Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Honore' Daumier: Artist of the People, For the People

Can't say why, but I am drawn to artists who create art in spite of the danger of doing so. Goya, Pissarro, and Luce all paid a price. So did Honore' Daumier.

Honore' Daumier (1808-1879) was a lithographer, caricaturist, sculptor and painter. Born into a family  with hard financial circumstances, young Daumier took a job at age 12 as a delivery boy. In his spare time, he sketched from paintings at the Louvre.


When Daumier was age 22, he studied lithography and found work with small publishing houses. He became a very good satirical political cartoonist poking fun at the king and the upper class.  He often showed the king as a pear shape and wealthy aristocrats as "fat cats."




Eventually, his lithograph titled "Gargantua" of Louis-Phillipe, the reigning monarch, would lead to a 6-month stint in jail. Nevertheless, he continued to "voice" his displeasure with the French oligarchy. 



 Daumier is considered one of the most prolific artist of the 19th century. During his lifetime, he produced 4000 graphics, 300 paintings, 800 drawings, 1000 woodcuts and sculptures. He is most remembered for his lithograph titled, "Rue Transnonain, le 15 avril 1834" To fully appreciate what Daumier was portraying, it helps to have a little background.

 During Louis-Phillipe's reign, there were anti-worker laws enacted such as those that prevented forming labor unions. The terrible working conditions that existed and the new laws generated resistance. During the resistance, a sniper shot a police officer and the police went on a rampage in the building where they thought the sniper was located.

The police shot everyone they could find in the building - even women and children. Daumier, who lived only 3 blocks from the building, was so upset that he created a large lithograph. A print seller placed one of the prints in his shop window. 

Daumier was enraged. Out of this anger, he produced the finest lithograph of his career. He knew the risk because he'd gone to jail for "Gargantua." Whereas, his caricatures had caused amusement, this one was different.

When the authorities learned about the lithograph, all known prints were confiscated and the original lithographic stone was destroyed. Fortunately, some prints were successfully hidden away from the authorities. Daumier didn't go to jail this time. Instead, presses were shut down and caricatures were legally forbidden.

Look carefully and closely at the print. Did you note the little child? It was Daumier doing what photos and videos do today - making repression and brutality real.


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Victor Horta: Architectural Innovator of Art Nouveau

 In this blog, I have written about painters, sculptors, and printers but little about architects. It was not an oversight. It was because many avant garde architects such as Gaudi and Gehring have been widely recognized. Then, I came across Victor Horta (1861-1947) who has been called, "the key European Art Nouveau Architect." 


Born in Ghent, Belgium, Horta was educated in music, art, design and architecture. Early in his career, he began to work with iron and glass - often thought of as hard and angular materials. Horta designs wove them into sinuous shapes for both the exterior and interior. 

He designed a few houses, but quickly moved on to designing public buildings. His signature design was the whiplash curves which you can see in the photos here. These have a certain feeling of plant tendrils and became part of the description of the Art Nouveau period. 

  After WWI, Horta moved from the curving, sweeping style to a more geometrical one. This evolution would lead to Art Deco and Modernism. However, modernist felt no connection to Horta's Art Nouveau style and several of his buildings were demolished in the 1960s. 
UNESCO stepped in and preserved some of Horta's houses and buildings as World Heritage Sites. We are lucky to have these beautiful designs.
Here's more examples of the detail in Horta's works:


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Rosalba Carriera: Artistic Style Created by a Woman

In a time when women artist were ignored in the art world, there was an Italian woman, Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757), who was a famous pastel painter. Her fame was even greater than her pastels for she is considered the first woman in history to initiate a new style of art. At the time, it was called goût moderne. Today, we refer to the style as "rococo."



Carriera was born in Venice to a government clerk and a lace maker. Her early works were lace patterns, but sometime later she began painting miniature portraits for snuffboxes. 


 The beauty of her miniatures and the loose, spontaneous

brushstrokes of this new style led to fame and acceptance at the very highest levels. In addition to creating a style of painting, there were many more "firsts" from this talented and innovative artist.


 She painted finished portraits with pastels on paper - at a time when pastels were considered ideal for sketching only.  She promoted the use of tempera on ivory instead of using vellum. She was such a good artist that she was accepted into the French Royal Academy even though it had previously banned women. Here is a portion of a quote on one of her portraits:

".... Her delicate handling of the pastel medium beautifully captured the Rococo rage for pretty powdered faces and flowing fabrics. In A Young Lady with a Parrot, Carriera used a “dry-brush” technique, dragging her pastel lightly over a contrasting color, to suggest the gauzy material draped across the young lady and clear, wet-chalk accents to realize the lady’s floral hairpiece and jewelry."

In a time when women were only allowed certain crafts - none of which were considered for earning a wage, Carriera made a very fine living from the commissions she received from monarchy, wealthy patrons and collectors throughout Europe. The fame and demand for her portraits allowed her to be the sole support of her self, her mother and her unmarried sister! Needless to say, she inspired many other women artists. 


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Arkhip Ivanovitch Kuindzhi: Artist of the Light

 It was in Paris at the d' Orsay Museum, that I first experienced Russian art of the period that museum covers (1848-1914) . It was paintings through a special traveling exhibit.

One painting in particular caught my attention. It was so beautifully luminous that I couldn't stop looking at it.  I had to write the name of the artist and the title of his work in my sketchbook/journal so I could find out more about him when I returned home.

The artist was Arkhip Ivanovitch Kuindzhi (1841-1910) also spelled Kouindji. Kuiniji, and, well, if you want to look him up just key in his first name. He was born in Mariupol, Ukraine. 

Orphaned as a six year old, he worked at a variety of menial jobs until his natural gift led to a job as a photo retoucher. He eventually went to St. Petersburg where he took some training, but remained largely self-trained.



Kuindzhi is recognized as a painter who sought and succeeded in transmitting "light's fullness and density." Below are a few more of his paintings showing his capture of light and mood. 

What's your opinion of his works? Have you ever heard of him?

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Master of the Mundane: Eliot Hodgkin


 It's safe to say that Eliot Hodgkin (1905-1987) was inspired by the the mundane things that most painters of still lives tend not to examine. In his own words, "I like to show the beauty of things that no one looks at twice."


Hodgkin's interest in the rather small insignificant subjects was perhaps his genetic inheritance. His long lineage includes many intellectuals including an uncle, Thomas Hodgkin. Thomas H was a noted pathologists,who through a microscope, was able to describe a certain form of cancer, which we know today as "Hodgkin's Lymphoma."



Eliot H. might have been fascinated by his uncle's microscopic images, but if so, it was more likely incorporated with his own leanings toward another kin, Roger Fry. Fry was a 19th century painter and an art critic. At age 13, Eliot Hodgkin was already considered a child prodigy for his paintings.


Eliot H. did paint some very good landscapes. interiors and more conventional still lives. However, a sampling of the ones that best reflect his interest in the mundane shown in the blog are (in no particular order): dead leaf (he painted lots of those), walnuts, turnips, unusual lemon still life, varied fruits, and currants. 


 He painted a wide variety of items that interested him - including his baby boy's booties - until age 74 when worsening eyesight forced him to stop. 

In the way of family lineage, there's a website where you can see more of his works, of course, presented by the Hodgkins.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Maximilien Luce: Artist, Lithographer & Anarchist


Many of the Impressionists saw what the Industrial Age was doing to the souls of men. All these workers were cogs in a machine which required them to work long hours for very little pay. This work was often dangerous and if the workers were injured, well, too bad. 


Of those times, there were a few artists who became overtly sympathetic to the plight of the working poor. They were: Camille Pissarro, who fled France, Paul Signac and Maximilien Luce.



I was familiar with the works of Pissarro and Signac, but knew nothing of Luce. That is, until I had to write an essay on an impressionist painter. Knowing the teacher would be inundated with papers on Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh, I researched and found Luce.

Luce was a wonderful and interesting find - painter, lithographer and anarchist. He painted landscapes and urban life. (Along with Seurat and Signac he originated pointillism - a technique where small dots of color optically blend to create an image. ) 

  Luce was also known for painting subjects of social realism - war, citizen revolts, industry's effects on people and the land, and the plight of the those out of power. These were the images that would lead to his arrest, trial and conviction - the very outcome that made Pissarro flee to London. (Google: "Trial of the Thirty")


However, even after release Luce continued his political resistance in his paintings albeit more subtly. At age 76, he was elected President of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. He soon resigned in protest against the society's policy to restrict the admission of Jewish artists. (Below: He painted the light leaning left in the manner of representing Socialism in a scene divided between bucolic nature and the inhumanity of the smoke and soot belching out of the smoke stacks)

He always stood by what he believed. Could this be why we know so little of him in the history of Impressionism? What do you think?


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Soon Y. Warren: Watercolorist Extraordinaire

 As I've commented before, it seems that water color artists are some of the most skilled painters. I've tried water color, but I like to change my mind as I paint. Water color requires a lot of advanced planning. 

The water colorists, whose works I've recently found to be awe-producing, is Soon Y. Warren. She was born in South Korea and migrated to the United States in 1987. By 1998, she had reached a level of perfection as to teach her medium to others.

Warren is in many collections, often receives top honors at exhibits, writes books on painting and teaches via videos.

For this blog, instead of a lot of bio, I'd prefer to let the art speak for itself. Enjoy!

In case I've given your the impression that her only subjects are still lives and flowers, here's a couple of others to show the scope of her subjects and talent.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Frank Schoonover and the Golden Age of Illustrations

 For centuries, the most important ways that art reached millions was through illustrations for magazines and books. I was just a little kid when I saw a library book with the most beautiful illustrations I'd ever seen. Although I've long forgotten the title and author of the book, I do recall the awe I experienced at the art.


In fact, some of the beloved artist, who touched others, were illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, Beatrix Potter, N.C. Wyeth and Maurice Sendak. One that you might not be as familiar with is Frank Schoonover (1877-1972) although he was a very prolific illustrator. 




Beyond Schoonover's many illustrations for magazines and books, he created over 5,000 paintings! His time marks the early 20th century regarded as the "Golden Age of Illustrations."

His illustrations included swashbuckling figures for adventure books, cowboys and mavericks for western books and even the sad situation of soldiers during WW1. 


In addition to Schoonover's own works, he collected and saved the works of other illustrators plus he taught art in his own studio. 


In case you think he's a forgotten illustrator in the scheme of popularity, there is the Schoonover Studio in Wilmington, DE. It was started as a studio and school by Howard Pyle, but soon outgrew the building.



It was the efforts of Schoonover and others to find a philanthropist to finance an expanded school. Among the illustrious attendees of the new school included N. C. Wyeth. 


You don't have to go to Delaware to see the famous school for illustrators. In keeping with modern times, there's a YouTube of Schoonover's grandson being interviewed about the studio. Just type in "Frank Schoonover." 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Raymond Wintz: The Light of Brittany

 Raymond Wintz (1884-1956) was one of those "in-between" painters. His style was described as being between what was known as "realism" in those times with a touch of "impressionism." It could've been because that although he was Parisian-born and trained in art, he chose to live in another part of France.




Wintz decided to settle in Brittany. Perhaps it was for the quality of the light. After all, he was known as the "painter of light." Whatever else, the combination of the light and the closeness to the sea from his windows proved very inspiring.




His most famous painting from his time in Brittany is titled, "The Blue Door."


It's still available in prints and there's no wonder. Who wouldn't love to go on vacation to the seashore and open the door of a rented villa to such a scene? Imagine stepping out in the morning with your coffee and croissant to such a view!





With all of his paintings of Brittany, not only do you feel the wind and the sea, but the lives of the Bretons and their distinct Celtic culture having more in common with the Welsh, Irish and Scottish, who have all retained their language into modern times.

Here's more of the people and the land that inspired Wintz to produce some of this most well-known works: