Tag Archives: Fine Art Friday

#FineArtFriday: Street Scene in Montmartre Vincent van Gogh 1887

Scène_de_Rue_à_MontmartreArtist: Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Title: Street Scene in Montmartre

Genre: landscape art

Date: 1887

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 46.1 cm (18.1 in); width: 61.3 cm (24.1 in)

Collection: Private collection

What I love about this painting:

Street Scene in Montmartre is a relatively unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh, unknown because it has been held in private collections and not exhibited to the public. It was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2021, and the image was posted to Wikimedia Commons courtesy of that auction.

The scene feels like an afternoon scene in winter, with a man and woman walking, and two children playing.

Vincent paid particular attention to the visual construction and texture of the fence, and also to the tangle of garden behind. This is the smaller of two windmills featured in several more well-known paintings in the subset of paintings from Van Gogh’s Montmartre series.

While there are people walking down the dirt lane in this scene, they aren’t the focus. Instead, our eye is directed to the way the windmill rises over the ramshackle fence, neglected garden, and above it all, the flag bravely flying.

The dirt lane, the fence, the winter-barren garden, and the windmill falling to ruin beneath the cold sky offer us a glimpse into Vincent’s mood. He finds beauty in the textures of life, both visual and metaphysical – in the cycle of growth aging to ruin. The flag flying in the breeze and the children playing offer us the hope of brighter days and new possibilities.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

The Montmartre paintings are a group of works that Vincent van Gogh created in 1886 and 1887 of the Paris district of Montmartre while living there, at 54 Rue Lepic, with his brother Theo. Rather than capture urban settings in Paris, van Gogh preferred pastoral scenes, such as Montmartre and Asnières in the northwest suburbs. Of the two years in Paris, the work from 1886 often has the dark, somber tones of his early works from the Netherlands and Brussels. By the spring of 1887, van Gogh embraced use of color and light and created his own brushstroke techniques based upon Impressionism and Pointillism. The works in the series provide examples of his work during that period of time and the progression he made as an artist.

In van Gogh’s first year in Paris he painted rural areas around Montmartre, such as the butte and its windmills. The colors are somber and evoke a sense of his anxiety and loneliness.

The landscape and windmills around Montmartre were the source of inspiration for a number of van Gogh’s paintings. The Moulin de la Galette, still standing, is located near the apartment he shared with his brother. Built in 1622, it was originally called Blute-Fin and belonged to the Debray family in the 19th century. Van Gogh met artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Signac and Paul Gauguin who inspired him to incorporate Impressionism into his artwork resulting in lighter, more colorful paintings.

Windmills also featured in some of van Gogh’s landscape paintings of Montmartre.

Montmartre, sitting on a butte overlooking Paris, was known for its bars, cafes, and dance-hall. It was also located on the edge of countryside that afforded Van Gogh the opportunity to work on paintings of rural settings while living in Paris.

When Van Gogh painted he intended not just to capture the subject, but to express a message or meaning. It was through his paintings of nature that he was most successful at accomplishing his goal. It also created a great challenge: how to portray the subject and create a work that would resonate with the audience. [1]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Vincent Willem van Gogh, 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He was not commercially successful, struggled with severe depression and poverty, and committed suicide at the age of 37.

Van Gogh was born into an upper-middle-class family, While a child he drew and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often traveling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially; the two kept a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the South of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series of olive trees, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions, and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation between the two when, in a rage, Van Gogh severed a part of his own left ear with a razor. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression persisted, and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver, dying from his injuries two days later. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

Image: Scène de Rue à Montmartre, Vincent van Gogh PD|100, Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Scène de Rue à Montmartre.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Sc%C3%A8ne_de_Rue_%C3%A0_Montmartre.jpg&oldid=617922499 (accessed May 19, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Montmartre (Van Gogh series),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Montmartre_(Van_Gogh_series)&oldid=1086671125 (accessed May 19, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Vincent van Gogh,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vincent_van_Gogh&oldid=1087073450 (accessed May 19, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Twilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux 1888 (revisited)

Twilight_Confidences_by_Cecilia_BeauxTwilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux  (1855–1942)

Date: 1888

Medium:  oil on canvas

Dimensions: 23 1/2 x 28 inches, 59.7 x 71.1 cm

Inscriptions: Signed and dated: Cecilia Beaux

What I love about this painting:

There is an honesty, a real sense of intimacy depicted here. The feeling of sisterhood between the two women is conveyed across the years. One holds an object with a personal meaning. She tells the other something about that object, something she feels she may be judged for. The other takes in what she has been told and accepts it for what it is.

About this painting via Wikimedia Commons:  

Cecilia Beaux was a leading figure and portrait painter and one of the few distinguished and highly recognized women artists of her time in America. Her figures are frequently compared to Sargent’s, but her style relates also to other international leaders of late-19th Century portraiture, including Anders Zorn, Giuseppe Boldini, Carolus-Duran and William Merritt Chase. She was born and lived mostly in Philadelphia, traveling frequently to Europe, especially France from a young age, and exhibited widely in Paris, Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere. Her first acclaimed work, Les Derniers jours d’enfance, a mother and child composition, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1887, and Beaux followed it there the next year, spending the summer of 1888 at the art colony at Concarneau in Brittany. Here she painted her remarkable Twilight Confidences of 1888, preceded by numerous studies, which are in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Lost for many years, this much admired canvas is Beaux’s first major exercise in plein-air painting, in which the figures and the seascape are artfully and exquisitely juxtaposed, and sunlight permeates the whole composition.


Credits and Attributions:

Twilight Confidences, Cecilia Beaux, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Twilight Confidences by Cecilia Beaux.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Twilight_Confidences_by_Cecilia_Beaux.jpg&oldid=355146645 (accessed April 16, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: Officer and Laughing Girl by Johannes Vermeer circa 1657

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Officer_and_Laughing_Girl_-_Google_Art_Project

Artist: Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675)

Title: Officer and Laughing Girl

Genre: genre art

Date: circa 1657

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 50.5 cm (19.8 in); width: 46 cm (18.1 in)

Collection: The Frick Collection

What I love about this painting:

Vermeer paints a story for us. He shows us a courting couple, a modestly dressed young woman seated opposite a young officer. Is this the home of her parents?

It is clearly not a tavern, as she has a crystal wine glass, which taverns wouldn’t have. Another clue to her social status is the map on the wall behind her, indicating her family may be merchants. Taverns rarely displayed maps as they were expensive.

Our girl is dwarfed by the map and also by the large man, whose face we don’t see, as he is captivated by her. Yet though she is physically smaller than her companion, she is not made small in this painting. Indeed, she has a large presence; her personality and smile have power, speaking to us across the centuries.

The light falls gently though the open window, illuminating the woman, bathing the scene with that quality Vermeer recreated so brilliantly.

Some male art critics suggest that the position of her hand indicates a less savory transaction is occurring here, but I feel they are wrong. Her hair is completely covered. She is not dressed provocatively, nor are they shown in a tavern or brothel. Her hand is shown as if gesturing in conversation, a natural gesture.

I think that nasty kind of interpretation is the result of a Victorian-era male art critic prejudice against women in art, dismissing them as morally corrupt. That sort of attitude poisons art interpretation at all levels. Maybe traditional critics need to look at paintings such as this with a fresh eye and see what is actually there: a young woman talking to a young man, seated in a corner at a table, most likely in full view of her middleclass parents.

Vermeer paints us a story of courtship within the bounds of society, of two people with middleclass values who are clearly attracted to each other. Will they be married? I like to think so.

The model for the woman in this painting was most likely Vermeer’s wife, and the dress she wears appears in other domestic scenes painted by Vermeer, as does the window and the table.

About Johannes Vermeer, the Master of Light (from Wikipedia)

Johannes Vermeer (October 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. “Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women.”

He was recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, but his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken‘s major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Johannes Vermeer – De Soldaat en het Lachende Meisje – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_De_Soldaat_en_het_Lachende_Meisje_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=617576363 (accessed April 29, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Johannes Vermeer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Johannes_Vermeer&oldid=1082091616 (accessed April 29, 2022).

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

Today’s image is of a picture that was stolen March 18, 1990, in one of the largest art heists in history. It has never been recovered. If it could be recovered from wherever it is, it would be a day of rejoicing for me and art lovers around the world. I suspect it is now in a private collection, somewhere. Perhaps it is being passed off as a copy, or perhaps it is in a hidden room full of stolen art.

It is a terrible thing when art is looted and stolen from its rightful owners. When art is stolen from a musem, it is stolen from the world. I wish the stings of a thousand fleas on the people who paid to acquire the paintings stolen that night.

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: Shrovetide Revelers by Frans Hals ca. 1616

Frans_Hals,_Merrymakers_at_Shrovetide,_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_ArtArtist: Frans Hals  (1582/1583–1666)

Title: Shrovetide Revelers

Genre: genre painting

Date: circa 1616–17

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 51 ¾ × 39 ¼ in. (131.4 × 99.7 cm)

Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

What I think about this painting:

This was a lurid scene at the time it was painted and is still lurid today. The sole female portrayed is a girl dressed in the finest of garments, surrounded by men. She is well-fed, has abundant blonde hair, and represents the concept of “plenty.” The party will go on for as long as she lasts–when she is gone, the party is over.

The color of her hair is gold, an allegory for an abundance of coins. The men posed around her represent the human tendency toward gluttony, drunkenness, and greed.

Frans Hals depicted the embroideries on the fabric of her dress and the intricate lace at her neck and cuffs with exquisite care and attention to detail. The sheen of her satin sleeves gleams in the candlelight, showing off the strings of beads at her neck and wrist. Perhaps the beads are carnelians. Her brightly flushed cheeks give evidence to her inebriation.

All the characters, including the serving man, are shown as having overindulged. The foods on the table are those any person could acquire, but they are shown being wasted, used as decorations for fools.

Food was an incredibly popular subject for paintings during the renaissance–still lifes were exceedingly good sellers for most artists. Food of all varieties was carefully staged and shown with superb realism and minute detail. Those artists we now call the Dutch and Flemish masters used food as an allegory, and even in genre paintings, they loved to paint lavish food displays.

As in the scene above, the foods depicted in scenes of drunkenness and revelry conveyed symbolic meanings, often implying immorality and debauchery.

Mostly, the imagery was intended to be a reminder that great wealth can vanish overnight. Also, they show us that gluttony is both unappealing to look at and unhealthy for the glutton.

But when I see an image such as this painting, I have to think these artists, whose own morals were often quite elastic, were exercising their broad senses of humor.

About this painting, via The Met Museum:

Shrovetide, now better known as Mardi Gras, is the traditional period of indulgence before the fasting and self-discipline of Lent. In the seventeenth-century Netherlands, it was also the occasion for theatrical performances by the painters’ guilds.

Here, Hals depicts two stock figures from these plays, Hans Wurst, with a sausage dangling from his cap, and Pekelharing, who sports a garland of salted fish and eggs.

They flank a richly dressed girl (probably a boy in drag, as women were not permitted to perform on these occasions).

Still life elements litter the foreground, evoking both the traditional foods of the festival and an abundance of erotic innuendo. [1]

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Shrovetide Revellers, also known as Merrymakers at Shrovetide, is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, painted in around 1616–17. It is one of the earliest surviving works by Hals, and has been held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City since 1913. The painting shows people festivities at Shrovetide (DutchCarnaval), an annual carnival of food and jollity which takes place before the Christian fasting season of Lent.

The painting shows the face of an elegantly dressed smiling woman raising her right finger to make a point, while a man grabs her shoulder to whisper in her ear: he has a string of herring, eggs and mussels around his neck, with a pig’s trotter and a fox tail, symbols of gluttony and foolishness respectively. Another amused gentleman, with a wurst hanging from his cap, leans on the first man’s shoulder and listens to their banter. Some claim these are the Baroque theatre characters Peeckelhaeringh and Hans Wurst. Behind them other people are talking and laughing. The flagon Bears the initials “fh”. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Shrovetide Revellers or Merrymakers at Shrovetide by Frans Hals, Met Museum Contibutors © 2000–2022 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frans Hals | Merrymakers at Shrovetide | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org) (Accessed April 14, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Shrovetide Revellers,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shrovetide_Revellers&oldid=1070869013 (accessed April 14, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: Undergrowth with Two Figures, Vincent van Gogh 1890

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Undergrowth_with_Two_Figures_(F773)Artist: Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Title: Undergrowth with Two Figures

Date: late June 1890

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 50 cm (19.6 in); width: 100.5 cm (39.5 in)

Collection: Cincinnati Art Museum

Today, Thursday, I was privileged to attend an immersive exhibit of Vincent van Gogh’s life through his work. I had hoped to write a post on my impressions of that exhibit when I arrived home, but frankly, words fail me, and so I hope you will forgive my settling for one of my favorites of his paintings.

We were inside an everchanging exhibit that flowed through many of his most famous works and zoomed in on bits one wouldn’t ordinarily notice. I managed a few shots with my cell phone that offer some idea of the exhibition, and here is the one that best shows what we experienced:

Van Gogh immersive 1 connie j jasperson LIRF04072022

The exhibit was such a moving, emotional experience. It brings you into touch with the man as well as his art.

We were in, above, and surrounded by his work. The powerful soundtrack of classical music was paired perfectly to the images, complementing them like fine wine does good food.

The link to that exhibit is here: Van Gogh, The Immersive Experience.

What I love about Undergrowth with Two Figures:

This very late work was painted at the end of June 1890, a few weeks before Van Gogh’s death. It was one of several paintings in Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune on the northwestern outskirts of Paris, France. This was also the place where Vincent van Gogh died from injuries suffered in an attempted suicide.

This painting is one of several he made in the last weeks of his life, in an unusually elongated double-square format. The double-square painting is a painting made on uncommonly large canvases, which have one dimension that is twice the size of the other. His need to express his art couldn’t be contained on an ordinary canvas—he saw the world with a panoramic view.

One of the things I love about this painting is the use of violet and blue in the trunks of the poplars. They are tall, immense, like bars in a window framing the courting pair. The trees stand out against the black backdrop. They have power and are the soul of the painting, even more so than the flowers and undergrowth through which the couple walks.

It is a pleasing composition, with strong brush strokes and deep, dark colors. He saw the beauty in life and painted it.

[1] About this painting, via Google Arts and Culture:

In a letter to his younger brother, Theo, dated June 30, 1890, van Gogh explained the structure and brilliant colors of “Undergrowth with Two Figures”: “The trunks of the violet poplars cross the landscape perpendicularly like columns,” adding “the depth of Sous Bois is blue, and under the big trunks the grass blooms with flowers in white, rose, yellow, and green.”

“Undergrowth with Two Figures” has a silvery tonality characteristic of van Gogh’s works from Auvers. His brushwork may be swift and visceral, his colors strong and biting, his emotion raw and visible, but the composition reveals no hint of psychological torment.

It is painted on a double square canvas, twice as wide as it is high. Van Gogh explored the artistic possibilities of this panoramic format in several of his last paintings. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Google Arts and Culture Contributors, Undergrowth with two Figures, Vincent van Gogh 1890, Accessed April 7, 2022.

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Vincent van Gogh – Undergrowth with Two Figures (F773).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Undergrowth_with_Two_Figures_(F773).jpg&oldid=618842665 (accessed April 8, 2022).

View of Vincent’s Starry Night, © 2022 Connie J. Jasperson, own work,

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#FineArtFriday: Sailboats by Jacoba van Heemskerck

Sailboats by Jacoba van HeemskerckArtist: Jacoba van Heemskerck (1876–1923)

Title: Bild no. 15 (Segelboote) (English: Painting no, 15 – Sailboats)

Date: Circa 1914

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 97.5 cm (38.3 in); width: 113.5 cm (44.6 in)

Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

What I love about this painting:

The sharp corners and geometry of this composition raises the viewer’s eye toward the horizon. It feels cubist, is abstract, and reflects a spiritual connection to her subject. I love the symbolism in this image. The sailboats are souls sailing toward the next life across a deep blue sea and beneath a golden sky. The island temple toward which the boats sail is shaped like a pyramid. The elongated sails of the many boats direct the eye up. Everything, including the island temple, points toward heaven.

In this painting, it is easy to see how she would later become involved in creating stained glass—the sharp black outlines and vivid colors of her paintings are perfect for that medium.

According to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag’s website:

“But whereas Mondrian’s artistic approach eventually became austerely geometrical, Van Heemskerck’s developed as a result of a variety of influences (including anthroposophy) into an open, unconstrained and intuitive style. Throughout her life, she would seek – like Kandinsky – to express spiritual experience. The recurring subjects in her oeuvre are therefore invariably symbolic in nature: sailing ships, bridges and trees, depicted in clear, vibrant colours and with firm outlines. Although she was never to abandon the representation of the real world, Van Heemskerck’s style was eventually so abstract that her subjects became virtually unrecognisable. This approach won her great success, especially in Germany, where she exhibited at the Berlin Expressionist gallery Der Sturm every year from 1913 until her death.” [1]

About the Artist, Via Wikipedia:

Jkvr. Jacoba Berendina van Heemskerck van Beest (1876-1923) was a Dutch painter, stained glass designer and graphic artist who worked in several modern genres. She specialized in landscapes and still-lifes.

Her first contact with Modern art came in Paris, where she took lessons from Eugène Carrière.[2][3] She remained in France until 1904, then went to live with her sister, Lucie, and was introduced to the art collector, Marie Tak van Poortvliet, who became her lifelong friend and later built a studio for her in the garden of her home.[1] After 1906, she spent her Summers in Domburg, where she came into contact with avant-garde painters such as Piet Mondrian[4] and Jan Toorop, who offered her advice. Around 1911, she was briefly interested in Cubism.

Shortly after, she became involved in Anthroposophy, possibly through the influence of her former teacher, Nibbrig, who was a Theosophist. She then became an avid follower of Der Sturm, an avant-garde art magazine founded by Herwarth Walden, and turned increasingly to Abstraction.[1] In 1913, she attended the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in Berlin, where she met Walden and started what would be a lifelong correspondence.[3] Thanks to his efforts, her work was popular in Germany, while it remained somewhat ignored in her home country.

After 1916, she developed an interest in stained glass windows, designing them for the naval barracks and the Municipal Health Department building in Amsterdam, as well as private residences.[1] From 1922, she lived in Domburg with her old friend and patron, Tak van Poortvliet.

She died suddenly, from an attack of angina.[3] Both Tak van Poortvliet and Walden mounted exhibitions of her work, in Amsterdam and Berlin respectively. In 2005, a major retrospective was held at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Kunstmuseum Den Haag contributors, “Jacoba van Heemskerck,” Jacoba van Heemskerck A REDISCOVERY, Jacoba van Heemskerck | Kunstmuseum Den Haag (accessed March 31, 2022).

[2]Wikipedia contributors, “Jacoba van Heemskerck,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacoba_van_Heemskerck&oldid=1078279427 (accessed March 31, 2022).

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#FineArtFriday: The Lacemaker by Nicolaes Maes ca. 1656 (revisited)

The Lacemaker

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

What I love about this painting:

Working from home is nothing new. Women have sewn, made lace, or taken in laundry to earn coins for as long as they have been mothers. Finding ways to earn a living and still raise the family has always been a struggle. Maes painted real women doing real work to support their families. Other artists painted women of the taverns and streets, but Maes had respect for the women he painted.

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: The Proposition by Judith Leyster 1631 (revisited)

What I love about this painting is how honest Judith Leyster is when detailing the realities of life in her time and in her city. Here, a young woman is pressured to enter into a relationship with a man she has no interest in. He clearly feels he has the right to compel her to sell her virtue, and she clearly ignores him. It is as if she refuses to notice him.

Male artists of the time, Leyster’s husband, Jan Meinse Molenaer included, rarely painted genre pictures of young women other than in taverns or other low-life situations. Commissioned portraits of noble and merchant class women they painted in great abundance, but simple, modest women of good virtue?

Rarely. They had to sell paintings to feed their families, and then as today, virtue did not sell all that well.

Leyster, on the other hand, had the talent and (because she was a woman) the freedom to paint whatever she wanted. After all, as long as she managed the house, made sure food was served, and raised the children, she could paint whatever moved her.

The artistic talent of women has been so disregarded historically that, despite her signature, her paintings and her talent were attributed (after her death) to her husband and to Franz Hals.

About the Painting (Via Wikipedia):

“The Proposition” is a genre painting of 1631 by Judith Leyster, now in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, who title it “Man offering money to a young woman.” It depicts a woman, sewing by candlelight, as a man leans over her, touching her right shoulder with his left hand. He is offering her coins in his right hand, but she is apparently ignoring the offer and concentrating intently upon her sewing.

The man wears dark clothing, and the dark tones, as well as his shadow cast behind him and across his face from the angle of the candlelight, give him a looming appearance. In contrast, the woman is lit fully in the face by the candlelight and wears a white blouse.

It is an early work by Leyster, who was only 22 years old in 1631.

Also, From Wikipedia:

(The painting’s) most distinctive feature is how different it is to other contemporary Dutch and Flemish “sexual proposition” paintings, many falling into the Merry company genre. The convention for the genre, a common one at the time, was for the characters to be bawdy, and clearly both interested in sex, for money. The dress would be provocative, the facial expressions suggestive, and sometimes there would be a third figure of an older woman acting as a procuress. Indeed, in The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen, an example of the genre, that is exactly the case.

In contrast, in The Proposition the woman is depicted not as a whore but as an ordinary housewife, engaged in a simple everyday domestic chore. She isn’t dressed provocatively. She does not display her bosom (but rather her blouse covers her all of the way to her neck). No ankles are visible. She displays no interest in sex or even in the man at all.

Contemporary Dutch literature stated the sort of activity in which she is engaged to be the proper behaviour for virtuous women in idle moments. Kirstin Olsen observed that male art critics “so completely missed the point” that the woman is, in contrast to other works, not welcoming the man’s proposition that they mistakenly named the painting The Tempting Offer.

The foot warmer, whose glowing coals are visible beneath the hem of the woman’s skirt, was a pictorial code of the time, and represented the woman’s marital status. A foot warmer wholly under the skirt indicated a married woman who was unavailable, as it does in The Proposition. A foot warmer projecting halfway out from under the skirt with the woman’s foot visible on it indicated one who might be receptive to a male suitor. And, a foot warmer that is not under the woman at all, and empty of coals, indicated a single woman. This code can also be seen in Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Dou’s The Young Mother.

About the Artist:

Judith Jans Leyster (also Leijster) (c. July 28, 1609[1]– February 10, 1660) was a Dutch Golden Age painter. She painted genre works, portraits, and still lifes. Her entire oeuvre was attributed to Frans Hals or to her husband, Jan Miense Molenaer, until 1893 when Hofstede de Groot first attributed seven paintings to her, six of which are signed with her distinctive monogram ‘JL*’. Misattribution of her works to Molenaer may have been because after her death many of her paintings were inventoried as “the wife of Molenaer”, not as Judith Leyster.

She signed her works with a monogram of her initials “JL” with a star attached: JL* This was a play on words; “Leister” meant “Lead star” in Dutch and was for Dutch mariners of the time the common name for the North Star. The Leistar was the name of her father’s brewery in Haarlem.

(Only occasionally did she sign her works with her full name.)

She specialized in portrait-like genre scenes of, typically, one to three figures, who generally exude good cheer, and are shown against a plain background. Many are children; others men with drink. Leyster was particularly innovative in her domestic genre scenes. These are quiet scenes of women at home, often with candle- or lamplight, particularly from a woman’s point of view


Sources and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “The Proposition (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Proposition_(painting)&oldid=851982429 (accessed February 1, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Judith Leyster,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Judith_Leyster&oldid=820769951(accessed February 1, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth J.M.W. Turner 1842

J.M.W. Turner

Title: Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

Artist: J. M. W. Turner

Year: 1842

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 91 cm × 122 cm (36 in × 48 in)

Location: Tate, London, Great Britain

About this Picture, Via Wikipedia:

The painting depicts a paddle steamer caught in a snow storm. This marine painting is showing a Romantic era’s painter’s depiction of a snowstorm on water at its best, fully developing the bold, daring Romantic fantasy of Turner. Turner was unrivaled in depicting the natural world unmastered by mankind and exploring the effects of the elements and the battle of the forces of the nature. Turner worked first as a watercolorist, and he started to work much later with oils. He later applied the techniques he learned in watercolour onto oil paintings.

It is typical of the late style of Turner. Turner’s tints and shades of colours are painted in different layers of colour, the brushstrokes adding texture to the painting. The colours are monochromatic, only a few shades of grey, green and brown are present, having the same tone of colours. The silvery pale light that surrounds the boat creates a focal point, drawing the viewer into the painting. The smoke from the steamboat spreads out over the sky, creating abstract shapes of the same quality like the waves.

An inscription on the painting relates that The Author was in this Storm on the Night the “Ariel” left Harwich. Turner later recounted a story about the background of the painting:

“I did not paint it to be understood, but I wished to show what such a scene was like; I got the sailors to lash me to the mast to observe it; I was lashed for four hours, and I did not expect to escape, but I felt bound to record it if I did.”

He was 67 years old at the time. Some later commentators doubt the literal truth of this account. Other critics accept Turner’s account, and one wrote, “He empathized completely with the dynamic form of sovereign nature.”  This inscription allows us to better understand the scene represented and the confusion of elements.

Turner had investigated the interactions between nature and the new technology of steamboats in at least five paintings in the previous decade. Throughout his career, Turner engaged with issues of urbanism, industry, railroads and steam power. [1]

About the Artist, Via Wikipedia:

Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851), known in his time as William Turner, was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. He is known for his expressive colourisations, imaginative landscapes and turbulent, often violent marine paintings. He left behind more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 works on paper. He was championed by the leading English art critic John Ruskin from 1840, and is today regarded as having elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.

Turner was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest lower-middle-class family. He lived in London all his life, retaining his Cockney accent and assiduously avoiding the trappings of success and fame. A child prodigy, Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at 15. During this period, he also served as an architectural draftsman. He earned a steady income from commissions and sales, which due to his troubled, contrary nature, were often begrudgingly accepted. He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828. He travelled to Europe from 1802, typically returning with voluminous sketchbooks.

Intensely private, eccentric and reclusive, Turner was a controversial figure throughout his career. He did not marry, but fathered two daughters, Eveline (1801–1874) and Georgiana (1811–1843), by his housekeeper Sarah Danby. He became more pessimistic and morose as he got older, especially after the death of his father, when his outlook deteriorated, his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect, and his art intensified. In 1841, Turner rowed a boat into the Thames so he could not be counted as present at any property in that year’s census. He lived in squalor and poor health from 1845, and died in London in 1851 aged 76. Turner is buried in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Snow_Storm:_Steam-Boat_off_a_Harbour%27s_Mouth&oldid=1000619190 (accessed March 3, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “J. M. W. Turner,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=J._M._W._Turner&oldid=1075008053 (accessed March 3, 2022).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Joseph Mallord William Turner – Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth – WGA23178.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_Snow_Storm_-_Steam-Boat_off_a_Harbour%27s_Mouth_-_WGA23178.jpg&oldid=618892271 (accessed March 3, 2022).

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