Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Jean-François Millet: Artist of the Peasants

 Along with many 19th century Russian artists, Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) found much inspiration from the life of the peasants in the French village where he was born.



Although Millet was the oldest and expected to work on the family farm in a time when family labor made the difference in survival or not. Yet, his father recognized his son's talent and sent him to Cherbourg to study art. He initial attempts to exhibit his art in Paris were unsuccessful and he settled away from Paris in Barbizon - a small hamlet.



It was in Barbizon where he turned to the peasant lifestyle that would give him recognition as an artist and criticism as a Socialist. It was also the place where he and Rousseau founded the Barbizon School - dedicated to the art of Realism and Natural landscapes. (The school existed from 1830-1870. The biggest impact was to put nature ahead of historical paintings.)




During those years in Barbizon, Millet gained international status with such paintings as "The Gleaners" and the commission by an American of "The Angelus." 


The American did not take the painting. Upon Millet's death, the painting went to a bidding war auction and ultimately this paintings of humility sold for 800,000 gold francs! The irony being not only the contrast of the painted scene and the price paid, but also that Millet's family, left poor by his death, received none of the money.  This disparity led to a law in France known as "droit de suite." This law, now in several EU countries, allows for the artists or heirs to receive a fee on the resale of the work. 


Fascinating how an artist, who painted the hard and humble lives of the peasants, led to political criticism and capitalist greed. It was a glimpse into the future of art as it moved away
from patronage to market forces.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Sir Cedric Morris: Permanent Joy of Spring

 Here in the Pacific NW, cold rain continues even though we are deep into April. Yesterday, as I was waiting at a stop light, I looked to my left and I had to smile. There was a large planting of daffodils and pansies with their heads proudly announcing Spring. They were on a mission to bloom and it didn't seem to matter for the cold. How much joy do flowers give us? How often do they inspire artists?


One painter who came to mind is Cedric Morris (1889-1982) He was born into an aristocratic family and held the title of the 9th Baronet; hence the "Sir" in his title. Beyond this nobility, at 17 years,he left his home in Swansea, Wales for Ontario, Canada. He took menial jobs until he felt mature enough to return to the continent and study art in Paris. 


Alas, WW1 interrupted his art studies and he returned to Wales. There, he developed his love of horticulture and worked/painted at Pound Farm. He turned the grounds into a beautiful paradise. The owner was so impressed that when she died, Morris inherited the farm. 


Morris created over 1,000 varieties of flowers - 45 irises are registered! Morris taught and created exuberant paintings of flowers. There's a strong feeling of his joy in the presence of flowers. What a wonderful way to give a sense of permanence to Spring!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Dusan Malobabic: The Rainy Season



 A little while ago, I looked out my window to see the rain pooling on my neighbor's driveway. It was a silent but constant rain - very common in the Northwestern United States. It reminded me of a blog I wrote a few years ago where I showed how different artists with varying styles portrayed rain. One who received a lot of favorable responses was Dusan Malobabic.

Malobabic, an Australian, is a contemporary artist who draws heavily on the style of the Impressionist with a bit of Cubism added. Using oil, a palette knife and a brush, he paints scenes of his native home, especially the cities. More specifically, his city paintings uses the buildings as backdrops for the people.


His people are anonymous. Malobabic is less concerned with their details as he is how they respond in their bodies to their community and the weather. This gives his paintings a certain personal understanding. Doesn't really matter that it may be a city in Australia. It could be any big city. In that way, the we viewers can relate.


While Malobabic does lovely scenes other than of urban rain, for this blog and the thoughts that led me to choose this particular artist, these are some of his rain depiction. Let me know if you relate to your own experiences of the rainy season.  (Did you find the one that is a tip of the hat to Renoir?)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Thomas Eakins: Artist Out of His Time

He is regarded as one of the most important American artists. Still, most people don't know his name or his art work. He was featured on PBS' "American Masters." Yet, there was no stir or conversation about his art and biography. Who was this artist who mattered so much and so little all at the same time?


He was Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). (Notice that the dates of his lifetime coincide with the rise of the avant garde styles of Impressionism and Cubism.)In spite of the era, Eakins was true to his artistic instincts and that meant he was "deeply traditional."

Eakins was true to his believe in the beauty of nature especially the human form. If that meant going against the tide of popular techniques, so be it. That's not to say that he turned his back on what was new and exciting. (He was fascinated with photography and made many inventive contributions to motion studies.)It was more that Eakins disliked trends and affectations.

  He studied in Paris, Madrid and Seville. As Eakins traveled, he gained an appreciation of classical painters from earlier times whose portraitures explored the personality of the model.

Eakins' method was to paint portraits very slowly and meticulously. He spoke very little to his model. Most often, the person posing would relax and drop any facade. These portraits rendered a psychological realism not appreciated at the time - especially with all the interest in the new art movements. However, the passage of time changes many things.

Today, in the world of art, Eakins is highly regarded. In 1964, Tom Canaday, art critic for the New York Times wrote:

Today he seems to us to have recorded his fellow Americans with a perception that was often as tender as it was vigorous, and to have preserved for us the essence of an American life which, indeed, he did not idealize--because it seemed to him beautiful beyond the necessity of idealization.

All of the images on this blog are his paintings. What do you think of his work? Did you already know his name and art?