Category Archives: #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Joos van Craesbeeck

Joos van Craesbeeck (c. 1605/06 – c. 1660) was an interesting character, standing out among the many interesting characters of the seventeenth century Flemish art community. He was a Flemish baker and an artist, a friend and contemporary of  Adriaen Brouwer. They most likely met while Brouwer was jailed in the citadel of Antwerp, although why he was imprisoned is unknown. But the bakery in the Antwerp citadel was operated at that time by Joos van Craesbeeck.

Van Craesbeeck was fascinated with the portrayal of violence and the senses of taste and smell. He painted the dissolute side of life, shocking in its intensity and honesty. Death is Violent and Fast: Quarrel in a Pub, is an excellent example of his almost brutish depiction of peasants brawling. Blood flows, one man lies dead, and in the lower right hand corner, Death smiles, pleased with that night’s work.

He often painted himself, as is seen in The Smoker, a self-portrait that was at one time attributed to Adriaen Brouwer, depicting the senses of smell and taste. He shows himself clutching both a bottle of hard liquor and a pipe, as if they are the dearest things to him. He exhales a stream of smoke, savoring it.

He also painted his own self-portrait as the central nightmare from which other nightmares spawn in the Temptation of St. Anthony. Note the way his mouth is full of little demons entering and leaving, and his head is open to reveal an artist painting beneath wild dark hair in which geese nest. St. Anthony himself is small, placed to the right, almost unnoticed in the onslaught of demons and temptations, both physical and moral. A cacophony of violence and evil rages as Anthony clings to the scriptures. This is a revealing portrait of how the artist viewed himself and the demons he battled, in my opinion.

The work of Joos van Craesbeeck is not comforting or warm. It is always allegorical, showing us something we don’t like about the world we live in. Violence and vice were as much a part of life in his time as they are today, and perhaps will always be.

Quote from Wikipedia: Van Craesbeeck painted at least five portraits which are presumed to be self-portraits and in which he depicts himself in a ‘dissolute’ manner. The dissolute self-portrait was a genre that had taken root in Dutch and Flemish genre painting in the 17th century. It was an inversion of the Renaissance ideal of the ‘pictor doctus’: the artist as an intellectual and gentleman. This ideal was replaced by the new model of the prodigal artist who is characterized by his creative inspiration and talents. These self-portraits emphasized the artists’ dissolute nature by creating associations with traditional moral themes such as the Five Senses and the Prodigal Son in the tavern. Van Craesbeeck painted himself four times in low-life guises depicting the sense of Taste.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Joos van Craesbeeck,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joos_van_Craesbeeck&oldid=823865809 (accessed July 20, 2018).

Death is Violent and Fast: Quarrel in a Pub, painting by Joos van Craesbeeck, ca. 1630 – 1635 PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Smoker, Joos van Craesbeeck ca.1635 – 1636 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Temptation of St Anthony, Joos van Craesbeeck ca. 1650 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Young Peasant with Sickle, Vincent Van Gogh

This week, for some reason I have been quite interested in Vincent van Gogh’s earlier work.  This painting is the earliest from his art-book, which is dated 1881. The mediums he used in this study were black chalk, charcoal, grey wash, and opaque watercolor on laid paper, a type of paper having a ribbed texture, that is especially good for watercolors.

I have been contrasting the preciseness of this early work with his later expressionism and imagery. I’m fascinated with the evolution of his choice of colors, from muted, yet somehow intense, in his early work, to brilliant and vibrant in his later pieces. In a way, it’s like reading the early works of a favorite author. You see everything you love about their work in that book written in their youth, but greatly admire the way their voice and style evolves in their later, more mature work.

Fortunately, Van Gogh was a prolific writer of letters, many of which have survived. Through his correspondence with his brother Theo Van Gogh, and to Anton van Rappard, a Dutch painter and draughtsman, we have a window into Vincent’s life.

Quote from Wikipedia: Theo kept all of Vincent’s letters to him;[10] Vincent kept few of the letters he received. After both had died, Theo’s widow Johanna arranged for the publication of some of their letters. A few appeared in 1906 and 1913; the majority were published in 1914.[11][12] Vincent’s letters are eloquent and expressive and have been described as having a “diary-like intimacy”,[9] and read in parts like autobiography.[9] The translator Arnold Pomerans wrote that their publication adds a “fresh dimension to the understanding of Van Gogh’s artistic achievement, an understanding granted us by virtually no other painter”.[13]

There are more than 600 letters from Vincent to Theo and around 40 from Theo to Vincent. There are 22 to his sister Wil, 58 to the painter Anthon van Rappard, 22 to Émile Bernard as well as individual letters to Paul SignacPaul Gauguin and the critic Albert Aurier. Some are illustrated with sketches.[9] Many are undated, but art historians have been able to place most in chronological order. Problems in transcription and dating remain, mainly with those posted from Arles. While there Vincent wrote around 200 letters in Dutch, French and English.[14] There is a gap in the record when he lived in Paris as the brothers lived together and had no need to correspond.[15]

Vincent’s comments regarding this picture, as quoted on Wikmedia Commons:

Letter 172 to Theo van Gogh. Etten, mid-September 1881. Vincent van Gogh: The LettersVan Gogh Museum. “Prompted as well by a thing or two that Mauve said to me, I’ve started working again from a live model. I’ve been able to get various people here to do it, fortunately, one being Piet Kaufmann the labourer… Diggers, sowers, ploughers, men and women I must now draw constantly. Examine and draw everything that’s part of a peasant’s life. Just as many others have done and are doing. I’m no longer so powerless in the face of nature as I used to be.”

Letter 178 to Anthon van Rappard. Etten, Wednesday, 2 November 1881. Vincent van Gogh: The LettersVan Gogh Museum. “Today I again drew a digger, and since your visit a boy cutting grass with a sickle as well.”


Credits and Attributions:

Young Peasant with Sickle, Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Vincent van Gogh,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vincent_van_Gogh&oldid=845634731 (accessed July 6, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Van Gogh – Kauernder Junge mit Sichel.jpeg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Van_Gogh_-_Kauernder_Junge_mit_Sichel.jpeg&oldid=286066347 (accessed July 6, 2018).

4 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Worn Out by H. A. Brendekilde

H.A. Brendekilde was a forerunner of the social realist style, embraced by Diego Rivera. His early work often depicted the daily lives of the rural working class. One of his most famous paintings, “Worn Out” (1889) shows an elderly man lying fallen on his back in the plowed field. I included this piece in a post on March 30, 2018, but I wanted to look more closely at it today.

Brendekilde’s genius shows in the way he depicts the central subject. The rocky, barren field is immense, nearly blending with the sky. Dirt and rocks dominate this painting–Dirt on their clothes, small rocks embedded in the soil, larger rocks gathered into piles to be carted from the field–this man’s life was the soil, hard and rocky though it was. Yet he clung to it, working to clear the rocks until he could go no further.

I love the detail in this painting. It’s easy to see how their day began: the man and woman spent the morning picking rocks from a field and making small piles of them, preparatory to plowing the field. Then, something happened. A heart attack? A stroke? One of the man’s clogs has fallen off his foot, lost when he stumbled and fell. The stones he was picking up and carrying in his apron have tumbled to the ground beside him.

Farming is working in the dirt, and dirt clings to his clothes. The woman wears a dress that has been patched many times, the loose, dry soil on her garments show she too has been picking rocks all morning. Is she his daughter? Or perhaps his wife? Even if only a friend, she is terribly concerned for him.

They are nearing the end of their winter stores and the first new vegetables have yet to be planted. Has he worked himself to death? Will he recover?

This old man’s entire world is this rocky barren field.  As I said in my earlier piece, a story is told in this stark painting.


Credits and Attributions:

Worn Out by H. A. Brendekilde [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

2 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: The Kiss, by Bernardien Sternheim

It is a rare treat when we can view modern art as painted by living authors via Wikimedia Commons. Today we are looking at The Kiss, by Bernardien Sternheim. It is dated 2001 and can be found on Wikimedia Commons, in the category Dutch Independent Realism.

What I love about this painting: It is raw, and real, and speaks to the humanity of the throng who are gathered for… what? Are they watching a race? Perhaps they are waiting for a train.

Regardless of what they are waiting for, the crowd faces forward, not watching the man and woman who steal a kiss.

Yet a nod to voyeurism is found here, as one man is reading The Observer, a woman reads over his shoulder, and an elderly man whispers into the ear of a woman.

I love the colors, the detail, and the expressions on each individual in the crowd. This painting is sure and bold, a window showing us a view of… ourselves.

About the artist:

Quote from the artist’s website, Bernardien Sternheim: “Central to the work of Bernardien Sternheim is man, in all his vulnerability and strength.

“Bernardien was born in Amsterdam in 1948. Against the spirit of the age, she opts for realism, figurative art.

“That is how she had to develop herself, with as great examples Pyke Koch, Caravaggio and Rembrandt.”


Credits and Attributions:

The Kiss, by Bernardien Sternheim via Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:WLANL – Marcel Oosterwijk – De Kus.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:WLANL_-_Marcel_Oosterwijk_-_De_Kus.jpg&oldid=282201684 (accessed June 22, 2018).

Leave a comment

Filed under #FineArtFriday

The Catskills, by Asher Brown Durand 1858

Quote from Wikimedia Commons on The Catskills: This painting was commissioned by William T. Walters in 1858, when the 62-year-old Durand was at the height of his fame and technical skill. The vertical format of the composition was a trademark of the artist, allowing him to exploit the grandeur of the sycamore trees as a means of framing the expansive landscape beyond. Durand’s approach to the “sublime landscape” was modeled on that of Thomas Cole (1801-48), founder of the Hudson River school of painting. The painters of this school explored the countryside of the eastern United States, particularly the Adirondack Mountains and the Catskills. Their paintings often reflect the Transcendental philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), who believed that all of nature bore testimony to a spiritual truth that could be understood through personal intuition.

>>><<<

Quote from Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge): Asher Brown Durand is remembered particularly for his detailed portrayals of trees, rocks, and foliage. He was an advocate for drawing directly from nature with as much realism as possible. Durand wrote, “Let [the artist] scrupulously accept whatever [nature] presents him until he shall, in a degree, have become intimate with her infinity…never let him profane her sacredness by a willful departure from truth.”

Like other Hudson River School artists, Durand also believed that nature was an ineffable manifestation of God. He expressed this sentiment and his general opinions on art in his essay “Letters on Landscape Painting” in The Crayon, a mid-19th century New York art periodical. Wrote Durand, “[T]he true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation…”

I grew up in a forested place, not unlike that depicted here. That sentiment has endeared this style of art to me. I have become attached to the modern fantasy painters, those modern artists like Michael Whelan and the late Darrell K. Sweet, who paint images in this style for fantasy novels and RPG games. Their style is called Imaginative Realism.

What strikes me the most about this particular painting is not only the attention to detail, but the fairy-tale quality of Durand’s vision of realism. Viewed as a whole, this composition has an otherworldly quality to it, almost as if Elrond or Galadriel lurk just out of view, beyond the edges.


Credits and Attributions

Wikipedia contributors, “Asher Brown Durand,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Asher_Brown_Durand&oldid=845716778 (accessed June 14, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Asher Brown Durand – The Catskills – Walters 37122.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Asher_Brown_Durand_-_The_Catskills_-_Walters_37122.jpg&oldid=164572034 (accessed June 14, 2018).

4 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing

#FineArtFriday: Rembrandt through his own eyes, 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 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).

4 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: After the Hurricane, Bahamas by Winslow Homer

After the Hurricane, Bahamas is a watercolor painting by the American artist, Winslow Homer. It shows a man washed up on the beach after a storm, surrounded by the fragments of his shattered boat. The wreckage of the boat gives evidence of the severity of the powerful hurricane, which is retreating. Black clouds still billow but recede into the distance, and sunlight has begun to filter through the clouds.

The man may have lost his boat, but he has survived.

I love the way the whitecaps are depicted, and the colors of the sea are true to the way the ocean looks after a severe storm. Winslow Homer’s watercolor seascapes are especially intriguing to me as they are extremely dramatic and forceful expressions of nature’s power. The beauty and intensity of Homer’s vision of “ocean” are unmatched—in my opinion his seascapes are alive in a way few other artists can match.

This painting was done in 1899 and marked the end of Homer’s watercolor series depicting man against nature. That series was begun with Shark Fishing in 1885, the year he first visited the Caribbean and is comprised of at least six known paintings. The most famous of these watercolor paintings is The Gulf Stream, which was also painted in 1899. After the Hurricane, Bahamas is the last of the series.


Credits and Attributions:

After the Hurricane, Bahamas by Winslow Homer, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a comment

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#poppies #poetry In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae

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 afghans. 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 the last Monday in May. In the US, it 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.

2 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday, #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry

#FineArtFriday: The Merry Family, by Jan Steen

Jan Steen was fond of painting peasants and ordinary people, and this picture is a good example of that.

What I love about this image is the chaos. The clutter of pans and dishes heedlessly fallen to the floor, the boisterous enjoyment of wine and song, and the obvious lack of parental restraint is wonderfully depicted. The numerous children are smoking and drinking to excess, vices that weren’t acceptable diversions for youngsters then any more than they are now. The baby is exceedingly chubby, which was uncommon and represents the vice of gluttony–in one hand it holds bread and in the other it waves a spoon.

I suspect the children grew up with a similar love of wine and song as their parents.

The note on the wall contains the moral of the story. According to the Rijksmuseum website, “The note hanging from the mantelpiece gives away the moral of the story: ‘As the old sing, so shall the young twitter.’ What will become of the children if their parents set the wrong example?”

The Age of the Puritan had swept across Europe and while it was waning in the mid-seventeenth century, puritanism had influenced life in Holland as much as elsewhere. This painting is a wonderful visual exhortation reminding the good people to live a sober life. Steen himself was not a puritan, as he was born into a family of brewers and ran taverns and breweries off and on throughout his life. But he did need to sell his paintings as he was never a successful businessman, and his allegorical paintings were quite popular.

Quote from Wikipedia: 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.


Credits and Attributions:

The Merry Family, Jan Steen, 1668 PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Moral (English translation) quoted from Rijksmuseum website,  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-C-229, accessed 17 May 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Jan Steen.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Jan. 2018. Web. 17 May. 2018.

2 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday