Tag Archives: Dutch Golden Age

#FineArtFriday: Self Portrait, Rembrandt 1659

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Credits and Attributions:

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

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

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#FineArtFriday: River View by Moonlight, Aert van der Neer

 

River View by Moonlight, Aert van der Neer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Aert van der Neer, or Aernout or Artus (c. 1603 – 9 November 1677), was a landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age, specializing in small night scenes lit only by moonlight and fires, and snowy winter landscapes, both often looking down a canal or river.

Description:
View of a village on a river by moonlight. In the foreground two horse and carriage on a dirt road. To the right a fisherman on a small boat on the water. On the horizon two windmills.
Date: Circa 1640-1650
Medium: oil on panel

What I love about this painting:

This image offers us context to history. It shows how a 17th century harbor looked and the people who worked there. Carters and haulers move cargo, and fishermen go out in the dark to fish for a living. Some freshwater fish, such as eels, are more commonly found after dark.


Credits and Attributions:

River View by Moonlight, Aert van der Neer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rijksmuseum neer.jpeg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rijksmuseum_neer.jpeg&oldid=194438646 (accessed October 27, 2017).

Wikipedia contributors, “Aert van der Neer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aert_van_der_Neer&oldid=770891498 (accessed October 27, 2017).

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#FineArtFriday: View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer ca.1661

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer

Genre: cityscape

Date: between circa 1660 and circa 1661

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 96.5 cm (37.9″); Width: 117.5 cm (46.2″)

What I love about this painting:

The scene is as clear and sharp as if it were viewed through an open window. The colors are both bright and muted–true to life. The red of roof tiles contrast with the blue of both the sky and a blue painted shingle roof. The reflections on the water, the people on the shore show us a lovely morning in the Netherlands.

Vermeer is considered the master of light, and indeed, the quality of light in all his works is remarkable. The shadowy reflections on the dark, still waters look as real as a photograph.

About this Painting, via Wikipedia:

View of Delft  is an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer, painted ca. 1660–1661. The painting of the Dutch artist’s hometown is among his most popular, painted at a time when cityscapes were uncommon. It is one of three known paintings of Delft by Vermeer, along with The Little Street and the lost painting House Standing in Delft. The use of pointillism in the work suggests that it postdates The Little Street, and the absence of bells in the tower of the New Church dates it to 1660–1661. Vermeer’s View of Delft has been held in the Dutch Royal Cabinet of Paintings at the Mauritshuis in The Hague since its establishment in 1822.

The technical analysis shows that Vermeer used a limited choice of pigments for this painting: calcitelead whiteyellow ochre, natural ultramarine and madder lake are the main painting materials. His painting technique, on the other hand, is very elaborate and meticulous.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “View of Delft,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=View_of_Delft&oldid=933182285 (accessed February 14, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Jan Vermeer van Delft 001.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Jan_Vermeer_van_Delft_001.jpg&oldid=338278968 (accessed February 14, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Belshazzar’s Feast by Rembrandt ca. 1635-1638

Artist:  Rembrandt  (1606–1669):Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Title:   Belshazzar’s Feast

Genre: religious art (history painting)

Description: According to Daniel 5:1-31, King Belshazzar of Babylon takes sacred golden and silver vessels from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. Using these holy items, the King and his court praise ‘the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’. Immediately, the disembodied fingers of a human hand appear and write on the wall of the royal palace the words “MENE”, “MENE”, “TEKEL”, “UPHARSIN”

Depicted people: Belshazzar

Date: circa 1635-1638

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 167.6 cm (65.9″); Width: 209.2 cm (82.3″)

Collection: National Gallery


What I love about this painting:

Rembrandt went to a great deal of expense and trouble to paint what he hoped would be seen as a masterpiece. He wanted to be a history painter, as that is where the fame was in his time. While the money was in portraits, Rembrandt also wanted fame. We know this painting was painted before his wife Saskia’s illnesses  and death in 1642, because she was the model for woman behind Belshazzar. She is depicted as being terrified by what is being written on the wall.

Every detail is there, from the finely worked golden ornaments and crown in Belshazzar’s headdress to the king’s golden earring in the shape of a crescent moon. His garments are covered in delicate embroideries in gold thread and sewn with pearls and beads of jet. The garments and jewelry of all the diners are rich and sumptuous; they too wear golden jewelry, with pearls and beads of jet. The shock of the diners, the combination of fear and indignation of the king at the appearance of the hand—these emotions are depicted as perfectly as are the extravagant garments.

About this painting, Via Wikpedia:

Rembrandt’s handling of painting materials and his painting technique in Belshazzar’s Feast are both exceptional and do not compare to any of his other works. The palette of this painting is unusually rich encompassing such pigments as vermilionsmaltlead-tin-yellowyellow and red lakesochres and azurite.


About the story, via Wikipedia:

Belshazzar’s feast, or the story of the writing on the wall (chapter 5 in the Book of Daniel) The story of Belshazzar and the writing on the wall originates in the Old Testament Book of Daniel. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar looted the Temple in Jerusalem and has stolen the sacred artefacts such as golden cups. His son Belshazzar used these cups for a great feast where the hand of God appeared and wrote the inscription on the wall prophesying the downfall of Belshazzar’s reign. The text on the wall says “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin“. Biblical scholars interpret this to mean “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; your kingdom is given to the Medes and Persians”.

The inscription on the wall is an interesting element in this painting. Rembrandt lived in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam and “derived the form of Hebrew inscription from a book by his friend, the learned Rabbi and printer, Menasseh ben Israel, yet mis-transcribed one of the characters and arranged them in columns, rather than right to left, as Hebrew is written.” This last detail is essential as it relates to the question of why Belshazzar and his advisers were not able to decipher the inscription and had to send for Daniel to help them with it.

The biblical story does not identify the language of the cryptic message, but it is generally assumed to be Aramaic, which, like Hebrew, is written in right-to-left rows, and not in right-to-left columns as in the painting. Although there is no accepted explanation why the Babylonian priests were unable to decipher the writing, the point of this unconventional arrangement – reading the text in the painting in the conventional row-wise left-to-right order results in a garbled message – may be to suggest why the text proved incomprehensible to the Babylonian wise men; indeed, this explanation is in accordance with the opinion of the amora Shmuel, which is mentioned in the Babylonian TalmudTractate Sanhedrin, 22a, among various dissenting views.


Sources and Attributions:

Belshazzar’s Feast by Rembrandt PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt-Belsazar.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt-Belsazar.jpg&oldid=363468240 (accessed January 31, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Belshazzar’s Feast (Rembrandt)’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 January 2020, 09:24 UTC, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Belshazzar%27s_Feast_(Rembrandt)&oldid=936202396> [accessed 31 January 2020]

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#FineArtFriday: The Lacemaker by Nicolaes Maes ca. 1656

The Lacemaker

  • Artist   Nicolaes Maes
  • Year    c. 1656
  • Medium           oil paint, canvas
  • Dimensions     45 cm (18 in) × 53 cm (21 in)

About this image, via Wikipedia:

The Lacemaker (circa 1656) is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes. It is an example of Dutch Golden Age painting and is part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This painting is typical of many paintings of women in interiors painted by Maes in the 1650s. The woman is making bobbin lace using a lace pillow that can be seen in other Maes paintings of lacemakers.

The child in a highchair was a popular subject for many Dutch genre painters, and this painting shows how it was used as a safe place to play as well as for eating. The empty bowl of porridge is on the floor along with some other items the boy has let fall. He is wearing a red valhoed or falling cap, which seems to indicate that confinement in the chair is necessary if any lacemaking is going to get done.

baby bumper headguard cap, also known as a falling cap, or pudding hat, is a protective hat worn by children learning to walk, to protect their heads in case of falls.

Known as a pudding or black pudding, a version used during the early 17th century until the late 18th century was usually open at the top and featured a sausage-shaped bumper roll that circled the head like a crown. It was fastened with straps under the chin.

About the Artist via Wikipedia

From Wikipedia: Nicolaes Maes, also known as Nicolaes Maas (January 1634 – November 24, 1693 (buried)) was a Dutch Golden Age painter of genre and portraits. In about 1648 he went to Amsterdam, where he entered Rembrandt‘s studio. Before his return to Dordrecht in 1653 Maes painted a few Rembrandtesque genre pictures, with life-size figures and in a deep glowing scheme of colour, like the Reverie at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Card Players at the National Gallery, and the Children with a Goat Carriage. So closely did his early style resemble that of Rembrandt, that the last-named picture, and other canvases in the Leipzig and Budapest galleries and in the collection of Lord Radnor, were or are still ascribed to Rembrandt.

In his best period, from 1655 to 1665, Maes devoted himself to domestic genre on a smaller scale, retaining to a great extent the magic of colour he had learnt from Rembrandt. Only on rare occasions did he treat scriptural subjects, as in Hagar’s Departure, which has been ascribed to Rembrandt. His favorite subjects were women spinning, or reading the Bible, or preparing a meal. He had a particular fascination with the subject of lacemaking and made almost a dozen versions on this subject.

While he continued to reside in Dordrecht until 1673, when he settled in Amsterdam, he visited or even lived in Antwerp between 1665 and 1667. His Antwerp period coincides with a complete change in style and subject. He devoted himself almost exclusively to portraiture, and abandoned the intimacy and glowing color harmonies of his earlier work for a careless elegance which suggests the influence of Van Dyck. So great indeed was the change, that it gave rise to the theory of the existence of another Maes, of Brussels. His registered pupils were Justus de GelderMargaretha van GodewijkJacob Moelaert, and Johannes Vollevens.[1] Maes died in Amsterdam.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “The Lacemaker (Maes),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Lacemaker_(Maes)&oldid=799625637 (accessed December 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Baby bumper headguard cap,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Baby_bumper_headguard_cap&oldid=914539353 (accessed December 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Nicolaes Maes,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nicolaes_Maes&oldid=815679835 (accessed July 12, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer (reprise)

NaNoWriMo is drawing near the end–one week remains. During that week, many of us in the US will prepare Thanksgiving feasts for our families and still try to find time to write new words. Here at Casa del Jasperson, we will host a large family gathering, but I will get some writing done before they arrive.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the re-run of this article detailing my impressions of a wonderful painting, Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer. Much of my work deals with life in pre- and emerging industrial era societies, and paintings like this are critical to my understanding of how life was lived and enjoyed.


The above painting, Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer, is a perfect illustration of a day in the life of a Danish village as captured by the eye of an artist. One of the last paintings made before Gebauer’s death in 1831, it is considered a centerpiece work of the Danish Golden Age, a period of exceptional creative production in Denmark during the first half of the 19th century. Gebauer was heavily influenced by the works of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

If you are writing fantasy, which is often set in rural late-renaissance-era environments, you can find all the details you need in the art of the past.

Artists painted details, not visible from a distance, but which combine to give the mood of the piece. They painted not only what they saw, but what they felt. They gave us a hint of how people really lived, laughed, and loved before the industrial revolution transformed the world into the modern, technologically driven place we see today.

In Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer shows us villagers dressed for warmth, enjoying themselves on the ice. Others are working, bringing in sledges filled with hay. A hunter and and his dogs are returning, perhaps empty handed. A bag hangs at the hunter’s side but isn’t full. The ice-fishermen are having better luck.

A woodcutter admonishes a boy, perhaps his son, to stop fooling around. His machete hangs in his right hand, as he fights what he knows is a losing battle. It’s evening, the day has been long, and children who have worked all day just want to play and have fun.

The sky takes up fully half of the painting–the church and the people are small beneath it. Beneath the powerful sky, there is an air of busy enjoyment to the painting. The hilarity of those skaters unable to keep their balance is juxtaposed against the hard-working laborers and the cozy prosperity of horses pulling laden sleds.

The entire story of one winter’s evening in this village lives within this painting, all of it captured by an artist nearly two-hundred years ago.

Is there magic here? Maybe. Is there life and passion? Definitely. There is a story in this image. Certainly the details will emerge in my work in the form of setting and atmosphere.

Regardless of how I use it, this window opens onto a time I can now visualize more clearly, less blurred by my modern perspective.


Credits and Attributions:

#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer by Connie J. Jasperson first appeared on Life in the Realm of Fantasy on 08 Dec. 2017.

Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FineArtFriday: Landscape with the Parable of the Sower by Pieter Bruegel the Elder 1552

Artist: Pieter Bruegel the Elder  (1526/1530–1569)

Title: Landscape with the Parable of the Sower

Genre: religious art

Date: 1552

Medium: oil on panel

Dimensions: Height: 74 cm (29.1 ″); Width: 102 cm (40.1 ″)

What I love about this painting:

Pieter Brugel the Elder was one of my first influences in the world of art appreciation. What always strikes me about his work is the innocent joy he infused in his art. This particular painting has a delicate, almost watercolor feel to it.

In this piece, the color of the river is the unique shade of blue that appears in his other works.

The parable he illustrates (via Wikipedia):

In the (Biblical) story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Some seed falls on the path (wayside) with no soil, some on rocky ground with little soil, and some on soil which contained thorns. In these cases the seed is taken away or fails to produce a crop, but when it falls on good soil it grows, yielding thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

Jesus then (only in the presence of his disciples) explains that the seed represents the Gospel (the sower being anyone who proclaims it), and the various soils represent people’s responses to it (the first three representing rejection while the last represents acceptance).

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel or Breughelthe Elder (/ˈbrɔɪɡəl/, also US: /ˈbruːɡəl, ˈbrɜːɡəl/, Dutch: [ˈpitər ˈbrøːɣəl] c. 1525–1530 – 9 September 1569) was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker from Brabant, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes (so-called genre painting); he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large paintings.

He was a formative influence on Dutch Golden Age painting and later painting in general in his innovative choices of subject matter, as one of the first generation of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the natural subject matter of painting. He also painted no portraits, the other mainstay of Netherlandish art. After his training and travels to Italy, he returned in 1555 to settle in Antwerp, where he worked mainly as a prolific designer of prints for the leading publisher of the day. Only towards the end of the decade did he switch to make painting his main medium, and all his famous paintings come from the following period of little more than a decade before his early death, when he was probably in his early forties, and at the height of his powers.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Pieter Bruegel d. Ä. 030.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Pieter_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._030.jpg&oldid=356083009 (accessed September 20, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Pieter Bruegel the Elder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder&oldid=915292603 (accessed September 20, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Parable of the Sower,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Parable_of_the_Sower&oldid=907267798 (accessed September 20, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Huis Kostverloren on the Amstel by Jacob van Ruisdael ca.1660

About the Artist Via Wikipedia:

Ruisdael and his art should not be considered apart from the context of the incredible wealth and significant changes to the land that occurred during the Dutch Golden Age. In his study on 17th-century Dutch art and culture, Simon Schama remarks that “it can never be overemphasized that the period between 1550 and 1650, when the political identity of an independent Netherlands nation was being established, was also a time of dramatic physical alteration of its landscape”. Ruisdael’s depiction of nature and emergent Dutch technology are wrapped up in this. Christopher Joby places Ruisdael in the religious context of the Calvinism of the Dutch Republic. He states that landscape painting does conform to Calvin’s requirement that only what is visible may be depicted in art, and that landscape paintings such as those of Ruisdael have an epistemological value which provides further support for their use within Reformed Churches.

The art historian Yuri Kuznetsov places Ruisdael’s art in the context of the war of independence against Spain. Dutch landscape painters “were called upon to make a portrait of their homeland, twice re-won by the Dutch people – first from the sea and later from foreign invaders”. Jonathan Israel, in his study of the Dutch Republic, calls the period between 1647 and 1672 the third phase of Dutch Golden Age art, in which wealthy merchants wanted large, opulent and refined paintings, and civic leaders filled their town halls with grand displays containing republican messages.

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Artist: Jacob van Ruisdael  (1628/1629–1682)

Title: English: The Huis Kostverloren on the Amstel

Date: between 1660 and 1664

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 63 cm (24.8 ″); Width: 75.5 cm (29.7 ″)

Current Location: Amsterdam Museum


Credits and Attributions:

The Huis Kostverloren on the Amstel by Jacob van Ruisdael [Public domain]

Wikipedia contributors, “Jacob van Ruisdael,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacob_van_Ruisdael&oldid=905931531 (accessed July 19, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:SA 38217-Het Huis Kostverloren aan de Amstel2.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:SA_38217-Het_Huis_Kostverloren_aan_de_Amstel2.jpg&oldid=326210473 (accessed July 19, 2019).

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#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).

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#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer

 

The above painting, Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, by Christian David Gebauer, is a perfect illustration of a day in the life of a Danish village as captured by the eye of an artist. One of the last paintings made before Gebauer’s death in 1831, it is considered a centerpiece work of the Danish Golden Age, a period of exceptional creative production in Denmark during the first half of the 19th century. Gebauer was heavily influenced by the works of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.

If you are writing fantasy, which is often set in rural late-renaissance-era environments, you can find all the details you need in the art of the past.

Artists painted details, not visible from a distance, but which combine to give the mood of the piece. They painted not only what they saw, but what they felt. They gave us a hint of how people really lived, laughed, and loved before the industrial revolution transformed the world into the modern, technologically driven place we see today.

In Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer shows us villagers dressed for warmth, enjoying themselves on the ice. Others are working, bringing in sledges filled with hay. A hunter and and his dogs are returning, perhaps empty handed. A bag hangs at the hunter’s side but isn’t full. The ice-fishermen are having better luck.

A woodcutter admonishes a boy, perhaps his son, to stop fooling around. His machete hangs in his right hand, as he fights what he knows is a losing battle. It’s evening, the day has been long, and children who have worked all day just want to play and have fun.

The sky takes up fully half of the painting–the church and the people are small beneath it. Beneath the powerful sky, there is an air of busy enjoyment to the painting. The hilarity of those skaters unable to keep their balance is juxtaposed against the hard-working laborers and the cozy prosperity of horses pulling laden sleds.

The entire story of one winter’s evening in this village lives within this painting, all of it captured by an artist nearly two-hundred years ago.

Is there magic here? Maybe. Is there life and passion? Definitely. There is a story in this image. Certainly the details will emerge in my work in the form of setting and atmosphere.

Regardless of how I use it, this window opens onto a time I can now visualize more clearly, less blurred by my modern perspective.


Credits and Attributions:

Winter Landscape with Brabrand Church, Christian David Gebauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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