of his work in this studio. In 1836, he married Maria Bartow of Catskill, a niece of the owners, and became a year-round resident. Thomas and Maria had five children. Cole’s daughter Emily was a botanical artist who worked in watercolor and painted porcelain. Cole’s sister, Sarah Cole, was also a landscape painter.

Additionally, Cole held many friendships with important figures in the art world including Daniel Wadsworth, with whom he shared a close friendship. Proof of this friendship can be seen in the letters that were unearthed in the 1980s by the Trinity College Watkinson Library. Cole emotionally wrote Wadsworth in July 1832: “Years have passed away since I saw you & time & the world have undoubtedly wrought many changes in both of us; but the recollection of your friendship… [has] never faded in my mind & I look at those pleasures as ‘flowers that never will in other garden grow-‘”

Thomas Cole died at Catskill on February 11, 1848, of pleurisy. The fourth highest peak in the Catskills is named Thomas Cole Mountain in his honor. Cedar Grove, also known as the Thomas Cole House, was declared a National Historic Site in 1999 and is now open to the public.


Credits and Attributions:

Peace at Sunset (Evening in the White Mountains) by Thomas Cole PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Thomas Cole,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Thomas_Cole&oldid=1120453843 (accessed November 10, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Indian Summer by William Trost Richards 1875

Indian_Summer_MET_DT276257Title: Indian Summer by William Trost Richards

Genre: landscape art

Date: 1875

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 24 1/8 x 20 in. (61.3 x 50.8 cm)

Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

What I love about this painting:

Richards has captured a singular moment of tranquility for us all to enjoy in these troubled times. A light breeze barely ruffles the surface of our pond. At the bottom right, two girls play beside a large boulder at the waters’ edge.

Across the pond, in the center and nearly hidden in the shadows, a teamster and his oxen wade across the shallows.

Autumn’s haze lends a feeling of mystery to the scene, muting the reds, yellows, and oranges of leaves about to fall. This last burst of grandeur can’t hold back winter, though it tries. Soon the forest will sleep, soon snow and ice will decorate barren limbs and ice will stop the waters’ gentle motions.

But beneath the grasp of winter, new life will bide its time, and winter will fade into spring. The seasons will follow their course, but today is autumn’s day to shine, to go down in a blaze of golden glory.

Richards paints a day of peace and serenity, a small pocket of time where one can just sit back and admire the beauty of our world.

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About William Trost Richards:

William Trost Richards (November 14, 1833 – November 8, 1905) was an American landscape artist. He was associated with both the Hudson River School and the American Pre-Raphaelite movement. [1]

1856 he married Anna Matlack Richards (1834–1900), a 19th-century American children’s author, poet and translator best known for her fantasy novel, A New Alice in the Old Wonderland. The couple had eight children, only five of whom lived past infancy. Anna educated the children at home to a pre-college level in the arts and sciences. [2]

One of the couple’s 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. [2]

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. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Indian Summer by William Trost Richards, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Indian Summer MET DT276257.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Indian_Summer_MET_DT276257.jpg&oldid=678817431 (accessed November 3, 2022). Public Domain.

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “William Trost Richards,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Trost_Richards&oldid=1089835304 (accessed November 3, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Anna Matlack Richards,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Anna_Matlack_Richards&oldid=1055684363 (accessed November 3, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Officer and Laughing Girl by Johannes Vermeer circa 1657 #prompt

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Officer_and_Laughing_Girl_-_Google_Art_Project

Artist: Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675)

Title: Officer and Laughing Girl

Genre: genre art

Date: circa 1657

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 50.5 cm (19.8 in); width: 46 cm (18.1 in)

Collection: The Frick Collection

This is the last prompt of October, as National Novel Writing Month kicks into gear in November. Vermeer paints us a story of courtship within the bounds of society, of two people with middleclass values who are clearly attracted to each other. Will they be married? I like to think so.

What I love about this painting:

As I said above, Vermeer paints a story for us. He shows us a courting couple, a modestly dressed young woman seated opposite a young officer. Is this the home of her parents?

It is clearly not a tavern, as she has a crystal wine glass, which taverns wouldn’t have. Another clue to her social status is the map on the wall behind her, indicating her family may be merchants. Taverns rarely displayed maps as they were expensive.

Our girl is dwarfed by the map and also by the large man, whose face we don’t see, as he is captivated by her. Yet though she is physically smaller than her companion, she is not made small in this painting. Indeed, she has a large presence; her personality and smile have power, speaking to us across the centuries.

The light falls gently though the open window, illuminating the woman, bathing the scene with that quality Vermeer recreated so brilliantly.

Some male art critics suggest that the position of her hand indicates a less savory transaction is occurring here, but I feel they are wrong. Her hair is completely covered. She is not dressed provocatively, nor are they shown in a tavern or brothel. Her hand is shown as if gesturing in conversation, a natural gesture.

I think that nasty kind of interpretation is the result of a Victorian-era male art critic prejudice against women in art, dismissing them as morally corrupt. That sort of attitude poisons art interpretation at all levels. Maybe traditional critics need to look at paintings such as this with a fresh eye and see what is actually there: a young woman talking to a young man, seated in a corner at a table, most likely in full view of her middleclass parents.

The model for the woman in this painting was most likely Vermeer’s wife, and the dress she wears appears in other domestic scenes painted by Vermeer, as does the window and the table.

About Johannes Vermeer, the Master of Light (from Wikipedia)

Johannes Vermeer (October 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. “Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women.”

He was recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, but his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken‘s major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Johannes Vermeer – De Soldaat en het Lachende Meisje – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_De_Soldaat_en_het_Lachende_Meisje_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=617576363 (accessed April 29, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Johannes Vermeer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Johannes_Vermeer&oldid=1082091616 (accessed April 29, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Gassed by John Singer Sargent 1919 #prompt

2560px-Sargent,_John_Singer_(RA)_-_Gassed_-_Google_Art_ProjectArtist: John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

Title: Gassed

Date: 1919

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 231 cm (90.9 in); Width: 611.1 cm (20 ft)

Writing Prompt: John Singer Sargent tells many stories in this one powerful statement about war and the inhumanity of humankind. He also lays bare our resilience, our drive to survive. What thoughts, what ideas are prompted by what you see here?

What I love about this painting:

This painting is a deeply moving antiwar statement. John Singer Sargent was a complicated man, as most artists are. Famous as a portrait artist, he painted landscapes that conveyed a sense of mood and emotion that few of his contemporaries could match.

He was commissioned as a war artist by the British Ministry of Information. He illustrated numerous scenes from the Great War. Sargent had been affected by what he had seen while touring the front in France and by the death of his niece Rose-Marie in the shelling of the St Gervais church, Paris, on Good Friday 1918.

The colors are muted, and even the pastels are dark and dirty. The suffering of the maimed and injured men is laid bare. Through the legs of the walking wounded, the rising moon illuminates the desire of the uninjured to try to find some normalcy. Dwarfing the players and their game, the vast sea of dead and injured stretches as far as the eye can see.

Above, two tiny figures represent the clash of biplanes in the distance, the ever-moving machine of death and inhumanity that is war.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

[1] Gassed is a very large oil painting completed in March 1919 by John Singer Sargent. It depicts the aftermath of a mustard gas attack during the First World War, with a line of wounded soldiers walking towards a dressing station. Sargent was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to document the war and visited the Western Front in July 1918 spending time with the Guards Division near Arras, and then with the American Expeditionary Forces near Ypres. The painting was finished in March 1919 and voted picture of the year by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1919. It is now held by the Imperial War Museum. It visited the US in 1999 for a series of retrospective exhibitions, and then from 2016 to 2018 for exhibitions commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

The painting measures 231.0 by 611.1 centimeters (7 ft 6.9 in × 20 ft 0.6 in). The composition includes a central group of eleven soldiers depicted nearly life-size. Nine wounded soldiers walk in a line, in three groups of three, along a duckboard towards a dressing station, suggested by the guy ropes to the right side of the picture. Their eyes are bandaged, blinded by the effect of the gas, so they are assisted by two medical orderlies. The line of tall, blind soldiers forms a naturalist allegorical frieze, with connotations of a religious procession. Many other dead or wounded soldiers lie around the central group, and a similar train of eight wounded, with two orderlies, advances in the background. Biplanes dogfight in the evening sky above, as a watery setting sun creates a pinkish yellow haze and burnishes the subjects with a golden light. In the background, the moon also rises, and uninjured men play association football in blue and red shirts, seemingly unconcerned at the suffering all around them.

The painting provides a powerful testimony of the effects of chemical weapons, vividly described in Wilfred Owen‘s poem Dulce et Decorum Est. Mustard gas is a persistent vesicant gas, with effects that only become apparent several hours after exposure. It attacks the skin, the eyes and the mucous membranes, causing large skin blisters, blindness, choking and vomiting. Death, although rare, can occur within two days, but suffering may be prolonged over several weeks.

Sargent’s painting refers to Bruegel’s 1568 work The Parable of the Blind, with the blind leading the blind, and it also alludes to Rodin’s Burghers of Calais.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

[2] John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 – 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.

Born in Florence to American parents, he was 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 artists who painted royalty and “society” – such as Sargent – until the late 20th century. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Gassed (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gassed_(painting)&oldid=1029966714 (accessed July 15, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “John Singer Sargent,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Singer_Sargent&oldid=1032671314 (accessed July 15, 2021).

Image source: File:Sargent, John Singer (RA) – Gassed – Google Art Project.jpg – Wikipedia (accessed July 15, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: Rhetoricians at a Window by Jan Steen ca. 1666 #prompt

Artist: Jan Steen  (1625/1626–1679)

Title: Rhetoricians at a Window

Genre: genre art

Date: c. 1661-66

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 759.46 mm (29.90 in); Width: 586.23 mm (23.07 in)

Collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Today we’re looking to art for ideas, and our prompt is Rhetoricians at a Window by the Dutch master, Jan Steen.

What I love about this painting:

This is one of my all-time favorite Dutch genre paintings. It has inspired some the characters who pass through my stories, people my protagonists meet along the way. These jolly rogues have such vivid personalities that the viewer immediately feels a kinship to them. Who were they? Did they keep their day jobs?

The reading of a poem or play was clearly the opportunity for the performers to have a good time. From the drinker in the shadows of the background, to the grapevines growing around the window, Steen tells us that wine and rhetoric are clearly entwined.

I love the inclusion of both “the critic” who leans his head on his hand and listens analytically, and the man behind him, who is clearly “a little over the limit,” and supports himself by grasping the window frame and heartily agreeing with some point.

The actor who reads is clearly enjoying himself, as are the others.

About the Artist (Via Wikipedia):

Jan Havickszoon Steen (c. 1626 – buried 3 February 1679) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, one of the leading genre painters of the 17th century. His works are known for their psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour.

Daily life was Jan Steen’s main pictorial theme. Many of the genre scenes he portrayed, as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lustfulness, even so much that “a Jan Steen household”, meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch proverb (een huishouden van Jan Steen). Subtle hints in his paintings seem to suggest that Steen meant to warn the viewer rather than invite him to copy this behaviour. Many of Steen’s paintings bear references to old Dutch proverbs or literature. He often used members of his family as models, and painted quite a few self-portraits in which he showed no tendency of vanity.

Steen did not shy from other themes: he painted historical, mythological and religious scenes, portraits, still lifes and natural scenes. His portraits of children are famous. He is also well known for his mastery of light and attention to detail, most notably in Persian rugs and other textiles.

Steen was prolific, producing about 800 paintings, of which roughly 350 survive. His work was valued much by contemporaries and as a result he was reasonably well paid for his work. He did not have many students—only Richard Brakenburgh is recorded—but his work proved a source of inspiration for many painters. [2]

About this painting, Via Wikipedia:

Chambers of rhetoric (Dutch: rederijkerskamers) were dramatic societies in the Low Countries. Their members were called Rederijkers (singular Rederijker), from the French word ‘rhétoricien’, and during the 15th and 16th centuries were mainly interested in dramas and lyrics. These societies were closely connected with local civic leaders and their public plays were a form of early public relations for the city. [1]

In 1945, Sturla Gudlaugsson, a specialist in Dutch seventeenth-century painting and iconography and Director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History and the Mauritshuis in The Hague, wrote The Comedians in the work of Jan Steen and his Contemporaries, which revealed that a major influence on Jan Steen’s work was the guild of the Rhetoricians or Rederijkers and their theatrical endeavors.

It is often suggested that Jan Steen’s paintings are a realistic portrayal of Dutch 17th-century life. However, not everything he did was a purely realistic representation of his day-to-day environment. Many of his scenes contain idyllic and bucolic fantasies and a declamatory emphasis redolent of theater.

Jan Steen’s connection to theater is easily verifiable through his connection to the Rederijkers. There are two kinds of evidence for this connection. First, Jan Steen Steen’s uncle belonged to the Rhetoricians in Leiden, where Steen was born and lived a substantial part of his life. Second, Jan Steen portrayed many scenes from the lives of the Rederijkers, an example being the painting Rhetoricians at a Window of 1658–65. The piece is currently held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art which was established in February 1876. The humanity, humor and optimism of the figures suggest that Jan Steen knew these men well and wanted to portray them positively.

With his lavish and moralising style, it is logical that Steen would employ the stratagems from theater for his purposes. There is conclusive evidence that the characters in Steen’s paintings are predominantly theatrical characters and not ones from reality. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

This post first appeared here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy  in September of 2020.

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Jan Steen,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jan_Steen&oldid=950709901 (accessed September 10, 2020).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Chamber of rhetoric,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chamber_of_rhetoric&oldid=975283829 (accessed September 10, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Steen, Dutch (active Leiden, Haarlem, and The Hague) – Rhetoricians at a Window – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Steen,_Dutch_(active_Leiden,_Haarlem,_and_The_Hague)_-_Rhetoricians_at_a_Window_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=355150081 (accessed September 10, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian (revisited)

Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian, circa 1899, first appeared here in October of 2018.  It is one of my favorite depictions of autumn. The scene could be happening here in my lovely Pacific Northwestern forests. The colors of the leaves, the dirt road–this is very like where I grew up.

The painting depicts a woman and her dog enjoying a quiet walk in the serenity of an autumn day. Using light and shadow, the artist employs an impressionistic style to convey the forest. Nothing is drawn with precision, yet everything is shown in its entirety. The feeling of this piece is a little dreamlike–she carries an umbrella, so she’s prepared for rain. She is dressed all in black except for her yellow hat. Leaves in all the many shades of green, gold, and red cling to their trees; the damp, aging rails of the wooden fence offers a flimsy barrier to the carriages and motor vehicles that may travel the roadside. Leaves cover the dirt road, and more are falling down, and the dog trots happily along beside her mistress—the story is there for us to see.

About the Artist:

According to Wikipedia, Olga Wisinger-Florian’s early paintings can be assigned to what is known as Austrian Mood Impressionism. In her landscape paintings she adopted Schindler’s sublime approach to nature. The motifs she employed, such as views of tree-lined avenues, gardens and fields, were strongly reminiscent of her teacher’s work. After breaking with Schindler in 1884, however, the artist went her own way. Her conception of landscapes became more realistic. Her late work is notable for a lurid palette, with discernible overtones of Expressionism. With landscape and flower pictures that were already Expressionist in palette by the 1890s, she was years ahead of her time.


Credits and Attributions:

Falling Leaves, by Olga Wisinger-Florian, ca 1899 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Olga Wisinger-Florian,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Olga_Wisinger-Florian&oldid=852607929 (accessed October 11, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Olga Wisinger-Florian – Falling Leaves.JPG,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Olga_Wisinger-Florian_-_Falling_Leaves.JPG&oldid=273565541 (accessed October 11, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Moon Gate – Chinese Garden in the Hortus Haren by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma

Doorgang_in_muur._Locatie,_Chinese_tuin_Het_Verborgen_Rijk_van_Ming._Locatie._Hortus_Haren_01

Moon Gate, Chinese Garden in the Hortus Haren, The Netherlands

Date: 30 May 2015, 14:31:15

Author: Dominicus Johannes Bergsma

Camera location: 53° 10′ 48.67″ N, 6° 36′ 13.15″ E

About this image, via Wikimedia Commons:

A photograph of the passage in wall known as Moon Gate. Location, Chinese garden, the Hidden Realm of Ming. Location: Hortus Haren, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Netherlands.

This photograph is a featured picture, which means that members of the community have identified it as one of the finest images on the English Wikipedia, adding significantly to its accompanying article. It was also a finalist in Picture of the Year 2015. [1]

What I love about this photograph:

This is a fairytale image. What magic lies beyond the gate? The composition is perfect. The round gate centered in the ordinary wall, a surprise opening onto a world of color and mystery. I would love to walk in this place.

About Hortus Haren, via Wikipedia:

Hortus Haren is a botanical garden in Haren, Groningen, Netherlands. First created in 1626 by the pharmacist Henricus Munting, it was then situated between Grote Rozenstraat and Grote Kruisstraat in Groningen.  Because of space considerations it relocated to Haren in 1967 and became the largest botanical garden in the country. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

Moon Gate, Chinese Garden in the Hortus Haren, The Netherlands, by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma. Dominicus Johannes Bergsma, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Doorgang in muur. Locatie, Chinese tuin Het Verborgen Rijk van Ming. Locatie. Hortus Haren 01.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Doorgang_in_muur._Locatie,_Chinese_tuin_Het_Verborgen_Rijk_van_Ming._Locatie._Hortus_Haren_01.jpg&oldid=684921659 (accessed September 29, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Hortus Haren,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hortus_Haren&oldid=1111475348 (accessed September 29, 2022).

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