Category: Great Painters
“Painting is just like love making. Sometimes slow, sensuous strokes of the brush and prolonged drags of charcoal are right. And other times quick splatters and fast lush swipes of color are the technical narrative a painting needs to reveal the story. One of my favorite artists, Eric Fischl, told me that if I am not feeling what I am painting, nobody else will either. I actualize joy while creating art, sort of rev up the engine and materialize sex, love, lust… whatever it is I am trying to evoke.”
Born in Santa Cruz California in 1974, Nicole Etienne Powell grew up between redwood trees and suburban Silicon Valley. Her mother, an active artist, kept Nicole healthily covered in paint and dirt and nurtured her budding career with full access to her supply cabinet.
After moving to the Bay Area her family joined a liberal California utopian group which focused on human rights, anti-war activism, and the belief that by surrendering to a process of personal transformation they were to achieve a greater awareness of the earth and each other. Nicole was encouraged to be intuitive and explore.
It wasn’t long before the conservative, buttoned-up world of Silicon Valley felt a little too parochial. She traveled widely, studying, painting and exhibiting, and in NYC Nicole was able to find her footing — and her voice. She has created work of sincere and tender human encounters. Painting lush groves with strong “angelic amazons” that blossom with sexuality and womanhood, she twists old myths with new, creating woman as the “romantic hero” in a world completely of her own.
Her technique copies the brightness of watercolor with the thickness of oil paint. A struggle between keeping the original marks of charcoal and the glow of the underpainting; and the desire to smear on thick hunks of paint until it melts together.
Nicole began her collegiate art education at UC Santa Barbara transferring to UC Santa Cruz where she received her BFA in 1997. She studied abroad at the Lorenzo Medici School of art in Italy and graduated with her MFA cum laude in 2009 from the New York Academy of Art.
She has painted and lived in Italy, London, and Ireland. It was on a trip to Cornwall, England, that Nicole met her husband, creative director Peter Powell. They now live in New York City with their cat Moo.
Brent Heighton has been painting for over 20 years fulltime. After college Brent began a brief career in the commercial art field. Not satisfied with the deadlines, the rush jobs, and working out other peoples ideas as to how they wanted things to look, he realized that as difficult as working in the Fine Arts was, becoming a painter of what you want and not what someone else wants, was the most important and satisfying. He has never looked back on or regretted taking that chance.
Working as a fulltime Artist has allowed Brent to travel all over the world in search of ideas and things to paint. Brent has travelled with his family to Europe, spending time in France, Holland, Belgium, and as far south as Greece. All the time with paints and brushes in hand, always looking for that inspiration just around the corner. The difference of light in a place like Greece compared to Cornwall, England is very exciting says Brent.
During the last few years Brent has travelled to Mexico numerous times. The Architecture, the people, and the light that keeps enticing Brent back there, “I find Mexico helps my creative juices start to flow when I’m there and I love the color of the light.” says Brent.
Brent’s watercolours and oils have been well received by many corporate and private collectors in over 25 countries of the world. Brent has had exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Germany, Belgium, Holland, many parts of the U.S.and most recently Cabo San lucas, Mexico.
His work has won him numerous awards throughout Canada and the U.S. But the important thing is, as Brent points out is not the awards, it’s how it makes you feel putting your feelings on paper or canvas so that the persons observing can experience the joy you had in painting that particular artwork. “If you can make that connection with someone it feels great inside,” he says.
Continuing to explore new ideas and approaches to painting, he is never happy to stay in one place creatively. Just recently Brent has been asked by a large wallpaper firm from the U.S. to design a wallpaper collection using his style of painting. Working with the textile industry has opened new doors in experimenting with texture and color that he has never thought of.
And most recently Brent has just returned from a trip to the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania, home of Andrew Wyeth. “ It was a great experience to visit and explore that area to feel what that man could say in his paintings.” Brent is never happy to stay in one place creatively. And his work continues to grow and mature as he pushes his creative boundaries.
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Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of a male figure perfectly inscribed in a circle and square, known as the “Vitruvian Man,” illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. Beloved for its beauty and symbolic power, it is one of the most famous images in the world. However, new research suggests that the work, which dates to 1490, may be a copy of an earlier drawing by Leonardo’s friend.
Another illustration of a divinely proportioned man — the subject is Christ-like, but the setting is strikingly similar to Leonardo’s — has been discovered in a forgotten manuscript in Ferrara, Italy. Both drawings are depictions of a passage written 1,500 years earlier by Vitruvius, an ancient Roman architect, in which he describes a man’s body fitting perfectly inside a circle (the divine symbol) and inside a square (the earthly symbol). It was a geometric interpretation of the ancient belief that man is a “microcosm”: a miniature embodiment of the whole universe. Leonardo and other scholars revived this vainglorious notion during the Italian Renaissance.
After decades of study, Claudio Sgarbi, an Italian architectural historian who discovered the lesser known illustration of the Vitruvian man in 1986, now believes it to be the work of Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, a Renaissance architect, expert on Vitruvius, and close friend of Leonardo’s. What’s more, Sgarbi believes Giacomo Andrea probably drew his Vitruvian man first, though the two men are likely to have discussed their mutual efforts. Sgarbi will lay out his arguments in a volume of academic papers to be published this winter, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
The key arguments are as follows: In Leonardo’s writings, he mentions “Giacomo Andrea’s Vitruvius” — seemingly a direct reference to the illustrated Ferrara manuscript. Secondly, Leonardo had dinner with Giacomo Andrea in July 1490, the year in which both men are thought to have drawn their Vitruvian men. Experts believe Leonardo would have probed Giacomo Andrea’s knowledge of Vitruvius when they met. And though both drawings interpret Vitruvius’ words similarly, Leonardo’s is perfectly executed, while Giacomo Andrea’s is full of false starts and revisions, none of which would have been necessary if he had simply copied Leonardo’s depiction.
Other scholars find the arguments convincing. “I find Sgarbi’s argument exciting and very seductive, to say the least,” said Indra McEwen, an architectural historian at Concordia University who has written extensively about the works of Vitruvius. “But [I] would opt for the view that Giacomo Andrea and Leonardo worked in tandem, rather than Leonardo basing his drawing on Andrea’s.”
Rather than competitors, the two Renaissance men were colleagues working together to bring a beautiful, ancient idea back to life. “Whose was the ‘original’ drawing is a non-question as far as I’m concerned. Much as it is a preoccupation of our own time, I don’t think it would have been an issue in Leonardo’s day,” McEwen told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.
Patrice Le Floch-Prigent, an anatomist at the University of Versailles in France who has analyzed the anatomical correctness of Leonardo’s famous work, noted that, for both drawings, “the source is Vitruvius.”
Furthermore, regardless of their chronology, Leonardo’s work is an improvement on Giacomo Andrea’s, McEwen said: “Leonardo is by far the superior draftsman, with a far superior understanding of anatomy.”
Leonardo’s is also more faithful to the text, she explained. “Nowhere does Vitruvius say that the man is positioned inside the circle and the square at the same time. A man lying flat on his back, can be circumscribed by a circle if his hands and feet are outstretched,” writes Vitruvius. “Similarly, his height is equal to his arm span, ‘just as in areas that have been squared with a set square.'” Giacomo Andrea’s figure has only one set of arms and legs, which are simultaneously circumscribed by a circle and outlined by a square, while “Leonardo deals with [the two propositions] by having the position of his man’s arms and legs change. That, I would have to admit, makes his drawing a closer approximation to the textual description than Giacomo Andrea’s,” McEwen wrote.
One thing is certain. The better Vitruvian man gained international fame, while the simpler, but possibly more original, one was left to languish in a library for five centuries. That may have to do with the very different fates met by Leonardo and Giacomo Andrea. When the French invaded Milan in 1499, the former fled to safety and went on to achieve eternal renown. The latter stayed in Milan and was hanged, drawn and quartered by the French, and largely forgotten by history — until now.
Renoir’s meeting with Diaz goes down as one of the turning points in Renoir’s career, to which must be added the revelation of Courbet and Manet. Everything points to an influence of Delacroix at this time, too, but his chief interest seems to have gone to Courbet first, then to Manet, who had just come into the limelight with an exhibition of modern painting at Martinet’s, and again with the famous Salon des Refusés held in 1863. Manet’s pictures, which had scandalized the public, made a deep impression both on the young group at Gleyre’s studio and on several of their fellow students at the Académie Suisse, Pissarro, Cézanne and Guillaumin. Now, too, Renoir and Cézanne met and became friends.
Turned down at the 1864 Salon, but accepted in 1865 with his Portrait of Madame W.S. and Summer Evening, Renoir sent in to the 1866 Salon a canvas whose pigment was slapped on with the palette knife after the manner of Courbet–Young Man walking his Dogs in the Forest of Fontainebleau (National Gallery of Art, Washington)–but it was refused. Painted in much the same manner, his Diana was refused at the 1867 Salon. But Renoir soon realized that this technique was not for him, and, painting his Lise, saw it accepted at the 1868 Salon.
In the contrast of the dark belt against the white dress, we see the influence of Manet–an influence on Renoir that never went deep, however–as we see it again in the Portrait of Sisley and his Wife, with the red and yellow striped dress and the grey trousers. But though our first glance at the subject and composition brings Manet to mind, very different from him indeed are the wellrounded modeling of forms and the juxtaposed passages of light and shadow. Closer to Courbet is the Bather with a Dog, accepted at the 1870 Salon along with Woman of Algiers (National Gallery, Washington), an odalisque with reminders of Delacroix not only in the theme, but also in the color-scheme.
It is a matter of considerable interest to see how different the landscapes of the early paintings are from the figures. Their treatment–as we see it in the Park of Saint-Cloud (1866) or the Champs-Elysées (1867)–is much more akin to Corot than to Courbet. In them, in fact, we find the first signs of Renoir’s trend towards Impressionism, already discernible, moreover, in the Park of Saint-Cloud and the ice-skating scenes of 1868 and 1869, and patent in the views of La Grenouillère, which date from the same years.
Of the three versions of the latter, those of the National Museum, Stockholm–painted from the same angle as Monet La Grenouillère in the Metropolitan Museum, New York–and the Reinhart Collection, Winterthur, are a prelude to the boating scenes at Argenteuil after 1870, by virtue of the landscape reflected in the rippling water in distinctly separate brushstrokes. Suggested by the subject itself, this style it was, very probably, that led to the coining of a term–the famous “comma” brushstroke–that summed up impressionist technique.
Quite different, strangely enough, are the Pont des Arts (1868), a very neat, clean-cut piece of work, and Lighters on the Seine, a canvas in which, on close inspection, we can detect a skillful medley of Corot and Jongkind, two of the forerunners of Impressionism. But the subdued light and the cloudy sky à la Jongkind have nothing of the nimble, fluttering touch of an impressionist picture, while the very freely schematized treatment à la Corot bears no hint of the division of tones.
The work of his predecessors had much to teach Renoir, but none of them can be said to have affected him decisively. Neither Courbet nor Manet left a lasting impress on his temperament, so different from theirs at bottom. As Renoir put it later on, he and his friends had looked to Manet “as the standard-bearer of the group, but only because his work was the first to get down to that simplicity we were all out to master.” And so it seems in retrospect today. As against the sleek, insipid productions of the official painters, the work first of Courbet, then of Manet, must have seemed to these young men like an inspiring hope of salvation, with its directness, its disdain of any artifice, as fresh and clean as official art was bogged down with superannuated dogma. Even so, Manet had only been a stepping-stone; each of them was to go much farther along the path his own temperament dictated.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 now scattered the group momentarily. Manet, Degas and Bazille volunteered or were called up, while Monet and Pissarro took refuge in England, as did Sisley, too, who was a British subject. Disregarding his calling-up orders, Cézanne slipped away to L’Estaque on the sly. Renoir, apparently shrugging his shoulders and leaving things to fate, politely turned down General Douay’s offer of protection and found himself shipped off to Bordeaux, comfortably remote from the front. There he painted portraits of his company commander, Darras, and his wife.
After the capitulation, he spent two idyllic months of family life in a neighboring chateau, where he gave painting lessons to his friends’ pretty daughter, was attended like a king, and spent his time horseback riding. His friends were reluctant to let him go for fear he would come to harm in the fighting that had broken out again. But he finally got away, and was soon dividing his time between Paris and his mother’s house at Louveciennes, though in the hectic days of the Commune he ran considerable risk in doing so. In later years he liked to reminisce about his experiences in these eventful days.
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The last Man died, as it were, with the XVIIIth century; the Individual strove to subsist in Romanticism; and Impressionism appeared to be seized with a desire to give him his quietus, -preceded and aided by Caricature, supported clandestinely by the dissolving action of such pitiless observers as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, who set forth man’s defects and vices. Man, in Manet’s eyes, was but an excuse for showing his wonderful skill as a painter.
In the case of Monet and Pissarro and Sisley, he was of the value of a tree-trunk, or a boat on the Seine; he played his little inglorious part as a mere touch of colour in the diffuse whole of a landscape. Nature became void of humanity, — and vegetation took on an air of ennui at being without a master and without a goal. Renoir was the only real impressionist ( Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec being of that school only through a spirit of comradeship) who kept in contact with humanity.
More than that: he interested himself in various types of humanity. The humanity of the people and that of the middle-classes. Le Cabaret de Mère Anthony, the scenes depicted at La Grenouillère, Le Moulin de la Galette, Mme Charpentier et ses Enfants, the behaviour of men in town and country, — all these, from a certain point of view, are human documents; and if these pictures, after some catastrophe, were the only remaining vestiges of society, they would suffice to reconstitute an epoch. They were of that period when Renoir was in the midst of and participating in its social life, and very naturally he came to examine his fellow-citizens very closely.
Throughout his life — and in response to his attitude of the moment — he depicted them under different aspects. He regarded the human being in his relation to nature; he examined him in his relation to his fellow-men: first of all the alliance between man and woman, then man as he is among other men, again when he is with his family, or in a restricted, intimate circle. And he was to end by seeing him merely as a creature in the midst of creation as a whole.
One may say that there is not a work by Renoir which shows indifference towards man. Whereas Pissarro, for example, effaces all trace of man, even to the very fruit of his work, Renoir, on the other hand, always reminds us of his presence: the landscape is a framework for his pleasure and his revels, an accompaniment to the beauty of his form, or an opportunity for him to bury himself amidst nature’s charms.
The principal personage in Renoir’s pictures is never the Seine, or the grass; it is the boating-man standing on the bridge facing the river and the sails, or swiftly sculling on the water; we see the dancer, or the spectator; we see friend talking with friend. During the whole of Renoir’s impressionist period we find this feeling of man’s domination over nature or woman, but at the same time we note that of love: the woman and the child who make their radiant progress amidst the field of weeds and flowers are in unison with the glory of the humble plants of the meadows.
French painter; born in Limoges; died at Cagnes in the south of France. Renoir’s beginnings differed very little from those of the many who followed conventional art courses, except that he showed great facility and also some inclination to use color more freely than his teachers liked. None of his early drawings have been preserved; he may have destroyed them, just as he destroyed certain canvases as soon as he had liberated himself from the academic yoke.
He had no sooner left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts than he turned toward Courbet, whose forceful execution and strong contrasts, whose heavy volumes and simplified drawing, offered entirely new aspects. It was only after having worked for some time as a follower of Courbet, after having tested various modes of expression, that he discovered the subtle qualities of Delacroix. By then he had experience enough to realize that these qualities truly corresponded to his own sensibility. Delacroix thus became his master by preference, chosen not by chance but from the conviction of deep affinities.
What attracted Renoir in Delacroix’s art was above all his color, his technique and -inseparable from them — the fierce vibrations of his drawing. Nothing could have better prepared him for the new approach to nature upon which he engaged, together with his friend Monet, and which was to lead eventually to impressionism. The farther he advanced toward an instantaneous retention of sensations, the more he abandoned whatever influence the principles of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts might have had upon him, the less he was preoccupied with linear expression.
For the first time in the history of art, perhaps, Monet and his group insisted on a pursuit of impressions in so direct a way that preliminary sketches became unnecessary, in fact, would have appeared a negation of their efforts. More than Delacroix had ever done, the impressionists considered drawing dependent upon color and represented their perceptions in a dense tissue of color touches never divided by incisive strokes. There was no need for linear demarcation, since form could be suggested in its fullness through color modulation alone. Nature observed on the spot offered a minimum of lines, and even these appeared unstable, broken by reverberations of their surroundings, pulverized by ever changing plays of light.
Baudelaire had already stated that nature did not offer immutable contours. “A good drawing,” he had written, “is not a hard, cruel, despotic, motionless line enclosing a form like a straitjacket. Drawing should be like nature, living and restless. Simplification in drawing is a monstrosity; nature shows us an endless series of curved, fleeting, broken lines, according to an unerring law of generation, in which parallels are always undefined and meandering, and concaves and convexes correspond to and pursue each other.”
The impressionists went further: they denied that lines existed in nature. They refused to see a contour where an object presented its profile; they were preoccupied with the appearance of its form under specific conditions. They declined to isolate it from its surroundings; they professed no interest in it, except as part of a whole, as a receptacle of iridescence. They perceived colored masses and studied their interactions; they ignored the limits of forms and planes, since light ignores them and weaves them together.
No wonder, then, that Monet and Sisley, for instance, hardly ever made drawings. Renoir, the impressionist, seems also to have drawn very little. He seldom used his pencil but occasionally worked with pastel crayons which permitted him to obtain results similar to his paintings. From time to time he drew in pen and ink, endeavoring to achieve a texture of vibrant hatchings. What preoccupied him was not the arabesque of a contour but the creation of mellow forms through the delicate interplay of light and shadows.
They were: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). These are the very first artists that come to mind when ever the term “Renaissance” is uttered. Towering geniuses of staggering talent, these three.
But, before we go any further, keep three things in mind. First, while the Big Three deserve every bit of lasting fame they enjoy, they were not the only artistic geniuses of the Renaissance. There were many dozens, if not hundreds, of “Renaissance” artists.
Secondly, during this period, the “Renaissance” was happening all over Europe. Venice, in particular, was busy with its own artistic geniuses.
Finally, the “Renaissance”, was a long, drawn-out process. It happened over centuries, not twenty-five to forty years. If little else from this series of articles sticks, please remember this point.
That said (and it had to be said), let’s return to the Big Three. We’re going to play around a bit with that infamous essay question, the one which begins: “Compare and contrast…”
• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?
• Trained in Florence.
• Is best known as a painter, but did absolutely everything else as well.
• Studied human anatomy, via dissection (completely illegal, unless one was a physician), and used the knowledge of such to glorify man.
• Believed only in that which he could observe.
• Had a Duke (of Milan) as his first patron.
• Painted beautiful women, most of whom seemed to be enjoying delicious secrets.
• Disliked Michelangelo, but was somewhat of a mentor (albeit unseen) to Raphael.
• Worked in Rome from 1513 to 1516.
• Was commissioned by Pope Leo X.
• As a dinner guest, would monopolize all conversation, enjoy the soup, linger long enough that all would beg him to stay and leave to a loud chorus of “Come back soon!”, whilst misappropriating a wine glass and forgetting his hat.
• The Big Three Names of the High Renaissance
• Leonardo Da Vinci
• Michelangelo Buonarratti
• The Majesty of Sistine Chapel
• The High Renaissance in Italy
• Why is it Called High Renaissance?