Tag Archives: Fine Art Friday

#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: Self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer 1500

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Dürer chooses to present himself monumentally, in a style that unmistakably recalls depictions of Christ—the implications of which have been debated among art critics. A conservative interpretation suggests that he is responding to the tradition of the Imitation of Christ. A more controversial view reads the painting is a proclamation of the artist’s supreme role as creator.

The inscription reads, I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in appropriate [or everlasting] colors aged twenty-eight years.

What I like about this painting:

I like how dark and precise this portrait is compared to his earlier self-portraits. Dürer’s eyes are compelling. They tell us he is a complicated man with many secrets. The year 1500 was significant to him, as it was the turn of the millennium and his studio was enjoying great success as a print maker. Dürer traveled often and had spent a great deal of time in Italy where he made the acquaintance of Leonardo da Vinci. It is clear he was highly influenced by da Vinci’s work, as were most artists of the day.

I’m intrigued by the way he has chosen to depict himself in a pose that was traditionally that of Christ as Savior Mundi (Savior of the World). His hair, in this painting, is portrayed as dark brown but was actually a lighter red. He shows it as parted down the middle, very like da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.

He raises his hand toward his heart, as if blessing us, the viewers. The position of the fingers is symbolic; some would say it is a Templar/Masonic gesture for the letter M, signifying Mary. If you try to hold your hand that position, you discover it is impossible to do so in a relaxed, natural way. The fingers must be purposefully held that way and it isn’t really comfortable.  Others would say hands are difficult to paint, and were frequently copied from famous paintings; still other will say certain gestures showed social status. It was the Renaissance and art was a way to express one’s rebellion through symbolism and allegory. Therefore, we know the gesture has meaning.

His signature is also clever: 1500 Anno Domini or 1500 Albrecht Dürer.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) sometimes spelt in English as Durer or Duerer, without umlaut, was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg, Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was in communication with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci, and from 1512 he was patronized by Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer is commemorated by both the Lutheran and Episcopal Churches.

Dürer’s vast body of work includes engravings, his preferred technique in his later prints, altarpieces, portraits and self-portraits, watercolors and books. The woodcuts, such as the Apocalypse series (1498), are more Gothic than the rest of his work. His well-known engravings include the Knight, Death and the Devil (1513), Saint Jerome in his Study (1514) and Melencolia I (1514), which has been the subject of extensive analysis and interpretation. His watercolors also mark him as one of the first European landscape artists, while his ambitious woodcuts revolutionized the potential of that medium.

Dürer’s introduction of classical motifs into Northern art, through his knowledge of Italian artists and German humanists, has secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance. This is reinforced by his theoretical treatises, which involve principles of mathematics, perspective, and ideal proportions.


  • Title:  Albrecht Dürer: Self-Portrait
  • Artist: Albrecht Dürer  (1471–1528)
  • Genre: self-portrait
  • Date: 1500
  • Medium: oil on lime
  • Dimensions: Height: 67.1 cm (26.4 ″); Width: 48.9 cm (19.2 ″)
  • Collection:  Alte Pinakothek
  • Current location: 1st floor room IX Alte Pinakothek, Raum IX

Credits and Attributions:

Self-portrait, 1500 by Albrecht Dürer [Public domain] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Albrecht Dürer – 1500 self-portrait (High resolution and detail).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer_-_1500_self-portrait_(High_resolution_and_detail).jpg&oldid=292769964 (accessed May 2, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Albrecht Dürer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Albrecht_D%C3%BCrer&oldid=894882291 (accessed May 3, 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: Painting Easter Eggs, by Mykhaylo Chornyi

Today’s image is a wonderful excursion into Ukrainian Neo-Folk style. The artist, Mykhaylo Chornyi, lives and paints in the Ukraine. Many European ethnic groups have traditions for using the wax-resist method (psyanky) for inscribing designs on eggs.

From Wikipedia:

pysanka (Ukrainianписанка, plural: писанки) is a Slavic egg , decorated with traditional folk designs using a wax-resist method. The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, “to write” or “to inscribe”, as the designs are not painted on, but written (inscribed) with beeswax.

I’m captivated by the colors, the life in this amazing depiction of that most popular of Easter activities. It was painted in 2000, and to me, while it is highly stylized, it is passionate. Every time I look at this photograph of the painting, I see something new, some small detail that enchants me and draws me deeper into it. I feel like it’s an Easter gift from the artist to me.

Coloring eggs is a common activity this time of year, but these artists don’t simply dye their eggs in pastel shades the way most children here in the US do. These painters are intent, creating brilliant works of art on the most delicate of canvasses—the eggshell.

There is something reverent about the painters as they go about their work. The religious themes in the background are so much a part of the overall scene they are nearly subliminal, yet they are not hidden in any way. Who are the eggs intended as gifts for?

About the Artist, Via Wikipedia:

Mykhaylo Nikiforovich Chornyi (Ukrainian: Михайло Никифорович Чорний; Russian: Михаил Никифорович Чёрный; November 26, 1933) is a Ukrainian Realist, Neo-Primitivist) painter and graphic artist. Chornyi is described as “the founder of Ukrainian Neo-Folk Style”. A member of Ukrainian National Artists’ Union since 1968. People’s Artist of Ukraine (2003).


Credits and Attributions:

Painting Easter Egg, by Mykhaylo Chornyi (Black milly [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] )

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Painting Easter Eggs.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Painting_Easter_Eggs.jpg&oldid=185923430 (accessed April 19, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Mykhaylo Chornyi,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mykhaylo_Chornyi&oldid=838782944 (accessed April 19, 2019).

Lubap Creator:Luba Petrusha [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Wikipedia contributors, “Pysanka,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pysanka&oldid=893148353 (accessed April 19, 2019).

 

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#FineArtFriday: Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, by Caspar David Friedrich circa 1818

What I love about this image:

Friedrich’s precision is spectacular. He pays as much attention to the leaves on the overhanging trees as he does to the cliffs and red dress his wife wears. His color choices are also wonderful—the vividness of Caroline’s red dress against the white cliffs is stunning.

The movement, the power of the cliffs above the sea, the small boats below–one feels humbled by the sheer power of nature.

I can never pass up an allegory, and this picture is packed with them. For more on that, we will turn to the Fount of All knowledge, Wikipedia:

The painting depicts the view from the chalk cliffs of the Stubbenkammer, at that time one of the most famous lookout points on the island. It is frequently but incorrectly believed that the Wissower Klinken outcrops in particular were a model for the painting; however, these did not exist at the time of the painting’s creation, but appeared later because of erosion. Friedrich often composed his landscapes from carefully chosen elements of different sketches, so that a specific location is not necessarily discernible.

Two trees, whose leaves cover the upper third of the painting, frame the scenery. Two men and a woman in town clothes gaze in wonder at the view. The thin figure in the middle is usually interpreted as Caspar David Friedrich himself.  His hat lies beside him as a sign of humility. He seeks for a foothold in the grass as a symbol of the transience of life and looks into the abyss opening before him—the abyss of death. On the right, the man with crossed arms leans against the trunk of a dying tree and looks far out to the sea. The two tiny sailboats stand as symbols for the soul which opens to eternal life and correspond to the figures of the two men.  On the left, the woman in a red dress (who is usually identified as Friedrich’s wife Caroline) sits beside an almost dried-up shrub: only the twigs around her face are leafing out. With her right hand she points either at the abyss or at the flowers bordering it. In contrast to the men, who gaze either at the abyss or into the distance, she communicates with the other figures—whether she feels threatened by the abyss or compelled by the natural beauty is unclear.

The colors of the figure’s clothes are also symbolic. The middle figure is blue, the color of faith; the left figure is red, that of love; and the right figure is green, that of hope. Thus they can be interpreted as embodiments of the three Christian theological virtues: faith, hope and love. The art historian Helmut Börsch-Supan sees in the picture a representation of Friedrich’s relation to death, and the threat to life by death: “clear […] as almost never before, but at the same time also in an unusually serene mood.”


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Caspar David Friedrich’s Chalk Cliffs on Rügen.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Caspar_David_Friedrich%27s_Chalk_Cliffs_on_R%C3%BCgen.jpg&oldid=311800403 (accessed April 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chalk_Cliffs_on_R%C3%BCgen&oldid=878315164 (accessed April 12, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633

Today’s image is of a picture that was stolen in 1990 and has never been recovered.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee was painted during one of the happiest years of Rembrandt van Rijn’s turbulent life and depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. A devout Christian, Rembrandt painted it from the description of the event as reported by the Apostle Mark, in the fourth chapter of his Gospel. As far as is known, it is the only seascape Rembrandt ever painted.

Constantijn Huygens, the father of Dutch mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens, had seen Rembrandt’s talent and helped him gain important commissions from the Court of The Hague. Many of his best religious paintings date from the years during which he had the favor of both Huygens and Prince Frederick Hendrick.

At the end of 1631, Rembrandt had moved to Amsterdam. The city was becoming the new business capital of the Netherlands, so there was great opportunity there for artists. In Amsterdam, Rembrandt had begun to paint portraits for the first time, and by 1633, his work was in high demand. His religious paintings and history paintings were also receiving the highest praise.

At first, he lived with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh, which was where he met Hendrick’s cousin, Saskia van Uylenburgh. During 1633, the year in which Christ on the Sea of Galilee was painted, he was courting Saskia, hoping to marry her. He was earning a good income as a portraitist, and a bright future loomed. He must have felt in many ways as if he had the world by the tail.

What I love about this painting:

Rembrandt’s colors are vivid, standing out against the darkness of the storm. An entire story is captured in this image. The sea is terrifying, monstrous waves battering the ship, men panicking, trying to gain control. The terror of the event is clearly shown, and you feel fear for the men too. In the midst of chaos, Jesus awakes, calm despite the panic around him. Each face has a different expression, and one, a man holding a rope in one hand and pressing his cap to his head with the other, looks directly at us—Rembrandt himself.

The Gospel of Mark records the incident:

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Rembrandt, a frail man but a devout believer, lived the story as he painted it, as do all good storytellers.

About the theft, via Wikipedia:

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the early hours, guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made, and no works have been recovered.

The stolen works had originally been purchased by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) and intended to be left on permanent display at the museum with the rest of her collection. Since the collection and its layout are permanent, empty frames remain hanging both in homage to the missing works and as placeholders for their potential return. Experts are puzzled by the choice of paintings that were stolen, especially since more valuable artwork was left untouched. Among the stolen works was The Concert, one of only 34 known works by Vermeer and thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting, valued at over $200 million.[when?] Also missing is The Storm on the Sea of GalileeRembrandt‘s only known seascape. Other works by Rembrandt, DegasManet, and Flinck were also stolen.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn

  • Artist:   Rembrandt  (1606–1669)
  • Genre: religious art
  • Date: 1633
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 160 cm (62.9 ″); Width: 128 cm (50.3 ″)
  • Current Location: Unknown

Sources and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee.jpg&oldid=341966464 (accessed April 4, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Calming the storm,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Calming_the_storm&oldid=882782126 (accessed April 4, 2019).

The Isobel Stewart Gardner Museum, CHRIST IN THE STORM ON THE SEA OF GALILEE, 1633, https://www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/collection/10953 (accessed April 4, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Lamentation by Michiel Sweerts  

Michiel Sweerts:  The Lamentation

Date:   between 1643 and 1661

Medium:          Etching and engraving on paper

Dimensions:    Height: 28.7 cm (11.2 ″); Width: 34.6 cm (13.6 ″)

About the technique of Etching (From Wikipedia):

Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today.

In traditional pure etching, a metal (usually copper, zinc or steel) plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle where he or she wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The échoppe, a tool with a slanted oval section, is also used for “swelling” lines. The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for “biting”) or etchant, or has acid washed over it. The acid “bites” into the metal (it dissolves part of the metal) where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over, and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines.

Etchings were, in the 17th century, the way an artist could ensure his work was seen by the growing middle-class who would otherwise be unable to afford art for their homes. Once an artist mastered the technique, it was the most reliable way to earn money from his work.

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Michiel Sweerts was born in Brussels where he was baptized on 29 September 1618 in the St. Nicholas Church as the son of David Sweerts, a linen merchant, and Martina Ballu.  Little is known about the artist’s early life and nothing about his training.

The surviving works by Sweerts mostly date to the period of his residence in Rome. Due to the difficulty of attributing works to the artist who rarely signed his works the number of canvases given to the artist vary from 40 to 100. Some of Sweerts’ works were so popular in his time that contemporary copies were made, some by Sweerts himself, others by pupils or followers. It is not always easy to determine the level of Sweerts’ involvement (if any) in the making of these copies. For instance, there exist at least four early copies, of varying quality, of his Artist’s studio with a woman sewing (one copy at the Collection RAU – Fondation Unicef, Cologne). None of his paintings produced after he left Europe is known to survive.

The majority of his output falls into two categories: ‘genre scenes” of low-life subjects of country and street life and portraits or tronies. A third category are allegorical works, which are regarded as enigmatic and are the subject of ongoing interpretation by art historians. Sweerts reportedly painted compositions of Biblical subjects, several of which are mentioned in contemporary inventories. However, none of these are known to have survived. One of his religious paintings, a Lamentation is known from the print, which Sweerts himself made after his own painting. The composition is unusual for the Virgin’s comforting gesture towards the inconsolable Mary Magdalene.

Sweerts is an enigmatic and difficult artist to categorise, since he absorbed a variety of influences to create an eclectic style that adapted Netherlandish genre painting to early tenebrist styles as well as blended Baroque and classicist tendencies.

By December 1661 Sweerts had arrived in Marseilles from where his ship left for Palestine in January 1662.  Sweerts sailed for Alexandretta with bishop François Pallu, 7 priests and another lay brother. In Syria he is said to have produced some paintings. On the overland portion of the trip in Syria he became mentally unstable and was dismissed from the company somewhere between Isfahan and Tabriz in Persia. He then traveled on to the Portuguese Jesuits in Goa where he is reported to have died at the age of 46.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Etching,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Etching&oldid=887368691 (accessed March 29, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Michiel Sweerts,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Michiel_Sweerts&oldid=850063690  (accessed March 29, 2019).

Wikimedia contributors, “Michiel Sweerts,”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michiel_Sweerts_-_The_lamentation.jpg (accessed March 29, 2019)

 

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#FineArtFriday: Don Quixote in the Library by Adolf Schrödter, revisited

Today we are revisiting area of art which has often been a primary reason why I buy books, the illustrations. This post was first published here on August 3, 2018. The above image is one I love, a scene from  one of my favorite books. Don Quixote is a character that is near to my heart.

The artwork that went into many books in the 19th and early 20th centuries was sometimes exquisite. Yet, these illustrators remained unknown for the most part and unsung. Today’s image is from Wikimedia Commons and is by a German artist, Adolf Schrödter.

Little is known about Schrödter other than he was born on June 28, 1805, and died Dec. 9, 1875, and was a genre painter of the Düsseldorf school of painting. According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge:

The Düsseldorf School had a significant influence on the Hudson River School in the United States, and many prominent Americans trained at the Düsseldorf Academy and show the influence of the Düsseldorf School, including George Caleb BinghamDavid Edward CroninEastman JohnsonWorthington WhittredgeRichard Caton WoodvilleWilliam Stanley HaseltineJames McDougal HartHelen Searle, and William Morris Hunt, as well as German émigré Emanuel LeutzeAlbert Bierstadt applied but was not accepted. His American friend Worthington Whittredge became his teacher while attending Düsseldorf.

However, some of Schrödter’s art survives in the form of illustrations and a few prints have been sold at auctions.

In today’s image what impresses me is the level of detail. Here we see Alonso Quixano reading, lounging in a room that is clearly a book lover’s sanctuary. He is a descendant of the family of “Gutierre Quijada” by direct lineage and is proud to be part of a long and noble tradition of knights. In the first part of the book, Alonso, later Don Quixote de la Mancha, is a dreamer, preferring to imagine himself as a superhero, living out a knightly story.

Books are strewn everywhere, beautiful, heavy leather-bound tomes. Schrödter shows him in a relaxed pose, deep into a book. The light of the room comes from a large window. He is a very human, ordinary middle-aged man, relaxing in the most cherished place in his universe: his library.

Alonso Quixano, the protagonist of the novel (though he is not named until much later in the book), is a retired country gentleman nearing fifty years of age, living in La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper. Although he is mostly a rational man, his excessive reading of books of chivalry has produced a skewed view of reality and what we might consider dementia. In keeping with the theories of the time, not sleeping adequately—because he was reading—has caused his brain to dry.

I love that notion.

As a result, Alonso is easily given to anger and believes every word of these fictional books of chivalry to be true. Don Quixote’s niece commits, what is to me, the most heinous crime–she and the Parrish curate burn his library, and lie to him, telling him it was the work of an evil magician.

He descends completely into his fantasy world and decides to become a knight-errant in search of adventure. Schrödter has captured the essence of the making of Don Quixote in this painting—the man who loves books is in his element, the one place where he fits. When that is taken from him, the story begins.


Credits and Attributions:

Don Quixote in the Library, by Adolf Schrödter, 1834 PD|100, via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Düsseldorf school of painting,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=D%C3%BCsseldorf_school_of_painting&oldid=822264175 (accessed August 3, 2018).

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#FineArtFriday: Tronie of an Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn

Tronie of an Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn is a portrait of Rembrandt’s father, Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn.  Harmen was a miller in Leiden.

About the word “tronie” from Wikipedia: A tronie (16/17th-century Dutch for “face”) is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “tronche” which is slang for “mug” or head.

Rembrandt’s family was quite well-to-do and as such, young Rembrandt was educated in the best schools, which his father paid for.  Rembrandt’s father encouraged his son’s talent.

To my opinionated eyes, this painting shows Rembrandt’s affection for his father.

Rembrandt resembled  his father, if this portrait was accurate, and I think we can assume it was. As an artist, Rembrandt was unflinchingly honest in the portrayal of his subjects, while always managing to show their humanity.


Credits and Attributions

Tronie of and Old Man by Rembrandt van Rijn

Wikipedia contributors, “Tronie,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tronie&oldid=872242306 (accessed March 15, 2019).

Rembrandt and workshop [Public domain]

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