Tag Archives: Art and History

#FineArtFriday: The Munitions Girls by Stanhope Forbes,1918 #LaborDay

L0059548 'The Munitions Girls' oil painting, England, 1918

Artist: Stanhope Forbes (1857–1947)

Title: The Munitions Girls

Date: 1918

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 103 cm (40.5 in); width: 127 cm (50 in)

Collection: Science Museum

About this Image, via Wikimedia Commons:       

Commissioned by John Baker & Co, this famous oil painting, The Munitions Girls, shows women working at Kilnhurst Steelworks during the First World War. The artist was Alexander Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947). Like many other steelworks during the war, John Baker & Co’s Kilnhurst site was converted to make shells and ammunition. As men volunteered or were conscripted to fight in the British Army, women became the main work force in industry and farming. Munitions workers could often be picked out in a crowd because of the distinctive yellow coloring of their hair and skin caused by the sulfur used in production. They were nicknamed canaries. [1]

My Usual Fine Art Rant Goes in a Different Direction:

The women in this picture are shown doing dangerous, dirty work. They stepped up and did what they had to do to make sure their husbands and lovers had the weapons they needed to defend their country.

And they are doing it for very little money, less than men would have earned. While that is slowly changing, some things remain the same. It’s difficult to find people who want to do the “ordinary work,” jobs considered blue-collar, or manual labor.

Here in the US, it is Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer, but more importantly, a day dedicated to appreciation of those who make up our labor force, the people who do the unglamorous work that keeps our world turning smoothly.

I’ve always been a writer, but I like to eat. I always held two and three part-time jobs just to keep the roof over my children’s heads and food on their table. I could make the food budget stretch like a politician’s idea of truth.

  • 1970s-80s – a field hand for a multi-national Christmas tree company, bookkeeper, photo lab tech, waitress in a bakery and also worked in a deli.
  • 1980s-90s – a hotel maid, a dark-room technician, a bookkeeper, and an office manager
  • 2000-13 – a bookkeeper, tax-preparer, data entry.

None of my work was glamorous but I always found something to enjoy in each job. By going to work every day I was able to pay my bills, which I did enjoy. Sometimes, especially during the Reagan years and into the 90s, wages were low, and jobs were scarce.

I worked every weekend and every holiday and yes it was not easy, but it was what it was. My kids knew I was doing my best for them, and they appreciated it.

During the late 70s and early 80s I was a field hand for the J. Hofert Company (Christmas trees) and absolutely loved the work. It was outdoors, paid $3.25 an hour and it was seasonal, but I was able to work a lot of overtime, as field hands were as hard to get then as they are now.

My favorite job was as a hotel maid at a large hotel in Olympia–the work was hard, but I enjoyed it for 12 years. For most of the 1990s it was my weekend job that I kept along with my bookkeeping job, because the hotel was a union shop.

As a bookkeeper/office manager for a charter bus company, I made $7.50 an hour (two dollars over minimum at the time). I worked four seven-hour shifts a week, Monday through Thursday, arriving at 06:00 AM to open the shop, ate lunch at my desk, and went home at 1:00 PM (13:00 military time). That job had no benefits whatsoever. However, I was home when my kids got off the school bus and could make sure they got to their after-school activities.

At my second job, 3 eight-hour shifts Friday through Sunday, I worked as a hotel housekeeper in a union shop. I made $8.50 an hour (three dollars over minimum).

I kept those two jobs all through the 1990s because I was home every night and earned enough to live decently and provide for my children.

No matter what other job I had, I kept my weekend job at the hotel, because it paid well and left my mind free to think about what I was writing. When other jobs went away, I always had that one to fall back on.

Because of the union, we who did the dirty work earned a little more than other women in that line of work, and had a few benefits, such as health insurance and a 401k. Without the union, we hotel maids would have had nothing more than minimum wage.

Not every union is good, and not every union is reasonable. But while I don’t agree with everything every union does and stands for, I do feel gratitude that I and my family was protected by a good, reasonable organization during those years of struggle.

I’m retired now and have the time to write all I want. The world is a different place in many ways, and workers are in short supply. Every place is short-staffed because there are more job openings than workers to fill them.

Someone must do the dirty jobs, the work that no one else wants. I have nothing but respect for those who work long hard hours in all areas of the service industry, struggling to support their families. Look around you, and see the people who make your life easier, by being there every day doing their job.

Every one of them is a person just like you, a living, caring human being with hopes, ambitions, triumphs, and tragedies. Every one of them has a story and a reason to be where they are, doing the task they have been given.

Say a little thank you to all those who take your unintentional abuse when you are stressed out and “don’t have time to wait,” or are upset by things you have no control over and need to vent at someone who can’t or won’t fight back.

The women in Stanhope Forbes’ painting are all gone now, memories of a moment in history. But what they did was important. Give a little thanks to those who do the dirty work and enable you to live a little easier.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Forbes was born in Dublin, the son of Juliette de Guise Forbes, a French woman, and William Forbes, an English railway manager, who was later transferred to London. He had an older brother, Sir William Forbes, who was a railway manager for the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

He was married in the summer of 1889 to fellow painter Elizabeth Armstrong at Newlyn’s St Peter’s Church. Their first home was at the “Cliffs Castle” cottage, which overlooked the sea. They had a son named Alexander (Alec). The couple had a home built for the family in Higher Faughan, Penzance. Elizabeth died in 1912.

Forbes generally painted genre scenes and landscapes en plein air.

Beyond his plein air painting, he also made interior scenes and was adept at capturing the “warm and charming” effects of lighting on a room and the people in it, such as The Lantern, made in 1897. More poignantly, Mrs. Lionel Birch writes of his style and particularly the painting The Health of the Bride: “[The painting depicts the] dominant note of his life’s message, his sense of sympathetic humanity. These people in their humble little parlour, are real and living. Intolerant of all shams and false sentiment, the painter has made himself one with the people he depicts; he has understood the humour which lies so close to tears.”

Of Forbes’s works, Norman Garstin said: “he is a good unsentimental painter, his work has a sense of sincerity that appeals to everyone”. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:’The Munitions Girls’ oil painting, England, 1918 Wellcome L0059548.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:%27The_Munitions_Girls%27_oil_painting,_England,_1918_Wellcome_L0059548.jpg&oldid=667352991 (accessed September 1, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Stanhope Forbes,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stanhope_Forbes&oldid=1089060843 (accessed September 1, 2022).

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

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

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

What I love about this painting:

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

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

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

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

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

About this Painting (via Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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


Credits and Attributions:

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

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#FineArtFriday: Saint Cecilia (revisited) by Edward Burne-Jones

Saint Cecilia, by Edward Burne-Jones

Date: circa 1900

Medium: Stained and painted glass

Dimensions: Height: 213.5 cm (84 in); Width: 75.5 cm (29.7 in) frame: Height: 235 cm (92.5 in); Width: 88.7 cm (34.9 in); Depth: 4 cm (1.5 in)

Collection: Princeton University Art Museum

About this image:

Today we are revisiting an image of a masterpiece in glass: Saint Cecilia, by Edward Burne-Jones. She is the patroness of musicians, and her feast day is traditionally celebrated on November 22. The above image is my favorite rendering of her, as it is so vividly colored.

One of the most beautiful forms of art is stained glass, and the many works of Sir Edward Burne-Jones are without peer.

I may have said before that I’m not a fan of some of the art produced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I understand the heroic and dramatic stories they attempted to tell. Unfortunately, the more hyper-romanticized, physically impossible contortions in which they sometimes posed their heroes and heroines don’t engage my imagination in a good way.

Burne-Jones, however, ranks high on my list of favorite artists because (in my untutored opinion) his best medium was stained glass. The concept and execution of Burne-Jones’s artistic visions in glass are stunning. Vivid, intense colors, romantic subjects – his windows are glorious and seem illuminated even when not backlit by the sun.

About Saint Cecilia, From Wikimedia Commons:

One of nearly thirty versions of a window designed by Burne-Jones and executed by the company founded by William Morris (1834–1896), Saint Cecilia is a product of the Arts and Crafts movement they initiated. Friends at Oxford, Morris and Burne-Jones became disciples of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement and put into practice his vision for the renewal of art. They sought to counter the effects of the machine age by reviving medieval crafts, abolishing distinctions between fine and decorative arts, and beautifying objects of everyday life. Morris wrote on the philosophy of art and founded a company to execute textiles, wallpaper, and other objects, while Burne-Jones, in addition to painting and sculpting, studied with the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and designed murals, tapestries, and stained glass for Morris’s company.

The Gothic Revival style in architecture created a market for stained glass, especially in the 1870s, when Burne-Jones was a particularly prolific designer of windows. The first Saint Cecilia window, at Christ Church, Oxford (1875), shows the influence of the early Renaissance art he had seen in central Italy, most recently in 1871. The flat, abstracted, linear style and the wilting pose of the impossibly tall, graceful woman make reference to the work of Botticelli (Florentine, ca. 1445–1510), while the tapestry-like screen of pomegranate trees and fruits and the richly patterned brocade fabric recall the latest Gothic phase of Italian art, about 1400.

Saint Cecilia, an early Christian Roman virgin martyr, became the patron saint of music and was portrayed with an organ — here, a portable organ of the fifteenth century. Although water organs existed in the ancient world, pipe organs date from the fourteenth century, so we must assume Cecilia is singing the praises of God in heaven, not during her earthly life. In the window at Christ Church, she is flanked by lancet windows with music-making angels; scenes from the life of a fellow martyr saint, Valerian, and her own martyrdom are shown below. In Chicago, a Saint Cecilia window was included in the stained glass of the Second Presbyterian Church (1904); there, the fabric behind the saint is blue, and the tree bears lemons, demonstrating the permutations that could occur among these windows.

About the artist, from Wikipedia:

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet ARA (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898) was an English artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Burne-Jones was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in Britain.


Credits and Attributions:

Saint Cecilia, Edward Burne-Jones [Public domain], Stained and painted glasss, ca. 1900

Wikipedia contributors, “Edward Burne-Jones,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edward_Burne-Jones&oldid=868174553 (accessed November 16, 2018).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Burne-Jones, Sir Edward, Saint Cecilia, ca. 1900.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Burne-Jones,_Sir_Edward,_Saint_Cecilia,_ca._1900.jpg&oldid=303427881 (accessed November 16, 2018).

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

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 three years ago by a storm chaser during a December storm 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: Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905

Anna_Ancher_-_Harvesters_-_Google_Art_ProjectArtist: Anna Ancher  (1859–1935)

Title: Harvesters

Date: 1905

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: w56.2 x h43.4 cm (Without frame)

Collection: Skagens Museum

What I love about this painting:

While she normally painted interiors, Anna Ancher captured a perfect late summer morning beneath blue skies in this painting. One can almost hear the rustling of ripe grain moving with the breeze.

I like the placement of the three figures, two women and a man. Are they husband, wife, and daughter? There is a sense of movement in this painting. They enter the scene from the right, and you feel sure they will exit to the left, where the field that is to be cut that day is.

The man will scythe, the woman who follows third will rake, and the woman in the middle will stack the sheaves.

These are not poor people. These farmers are dressed modestly in clean work clothes that aren’t tattered and patched. They are doing well; the grain is high, and life is good in these years of plenty before the outbreak of WWI.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Anna Ancher (18 August 1859 – 15 April 1935), born Anna Kirstine Brøndum, was born in Skagen, Denmark, was the only one of the Skagen Painters who was born and grew up in Skagen, where her father owned the Brøndums Hotel. The artistic talent of Anna Ancher became obvious at an early age and she became acquainted with pictorial art via the many artists who settled to paint in Skagen, in the north of Jylland.

While she studied drawing for three years at the Vilhelm Kyhn College of Painting in Copenhagen, she developed her own style and was a pioneer in observing the interplay of different colors in natural light. She also studied drawing in Paris at the atelier of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes along with Marie Triepcke, who would marry Peder Severin Krøyer, another Skagen painter.

In 1880 she married fellow painter Michael Ancher, whom she met in Skagen. They had one child, daughter Helga Ancher. Despite pressure from society that married women should devote themselves to household duties, she continued painting after marriage.

Anna Ancher was considered to be one of the great Danish pictorial artists by virtue of her abilities as a character painter and colorist. Her art found its expression in Nordic art’s modern breakthrough toward a more truthful depiction of reality, e.g. in Blue Ane (1882) and The Girl in the Kitchen (1883–1886).

Ancher preferred to paint interiors and simple themes from the everyday lives of the Skagen people, especially fishermen, women, and children. She was intensely preoccupied with exploring light and color, as in Interior with Clematis (1913). She also created more complex compositions such as A Funeral (1891). Anna Ancher’s works often represented Danish art abroad. Ancher has been known for portraying similar civilians from the Skagen art colony in her works, including an old blind woman.


Credits and Attributions:

Harvesters, Anna Ancher, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Anna Ancher – Harvesters – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Anna_Ancher_-_Harvesters_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=371900766 (accessed October 14, 2021).

Wikipedia contributors, “Harvesters (Ancher),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Harvesters_(Ancher)&oldid=1047378795 (accessed October 14, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: The Baker by Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde, circa 1681

Title: The Baker

Genre: self-portrait

Artist: Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde

Date: 1681

Medium: oil on canvas

Collection: Worcester Art Museum

What I like about this painting:

Berckheyde painted several pictures of bakery shops. These genre paintings of bakeries were popular as a subject for Dutch artists from around 1650.

When I first saw this image, I wondered why our baker is blowing a horn. I discovered that was how some bakers announced the morning’s freshly baked bread.

Like most merchants in 17th century Holland, bakers often worked out of their own homes. However, their ovens were well-known fire threats. Entire cities would go up in a raging conflagration that no one could out run or stop, often burning for days. For this reason, many neighbors didn’t really want a baker going into business next door to them.

To minimize the fire risk, some towns and cities required bakers to live and do business in stone buildings. This law explains the artist’s rather monumental choice of architecture as the background for The Baker. It looks the the entrance to a cathedral.

Berckheyde chose to make this a self-portrait. I like this decision, for he was honest in how he presented himself, He is not too handsome, but is surrounded by a wide, tempting assortment of goods, including pretzels. The wooden rack they’re displayed on would be at home in any bakery shop today.

I would definitely buy my family’s bread from this baker.


About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Job Berckheyde, baptized 27 January 1630 and died 23 November 1693, was born in Haarlem and was the older brother of the painter Gerrit who he later taught to paint.

He was apprenticed on 2 November 1644 to Jacob Willemszoon de Wet. His master’s influence is apparent in his first dated canvas, “Christ Preaching to the Children” (1661), one of his few biblical scenes.

Golden-age historian Arnold Houbraken claimed that Job had been trained as a bookbinder by his father, and could not discover who taught him to paint.

What is not in doubt is that Gerrit learned from his older brother. Job’s teacher must have been a Haarlem master, and some claim it was Frans Hals, but Houbraken claimed he travelled as a journeyman between Leiden and Utrecht offering his services as a portrait painter and learned by doing.

During the 1650s the two brothers, Job and Gerrit, made an extended trip along the Rhine to Germany, stopping off at Cologne, Bonn, Mannheim and finally Heidelberg, following the example of their fellow guild member Vincent van der Vinne.

The brothers worked in Heidelberg for Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine (with Job producing portraits and hunting scenes, and receiving a gold chain from the Elector in reward) but were ultimately unable to adapt to court life and so returned to Haarlem, where they shared a house and perhaps a studio.

He became a member of the Haarlem rederijkersgilde ‘De Wijngaardranken’ in 1666–1682. He is registered in Amsterdam 1682–1688, where he became a member of the Guild of St Luke there in 1685–1688. Berckheyde was buried in Haarlem.

He could paint landscapes in the same style as his brother, but seems to have preferred interiors and genre works, whereas his brother’s oeuvre consists mostly of outdoor scenes. The Elector’s gold chain may be the one he wears in his early Self-portrait (1655), his only documented work from the 1650s.

Job is better known for his later work, which consists mainly of interior views of the Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem and simple genre scenes recalling those of his Haarlem contemporaries Adriaen van Ostade and Jan Steen.

Less prolific than his brother, but more varied in his output, Job produced bible and genre scenes as well as cityscapes. Confusion between their works may have resulted from the similarity of their signatures, where Job’s j resembles Gerrit’s g. Job also signed his work with an H (for Hiob or Job) and with the monogram HB.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Berckheyde, Job – The Baker – 1681.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Berckheyde,_Job_-_The_Baker_-_1681.jpg&oldid=463054921 (accessed September 17, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Job_Adriaenszoon_Berckheyde&oldid=947928424 (accessed September 17, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gerrit Berckheyde,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gerrit_Berckheyde&oldid=933563068 (accessed September 17, 2020).

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

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

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

What I love about this painting:

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

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

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

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

About this Painting (via Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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


Credits and Attributions:

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

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#FineArtFriday: 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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