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Maurice Cullen, Canadian Impressionist

Moret, Winter, 1895
Maurice Cullen was born on the 6th of June, in St. John's, Newfoundland. Cullen grew up in Montreal before studying in Paris in 1888. Deeply inspired by the Impressionism of the period, Cullen developed a brushwork and palette that is rich and vibrant compared to most artists in the genre. He often approached the bucolic landscape with a fresh eye and bold use of colour that makes his work easy to identify and fun to study.
In Moret, Winter above, Cullen uses thick brushes and beautiful impasto strokes with dazzling colours. The reflections in the river have a magical glow of warm against cool hues. Take a closer look at these brushstrokes:

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Ludwig Deutsch, Orientalist Master

The Palace Guard, 1900

Ludwig Deutsch
was born on the 13th of May, 1855 in Vienna, Austria. He studied in Vienna briefly before moving to Paris in his twenties, where the Academic art of that period focused on Orientalism. Deutsch's work is characterized by high attention to detail, both in architecture and costume, dynamic color contrasts and effortless compositions. His use of body language in how it defines his subjects is also a key ingredient in his work that we'll be exploring more here.

In The Palace Guard above, Deutsch uses a full toolbox of painter expertise to narrate this scene. Observe the textures in this painting. The roughness of the stone walls with architectural details in the floral motifs at left. The intricate contrasts of materials in the man's costume is truly mesmerizing here: a black mesh underdress with an orange sash and green patterned headdress and scarf. Note the recurring motif of patterned circles in the fine pattern of the scarf, th…

Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, Belgian Prince

The Afternoon Visit, ca. late 1800's

Gustave Léonard de Jonghe was born on February 4, 1829, in western Belgium. After training in Brussels he moved to Paris to further his career, where he would spend time back and forth between the two cities. De Jonghe's style evolved from a more academic Realism to Orientalism and into genre paintings of women, especially with children. Although often criticized for his sentimentality, de Jonghe still had a firm grasp of his subjects with a strong naturalism, an eye for texture and pattern, and a vibrant palette. Often compared to Alfred Stevens, another brilliant and respected genre painter from Belgium, De Jonghe continued the tradition using his own palette and eye for body language.

In The Afternoon Visit above he seems to channel Sargent. The opulence and grandeur of the 19th century is depicted in a relaxed, airy naturalism. De Jonghe also captures the frilly dresses and all of its intricacies with ease. This young child fondly kisses…

Federico Andreotti, the Fun Painter

The Wedding Dance, ca.1890's

Born March 6, 1847 in Florence, Federico Andreotti was a genre and aristocratic painter. Andreotti's work is characterized by a vivid palette with elegantly dressed Rococo figures, revolving around the themes of flirtation and music. There is a spontaneity and naturalism in his figures that is contagious, even with the incredible detail and well-conceived compositions. Andreotti was astute enough to realize his era had already let go of the noble themes of his predecessors and he gleefully accepted. His style is very reminiscent of Eugene de Blaas, a contemporary from Rome and Vittorio Reggianini from Modena. Up close, however, Andreotti had a fairly loose brush and that sense of fun is evident in his modelling and blending.

In The Wedding Dance above, Andreotti depicts a country wedding in the lush outdoors. Look at the young couple kicking up their heels. Andreotti creates movement and alacrity while taking us back in time. I love how the bride s…

Henry Lerolle, Forgotten Impressionist

The Organ Rehearsal, 1885

Henry Lerolle was born on October 3, 1848 in Paris. He studied at the popular 19th century Académie Suisse, whose alumni include Monet, Cézanne, Pissaro, and Manet amoung others, and under the private instruction of Louis Lamothe, who taught Degas and Tissot. Despite his incredible eye there seems to be a lack of productivity compared to his contemporaries yet what makes Lerolle unique is his dramatic use of light and bold colors.

In The Organ Rehearsal above, we see one of the most breathtaking and underrated paintings of the 19th century. A singer rehearses a hymn at the Saint-François-Xavier in Paris to an open space of light— a brilliant composition that eschews any audience below completely and focuses on the main figures of the choir loft. This remarkable earth toned palette of browns, yellows and blacks, with a few accent colors, is superb. A couple of the standing figures off to the left have been painted in burnt sienna and yellows that make their fa…

Master of Innuendo: Edmund Leighton

In Time of Peril, 1897

Born on the 21st of September, 1852 Edmund Blair Leighton was an English medieval painter from London. He was known for a highly accurate and detailed realism with a vivid palette and figures with decorative costumes. Leighton's work has a strong narrative, and when he wasn't painting Medieval themes he often explored romantic concepts and, like his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries, may have been influenced by Lord Tennyson.

If we look at In Time of Peril above, Leighton creates a drama right out of a scene from a novel or drama. I love how the figures looking back at the old man direct our eye to him, while the child looks in the opposite direction toward where they are headed. By making the composition in two-point perspective, Leighton heightens the drama that they are in danger and eager to escape wherever they came from to arrive at a monastery. He creates vivid contrasts in texture between the water, the costumes of the figures, and the heavy stone w…

Charles Courtney Curran, Kentucky Gem

Lady with a Bouquet, 1890

Born February 13, 1861 in Hartford, Kentucky, Charles Courtney Curran was an American painter and illustrator. He is known for his graceful and elegant paintings of women in natural surroundings with vibrant use of light and colour. His work has a highly feminine sensibility and is sometimes criticized for its sentimentality, but Curran's appreciation of both interiors and nature, light and sky, and beauty in its most unpretentious and natural form makes him worthy of study.

In Lady with a Bouquet, Curran turns a quiet moment of a woman's love of flowers into a thing of beauty herself. I don't think I've ever seen a painting with a green palette used in this way before. The folds of the woman's jacket are just right, not overstated or too simple, painted with a light stroke to emphasize texture yet with some of the underpainting visible in the shadows. The way her arm raises up to smell the bouquet, and the shape of her hat and her jacket…

Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Lord of the Skies

Landscape with a farm near a lake, ca.1880's

Born on June 19, 1824 in The Hague, Netherlands Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch was a Dutch landscape artist. Weissenbruch was heavily influenced by Dutch landscape Master Jacob van Ruisdael who was among the first of landscape artists to emphasize clouds as a key component to the composition and mood of his paintings. Weissenbruch is in fact quoted as saying that "painters can never pay too much attention to the sky." Often bucolic in theme with Impressionist brushwork, Weissenbruch's work is characterized by the use of light and how it defines the landscape itself. Weissenbruch seemed to prefer a limited palette that often emphasizes greens and greys while using warmer colours more as accents.

In Landscape with a farm near a lake above, the brushwork is so loose it appears dream-like, and the hazy reflection of the trees and sky in the lake seem to immerse us in this view as if we are standing in this very spot. The sky itself …