Skip to main content

bonjour Jean-Baptiste...

Marie Pierre Abduction of Europa
The rape of Europa,1750

Another March 6th birthday I completely missed, this French Rococo genius Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre was another one of those painters who was appreciated in his day but waned in popularity afterwards. Although some didn't like him— Diderot thought he was arrogant and couldn't stand him— I find his work important enough to mention because of three things:

1.superb composition
2.great color harmony
3.graceful figures

Pierre has a notably brighter palette than those of his contemporaries, who placed more emphasis on chiaroscuro due to the influence of Titian, than mere color. Also the portrait was becoming immensely popular at this time and the rise of pastel helped usher in this change, whereas Pierre painted mostly mythology and allegorical subjects. Pierre's shadows are thin and transparent, rarely dark except as a framing device around the figures.

In the example above for Europa, Pierre creates a three-dimensional space by a sort of circular composition of the figures, a first for this subject. His figures always seem to have a compositional purpose. If we look at the right side of the painting the two male and female figures create a "v-shape"...something I've never seen before in a mythological painting, whereas in the far left the foreshortened male torso literally points straight toward Europa.Even the cherubs are aligned in perspective diagonally toward her, and yet he makes it look natural by contrasting the direction of each cherub. I'm not sure about the significance of the eagle but even the smoldering cloud behind it points to her. Composition is the most difficult element in any painting, and we can learn something by Pierre who tackles it by assigning importance to each element of the painting.

The last example, The Death of Harmonia (zoomable image at the Met):
The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Death of Harmonia

we see again the figures pointing toward the subject in perspective. Pierre uses arms to direct the viewers eye in the composition, a common theme in all of his work. Note his transparent shadows and warm skin tones, especially if we compare the left and right leg of the male figure. Even the way his clothing flows leads our eye to her.

Arrogant or not, Pierre was a fantastic Rococo painter.

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri

Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Old Master Drawings

Drawing is not the form; it is the way of seeing the form.

A male nude from behind, c.1630 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In this blog I talk about painting but the importance of drawing cannot be understated of course, and I believe we can learn just as much from studying their techniques of line and strokes as we can from brushstrokes...more in most cases as the drawing is more expressive and intimate. It reveals the personality and character of the artist.

The above drawing apparently comes from the period of Bernini's teaching at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of four from the exact same model. This drawing is fairly big for a study, at 55.6 x 42cm (21 x 16 inches). Consider Michelangelo's study for Libyan Sibyl, is only 28.9 x 21.4 cm (11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches), a small study for a fresco which would be painted several times larger than life size. I can only guess that Bernini was teaching a big class and that maybe his work was on display for students to study, or it ma…