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Hanna Pauli, Swedish Gem

Breakfast-Time, 1887

Born in Stockholm on January 13 , 1864 Hanna Hirsch-Pauli was a Swedish juste milieu portrait painter. Hanna studied in Paris where she met many other female Nordic artists like herself, including Finnish sculptor Venny Soldan whom she later painted. Pauli's work is characterized by an earthiness, natural and authentic...her portraiture has a profound honesty and individuality that is rare. Comfortable both indoors and out, she painted everything with an ease and grace that is definitely worth observing here.

In Breakfast-Time above, Pauli turns an ordinary table cloth into a thing of magic. Look closely at it. Pauli scumbles cool, violet hues into the shadows with unusual patches of orange and green-blues with thick, bright highlights to indicate reflected dappled sunlight. That bright mass of sunlit highlight appears contrary to our instincts as painters, yet here it is not only courageous but brilliant. The paint is so thick it was probably applied with a p…
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Eva Bonnier, Swedish Gem

Self-portrait, 1886

Eva Fredrika Bonnier
was a Swedish painter born in Stockholm on the 17th of November, 1857. Trained mostly in Paris, Bonnier is known mostly for her portraiture of women and innate ability to capture mood and vulnerability. She was a good friend of artist Hanna Hirsch. Despite having been born into a wealthy publishing family, Bonnier suffered from depression throughout her life and after having ceased to paint in 1900, took her own life nine years later by jumping out the window of Hotel Cosmopolite in Copenhagen at the age of 51.

In her Self-Portrait above, we see a rather confident woman of 29 years old. I love the raw sienna background and the way her face and the white tones of the loose ruff around her neck. There is an unflinching honesty to her gaze that is hypnotic, even for a self-portrait. What personal demons she had are clearly not evident here at all.

Convalescent, 1890

Incredible brushwork in the pillow this young woman lays on. Look at those greens a…

Elin Danielson-Gambogi, Elegance and Grace with a Brush

Mother, 1893

Elin Kleopatra Danielson-Gambogi was born September 3, 1861 in southwest Finland. She moved to Helsinki for her early art education then travelled and studied in Paris and finally Florence, Italy under a scholarship for a year until she moved to northern Italy in a small village called Antignano where she met her husband, painter Raffaello Gambogi. Elin only lived to the age of 58, but in her short time produced a solid, diverse body of work that embraces the individuality and strength of women and nature. Her broad spectrum and saturation of colors is fascinating in that she was equally drawn to many different kinds of light and all the effects they produce.

In Mother above, Elin captures a quiet, tender moment with a palette of earth colours, greys and white. Love how that window is painted in thick, impasto strokes of almost pure white that fade as she scumbles the edges to simulate transparent drapes—an absolutely brilliant effect. Elin also balances the composition …

Cecilia Beaux, Portrait Goddess

Man with the Cat (Henry Sturgis Drinker), 1898

Born on May 1, 1855, Cecilia Beaux was an American portrait artist from Philadelphia. Often compared to John Singer Sargent for her loose brushwork, Beaux studied in Paris under Tony Robert-Fleury and William-Adolphe Bouguereau to craft a style that was distinctly her own. Beaux developed a less formal sensibility than Sargent, except in her commissioned portraits, yet she maintains a human warmth in her subjects that is more spontaneous at times, whereas Sargent composed his paintings with an austere elegance. Where Sargent experimented with light and costume Beaux held an empathy with her sitters that reveals a more relaxed style of portraiture. Beaux was known to be a very independent and headstrong woman who lived a full life with many lovers yet never lost her sensitivity for her subjects.

In Man with the Cat above, Beaux takes a rather ordinary pose and through her incredible brushwork transforms this painting into magic. Henry Stur…

Marie Cazin, Forgotten Impressionist

A Street in Normandy, ca. 1924

Born on the 19 of September in 1844 in western France, Marie Cazin was a French landscape painter and sculptor. Although little of her works appear online and she is often overshadowed by her artist husband, Jean-Charles Cazin, Marie was a painter of incredible mood and light. The period in which she was active was dramatic itself in that the established and conservative Salon of Paris was slowly loosing its stronghold on art and artists while Impressionism was beginning to emerge as a new art form. Cazin exhibited also in England and Belgium, where she found a herself as a painter that could capture the French countryside and sculpt people with equal brilliance.

In A Street in Normandy above, Cazin utilizes a distinct brushstroke that is not exactly Impressionist nor Post-Impressionist, but her own unique style. That warm faint glow of the sky in the distance between the buildings is poetry. What I admire about this painting also is how despite the mono…

The Genius of Harriet Backer

Blue Interior, 1883

Born on the 21 of January in 1845, Harriet Backer was a Norwegian painter known for her introspective interiors and vivid colors. Having studied in Europe with various artists and travelled with her sister Agathe, a noted pianist and composer of the time, Backer became an influential artist pioneering both an Impressionist and Natural Realism. Backer travelled extensively not only throughout Europe but studied in her native land, and in Munich and Paris. Her work is characterized by a genre style of daily life infused with light and color not often seen, especially in her often thick brushwork which is sometimes reminiscent of her Swedish contemporary Anders Zorn, born twenty years after her. Despite not painting portraits or nudes, Backer's allure is in being able to articulate simplicity in a way that draws the viewer in, always experimenting with her brushstrokes and tonality...a poet of the people.

In Blue Interior above, we can clearly see how Backer often…

Nicolaes Berchem, Dutch Master of the Land

The Three Droves, 1656

Born October 1, 1620 in Haarlem, Netherlands, Nicolaes Berchem was a Dutch landscape painter. Berchem is known for his strong use of light, lush verdant landscapes and elegant figures yet sadly, is not given due attention for his incredible gifts. Berchem was an incredibly prolific painter and also produced many etchings and drawings during his lifetime in Haarlem and Amsterdam. Although not exactly a household name, Berchem was highly esteemed in his day. He taught some of the leading Dutch artists of the Golden Age, including Karel Dujardin, Pieter de Hooch, Jan van Huchtenburg, and Jacob Ochtervelt among others.

In The Three Droves above, Berchem's stunning light bathes this scene in romantic warmth. Judging by the greenish-yellow tone in the sky we see that Berchem glazed it in warm yellows, and the way that tree off to the right is silhouetted against that orange glow is breathtaking. He uses the warm tones as a motif throughout the painting, in some o…

Salvator Mundi Puts Leonardo in the Headlines

Leonardo's most cryptic and virtually unknown work, Salvator Mundi sold for a mind-boggling $450 million dollars at Christie's New York to break a world record, more than paying for the painstaking restoration by the incredibly skilled hands of Dianne Dwyer Modestini. Read more about her process in this CNN article. This article by Gary Meisner talks about Da Vinci's use of Golden Ration proportions within the painting.

Although this kind of selling price has outraged many art critics and skeptics alike all over the world—how dare an Old Master work outsell a Van Gogh or other modern work? I'll leave the art market talk to the experts. In this post I hope to examine the painting more fully and explore how much of it is the hand of Leonardo and the rest possibly the hand of others including Melzi, among others. Am I disputing its authorship? Not necessarily. I have profound respect for Professor Martin Kemp and I'm sure he's right when he says that standing bef…

The Literary Painter: Léon Augustin Lhermitte

La paye des moissonneurs, 1882

Born July 31, 1844 in northern France, Léon Augustin Lhermitte was a French Realist painter. His work is characterized by rural scenes of peasant farmers much like his contemporaries such as Jean-François Millet and Jules Breton. Lhermitte, in contrast to these great painters, is lesser known yet his approach is more Classical and he had a much greater understanding of anatomy and body language.

In the above painting, La paye des moissonneurs, translated as the pay of harvesters, peasant farmers are given a day's wages for hard work from their landowners. You can tell by the way the figures to the left are seated on a concrete bench how defeated and tired they are yet eager for their pay, a biting comment on labor that we can all understand today, even with our modern conveniences. The man on the left is seated with his giant scythe, staring into space while his wife breastfeeds their child as the owner pays them in coins. The younger bachelor off to…