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Showing posts from December, 2012

Merry Christmas to All

The Birth of Jesus, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 Looking at the brilliant chiaroscuro side bathing these faces in a warm golden light, I note how Honthorst focuses on the reactions of the figures surrounding Christ and not the manger surrounding them. Clever triangles, contrast of warm and cool colors, and a black sky behind them are all that is necessary to make a great painting. Honthorst creates presence with light, a physical space around Christ, and flawless figures. Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog and Happy New Year! I invite any comments or questions. I will be back in the new year with a very busy January of great artist bios and their work.

Pieter de Hooch, the Other Dutchman

A Couple Walking in the Citizens' Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall , ca. 1665 A contemporary of Vermeer yet not nearly as famous, Pieter de Hooch (pronounced Peter de HOHhuh) also known as Pieter de Hooghe was baptized on December 20, 1629— for some reason birthdates were not always recorded accurately or at all, as was the case with Vermeer also. Similar in style, it is not known whether they ever met or who influenced whom, although present day scholars believe it was Vermeer that influenced de Hooch. This genre of Dutch painting that explores everyday life, completely secular, is the one similarity they both have but if we look more carefully there are very distinct differences between these two Masters. And de Hooch, far from being the lesser of the two, is quite the contrary as we will see in these examples. De Hooch seems to have favored warm light and a warmer palette than Vermeer. In the above example, A Couple Walking in the Citizens' Hall of Amsterdam Town Hall


Self-Portrait, 1892 Born in Ferrara on December 31, 1842, Giovanni Boldini was a painter from the Belle Époque era. Known as the "Master of Swish" by a Time magazine article published a couple of years after his death, Boldini's style actually evolved over his career in a chameleon-like fashion. Sometimes loose and brushy, other times tightly rendered, it is towards the final years of his painting that we associate the swish of his technique with long, vigorous strokes and distorted figures, emphasizing line and grace, as if a modern Mannerism. Boldini associated with some famous artists of the day, including Degas and Sargent, who would become a life-long friend. The world was modernizing and changing rapidly, especially in France, and with it art itself. Boldini is unique in that he captured both landscapes and portraiture with ease and in the process characterized an era, evolving and moving along with it, never missing a beat, remaining very popular in both Lon


Belisarius, 1776 A Neoclassical painter from France, François-André Vincent was born on December 30, 1746. Known for being one of the founding members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts , Vincent's growing reputation would become eclipsed by another French NeoClassist who would define the era, Jacques-Louis David . Nonetheless, Vincent deserves merit for his use of color, his draftsmanship, his portraiture, and his distinct visual narrative. In Belisarius , a former soldier carefully eyes the legendary general as he offers his donation of charity. He recognizes him, but says nothing as Belisarius is a blind beggar, once a formidable general who served under Justinian defending Italy from the Goths. Note the difference in color saturation between the soldier and Belisarius, who is paler and downcast, yet still maintains a strength and quiet dignity. There is a complex arrangement of arms between the boy, Belisarius and the soldier...note how they form an "x" between the


Nymphs and Satyr, 1873 If there is one artist today that hardly needs an introduction, it would be William-Adolphe Bouguereau , supreme giant of 19th century Academic art. Born on November 30, 1825 in La Rochelle on the southwest of France, his talent would define the era he lived in only to fall into obscurity for decades after his death in 1905 until as recent as the early 1980's, shockingly. Today he has the distinction of being lionized by the Art Renewal Center as one of the greatest artists of all time while at the other end of the spectrum vilified by modernists as artificially perfect and sentimental. In fact it is quite rare to see such polarization over an artist of a calibre like Bouguereau, whose bravura is difficult to equal yet at the same time thematically his work admittedly tends toward women and children, a subject matter that sold well and he had endless patience for. Over the vast array of his oeuvre, some 820 paintings, I have tried to find some of his v