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?