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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Art in the battlefield-Scenes from Egypt

Source: BBC
Source: Al Jazeera, SSEA        






Friday, 21 January 2011

Artwork of the day

Self-portrait, Judith Leyster, 1630, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. 
Different from the previous Dutch portraits examined this week not only because it's not a wedding painting, but also because it is a self portrait. This work by Judith Leyster exhibits the way she sees herself not only as a person but also as an artist. Interestingly enough she chooses to do so by smiling to the spectator, posing relaxed in front of an equally happy painting and holding the tools of her craft. She is a genre artist and proudly exhibits so. At the same time she is an upper class lady and her clothes –which she would not wear while working- show this status along with her profession as an artist. What is remarkable about this painting –apart from the skill of Leyster- is the fact that she chose to differentiate herself from the tradition in self-portraits that dictated a more severe look from the sitter/artist.This joyfulness and informality underlines most of her work (two examples are presented below) like that of her teacher Frans Hals. 
The concert, Judith Leyster, 1633, oil on canvas, National Museum of Women in Arts, Washington D.C.

Two children with a cat, Judith Leyster, 1629, oil on canvas, private collection

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Artwork of the day

Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen, Frans Hals, 1622. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
This painting by Frans Hals is also a marriage portrait like the ones discussed yesterday. Essentially it belongs to the same tradition, the same civilisation (Dutch, 17th century) and probably served similar purposes. It is at the same time however essentially different. This is just one painting representing the happy couple showing clear signs of affection, posing relaxed against an equally happy garden landscape. This seems to be a relationship between equal partners and a happy union. The couple is presented full-length, the woman lying on her husband's arm. Behind them a vine relies on the tree, another symbol of the solidity of their union and the mutual fidelity underlying it. There is no way for us to know whether the happiness portrayed in this painting was real. Hals was undoubtedly a great master of portraiture going for innovating paintings, however documentary and literary sources show that in the 17th century affectionate relationships were highly praised and sought for in a marriage.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Artwork(s) of the day

Portrait of a man, 1641 and Portrait of a woman, 1640, Johannes Verspronck, Rijksmuseum Twenthe Enschede

During the 17th century, the great economic and cultural growth of the Dutch Republic led to a rise in portraiture. The Dutch higher classes seemed eager to acquire portraits that would capture their image in eternity.
One particular type was the marriage portraits, consisting of two pendant paintings of the married couple. These two examples were created by the famous portraitist of the period, Johannes Verspronck. The attention to the clothes and their rich texture shows that the couple was wealthy belonging to the upper parts of society. The dark background is used to place emphasis on the clothes and the sitters themselves; their faces, their hands, their postures. Conventions on gender roles are obeyed. The man in an active stance comes forward as the powerful party, while the woman is represented more restraint and obedient clasping her hands.
The paintings would face each other. The portrait of the woman was usually placed on the right so that the man would appear as having her at his left side, another indication of the position of the wife inside the marriage.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Artwork of the day

Mother of the Gracchi, Angelica Kauffmann, 1785, oil on canvas, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Among the few women artists to have survived in the male dominated world of the past centuries, Angelica Kauffmann was admired in her times and managed to have a career as a painter at a time when women were expected to be nothing more than wives and mothers. She spent a great part of her life in England as the protégée of Sir Joshua Reynolds, although she was originally from Switzerland. 
The theme of this painting comes from the Classical period, as was common among the Neoclassicists who reacted to the ‘frivolous’ rococo style. It presents the story of Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi who presents her sons as her jewels when another woman demonstrates to her precious adornments. The story is meant to be didactic and the figures and background are treated are following the Classical tradition.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Artwork of the day

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Thomas Gainsborough, 1783, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Her life has entered the modern popular culture via a series of films, the most recent of which -The Duchess- was released in 2008.
Georgiana -known for both her beauty and her character in her times- is here painted by one of the most famous English artists of the 18th century, Thomas Gainsborough, one of the few who have managed to excel in both landscape and portrait paintings.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Artwork of the day

The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, 1907-8, oil on canvas, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria
In the beginning of the 20th century, Vienna was an international city experiencing a cultural, artistic and economic growth. New ideas flourished and Gustav Klimt developed his distinctive style, which is easily recognizable even by amateur art historians. The Kiss representing Klimt and Emilie Flȍge is one of the most recognizable paintings of the artist exhibiting the powerful colours of his style and the sensuality that underlines most of his work.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Art history book of the week

Modern Art 1851-1929 by Richard R. Brettell
A period marked by significant historical, social and economic events, among them World War I, saw at the same time a radical change in art and artistic creation. The road from Realism to Surrealism seems very long; less than 100 years however were needed for the artists to pass from the first to the latter and a great number of styles evolved during this same time. This book aims at throwing light to most of them looking at the same time at the social context that gave rise to them.

Picture from:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Artwork of the day

The month of January, Jacob Grimmer, 16th century, oil on panel, private collection
Grimmer painted all the twelve months of the year in similar circular panels probably symbolizing the cyclical course of the year. In each of the paintings he represents the monthly activities of the peasants along with powerful representations of the landscape as it changes along with the seasons.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

New year's guests, Theodor Severin Kittelsen (Norway), 1901, pastel & watercolour on paper, private collection

Picrture from: Bridgeman- Art, Culture, History Images