Tag Archives: Art and History

#FineArtFriday: View from the Artist’s Window, Martinus Rørbye

What I like about this painting:

View from the Artist’s Window was painted just at the time when the young Rørbye was gaining recognition as an artist, around the year 1825. The room is pleasant, homey, and the pink hydrangeas are beautiful. The transparency of the curtain is masterfully done.

The shipyard is represented as looming below and in the distance, a dominant view in the artist’s life.

The visual allegory of the caged bird floating out of the open window is wonderful, representing the young artist poised on the edge of leaving home, daring to imagine the wide, unknown world that waits for him.

The possibility of adventure is represented by the view of the working shipyard and the ship berthed in the harbor below.

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Martinus Christian Wesseltoft Rørbye (17 May 1803 – 29 August 1848) was a Danish painter, known both for genre works and landscapes. He was a central figure of the Golden Age of Danish painting during the first half of the 19th century.

The most traveled of the Danish Golden Age painters, he traveled to Norway and Sweden and south to Italy, Greece and Constantinople.

He is remembered for his genre paintings, his landscapes and his architectural paintings, as well as for the many sketches he made during his numerous travels. He painted numerous scenes of life in Copenhagen, as well as large compositions showing Italian and Turkish landscapes and scenes of folk life. He painted few portraits.

He was one of the most traveled of the Golden Age painters and distinguished his artistic production by his interpretations of lands rarely explored at that time for their artistic motifs, as well as for his anecdotal genre paintings depicting the Copenhagen of his day.

Title: View from the Artist’s Window, Martinus Rørbye [Public domain]

  • Genre: landscape art
  • Date: About 1825
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 380 mm (14.96 ″); Width: 298 mm (11.73 ″)

Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Martinus Rørbye – View from the Artist’s Window – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Martinus_R%C3%B8rbye_-_View_from_the_Artist%27s_Window_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=326761582 (accessed May 17, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Martinus Rørbye,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Martinus_R%C3%B8rbye&oldid=895614706

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FineArtFriday: The Man With the Golden Helmet, Circle of Rembrandt

About this image, via Wikipedia:

The Man with the Golden Helmet (c. 1650) is an oil on canvas painting formerly attributed to the Dutch painter Rembrandt and today considered to be a work by someone in his circle.

Categorized as a work by Rembrandt for many years, doubts were expressed as to its provenance in 1984 by a Dutch curators’ commission specifically created to investigate Rembrandt works of questionable authenticity. They made their remarks whilst viewing the painting in West Berlin.

In November 1985, Berlin-based art expert Jan Kelch announced that important details in the painting’s style did not match the style of Rembrandt’s known works, and that the painting was probably painted in 1650 by one of Rembrandt’s students.

What I like about this painting:

This is a  wonderful portrait with a great mystery attached. It’s a classic example of a work by a student being good enough to be mistaken for the mentor’s work. Whichever of Rembrandt’s student did paint this man’s portrait, they were clearly on their way to great things in the art world. So far, the artist has not been identified, and most of Rembrandt’s students left large catalogs of work, all of which could be compared to it.

However, Rembrandt had many students, including his son, Titus.

Titus died very young but was known to be painting at the time this portrait is attributed to. He was nine, old enough to be apprenticed. Could this have been one of his lessons? Could the confusion have arisen because a father was teaching his young son the art of portrait painting? No works with his signature survive that I know of, although I admit I am not an art historian. Regardless, much is like Rembrandt, enough to confuse the issue.

Just a Rembrandt fangirl, fantasizing.

A partial list of Rembrandt’s students can be found here Rembrandt’s Students.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Mann mit dem Goldhelm.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Mann_mit_dem_Goldhelm.jpg&oldid=318048571(accessed May 10, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “The Man with the Golden Helmet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Man_with_the_Golden_Helmet&oldid=880858243 (accessed May 10, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast by Albert Bierstadt 1870

What I love about this painting:

I live on Puget sound, and while the exact beach this image depicts likely does not exist, the cliffs are pretty accurate. I have seen many, many places here like it. The waters of the sound can get quite rough during storms, as this video shot by a storm chaser in December shows: Wild Ferry Ride Across Puget Sound Dec. 16 2018.

Anyone who lives here will tell you, the view of the Olympic Mountains from over the sound is unparalleled.

At certain times of the year, rain sweeps in like a dark beast. I have often seen the sky as black and heavy as it is depicted in this painting. Shafts of sun between heavy rain squalls are frequent companions here. When the sun shines through the heavy clouds, the light looks very much the way he shows it.

A sky that looks like the one in this painting heralds a serious storm. If you are driving anywhere during this kind of weather, you are in for a slow, miserable trip.

Quote from http://www.SeattleArtMuseum.org, regarding Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, which is now in their possession.

 “Bierstadt had likely not yet traveled to the Washington Territory in 1870. The painting was possibly a commission from a New York shipping magnate who had made his enormous fortune on the Pacific coast. Enterprising artist that he was, Bierstadt did not shy away from the challenge of painting a place he had not yet seen.”

I love that Bierstadt was a story teller as much as an entrepreneur in regard to his art. All the great artists were.

It has been suggested he put this picture together by piecing together places he had visited on the Lower Columbia River. Indeed, the trees and landscape there is much like that of Puget Sound, so it is possible. However, it would have been easy for him to have traveled north to the sound if he was on the  Lower Columbia—a matter of only eighty miles, so a week of travel for him by horse.

He was a man who traveled all over the west and painted what he felt as much as what he saw.

Wikipedia has this to say about Albert Bierstadt:

In 1867, Bierstadt traveled to London, where he exhibited two landscape paintings in a private reception with Queen Victoria. He traveled through Europe for two years, cultivating social and business contacts to sustain the market for his work overseas. His exhibition pieces were brilliant images, which glorified the American West as a land of promise and “fueled European emigration.” He painted Among the Sierra Nevada, California in his Rome studio, for example, showed it in Berlin and London before shipping it to the U.S. As a result of the publicity generated by his Yosemite Valley paintings in 1868, Bierstadt’s presence was requested by every explorer considering a westward expedition, and he was commissioned by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to visit the Grand Canyon for further subject matter.

Bierstadt’s choice of grandiose subjects was matched by his entrepreneurial flair. His exhibitions of individual works were accompanied by promotion, ticket sales, and, in the words of one critic, a “vast machinery of advertisement and puffery.”

Bierstadt was highly successful in his day, which the more refined critics despised. Everything the critics mocked about his work are the aspects I love. The high contrasts of light and shadow, sweeping epic themes, and overblown romanticism—those are what I love about all his work.

In all his works, Bierstadt created an emotional landscape as much as a physical one.

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast by Albert Bierstadt

  • Genre: landscape art
  • Date: 1870
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 52.5 ″ (133.3 cm); Width: 82 ″ (208.2 cm)
  • Collection: Seattle Art Museum
  • Current location: Seattle Art Museum Downtown, Gallery Level 3, American Art

Credits and Attributions:

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, by Albert Bierstadt, signed and dated 1870 [Public domain]

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Albert Bierstadt – Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast (1870).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Albert_Bierstadt_-_Puget_Sound_on_the_Pacific_Coast_(1870).jpg&oldid=344396079 (accessed April 26, 2019).

Quote from the article: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, Seattle Art Museum website contributors, (accessed April 25, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Oppression, Rebellion and Art #amwriting

Today is my first day off in 30 days – NaNoWriMo is over and I wrote 103,345 words, most of which are garbled and incomprehensible, as I can’t key well at all. So, today I am temporarily out of words.  So, I am going back to an essay I first posted in 2015 on the impact the art of the 16th century has on my work. With no further ado I give you Oppression, Rebellion and Art. Sounds like little has changed, right?


Writing, even writing fantasy, involves a certain amount of reality checking. You need to know how things actually worked.

Say you need to know what clothing the common European people wore during the renaissance looked like and how they dressed, both for celebrations, and for working.

I go to the 16th and 17th century painters and artists for that information. They always painted their subject with a heavy dose of religious allegory, but that was a part of village life–both the inquisition and the reformation was under way and the politics of religion was in the very air they breathed.

Any time you want an idea of average European village life in the Late Middle Ages through the 17th century, you need look no further than Wikimedia Commons.  There, under the heading  Category:Painters from the Northern Netherlands (before 1830) you will find the brilliant works of the Dutch Masters. These were artists living in what is now The Netherlands, and who were creating accurate records of the everyday life of the common people, along with stylized religious images.

During the 16th century, the Netherlands fought an 80 year war, trying to gain their independence from Spain, during the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. This was a period of extreme oppression and religious rebellion, and the art of times portrayed that very clearly.

I have learned, by rooting around the internet (so it must be true), that everything in the paintings of the time, no matter how commonplace, was allegorical, symbolic of some higher message. In art history (which I have always wanted to study), iconography is a visual language. This means that the way a subject is depicted and the way the image is organized, such as the number of figures used, their placing and gestures, all have specific meanings. The allegories they painted made heavy use of this visual language.

One particular family of of early Dutch painters from the county of Flanders pique my interest, the Brueghel Family. Five generations of their family were well-known painters, and print-makers.

One of my favorite early Dutch paintings is the Wedding Dance, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder:

What makes this painting so spectacular to me is the amazing detail of the clothing. They loved color. From Wikipedia: The painting depicts 125 wedding guests. As was customary in the Renaissance period, the brides wore black and men wore codpieces. Voyeurism is depicted throughout the entire art work; dancing was tabooed at the time by the authorities and the church, and the painting can be seen as both a critique and comic depiction of a stereotypical oversexed, overindulgent, peasant class of the times.

All of these people are depicted as plump, which was a desirable trait–they were prosperous and not starving. All the things that (to this day) make a great party are there: music, food, and dancing. The men wear codpieces, emphasizing their male anatomy in the same way that in today’s society, women’s breasts are hyper-sexualized.  Perhaps codpieces should make a comeback in the men’s fashion world. I’ll show off my babyfeeders, if you parade your babymaker–that way we’ll both be sure we are getting something worth having. (or not.)

Anyway, back to the renaissance. They paid taxes, and this his how their IRS office looked to Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter Jr. As you can see, not a lot has changed between then and now–we still pay in chickens and eggs. (heh heh.)

Brueghel’s eldest son, Pieter the Younger,  was never considered as fine a painter as his father or his brother, Jan Brueghel. He was considered a fine print-maker and his work shop was highly regarded. But he was not respected as an artist. Critics of the day felt he copied his father’s style, rather than developing his own. While he did paint in a folk-art style reminiscent of his father’s, his is sharper, more refined, taking it to the next level.

Notice how the people in the above picture are looking lean and ragged though, as opposed to the wedding picture painted by Pieter the Elder. The Little Ice Age had really gripped Europe, and times were hard.

So here is a painting by the second son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and a man who fathered his own dynasty of artists, Jan Bruegel the Elder. This is called People Dancing on a Riverbank and by their dress, with the neck-ruffs, you can see it depicts a wealthier class than his brother’s images, perhaps the merchant class rather than the peasants.

One hundred years later, the Dutch were famous for their painters–and everyone wanted to own a Dutch masterpiece. Times had become quite hard, as the climate had cooled and crops regularly failed. Once-prosperous families often lived in the ruins of their family manors.

In the above picture by Adriaen Van Ostade, these peasants are living in an enormous, decrepit farmhouse, almost like squatters. They are no longer plump, and are living in filthy conditions. The fire in the fireplace is very low, as if fuel was scarce.

Another famous Dutch painting, from the same time period but showing a different segment of society is The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer. In this painting, Vermeer shows an everyday task, a small glimpse of something that occurred daily in every household, a woman cooking.

In the background on the floor is a foot-warmer which was filled with coals and was an essential luxury, showing this was one of the wealthier households.

According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge: By depicting the working maid in the act of careful cooking, the artist presents not just a picture of an everyday scene, but one with ethical and social value. The humble woman is using common ingredients and otherwise useless stale bread to create a pleasurable product for the household.

I love art depicting the lives of ordinary people. I find the small details intriguing. It shows us that in many ways we are not that different than they were. We want food, decent shelter, and of course, stylish clothes to attract a mate.

And back then as it does now, a hint of anything taboo would most certainly find its way into even a religious painting.

The best part of all this is, a woman with an average education and on a tight budget (like me) can enjoy these wonderful works of art at will. I can examine them  in as much detail as I want, and take all the time I want, and no one will stop me or throw me out of their museum for loitering, because the internet is open all hours and is free.

Wikimedia Commons is a great resource to just roam around in, even when you are not looking for something specific.


Credits and Attributions:

This post was first published June 8,, 2015 under the title  #Inspiration: Oppression, rebellion and art, by Connie J. Jasperson, ©  2015 All Rights Reserved

Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

The Wedding Dance, c.1566 (oil on panel) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69)

The Payment of the Tithes (The tax-collector), also known as Village Lawyer, Pieter Bruegel, the Younger, signed P Brueghel PD|100

People Dancing on a Riverbank, Jan Bruegel the elder, via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

Peasants in an Interior, Adriaen Van Ostade (1661) via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, via Wikimedia Commons PD|100

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