Tag: French Art

Liberty Leading People by Eugene Delacroux

Share this artwork:

Liberty Leading People by Eugene Delacroux

In the Salon of 1822, Eugene Delacroix ( 1798-1863), exhibited a scene from the Divine Comedy. But there was nothing in this livid vision of Virgil and Dante in Hell very surprising to a public familiar with Caravaggio, and the Raft of the Medusa. It was not until two years later, before the Massacre of Scio, that the critics inveighed against the “massacre of painting”

Delacroix had, in fact, transformed his pictorial language in the interval; inspired by the English landscape painters he had loaded his palette with brilliant colours and illumined Gros’ robust impasto with the glint of Oriental tissues and the marble tints of putrefaction. This time, the work was frankly revolutionary; the young Romanticists rallied round Delacroix, and the struggle against the classical tradition began; no durable school resulted from it, but the consequences were such as to transform the very conception of art.

To these young Romanticists art was not the realisation of an abstract ideal, but the expression of an individual soul, and the more original the artist, the greater the value of his works. He should not fear to manifest his vigorous personality; on the contrary, he should defend it jealously against external influences, against all the forces that, by limiting his personality, tend to obscure his genius.

Romanticism was the revolt of sensitive faculties, hitherto disciplined by the play of definite ideas. Latent and irresponsible forces rose from unconscious depths to reject classical logic. For logic, with its fixed principles, is identical among all men; it has a sort of eternal existence, superior to the minds which successively exercise it; and the Romanticist affects to despise this faculty which makes individuals similar.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, scholars gradually supplanted poets in the general governance of minds. The Romanticist, Victor Hugo or Delacroix, like Narcissus bending over his fountain, only looked at Nature to see the reflection of himself. To him, the universe was but a storehouse of images on which he drew to give colour to his poetry. When these exuberant personalities had sobered down, reality appeared to them, and interested them.

The landscape painters had set the example; following in their wake, painters and sculptors, as well as writers, began to think that absolute exactitude was the true ambition of art; this submission to the object is a scientist’s virtue, and, indeed, Naturalism is the artistic form of the positive spirit.

During this period, the continuity of French life was interrupted by sudden revolutions. Artists were not, of course, unmoved by the agitations which keep us poised, as it were, between revolution and compression; but the convulsions of social fury did not disturb the radiant summits of art.

Architecture, which always expresses the general character of communities clearly, was at once very prolific, and somewhat lacking in originality; this seems to show that the general existence was not so unstable as it seemed to be, and that society had not yet evolved a new form of collective life. These abrupt changes were after all only a question of political régime, a battle of pure theory or of personal interest. Governments, whatever they are, must always have one and the same object, which is to aid in the increase of riches.

The conflicting movements which agitated superficial France must not be allowed to hide that deep current, the slow pressure of which nothing can resist. Every day, a rather larger number of men achieve a little ease, or in other words, a relative prosperity and an average intellectual culture. This was the great social event of the nineteenth century, and modern art was to manifest this indefinite enfranchisement of the middle classes after its fashion.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Renoir Art: Two Sisters on the Terrace, 1881

Share this artwork:

Renoir Art: Two Sisters an the Terrace, 1881

Two Sisters or On the Terrace is an 1881 oil-on-canvas painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The dimensions of the painting are 100.5 cm × 81 cm. The title Two Sisters (French: Les Deux Sœurs) was given to the painting by Renoir, and the title On the Terrace (French: Sur la terrasse) by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel.

Renoir worked on the painting on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris. The painting depicts a young woman and her younger sister seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. Over the railings of the terrace one can see shrubbery and foliage with the River Seine behind it.

In 1880 to 1881, shortly before working on Two Sisters, Renoir worked in this particular location on another well-known painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Jeanne Darlot (1863—1914), a future actress who was 18 years old at the time, was posing as “the elder sister.” It is unknown who posed as the “younger sister,” but it is stated that the models were not actually related.

Renoir began work on the painting in April 1881 and on July 7, 1881, it was bought by the art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, for 1,500 francs. The painting was presented for the first time to the public at the 7th Impressionist exhibition in the spring of 1882. In 1883 it was known to be in the collection of Charles Ephrussi, an art collector and a publisher, but in 1892 the painting was returned again to the collection of the Durand-Ruel family.

In 1925, the painting was sold to Annie S. Coburn from Chicago for $100,000. After her death in 1932 the painting was bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained since 1933.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Claude Monet and The Water Lilies

Share this artwork:

Claude Monet and The Water Lilies

As soon as they appeared, the Water Lilies of Claude Monet old age, those hymns to light, plant life and water, incurred the displeasure of both the well-wishers and the detractors of Impressionism. The first were baffled by Monet’s new manner; the second were blind to the new depth of vision these works revealed. Misunderstood and neglected for over thirty years, the Water Lilies are at last receiving the recognition they deserve.

Having had the privilege, from childhood up, of seeing and familiarizing myself with them in the setting at Giverny in which they were created (the only setting, let me add, that can do justice to them), it reflects no particular credit on me to say that personally I have never shared that incomprehension. To see the Water Lilies in the garden studio especially built to house them was to see them in natural, harmonious conjunction with radiant summer days spent in the garden at Giverny beside the pond which inspired them. It was a delight which those who experienced it will never forget.

I cannot deny that, for me at least, the spell is irremediably broken in the Musée de l’Orangerie, in that bleak back room which, designed especially for the Water Lilies in 1925, nevertheless baldly reduces them to a mural decoration — and they are ever so much more than that. The way in which they are encased there, in a long horizontal belt around the concave wall, restricts them to the narrow, perfectly extraneous function of emphasizing the ellipsoidal line of the architecture.

Monet himself contributed to this over-modest setting by approving the whole project at the time and by doing his utmost to adapt his panels to it. To break and diversify the even horizontal flow of the paintings around the room, he sprinkled the foreground with willow fronds suggestive of the decorative style of art nouveau, fashionable around 1900. At the same time they introduce a third dimension which strikes an uncalled-for contrast with the sheer vertical plane of the water surface; the latter, with its rich play of light effects, was theme enough in itself.

The setting, then, in which the Water Lilies have been exhibited to the public in part explains both the eclipse they underwent for over a quarter of a century and the keen revival of interest in them caused by the recent revelation of further Water Lilies hitherto hidden from view in the studio at Giverny. The evolution of taste and ideas in the course of the past halfcentury explains the rest.

This evolution, as far as painting is concerned, began with the dissensions that led to the break-up of the impressionist movement in the eighties. While Monet went on, singlemindedly pursuing the subtlest, most elusive effects and variations of light and atmosphere, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin each branched out in different directions. The Neo-Impressionism of Seurat, with which Pissarro threw in his lot in 1886, was both a logical development of Impressionism and a reaction against it. The systematic, scientific application of the principles which Monet discovered and applied by trial and error signified in effect a tacit condemnation of the intuitive, empirical nature of his art.

As for Renoir, after an uneasy interlude in which he toyed with a harshly linear, Ingresque style, he finally reconciled his concern for form with his love of light, fusing both in an inimitable glorification of volume saturated with color. Cézanne, however, always deferring to his “sensations,” gradually exacted from them not an atmospheric so much as a geological revelation of the visible world. After a fling at Neo-Impressionism, whose narrow harness failed to hold him long in check, Van Gogh hit his stride at Arles, throwing off every constraint in a jubilant, preexpressionist exaltation of color and line. But it was the symbolism of Gauguin which worked the most radical transformation of Impressionism. Gauguin sacrificed the visual aspect of things to the expression, in terms of line and color, of the “idea” they engendered in the mind. He rejected outright the whole battery of naturalistic effects calculated to suggest space and light, and adopted flat colors and heavy contour lines.

The upshot of these powerfully diverging currents was Fauvism, which abandoned every semblance of fidelity to outward appearances in favor of a rapturous glorification of color — but color handled more plastically than it was by the slightly later followers of Van Gogh, with their bias toward expressionist distortion. In spite of this reaction, however, Fauvism and Expressionism remained, like Impressionism, essentially dependent on the sensation induced by the object.

This was no longer true of Cubism, which rejected the outer world as it appears to our senses and built up another one out of a select assortment of elements artificially reassembled in the mind. This essentially cerebral art stood at the opposite pole from the essentially sensuous art of Impressionism. No wonder then that the meat of the one was the poison of the other. The rise of Cubism and the era that followed, during which its influence spread and was assimilated, set up a reaction against Impressionism, whose achievement was belittled and whose most characteristic representative, Claude Monet, was disregarded by a whole generation of artists.

Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Monet Series of Regattas: Sailboat at Argenteuil

Share this artwork:

Monet Series of Regattas: Sailboat at Argenteuil

In the series of Regattas, painted from his boat, slight stylistic differences are discernible from picture to picture. These reveal a rather subtle line of evolution, but a significant one.

Sailboat at Argenteuil ( Bravington Collection), tacking with all sails set across the Seine, represents the next step after Pleasure Boats (May Collection). It is handled like the latter, with the paint swept on broadly in thin coats, but the strokes of the brush are no longer quite so separate and distinct as they are in Pleasure Boats; instead of being juxtaposed and contrasting with each other, planes tend to fuse and intermingle. Regatta in Fine Weather ( Caillebotte Collection, Louvre) marks a further stage.

Reflections on the water are no longer rendered in molten dabs of color, but in straight, horizontal, distinctly separate brushstrokes. These strokes, however, are larger than those in Regatta in Gray Weather (Camondo Collection, Louvre). Here, in order to render choppy water ruffled by the wind, Monet dabbed on his paints in small, flickering touches that convey an effect of movement and agitation, and though motivated by circumstances (i.e. the state of the weather) they nevertheless mark a further step in his increasing concern with effects of atmospheric vibration.

In each of these pictures he never failed to adapt his technique to the nature of the scene before him. Sky, water, trees, sails, houses, no two of these things are treated in the same way. The brushstroke is adjusted in every case to the visual impression, which in turn depends not only on light conditions but on the form and texture of the object or element in question.

During the summer Monet was so completely engrossed in nautical subjects that he apparently found time for only one rural landscape: Springtime ( Berlin), a masterpiece of sunny airiness, painted with the utmost simplicity in flat colors. At the approach of winter his thoughts turned again to the open country and he made some snowscapes, mostly handled in thin coats of modulated color (for example, Train in the Snow, Musée Marmottan, Paris, dated 1875), sometimes in a thick impasto, but always smoothly brushed on, without any division of color.

As a result of the severe winters of the early seventies (borne out by his snowscapes), Monet felt the pinch more than ever and, to make things worse, there seemed to be no prospect of better times ahead, for the “incomprehensible” novelty of his painting only widened the breach between him and the public. With his stout physique Monet could bear the hardships of cold and hunger, but his wife’s frail health was permanently injured. His painter friends were Monet’s only resource, but the whole group was faring badly.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

All About The French Impressionism

Share this artwork:

All About The French Impressionism

Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. The name of the style is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.

Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common, ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles. The development of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous styles in other media which became known as Impressionist music and Impressionist literature.

The term “Impressionism” can also be used to describe art created in this style, but not during the late 19th century.

Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Edgar Degas and Impressionism

Share this artwork:


Edgar Degas and Impressionism

Degas’s transition to modern subject matter, evident in The Steeplechase, was a long and gradual one, not an overnight conversion. Before he left Italy, he had made drawings of street characters and paintings of fashionable horse-riders, but always on a small scale.

In Paris in the early 1860s, his pictures of French racing events broke new ground both for their decidedly contemporary subject matter and for their surprising viewpoints and bold colours, which preceded the canvases of similar scenes by his renowned contemporary Édouard Manet.

Tags : , , , , , , ,

Portrait de Mademoiselle Channel by Marie Laurencin

Share this artwork:

Portrait de Mademoiselle Channel by Marie Laurencin

Born on October 31, 1883 in Paris, the young Marie Laurencin was sent to Sèvres by her mother in 1901, where she got familiar with porcelain painting. Her education continued at a school in Paris, followed by the Humbert academy, where Marie Laurencin got acquainted with Georges Braque. She soon met Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, who supported her from this time on and integrated her in discussions about art theory, which soon lead to Cubism.

The artist’s own creative work, however, remained untouched by such theoretical demands; it shows mainly lyrical motifs like graceful, dreamy young girls in pastel coloring and soft shading. This color-sensitive inventiveness leads to a variation of repetitions of form and motifs. The influence of Persian miniature painting and Rococo art are undeniable in Laurencin’s works.

In 1907 Marie Laurencin gave her debut at the “Salon des Indépendants,” followed by a large exhibition at Barbazanges’ in 1912 and at P. Rosenberg’s in 1920. From 1924 Laurencin also worked on designing stage sets. She produced stage design for Diaghilev’s “Ballets russe” and the set for the “Comédie Francaise” in 1928. She also illustrated books, such as André Gide’s “La Tentative Amoureuse” and Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

Tags : , , , , , , ,

The First Signs of Renoir’s Trend Towards Impressionism

Share this artwork:

The First Signs of Renoir's Trend Towards Impressionism

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.

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

Share this artwork:

Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

Always the Same Draperies and the Same Virgins!

After such a profession of faith as this, how is it possible to contend that Renoir was heedless or disdainful of all elevated thought? With Cézanne and Van Gogh he knew full well what our modern world lacks, — a sense of the Divine.

To this matter he returns in the preface to Cennino Cennini’s Livre de l’Art, where he explains that the general value of ancient art resides in «that something which has disappeared — religious feeling, the most fruitful source of their inspiration (i. e., — Cennini’s contemporaries). It is that which gives all their works that character of nobility and candour, at one and the same time, and in which we find so much charm…

To sum up everything,» he continues, «there then existed between men and the environment in which they moved a harmony born of a common belief… After this one can understand the cause of the general progress in art and of its unity wherever a lofty religious conception holds sway… So much so that one may almost say that, when these fundamental principles are lacking, Art cannot exist».

Do not these words justify us in saying that the crisis through which Renoir passed was not merely a technical one, but spiritual, philosophical, anti-rationalist, — a crisis of the soul? His desire was «to be touched by grace», so that his mind might receive the god which would animate it. But Renoir did not lose himself on those heights. Raphael’s Venus, — she «who comes to supplicate Jupiter», made the same impression upon him as «a good fat gossip on her way back to the kitchen», and he was quite of Stendhal’s opinion, that Raphael’s women are commonplace and heavy.

However, when in Florence, La Vierge à la Chaise caused him deep emotion. «I went to see this picture intending to have a good laugh,» he related to M. Vollard. «But behold! I found myself in front of the most free, most solid, most marvellously simple and living piece of painting it is possible to imagine, — a picture with arms and legs of real flesh, and how touching an expression of maternal tenderness! »

Renoir became somewhat rapidly tired with the painting of the Renaissance. « Always the same draperies and the same Virgins! » And he proceeded to Naples for a rest. The art of Pompeii and that of the Egyptians delighted him. He found there Corot’s « simplicity of work » and even his silver-grey colour. Face to face with that art he came to understand form and volume; there was no atmosphere, no subtle play of light, no expression of matter; form was wholly created by the relationship between the tones, whilst volume was suggested by modelling and passing touches.

He also took a lesson in pictorial technique which a chance discovery soon developed. For a time it was the technique of fresco-painting which above all occupied his thoughts, and he would no longer work save with red and yellow ochre, green and black terra. On returning to France he painted, after that fashion, at the house of M. Bérard, at Wargemont, two decorations inspired by hunting scenes. Then, one day, in 1883, he chanced to discover in a book-box on the quays a copy of the Traité de la Peinture de Cennino Cennini, mis en lumière pour la première fois avec des notes par le Chev. J. Tamboni. Traduit par V. M., Paris et Lille, 1858. The translator was one of Ingres’ pupils — Victor Mottez.

Thirty years later, at the request of this painter’s son, Renoir consented to write a preface to a new edition of the book. When in Rome, Renoir had become greatly interested in the technique of fresco-painting in oils. Now, Cennino Cennini’s book revealed to him the methods of the painters of the XVth century, — methods which Mottez had put into practice at Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, and Saint-Séverin. So we see Renoir launched in the direction of pictorial science, and, a passionate beginner in the painting of frescoes, he disdained oils, ignoring, as he himself related later, « the elementary truth that oil-painting must be done with oil».

Like Delacroix and Cézanne, he became anxious as regards the preservation of his materials and sought to prevent their turning black. Doubtless he foresaw that future deficiency in the case of impressionism. The hatred which suddenly took possession of him against impressionism was largely due to its ephemeral character. « The palette of the painters of to-day, » he said, « has remained the same as that of the painters of Pompeii, via Poussin, Corot, and Cézanne, — I mean to say that it has not become enriched… Happy ancients! » he exclaimed on another occasion, — « since they knew the use of only ochres and browns. »

Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Young Girls on the River Bank by Renoir

Share this artwork:


Young Girls on the River Bank by Renoir

young girls on the river bank, renoir, renoir artworks, pierre auguste renoir, french art, impressionism, french impressionism, figurative art, decorative art prints

Tags : , , , , , , , ,