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stlukesguild
10-06-2013, 11:17 PM
Sir Peter Paul Rubens' (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640) painting, The Garden of Love from the Prado is one of the most magnificent paintings in a career laden with masterpiece after masterpiece:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1241/4596863959_d41280c717_o.jpg

There are several other paintings by Rubens also titled at various times as "The Garden of Love" including the copy of Titian's Worship of Venus and this magnificent Feast of Venus from Vienna:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3258/4597479002_c4f55b8394_o.jpg

The Prado painting of "The Garden of Love" is quite simply one of Ruben's greatest achievements... one of his most influential paintings... and certainly one of my favorites. I used to bemoan the fact that I did not have clothes of such exquisite colors and textures to paint. Somehow jeans and a t-shirt with the logo of some rock band seem rather pathetic in comparison.:shocked:

Some critics have pointed out that this painting essentially established the basic elements for the whole of 18th century Rococo paintings of well-heeled lovers gathered in peaceful bowers... especially the paintings of Watteau:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4056/4597478952_98f45fdc28_o.jpg

But also idyllic pastoral paintings of Boucher:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_Franccedilois-Boucher-The-Love-Letterjpg_zps7bc38f02.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_Franccedilois-Boucher-The-Love-Letterjpg_zps7bc38f02.jpg.html)

... and Fragonard...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_fragonard_the_musical_contestjpg_zpsd91068 72.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_fragonard_the_musical_contestjpg_zpsd91068 72.jpg.html)

... even Renoir:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_renoirjpg_zps2cfb57cc.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_renoirjpg_zps2cfb57cc.jpg.html)

The Garden of Love was painted shortly following Ruben's second marriage, and his "retirement" to his palatial estate at Steen, following long years active in diplomatic service. Using his access to the European leaders when commissioned to paint portraits Rubens employed his mastery of language (he spoke 8) and diplomacy in an effort to avoid war between France, England, and Spain... wars in which the Flemish were continually embroiled. As a result of these efforts he was knighted in three countries. Dealing with such devious figures as Cardinal Richelieu and the Duke of Buckingham must have proved endlessly frustrating for Rubens... and his thoughts on war are well expressed in his painting The Horrors of War:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3040/4597524944_daf00bbff3_o.jpg

In this painting the Furies drag Mars away to war and glory... glory wrought in death and destruction. He turns his back upon his beautiful mistress, the goddess Venus, and children and tramples the symbols of art, music, and literature beneath his feet. Rubens grew disgusted with the world of political leaders and their games of war... and was especially disgusted with how his beloved native country was forever a pawn in these games. He thus turned to his family and immediate surroundings... perhaps not unlike Voltaire's Candide... the famous closing in which which Candide declares that we must first "tend our garden".

Among the most important paintings of this period of "retirement" from public life (Rubens had little need to promote his art anymore... he was the wealthiest artist in Europe)... was the so-called Kermesse or Village Dance which portrays the joyful peasant dance as the artist must have seen in the towns and villages surrounding his estate at Steen:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3587/4596935303_833d317888_o.jpg

This painting portrays peasant couples gathered together... drinking, dancing, playing games, and engaged in lovemaking. The entire theme is that of the joy of life and love and nature. This painting clearly owed much to Ruben's idol, Pieter Breughel, whose son, Jan, was a close friend... and several of whose paintings were in the possession of Rubens.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BrueghelPeasantDance_zpse8317baa.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BrueghelPeasantDance_zpse8317baa.jpg.html)
-Pieter Brueghel the Elder- Peasant Dance

With The Garden of Love, Rubens takes the same theme into a more aristocratic mode. He builds upon the earlier painting of himself and his new young wife, Helena, and child strolling through the gardens on his estate:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4053/4597525012_047013b882_o.jpg

With The Garden of Love he gathers a group of aristocratic lovers decked out in the most sumptuous of satins and lace and places them in a garden dedicated to Venus... the Goddess of Love... who is seen as a sculptural fountain to the right... riding her dolphin. At the far left, her son, Cupid, pushes the somewhat reluctant new couple... the artist and his young wife, Helena, into the group of lovers gathered on the lawn. The compositional groupings of figures are brilliant... and often allude to well-known poses from older Renaissance paintings. Framed between the dark dress of Helena and that of the young woman on the ground to her immediate right Rubens draws the viewer into a conversation between a pair of lovers... rather as a camera zooming in on a close up. The dashing young man speaks to the object of his affection earnestly... but she looks away... toward us... bored. A beauty dressed in a golden gown near the center strikes a pose as she also looks out toward the viewer... inviting us to join the reveries. Again the artist employs his mastery of composition in an unrivaled manner leading our eye through the painting as a director might lead the camera through a gathered group zooming in on this person and panning out to capture the wider groupings.

This marvelous painting not only establishes the mode for subsequent Rococo painting... it also suggests the exquisite love poetry of Robert Herrick... (and later early Verlaine)... as well as the operas of Mozart.

mona amon
10-07-2013, 05:07 AM
I wonder why Rubens was so unhealthily obsessed with fat. Even those cherubs have a middle-aged superfluity of fatty bumps all over their bodies which look nothing like the smooth, firm contours of even the chubbiest of babies.

By the way, I'm really happy to see your beautiful and informative art posts again, St Lukes. :)

cacian
10-08-2013, 08:18 AM
great pictures Stlukes.
i would like to say something about them.

in the first painting ''the garden love'' it looks as though there is no gravity. those baby angels seem to float willy nilly.
the reason I say that is that in order to fly a bird has two wings.
those baby angels have arms/hands at the front and then they have wings. aesthetically it seems wrong to me because of the idea of flying is with two wings only, as would a bird , to have forearms and wings that makes it four. one cannot fly with four wings it would go nowhere. it is almost like swimming but then flying at the same time.
and so no-gravity comes to mind.

then my next observation is this:
why the garden of love?
the painting depicts ladies gathered together and a couple of gentlemen by their sides.
but where is 'love' in the picture?
the other intriguing drawing is the temple at the back. is that supposed to represent the temple of Solomon?

cacian
10-08-2013, 08:26 AM
the second painting.

''the worship of venus''

the babies/cherubs are depicted without wings and yet floating again it is not clear why they have suddenly no wings.
I personally I do not claim understand fully what is actually happening in the picture.
it says it is a worship but then where is no religious act upon which worship is observed.
a worship is usually gathered by priests or believers offerings such as a prayer.
with venus the goddesss of love there seem to only have cherubs surrounding her.


the general feeling about these paintings is that all the subjects depicted in them are all more or less facing profile wise or looking away from you rather then looking straight at you.
is that a style looking the other way. a quote from Jesus comes to m ind ''turn the other cheek''
it feels almost awkward at times to look at them for long.
it is clear also that these paintings are almost always crowded with figures either looking away or almost at each other but not quite.
I personally like space in depcition and these paintings are anything but that.
the idea of crowded is outstanding in this pieces. importance in number perhaps. I am not sure.

cacian
10-08-2013, 08:36 AM
the very last painting:
there are some intriguing touches.
for example the hat of the gentleman is touching the breast of the statue at the back. his body seems to fully recline on the statue as if leaning on it but he is not. or is he meant to?
is that done on purpose?
again neither of the three subjects seem to look into each others eyes. the idea is that they would but are they?
they seem to pass each others looks yet the intention that they would is there.
is that on purpose?
the child's face is of a baby yet the clothing is rather toddler ish.

cacian
10-08-2013, 08:41 AM
''the peasant dance'' seems almost floaty as thought there is no gravity. they are all profile facing again.
is that a style?
I get more of a feeling of floatiness rather then dance.
dancing has gravity and more towards the centre of the earth. this painting feels as if it is away from earth , away from you.

I would think it very hard to depict movement in paintings and dancing is one of them. a photograph would not even capture it fully and so I would imagine movement in art is difficult to capture.

Lokasenna
10-08-2013, 09:56 AM
...I think the world of art criticism has just met its match.

cacian
10-08-2013, 11:15 AM
...I think the world of art criticism has just met its match.
that is a criticism in itself isn't it?

my posts are merely an observation on how these painting makes me feel. I would not claim criticism for myself that would be like saying I drew these painting which I did not.
I show interest in what StLukes has posted and so I replicate by saying what I see and at the same time I hoping to learn something by focusing on the little details. paintings are not just for looking at they are there to understand and therefore open to various view points. it is not criticism it is saying what you see.
to show appreciation of any art you must first show you understand. I do not claim to understand these works of arts but i can easily point out the irregularities or regularities, whichever you look at them, of what I am seeing.
may be you would like to tell me differently.

cacian
10-08-2013, 11:17 AM
I wonder why Rubens was so unhealthily obsessed with fat. Even those cherubs have a middle-aged superfluity of fatty bumps all over their bodies which look nothing like the smooth, firm contours of even the chubbiest of babies.

By the way, I'm really happy to see your beautiful and informative art posts again, St Lukes. :)

indeed they are all babyish fat chubby and it is a sign apparently of healthy upper class look. I find all of them intriguing and it makes me think this :
where do they all come from? are they related? because they singularly and each look exactly the same. it is almost like seeing many at once. maybe an early view on three dimensional HD?
I do not think I would want to see one in reality.;)

stlukesguild
10-08-2013, 09:18 PM
I wonder why Rubens was so unhealthily obsessed with fat.

Someone else might invert the question and ask why our era is so obsessed with thin to the point of being unhealthy. (Anorexia? Thigh Gap?) The fact is that standards or ideals of beauty and sexual attractiveness vary from culture to culture. By current standards Marilyn Monroe is fat:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/Marilyn-Monroe-Pictures-4_zps7308c12b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/Marilyn-Monroe-Pictures-4_zps7308c12b.jpg.html)

Society tends to value that which is difficult to attain. During Rubens' time being thin would have been easily attained. A combination of endless hours of physical labor and malnutrition would have made this a common state for the masses. A powerful muscularity in men...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/Rubens_Raising_of_the_Crosssmall_zpsa258ed5e.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/Rubens_Raising_of_the_Crosssmall_zpsa258ed5e.jpg.h tml)

... would have been admired as something most commonly found among soldiers, knights, and other warriors... most commonly from the aristocracy who had the time to spend in physical training. Women would have been admired for pale skin (not tanned from spending hours laboring in the sun) and a curvaceous, fleshy body that suggested fecundity and fertility.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/09bathshmed_zpsfa4f7e06.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/09bathshmed_zpsfa4f7e06.jpg.html)

Like his great predecessors... and artistic heroes... Giorgione...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/giorgione-venus-asleepmed_zps084f49ba.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/giorgione-venus-asleepmed_zps084f49ba.jpg.html)

and Titian...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/titian_partridge_zps04e068c5.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/titian_partridge_zps04e068c5.jpg.html)

Rubens clearly admired a more full, fleshy body type. Also like Giorgione and Titian he sought to convey the sense of the atmospheric warmth and the touch of flesh as opposed to the Roman/Florentine tradition which sought to suggest an almost sculptural sense of the human figure... as if carved from marble:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/57352470_zpsdff9e858.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/57352470_zpsdff9e858.jpg.html)

Rubens was attempting to convey the feel of flesh... how it was percieved by the sense of touch as much as how it looked. Having been born to a high-class family reduced to poverty due to politics and the early death of his father, and watching his beloved homeland continually reduced to poverty due to the political games of the various powerful neighbors, Rubens idealized nothing more than sensuality and fecundity.

Rubens clearly wasn't alone in his penchant for a given body type:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/Caesar-van-Everdingen-XX-Bacchus-with-Two-Nymphs-and-Cupid-XX-Gemaldegalerie-Dresden_zpsc0cca81a.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/Caesar-van-Everdingen-XX-Bacchus-with-Two-Nymphs-and-Cupid-XX-Gemaldegalerie-Dresden_zpsc0cca81a.jpg.html)
-Cesar van Everdingen

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_venus_mijpg_zps41e6ab2f.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_venus_mijpg_zps41e6ab2f.jpg.html)
-Johann Liss

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/king-candaules-of-lydia-showing-his-wife-to-gyges1_zps66d9bb3a.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/king-candaules-of-lydia-showing-his-wife-to-gyges1_zps66d9bb3a.jpg.html)
-Jacob Jordaens

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/bathsheba2med_zps73009307.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/bathsheba2med_zps73009307.jpg.html)
-Rembrandt van Rijn

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/young-woman-going-to-bed_zps82abb31b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/young-woman-going-to-bed_zps82abb31b.jpg.html)
-Jacob van Loo

Rubens is undoubtedly the most known for his fleshy nudes due to the fact that the nude was such a central theme to his painting. Only Picasso, Klimt, Rodin, and a few other artists can be seen to have made sexuality as important within the whole of their oeuvre.

Rubens' fleshiness carries over into the Rococo...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/M-Adonissmall_zpse4e264ef.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/M-Adonissmall_zpse4e264ef.jpg.html)
-Francois Lemyone

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_BF-Leda-Boucherjpg_zpsac672479.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_BF-Leda-Boucherjpg_zpsac672479.jpg.html)
-Francois Boucher

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_tumblr_mlgm00hcsF1qzix81o1_500jpg_zpsc3b5d 332.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_tumblr_mlgm00hcsF1qzix81o1_500jpg_zpsc3b5d 332.jpg.html)
-Francois Boucher

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_20060630081412Fragonard_The_Bathersjpg_zps 0cf379ae.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_20060630081412Fragonard_The_Bathersjpg_zps 0cf379ae.jpg.html)

The same admiration for the more "zaftig" woman can be found in the art of the late 19th century/Victorian period...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/95fa80853310850934ca9c5c5583146f1_zpscb7361f6.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/95fa80853310850934ca9c5c5583146f1_zpscb7361f6.jpg. html)
-Ingres

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_girls-from-dalarna-having-a-bath-women-bathing-in-the-saunajpg_zpsb191f88b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_girls-from-dalarna-having-a-bath-women-bathing-in-the-saunajpg_zpsb191f88b.jpg.html)
-Anders Zorn

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_dega7750jpg_zpsb2c9d052.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_dega7750jpg_zpsb2c9d052.jpg.html)
-Edgar Degas

Degas famously berated the artists who he suggested were almost unfaithful to the women they loved... short, voluptuous girls with cute dimples or an upturned nose... by painting women based upon some unrealistic Greek ideal... thin, waif-like women with a straight, aquiline nose.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/6a00e39826d2c788330105369c1387970b-500wi_zpsf77fb5b0.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/6a00e39826d2c788330105369c1387970b-500wi_zpsf77fb5b0.jpg.html)
-Maillol

Of course Renoir... the greatest sensualist... if not hedonist... of the Impressionists... clearly loved his women with some meat on their bones:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/bath_zps92d6697f.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/bath_zps92d6697f.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_nude-in-a-landscape-1883jpg_zps2a343684.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_nude-in-a-landscape-1883jpg_zps2a343684.jpg.html)

It is comic how any number of feminist critics who wished to take Renoir to task for the eroticism of his paintings, attacked his voluptuous women as slow, slovenly, mindless creatures... reinforcing the very biases and stereotypes promoted by the fashion industry.

Currently the trend is still for the excessively thin model... at least in the fashion industry... but there are some exceptions that have begun to challenge this notion that only the thin is healthy... or attractive:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_lx4tey0I121qznvi3o1_1280s_zpse11e6636.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_lx4tey0I121qznvi3o1_1280s_zpse11e6636.jpg.h tml)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BELLEVEREVOGUEFATMODELsmall_zps0c9c0492.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BELLEVEREVOGUEFATMODELsmall_zps0c9c0492.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/1382910_10151641117102441_1556789077_n_zpsbd6b00f6 .jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/1382910_10151641117102441_1556789077_n_zpsbd6b00f6 .jpg.html)

This image says a lot about the current biases:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/10b9eca9b024208214b6e2036a34b4f9d0be2f41_m_zps6c23 45da.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/10b9eca9b024208214b6e2036a34b4f9d0be2f41_m_zps6c23 45da.jpg.html)

stlukesguild
10-08-2013, 10:43 PM
in the first painting ''the garden love'' it looks as though there is no gravity. those baby angels seem to float willy nilly.
the reason I say that is that in order to fly a bird has two wings.
those baby angels have arms/hands at the front and then they have wings. aesthetically it seems wrong to me because of the idea of flying is with two wings only, as would a bird , to have forearms and wings that makes it four. one cannot fly with four wings it would go nowhere. it is almost like swimming but then flying at the same time.
and so no-gravity comes to mind.

Why do angels need wings? You are speaking of supernatural beings. Why should they be limited by earthly rules such as gravity?

then my next observation is this:
why the garden of love?
the painting depicts ladies gathered together and a couple of gentlemen by their sides.
but where is 'love' in the picture?
the other intriguing drawing is the temple at the back. is that supposed to represent the temple of Solomon?

The couples are gathered together before the Temple of Venus, Goddess of Love. They are engaged in "lovemaking" or romantic dalliances: flirtations, gossip, making music, holding hands and kissing in the shadows of the temple.

the very last painting:
there are some intriguing touches.
for example the hat of the gentleman is touching the breast of the statue at the back. his body seems to fully recline on the statue as if leaning on it but he is not. or is he meant to?
is that done on purpose?
again neither of the three subjects seem to look into each others eyes. the idea is that they would but are they?
they seem to pass each others looks yet the intention that they would is there.
is that on purpose?
the child's face is of a baby yet the clothing is rather toddler ish.

That painting is of the artist and his young wife and child. He is standing well in front (at least a couple yards from the placement of his feet) of the statue with the bared breasts (a Venus/fertility figure). He is not leaning but walking. He looks admiringly toward his young wife. Hélène Fourment was praised as the most beautiful woman in Antwerp. She was 16 and he was 53 when they married. He was absolutely infatuated with her and he is clearly staring at her face. Their child also looks up and gestures toward her. She is the center of attention. She, on the other hand, appears to be lost in thought. Rubens had lost his first wife and several children. His family and friends were the center of his world:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/09fourmesmall_zps032a2e22.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/09fourmesmall_zps032a2e22.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_10fourmesm_zps616943dd.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_10fourmesm_zps616943dd.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_10portrajpg_zps7fdd168c.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_10portrajpg_zps7fdd168c.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_21albertjpg_zpsc1a23bd1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_21albertjpg_zpsc1a23bd1.jpg.html)

the general feeling about these paintings is that all the subjects depicted in them are all more or less facing profile wise or looking away from you rather then looking straight at you.is that a style looking the other way. a quote from Jesus comes to m ind ''turn the other cheek''
it feels almost awkward at times to look at them for long.

Formal portraits often employ the use of the sitter or model looking directly at the audience.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/20brantsm_zpsd6253fc1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/20brantsm_zpsd6253fc1.jpg.html)

The high-Baroque, however, valued a sort of nonchalance... something conveyed in Robert Herrick's well-known poem: Delight in Disorder:

A SWEET disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness :
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction :
An erring lace which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher :
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbons to flow confusedly :
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat :
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility :
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

If we look at early American paintings:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/huge2_zpsab8d0992.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/huge2_zpsab8d0992.jpg.html)

...we find the sitter wearing their best clothing, posed stiffly, staring out directly at us with a dour expression.

We find the same thing with early photographs:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_lsr23dcD8T1r0jbj1_zps32847ea6.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_lsr23dcD8T1r0jbj1_zps32847ea6.jpg.html)

Having your portrait painted if you were a colonial American or your photograph taken in the 19th century was a huge deal... perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There was no mucking about aloud. Today having our photo taken is no big thing. We don't bother to even pose much of the time. We often muck about making faces for the camera.

The wealthy aristocracy did the same. They wished to convey a sort of regal disdain. A portrait of Charles I from the same period by Anthony van Dyck (a follower and pupil of Rubens) is a fine example:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_202_van_dyck_charles_Ijpg_zps6cd17efb.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_202_van_dyck_charles_Ijpg_zps6cd17efb.jpg. html)

Rather than pose upon his throne dressed in his royal crown and robes, Charles is seen in his hunting garb. Clearly the clothing is of the finest cut and material... but selected to downplay the formality of the image. Rather than directly face us, Charles stands, hand cockily on his hip, and scrutinizes us from the corner of his eye... a slight, smug smile upon his lips. For all the apparent nonchalance and informality, the painting is carefully planned. Charles stands a head above all his minions. His horse... and even the very trees seem to bow before him.

I personally like space in depiction and these paintings are anything but that.

The Baroque artists had an absolute mastery of the illusion of space and form to a degree that far surpassed the art of the Renaissance. Linear perspective was a new invention at the time of Raphael, and so artists would go out of their way to clearly delineate linear space:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_athensjpg_zpsf15f46f0.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_athensjpg_zpsf15f46f0.jpg.html)

Paintings of this period were commonly composed or structured upon clearly delineated geometric/mathematical forms. The artists of the baroque tended to employ more organic approaches toward ordering the painting. One might think of the contrast between a formal sonnet by Shakespeare or Petrarch and the more organic structures of Whitman... although Rubens doesn't go this far.

Part of his genius lies in his ability to organize groups of clusters of figures into a 2-dimensional spiral or or curve or arch in a manner that appears wholly natural... as planned as it is. His paintings play with the contrast between the two-dimensional and the illusion of depth... but then many artists have played with this.

the idea of crowded is outstanding in this pieces. importance in number perhaps. I am not sure.

You are simply seeing a few paintings that employ clusters of figures. Rubens painted many portraits and other paintings where the crowded space was nowhere to be seen:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_07furcoajpg_zps87cb5c70.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_07furcoajpg_zps87cb5c70.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_rubens__susanna1335898062910jpg_zps2da1be9 b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_rubens__susanna1335898062910jpg_zps2da1be9 b.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/an-autumn-landscape-with-a-view-of-het-steen-in-the-early-morning-rubens_zpsc407bb09.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/an-autumn-landscape-with-a-view-of-het-steen-in-the-early-morning-rubens_zpsc407bb09.jpg.html)

Of course the Baroque was all about the expression of motion... energy... and no one conveyed this better than Rubens. Everything in his paintings seems to writhe with an energy not unlike the later works of Van Gogh.

''the peasant dance'' seems almost floaty as thought there is no gravity. they are all profile facing again.
is that a style?
I get more of a feeling of floatiness rather then dance.
dancing has gravity and more towards the centre of the earth. this painting feels as if it is away from earth , away from you.

I would think it very hard to depict movement in paintings and dancing is one of them. a photograph would not even capture it fully and so I would imagine movement in art is difficult to capture.

Again, the artist has no concern with having the figures in his paintings all direct their gaze at you, the audience. Honestly... to do so would be quite artificial... although there are times when an artist does employ such a gaze so as to confront the viewer/voyeur.

Rubens' dancers seem to have enough weight to me. Of course, once again, his goal is to convey a dynamic sense of motion. Rubens made dozens of rapid gestural sketches to capture this sense of dynamic motion. The figures spiral and twist and turn. Do they appear exactly like real humans dancing... or photographs of such. Of course not... but you seem rather confused as to the goal of art. Few artists are concerned wholly with the mimicry of visual (photographic) reality. Art is laden with exaggeration, artful invention, and fantasy.

free
10-09-2013, 03:56 AM
I wonder why Rubens was so unhealthily obsessed with fat. Even those cherubs have a middle-aged superfluity of fatty bumps all over their bodies which look nothing like the smooth, firm contours of even the chubbiest of babies.

By the way, I'm really happy to see your beautiful and informative art posts again, St Lukes. :)

What would you say about this picture by Lucian Freud, popularly known as Big Sue, pained in 1995 and sold very expensively? :)

http://s15.postimg.org/9m5c60ufv/benefits_supervisor_sleepin.jpg (http://postimage.org/)


I suppose, that the picture below might be a painter's reaction to the picture above. :) :) :)


http://s21.postimg.org/d8jx8h9g7/the_scream.jpg (http://postimage.org/)

Edvard Munch, The Scream - 1910

mona amon
10-09-2013, 08:54 AM
I like the Lucian Freud picture, though I have absolutely no idea why!

As for the other ladies posted by StLukes, most of them don't strike me as fat the way the Rubens paintings do, not even Renoir, and as for Rembrant, Boucher and Degas I get the feeling they portrayed their models just as they were - plump model, plump nude picture (just guessing here).


...I think the world of art criticism has just met its match.

Oh we're not trying to be art critics out here. I'm just 'looking at the paintings' like Mr Bean here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK33zPnftWI :D

Lokasenna
10-09-2013, 02:29 PM
I like the Lucian Freud picture, though I have absolutely no idea why!

As for the other ladies posted by StLukes, most of them don't strike me as fat the way the Rubens paintings do, not even Renoir, and as for Rembrant, Boucher and Degas I get the feeling they portrayed their models just as they were - plump model, plump nude picture (just guessing here).

Freud was an excellent artist - one of the few 20th century painters I truly appreciate. Another is Francis Bacon, he of the screaming popes:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/56/Study_after_Velazquez%27s_Portrait_of_Pope_Innocen t_X.jpg

I find it tremendously expressive.

stlukesguild
10-09-2013, 10:33 PM
I actually went into some depth in exploring some of Lucian Freud's work on my tumblr blog: http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/post/56489027846/guilty-pleasure-lucian-freud-and-the-rococo

The great Late-Modern “realist” painter, Lucian Freud (8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was termed “the Ingres of Existentialism” by none other than Robert Hughes. In the classic Freudian sense. “His bleak vision casts a deadening pall of anxiety over everything he portrays,” Time Out reported in 1988. “Flesh appears mouldy and putrid, breasts droop.”

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/NakedPortraitwithReflectionsmall_zps76dc06f7.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/NakedPortraitwithReflectionsmall_zps76dc06f7.jpg.h tml)
-Lucian Freud- Nude on Couch

Some have suggested that Freud paints the very mortality of humanity… or rather of human flesh… flesh that ages, dies, and rots away. In many ways, his paintings remind one of the “Memento mori” (“Remember Death”) images of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (quite common following the Black Death):

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqix02eZg51qz4rgp_zpsb1dccd7c.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqix02eZg51qz4rgp_zpsb1dccd7c.jpg.ht ml)
-German c. 1600-1650

These images… sculpture, carvings, medallions, and paintings… served to remind the audience that the beautiful bodies they so admired today would one day age… and die:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqix66Tfa01qz4rgp_zpsdcc98a02.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqix66Tfa01qz4rgp_zpsdcc98a02.jpg.ht ml)
-Hans Baldung Grien- Death and the Maiden

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqixadCdUi1qz4rgp_zps9d988791.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqixadCdUi1qz4rgp_zps9d988791.jpg.ht ml)
-Hans Baldung Grien- The Ages of Woman

Surely no artist would appear to be further from the art of the Rococo… the fleeting world of beauty, charm, and elegance. Yet Freud surprisingly produced a number of paintings inspired by the Rococo.

Freud was first and foremost a portraitist. His models were predominantly comprised of friends, acquaintances, children, grandchildren. “Obviously they are likely to be friends and people I like very much, or admire, or interest me,” he admitted. Occasionally Freud accepted a portrait commission… commonly when his gambling (a regular stimulant) left him with little option. That was how the paintings of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza… and Freud’s introduction to the Rococo came about.

Hans Heinrich Ágost Gábor Tasso Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (13 April 1921 – 26 April 2002) was a noted industrialist and art collector. He inherited a business empire that included naval construction and oil, and a major art collection with hundreds of paintings of European masters from between the 14th and the 19th century. Fifteen years after his father’s death he bought his first piece, a watercolor painting by Emil Nolde dated from between 1931 and 1935, starting the entry of 20th century’s paintings in the collection. The collection soon included paintings by Matisse, Degas, Mondrian, and Picasso. The Baron became and expert in German Expressionism and Modern painting.

Baron Thyssen, the owner of the greatest art collection in private hands, began sitting for Freud in 1981. Freud pinned up behind the Baron a photograph of a painting from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, a Watteau known as Les Jaloux or Pierrot Content.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqiyfeOkVV1qz4rgp_zpsaa94d1c2.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqiyfeOkVV1qz4rgp_zpsaa94d1c2.jpg.ht ml)

What can be seen of it over the sitter’s shoulder is background information, a word in his ear as it were, a slight suggestion that Europe’s most eligible magnate - whose head blocks the central character from view - was himself a bit of a Pierrot. Indeed, Thyssen was about to make the move from fourth to fifth marriage.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqiyeiYcSN1qz4rgp_zps30d7c1a5.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqiyeiYcSN1qz4rgp_zps30d7c1a5.jpg.ht ml)

Freud painted Thyssen twice. “I got fond of him, his angular, funny, behaviour. The second one goes much deeper.” Second time around, the veteran playboy sat himself between the swan-neck arms of Freud’s gilded Empire chair beside a heap of paint rags, his jacket buttoned up, his legs braced, elbows out, fingers splayed like the claws of the ball-and-claw feet.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqiyi039rU1qz4rgp_zps743d2f1f.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqiyi039rU1qz4rgp_zps743d2f1f.jpg.ht ml)

According to Freud, the fifth Baroness, Carmen “Tita” Cervera, took a quick dislike to the picture because of something that she swore she could see lurking in the paintwork. “Tita said, ‘There’s a rat in those rags.’ I looked, and looked, and there was one: you can always see something like that when someone points it out. Then you can’t stop seeing it.”
While undertaking the first portrait of Baron Thyssen in 1981, Freud began a painting that many consider among his finest works, Large Interior W11 (after Watteau).

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/freudlarge-interior_zps19d0b3a0.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/freudlarge-interior_zps19d0b3a0.jpg.html)

Watteau’s painting centers upon love and flirtation. To a certain extent, Freud’s painting is also about “love”. Freud’s son, Kai (in yellow) takes the role of Pierrot. Around him are the women in Freud’s life: his daughter Bella, playing the mandolin, Kai’s mother to the right, holding a fan, and the painter, Celia Paul… another of Freud’s many lovers, and the mother of his son, Frank Paul.
Lucian Freud was one of a small elite group of artists given a private key to the National Gallery of Art, London, which allowed them to visit the museum after hours. Freud would often visit the museum and discuss paintings with friends… often artists themselves.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqizgmBR9m1qz4rgp_zps9051e638.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqizgmBR9m1qz4rgp_zps9051e638.jpg.ht ml)

As far as Watteau and the Rococo seem from Freud’s oeuvre and his world vision, there are several later paintings that suggest a continued admiration on his part.
Perhaps the greatest of these… or at least my favorite… is also one of Freud’s most famous (if not infamous) paintings: the reclining portrait of “Big Sue” (Sue Tilley). The painting, entitled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping portrays the grossly overweight model sprawled out upon a couch upholstered with a fabric suggestive of an old tapestry.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/Painting2ES_1000x579_zps590d4c0b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/Painting2ES_1000x579_zps590d4c0b.jpg.html)

Looking at Freud’s painting, I cannot help but imagine the work is something of a social critique… if not a burlesque or lampoon of such traditional “pretty” nudes as François Boucher’s equally audacious Portrait of Mademoiselle O’Murphy:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/BeFunky_Franccedilois_Boucher_Marie-Louise_OMurphy_de_Boisfailymed_zps7feaba0d.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/BeFunky_Franccedilois_Boucher_Marie-Louise_OMurphy_de_Boisfailymed_zps7feaba0d.jpg.htm l)

In both paintings, the couches upon which the women are resting are plushly upholstered… as are the naked bodies of the models themselves… although each in its own way.
Clearly both Freud and Boucher are heirs of Rubens and his love of painting the flesh.

stlukesguild
10-11-2013, 11:15 PM
In order to keep all the posts on art history together and easy to find, I've copied the posts on Brueghel and Giorgione over to this thread:

As part of the effort to remove and isolate the nudes posted throughout LitNet which are causing a problem with the ever Puritanical Google, this is the first of my posts moved from my Blog to this secured art forum:

Pieter Brueghel (also spelled Bruegel) c. 1525 – 9 September 1569- was a Flemish Renaissance painter and print-maker. Breughel was born the Dutch town of Breda. He apprenticed with Pieter Coecke van Aelst, whose daughter Mayken he later married. He dropped the "h" is his name in order to differentiate himself from a dynastic family of painters also named "Brueghel". He lived for a period in Antwerp before touring and studying in France and Italy. He was accepted into the painters guild (The Guild of St. Luke) in 1551 and permanently settled in Brussels 10 years later.

Brueghel began his career as something of an heir to the fantastic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch was already dead by the time Brueghel had become a mature artist, but his work remained highly popular and there were any number of copies and forgeries. Demand for Bosch-like paintings and prints continued well into the 16th century. Hieronymus Coc k, the great Flemish printer and publisher fed this demand with prints after Bosch and in the manner of Bosch. Brueghel was among the many artists who provided images for Coc k, and his print Big Fish Eat Little Fish was actually published attributed to Bosch... no doubt in hope for a larger audience.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Big_Fishes_Eat_Little_Fishes_-_WGA3537.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Big_Fishes_Eat_Little_Fishes_-_WGA3537.jpg)
-Big Fish Eat Little Fish- Engraving

Brueghel almost certainly knew of Bosch' Garden of Earthly Delights (which remained in the Netherlands until 1566) either through the original, or through one of the dozens of known copies. A good many of Brueghel's engravings employed themes and imagery similar to those of Bosch.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_tumblr_mdp3reSJKG1rpvjjio1_1280.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=tumblr_mdp3reSJKG1rpvjjio1_1280.jpg)
-St James the Greater at Hermogenes- Engraving

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_or_the_Seven_Vices_-_Gluttony.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_or_the_Seven_Vices_-_Gluttony.jpg)
-Gluttony; from the series The Seven Deadly Sins or The Seven Vices- Engraving

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_bruegel17.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=bruegel17.jpg)
Invidia (Envy) from the series The Seven Deadly Sins or The Seven Vices- Engraving

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_11-4.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=11-4.jpg)
-The Temptation of St. Anthony- Engraving

Like Bosch, Brueghel's paintings and engravings often employed landscapes seen from a "bird's eye view" that were teeming with endless tiny figures... quite often engaged in all sorts of dirty deeds... all laden in symbolism and allegory. The meaning of Big Fish Eat Smaller Fish is not too difficult to discern but prints such as St James the Greater at Hermogenes and Gluttony from the series on The Seven Deadly Sins/Vices are full of bizarre Bosch-like details that leave the viewer puzzling for hours.

Brueghel also produced a number of paintings that following in the fantastic tradition of Bosch. Among my favorites are The Fall of the Rebel Angels:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_rebel-angels.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=rebel-angels.jpg)
-The Fall of the Rebel Angels

As the Rebel Angels are driven from heaven by those Angels loyal to God, they already have begun to metamorphose into strange creatures... amphibians, fish, one toad-like creature that opens his own belly to reveal his guts and eggs... and another fallen angel... the most beautiful... perhaps Lucifer himself... is blessed with the lovely wings of a butterfly. As with the "Hell" panel of Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights the viewer can virtually hear the cacophonous noise of this scene as the battle is accompanied by yelling, howling, horns blaring and bleating, the drone of a hurdy-gurdy, and the pluck of various stringed instruments. Of course Bosch takes this even further, transforming the instruments that in earthly life were the source of profane and lurid music, into the very means of torture for sinners in his hellish orchestra:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8515/8378029937_aef57e921e_m.jpg (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8515/8378029937_aef57e921e_c.jpg)
detail from the left (Hell) panel of Heironymus Bosch' Garden of Earthly Delights

Another favorite painting by Brueghel in the tradition of Bosch is the painting entitled Dulle Griet (or "Mad Meg"). The painting portrays a tale from Flemish folklore, of a woman so driven by desire for riches that she leads an army of women in a raid on hell itself. The painting is an obvious comment on the sin of avarice.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_dulle_griet-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=dulle_griet-1.jpg)
-Dulle Griet

Perhaps the greatest of Brueghel's paintings in the realm of Bosch-inspired fantasy is the harrowing Triumph of Death. In this painting, death is unrelenting and unforgiving. He shows no mercy and no concern for age, wealth, or rank. Women, children, kings, knights, Popes, court jesters, musicians, mothers, lovers... death comes for all... and all are ferried away to the scorched landscape of the dead.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_death-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=death-1.jpg)
-The Triumph of Death

As much as Brueghel may have owed to the fantastic examples of Heironymus Bosch, he was no mere follower of Bosch. Brueghel worked in a far broader range. Beyond his fantastic paintings and engravings, Brueghel also created any number of rather traditional religious images. In the painting, The Procession to Calvary, Christ carrying the cross is almost lost in a landscape teeming with people engaged in all sorts of activities. We see lovers, gamblers, robbers, murderers, soldiers... and in the foreground, the Virgin, Magdalene, and St. Matthew in mourning.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_The_Procession_to_Calvary.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=The_Procession_to_Calvary.jpg)
-The Procession to Calvary

Another favorite of mine is The Tower of Babel:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_babel-brueghel-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=babel-brueghel-1.jpg)
-The Tower of Babel

Brueghel's Tower of Babel makes clear the wages of vanity. The construction project has clearly begun well enough... as can be seen from the left side of the tower... but it has soon slipped into decline and collapse. What is the reason for this? In the foreground we see the king and his fawning aristocratic minions visiting the construction site... not unlike today's politicians who never lose the chance to have their photo taken at the opening of a new school building of inster-state highway. As a result of the visit, all the work has ceased as the laborers prostrate themselves before the visiting dignitaries. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Two of the most stunning examples of Brueghel's religious works are the late, monochromatic paintings, Christ and the Adulteress, and The Death of the Virgin which employ an absolutely audacious use of chiaroscuro... or light/dark contrast not seen again until Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Adam Elseheimer and the Baroque.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder-Christus_und_die_Ehebrecherinmedium.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder-Christus_und_die_Ehebrecherinmedium.jpg)
-Christ and the Adulteress

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BREUGHEL.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BREUGHEL.jpg)
-The Death of the Virgin

Brueghel was also an early "realist"... documenting the socio-political realities of the time. A good number of his paintings have a subtle political content hidden beneath what initially appears as little more than a painting of a traditional Biblical narrative. In the painting, John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_bruegel_doper.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=bruegel_doper.jpg)
-John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness

...we are presented with the image of a crowd gathered around to hear John the Baptist. The word of God is being brought to the whole world as in the foreground we see individuals who are Turkish, Arabic... even Chinese. Brueghel's knowledge of such foreign dress undoubtedly came from observation of immigrants, sailors, traders, and merchants who arrived in the ports of the Netherlands at the time of burgeoning trade with the East. Even more intriguing, however, are the number of individuals in Protestant garb. At a time in which the Spanish rulers of the Netherlands had outlawed Protestantism and burned their churches, clandestine gatherings such as this in the forest were quite common. One cannot help but recognize that Brueghel is equating such illegal worship with that of nascent Christianity.

A more unnerving painting of socio-political commentary is that of The Massacre of the Innocents:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_the-massacre-of-the-innocents.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=the-massacre-of-the-innocents.jpg)
-The Massacre of the Innocents

The theme of "The Massacre of the Innocents" was quite common in Renaissance painting... but there are details here that are quite unique. Brueghel sets the "massacre" in a snow-covered Netherlandish village. Soldiers carry out their murderous orders under the watchful eye of a battalion of Spanish armored knights. At the head of the battalion sits the brutal Duke of Alba, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Again, Brueghel seems to be equating the Biblical Massacre of the Innocents with the violence carried out against the Netherlands by their Spanish rulers.

In another painting, Brueghel frames the reality of the Netherlands in a manner that is almost a caricature... akin to the prints of Daumier. In the painting, Two Chained Monkeys the Netherlands... Brueghel's home... has become a prison... and the native population but monkeys performing for the entertainment of their rulers... while just outside the window the ships in the harbor beckon to the open sea and freedom.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_zisob9.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=zisob9.jpg)
-Two Chained Monkeys

The Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska, composed a poem on Brueghel's painting alluding to the realities of Poland after the 1956 workers riots led to a brutal crackdown by Stalin:

Two Monkeys by Brueghel

I keep dreaming of my graduation exam:
in a window sit two chained monkeys,
beyond the window floats the sky,
and the sea splashes.

I am taking an exam on the history of mankind:
I stammer and flounder.

One monkey, eyes fixed upon me, listens ironically,
the other seems to be dozing--
and when silence follows a question,
he prompts me
with a soft jingling of the chain.

trans. from the Polish by Magnus Kryski

Another "realist" genre that Brueghel excelled in was that of the "illustration" of the everyday lives of the peasants with whom he lived. In Children's Games, the artist observed and accurately recorded children playing some hundred different games:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_bruegel21.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=bruegel21.jpg)
-Children's Games

In Brueghel's drawings and paintings of Kermesse, and annual Netherlandish feast, the artist captures the jovial... and somewhat drunken comings and goings:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_01_Kermesse.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=01_Kermesse.jpg)
-Kermesse- drawing ink on paper

In the painting, Kermesse/Peasant Dance, we can almost hear the heavy klompen footed dancing and the sound of the bagpipes... while lovers kiss in the background and drinkers slip into pleasant inebriation:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Peasant_Dance.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Peasant_Dance .jpg)
-Kermesse/Peasant Dance

The Peasant Wedding captures many of the same elements as The Peasant Dance... although it is perhaps a little less rowdy and a little more ordered:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_wedding.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=wedding.jpg)
-The Peasant Wedding

Yet Brueghel is capable of going to the opposite end of the spectrum with his painting The Feast of Fools... which is essentially a drunken brawl or orgy taking place on the final day of Carnival... before the beginning of the Lenten Season:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BruegelPieterSeniorFeastofFools1561.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BruegelPieterSeniorFeastofFools1561.jpg)

One of my favorite of Brueghel's "Peasant Paintings" is that of The Peasant and the Tree Nester.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_The_Peasant_and_the_Birdnester_Pieter_Bruegel_t he_Elder_1568.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=The_Peasant_and_the_Birdnester_Pieter_Brue gel_the_Elder_1568.jpg)
-The Peasant and Tree Nester

In this painting we are presented with Brueghel's eye for irony and comic details. A "peasant" looks out at us, the viewer, with a bemused smile and points to the foolish "tree nester" who ihas lost his hat and appears about to fall from the tree himself in his eager efforts to get at the eggs in the tree he has climbed. But the "peasant" is not immune from foolishness himself. In his keen desire to point out the follishness of another, he, himself is about to stumble into a creek.

Brueghel's observant eye and ability to capture the foibles and foolishness of others was not shunned when looking at himself. One of the most marvelous of old master drawings is surely that of Brueghel's Artist and "Critic"

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_buyer.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=buyer.jpg)
-Artist and "Critic"

Brueghel presents an image of the artist... himself... as a wild-haired, dour looking old man... almost a precursor of the ideal of the Bohemian artist... standing at his easel... brush in hand. Peering over his shoulder... and squinting through his glasses (how good can his judgment of art be?)... is a potential costumer... reaching into his purse for his money. Surely there has never been a better rendering of the ambivalent relationship between the artist and patron.

Along the lines of Brueghel's astute observations of the everyday realities of peasant life are his paintings that essentially "illustrate" popular peasant sayings/folk tales/fables, etc... The Land of Cockaigne illustrates a mythical land of plenty that dates back to the middle ages:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Brueghel_Pieter_the_Elder-The_Land_of_Cockaigne.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Brueghel_Pieter_the_Elder-The_Land_of_Cockaigne.jpg)
-The Land of Cockaigne

Beneath a roof made of pies a soldier waits with his mouth open for the food to just fly right in. A soft boiled egg wanders about looking for any hungry individual. A roast duck lies down on the serving platter while a roast pig runs about... a knife in its side to allow anyone to carve up a slide of ham.

The theme is echoed in an American Folk Song from the Great Depression: The Great Rock Candy Mountain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqowmHgxVJQ

In Brueghel's painting, this fantasy land of endless food and no work becomes an allegory on the dangers of Sloth and Gluttony. The three men lay sprawled out beneath a table strewn with a half-eaten feast: a clergyman/scholar, a knight, and a farmer, clearly represent the three stations of Renaissance life: The Church, The Aristocracy, and The Peasants. Gluttony and Sloth have diverted all three from their duties... from the harvest, from soldiering, from their role as spiritual leaders. To the right... through the clouds... another new members arrives to the every growing Land of Cockaigne.

The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Parable_Of_The_Bli nd_Leading_Th.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Parable_Of_Th e_Blind_Leading_Th.jpg)
-The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind

... is a rather straight-forward, literal illustration of the parable of blindly following after leaders who are no less blind themselves... and one which continues to resonate into the present.

Perhaps the most marvelous of Brueghel's paintings of parables and fables is the great Netherlandish Parables:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_proverbs-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=proverbs-1.jpg)
-Netherlandish Parables

Like a good many of Brueghel's paintings, The Netherlandish Parables seems initially to be far simpler than it really is. On first sight, one might presume that what the painter has offered is an every-day view of the common comings and goings in a Netherlandish village of the time. But in actuality... nearly every figure is a literal rendering or illustration of a well-known Flemish Proverb:
"He has an eel by the tail." (Not unlike our "Tiger by the tail") "One has to crawl to make one's way through the world" "He holds the world on the tip of his thumb." "They're so close they sh** out of the same hole." "He runs his head against a brick wall." etc... There are over 100 identified proverbs in the painting... and yet the overall appearance is of complete naturalism.

For those interested, the majority of the proverbs have been identified on the Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlandish_Proverbs

Perhaps the most important contribution that Brueghel made to painting was that of legitimizing the landscape as a subject matter. Like Bosh, he stages most of his paintings within a landscape viewed from above... from a "bird's eye view". Even within paintings that have a central subject matter beyond the landscape, his landscapes remain a key element and exhibit an acute observation of the details of the real world that is astounding. These were clearly the result of endless life studies... some of which have survived.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_ancient_beekeeping_bruegel.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=ancient_beekeeping_bruegel.jpg)
-Beekeeping

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_tumblr_mdp3v2eay51rpvjjio1_1280.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=tumblr_mdp3v2eay51rpvjjio1_1280.jpg)
-Harvesters

Brueghel's study of beekeepers presents an almost "surreal" image... yet one wholly rooted in reality. In spite of the fact that the Netherlandish painters lacked the formal understanding of anatomy, physiology, and perspective that the Italian masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, etc... displayed, Brueghel still exhibits an unprecedented grasp of foreshortening, the body seen in a broad array of poses... at work and at play... and the illusion of receding space as conveyed through scale and aerial perspective.

From his earliest years of travels in Italy Brueghel was obsessed with the landscape as can be seen in this early painting of The Harbor of Naples:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_PieterBruegel-634965.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=PieterBruegel-634965.jpg)
-The Harbor of Naples

Brueghel is one of the earliest Northern artists by whom we have a good number of drawings. A great many of these drawings... marvelous sepia ink on paper drawings that suggest some Asian drawings as well as works by Brueghel's Flemish and Dutch heirs, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh... are landscapes. A good many of these landscapes of mountain passes are clearly from Brueghel's youthful travels through Italy:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_AN00182742_001_l.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=AN00182742_001_l.jpg)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_brue.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=brue.jpg)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Landscape_with_a_fortified_town_by_Pieter_Brueg el_the_Elder_1553.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Landscape_with_a_fortified_town_by_Pieter_ Bruegel_the_Elder_1553.jpg)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_landscape-of-the-alps.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=landscape-of-the-alps.jpg)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Mountain_landscape_with_a_river_by_Pieter_Brueg el_the_Elder_1553.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Mountain_landscape_with_a_river_by_Pieter_ Bruegel_the_Elder_1553.jpg)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Sylvan_Landscape_with_Five_Bears_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_Sylvan_Landscape_with_Five_Bears_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg)

One of the finest of Brueghel's drawings was turned into one of the artist's first prints... and in this instance the print is especially noted for its having been engraved by Brueghel himself. The exquisite tenuous mark-making of this print stands out from all the other prints that were more mechanically rendered by professional engravers:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_751c25f7117d3334b45e73bd45d5df9ad904d7a4.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=751c25f7117d3334b45e73bd45d5df9ad904d7a4.j pg)

No artist surpassed Brueghel in his ability to capture not only the details of the landscape... but the sense of atmosphere and color. The teal-pewter-gray sky and the black figures isolated against the stark white snow in Hunters in the Snow perfectly conveys the frozen atmosphere of February.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_hunters-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=hunters-1.jpg)
-Hunters in the Snow

In the painting The Harvesters/August one can literally feel the heavy oppressive humid atmosphere that has led a number of the farm-workers to collapse with exhaustion.
-The Harvesters/August

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Harvesters.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_The_Harvesters.jp g)

In Haymaking/July(?) we are presented with a glorious summer day. I have always thought it appears more like June than July. The weather is not yet too hot as conveyed by the cool colors, the clothing, and the attitudes of the laborers. While hay is gathered in the fields, girls haul baskets of fruit... berries and cherries... off to market.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_haymaking-1565.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=haymaking-1565.jpg)
-Haymaking/July

Peter Paul Rubens, who would become the greatest Flemish painter, Brueghel's greatest heir, and the artist most instrumental in synthesizing the art of the North (The Netherlands and Germany) and the South (Italy)... and the artist perhaps most instrumental in the development and spread of the genre of the landscape outside of the Netherlands... especially to France and England... was a great admirer and deeply indebted to Brueghel. Indeed, he owned several of Brueghel's paintings and was a close friend and co-worker with Brueghel's son, Jan. Elements of Brueghel's landscapes pop up again and again in the later artist's work:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_rubens01.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=rubens01.jpg)

One can draw a direct line of influence from Brueghel to Rubens...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_3sm.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=3sm.jpg)
-Rubens- Landscape with Rainbow

...to the "Little Dutch Masters"...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_AVERCAMP_Hendrick_Winter_Landscape_3.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=AVERCAMP_Hendrick_Winter_Landscape_3.jpg)
-Hendrick Avercamp- Winter Landscape

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_23.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=23.jpg)
-Jacob Ruisdael- Landscape with Raging River

... to Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, and the entire English landscape tradition...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Landscape_with_Cattle.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Landscape_with_Cattle.jpg)
-Gainsborough- Landscape with Cattle

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Constable-ferry.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Constable-ferry.jpg)
-Constable- The White Horse/The Ferry

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_TheValeofAshburnham.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=TheValeofAshburnham.jpg)
J.M.W. Turner- The Vale of Asburnham

...to Monet and Impressionism:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Monet_Train_In_The_Country.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Monet_Train_In_The_Country.jpg)
-Claude Monet- Train in the Country

One of the most intriguing of Brueghel's landscapes is that which is quite possibly the artist's last paintings as well: The Magpie on the Gallows:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_Magpie_On_The_Gallow.j pg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=BRUEGEL_Pieter_the_Elder_Magpie_On_The_Gal low.jpg)
-The Magpie on the Gallows

Gallows were a common site in the war-torn Netherlands as they struggled against oppressive Spanish rule. But here we have the gallows in the most beautiful... even idyllic of landscapes. Beneath it peasants dance joyfully. Clearly the painting suggest the co-existence of life and death. Like Poussin's painting "Et in Arcadia ego"... even in paradise we shall find death...

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_les_bergers_darcadie_ii.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=les_bergers_darcadie_ii.jpg)
-Poussin- Et in Arcadia Ego

The fact that Brueghel left this one painting to his wife in his will has led others to surmise that the image of the magpie (a symbol of gossip) on the gallows was something of a warning to his wife against excessive loose talk after he was gone.

stlukesguild
10-11-2013, 11:17 PM
I have gone out of my way to see the works of any number of artists in real life in retrospectives and exhibitions... but I can only think of a single exhibition that so overwhelmed me that I had to go back... driving some 400+ miles... a second time... and only a week later. I had traveled to Washington DC with three artist friends to see an exhibition of Anselm Kiefer's paintings at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The show was quite impressive... with several paintings that struck me as truly masterful. Yet at the same time I could not help but recognize that Kiefer's work was somewhat limited. So much gray... and so many charred and wasted landscapes... and so many allusions to the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust. It was like watching Schindler's List again and again. Undoubtedly, it is a brilliant film... but how many times in a row can you watch it without wanting to slit your wrists? I found myself calling out for something that spoke of life and sensuality and color... and then we headed over to the National Gallery. At the same time as the Kiefer exhibition, there in the National Gallery, was a visiting exhibition of Venetian Renaissance painters... primarily Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian.

The Italian High-Renaissance is commonly seen as being divided between the Florentine/Roman School and the Venetian School. The Florentine/Roman School, exemplified by Michelangelo and Raphael stressed sculptural form, sharp contours, clean, bright colors and even light. The Venetian School stressed color first and foremost, atmosphere, soft contours, and sensuality. There have been many theories for the divide between the Florentine/Roman and Venetian Schools put forth by art historians... all containing a degree of truth. Some have pointed out the fact that the Florentine/Roman painters benefited from direct exposure to the examples of Classical Roman statuary. Others have pointed out that the Florentine/Roman preference for egg-tempera and fresco reinforced a linear/sculptural approach to painting. Some have even pointed out that the homosexuality of major Florentine/Roman artists (Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo) and the church dictates against the use of the nude female models resulted in a focus upon the more sculptural male figure.

By way of contrast, the Venetians developed a preference for oil painting... and pushed the possibilities of this medium far further than anyone else. Up until this point, the primary approaches to painting were fresco (painting on wet plaster) and egg-tempera. Smaller "panel" paintings were rendered in egg-tempera... a fragile media that needed a stable surface such as a wood panel to minimize cracking. Egg-tempera is an incredibly time-intensive medium. To achieve the illusion of a gradual modeling of form, the painter must layer dozens... even hundreds of layers of single-hair brushstrokes in a cross-hatching method. Botticelli's painting, Primavera, took over a year to complete... with the artist painting 8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8086/8377932101_b103f960b4_n.jpg (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8086/8377932101_b103f960b4_b.jpg)
-Sandro Botticelli- Primavera (Spring)

Not only did egg-tempera make painting extremely time-consuming... and thus expensive... but being painted on wood panels... in the days before plywood... made the paintings... especially a large painting like Primavera... quite heavy and difficult to move or transport. The medium also limited the amount of changes a painter might make to a painting. Large scale composition changes were nearly impossible... requiring the surface be sanded down and the new passages be feathered into the old.

Oil painting was developed in the North by Netherlandish painters such as Jan van Eyck:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_eyck_arnolfini.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=eyck_arnolfini.jpg)
Jan van Eyck- The Arnolfini Wedding

and Rogier van der Weyden:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_Weyden_St_Luke_Drawing_a_Portrait_of_the_Madonn a_undated.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=Weyden_St_Luke_Drawing_a_Portrait_of_the_M adonna_undated.jpg)
Rogier van der Weyden- St. Luke Drawing a Portrait of the Madonna and Child

These Flemish masters had discovered that they could achieve the most brilliant colors and the most subtle modeling of forms by the application of thin, semi-transparent layers of oil paint (known as "glazes") over an under-painting of egg-tempera. Quickly they discovered that egg-tempera could be done away with all together. Art patrons and collectors across Europe were in awe of the phenomenal detail and illusion of real space and form that the Flemish painters could achieve. Naturally, they were quite protective of their techniques.

The development of oil painting in Venice, owes much to fortune. The painter, Antonella da Messina, settled in Venice, bringing with him the knowledge of the new technique.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_4738009210CMMESSINAORIG.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=4738009210CMMESSINAORIG.jpg)
Antonella da Messina- Portrait of a Young Man

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_messina88.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=messina88.jpg)
Antonella da Messina- St. George in his Study

There are various notions as to how da Messina acquired a grasp of oil painting, but the best theory is that he learned the technique from Jan van Eyck's pupil, Petrus Christus:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_portrait-by-petrus-christus-1345064304_b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=portrait-by-petrus-christus-1345064304_b.jpg)
Petrus Christus- Portrait of a Young Lady

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_1-2.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=1-2.jpg)
Petrus Christus- The Annunciation

As both Antonello and Petrus Christus were in Milan at the same time... and as Antonella left Milan with a grasp of oil painting while Petrus Christus soon after exhibited the first examples of the use of linear perspective in Northern painting (a development then known only to the Italians), there is a strong likelihood that the two artists exchanged "trade secrets".

Settling in Venice, the technique of oil painting spread from da Messina to the leading Venetian painters... including Giovanni Bellini:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_158portr.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=158portr.jpg)
Giovanni Bellini- Portrait of a Gentleman

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_165portr.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=165portr.jpg)
Giovanni Bellini- The Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan

The early Italian attempts at oil paint did not vary far from the Flemish models. The primary concern remained cracking. But with time it became apparent that oil paint had a flexibility that avoided this problem. At the same time, Venice was asserting itself as a cultural center... but was unable to compete with the epic fresco paintings of Florentine masters such as Giotto, Fra Angelico, Simone Martini, etc... The humidity and constant flooding of Venice led to the rapid deterioration of attempts at fresco... and painting on an epic scale on wood panels was wholly impractical. Again, fortune came to the aid. Do they not say "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." Venice, as a great naval power, had developed into a leading maker of canvas for sails... made with Flemish linen. At some point it was recognized that the flags on ships and decorations on the sails were essentially paint on canvas, and so the artists began to experiment with oil on canvas... primed with rabbit's skin glue to avoid the deterioration of the linen fibers caused when oil came into contact with the fabric. The artists began timidly... but soon realized that oil paint held up incredibly well... and that they could work in a direct manner... without detailed drawings... immediately on the canvas... making changes as they saw fit.

For much of the later 15th century, the Bellini Family dominated painting in Venice. There was Giovanni Bellini's father, Jacopo Bellini:

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Jacopo Bellini- The Annunciation


His brother, Gentile Bellini:

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-Gentile Bellini- The Miracle of the Bridge of San Lorenzo

and their Brother-in-Law, Andrea Mantegna:

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Andrea Mantegna- The Arrival of the Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga

Giovanni began his career as a talented and poetic painter and was quickly recognized as the leading painter in Venice. He established stylistic conventions that would be followed by later Venetian artists such as his approach to the theme of the Madonna and Child:

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Giovanni Bellini- Madonna and Child

And his large altarpiece paintings that are among the first epic-scaled paintings in Venice:

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Giovanni Bellini- The Baptism of Christ

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Giovanni Bellini- The San Zaccaria Altarpiece

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Giovanni Bellini- Detail from the San Zaccaria Altarpiece

These painting began to establish the Venetian tradition of atmospheric painting. Bellini establishes the sfumato ... the softened, smoky edges that suggests the illusion of depth as edges become increasing blurred as the recede in space. This technique will be famously adapted by Leonardo da Vinci in the landscape backgrounds of his paintings:

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Leonardo da Vinci- La Gioconda/Mona Lisa; Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

But Bellini and the Venetians bring to this technique a brilliance of color... owed to the Flemish painters. This was achieved through layers of semi-transparent "glazes" until that the paintings literally glow like stained glass.

Bellini stands as one of the great artists of art history whose work continued to grow and develop as the artist was open to ideas developed by younger artists. The two most important younger painters in Venice were Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco (or Giorgione) c. 1477/8 – 1510, and Tiziano Vecellio (or Titian) c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576. In spite of his short life span and limited oeuvre, Giorgione is one of the most important painters in the history of Western Art. If the greatest loss to music due to an early death was Mozart or Schubert, Giorgione's premature death must be among the greatest losses to the visual arts.

In the ten years, from 1500 until Giorgione's death in 1510, the triumvirate of Bellini, Titian, and Giorgione worked so closely together... physically and stylistically... that it is often difficult to discern who painted what. 500 years later, there remain disputes concerning major paintings.

Giorgione's early works echo elements of Bellini's portraits...

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Giorgione- Portrait of a Man

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_2Giorgione_Budapest_01.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=2Giorgione_Budapest_01.jpg)
Giorgione- Portrait of a Gentleman

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Giorgione- Portrait of Francesco Rovera

Yet by the time of his Portrait of a Gentleman...

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Giorgione- Portrait of a Gentleman

... he is already suggesting stylistic elements that will later be employed by Titian...

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-Titian- Portrait of a Gentleman in Blue Sleeves

... and eventually Raphael...

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Raphael Sanzio d'Urbino- Portrait of Baldasarre Castiglione

and even Rembrandt:

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Rembrandt van Rijn- Sketch after Raphael's Portrait of Baldasarre Castiglione

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Rembrandt van Rijn- Self Portrait 1659

Giorgione's religious paintings build upon Bellini's use of atmosphere and brilliant color. Some art historians have suggested that these elements owe much to the natural environment of Venice... the humidity as a result of the location of Venice leading to a blurring of edges... and refraction of colors. The effect in person is almost akin to that of stained glass... as the paintings virtually glow.

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Giorgione- The Holy Family

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Giorgione- Sacrae Conversazion

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Giorgione- Sacrae Conversazione

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Giorgione- The Virgin and Child in a Landscape

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Giorgione- Judith

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Giorgione- The Adulteress Brought before Christ

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Giorgione- The Madonna and Child Enthroned

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Giorgione- The Judgment of Solomon

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Giorgione- Moses' Trial by Fire

Whatever the truth may be, few paintings have ever glowed as richly as those of the Venetian School... and it is not surprising that many painters deem the School of Venice... from Bellini through Tintoretto, Veronese, and Tiepolo...

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Tintoretto- The Birth of the Milky Way

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Veronese- Perseus and Andromedae

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Giovanni Battista Tiepolo- Apollo and Daphne

...as the peak of Western painting. While the art historian, Giorgio Vasari was rather dismissive of the whole Venetian School, this was to be expected. Vasari was himself a painter... deeply schooled in the lessons of the Florentine/Roman School and artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael who stressed line and form... drawing above all else. The Venetian School stressed color and brushwork... and as such they would become the model for all future "painterly" approaches... including Peter Paul Rubens:

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Sir Peter Paul Rubens- The Judgment of Paris

... Rococo painters such as Boucher...

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Francois Boucher- Portrait of Mademoiselle O'Murphy

... Romantics such as Delacroix...

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Eugene Delacroix- Algerian Women

... the Impressionists...

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Pierre Renoir- La Loge

... and beyond:

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-Henri Matisse- Zora on the Terrace

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Philip Guston- For M.

One of Giorgione's last religious paintings is the magnificent Adoration of the Shepherds.
This is one of those paintings open to dispute as to authorship. There are elements suggestive of Bellini's last paintings, and some suggest it was begun by Bellini. There are also elements that point toward early Titian... and paintings such as Noli me tangere:

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_noli-titian.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=noli-titian.jpg)
Titian- Noli me tangere ("Touch me not...")

Whatever the case may be, the Adoration of the Shepherds is an absolutely stunning painting... and one of my absolute favorites. I never fail to spend a good time with it whenever I visit Washington D.C. and the National Gallery.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/th_12shepherd-1.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/?action=view&current=12shepherd-1.jpg)
Giorgione (Bellini?)- Adoration of the Shepherds

The structure or composition of paintings prior to the Giorgione and the Venetian School tends to be obvious... often based on geometric structures. If we were to make a comparison to literature, we might draw an analogy with formally structured works such as sonnets... or Dante's terza rima. Giorgione and the Venetian School employed a far more organic approach to composition. Again, if we were making a comparison with literature, we might draw a comparison with Wordsworth or Whitman and a far freer structure. Giorgione ties the Adoration of the Shepherds together with a repetition of arches... the cave moth, the bodies of the participants, the shrubs, and even the rocks... but the effect is as if this were all natural... not as if the artist had intentionally composed the work, but rather as if he had merely painted what was before his eyes.

Giorgione's most innovative works are those that some have termed "poesies". These are paintings in which the artist has broken with the expectation that outside of the realm of portraiture (and the genre of landscape has yet to have evolved) the goal of all painting is to illustrate a narrative... from history, from literature, from mythology... or from the Bible. The painter today takes it for granted that he or she may paint whatever comes to mind... whatever interests them. But prior to Giorgione, this was not so.

Looking at a painting such as Nymphs, Children, and Shepherds in a Landscape:

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Giorgione- Nymphs, Children, and Shepherds in a Landscape

... we are immediately baffled as to just what the hell the subject is. Ultimately, it is just what it is: nymphs, children, and shepherds lolling about in some bucolic landscape. WE can struggle to uncover some Greco-Roman mythology involving Venus and other goddesses... but there are no elements to suggest such.

Let's look at another of the poesies: the Landscape with Sunset:

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Giorgione- Landscape with a Sunset

There are few (if any) true landscapes prior to those of Albrecht Dürer...

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Albrecht Dürer- House by the Pond

At a time in which travel was dangerous and the great untamed distances between cities were filled with bears and wolves and highway robbers, nature... and landscape... had not yet been romanticized. And yet... here Giorgione seemingly offers a painting that is first and foremost a landscape. There is a figure rearing on a horse before a serpent... possibly St. George... and there's a couple of men sitting in the foreground... one apparently helping the other with his boot (perhaps he's broken or sprained an ankle)... but the painting is essentially a landscape... one of the first in the genre.

Another painting that has similarly baffled art historians is the so-called "Tempest":

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Giorgione- The Tempest

What we are presented with is an image of a nearly nude woman breastfeeding in the forest landscape outside a city. To the left stands a soldier, and the dark clouds and a flash of lighting suggest an on-coming storm... the "tempest" of the title. Some have suggested that the painting represents the flight of the holy family into Egypt... but to present Mary nude would have verged upon heresy. And where is Joseph? Who is the soldier? Where are any symbols that might lead us to recognize that this is indeed an image of the Holy Family? Where painters were expected to illustrate known narratives employing recognized symbols and iconography, Giorgione has essentially invented a narrative of his own... and challenged us to interpret it.

This is as true of his stunning nude, the so-called Dresden Venus:

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Giorgione- The Dresden Venus

The absolute wealth of female nudes in Western painting has resulted in a failure by many to recognize just how innovative this painting by Giorgione was. Giorgione has essentially invented the genre of the "reclining nude". Where Botticelli's Primavera revived the Greco-Roman tradition of the Three Graces and his Birth of Venus...

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Sandro Botticelli- The Birth of Venus

... revived the tradition of the Greco-Roman standing Venus... especially per the example of the Medici Venus...

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Roman after a Greek original: The Medici Venus

Giorgione's Dresden Venus in one fell swoop virtually establishes the tradition of the reclining nude. There were Etruscan and Roman precursors to Giorgione's reclining figure... but these are nearly all clearly portraits... or representations of Venus or other goddesses. But is we look at Giorgione's sleeping nude, there is absolutely nothing that suggests that she is indeed Venus. Giorgione has simply presented us with an image of a beautiful nude woman sleeping in the warm hills outside of Venice. Where art historians often argue that the purpose of painting the nude has some higher, symbolic value... Giorgione offers us a painting in which he has simply painted a beautiful nude woman because he finds her attractive... beautiful. The painterly manner in which she is rendered... the lack of hard contours and sculptural form... and the sensuality of the brushwork, the softened edges, and the warm and atmospheric color stresses the sense of touch.

Subsequent artists would jump on the subject after Giorgione opened the door. Shortly thereafter we get Titian's Venus d'Urbino:

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Titian- Venus d'Urbino

and in the 19th century, we get Manet's Olympia:

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Edouard Manet- Olympia

Both paintings outraged members of the audience for the simple reason that like Giorgione's audacious painting, they did not disguise the sexual or erotic raison d'etre behind the work.

Giorgione's most famous painting, along with the Dresden Venus, most certainly must be the stunning Fête champêtre:

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Giorgione (Titian?)- Fête champêtre

This is yet another painting open to dispute with regard to authorship. Some art historians ascribe the painting to Titian... or suggest that it may have been completed by Titian, while others... pointing to the open-ended narrative... attribute the work to Giorgione. This painting again became the source of a work by Manet, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe:

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Edouard Manet- Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

Manet was astutely struck by the fact that the Fête champêtre was essentially nothing more than a painting of a couple of fashionable dressed young men accompanied by a couple of naked women sitting about enjoying the landscape on a warm summer's day. Manet recognized that the subject matter of the Fête champêtre... or rather its lack of any legitimate narrative... was diffused by the perfume of time. One of the prize possessions of the Louvre, no one questioned what was really going on in the Fête champêtre... but when Manet ironically modernized the theme matter and set the same subjects in a park in 19th century Paris, the result was outrage.

There have been attempts to assign a narrative to the Fête champêtre. Some have suggested that the manner in which the men seem oblivious to the presence of the nude women as well as the classical robes of the woman on the left implies that the women are actually invisible muses to the pair of musicians. Regardless, Giorgione has again presented us with an open-ended narrative... rather than a clear illustration of a known narrative using accepted symbols and iconography.

I had the chance to see the Fête champêtre in person in the National Gallery, Washington some few years ago. The painting absolutely glows and exudes an unbelievable sense of warmth and atmosphere. It stands among my favorite paintings of all time.

The year before he died, Giorgione completed work on the so-called Three Philosophers:

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Giorgione- The Three Philosophers

The work was commissioned by Taddeo Contarini, a Venetian merchant with an interest for occult and alchemy. It was later partially reworked by Sebastiano del Piombo and the painting was cut down... somewhat unbalancing the work. Again, the subject matter of the painting is left open-ended and uncertain. Some have suggested that the three men represent three Greek Philosophers... and there are constant disputes as to just which philosophers. Another intriguing interpretation suggests that the three men represent the three great Abrahamic religions: the bearded figure on the right being Moses (or Abraham), holding the law; the turbaned central figure representing Muhammad, and the young, seated figure being Matthew of Patmos writing down his visions and Revelations. Still other interpretations suggest the three represent the 3 Magi, or the ages of European Civilizations (the Classical Age, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance), or merely the Three Ages of Mankind (Youth, Middle Age, Old Age). The manner in which the young man looks into the darkened void of the cavern is especially intriguing (Matthew... Youth looking into the future?). Again, the painting glows with a sensuality and a warmth that will be valued by generations of subsequent painters.

mona amon
10-11-2013, 11:58 PM
I actually went into some depth in exploring some of Lucian Freud's work on my tumblr blog: http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/post/56489027846/guilty-pleasure-lucian-freud-and-the-rococo

The great Late-Modern “realist” painter, Lucian Freud (8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was termed “the Ingres of Existentialism” by none other than Robert Hughes. In the classic Freudian sense. “His bleak vision casts a deadening pall of anxiety over everything he portrays,” Time Out reported in 1988. “Flesh appears mouldy and putrid, breasts droop.”

Some have suggested that Freud paints the very mortality of humanity… or rather of human flesh… flesh that ages, dies, and rots away. In many ways, his paintings remind one of the “Memento mori” (“Remember Death”) images of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (quite common following the Black Death):

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-German c. 1600-1650

These images… sculpture, carvings, medallions, and paintings… served to remind the audience that the beautiful bodies they so admired today would one day age… and die:

[URL=http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqix66Tfa01qz4rgp_zpsdcc98a02.jpg.ht ml]http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqix66Tfa01qz4rgp_zpsdcc98a02.jpg (http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqix02eZg51qz4rgp_zpsb1dccd7c.jpg[/IMG)
-Hans Baldung Grien- Death and the Maiden

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/tumblr_inline_mqixadCdUi1qz4rgp_zps9d988791.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/tumblr_inline_mqixadCdUi1qz4rgp_zps9d988791.jpg.ht ml)
-Hans Baldung Grien- The Ages of Woman

As far as Watteau and the Rococo seem from Freud’s oeuvre and his world vision, there are several later paintings that suggest a continued admiration on his part.
Perhaps the greatest of these… or at least my favorite… is also one of Freud’s most famous (if not infamous) paintings: the reclining portrait of “Big Sue” (Sue Tilley). The painting, entitled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping portrays the grossly overweight model sprawled out upon a couch upholstered with a fabric suggestive of an old tapestry.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/Painting2ES_1000x579_zps590d4c0b.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/Painting2ES_1000x579_zps590d4c0b.jpg.html)

Looking at Freud’s painting, I cannot help but imagine the work is something of a social critique… if not a burlesque or lampoon of such traditional “pretty” nudes as François Boucher’s equally audacious Portrait of Mademoiselle O’Murphy:


I think I really love Lucian Freud. The portraits of Thyssen are brilliant!

Now I can see the “Memento mori” aspect of the Big Sue painting, but I feel it is not at all a disturbing painting. The flesh has the putrid touches suggestive of corruption and decay, but she's peacefully and comfortably asleep after a long day and there's a sense of acheivement and well earned rest. The older paintings (Grien) are less interesting because they make a much simpler statement. "Now you may be young and beautiful, but decay and death lurk just around the corner. Beware!" While the Freud painting is much more complex, much more humane. "Sure, all flesh is as grass, but that's not necessarily a bad thing", is what it seems to be saying.

stlukesguild
12-31-2013, 12:30 AM
These striking screens belong to a category of paintings in the native Japanese style known as meisho-e (literally 'pictures of famous places')... especially native Japanese sites renowned for their historical importance and beauty... particularly when combined with the imagery of the changing seasons which intimate the transient nature of whole of life.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/640px-The_River_Bridge_at_Uji_-_Google_Art_Project_431064_zpsfa0b747a.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/640px-The_River_Bridge_at_Uji_-_Google_Art_Project_431064_zpsfa0b747a.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/800px-The_River_Bridge_at_Uji_-_Google_Art_Project_zpscceb7423.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/800px-The_River_Bridge_at_Uji_-_Google_Art_Project_zpscceb7423.jpg.html)

The site depicted here is the Uji River Bridge, an important bridge linking the two historical cities of Kyoto and Nara. A beautiful scenic spot, Uji's features - willow trees, river mists, a waterwheel and stone-filled baskets to protect the river banks - have been celebrated in Japanese poetry since the eighth century. It also provides the setting for the final scenes in the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/uji_zpsb2ab8c9d.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/uji_zpsb2ab8c9d.jpg.html)

A broad bridge spanning the river was first constructed in 646 and quickly became a favorite theme among poets. According to historic documents, a screen painting of Uji Bridge in autumn was displayed in the imperial palace in the 9th century. Specialists interpret this as a pivotal moment in Japanese history because it represents one of the earliest occasions when the Japanese depicted their own scenery rather than copying views of Chinese landscapes from imported paintings--evidence that they were evolving their own sense of national identity.

Depictions of Uji are known to exist from the tenth century, and over the centuries the composition became bolder, shedding naturalism and adopting almost geometric stylisation. Sophisticated viewers could normally recognize the literary references from the few visual clues.

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/large_zps08bc3396.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/large_zps08bc3396.jpg.html)

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/99006_zpsc7171886.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/99006_zpsc7171886.jpg.html)

During the Momoyama era (1573-1615), screen painters became especially enamored of the theme of Uji Bridge and developed a spectacular compositional formula of showing the bridge arching across all twelve panels of a pair of folding screens. To heighten the decorative impact of the bold, dynamic, asymmetrical composition, they lavishly rendered many of the elements in gold. The waves, painted in silver (now tarnished) would have further contributed to the dazzling effect. As a seasonal reference, the passage of time is implied by the changing size of the willow leaves as the viewer moves from right (spring) to left (summer) through the painting. With their bold, simplified motifs, dramatic vantage point, and brilliant, shimmering metallic tones, these screens typify the pinnacle of decorative design of the Momoyama era (1568-1615) and early Edo periods (1614-1868).

http://i1245.photobucket.com/albums/gg581/StlukesguildOhio/01_zpse68300a5.jpg (http://s1245.photobucket.com/user/StlukesguildOhio/media/01_zpse68300a5.jpg.html)

These paintings of the Uji River Bridge are surely among the most spectacular works of Japanese Art... indeed, of the whole of Art History.

Darcy88
01-09-2014, 07:10 AM
Awesome thread St Lukes. Right now I am really into German expressionist painting. Max Beckmann is one whose work I especially adore. I am distantly related to Willi Baumesiter, though I suppose his work was produced after the hey-day of the Expressionist movement. I am so used to looking upon the rosy beauty of the French impressionists and find it fascinating how starkly different, how much darker one might say, were the paintings being made contemporaneously in the region right adjacent to France. So haunting are the paintings I find my soul almost in a state of terror. It brings me back to my first year in college when I spent a full eight hours with my nose buried in a giant book of German art of that time. The tragedy of so many of those young artists dying in the great war only adds to the paintings' effects.