Horace Vernet: Italian Brigands Surprised by Papal Troops
Friday, February 28, 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Chartres Cathedral, West Facade
One of Corot's first masterpieces, Chartres Cathedral was painted in 1830, a few months after the artist's return from Italy. Still suffused with the light of that country, this work, with its clear tones and visual objectivity, is perfectly laid out and soundly structured. Corot's concern with the architecture is clear, but he has chosen an odd composition, with the mound and the stacked stones in the foreground. Partly taken from life, the painting was considerably reworked forty-two years later by Corot, who enlarged it when it was being relined and added the small figure at bottom left.
The viewer is immediately struck by the composition of the painting. The "vacant lot" with its three trees, slabs of stone, and houses is in marked contrast with the sheer size of the cathedral and its spires. If we block out the spires, the building fits with the overall scale, but otherwise everything seems out of proportion. This was the criticism Corot himself made in 1872, his attempt at a solution being the addition of the child seated on a block of stone in the foreground. [Louvre]
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
Édouard Dubufe: Portrait de la comédienne Harriet Smithson
Harriet Smithson was an Anglo-Irish actress, the first wife of the composer Hector Berlioz, and the inspiration for his Symphonie Fantastique. The story is quite romantic: Berlioz discovered her at the Odéon Theatre performing the roles of Juliet and Ophelia and immediately fell in love with her, sending her letters despite never having met her. This continued until the 1832 performance of Lélio, a sequel to his Symphonie Fantastique, when he discovered a mutual acquaintance and offered her a box of tickets. She came to the performance, realizing that the symphony was about her (as was strongly suggested by the program notes) and they married in 1833 at the British Embassy in Paris.
Dubufe learned the art of painting from his father, Claude-Marie Dubufe. He became a celebrated portraitist during the Second Empire.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Amédée Bourgeois: Attack on the Hotel de Ville
and Combat on the Pont d’Arcole, July 28, 1830
On July 25, 1830, Charles X ordered strict censorship of the press, dissolved the newly-elected Chamber of Deputies and changed the electoral system in favor of conservative candidates. Three days of rioting ensued, after which the Restoration collapsed.
When at the end of 1830, Amédée Bourgeois decided to paint taking the bridge that spans the Seine between the Ile de la Cité and the Place de Greve, there was no lack of models. Eugène Delacroix had already drawn the battle bridge of Arcola and an anonymous engraving, Le Pont d'Arcole (Paris, Musée Carnavalet) was widely disseminated. By September Delavigne also published the poem "A week of Paris," devoted to the violent fight July 28 in which a young Polytechnique who had chosen the nom de guerre "Arcola" distinguished himself by his bravery, quickly fell under the bullets of the royal troops, but allowed the people to take the Town Hall.
The Pont d'Arcole is a commissioned work. The painter sought to depict the unity of all Parisians and to ignore the fact that the fighters were mostly workers. Here, waging war side by side for freedom, men in blouses, bourgeois in decorated top hats, Turcos, a soldier of Charles X joined the revolution, the National Guard and polytechnic - who engage boldly behind their comrade. Everything suggests solidarity between classes. A doctor with a surgical kit tapes the leg of a craftsman while a young bourgeois gives drink to a worker. Among the victims who lie in the foreground are many National Guards in civilian clothes and workers. [L'Histoire par Images]
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Théodore Rousseau: Study of Rocks and Trees
Rocks allowed artists to play with shape, texture, light and shadow, and soon mountains became dominant figures in these paintings. Théodore Rousseau’s Study of Rocks and Trees demonstrates the finesse of crafting rock texture, especially when contrasted against the softness of the moss and the fluidity of the trees. [Bringing Landscape to Life]
Friday, February 21, 2014
Eugène Delacroix: The Assassination of the Bishop of Liege
A variety of Romantic interests were again synthesized in The Murder of the Bishop of Liège (1829). It also borrowed from a literary source, this time [Sir Walter] Scott, and depicts a scene from the Middle Ages, that of the murder of Louis de Bourbon, Bishop of Liège amidst an orgy sponsored by his captor, William de la Marck. Set in an immense vaulted interior which Delacroix based on sketches of the Palais de Justice in Rouen and Westminster Hall, the drama plays out in chiaroscuro, organized around a brilliantly lit stretch of tablecloth. In 1855, a critic described the painting's vibrant handling as "Less finished than a painting, more finished than a sketch, The Murder of the Bishop of Liège was left by the painter at that supreme moment when one more stroke of the brush would have ruined everything." (Jobert, Barthélémy, Delacroix, p. 116-18. Princeton University Press, 1997) [Wikipedia]
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Eugène Lami: Charles I receiving a rose from a young girl when about to be brought as a prisoner to Carisbrooke Castle, where he will soon be condemned and executed
Lami (1800-1890) worked at the studio of Horace Vernet then studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris with Camille Roqueplan and Paul Delaroche under Antoine-Jean Gros. While there, he learned watercolor technique from Richard Parkes Bonington and later became a founding member of the Society of French Watercolorists.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Léon Cogniet: The Abduction of Rebecca by a Knight Templar
This scene is, of course, based on Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert (if I remember correctly) conceives a passion for Rebecca, the "Jewess," who rejects him - so he has her tried for witchcraft (of course, Ivanhoe saves the day).
Friday, February 14, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Claude-Marie Dubufe: The Surprise
A startled woman draws her shawl around her. Her pose is based on the famous classical sculpture, The Medici Venus, a lifesize Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Eugène Delacroix: Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi
The Greek war of independence from Turkish rule was a cause célèbre of European poets and artists. Lord Byron, in particular, did much to popularize the Greek cause. With this painting, Delacroix laid a Romantic stamp on the depiction of a tragic event (the townspeople of Missolonghi destroyed their city rather than surrender it to the Turks) which came to be an allegory of the entire struggle.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Julius II ordering Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael to build the Vatican and Saint Peter’s (1827)
Horace Vernet: Julius II ordering Bramante, Michelangelo,
and Raphael to build the Vatican and Saint Peter’s
Friday, February 7, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Alexandre-Charles Guillemot: The Love of Acis and Galatea
This typically tragic story based in Greek mythology is best known from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Handel wrote an opera based on the story.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
to the Artists at the Close of the Salon of 1824
Monday, February 3, 2014
Eugène Delacroix: Woman Caressing a Parrot
There appears to be something of a tradition of nude or scantily clad women painted with parrots. It began in the Baroque (example: Rosalba Carrera) but really flowered in the 19th century with Delacroix and many later examples.
These are innocent parrots but later representations of the bird are fraught with erotic meaning. During the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the parrot – having once symbolised Eve – became instead an image of sexual lust and longing. Wistful women alone in their boudoirs contemplate their pet parrots as they dream of their distant lovers. The most famous examples of the genre, by Manet, by Courbet, by Renoir, are too precious to have been sought as loans by the Barber Institute. But the exhibition does include two wonderful lesser known examples: A Woman in a Red Jacket Feeding a Parrot, by the seventeenth-century painter from Leiden, Frans van Mieris the Elder; and Giambattista Tiepolo’s smouldering Young Woman with a Macaw, a capriccio executed by the greatest Venetian painter of the eighteenth century for Empress Elisabeth Petrovna of Russia. A blushing young lady, in decolletage so low-cut as to reveal her right breast, stares into space. The parrot she caresses looks out at the spectator with a sharp, proprietorial gaze. [Andrew Graham-Dixon]
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: The Apotheosis of Homer
Ingres was commissioned to paint this composition with numerous figures to decorate a ceiling in the Musée Charles X in the Louvre, now the Egyptian Rooms. It was taken down in 1855. The work, which does not betray its origin as a ceiling painting, draws heavily on Raphael's Parnassus. It shows a deified Homer receiving homages from the great artists of antiquity and modern times. At his feet, two allegories represent the Iliad and the Odyssey. [More at the Louvre]