Tag Archives: Women in Art History

#FineArtFriday: The Chess Game, by Sofonisba Anguissola ca. 1555 (reprise)

Title: The Chess Game (Portrait of the artist’s sisters playing chess)

Artist: Sofonisba Anguissola

Date: 1555

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 72 cm (28.3 ″) Width: 97 cm (38.1 ″)

Today we’re revisiting The Chess Game, which is a portrait of the artist’s sisters playing chess. This post first appeared here on September 13, 2019 and is a wonderful window into the personalities of three girls in an upper class family in the 16th century. Anguissola had a marvelous ability to capture the moods of her subjects.

What I love about this painting:

The colors are vibrant,

Because it is a game of war and strategies for winning a war, chess has historically been considered a predominantly male game. That Anguissola’s sisters are playing it at so young an age is a testimony to the atmosphere of education surrounding the home.

Their features are modern in the way they are shown with a roundness that is unusual in early renaissance portraits, which were often so highly formal that they were visually flat. These girls could be my granddaughters.

Anguissola has captured the emotions and happiness of a family at play. Her sisters’ personalities are clearly shown. The older sister has taken a pawn, the younger fears she might lose the game to a more experienced player. The youngest is enjoying the game immensely, seeing the sister who sometimes bosses her around being handed her own medicine.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625), also known as Sophonisba Angussola or Anguisciola, was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona to a relatively poor noble family. She received a well-rounded education, that included the fine arts, and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. As a young woman, Anguissola traveled to Rome where she was introduced to Michelangelo, who immediately recognized her talent, and to Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba. The Spanish queen, Elizabeth of Valois, was a keen amateur painter and in 1559 Anguissola was recruited to go to Madrid as her tutor, with the rank of lady-in-waiting. She later became an official court painter to the king, Philip II, and adapted her style to the more formal requirements of official portraits for the Spanish court. After the queen’s death, Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for her. She moved to Sicily, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter.

On 12 July 1624, Anguissola was visited by the young Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, who recorded sketches from his visit to her in his sketchbook. Van Dyck, who believed her to be 96 years of age (she was actually about 92) noted that although “her eyesight was weakened”, Anguissola was still mentally alert. Excerpts of the advice she gave him about painting survive from this visit, and he was said to have claimed that their conversation taught him more about the “true principles” of painting than anything else in his life. Van Dyck drew her portrait while visiting her.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Although Anguissola enjoyed significantly more encouragement and support than the average woman of her day, her social class did not allow her to transcend the constraints of her sex. Without the possibility of studying anatomy or drawing from life (it was considered unacceptable for a lady to view nudes), she could not undertake the complex multi-figure compositions required for large-scale religious or history paintings.

Instead, she experimented with new styles of portraiture, setting subjects informally. Self-portraits and family members were her most frequent subjects, as seen in such paintings as Self-Portrait (1554, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna), Portrait of Amilcare, Minerva and Asdrubale Anguissola (c. 1557–1558, Nivaagaards Malerisambling, Niva, Denmark), and her most famous picture, The Chess Game (1555, Muzeum Narodowe, Poznań), which depicted her sisters Lucia, Minerva and Europa.

Painted when Sofonisba was 23 years old, The Chess Game is an intimate representation of an everyday family scene, combining elaborate formal clothing with very informal facial expressions, which was unusual for Italian art at this time. The Chess Game explored a new kind of genre painting which places her sitters in a domestic setting instead of the formal or allegorical settings that were popular at the time. This painting has been regarded as a conversation piece, which is an informal portrait of a group engaging in lively conversation or some activity .


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Chess Game – Sofonisba Anguissola.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Chess_Game_-_Sofonisba_Anguissola.jpg&oldid=359367567 (accessed September 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Sofonisba Anguissola,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sofonisba_Anguissola&oldid=908120352 (accessed September 12, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: A London Garden by Edith Corbet 1911

Edith_Corbet_A_London_gardenTitle: A London Garden

Artist: Edith Corbet (1846-1920)

Description: oil on canvas; 62 x 45 cm

Date: 1911

Signed and dated ‘Edith Corbet/1911’ (lower left).

What I love about this painting:

I love the serenity of older, slightly overgrown gardens. This garden is peaceful, with irises blooming, and beyond the gate, a path winds toward a pool ringed by hyacinths. Further beyond, steps lead to a home. Whoever lives here is lucky to have such a garden out their front door.

Birds find mature shrubbery attractive and make their homes there. Several birds are enjoying the birdbath, secure and safe from predators.

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Edith Corbet née Edenborough (28 December 1846 – 1920) was a Victorian landscape painter, having close associations with the Macchiaioli group (also known as the Tuscans or Etruscans), who, in a break with tradition, painted outdoors in order to capture natural light effects and favoured a panoramic format for their paintings

She married the Victorian painter and illustrator Arthur Murch and moved to Rome, where she painted with Giovanni Costa, leader of the Macchiaioli group. In 1876 they both stayed in Venice. Olivia Rossetti Agresti wrote: Costa had a very high opinion of this artist’s gifts and used to remember with pleasure how on that occasion they used to go out together to paint from nature at Fusino (Agresti, 1904).

She frequently exhibited from 1880 to 1890 at the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery. In 1891, after the death of her first husband, she married Matthew Ridley Corbet, one of the Macchiaioli group’s leading members, after which she exhibited mainly at the Royal Academy, visiting Italy and living in London for the remainder of her life. Corbet exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. She died in Hampstead, north London, in 1920. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Edith Corbet A London garden.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Edith_Corbet_A_London_garden.jpg&oldid=555317886 (accessed June 3, 2021).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Edith Corbet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edith_Corbet&oldid=936468065 (accessed June 3, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: Corporal J.D.M Pearson GC (WAAF) by Dame Laura Knight 1940

Corporal_J.D.M_Pearson,_GC,_WAAF_(1940)_(Art._IWM_ART_LD_626)About this image via Wikipedia:

A three- quarters length portrait of Corporal J. D. M. Pearson, GC, WAAF (1940) – shows Corporal Daphne Pearson of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, WAAF, a recipient of the Empire Gallantry Medal, later exchanged for the George Cross. Although Pearson, at Knight’s insistence, sat for the portrait holding a rifle, the finished painting shows her holding a respirator. As WAAF personal were not allowed to carry arms on duty, Knight had to paint over the rifle. [1]

Joan Daphne Mary PearsonGC (25 May 1911 – 25 July 2000) was a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force officer during the Second World War and one of only thirteen women recipients of the George Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry not in the face of an enemy that can, or could, be awarded to a citizen of the United Kingdom or commonwealth.

Pearson joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) as a medical orderly shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

In the early hours of the morning on 31 May 1940, Avro Anson bomber R3389 of No. 500 Squadron RAF undershot on approach to an airstrip near the WAAF quarters in DetlingKent, crashing into a field. Upon landing, a bomb exploded, killing the navigator instantly, and leaving the pilot seriously injured. Corporal Pearson entered the burning fuselage, released the pilot from his harness and removed him from the immediate area around the aircraft. After she was 27 metres (30 yards) from the aircraft, a bomb exploded. She flung herself on top of the pilot to protect him. After medical staff had removed the pilot, she went back to the plane to look for the fourth crew member, the radio operator. She found him dead. For her deeds, Pearson was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal (EGM). [2]

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Dame Laura Knight, (née Johnson), DBE RA RWS (4 August 1877 – 7 July 1970) was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolors, etching, engraving and drypoint. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition, who embraced English Impressionism. In her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

In 1929 she was created a Dame, and in 1936 became the first woman elected to full membership of the Royal Academy. Her large retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1965 was the first for a woman. Knight was known for painting amidst the world of the theatre and ballet in London, and for being a war artist during the Second World War. She was also greatly interested in, and inspired by, marginalized communities and individuals, including Gypsies and circus performers. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

File:Corporal J.D.M Pearson, GC, WAAF (1940) (Art. IWM ART LD 626).jpg|

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Laura Knight,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Laura_Knight&oldid=1019091508 (accessed April 29, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Daphne Pearson,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Daphne_Pearson&oldid=1000936279 (accessed April 29, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: Ploughing in the Nivernais by Rosa Bonheur 1849

Rosa_Bonheur_-_Ploughing_in_Nevers_-_Google_Art_ProjectPloughing in the Nivernais by Rosa Bonheur

Genre: animal art

Date: 1849

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 1,340 mm (52.75 in); Width: 2,600 mm (102.36 in)

Inscriptions: Signature and date right: Rosa Bonheur 1849

About this painting via Wikipedia:

Oxen ploughing in Nevers or Plowing in Nivernais, is an 1849 painting by French artist Rosa Bonheur. It depicts two teams of oxen ploughing the land, and expresses deep commitment to the land; it may have been inspired by the opening scene of George Sand‘s 1846 novel La Mare au Diable. Commissioned by the government and winner of a First Medal at the Salon in 1849, today it is held in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The Nivernais, the area around Nevers, was known for its Charolais cattle, which were to play an important role in the agricultural revolution that took place in the area in the nineteenth century. Rosa Bonheur gained a reputation painting animals, and Ploughing in the Nivernais features twelve Charolais oxen, in two groups of six. On a sunny autumn day they plough the land; this is the sombrage, the first stage of soil preparation in the fall, which opens up the soil to aeration during the winter. Humans play a minor role in the painting—the farmer is almost completely hidden behind his animals. The freshly-ploughed land is prominent in the foreground, while the landscape behind is basking in sunlight. The painting’s clarity and light resembles that of the Dutch paintings (esp. by Paulus Potter) which Bonheur had studied as part of her education.

According to Albert Boime, the painting should be seen as a glorification of peasant life and its ancient traditions; he places it in the context of the revolutionary year 1848, when cities were the scene of chaos and strife. [1]

About the artist, via Wikipedia:

Bonheur was born on 16 March 1822 in BordeauxGironde, the oldest child in a family of artists. Her mother was Sophie Bonheur (born Marquis), a piano teacher; she died when Rosa Bonheur was eleven. Her father was Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, a landscape and portrait painter who encouraged his daughter’s artistic talents. Though of Jewish origin, the Bonheur family adhered to Saint-Simonianism, a Christiansocialist sect that promoted the education of women alongside men. Bonheur’s siblings included the animal painters Auguste Bonheur and Juliette Bonheur, as well as the animal sculptor Isidore Jules BonheurFrancis Galton used the Bonheurs as an example of “Hereditary Genius” in his 1869 essay of the same title.

In a world where gender expression was policed, Rosa Bonheur broke boundaries by deciding to wear pants, shirts and ties. She did not do this because she wanted to be a man, though she occasionally referred to herself as a grandson or brother when talking about her family; rather, Bonheur identified with the power and freedom reserved for men. Wearing men’s clothing gave Bonheur a sense of identity in that it allowed her to openly show that she refused to conform to societies’ construction of the gender binary. It also broadcast her sexuality at a time where the lesbian stereotype consisted of women who cut their hair short, wore pants, and chain-smoked. Rosa Bonheur did all three. Bonheur never explicitly said she was a lesbian, but her lifestyle and the way she talked about her female partners suggests this.

Bonheur, while taking pleasure in activities usually reserved for men (such as hunting and smoking), viewed her womanhood as something far superior to anything a man could offer or experience. She viewed men as stupid and mentioned that the only males she had time or attention for were the bulls she painted.

Having chosen to never become an adjunct or appendage to a man in terms of painting, she decided she would be her own boss and that she would lean on herself and her female partners instead. She had her partners focus on the home life while she took on the role of breadwinner by focusing on her painting. Bonheur’s legacy paved the way for other lesbian artists who didn’t favour the life society had laid out for them.

Bonheur died on 25 May 1899, at the age of 77, at Thomery (By), France. She was buried together with Nathalie Micas (1824 – 24 June 1889), her lifelong companion, at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Klumpke was Bonheur’s sole heir after her death, and later joined Micas and Bonheur in the same cemetery upon her death. Many of her paintings, which had not previously been shown publicly, were sold at auction in Paris in 1900. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rosa Bonheur – Ploughing in Nevers – Google Art Project.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rosa_Bonheur_-_Ploughing_in_Nevers_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg&oldid=380365743 (accessed April 8, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Ploughing in the Nivernais,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ploughing_in_the_Nivernais&oldid=975131991 (accessed April 8, 2021).

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#FineArtFriday: Winter Landscape Evening Atmosphere by Fanny Churberg 1880

Title:  Winter Landscape, Evening Atmosphere

Artist: Fanny Churberg

Genre: landscape art

Date: 1880

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions     Height: 73.5 cm (28.9 in); Width: 105 cm (41.3 in)

Collection: Finnish National Gallery

What I love about this  painting:

Fanny Churberg (12 December 1845 Vaasa – 10 May 1892 Helsinki) was a Finnish painter and one of the great masters of her time. She is one of my favorite landscape artists. In terms of talent and technique, she is on a scale with the most renowned painters of all time in that genre.

She is generally considered by art historians as one of the greatest masters of landscape painting. She is relatively unknown as she only exhibited her work in Finland.

Winter Landscape, Evening Atmosphere is one of the last scenes Fanny Churberg ever painted. The impact of the angry sky is breathtaking. Churberg packs emotion into that sunset.

The snow on the vast Finnish countryside had fallen the day before, so the wind had a chance to sweep the ice clear. She perfectly captured the way snow looks when it’s had a chance to melt a bit and mold itself to the shrubs and grasses.

The winter-barren land reflects the tint of the sky, but the despite the transitory warmth of that rosy light, the world is frozen, shrouded in ice.

Above it all, the sky tells us the day was a brief respite. Dark clouds gather, looming and waiting for their chance to enshroud the world in new snow.

As you might guess, when I view art, I see it through the eyes of a storyteller. In my mind, the painting and the life of the artist are intimately connected. The events and passions of their lives are reflected in their work, in the same way as those of we who write books.

When I look at the emotion, raw and powerful, that has been instilled into this painting, I wonder if the scene is an allegory for her life. For reasons we may never know, Fanny stopped painting soon after this and never lifted a brush again.

Fanny had never married, and I suspect her art was her creative child. Many of the pressures that fell on women’s shoulders in that era must have led to this decision. Whatever her reason was, it must have felt like a deeply personal tragedy at the time.


About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Fanny Churberg (1845–1892) started her artistic training in Helsinki in 1865 with private lessons from Alexandra Frosterus-SåltinEmma Gyldén, and Berndt Lindholm. Her studies continued in Düsseldorf, Germany, but she always returned to Finland to paint during the summer. She was also one of the first Finnish painters to study in Paris, France. Although Churberg remained to a large extent within the conventions of the Düsseldorf school of painting, she openly expressed her enthusiasm for the countryside and its dramatic situations, relying above all on colour and a fast brush technique to do so. The charged quality of her work differed sharply from that of her contemporaries, as did her subjects, for example the tense atmosphere before a thunderstorm in the open country or the deep, swampy heart of the forest. Churberg founded the Friends of Finnish Handicrafts in 1879. She urged Finnish women to join the Friends’ effort to revive textile practice in Finland.

Fanny Churberg’s career ended suddenly in 1880. Her health was weaker and she took care of her brother Torsten who was suffering from tuberculosis. Torsten’s death in 1882 made her quite lonely and her will to live lessened as did her energy. The other brother Waldemar, to whom she used to be very close, had married in 1877. The reason for ending her career might also have been the harsh criticism she had met before, but she never withdrew completely from the art circles. She did not however paint anymore after 1880, not even for her own amusement, but during her career she had still managed to produce over 300 paintings.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Fanny Churberg – Talvimaisema, auringon mailleen mentyä – A I 189 – Finnish National Gallery.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Fanny_Churberg_-_Talvimaisema,_auringon_mailleen_menty%C3%A4_-_A_I_189_-_Finnish_National_Gallery.jpg&oldid=468220757 (accessed November 5, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Fanny Churberg,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fanny_Churberg&oldid=973669647 (accessed November 5, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: The Boating Party, by Mary Cassatt 1893

Artist Mary Cassatt
Year 1893
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions 90 cm × 117.3 cm (46 3/16 in × 35 7/16 in)

What I love about The Boating Party by American artist, Mary Cassatt, is impression of movement, of the life of the water. It has a feeling of contentment, of peace. There is a serenity about this painting that evokes wonderful memories of boating and water sports, of the time when my family still lived on a lake. It reminds me of the sheer joy and freedom of being on the water with no purpose other than to enjoy one’s self.

About this painting, from Wikipedia:

Art historian and museum administrator Frederick A. Sweet calls it “One of the most ambitious paintings she (Cassatt) ever attempted.” His 1966 analysis focuses on the balance of the “powerful dark silhouette of the boatman”, the angle between the oar and the arm that “thrusts powerfully into the center of the composition towards the mother and child” and “delicate, feminine ones.”

Cassatt placed the horizon at the top of the frame in Japanese fashion.

  • In 1890 Cassatt visited the great Japanese Print exhibition at the ecole de Beaux-arts in Paris.
  • Mary Cassatt owned Japanese prints by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806).
  • The exhibition at Durand-Ruel of Japanese art proved the most important influence on Cassatt.

(Influence of) Manet

Frederick A. Sweet suggests that Cassatt may have been inspired by Édouard Manet‘s Boating from 1874.

I hadn’t considered that position of the horizon as being a traditional Japanese style until I read that paragraph. Then I realized that most Western artists place it lower on the canvas. In Western art, the sky (an allegory for God) traditionally dominates the work.

This painting has made me aware of  how greatly the ability to travel the world via ocean liners and contact with other cultures changed the way we produce art. Impressionism was new and daring in its time. The eye of the artist was freed from traditional confines of the various schools (Hudson Valley, etc.) by exposure to the simplicity and elegance of the previously unknown tradition of Japanese art.

Every new painting I come across leads me to another, which often leads me to another country and another tradition of style and form.

My life as an admirer of art is one of constantly finding something new about history and the world around me.

About the artist, Via Wikipedia:

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and print-maker. She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh’s North Side), but lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of “les trois grandes dames” (the three great ladies) of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Berthe Morisot.


Credits and Attributions:

The Boating Party by Mary Cassatt, 1893–94

Wikipedia contributors. “The Boating Party.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Dec. 2018. Web. 8 Mar. 2019.

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Woman and Child on a Balcony, Berthe Morisot ca. 1872

Title: Woman and Child on a Balcony

Artist: Berthe Morisot  (1841–1895)

Date: 1872

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 61 cm (24 ″); Width: 50 cm (19.6 ″)

Today, Friday January 3, 2020, my hubby and I are visiting the Tacoma Art Museum, to see an exhibit of Impressionist paintings: Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Their Circle: French Impressionism and the Northwest. I will post about the experience next Friday, and hope to have photographs.

In the meantime, I present you with a female artist, Berthe Morisot, who was the sister-in-law to Eduard Manet. I hope to see her work represented there.

What I love about this painting:

It is only when you stand back from it that you realize how deftly Morisot conveyed the impressions of a pleasant day, a busy harbor, and a curious child. Up close, it is nearly indecipherable, but from a distance—which is how art in the impressionist style should be viewed—it is a delightful image. Is the  young woman a nanny or mother? The small girl seems happy in her company. The two take in the view on a hazy afternoon—there is a sense of affluence and harmony in moment captured by the artist.

About the Artist, vis Wikipedia

Berthe Morisot came from an eminent family, the daughter of a government official and the great-niece of a famous Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard.  She met her longtime friend and colleague, Édouard Manet, in 1868. Morisot was married to Édouard’s brother, Eugène Manet, in 1874.

Eugene was also a French painter but did not achieve the high reputation of his older brother, Édouard Manet, or his wife, Berthe. He devoted much of his efforts to supporting his wife’s career.

On November 14, 1878, she gave birth to her only child, Julie, who posed frequently for her mother and other Impressionist artists, including Renoir and her uncle Édouard.

It is hard to trace the stages of Morisot’s training and to tell the exact influence of her teachers because she was never pleased with her work and she destroyed nearly all of the artworks she produced before 1869.

Morisot’s mature career began in 1872. She found an audience for her work with Durand-Ruel, the private dealer, who bought twenty-two paintings. In 1877, she was described by the critic for Le Temps as the “one real Impressionist in this group.” She chose to exhibit under her full maiden name instead of using a pseudonym or her married name. As her skill and style improved, many began to rethink their opinion toward Morisot. In the 1880 exhibition, many reviews judged Morisot among the best, even including Le Figaro critic Albert Wolff.

Correspondence between Morisot and Édouard Manet shows warm affection, and Manet gave her an easel as a Christmas present. Morisot often posed for Manet and there are several portrait painting of Morisot such as Repose (Portrait of Berthe Morisot) and Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet. Morisot died on March 2, 1895, in Paris, of pneumonia contracted while attending to her daughter Julie’s similar illness, and thus making her an orphan at the age of 16.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Berthe Morisot 001.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Berthe_Morisot_001.jpg&oldid=359873236 (accessed January 2, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Berthe Morisot,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Berthe_Morisot&oldid=931800099 (accessed January 2, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Eugène Manet,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Eug%C3%A8ne_Manet&oldid=895506929 (accessed January 2, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588)

The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli  (1524–1588)

Date: 16th century

Medium: oil

Collection: Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

What I love about this painting:

The Last Supper, a 7×2-meter oil-on-canvas, preserved in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, is the only signed work by Plautilla Nelli known to survive. Her signature, in the upper left corner, reads S. Plavtil – La Ora Te Pro Pictora (Sister Plavtil, Pray for the Paintress).

I love the intimacy of this composition. Jesus hold bread in his left hand as he comforts Saint John.

According to Karen Chernick for her article of October 17, 2019 in Atlas Obscura:

Nelli didn’t paint her “Last Supper” background to look like the dining hall it was designed for, a trick other artists used to make the scene relatable. Instead, she showed Jesus and his apostles dining on the same food that Santa Caterina’s Domincan nuns ate: a whole roasted lamb, bread, wine, heads of lettuce, and fresh fava beans—the last two dishes unprecedented in any depiction of Christ’s last meal. The fava beans were a wink to local cuisine, a Florentine specialty normally eaten by peasants (and nuns).

“Pray for the Paintress,” is a thought I will keep in my heart.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper is a first in the history of art rendered by a woman. Painted in the 1560’s, Last Supper was under restoration for four years.[11] The work went on exhibit in October 2019.[12] No female artist had ever painted this subject before Nelli. Florence has the richest tradition of paintings with the theme of last supper in the world. Nelli’s Last Supper, her most significant work because of its size and subject, is a seven-meter long, oil on canvas. After restoration her Last Supper will be exhibited at the Santa Maria Novella Museum in Florence across from Alessandro Allori’s painting with the same theme, also painted in the sixteenth century.

About the Artist (via Wikipedia)

Sister Plautilla Nelli (1524–1588) was a self-taught nun-artist and the first-known female Renaissance painter of Florence. She was a nun of the Dominican convent of St. Catherine of Siena located in Piazza San Marco, Florence, and was heavily influenced by the teachings of Savonarola and by the artwork of Fra Bartolomeo.

Pulisena Margherita Nelli was born into a wealthy family in the San Felice area of Florence. Her father, Piero di Luca Nelli, was a successful fabric merchant and her ancestors originated from the Tuscan valley area of Mugello, as did the Medici dynasty. There is a modern-day street in Florence, Via del Canto de’ Nelli, in the San Lorenzo district, named for her family, and the New Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo is the original site of her family homes.[1]

She became a nun at the age of fourteen, taking on the name Suor Plautilla, at the convent of Santa Caterina di Cafaggio; she would later be prioress on three occasions. The facility was managed by the Dominican friars of San Marco, led by Savonarola. About half of all educated girls in that era were placed into convents to avoid the cost of raising a dowry. Savonarola’s preachings promoted devotional painting and drawing by religious women to avoid sloth, thus the convent became a center for nun-artists. Her sister, also a nun, Costanza, (Suor Petronilla) wrote a life of Savonarola.


Credits and Attributions:

Quote from “A Nun’s 450-Year-Old ‘Last Supper’ Makes Its Museum Debut in Florence” by Karen Chernick © 2019 Atlas Obscura. All rights reserved. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/first-last-supper-woman-painter-florence

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Plautilla Nelli – The Last Supper.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Plautilla_Nelli_-_The_Last_Supper.jpg&oldid=371023591 (accessed October 24, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Plautilla Nelli,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plautilla_Nelli&oldid=922398829 (accessed October 24, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Chess Game, by Sofonisba Anguissola ca. 1555

Title: The Chess Game (Portrait of the artist’s sisters playing chess)

Artist: Sofonisba Anguissola

Date: 1555

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: Height: 72 cm (28.3 ″) Width: 97 cm (38.1 ″)

 

What I love about this painting:

The colors are vibrant,

Because it is a game of war and strategies for winning a war, chess has historically been considered a predominantly male game. That Anguissola’s sisters are playing it at so young an age is a testimony to the atmosphere of education surrounding the home.

Their features are modern in the way they are shown with a roundness that is unusual in early renaissance portraits, which were often so highly formal that they were visually flat. These girls could be my granddaughters.

Anguissola has captured the emotions and happiness of a family at play. Her sisters’ personalities are clearly shown. The older sister has taken a pawn, the younger fears she might lose the game to a more experienced player. The youngest is enjoying the game immensely, seeing the sister who sometimes bosses her around being handed her own medicine.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532 – 16 November 1625), also known as Sophonisba Angussola or Anguisciola, was an Italian Renaissance painter born in Cremona to a relatively poor noble family. She received a well-rounded education, that included the fine arts, and her apprenticeship with local painters set a precedent for women to be accepted as students of art. As a young woman, Anguissola traveled to Rome where she was introduced to Michelangelo, who immediately recognized her talent, and to Milan, where she painted the Duke of Alba. The Spanish queen, Elizabeth of Valois, was a keen amateur painter and in 1559 Anguissola was recruited to go to Madrid as her tutor, with the rank of lady-in-waiting. She later became an official court painter to the king, Philip II, and adapted her style to the more formal requirements of official portraits for the Spanish court. After the queen’s death, Philip helped arrange an aristocratic marriage for her. She moved to Sicily, and later Pisa and Genoa, where she continued to practice as a leading portrait painter.

On 12 July 1624, Anguissola was visited by the young Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, who recorded sketches from his visit to her in his sketchbook.[25] Van Dyck, who believed her to be 96 years of age (she was actually about 92) noted that although “her eyesight was weakened”, Anguissola was still mentally alert.[24] Excerpts of the advice she gave him about painting survive from this visit,[26] and he was said to have claimed that their conversation taught him more about the “true principles” of painting than anything else in his life.[1][2] Van Dyck drew her portrait while visiting her.

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

Although Anguissola enjoyed significantly more encouragement and support than the average woman of her day, her social class did not allow her to transcend the constraints of her sex. Without the possibility of studying anatomy or drawing from life (it was considered unacceptable for a lady to view nudes), she could not undertake the complex multi-figure compositions required for large-scale religious or history paintings.

Instead, she experimented with new styles of portraiture, setting subjects informally. Self-portraits and family members were her most frequent subjects, as seen in such paintings as Self-Portrait (1554, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna), Portrait of Amilcare, Minerva and Asdrubale Anguissola (c. 1557–1558, Nivaagaards Malerisambling, Niva, Denmark), and her most famous picture, The Chess Game (1555, Muzeum Narodowe, Poznań), which depicted her sisters Lucia, Minerva and Europa.

Painted when Sofonisba was 23 years old, The Chess Game is an intimate representation of an everyday family scene, combining elaborate formal clothing with very informal facial expressions, which was unusual for Italian art at this time. The Chess Game explored a new kind of genre painting which places her sitters in a domestic setting instead of the formal or allegorical settings that were popular at the time.[17] This painting has been regarded as a conversation piece, which is an informal portrait of a group engaging in lively conversation or some activity .


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Chess Game – Sofonisba Anguissola.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Chess_Game_-_Sofonisba_Anguissola.jpg&oldid=359367567 (accessed September 12, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Sofonisba Anguissola,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sofonisba_Anguissola&oldid=908120352 (accessed September 12, 2019).

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#FineArtFriday: The Oracle by Marguerite Blasingame


The Oracle – Hawaiian Symbolist by Marguerite Blasingame

Date: circa 1935

Marguerite Blasingame was a Hawaiian artist, world-famous for her sculptures, but less so for her paintings. She painted in a “Symbolist” style, which is very different than surrealism, although the two styles appear to share some commonalities.

About the symbolist style in art, via Wikipedia:

The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, symbolism in painting influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau style and Les Nabis.

What I love about this picture:

The dreamscape is captivating, inviting you to look closer. The water and the land seem to embrace the figures and the plants, and also cradles the sun. It is perfectly balanced. The colors are intense yet muted; the curving sinuous figures seem both familiar and alien. This painting gives the viewer much to think about.

As a writer, I’m attracted to symbolism in art and literature. When an artist goes to the trouble of offering me something of substance to think about, their work stays with me. I find myself thinking about it long after setting the book down or leaving the gallery.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Marguerite Blasingame (1906 – 1947) founded the Hawaiian Mural Arts Guild in 1934, along with Isami Doi, Madge Tennent, and others. She died young, at the age of only forty one.

On Saturday 15 March 1947, fellow island artist Madge Tennent published the following tribute to Blasingame in The Honolulu Advertiser:

“To her many artist friends she represented a youthful and indomitable vitality in art, which was supported by a capacity for grueling hard work in her chosen field of true fresco and sculptured bas-relief in Hawaiian wood and stone. She was, by almost any way of thinking, too young to die. But the strangely wonderful thing is this, that she has in her sadly short young life, left more important works of art which have been placed where everybody may enjoy them, than any other island artist.”


Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Marguerite Louis Blasingame,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Marguerite_Louis_Blasingame&oldid=885666667 (accessed June 27, 2019).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Oracle – Hawaiian Symbolist by Marguerite Blasingame.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Oracle_-_Hawaiian_Symbolist_by_Marguerite_Blasingame.jpg&oldid=276120985 (accessed June 27, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Symbolism (arts),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Symbolism_(arts)&oldid=894767208 (accessed June 27, 2019).

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