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Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres - Roger Freeing Angelica

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (29 August 1780 – 14 January 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres’s portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.

Movements: Classicism, Neoclassicism, Orientalism

Note: Some of Ingres’ paintings contain nudity. If it offends you, please don’t read the article!

A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style represented by his nemesis Eugène Delacroix. His exemplars, he once explained, were “the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art … I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator.”

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Grand Odalisque

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Grand Odalisque

Nevertheless, modern opinion has tended to regard Ingres and the other Neoclassicists of his era as embodying the Romantic spirit of his time, while his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art.

Ingres was born in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France, the first of seven children (five of whom survived infancy) of Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres (1755–1814) and his wife Anne Moulet (1758–1817). His father was a successful jack-of-all-trades in the arts, a painter of miniatures, sculptor, decorative stonemason, and amateur musician; his mother was the nearly illiterate daughter of a master wigmaker.

From his father the young Ingres received early encouragement and instruction in drawing and music, and his first known drawing, a study after an antique cast, was made in 1789. Starting in 1786 he attended the local school École des Frères de l’Éducation Chrétienne, but his education was disrupted by the turmoil of the French Revolution, and the closing of the school in 1791 marked the end of his conventional education. The deficiency in his schooling would always remain for him a source of insecurity.

In 1791, Joseph Ingres took his son to Toulouse, where the young Jean-Auguste-Dominique was enrolled in the Académie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. There he studied under the sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan, the landscape painter Jean Briant, and—most importantly—the painter Joseph Roques, who imparted to the young artist his veneration of Raphael.

Ingres’s musical talent was further developed under the tutelage of the violinist Lejeune. From the ages of thirteen to sixteen he was second violinist in the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and he would continue to play the violin as an avocation for the rest of his life.

Having been awarded first prize in drawing by the Academy, in August 1797 he traveled to Paris to study with Jacques-Louis David, France’s—and Europe’s—leading painter during the revolutionary period, in whose studio he remained for four years. Ingres followed his master’s neoclassical example but revealed, according to David, “a tendency toward exaggeration in his studies.”

He was admitted to the Painting Department of the École des Beaux-Arts in October 1799, and won, after tying for second place in 1800, theGrand Prix de Rome in 1801 for his Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the tent of Achilles. His trip to Rome, however, was postponed until 1806, when the financially strained government finally appropriated the travel funds.

Working in Paris alongside several other students of David in a studio provided by the state, he further developed a style that emphasized purity of contour. He found inspiration in the works of Raphael, in Etruscan vase paintings, and in the outline engravings of the English artist John Flaxman.

In 1802 he made his debut at the Salonwith Portrait of a Woman (the current whereabouts of which are unknown). The following year brought a prestigious commission, when Ingres was one of five artists selected (along with Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Robert Lefèvre, Charles Meynier, and Marie-Guillemine Benoist) to paint full-length portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul. These were to be distributed to the prefectural towns of Liège, Antwerp, Dunkerque, Brussels, andGhent, all of which were newly ceded to France in the 1801 Treaty of Lunéville. As it is unlikely that Napoleon granted the artists a sitting, Ingres’ meticulously painted portrait of Bonaparte, First Consul appears to be modelled on an image of Napoleon painted by Antoine-Jean Gros in 1802.

In the summer of 1806 Ingres became engaged to Marie-Anne-Julie Forestier, a painter and musician, before leaving for Rome in September.

At the Salon, his paintings—Self-Portrait, portraits of the Rivière family, and Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne—produced a disturbing impression on the public, due to not only Ingres’s stylistic idiosyncrasies but also his adoption of Carolingian imagery in representing Napoleon.David delivered a severe judgement, and the critics were uniformly hostile, finding fault with the strange discordances of colour, the want of sculptural relief, the chilly precision of contour, and the self-consciously archaic quality. Chaussard (Le Pausanias Français, 1806) condemned Ingres’s style as gothic and asked: How, with so much talent, a line so flawless, an attention to detail so thorough, has M. Ingres succeeded in painting a bad picture? The answer is that he wanted to do something singular, something extraordinary … M. Ingres’s intention is nothing less than to make art regress by four centuries, to carry us back to its infancy, to revive the manner of Jean de Bruges.

As art historian Marjorie Cohn has written: “At the time, art history as a scholarly enquiry was brand-new. Artists and critics outdid each other in their attempts to identify, interpret, and exploit what they were just beginning to perceive as historical stylistic developments.”

The Louvre, newly filled with booty seized by Napoleon in his campaigns in Belgium, Holland, and Italy, provided French artists of the early 19th century with an unprecedented opportunity to study, compare, and copy masterworks from antiquity and from the entire history of European painting. From the beginning of his career, Ingres freely borrowed from earlier art, adopting the historical style appropriate to his subject, leading critics to charge him with plundering the past.

Newly arrived in Rome, Ingres read with mounting indignation the relentlessly negative press clippings sent to him from Paris by his friends. In letters to his prospective father-in-law, he expressed his outrage at the critics: “So the Salon is the scene of my disgrace; … The scoundrels, they waited until I was away to assassinate my reputation … I have never been so unhappy.”

He vowed never again to exhibit at the Salon, and his refusal to return to Paris led to the breaking up of his engagement. Julie Forestier, when asked years later why she had never married, responded, “When one has had the honor of being engaged to M. Ingres, one does not marry.”

Installed in a studio on the grounds of the Villa Medici, Ingres continued his studies and, as required of every winner of the Prix, he sent works at regular intervals to Paris so his progress could be judged. As his envoi of 1808 Ingres sent Oedipus and the Sphinx and The Valpinçon Bather (both now in the Louvre), hoping by these two paintings to demonstrate his mastery of the male and female nude, but they were poorly received.

In later years Ingres painted variants of both compositions; another nude begun in 1807, the Venus Anadyomene, remained in an unfinished state for decades, to be completed forty years later and finally exhibited in 1855.

He produced numerous portraits during this period: Madame Duvauçay, François-Marius Granet, Edme-François-Joseph Bochet, Madame Panckoucke, and that of Madame la Comtesse de Tournon, mother of the prefect of the department of the Tiber. In 1810 Ingres’s pension at the Villa Medici ended, but he decided to stay in Rome and seek patronage from the French occupation government.

Although facing uncertain prospects, in 1813 Ingres married a young woman, Madeleine Chapelle, who had been recommended to him by her friends in Rome. After a courtship carried out through correspondence, he proposed to her without having met her, and she accepted. Their marriage was a happy one, and Madame Ingres acquired a faith in her husband which enabled her to combat with courage and patience the difficulties of their common existence. He continued to suffer the indignity of disparaging reviews, as Don Pedro of Toledo Kissing the Sword of Henry IV, Raphael and the Fornarina (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University), several portraits, and the Interior of the Sistine Chapel met a generally hostile critical response at the Paris Salon of 1814.

Ingres traveled to Naples in the spring of 1814 to paint Queen Caroline Murat, and the Murat family ordered additional portraits as well as three modestly scaled works: The Betrothal of Raphael, La Grande Odalisque, and Paolo and Francesca. Apart from theBetrothal, however, he never received payment for these paintings, due to the collapse of the Murat regime in 1815.

With the fall of Napoleon’s dynasty, he found himself essentially stranded in Rome without patronage. During this low point of his career, Ingres was forced to depend for his livelihood on the execution, in pencil, of small portrait drawings of the many tourists, in particular the English, passing through postwar Rome. For an artist who aspired to a reputation as a history painter, this seemed menial work, and to the visitors who knocked on his door asking, “Is this where the man who draws the little portraits lives?”, he would answer with irritation, “No, the man who lives here is a painter!”

Nevertheless, the portrait drawings he produced in such profusion during this period are of outstanding quality, and rank today among his most admired works.

Ingres and his wife moved to Florence in 1820 at the urging of the Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, an old friend from his years in Paris, who hoped that Ingres would improve his position materially, but Ingres, as before, had to rely on his drawings of tourists and diplomats for support. His friendship with Bartolini, whose worldly success in the intervening years stood in sharp contrast to Ingres’s poverty, quickly became strained, and Ingres found new quarters.

In 1821 he finished a painting commissioned by a childhood friend, Monsieur de Pastoret, the Entry of Charles V into Paris; de Pastoret also ordered a portrait of himself and a religious work (Virgin with the Blue Veil). The major undertaking of this period, however, was a commission obtained in August 1820 with the help of de Pastoret, to paint the Vow of Louis XIII for the Cathedral of Montauban. Recognizing this as an opportunity to establish himself as a painter of history, he spent four diligent years bringing the large canvas to completion, and he travelled to Paris with it in October 1824.

The Vow of Louis XIII, exhibited at the Salon of 1824, finally brought Ingres critical success. Conceived in a Raphaelesque style relatively free of the archaisms for which he had been reproached in the past, it was admired even by strict Davidians. Ingres found himself celebrated throughout France; in January 1825 he was awarded the Cross of the Légion d’honneur, and in June 1825 he was elected to the Institute. His fame was extended further in 1826 by the publication of Sudre’s lithograph of La Grande Odalisque, which, having been scorned by artists and critics alike in 1819, now became widely popular.

A commission from the government called forth the monumental Apotheosis of Homer, which Ingres eagerly finished in a year’s time. From 1826 to 1834 the studio of Ingres was thronged, and he was a recognized chef d’école who taught with authority and wisdom while working steadily. The critics came to regard Ingres as the standard-bearer of classicism against the romantic school — a role he relished. The paintings, primarily portraits, that he sent to the Salon in 1827 and 1833 were well received. The portrait of Louis-François Bertin (1832) was a particular success with the public, who found its realism spellbinding, although some of the critics found its naturalism vulgar and its colouring drab.

The thin-skinned artist was outraged, however, by the criticism of his ambitious canvas of the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien (cathedral ofAutun), shown in the Salon of 1834. Resentful and disgusted, Ingres resolved never again to work for the public, and gladly availed himself of the opportunity to return to Rome, as director of the École de France, in the room of Horace Vernet. There, although the time he spent in administrative duties slowed the flow of paintings from his brush, he executed Antiochus and Stratonice (executed for Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans), Portrait of Luigi Cherubini, and the Odalisque with Slave, among other works.

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Birth of the Last Muse

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Birth of the Last Muse

One of only two works sent back to Paris during Ingres’ six year term as Director of the French Academy in Rome, the Stratonice was exhibited for several days in mid-August 1840 in the private apartment of the duc d’Orléans in the Pavilion Marsan of the Palais des Tuileries. While lampooned in Le Corsaire for its lofty subject matter yet extremely modest proportions (less than one metre across), overall the work was warmly received; so much so that on his return to Paris in June 1841, Ingres was received with all the deference that he felt was his due, including being received personally by King Louis-Philippe for a tour around Versailles. One of the first works executed after his return was a portrait of the duc d’Orléans, whose death in a carriage accident just weeks after the completion of the portrait sent the nation into mourning and led to orders for additional copies of the portrait.

The following year Ingres, at seventy-one years of age, married forty-three-year-old Delphine Ramel, a relative of his friend Marcotte d’Argenteuil. This marriage proved as happy as his first, and in the decade that followed Ingres completed several significant works. A major undertaking was the Apotheosis of Napoleon I, painted in 1853 for the ceiling of a hall in the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, and destroyed by fire in theCommune of 1871. The portrait of Princesse Albert de Broglie was also completed in 1853, and Joan of Arc appeared in 1854. The latter was largely the work of assistants, whom Ingres often entrusted with the execution of backgrounds. In 1855 Ingres consented to rescind his resolution, more or less strictly kept since 1834, in favour of the International Exhibition, where a room was reserved for his works.

The last of his important portrait paintings date from this period: Marie-Clothilde-Inés de Foucauld, Madame Moitessier, Seated (1856),Self-Portrait at the Age of Seventy-nine and Madame J.-A.-D. Ingres, née Delphine Ramel, both completed in 1859. The Turkish Bath, finished in a rectangular format in 1859, was revised in 1860 before being turned into a tondo. Ingres signed and dated it in 1862, although he made additional revisions in 1863.

Artistic Style

Ingres’s style was formed early in life and changed comparatively little. His earliest drawings, such as the Portrait of a Man (3 July 1797, now in the Louvre) already show a suavity of outline and an extraordinary control of the parallel hatchings which model the forms. From the first, his paintings are characterized by a firmness of outline reflecting his often-quoted conviction that “drawing is the probity of art”.

He believed colour to be no more than an accessory to drawing, explaining: “Drawing is not just reproducing contours, it is not just the line; drawing is also the expression, the inner form, the composition, the modelling. See what is left after that. Drawing is seven eighths of what makes up painting.”

He abhorred the visible brushstroke and made no recourse to the shifting effects of colour and light on which the Romantic school depended; he preferred local colours only faintly modelled in light by half tones. “Ce que l’on sait,” he would repeat, “il faut le savoir l’épée à la main.” (“Whatever you know, you must know it with sword in hand.”) Ingres thus left himself without the means of producing the necessary unity of effect when dealing with crowded compositions, such as the Apotheosis of Homer and the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien. Among Ingres’s historical and mythological paintings, the most satisfactory are usually those depicting one or two figures. InOedipus, Half-Length Bather, Odalisque, and The Spring, subjects only animated by the consciousness of perfect physical well-being, we find Ingres at his best.

In Roger Freeing Angelica, the female figure shows the finest qualities of Ingres’s work, while the effigy of Roger flying to the rescue on his hippogriff sounds a jarring note, for Ingres was rarely successful in the depiction of movement and drama. As Sanford Schwartz has noted, the “historical, mythological, and religious pictures bespeak huge amounts of energy and industry, but, conveying little palpable sense of inner tension, are costume dramas … The faces in the history pictures are essentially those of models waiting for the session to be over. When an emotion is to be expressed, it comes across stridently, or woodenly.”

Ingres’s choice of subjects reflected his literary tastes, which were severely limited: he read and reread Homer, Virgil, Plutarch, Dante, histories, and the lives of the artists. Throughout his life he revisited a small number of favourite themes, and painted multiple versions of many of his major compositions.He did not share his age’s enthusiasm for battle scenes, and generally preferred to depict “moments of revelation or intimate decision manifested by meeting or confrontation, but never by violence.” His numerous odalisque paintings were influenced to a great extent by the writings of Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the ambassador to Turkey whose diaries and letters, when published, fascinated European society.

Although capable of painting quickly, he often laboured for years over a painting. The Spring, although dated 1856, was painted in 1821, except for the head and the extremities; those who knew the work in its incomplete state professed that the after-painting, necessary to fuse new and old, lacked the vigour and precision of touch that distinguished the original execution of the torso. Ingres’s pupil Amaury-Duval wrote of him: “With this facility of execution, one has trouble explaining why Ingres’ oeuvre is not still larger, but he scraped out [his work] frequently, never being satisfied … and perhaps this facility itself made him rework whatever dissatisfied him, certain that he had the power to repair the fault, and quickly, too.”

Ingres died of pneumonia on 17 January 1867, at the age of eighty-six, having preserved his faculties to the last. He is interred in thePère Lachaise Cemetery in Paris with a tomb sculpted by his student Jean-Marie Bonnassieux. The contents of his studio, including a number of major paintings, over 4000 drawings, and his violin, were bequeathed by the artist to the city museum of Montauban, now known as the Musée Ingres.

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres TheTurkish Bath

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – TheTurkish Bath

 

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Apotheosis of Homer

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Apotheosis of Homer

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Roger Freeing Angelica

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Roger Freeing Angelica

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Paolo and Francesca

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Paolo and Francesca

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Oedipus and the Sphynx

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Oedipus and the Sphynx

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Napoleon I on the Imperial Throne

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Napoleon I on the Imperial Throne

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Monsieur Riviere

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Monsieur Riviere

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres Madame Moitessier

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – Madame Moitessier

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Vow of Louis XIII

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Vow of Louis XIII

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Source

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Source

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Entry of the Future Charles V into Paris in 1358

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Entry of the Future Charles V into Paris in 1358

Life and Paintings of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780   1867)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres The Dream of Ossian

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres – The Dream of Ossian

 

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Jean-Baptiste-Camille-Corot---Morning-at-Beauvais

Life and Paintings of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 – 1875)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (July 16, 1796 – February 22, 1875) was a French landscape painter and printmaker in etching. Corot was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism.

Movements: Naturalism, Classicism

Camille Corot was born in Paris in 1796, in a house at 125 Rue du Bac, now demolished. His family were bourgeois people—his father was a wigmaker and his mother a milliner—and unlike the experience of some of his artistic colleagues, throughout his life he never felt the want of money, as his parents made good investments and ran their businesses well.

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Self Portrait

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Self-Portrait

After his parents married, they bought the millinery shop where his mother had worked and his father gave up his career as a wigmaker to run the business side of the shop. The store was a famous destination for fashionable Parisians and earned the family an excellent income. Corot was the second of three children born to the family, who lived above their shop during those years.
Corot received a scholarship to study at the Lycée Pierre-Corneille in Rouen, but left after having scholastic difficulties and entered a boarding school. He “was not a brilliant student, and throughout his entire school career he did not get a single nomination for a prize, not even for the drawing classes.”

Unlike many masters who demonstrated early talent and inclinations toward art, before 1815 Corot showed no such interest. During those years he lived with the Sennegon family, whose patriarch was a friend of Corot’s father and who spent much time with young Corot on nature walks. It was in this region that Corot made his first paintings after nature. At nineteen, Corot was a “big child, shy and awkward. He blushed when spoken to. Before the beautiful ladies who frequented his mother’s salon, he was embarrassed and fled like a wild thing… Emotionally, he was an affectionate and well-behaved son, who adored his mother and trembled when his father spoke.” When Corot’s parents moved into a new residence in 1817, the 21-year-old Corot moved into the dormer-windowed room on the third floor, which became his first studio as well.

With his father’s help he apprenticed to a draper, but he hated commercial life and despised what he called “business tricks”, yet he faithfully remained in the trade until he was 26, when his father consented to his adopting the profession of art. Later Corot stated, “I told my father that business and I were simply incompatible, and that I was getting a divorce.” The business experience proved beneficial, however, by helping him develop an aesthetic sense through his exposure to the colors and textures of the fabrics. Perhaps out of boredom, he turned to oil painting around 1821 and began immediately with landscapes.

Starting in 1822 after the death of his sister, Corot began receiving a yearly allowance of 1500 francs which adequately financed his new career, studio, materials, and travel for the rest of his life. He immediately rented a studio on quai Voltaire.
During the period when Corot acquired the means to devote himself to art, landscape painting was on the upswing and generally divided into two camps: one―historical landscape by Neoclassicists in Southern Europe representing idealized views of real and fancied sites peopled with ancient, mythological, and biblical figures; and two―realistic landscape, more common in Northern Europe, which was largely faithful to actual topography, architecture, and flora, and which often showed figures of peasants. In both approaches, landscape artists would typically begin with outdoor sketching and preliminary painting, with finishing work done indoors.

Highly influential upon French landscape artists in the early 19th century was the work of Englishmen John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, who reinforced the trend in favor of Realism and away from Neoclassicism.

For a short period between 1821–1822, Corot studied with Achille-Etna Michallon, a landscape painter of Corot’s age who was a protégé of the painter David and who was already a well-respected teacher. Michallon had a great influence on Corot’s career. Corot’s drawing lessons included tracing lithographs, copying three-dimensional forms, and making landscape sketches and paintings outdoors, especially in the forests of Fontainebleau, the seaports along Normandy, and the villages west of Paris such as Ville-d’Avray (where his parents had a country house).

Michallon also exposed him to the principles of the French Neoclassic tradition, as espoused in the famous treatise of theorist Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, and exemplified in the works of French Neoclassicists Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, whose major aim was the representation of ideal Beauty in nature, linked with events in ancient times.

Though this school was on the decline, it still held sway in the Salon, the foremost art exhibition in France attended by thousands at each event. Corot later stated, “I made my first landscape from nature…under the eye of this painter, whose only advice was to render with the greatest scrupulousness everything I saw before me. The lesson worked; since then I have always treasured precision.”

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Poetry

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Poetry

After Michallon’s early death in 1822, Corot studied with Michallon’s teacher, Jean-Victor Bertin, among the best known Neoclassic landscape painters in France, who had Corot draw copies of lithographs of botanical subjects to learn precise organic forms. Though holding Neoclassicists in the highest regard, Corot did not limit his training to their tradition of allegory set in imagined nature. His notebooks reveal precise renderings of tree trunks, rocks, and plants which show the influence of Northern realism. Throughout his career, Corot demonstrated an inclination to apply both traditions in his work, sometimes combining the two.

With his parents’ support, Corot followed the well-established pattern of French painters who went to Italy to study the masters of the Italian Renaissance and to draw the crumbling monuments of Roman antiquity. A condition by his parents before leaving was that he paint a self-portrait for them, his first. Corot’s stay in Italy from 1825 to 1828 was a highly formative and productive one, during which he completed over 200 drawings and 150 paintings.

He worked and traveled with several young French painters also studying abroad who painted together and socialized at night in the cafes, critiquing each other and gossiping. Corot learned little from the Renaissance masters (though later he cited Leonardo da Vinci as his favorite painter) and spent most of his time around Rome and in the Italian countryside.

The Farnese Gardens with its splendid views of the ancient ruins was a frequent destination, and he painted it at three different times of the day. The training was particularly valuable in gaining an understanding of the challenges of both the mid-range and panoramic perspective, and in effectively placing man-made structures in a natural setting.  He also learned how to give buildings and rocks the effect of volume and solidity with proper light and shadow, while using a smooth and thin technique. Furthermore, placing suitable figures in a secular setting was a necessity of good landscape painting, to add human context and scale, and it was even more important in allegorical landscapes. To that end Corot worked on figure studies in native costume as well as nude.

During winter, he spent time in a studio but returned to work outside as quickly as weather permitted. The intense light of Italy posed considerable challenges, “This sun gives off a light that makes me despair. It makes me feel the utter powerlessness of my palette.” He learned to master the light and to paint the stones and sky in subtle and dramatic variation.

It was not only Italian architecture and light which captured Corot’s attention. The late-blooming Corot was entranced with Italian females as well, “They still have the most beautiful women in the world that I have met….their eyes, their shoulders, their hands are spectacular. In that, they surpass our women, but on the other hand, they are not their equals in grace and kindness…Myself, as a painter I prefer the Italian woman, but I lean toward the French woman when it comes to emotion.”

In spite of his strong attraction to women, he writes of his commitment to painting, “I have only one goal in life that I want to pursue faithfully: to make landscapes. This firm resolution keeps me from a serious attachment. That is to say, in marriage…but my independent nature and my great need for serious study make me take the matter lightly.”

During the six-year period following his first Italian visit and his second, Corot focused on preparing large landscapes for presentation at the Salon. Several of his salon paintings were adaptations of his Italian oil sketches reworked in the studio by adding imagined, formal elements consistent with Neoclassical principles.  An example of this was his first Salon entry, View at Narni (1827), where he took his quick, natural study of a ruin of a Roman aqueduct in dusty bright sun and transformed it into a falsely idyllic pastoral setting with giant shade trees and green lawns, a conversion meant to appeal to the Neoclassical jurors.

Many critics have valued highly his plein-air Italian paintings for their “germ of Impressionism“, their faithfulness to natural light, and their avoidance of academic values, even though they were intended as studies.  Several decades later, Impressionism revolutionized art by a taking a similar approach—quick, spontaneous painting done in the out-of-doors; however, where the Impressionists used rapidly applied, un-mixed colors to capture light and mood, Corot usually mixed and blended his colors to get his dreamy effects.

 

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Reader Wreathed with Flowers Virgils Muse

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Reader Wreathed with Flowers (Virgil’s Muse)

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Coliseum Seen from the Farnese Gardens

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Coliseum Seen from the Farnese Gardens

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Cathedral of Chartres

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Cathedral of Chartres

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The bridge of Narni

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The bridge of Narni

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Artists Studio

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Artist’s Studio

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot St Sebastian Succoured by Holy Women

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – St Sebastian Succoured by Holy Women

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Agostina

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Agostina

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Young Woman in Pink Dress

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Young Woman in Pink Dress

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Young Woman Madame Legois

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Young Woman (Madame Legois)

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Volterra the Citadel

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Volterra, the Citadel

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Ville dAvray

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Ville d’Avray

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Woman with the Pearl

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Woman with the Pearl

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Tanneries of Mantes

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Tanneries of Mantes

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot The Solitude. Recollection of Vigen Limousin

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – The Solitude. Recollection of Vigen, Limousin

Corot was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting. His work simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed “There is only one master here—Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.” His contributions to figure painting are hardly less important;Degas preferred his figures to his landscapes, and the classical figures of Picasso pay overt homage to Corot’s influence.

When out of the studio, Corot traveled throughout France, mirroring his Italian methods, and concentrated on rustic landscapes. He returned to the Normandy coast and to Rouen, the city he lived in as a youth.  Corot also did some portraits of friends and relatives, and received his first commissions. His sensitive portrait of his niece, Laure Sennegon, dressed in powder blue, was one of his most successful and was later donated to the Louvre.  He typically painted two copies of each family portrait, one for the subject and one for the family, and often made copies of his landscapes as well. Corot exhibited one portrait and several landscapes at the Salon in 1831 and 1833. His reception by the critics at the Salon was cold and Corot decided to return to Italy, having failed to satisfy them with his Neoclassical themes.

During his two return trips to Italy, he visited Northern Italy, Venice, and again the Roman countryside. In 1835, Corot created a sensation at the Salon with his biblical painting Agar dans le desert (Hagar in the Wilderness), which depicted Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden, and the child Ishmael, dying of thirst in the desert until saved by an angel. The background was likely derived from an Italian study.

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Peasants under the Trees at Dawn

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Peasants under the Trees at Dawn

This time, Corot’s unanticipated bold, fresh statement of the Neoclassical ideal succeeded with the critics by demonstrating “the harmony between the setting and the passion or suffering that the painter chooses to depict in it.”
He followed that up with other biblical and mythological subjects, but those paintings did not succeed as well, as the Salon critics found him wanting in comparisons with Poussin.In 1837, he painted his earliest surviving nude, The Nymph of the Seine. Later, he advised his students “The study of the nude, you see, is the best lesson that a landscape painter can have. If someone knows how, without any tricks, to get down a figure, he is able to make a landscape; otherwise he can never do it.”

In the 1860s, Corot was still mixing peasant figures with mythological ones, mixing Neoclassicism with Realism, causing one critic to lament, “If M. Corot would kill, once and for all, the nymphs of his woods and replace them with peasants, I should like him beyond measure.” In reality, in later life his human figures did increase and the nymphs did decrease, but even the human figures were often set in idyllic reveries.

In later life, Corot’s studio was filled with students, models, friends, collectors, and dealers who came and went under the tolerant eye of the master, causing him to quip, “Why is it that there are ten of you around me, and not one of you thinks to relight my pipe.”

Dealers snapped up his works and his prices were often above 4,000 francs per painting.With his success secured, Corot gave generously of his money and time. He became an elder of the artists’ community and would use his influence to gain commissions for other artists. In 1871 he gave £2000 for the poor of Paris, under siege by the Prussians. During the actual Paris Commune, he was at Arras with Alfred Robaut. In 1872 he bought a house in Auvers as a gift for Honoré Daumier, who by then was blind, without resources, and homeless. In 1875 he donated 10.000 francs to the widow of Millet in support of her children. His charity was near proverbial. He also financially supported the upkeep of a day center for children on rue Vandrezanne in Paris. In later life, he remained a humble and modest man, apolitical and happy with his luck in life, and held close the belief that, “men should not puff themselves up with pride, whether they are emperors adding this or that province to their empires or painter who gain a reputation.”

Life and Paintings of Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796   1875)   Jean Baptiste Camille Corot Morning at Beauvais

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Morning at Beauvais

Despite great success and appreciation among artists, collectors, and the more generous critics, his many friends considered, nevertheless, that he was officially neglected, and in 1874, a short time before his death, they presented him with a gold medal.He died in Paris of a stomach disorder aged 78 and was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Hope you enjoyed the article as much as i did compiling the info and the images! See you next time!

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Théodore Géricault - The Wreck

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791 – 1824)

Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault (26 September 1791 – 26 January 1824) was a profoundly influential French artist, painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings. Although he died young, he became one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.

Movements: Romanticism

Born in Rouen, France, Géricault was educated in the tradition of English sporting art by Carle Vernetand classical figure composition by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, a rigorous classicist who disapproved of his student’s impulsive temperament yet recognized his talent.

Géricault soon left the classroom, choosing to study at the Louvre instead, where (from 1810 to 1815) he copied from paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Diego Velázquez, and Rembrandt. During this period at the Louvre he discovered a vitality he found lacking in the prevailing school of Neoclassicism. Much of his time was spent in Versailles, where he found the stables of the palace open to him, and where he gained his knowledge of the anatomy and action of horses.

His first major work, The Charging Chasseur, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1812, revealed the influence of the style of Rubens and an interest in the depiction of contemporary subject matter. This youthful success, ambitious and monumental, was followed by a change in direction: for the next several years Géricault produced a series of small studies of horses and cavalrymen.

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault The Wounded Officer of the Imperial Guard Leaving the Battlefield

Théodore Géricault – The Wounded Officer of the Imperial Guard Leaving the Battlefield

He exhibited Wounded Cuirassier at the Salon in 1814, a work more labored and less well received. Géricault in a fit of disappointment entered the army and served for a time in the garrison of Versailles. In the nearly two years that followed the 1814 Salon, he also underwent a self-imposed study of figure construction and composition, all the while evidencing a personal predilection for drama and expressive force.

A trip to Florence, Rome, and Naples (1816–17), prompted in part by the desire to flee from a romantic entanglement with his aunt, ignited a fascination with Michelangelo. Rome itself inspired the preparation of a monumental canvas, the Race of the Barberi Horses, a work of epic composition and abstracted theme that promised to be “entirely without parallel in its time”.

In the event, Géricault never completed the painting, and returned to France. In 1821, he painted The Derby of Epsom. Géricault continually returned to the military themes of his early paintings, and the series of lithographs he undertook on military subjects after his return from Italy are considered some of the earliest masterworks in that medium. Perhaps his most significant, and certainly most ambitious work, is The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819), which depicted the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck, Meduse, in which the captain had left the crew and passengers to die.The incident became a national scandal, and Géricault’s dramatic interpretation presented a contemporary tragedy on a monumental scale. The painting’s notoriety stemmed from its indictment of a corrupt establishment, but it also dramatized a more eternal theme, that of man’s struggle with nature. It surely excited the imagination of the young Eugène Delacroix, who posed for one of the dying figures.

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault The Epsom Derby

Théodore Géricault – The Epsom Derby

The classical depiction of the figures and structure of the composition stand in contrast to the turbulence of the subject, and creates an important bridge between the styles of neo-classicismand romanticism. The painting fuses many influences: the Last Judgment of Michelangelo, the monumental approach to contemporary events by Antoine-Jean Gros, figure groupings by Henry Fuseli, and possibly the painting Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley.

The painting ignited political controversy when first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1819; it then traveled to England in 1820, accompanied by Géricault himself, where it received much praise. While in London, Géricault witnessed urban poverty, made drawings of his impressions, and published lithographs based on these observations which were free of sentimentality.He associated much there with Charlet, the lithographer and caricaturist.

 

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Riderless Racers at Rome

Théodore Géricault – Riderless Racers at Rome

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Insane Woman

Théodore Géricault – Insane Woman

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Study of a Head

Théodore Géricault – Study of a Head

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Rideless Horse Races

Théodore Géricault – Rideless Horse Races

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Portrait of a Kleptomaniac

Théodore Géricault – Portrait of a Kleptomaniac

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault Man with Delusions of Military Command

Théodore Géricault – Man with Delusions of Military Command

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault An Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge

Théodore Géricault – An Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge

Life and Paintings of Théodore Géricault (1791   1824)   Théodore Géricault The Wreck

Théodore Géricault – The Wreck

After his return to France in 1821, Géricault was inspired to paint a series of ten portraits of the insane, the patients of a friend, Dr. Étienne-Jean Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric medicine, with each subject exhibiting a different affliction.

Eugène Delacroix - The Massacre at Chios

Life and Paintings of Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school. Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of colour profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement. A fine lithographer, Delacroix illustrated various works of William Shakespeare, the Scottish writer Walter Scott and the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Movements: Romanticism 

In contrast to the Neoclassical perfectionism of his chief rival Ingres, Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an attendant emphasis on colour and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modelled form. Dramatic and romantic content characterized the central themes of his maturity, and led him not to the classical models of Greek and Roman art, but to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic. Friend and spiritual heir to Théodore Géricault, Delacroix was also inspired by Lord Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the “forces of the sublime”, of nature in often violent action.

Life and Paintings of Eugène Delacroix (1798   1863)   Eugène Delacroix Liberty Leading the People 28th July 1830 1024x843

Eugène Delacroix – Liberty Leading the People

However, Delacroix was given to neither sentimentality nor bombast, and his Romanticism was that of an individualist. In the words of Baudelaire, “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”

Delacroix was born at Charenton (Saint-Maurice, Val-de-Marne), in Île-de-France, near Paris. There is reason to believe that his father, Charles-François Delacroix, was infertile at the time of Eugène’s conception and that his real father was Talleyrand, who was a friend of the family and successor of Charles Delacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and whom the adult Eugène resembled in appearance and character.

Throughout his career as a painter, he was protected by Talleyrand, who served successively the Restoration and king Louis-Philippe, and ultimately as ambassador of France in Great Britain, and later by Talleyrand’s grandson, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de Morny, half-brother of Napoleon III and speaker of the French House of Commons.

Edgar Degas - The Blue Dancers

Life and Paintings of Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)

Edgar Degas ( born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, 19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917), was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers.

Movements: Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Modernism 

He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterful in depicting movement, as can be seen in his renditions of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.

Life and Paintings of Edgar Degas (1834   1917)   Edgar Degas Absinthe Drinkers 757x1024

Edgar Degas – Absinthe Drinkers

At the beginning of his career, he wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classic art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the oldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. (His family’s name had originally been spelled “Degas”, and Degas adopted this less grandiose spelling when he became an adult.)  Degas began his schooling at age eleven, enrolling in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was thirteen, and his father and grandfather became the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth.

Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycée in 1853, at age 18, with a baccalauréat in literature, he had turned a room in his home into an artist’s studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in the Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris, in November 1853, but applied little effort to his studies. In 1855, Degas met Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, whom he revered, and whose advice he never forgot: “Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist.”

In April of that year, Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres.

In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1858, while staying with his aunt’s family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece, The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but—contrary to conventional practice—he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention—a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait

Upon his return to France in 1859, Degas moved into a Paris studio large enough to permit him to begin painting The Bellelli Family—an imposing canvas he intended for exhibition in the Salon, although it remained unfinished until 1867. He also began work on several history paintings: Alexander and Bucephalus and The Daughter of Jephthah in 1859–60; Sémiramis Building Babylon in 1860; and Young Spartans around 1860.

In 1861, Degas visited his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy, and made the earliest of his many studies of horses. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1865, when the jury accepted his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages, which attracted little attention.  Although he exhibited annually in the Salon during the next five years, he submitted no more history paintings, and his Steeplechase—The Fallen Jockey (Salon of 1866) signaled his growing commitment to contemporary subject matter. The change in his art was influenced primarily by the example of Édouard Manet, whom Degas had met in 1864 (while both were copying the same Velázquez portrait in the Louvre, according to a story that may be apocryphal).

Life and Paintings of Edgar Degas (1834   1917)   Edgar Degas At the Mirror 1024x780

Edgar Degas – At the Mirror

Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him.

After the war, in 1872, Degas began an extended stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother René and a number of other relatives lived. Staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue, Degas produced a number of works, many depicting family members. One of Degas’s New Orleans works, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, garnered favorable attention back in France, and was his only work purchased by a museum (the Pau) during his lifetime.

Degas returned to Paris in 1873, and his father died the following year, whereupon Degas learned that his brother René had amassed enormous business debts. To preserve his family’s reputation, Degas sold his house and an art collection he had inherited, and used the money to pay off his brother’s debts. Dependent for the first time in his life on sales of his artwork for income, he produced much of his greatest work during the decade beginning in 1874. Disenchanted by now with the Salon, he instead joined a group of young artists who were organizing an independent exhibiting society.

The group soon became known as the Impressionists. Between 1874 and 1886, they mounted eight art shows, known as the Impressionist Exhibitions. Degas took a leading role in organizing the exhibitions, and showed his work in all but one of them, despite his persistent conflicts with others in the group. He had little in common with Monet and the other landscape painters in the group, whom he mocked for painting outdoors. Conservative in his social attitudes, he abhorred the scandal created by the exhibitions, as well as the publicity and advertising that his colleagues sought.[1] He also deeply disliked being associated with the term “Impressionist,” which the press had coined and popularized, and insisted on including non-Impressionist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli in the group’s exhibitions. The resulting rancor within the group contributed to its disbanding in 1886.

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) - Perseus and Andromeda

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488 – 1576)

Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576)  known in English as Titian, was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in Veneto), in the Republic of Venice. During his lifetime he was often called da Cadore, taken from the place of his birth.

Movements: Renaissance, Naturalism, Classicism, Secularism

[Please note that Titian's paintings contain nudity, if that offends you don't read the article.]

Recognized by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Allegory of Time Governed by Prudence

During the course of his long life, Titian’s artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of polychromatic modulations are without precedent in the history of Western art.

The exact date of Titian’s birth is uncertain; when he was an old man he claimed in a letter to Philip II to have been born in 1474, but this seems most unlikely. Other writers contemporary to his old age give figures which would equate to birthdates between 1473 to after 1482, but most modern scholars believe a date nearer 1490 is more likely; the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s timeline supports c.1488, as does the Getty Research Institute.

He was the eldest son of Gregorio Vecelli and his wife Lucia. His father was superintendent of the castle of Pieve di Cadore and managed local mines for their owners. Gregorio was also a distinguished councilor and soldier. Many relatives, including Titian’s grandfather, were notaries, and the family of four were well-established in the area, which was ruled by Venice.

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Venus of Urbino 1024x712

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Venus of Urbino

A fresco of Hercules on the Morosini Palace is said to have been one of Titian’s earliest works; others were the Bellini-esque so-called Gypsy Madonna in Vienna, and the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth (from the convent of S. Andrea), now in the Accademia, Venice.

Titian joined Giorgione as an assistant, but many contemporary critics already found his work more impressive, for example in the exterior frescoes (now almost totally destroyed) that they did for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (state-warehouse for the German merchants), and their relationship evidently had a significant element of rivalry. Distinguishing between their work at this period remains a subject of scholarly controversy, and there has been a substantial movement of attributions from Giorgione to Titian in the 20th century, with little traffic the other way. One of the earliest known works of Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, depicting the Ecce Homo scene, was long regarded as the work of Giorgione.

It took Titian two years (1516–1518) to complete his Assunta, whose dynamic three-tier composition and color scheme established him as the preeminent painter north of Rome.

During this period (1516–1530), which may be called the period of his mastery and maturity, the artist moved on from his early Giorgionesque style, undertook larger and more complex subjects and for the first time attempted a monumental style.

Giorgione died in 1510 and Giovanni Bellini in 1516, leaving Titian unrivaled in the Venetian School. For sixty years he was to be the undisputed master of Venetian painting. In 1516 he completed for the high altar of the church of the Frari, his famous masterpiece, the Assumption of the Virgin, still in situ. This extraordinary piece of colorism, executed on a grand scale rarely before seen in Italy, created a sensation.

The Signoria took note, and observed that Titian was neglecting his work in the hall of the great council, but in 1516 he succeeded his master Giovanni Bellini in receiving a pension from the Senate.

To this period belongs a more extraordinary work, The Death of St. Peter Martyr (1530), formerly in the Dominican Church of San Zanipolo, and destroyed by an Austrian shell in 1867. Only copies and engravings of this proto-Baroque picture remain; it combined extreme violence and a landscape, mostly consisting of a great tree, that pressed into the scene and seems to accentuate the drama in a way that looks forward to the Baroque.
During the next period (1530–1550), Titian developed the style introduced by his dramatic Death of St. Peter Martyr. The Venetian government, dissatisfied with Titian’s neglect of the work for the ducal palace, ordered him in 1538 to refund the money which he had received, and Pordenone, his rival of recent years, was installed in his place. However, at the end of a year Pordenone died, and Titian, who meanwhile applied himself diligently to painting in the hall the Battle of Cadore, was reinstated.

This major battle scene was lost along with so many other major works by Venetian artists by the great fire which destroyed all the old pictures in the great chambers of the Doge’s Palace in 1577. It represented in life-size the moment at which the Venetian general, D’Alviano attacked the enemy with horses and men crashing down into a stream, and was the artist’s most important attempt at a tumultuous and heroic scene of movement to rival Raphael’s Battle of Constantine and the equally ill-fated Battle of Cascina of Michelangelo and The Battle of Anghiari of Leonardo (both unfinished). There remains only a poor, incomplete copy at the Uffizi, and a mediocre engraving by Fontana.

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Death of Actaeon

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Death of Actaeon

Titian had from the beginning of his career shown himself to be a masterful portrait-painter, in works like La Bella (Eleanora de Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, at the Pitti Palace). He painted the likenesses of princes, or Doges, cardinals or monks, and artists or writers. “…no other painter was so successful in extracting from each physiognomy so many traits at once characteristic and beautiful”, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia. Among portrait-painters Titian is compared to Rembrandt and Velázquez, with the interior life of the former, and the clearness, certainty, and obviousness of the latter.

Let’s now enjoy some of his most celebrated works:

 

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Adam and Eve 786x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Adam and Eve

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Sacred and Profane Love 1024x351

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) -Sacred and Profane Love

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Venus with a Mirror 859x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Venus with a Mirror

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Venus and Cupid with an Organist 1024x538

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Venus and Cupid with an Organist

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Venus Anadyomene 761x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Venus Anadyomene

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Tityus 896x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Tityus

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Worship of Venus 1024x1003

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Worship of Venus

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Three Ages of Man 1024x608

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Three Ages of Man

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Rape of Europa 1024x896

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Rape of Europa

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian The Birth of Adonis 1024x214

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – The Birth of Adonis

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Spain Succouring Religion

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Spain Succouring Religion

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Philip II Offering Don Fernando to Victory 844x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Philip II Offering Don Fernando to Victory

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Perseus and Andromeda 1024x921

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Perseus and Andromeda

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Orpheus and Eurydice 1024x731

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Orpheus and Eurydice

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Mocking of Christ 896x1024

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Mocking of Christ

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Diana and Callisto 1024x947

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Diana and Callisto

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Danae 1024x724

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Danae

Life and Paintings of Titian (1488   1576)   Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore Titian Bacchanal of the Andrians 1024x895

Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore (Titian) – Bacchanal of the Andrians

Titian’s unmatched handling of color is exemplified by his Danaë with Nursemaid, one of several mythological paintings, or “poesie” (“poems”) as the painter called them, done for Philip II of Spain. Although Michelangelo adjudged this piece deficient from the point of view of drawing, Titian and his studio produced several versions for other patrons.

Titian was probably in his late eighties when the plague raging in Venice took him on 27 August 1576. He was the only victim of the Venice plague to be given a church burial. He was interred in the Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), as at first intended, and his Pietà was finished by Palma the Younger. He lies near his own famous painting, the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro. No memorial marked his grave, until much later the Austrian rulers of Venice commissioned Canova to provide the large monument.

Immediately after Titian’s own death, his son and assistant Orazio died of the same epidemic. His sumptuous mansion was plundered during the plague by thieves.

 

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Georges de La Tour - Magdalen of Night Light

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593 – 1652)

Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593 – January 30, 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight.

Movements: Baroque,  Gesturalism, Caravaggism

Georges de La Tour was born in the town of Vic-sur-Seille in the Diocese of Metz, which was technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, but had been ruled by France since 1552. Baptism documentation reveal that he was the son of Jean de La Tour, a baker, and Sybille de La Tour, née Molian. It has been suggested that Sybille came from a partly noble family. His parents had seven children in all, with Georges being the second-born.

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour The Dream of St Joseph

Georges de La Tour – The Dream of St Joseph

La Tour’s educational background remains somewhat unclear, but it is assumed that he travelled either to Italy or the Netherlands early in his career. He may possibly have trained under Jacques Bellange in Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, although their styles are very different. His paintings reflect the Baroque naturalism of Caravaggio, but this probably reached him through the Dutch Caravaggisti of the Utrecht School and other Northern (French and Dutch) contemporaries. In particular, La Tour is often compared to the Dutch painter Hendrick Terbrugghen.

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Magdalen with the Smoking Flame

Georges de La Tour – Magdalen with the Smoking Flame

In 1617 he married Diane Le Nerf, from a minor noble family, and in 1620 he established his studio in her quiet provincial home-town of Lunéville, part of the independent Duchy of Lorraine which was absorbed into France, during his lifetime, in 1641. He painted mainly religious and some genre scenes. He was given the title “Painter to the King” (of France) in 1638, and he also worked for the Dukes of Lorraine in 1623–4, but the local bourgeoisie provided his main market, and he achieved a certain affluence. He is not recorded in Lunéville in 1639–42, and may have travelled again; Anthony Blunt detected the influence of Gerrit van Honthorst in his paintings after this point. He was involved in a Franciscan-led religious revival in Lorraine, and over the course of his career he moved to painting almost entirely religious subjects, but in treatments with influence from genre painting.

Georges de la Tour and his family died in 1652 in an epidemic in Lunéville. His son Étienne (born 1621) was his pupil.

His early work shows influences from Caravaggio, probably via his Dutch followers, and the genre scenes of cheats—as in The Fortune Teller —and fighting beggars clearly derive from the Dutch Caravaggisti, and probably also his fellow-Lorrainer, Jacques Bellange. These are believed to date from relatively early in his career.

La Tour is best known for the nocturnal light effects which he developed much further than his artistic predecessors had done, and transferred their use in the genre subjects in the paintings of the Dutch Caravaggisti to religious painting in his. Unlike Caravaggio his religious paintings lack dramatic effects. He painted these in a second phase of his style, perhaps beginning in the 1640s, using chiaroscuro, careful geometrical compositions, and very simplified painting of forms. His work moves during his career towards greater simplicity and stillness—taking from Caravaggio very different qualities than Jusepe de Ribera and his Tenebrist followers did.

He often painted several variations on the same subjects, and his surviving output is relatively small. His son Étienne was his pupil, and distinguishing between their work in versions of La Tour’s compositions is difficult. The version of the Education of the Virgin, in the Frick Collection in New York is an example, as the Museum itself admits. Another group of paintings (example left), of great skill but claimed to be different in style to those of La Tour, have been attributed to an unknown “Hurdy-gurdy Master”. All show older male figures (one group in Malibu includes a female), mostly solitary, either beggars or saints.

Let’s now enjoy some of his most celebrated works:

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Quarrelling Musicians

Georges de La Tour – Quarrelling Musicians

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Peasant Couple Eating

Georges de La Tour – Peasant Couple Eating

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Magdalen of Night Light

Georges de La Tour – Magdalen of Night Light

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Fortune Teller

Georges de La Tour – Fortune Teller

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Christ in the Carpenters Shop

Georges de La Tour – Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Cheater with the Ace of Diamonds

Georges de La Tour – Cheater with the Ace of Diamonds

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Blind Musician

Georges de La Tour – Blind Musician

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour Adoration of the Shepherds

Georges de La Tour – Adoration of the Shepherds

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour The Repentant Magdalen

Georges de La Tour – The Repentant Magdalen

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour The Payment of Dues

Georges de La Tour – The Payment of Dues

Life and Paintings of Georges de La Tour (1593   1652)   Georges de La Tour The New born

Georges de La Tour – The New-born

After his death at Lunéville in 1652, La Tour’s work was forgotten until rediscovered by Hermann Voss, a German scholar, in 1915; some of La Tour’s work had in fact been confused with Vermeer, when the Dutch artist underwent his own rediscovery in the nineteenth century. In 1935 an exhibition in Paris began the revival in interest among a wider public. In the twentieth century a number of his works were identified once more, and forgers tried to help meet the new demand; many aspects of his œuvre remain controversial among art historian.

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Édouard Manet - At the Cafe (Bock Drinkers)

Life and Paintings of Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)

Édouard Manet (23 January 1832 – 30 April 1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern and postmodern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

Life and Paintings of Édouard Manet (1832   1883)   Édouard Manet Luncheon on the Grass 1024x796

Édouard Manet – Luncheon on the Grass

Movements: Realism, Impressionism

Édouard Manet was born in Paris on 23 January 1832, to an affluent and well-connected family. His mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the daughter of a diplomat and goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince Charles Bernadotte, from whom the Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge who expected Édouard to pursue a career in law. His uncle, Edmond Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and took young Manet to the Louvre.

In 1841 he enrolled at secondary school, the Collège Rollin. In 1845, at the advice of his uncle, Manet enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts and subsequent lifelong friend.

At his father’s suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro. After he twice failed the examination to join the Navy,his father relented to his wishes to pursue an art education. From 1850 to 1856, Manet studied under the academic painter Thomas Couture. In his spare time, Manet copied the old masters in the Louvre.

Life and Paintings of Édouard Manet (1832   1883)   Édouard Manet Olympia 1024x695

Édouard Manet – Olympia

From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he was influenced by the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.

In 1856, Manet opened a studio. His style in this period was characterized by loose brush strokes, simplification of details and the suppression of transitional tones. Adopting the current style of realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, he painted The Absinthe Drinker (1858–59) and other contemporary subjects such as beggars, singers, Gypsies, people in cafés, and bullfights. After his early career, he rarely painted religious, mythological, or historical subjects; examples include his Christ Mocked, now in the Art Institute of Chicago, and Christ with Angels, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Manet had two canvases accepted at the Salon in 1861.

A portrait of his mother and father, who at the time was paralysed and robbed of speech by a stroke, was ill received by critics. The other, The Spanish Singer, was admired by Theophile Gautier, and placed in a more conspicuous location as a result of its popularity with Salon-goers. Manet’s work, which appeared “slightly slapdash” when compared with the meticulous style of so many other Salon paintings, intrigued some young artists. The Spanish Singer, painted in a “strange new fashion caused many painters’ eyes to open and their jaws to drop.”

A major early work is The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe). The Paris Salon rejected it for exhibition in 1863 but Manet exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected) later in the year. Emperor Napoleon III had initiated The Salon des Refusés after the Paris Salon rejected more than 4,000 paintings in 1863. Manet employed model Victorine Meurent, his wife Suzanne, future brother-in-law Ferdinand Leenhoff, and one of his brothers to pose. Meurent also posed for several more of Manet’s important paintings including Olympia; and by the mid 1870s she became an accomplished painter in her own right.

John Everett Millais - The Ruling Passion (1885) Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Life and Paintings of John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, ( 8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896) was an English painter and illustrator and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Millais was born in Southampton, England in 1829, of a prominent Jersey-based family.

Movements: Medievalism, Naturalism, Academicism, Pre-Raphaelitism

The author Thackeray once asked him “when England conquered Jersey.” Millais replied “Never! Jersey conquered England.” (cited in Chums annual, 1896, page 213). His prodigious artistic talent won him a place at the Royal Academy schools at the unprecedented age of eleven. While there, he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti with whom he formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (known as the “PRB”) in September 1848 in his family home on Gower Street, off Bedford Square.

Berthe Morisot - Pasie Sewing in the Garden

Life and Paintings of Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)

Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895) was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. She was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1894 as one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism alongside Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt.

Movements: Impressionism

Morisot was born in Bourges, Cher, France, into a successful bourgeois family. According to family tradition, the family had included one of the most prolific Rococo painters of the ancien régime, Fragonard, whose handling of color and expressive, confident brushwork influenced later painters. Both Berthe and her sister, Edma Morisot, chose to become painters.

Berthe Morisot’s family moved to Paris when she was a child. Once Berthe settled on pursuing art, her family did not impede her career. She registered as a copyist at the Louvre. By age twenty, she had met and befriended the important, and pivotal, landscape painter of the Barbizon School, Camille Corot, who excelled in figure painting as well. The older artist instructed Berthe and her sister in painting and introduced them to other artists and teachers. Under Corot’s influence, Morisot took up the plein air method of working.

Morisot’s first appearance in the Salon de Paris came at the age of twenty-three in 1864, with the acceptance of two landscape paintings. She continued to show regularly in the Salon, to generally favorable reviews, until 1873, the year before the first Impressionist exhibition.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Children with Shell

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (December 1617 – April 3, 1682) was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children. These lively, realist portraits of flower girls, street urchins, and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times.

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Children with Shell

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Children with Shell

Murillo was born to Gaspar Esteban and María Pérez Murillo. He may have been born in Seville or in Pilas, a smaller Andalusian town.  It is clear that he was baptized in Seville in 1618, the youngest son in a family of fourteen. His father was a barber and surgeon. His parents died when Murillo was still very young, and the artist was largely brought up by his aunt and uncle. Murillo married Beatriz Cabrera in 1645; their first child, named María, was born shortly after their marriage. The mother and daughter became the subjects of two of his paintings: The Virgin of the Rosary and Madonna and Child.

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Annunciation

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Annunciation

Murillo began his art studies under Juan del Castillo in Seville. Murillo became familiar with Flemish painting; the great commercial importance of Seville at the time ensured that he was also subject to influences from other regions. His first works were influenced by Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonzo Cano, and he shared their strongly realist approach. As his painting developed, his more important works evolved towards the polished style that suited the bourgeois and aristocratic tastes of the time, demonstrated especially in his Roman Catholic religious works.

In 1642, at the age of 26, he moved to Madrid, where he most likely became familiar with the work of Velázquez, and would have seen the work of Venetian and Flemish masters in the royal collections; the rich colors and softly modeled forms of his subsequent work suggest these influences.

He returned to Seville in 1645. In that year, he painted thirteen canvases for the monastery of St. Francisco el Grande in Seville which improved his reputation. Following the completion of a pair of pictures for the Seville Cathedral, he began to specialize in the themes that brought him his greatest successes: the Virgin and Child and the Immaculate Conception.

After another period in Madrid, from 1658 to 1660, he returned to Seville. Here he was one of the founders of the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Art), sharing its direction, in 1660, with the architect Francisco Herrera the Younger. This was his period of greatest activity, and he received numerous important commissions, among them the altarpieces for the Augustinian monastery, the paintings for Santa María la Blanca (completed in 1665), and others. He died in Seville in 1682 at the age of 64.

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Adoration of the Shepherds

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Adoration of the Shepherds

Legacy

Murillo had many pupils and followers. The prolific imitation of his paintings ensured his reputation in Spain and fame throughout Europe, and prior to the 19th century his work was more widely known than that of any other Spanish artist.

His painting Christ on the Cross is at the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego. Two of his paintings are entitled Christ After the Flagellation, and one of these is at the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, IL.

His work is also found at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and at the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Virgin and Child with a Rosary

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Virgin and Child with a Rosary

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo The Martyrdom of St Andrew

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – The Martyrdom of St. Andrew

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo The Little Fruit Seller

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – The Little Fruit Seller

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo The Holy Family 1650

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – The Holy Family (1650)

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Immaculate Conception c1678

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Immaculate Conception (c1678)

 

Life and Paintings of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617   1682)   Murillo Christ the Good Shepherd

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – Christ the Good Shepherd

 

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Paul Cézanne - Card Players

Masters of Art: Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. The line attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that Cézanne “is the father of us all” cannot be easily dismissed.

Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields. The paintings convey Cézanne’s intense study of his subjects.

Movements: Post-Impressionism, Modernism 

The Cézannes lived in the town of Cesana now in West Piedmont, and the surname may be of Italian origin. Paul Cézanne was born on 19 January 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, in Provence in the South of France. On 22 February, Paul was baptized in the parish church, with his grandmother and uncle Louis as godparents. His father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne (28 July 1798 – 23 October 1886), was the co-founder of a banking firm that prospered throughout the artist’s life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance.

Masters of Art: Paul Cézanne (1839   1906)   Paul Cézanne Mardi Gras 764x1024

Paul Cézanne – Mardi Gras

On the other hand, his mother, Anne Elisabeth Honorine Aubert (24 September 1814 – 25 October 1897),  was “vivacious and romantic, but quick to take offence”. It was from her that Paul got his conception and vision of life. He also had two younger sisters, Marie and Rose, with whom he went to a primary school every day.

At the age of ten Paul entered the Saint Joseph school in Aix. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon (now Collège Mignet), where he met and became friends with Émile Zola, who was in a less advanced class, as well as Baptistin Baille—three friends who would come to be known as “les trois inséparables” (the three inseparables).

He stayed there for six years, though in the last two years he was a day scholar. In 1857 he began attending the Free Municipal School of Drawing in Aix, where he studied drawing under Joseph Gibert, a Spanish monk. From 1858 to 1861, complying with his father’s wishes, Cézanne attended the law school of the University of Aix, while also receiving drawing lessons.

Going against the objections of his banker father, he committed himself to pursuing his artistic development and left Aix for Paris in 1861. He was strongly encouraged to make this decision by Zola, who was already living in the capital at the time. Eventually, his father reconciled with Cézanne and supported his choice of career. Cézanne later received an inheritance of 400,000 francs (£218,363.62) from his father, which rid him of all financial worries.

 

In Paris, Cézanne met the Impressionist Camille Pissarro. Initially the friendship formed in the mid-1860s between Pissarro and Cézanne was that of master and disciple, in which Pissarro exerted a formative influence on the younger artist. Over the course of the following decade their landscape painting excursions together, in Louveciennes and Pontoise, led to a collaborative working relationship between equals.

Claude Monet - Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting.

The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.

Movements: Impressionism

Claude Monet was born on 14 November 1840 on the 5th floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On 20 May 1841, he was baptized in the local parish church, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, as Oscar-Claude, but his parents called him simply Oscar. In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery business, but Monet wanted to become an artist. His mother was a singer. On 1 April 1851, Monet entered Le Havre secondary school of the arts.

Locals knew him well for his charcoal caricatures, which he would sell for ten to twenty francs. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857, he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin, who became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet “en plein air” (outdoor) techniques for painting. Both received the influence of Johan Barthold Jongkind. On 28 January 1857, his mother died. At the age of sixteen, he left school and went to live with his widowed childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.

When Monet traveled to Paris to visit the Louvre, he witnessed painters copying from the old masters. Having brought his paints and other tools with him, he would instead go and sit by a window and paint what he saw. Monet was in Paris for several years and met other young painters who would become friends and fellow impressionists; among them was Édouard Manet.

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840   1926)   Claude Monet The Picnic 1024x716 Claude Monet – The Picnic

In June 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for a seven-year commitment, but, two years later, after he had contracted typhoid fever, his aunt intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at an art school. It is possible that the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, whom Monet knew, may have prompted his aunt on this matter. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at art schools, in 1862 Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken color and rapid brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.

Monet’s Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La femme à la robe verte), painted in 1866, brought him recognition and was one of many works featuring his future wife, Camille Doncieux; she was the model for the figures in Women in the Garden of the following year, as well as for On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, 1868, pictured here. Camille became pregnant and gave birth to their first child, Jean in 1867.

After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870), Monet took refuge in England in September 1870, where he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet’s innovations in the study of color. In the spring of 1871, Monet’s works were refused authorisation for inclusion in the Royal Academy exhibition.  In May 1871, he left London to live in Zaandam, in the Netherlands, where he made twenty-five paintings (and the police suspected him of revolutionary activities). He also paid a first visit to nearby Amsterdam. In October or November 1871, he returned to France. Monet lived from December 1871 to 1878 at Argenteuil, a village on the right bank of the Seine river near Paris, and a popular Sunday-outing destination for Parisians, where he painted some of his best known works. In 1874, he briefly returned to Holland.

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840   1926)   Claude Monet Impression Sunrise 1024x878 Claude Monet – Impression, Sunrise

In 1872, he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) depicting a Le Havre port landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. From the painting’s title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term “Impressionism”, which he intended as disparagement but which the Impressionists appropriated for themselves.  Also in this exhibition was a painting titled Boulevard des Capucines, a painting of the boulevard done from the photographer Nadar’s apartment at no. 35. There were, however, two paintings by Monet of the boulevard: one is now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the other in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. It has never become clear which painting appeared in the groundbreaking 1874 exhibition, though more recently the Moscow picture has been favoured.

Monet and Camille Doncieux had married just before the war (28 June 1870)  and, after their excursion to London and Zaandam, they had moved to Argenteuil, in December 1871. It was during this time that Monet painted various works of modern life. Camille became ill in 1876. They had a second son, Michel, on 17 March 1878, (Jean was born in 1867). This second child weakened her already fading health. In that same year, Monet moved to the village of Vétheuil. On 5 September 1879, Camille Monet died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-two; Monet painted her on her death bed.

After several difficult months following the death of Camille in September, 1879, a grief-stricken Monet (resolving never to be mired in poverty again) began in earnest to create some of his best paintings of the 19th century. During the early 1880s, Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. His extensive campaigns evolved into his series’ paintings.

During the 1890s, Monet built a greenhouse and a second studio, a spacious building well lit with skylights. Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s through the end of his life in 1926, Monet worked on “series” paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. Fifteen of the paintings were exhibited at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1891. He later produced several series of paintings including: Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, the Parliament, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies that were painted on his property at Giverny.

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840   1926)   Claude Monet The Studio Boat 1024x769 Claude Monet – The Studio Boat

Monet was fond of painting controlled nature: his own gardens in Giverny, with its water lilies, pond, and bridge. He also painted up and down the banks of the Seine, producing paintings such as Break-up of the ice on the Seine. He wrote daily instructions to his gardener, precise designs and layouts for plantings, and invoices for his floral purchases and his collection of botany books. As Monet’s wealth grew, his garden evolved. He remained its architect, even after he hired seven gardeners. Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, where he painted landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two important series—views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. His second wife, Alice, died in 1911 and his oldest son Jean, who had married Alice’s daughter Blanche, Monet’s particular favourite, died in 1914. After Alice died, Blanche looked after and cared for Monet. It was during this time that Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts.

During World War I, in which his younger son Michel served and his friend and admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, Monet painted a series of weeping willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers. In 1923, he underwent two operations to remove his cataracts: the paintings done while the cataracts affected his vision have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims. It may also be that after surgery he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are normally excluded by the lens of the eye; this may have had an effect on the colors he perceived. After his operations he even repainted some of these paintings, with bluer water lilies than before.

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840   1926)   Claude Monet The Picnic 1024x716 Claude Monet – The Picnic

Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery. Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple; thus only about fifty people attended the ceremony. His home, garden and waterlily pond were bequeathed by his son Michel, his only heir, to the French Academy of Fine Arts (part of the Institut de France) in 1966.

Masters of Art: Claude Monet (1840   1926)   Claude Monet On the Bank of the Seine Bennecourt 1024x819 Claude Monet – On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt

Through the Foundation Claude Monet, the house and gardens were opened for visits in 1980, following restoration. In addition to souvenirs of Monet and other objects of his life, the house contains his collection of Japanese woodcut prints. The house is one of the two main attractions of Giverny, which hosts tourists from all over the world.

Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone (12)

Life and Paintings of Giotto (1266 – 1337)

Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance.

Giotto’s contemporary, the banker and chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence.”

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

The late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari describes Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating “the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”

Giotto’s masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, also known as the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Comune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and his burial place.

It has been traditional to hold that Giotto was born in a hilltop farmhouse, perhaps at Colle di Romagnano or Romignano; since 1850 a tower house in nearby Colle Vespignano, a hamlet 35 kilometres north of Florence, has borne a plaque claiming the honour of his birthplace, an assertion commercially publicized. Very recent research, however, has suggested that he was actually born in Florence, the son of a blacksmith. His father’s name was Bondone, described in surviving public records as “a person of good standing”. Most authors accept that Giotto was his real name, but it may have been an abbreviation of Ambrogio (Ambrogiotto) or Angelo (Angelotto).

The year of his birth is calculated from the fact that Antonio Pucci, the town crier of Florence, wrote a poem in Giotto’s honour in which it is stated that he was 70 at the time of his death. However, the word “seventy” fits into the rhyme of the poem better than would have a longer and more complex age, so it is possible that Pucci used artistic license.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

In his Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari relates that Giotto was a shepherd boy, a merry and intelligent child who was loved by all who knew him. The great Florentine painter Cimabue discovered Giotto drawing pictures of his sheep on a rock. They were so lifelike that Cimabue approached Bondone and asked if he could take the boy as an apprentice. Cimabue was one of the two most highly renowned painters of Tuscany, the other being Duccio, who worked mainly in Siena.

Vasari recounts a number of such stories about Giotto’s skill. He writes that when Cimabue was absent from the workshop, his young apprentice painted such a lifelike fly on the face of the painting that Cimabue was working on, that he tried several times to brush it off. Vasari also relates that when the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto, asking him to send a drawing to demonstrate his skill, Giotto drew, in red paint, a circle so perfect that it seemed as though it was drawn using a compass and instructed the messenger to give that to the Pope.

Many scholars today are uncertain about Giotto’s training, and consider that Vasari’s story that he was Cimabue’s pupil is legendary, citing early sources which suggest that Giotto was not Cimabue’s pupil. Giotto’s art shares many qualities with Roman paintings of the later 13th century. Cimabue may have been working in Rome in this period, and there was an active local school of fresco painters, of whom the most famous was Pietro Cavallini. The famous Florentine sculptor and architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, was then also working in Rome.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

From Rome, Cimabue went to Assisi to paint several large frescoes at the newly built Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, and it is possible, but not certain, that Giotto went with him. The attribution of the fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis in the Upper Church has been one of the most hotly disputed in art history. The documents of the Franciscan Friars that relate to artistic commissions during this period were destroyed by Napoleon’s troops, who stabled horses in the Upper Church of the Basilica, and scholars have been divided over whether or not Giotto was responsible for the Francis Cycle. In the absence of documentary evidence to the contrary, it has been convenient to ascribe every fresco in the Upper Church that was not obviously by Cimabue to Giotto, whose prestige has overshadowed that of almost every contemporary. Some of the earliest remaining biographical sources, such as Ghiberti and Riccobaldo Ferrarese, suggest that the fresco cycle of the life of St Francis in the Upper Church was his earliest autonomous work. However, since the idea was put forward by the German art historian, Friedrich Rintelen in 1912,many scholars have expressed doubt that Giotto was in fact the author of the Upper Church frescoes. Without documentation, arguments on the attribution have relied upon connoisseurship, a notoriously unreliable “science.”

However, technical examinations and comparisons of the workshop painting processes at Assisi and Padua in 2002 have provided strong evidence that Giotto did not paint the St. Francis Cycle. There are many differences between the Francis Cycle and the Arena Chapel frescoes that are difficult to account for by the stylistic development of an individual artist. It seems quite possible that several hands painted the Assisi frescoes, and that the artists were probably from Rome. If this is the case, then Giotto’s frescoes at Padua owe much to the naturalism of these painters.

The authorship of a large number of panel paintings ascribed to Giotto by Vasari, among others, is as broadly disputed as the Assisi frescoes. According to Vasari, Giotto’s earliest works were for the Dominicans at Santa Maria Novella. These include a fresco of the Annunciation and the enormous suspended Crucifix, which is about 5 metres high. It has been dated around 1290 and is therefore contemporary with the Assisi frescoes. Other early works are the San Giorgio alla Costa Madonna and Child now in the Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte, Florence, and the signed panel of the Stigmata of St. Francis, once in San Francesco at Pisa, today in the Louvre.

In 1287, at the age of about 20, Giotto married Ricevuta di Lapo del Pela, known as “Ciuta”. The couple had numerous children, (perhaps as many as eight) one of whom, Francesco, became a painter. Giotto worked in Rome in 1297–1300, but few traces of his presence there remain today. The Basilica of St. John Lateran houses a small portion of a fresco cycle, painted for the Jubilee of 1300 called by Boniface VIII. In this period he also painted the Badia Polyptych, now in the Uffizi, Florence.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

Giotto’s fame as a painter spread. He was called to work in Padua, and also in Rimini, where today only a Crucifix remains in the Church of St. Francis, painted before 1309. This work influenced the rise of the Riminese school of Giovanni and Pietro da Rimini. According to documents of 1301 and 1304, Giotto by this time possessed large estates in Florence, and it is probable that he was already leading a large workshop and receiving commissions from throughout Italy.

Around 1305 Giotto executed his most influential work, the painted decoration of the interior of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Enrico degli Scrovegni commissioned the chapel to serve as a family worship and burial space, even though his parish church was nearby; its construction caused some consternation among the clerics at the Eremitani church next door.  It has also been speculated that Enrico commissioned the chapel as a penitence for his sin of usury (i.e. charging interest for lending money), which at the time was considered unjust. In fact, Dante himself accused Enrico’s father of it and condemned him in his Divine Comedy.  The presence of Enrico near the center of The Final Judgement, handing the Arena Chapel to the Three Marys, on the virtuous side of the judgement and not with the other usurers (shown hanging by the strings of their money bags on the opposite side) may also be seen as proof of his repentance. This chapel is externally a very plain building of pink brick which was constructed next to an older palace that Scrovegni was restoring for himself. The palace, now gone, and the chapel were on the site of a Roman arena, for which reason it is commonly known as the Arena Chapel.

The theme is Salvation, and there is an emphasis on the Virgin Mary, as the chapel is dedicated to the Annunciation and to the Virgin of Charity. As is common in the decoration of the medieval period in Italy, the west wall is dominated by the Last Judgement. On either side of the chancel are complementary paintings of the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, depicting the Annunciation. This scene is incorporated into the cycles of The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Life of Christ. The source for The Life of the Virgin is the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Voragine while The Life of Christ draws upon the Meditations on the Life of Christ by the Pseudo-Bonaventura. The frescoes are more than mere illustrations of familiar texts, however, and scholars have found numerous sources for Giotto’s interpretations of sacred stories.

The cycle is divided into 37 scenes, arranged around the lateral walls in three tiers, starting in the upper register with the story of Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin and continuing with the story of Mary. The life of Jesus occupies two registers. The Last Judgment fills the entire pictorial space of the counter-façade.

The top right hand tier deals with the lives of Mary’s parents, the left of her early life and the middle tier deals with the early life and miracles of Christ.

The bottom tier on both sides is concerned with the Passions of Christ. He is depicted mainly in profile, as is customary, historically, when depicting persons of importance. His eyes point continuously to the right, perhaps to guide the viewer onwards in the episodes. The kiss of Judas near the end of the sequence signals the close of this left-to-right procession.

Much of the blue in the fresco has been worn away by time. This is because Enrico degli Scrovegni ordered that, because of the expense of the pigment ultramarine blue used, it should be painted on top of the already dry fresco stucco fresco to preserve its brilliance. For this reason it has disintegrated faster than the other colors which have been fastened within the plaster of the fresco. An example of this decay can clearly be seen on the robe of Christ as he sits on the donkey.

Between the scenes are quatrefoil paintings of Old Testament scenes, like Jonah and the Whale that allegorically correspond and perhaps foretell the life of Christ.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

While Cimabue painted in a manner that is clearly Medieval, having aspects of both the Byzantine and the Gothic, Giotto’s style draws on the solid and classicizing sculpture of Arnolfo di Cambio. Unlike those by Cimabue and Duccio, Giotto’s figures are not stylized or elongated and do not follow set Byzantine models. They are solidly three-dimensional, have faces and gestures that are based on close observation, and are clothed not in swirling formalized drapery, but in garments that hang naturally and have form and weight. He also took bold steps in foreshortening and with having character face inwards, with their backs towards the observer creating the illusion of space. however, the Medieval tradition of only representing a few faces is continued in Giotto’s representation of the apostles in the Lamentations seen. Those whose faces can be seen show incredible emotion but the others are refused to the form of a group of background halos. What he did achieve was, regardless, remarkable. Although aspects of this trend in painting had already appeared in Rome in the work of Pietro Cavallini and at Assisi, Giotto took it so much further that he earned the reputation for setting a new standard for representational painting.

The heavily sculptural figures occupy compressed settings with naturalistic elements, often using forced perspective devices so that they resemble stage sets. This similarity is increased by Giotto’s careful arrangement of the figures in such a way that the viewer appears to have a particular place and even an involvement in many of the scenes. This dramatic immediacy was a new feature, which is also seen to some extent in the Upper Church at Assisi.

Famous narratives in the series include the Adoration of the Magi, in which a comet-like Star of Bethlehem streaks across the sky. Giotto is thought to have been inspired by the 1301 appearance of Halley’s comet, which led to the name Giotto being given to a 1986 space probe to the comet. Another famous scene is the Lamentation, in which Giotto adapted the traditional Byzantine iconography of the scene to create an emotional representation that draws the viewer into the sacred narrative.

Giotto’s depiction of the human face and emotion sets his work apart from that of his contemporaries. When the disgraced Joachim returns sadly to the hillside, the two young shepherds look sideways at each other. The soldier who drags a baby from its screaming mother in the Massacre of the Innocents does so with his head hunched into his shoulders and a look of shame on his face. The people on the road to Egypt gossip about Mary and Joseph as they go. Of Giotto’s realism, the 19th-century English critic John Ruskin said “He painted the Madonna and St. Joseph and the Christ, yes, by all means … but essentially Mamma, Papa and Baby.”

Among those frescoes in Padua which have been lost are those in the Basilica of. St. Anthony and the Palazzo della Ragione, which are however from a later sojourn in Padua.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

Numerous painters from northern Italy were influenced by Giotto’s work in Padua including Guariento, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Jacopo Avanzi, and Altichiero.

From 1306 to 1311 Giotto was in Assisi, where he painted frescoes in the transept area of the Lower Church, including The Life of Christ, Franciscan Allegories and the Maddalena Chapel, drawing on stories from the Golden Legend and including the portrait of bishop Teobaldo Pontano who commissioned the work. Several assistants are mentioned, including one Palerino di Guido. However, the style demonstrates developments from Giotto’s work at Padua.

In 1311 Giotto returned to Florence. A document from 1313 about his furniture there shows that he had spent a period in Rome some time before. It is now thought that he produced the design for the famous Navicella mosaic for the courtyard of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica in 1310, commissioned by Cardinal Giacomo or Jacopo Stefaneschi and now lost to the Renaissance church, except for some fragments and a Baroque reconstruction. According to the cardinal’s necrology he also at least designed the Stefaneschi Triptych, a double-sided altarpiece for St. Peter’s, now in the Vatican Pinacoteca. But the style seems unlikely for either Giotto or his normal Florentine assistants, so he may have had his design executed by an ad hoc workshop of Romans.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

In Florence, where documents from 1314–1327 attest to his financial activities, Giotto painted an altarpiece known as the Ognissanti Madonna and now in the Uffizi where it is exhibited beside Cimabue’s Santa Trinita Madonna and Duccio’s Rucellai Madonna. The Ognissanti altarpiece is the only panel painting by Giotto that has been universally accepted by scholars, and this despite the fact that it is undocumented. It was painted for the church of the Ognissanti (all saints) in Florence, which was built by an obscure religious order known as the Humiliati. It is a large painting (325 x 204 cm), and scholars are divided on whether it was made for the main altar of the church, where it would have been viewed primarily by the brothers of the order or for the choir screen, where it would have been more easily seen by a lay audience.

At this time he also painted the Dormition of the Virgin, now in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie and the Crucifix in the Church of Ognissanti.

According to Lorenzo Ghiberti, Giotto painted chapels for four different Florentine families in the church of Santa Croce, although he does not identify which chapels they were. It is only with Vasari that the four chapels are identified: the Bardi Chapel (Life of St. Francis), the Peruzzi Chapel (Life of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, perhaps including a polyptych of Madonna with Saints now in the Museum of Art of Raleigh, North Carolina) and the lost Giugni Chapel (Stories of the Apostles) and the Tosinghi Spinelli Chapel (Stories of the Holy Virgin). As with almost everything in Giotto’s career, the dates of the fresco decorations that survive in Santa Croce are disputed. The Bardi Chapel, immediately to the right of the main chapel of the church, was painted in true fresco, and to some scholars the simplicity of its settings seems relatively close to those of Padua, while the Peruzzi Chapel’s more complex settings suggest a later date. The Peruzzi Chapel is adjacent to the Bardi Chapel and was largely painted a secco. This technique, quicker but less durable than true fresco, has resulted in a fresco decoration that survives in a seriously deteriorated condition. Scholars who date this cycle earlier in Giotto’s career see the growing interest in architectural expansion that it displays as close to the developments of the giottesque frescoes in the Lower Church at Assisi, while the Bardi frescoes have a new softness of color that indicates the artist going in a different direction, probably under the influence of Sienese art, and so must be a later development.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

The Peruzzi Chapel pairs three frescoes from the life of St. John the Baptist (The Annunciation of John’s Birth to his father Zacharias; The Birth and Naming of John; The Feast of Herod) on the left wall with three scenes from the life of St. John the Evangelist (The Visions of John on Ephesus; The Raising of Drusiana; The Ascension of John) on the right wall. The choice of scenes has been related to both the patrons and the Franciscans.Because of the serious condition of the frescoes, it is difficult to discuss Giotto’s style in the chapel, although the frescoes show signs of his typical interest in controlled naturalism and psychological penetration. The Peruzzi Chapel was especially renowned during Renaissance times. Giotto’s compositions influenced Masaccio’s Brancacci Chapels, and Michelangelo is known to have studied the frescoes.

The Bardi Chapel depicts the life of St. Francis, following a similar iconography to the frescoes in the Upper Church at Assisi, dating from 20–30 years earlier. A comparison makes apparent the greater attention given by Giotto to expression in the human figures and the simpler, better-integrated architectural forms. Giotto represents only 7 scenes from the saint’s life here, and the narrative is arranged somewhat unusually. The story starts on the upper left wall with St. Francis Renounces his Father. It continues across the chapel to the upper right wall with the Approval of the Franciscan Rule, moves down the right wall to the Trial by Fire, across the chapel again to the left wall for the Appearance at Arles, down the left wall to the Death of St. Francis, and across once more to the posthumous Visions of Fra Agostino and the Bishop of Assisi. The Stigmatization of St. Francis, which chronologically belongs between the Appearance at Arles and the Death, is located outside the chapel, above the entrance arch. This arrangement encourages viewers to link scenes together: to pair frescoes across the chapel space or relate triads of frescoes along each wall. These linkings suggest meaningful symbolic relationships between different events in St. Francis’s life.

In 1320 Giotto finished the Stefaneschi Triptych, now in the Vatican Museum, for Cardinal Giacomo (or Jacopo) Gaetano Stefaneschi, who also commissioned him to decorate the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica with a cycle of frescoes that were destroyed during the 16th century renovation. According to Vasari, Giotto remained in Rome for six years, subsequently receiving numerous commissions in Italy and in the Papal seat at Avignon, though some of these works are now recognized to be by other artists.

In 1328 the altarpiece of the Baroncelli Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence was completed. This work, previously ascribed to Giotto, is now believed to be mostly a work by assistants, including Taddeo Gaddi who later frescoed the chapel). Giotto was called by King Robert of Anjou to Naples where he remained with a group of pupils until 1333. Few of Giotto’s Neapolitan works have survived: a fragment of a fresco portraying the Lamentation of Christ in the church of Santa Chiara, and the Illustrious Men painted on the windows of the Santa Barbara Chapel of Castel Nuovo (which are usually attributed to his pupils). In 1332 King Robert named him “first court painter” with a yearly pension.

After Naples Giotto stayed for a while in Bologna, where he painted a Polyptych for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and, according to the sources, a lost decoration for the Chapel in the Cardinal Legate’s Castle.

In 1334 Giotto was appointed chief architect to Florence Cathedral, of which the Campanile (founded by him on July 18, 1334) bears his name, but was not completed to his design.

Before 1337 he was in Milan with Azzone Visconti, though no trace of works by him remain in the city. His last known work (with assistants’ help) is the decoration of Podestà Chapel in the Bargello, Florence.

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

In his final years Giotto had become friends with Boccaccio and Sacchetti, who featured him in their stories. In The Divine Comedy, Dante acknowledged the greatness of his living contemporary through the words of a painter in Purgatorio (XI, 94–96): “Cimabue believed that he held the field/In painting, and now Giotto has the cry,/ So the fame of the former is obscure.”

Giotto died in January 1337. According to Vasari, Giotto was buried in Santa Maria del Fiore, the Cathedral of Florence, on the left of the entrance and with the spot marked by a white marble plaque. According to other sources, he was buried in the Church of Santa Reparata. These apparently contradictory reports are explained by the fact that the remains of Santa Reparata lie directly beneath the Cathedral and the church continued in use while the construction of the cathedral was proceeding in the early 14th century.

During an excavation in the 1970s bones were discovered beneath the paving of Santa Reparata at a spot close to the location given by Vasari, but unmarked on either level. Forensic examination of the bones by anthropologist Francesco Mallegni and a team of experts in 2000 brought to light some facts that seemed to confirm that they were those of a painter, particularly the range of chemicals, including arsenic and lead, both commonly found in paint, that the bones had absorbed.

The bones were those of a very short man, of little over four feet tall, who may have suffered from a form of congenital dwarfism. This supports a tradition at the Church of Santa Croce that a dwarf who appears in one of the frescoes is a self-portrait of Giotto. On the other hand, a man wearing a white hat who appears in the Last Judgement at Padua is also said to be a portrait of Giotto. The appearance of this man conflicts with the image in Santa Croce.

Vasari, drawing on a description by Boccaccio, who was a friend of Giotto, says of him that “there was no uglier man in the city of Florence” and indicates that his children were also plain in appearance. There is a story that Dante visited Giotto while he was painting the Scrovegni Chapel and, seeing the artist’s children underfoot asked how a man who painted such beautiful pictures could create such plain children, to which Giotto, who according to Vasari was always a wit, replied “I made them in the dark.”

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

Forensic reconstruction of the skeleton at Santa Reperata showed a short man with a very large head, a large hooked nose and one eye more prominent than the other. The bones of the neck indicated that the man spent a lot of time with his head tilted backwards. The front teeth were worn in a way consistent with frequently holding a brush between the teeth. The man was about 70 at the time of death.

While the Italian researchers were convinced that the body belonged to Giotto and it was reburied with honour near the grave of Brunelleschi, others have been highly skeptical.

 

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Life and Paintings of Giotto Di Bondone

 

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