Thursday, January 9, 2014

Berthe Morisot, Impressionist

Berthe Morisot (b. Bourges, 1841. d. Paris, 1895) was a major figure in the development of the Impressionist movement or Impressionism.

Figure l. Portrait of Berthe Morisot by Edouard Manet, oil/canvas, 1872, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Click on each image for enlargement.

Berthe Morisot
& her sisters, Edma & Yves, were brought up in a wealthy & respectable 19th century Parisian household. Their upbringing included various cultural accomplishments--the art of conversation, music, art appreciation, drawing. Early on, Berthe & Edma were tutored in painting by Corot, who had become a family friend. Berthe's painting flourished & she was directly influenced by a fellow Impressionist, Edouard Manet, who had become her brother-in-law when Berthe married Eugène Manet. Towards 1885, Berthe followed the example of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Figure 2. Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, oil/canvas, 1872, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Figure 3. Berthe Morisot, Winter, aka Woman with a Muff, oil/canvas, 1880, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas.

Women artists
like Morisot & Mary Cassatt, another Impressionist, were severely limited in the places they could go to in 19th century Paris. The majority of their subjects centred around women & children, the home with motherhood, child-rearing, the gatherings with women friends & a few urban sites at the theatre & opera. In contrast, their male colleagues were free to go wherever & whenever they pleased to paint without breaking any taboos. Likewise, the paintings of the male Impressionists showed a wide variety of subjects & locations--city cafes, bars, brothels, the theatre back stage & other public urban spaces during the night or day.

Figure 4. Berthe Morisot, In Dining Room, oil/canvas, 1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Figure 5. Berthe Morisot, The Mother and Sister of the Artist, oil/canvas, 1869-70, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Berthe Morisot
was to show at the first Impressionist Exhibition of 1874 & became a regular contributor. Before that, she had been accepted for showings at the official Salon, the major art venue for the Paris art market. "Yet the problem for the critics of her day remained the fact that she was a gifted artist and a woman. The two could not easily be reconciled--there was no tradition (acceptable to men) of women in art, and all the critics and judges were men ..."[l] Morisot's work received faint praise for its charm, delicacy & femininity. Nevertheless, Berthe Morisot was well-liked & respected by Manet, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Whistler & the poet Mallarmé (who became the guardian of Morisot's only child, Julie, after her death).

Figure 6. Berthe Morisot, Cornfield, oil/canvas, 1875, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Figure 7. Berthe Morisot, Interior (Eugène Manet) at the Isle of Wight, oil/canvas, 1875.

Figure 8. Berthe Morisot, Girl at the Ball, oil/canvas, 1875, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris.

Figure 9. Berthe Morisot, The Balcony, oil/canvas, 1872, Ittleson Collection, New York.

Figure 10. Berthe Morisot, The Harbor at Lorient, Brittany, oil/canvas, 1869, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Figure 11. Berthe Morisot, Reading, oil/canvas, 1873, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.

Berthe Morisot was "to become one of the most atmospheric and impressionistic of her contemporaries, having developed a swift, fluid technique using broken patches of bright colour."[2]

[l] Robert Katz and Celestine Dars, The Impressionists (London: Anness Publishing Limited, 1994), 274.

[2] Ibid., 270.

Smith, Paul. Impressionism: Beneath the Surface. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995.

Figures 1 to 11 from Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved October 27, 2007.

Juan Gris and Cubism

Cubism had changed art forever in conception and definition.

" This revolutionary method of making a pictorial image was invented jointly by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the first decade of the 20th century. Although it may appear abstract and geometrical, Cubist art does depict real objects. These are "flattened" onto the canvas so that different sides of each shape can be shown simultaneously from various angles. Instead of creating the illusion of an object in space, as artists had endeavoured to do since the Renaissance, Cubist art defines objects in the two-dimensional terms of the canvas. This innovation gave rise to an extraordinary reassessment of the interaction between form and space, changing the course of Western art forever. "[1]

Juan Gris, Portrait of Picasso, 1912, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Juan Gris (1887-1927) was a Spanish painter born in Madrid who lived and worked in France most of his life. He is known as one of the artists who contributed to the further development of Cubism after 1912.

Juan Gris' portrait of his friend and fellow countryman, Pablo Picasso, in 1912, is recognized as an important Cubist painting done by an artist other than Picasso or Georges Braque.

At a Sorbonne lecture in Paris in 1924, Juan Gris stated, "Cubism is not a manner but an aesthetic, and even a state of mind; it is therefore inevitably connected with every manifestation of contemporary thought. It is possible to invent a technique or a manner independently, but one cannot invent the whole complexity of a state of mind."[2]

Juan Gris, Glass of Beer and Playing Cards, 1913, oil papier collé on canvas, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

The development of Cubism came in two phases:

'Analytical Cubism,' between 1908-1912, whereby most of the Cubist works had been developed from the observed and experienced subject, in accordance with Paul Cézanne's practice; in the second phase, 'Synthetic Cubism,' between 1912 - 1919 and persisting into the 1920s, the subject was less emphatic. Picasso claimed that form, colour and medium would dictate the subject.

The use of papier collé or collage marked the beginning of 'Synthetic Cubism' with its inclusion of mixed media, "of added materials and painted textures, in a denser, more decorative and colourful surface... In Synthetic Cubism, the flat surface of the canvas is treated as solidly opaque, nothing penetrates below its surface into imaginary depth. Its opacity is further emphasized by the applied materials that often stood out from the surface. The artist's freedom from illusionary 'representation' also brought another important change."[3]

Juan Gris, The Sunblind, 1914, collage with chalk marks on canvas, Tate Gallery, London.

Juan Gris, Still Life with Guitar, Book and Newspaper, c.1919, oil on canvas, Kunstmuseum, Basel.

Juan Gris had said, "No work which is destined to become a classic can look like the classics which have preceded it. In art, as in biology, there is heredity but no identity with the ascendants. Painters inherit characteristics acquired by their forerunners; that is why no important work of art can belong to any period but its own, to the very moment of its creation. It is necessarily dated by its own appearance. The conscious will of the painter cannot intervene."[4]

Juan Gris, Still Life with Bordeaux Bottles, 1919, oil on canvas, T. and A. Werner Collection, Berlin.

Juan Gris' art remained essentially Cubist in form until his death in Paris. He died in 1927 at the young age of forty.

Images from Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 18, 2008.

[1] The Art Book (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996), Glossary.

[2] Response to a questionnaire, from "Chez les cubistes," Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, ed. Félix Fénéon, Guillaume Janneau, et al (1925-01-01); trans. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Juan Gris, His Life and Work (1947).

[3] Judith Clark, The Illustrated History of Art (New York: Mallard Press, 1992), 178.

[4] "On the Possibilities of Painting," lecture, Sorbonne, Paris (May 15, 1924), printed in Transatlantic Review, #16 (June 1924) p. 482-488; trans. Douglas Cooper in Horizon, #80 (Aug. 1946) p. 113-122.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo,(also spelled Arcimboldi) (1527-1593), an Italian painter during the Renaissance era, who painted in Milan and Prague, was best known for his painted portraits of human heads composed of images of fruits, vegetables, flowers, animals, birds, fish, books and other inanimate objects.

Born in Milan, Italy, in 1527, Giuseppe Arcimboldo began his artistic career by working on stained-glass window designs, including the life stories of Saint Catherine of Alexandria at the Duomo (Cathedral) in Milan.

(Top image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, self-portrait. (For enlargement, click on images.)

(Right image) Stained-glass window: designs drawn by Biagio Arcimboldo and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, made by Corrado de'Mochis, 1556, Duomo (Cathedral), Milan, Italy. Photo Credit: Giovanni Dali'Orto.

Arcimboldo later moved to Prague which, under Charles V, became for a time the centre of the Holy Roman Empire.

Arcimboldo's most important works were painted in Prague, where he was employed by a series of Hapsburg emperors. Besides his painting, his other duties at the royal court included being the architect/designer of the civic waterworks and other public projects, decorator for festivals and state occasions, curator of the imperial art collection, and court interior designer.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was way ahead of his time, pre-dating the Surrealists by several hundreds of years. Arcimboldo's richly coloured portrait heads remain a source of admiration and fascination today. Although he painted conventional portraits which have for the most part fallen into oblivion, Arcimboldo's reputation rests on his portrait paintings composed of non-human and inanimate objects. To view these paintings from a distance, the outlines and masses are recognizable as portrait heads . . . but it is by viewing these paintings up-close that we see Arcimboldo's genius, innovation and creative exploration.

Arcimboldo's The Four Elements series of 1566 features four paintings titled The Air, The Earth, The Fire, and The Water.

(Left image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Air (Four Elements series), 1566, oil, private collection.

Feathered birds of all sizes--from tiny song birds to parrots to ducks to owls to a rooster to a turkey to pheasants to a peacock and a peahen--are seen here. What other birds can you identify?

(Right image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Earth (Four Elements series), 1566, oil, private collection.

In the painting The Earth, notice Arcimboldo's detailed and velvet treatment of the animals' fur coats, the sheep's woolly coat in the foreground and the taut, tough skin of the young elephant's head and trunk, the elephant's ear situated exactly where the human ear would be. See how Arcimboldo has used the animals' natural light and dark fur colouring to convey the facial contours and the decorative features and folds of the person's clothing.

Do you see the monkey, the wild boar, and the head of a horse in this menagerie grouping?

(Left image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Fire (Four Elements series), 1566, oil, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

This is The Fire portrait. How cool is this? Look at that "bonfire" on top of the head. It's wild! And he looks like a famous celebrity rocker.....those lips.....the metal hardware and gold.....a "candlestick" eye and it's so TODAY!

What else do you see?

(For enlargement, click on images.)

(Right image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Water (Four Elements series), 1566, oil, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Fishes, crustaceans, red coral, hard shells and various aquatic creatures of the sea--including crab, lobster, stingray, starfish, seahorse, a seal and a walrus, a frog, a puffer fish, prawns, octopus or squid--are all in the painting titled The Water.

How about that turtle underneath the string of pearls? And where do pearls come from? And the pearl drop earring dangling from a conch shell with more pearls inside? This is one of several portrait heads where Arcimboldo has painted in an earring.

Also notice that Arcimboldo has used the "curved underside of a fish mouth" to convey human lips in this painting. Are those catfish whiskers on the man's chin? How about that sea snake neck? Also, Arcimboldo has placed on top a beast with horns? And a spiky metal crown for Neptune, Roman God of the Sea? Brilliant!

A process of much thinking has gone into his compositions. As with all of these paintings, the coloured portrait heads are painted and set against a dark background; and you can easily see that the contours of the heads are "human in shape" regardless of the non-human forms and objects making up the heads.

(Left image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Portrait of Maximilian II and His Family, c.1553/1554, oil on canvas, Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck, Austria.

A traditional group portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (1527-1576) with his wife Infanta Maria of Spain (1528-1603) and children: Anna (1549-1580) (standing at the front), Rudolf (1552-1612) (at the back) and Ernest (1553-1595) (in the cradle).

(Right image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian, c.1570, oil on canvas, Skokloster Castle, Stockholm, Sweden.

While Giuseppe Arcimboldo often used fruits, vegetables, and creatures to compose his portraits, the artist also used pots, pans, workmen's tools, and books to create his unique images.

The Librarian is a half portrait. From the top, we see the perfectly balanced opened pages of "hair" and the sharp bookish nose. Arcimboldo has stacked a pile of books in a pyramid to form the man's chest. Two large book volumes--a red book on the left side is placed at an angle and is resting on a horizontal white book--are painted to form the librarian's arm bent at the elbow, with slips of paper hanging out of the white book to resemble the man's "fingers."

Arcimboldo produced a couple versions of The Four Seasons series as self-portraits titled The Spring, The Summer, The Autumn, and The Winter.

Each of the seasonal paintings has a different "feel" about it. These seasonal paintings may well represent the different stages of Arcimboldo's life. We think of "spring" as new and young growth (youth and inexperienced), "summer" as the steady and luxuriant time of bloom (young adulthood and production), "autumn" as the time of harvest (middle-age and achievements), and "winter" as a resting and dormant stage (old and retirement).

The later Four Seasons series painted in 1573 are located in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Shown here are two paintings from the early 1563 series at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, as are two from The Louvre's 1573 series. Between the two series, the paintings are very similar; however, the paintings at The Louvre have painted borders of greenery and blooms on the pictures' edges.

(Left image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Spring (Four Seasons 1573 series), 1573, oil, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The Spring portrait is brimming with the luxurious growth of spring's renewal. This version, dated 1573, showed a painted border of foliage and blooms as well. Tiny peach, pink, and white flowers make up the flesh tones on the face. Two rosebuds make up the "lips." Notice that a single "fuchsia" blossom earring dangles from the portrait's deep pink "ear." The ruffled collar is composed entirely of white blossoms. A single blue/purple iris grows from a field (coat) of green foliage.

The Spring self-portrait is youthful and full of vigor.

(Right image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Summer (Four Seasons 1563 series), 1563, oil on wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The Summer portrait is made entirely of the fruits and vegetables of summer--pears, peaches, cherries, grapes, corn, wheat or other grains, garlic, melons, eggplant, a cucumber nose and a row of peas in a pod for teeth. With plump rosy "peach cheeks" and smiling "cherry lips" and an "artichoke heart" growing from his chest, this self-portrait showed a happy man, at ease with himself.

Click on the image for the enlargement and you will see the artist's name, "Giuseppe Arcimboldo F" embroidered on the garment collar. The year "1563" is stitched onto the cap of the sleeve.

(Left image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Autumn (Four Seasons 1573 series), 1573, oil, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The Autumn picture is entirely composed of the fall harvest. Juicy grapes, squash, pumpkin, root vegetables, red apple with a worm "cheeks," a pear "nose," a pomegranate "chin," stalks of grain for a beard, and much more.

From a mushroom "ear" dangles a fig earring. An almost invisible snail rests on top of the pumpkin (or giant squash) at the back of the head.

Arcimboldo has used the natural colouring and shapes of the individual fruits and vegetables to form the portrait head. From afar, the face looks like a "human" face.

(Right image) Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Winter (Four Seasons 1563 series), 1563, oil on wood, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The Winter painting is composed of a old weathered tree stump with its tangle of bare roots covered in green ivy. Hook-shaped and broken branches formed the nose and ear. Pale tree fungi formed the upper and lower lips, with mossy stubble covering the chin.

A branch with two citrus fruits--a yellow lemon and an orange tangerine--along with a woven gold frock coat add some warmth and whimsy to the picture. To me, the portrait conveyed a very old man--well-lived and wise.

(Left image) Portrait of Rudolf II (Holy Roman Emperor) painted as Vertumnus, the Roman God of the Seasons, Change and Plant Growth, c. 1590-1, oil on canvas, Skokloster Castle, Sweden, Stockholm.

Arcimboldo painted the portrait of Rudolf II (Holy Roman Emperor), the son of Maximilian II, during the latter part of his artistic career. All into one picture, Arcimboldo has combined flowers as well as fruits and vegetables. A decorative and colourful "sash" made entirely of flower blossoms is worn by Rudolf II to signify his military medals and honours. Again, Arcimboldo has used the "natural contours" of the non-human objects to create depth, light and shadow.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo died in 1593 at the age 66 in Milan, Italy. From Arcimboldo's early experience in designing "fragmented" stained-glass windows, it probably seemed quite natural to him that his artistic path would lead to the "design and construction" of portraits with individual objects serving as fragment pieces. Arcimboldo was an artist ahead of his time. He left a rich legacy, being re-discovered in the early 20th century by the Surrealists; and Giuseppe Arcimboldo remains much admired today.