Monday, May 29, 2017

Tempera Painting on Wooden Panels in Renaissance Italy

Giotto
Entombment of Mary
1310
tempera on panel
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Giotto
Maestà (Ognissanti Madonna)
ca. 1306-10
tempera on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Agnolo Gaddi
Four Saints in niches
(Mary Magdalene, St Benedict, St Bernard, St Catherine)

ca. 1380-90
tempera on panel
Indianapolis Museum of Art

"But if it is the duty of the historian to seek for evidence in which moral judgment is tempered by human sympathy, he will find no authority comparable in value to the work so often quoted of Pierio Valeriano, On the Infelicity of the Scholar.  It was written under the gloomy impressions left by the sack of Rome, which seems to the writer, not only the direct cause of untold misery to the men of learning, but, as it were, the fulfillment of an evil destiny which had long pursued them.  Pierio is here led by a simple and, on the whole, just feeling.  He does not introduce a special power, which plagued the men of genius on account of their genius, but he states facts, in which an unlucky chance often wears the aspect of fatality.  Not wishing to write a tragedy or to refer events to the conflict of higher powers, he is content to lay before us the scenes of everyday life.  We are introduced to men, who in times of trouble lose, first their incomes, and then their places; to others who, in trying to get two appointments, miss both; to unsociable misers, who carry about their money sewn into their clothes, and die mad when they are robbed of it; to others, who accept well-paid offices, and then sicken with a melancholy longing for their lost freedom.  We read how some died young of plague or fever, and how the writings which had cost them so much toil were burnt with their bed and clothes; how others lived in terror of the murderous threats of their colleagues; how one was slain by a covetous servant, and another caught by a highwayman on a journey, and left to pine in a dungeon, because unable to pay his ransom.  Many died of unspoken grief for the insults they received and the prizes of which they were defrauded.  We are told of the death of a Venetian, because his son, a youthful prodigy, was dead; and the mother and brothers followed, as if the lost child drew them all after him.  Many, especially Florentines, ended their lives by suicide; others through the secret justice of a tyrant.  Who, after all, is happy? – and by what means?"

 from The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt (English translation by S.G.C. Middlemore, published by Phaidon Press, 1937)

Luca Signorelli
Madonna of Mercy with St Sebastian and St Bernardino da Siena
ca. 1490
tempera on panel
Fondazione Musei Senesi, Siena

Carlo Crivelli
St Francis collecting the Blood of Christ
ca. 1490-1500
tempera on panel
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

Cima da Conegliano
Rest on the Flight into Egypt
with St John the Baptist, St Lucy and Angels

ca. 1496-98
tempera and oil on panel
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Andrea Mantegna
Christ as suffering Redeemer
ca. 1495-1500
tempera on panel
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Paolo da San Leocadio
Lamentation
1507
tempera and oil on panel
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Ercole de’ Roberti
Pietà
ca. 1482-86
tempera and oil on panel
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Ercole de' Roberti
St Jerome in the Wilderness
ca. 1470
tempera on panel
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Ercole de’ Roberti
Portia and Brutus
ca. 1486-90
tempera on panel
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Sandro Botticelli
Madonna of the Book
1480
tempera on panel
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

Sandro Botticelli
Madonna adoring Child with five Angels
ca. 1485-90
tempera and oil on panel
Baltimore Museum of Art

Michelangelo
Holy Family (Doni Tondo)
1506-08
tempera on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Neapolitan Baroque Painter Mattia Preti

Mattia Preti
Workman with cord
before 1699
drawing
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Mattia Preti
Flying Angel with book
before 1699
drawing
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Mattia Preti
Angel blowing trumpet
ca. 1652
drawing
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"Although Mattia Preti (1613-1699) spent much of his life elsewhere, he is traditionally associated with the city of Naples.  Together with Luca Giordano, Preti extended the reputation of Neapolitan painting throughout Italy and internationally.  Originally from Calabria in southern Italy, Preti went to Rome around 1630, sharing a room with his brother Gregorio who had arrived about two years earlier.  Gregorio may have been Mattia's principal teacher, although they both also studied at the Accademia di San Luca.

While in Rome during the 1630s and 1640s, Preti achieved his first success.  His easel paintings, particularly his early ones, are painted in the style of Caravaggio.  His mature style, which reached its epitome in Naples from 1653 to 1660, is intensely dramatic, uniting a Caravaggesque realism and expressive chiaroscuro with the grandeur and theatricality of Venetian artists like Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto.  In 1661 Preti went to the island of Malta, where he remained for the rest of his life.  While receiving most of the island's church commissions, he also worked for patrons across Europe.  Preti's contributions to the late Baroque style in Naples greatly inspired later painters, notably Francesco Solimena."

 biographical notes from the Getty Museum

Mattia Preti
Doubting Thomas
ca. 1656-60
oil on canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Mattia Preti
Calling of Matthew
ca. 1635-40
oil on canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Mattia Preti
Feast of Herod
ca. 1656-61
canvas
Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio

"For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.  For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.  Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.  And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.  And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask?  And she said, the head of John the Baptist.  And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.  And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.  And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother."

 from the book of Mark, chapter 6, verses 17-29 of the King James Bible, first published in 1611

Mattia Preti
St Veronica with Veil
ca. 1655-60
oil on canvas
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Mattia Preti
Erminia, Princess of Antioch
 
(character in Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, 1581)
ca. 1655-60
oil on canvas
private collection

Mattia Preti
Clorinda rescues Olindo and Sophronia from the Stake
(scene from Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso, 1581)
1646
oil on canvas
Musei di Strada Nuova, Genoa

When near the fatal place the virgin drew
And the dire scene appear'd before her view
She spurred her steed t'observe the victims nigh,
And learn th'unhappy cause for which they die.
The yielding crowd gave way: the curious maid
With steadfast eyes the pair in bonds surveyed. 
One mourn'd aloud, and one in silence stood,
The weaker sex the great firmness show'd:
Yet seem'd Olindo like a man to moan
Who wept another's sufferings, not his own;
While silent she, and fix'd on heaven her eyes,
Already seemed to claim her kindred skies.

Clorinda view'd their fate with tender woe,
And down her cheeks the tears began to flow:
Yet most she griev'd for her who grief disdain'd,
And silence, more than plaints, her pity gained.
Then to an aged sire who stood beside, 
Say, who are those to death devote (she cry'd).
Declare what brought them to this woeful state,
Some secret crime, or blind decree of fate?
Thus she. The reverend sire in brief display'd
Their mournful story to the listening maid:
She heard, surpriz'd such matchless worth to find,
And both aquitted in her equal mind.
To save from threatened death th'unhappy pair
She ran, she stopp'd the flame with eager haste
(Already kindling) and the guards addres'd:

"None in this cruel office dare to move,
Till to the monarch I my suit approve:
My power, believe me, shall protect your stay,
Nor shall your sovereign chide your short delay."

 from Jerusalem Delivered : an Heroic Poem (book 2) translated from the Italian of Torquato Tasso by John Hoole (London : J. Dodsley, 1787)

Mattia Preti
Plato and Diogenes
1649
oil on canvas
Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome

Mattia Preti
Crucifixion of St Andrew
ca. 1651
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Mattia Preti
Death of Sophonisba
ca. 1650-70
oil on canvas
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

SOPHONISBA  

"Alas, Corisba, Fate hath vowed my ruin,
And human power collides with that of heaven.
The gods, whom doubtless my good fortune wearied,
Are not yet satisfied by my past misfortunes,
And I myself dare prophecy to myself
That they reserve for me still something worse.
The dreams that I have had the last few nights
Foretell for me no ordinary woes,
And what assures me better of their truth
Is that I who, far from believing in dreams,
Have always held them lying and absurd,
Produced by an excess of heavy vapors,
Cannot prevent myself from crediting
These last ones, which are all of evil omen."

 from Sophonisba : A Tragedy by Jean Mairet (1634)

Mattia Preti
Martyrdom of St Paul
ca. 1654-61
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Mattia Preti
Votive design for plague relief with Madonna and Child
(bozzetto for fresco)

1656
oil on canvas
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Mattia Preti
Christ in Glory with Saints
ca. 1660-61
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Mattia Preti
Baptism of Christ
1661
ceiling fresco
St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta

Painting of the 1870s, mostly French

Alfred Sisley
Bridge at Villeneuve la Garenne
1872
oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Alfred Sisley
Villeneuve la Garenne
1872
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"How could one deny the existence of collective fashions? But I have to say that often they are negative. What can easily happen is a kind of social taboo. Certain things are not done. After the triumph of Impressionism, no one who wished to be taken seriously would paint purely photographic or anecdotal pictures. I call this in one of my papers 'the principle of exclusion'. If you accept this exclusion there are many things you can still do, provided you do not do what is now socially taboo, which is considered passé and vieux jeu. You are then confronted with a new array of possibilities and only those who are really original and inventive can, within these new limitations, create something which becomes accepted, and a fashion. So, the negative is very important in the history of art."

Claude Monet
Seine at Rouen
1872
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Claude Monet
Seine at Asnières
1873
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"It means that, again, certain possibilities are denied to the artist. Because they have been done before, they are taboo now. And one element in the situation is that he wants to be a success. He wants to make an impression. He is groping his way (not of course consciously) towards something which will be accepted. I sometimes compare it to the growth of a tree. A tree in a wood will always move towards the light. And an artist also develops towards the light, towards people who favor him. He will notice that, unexpectedly perhaps, this or that innovation really makes an impression and he will go on in that direction. I do not want to give the impression that artists are all opportunists. But up to a point everybody wants to please. I touch on this problem in the introduction to The Story of Art, where I quote a letter by Mozart from Paris, where he says: every symphony here starts with a fast movement so I start with a slow introduction. That is part of the logic of the situation: being different and yet acceptable. There is also a limit beyond which it ceases to pay off: if you do something entirely different, it is unintelligible." 

– from Looking for Answers: Conversations on Art and Science, by Ernst Gombrich with Didier Eribon (Abrams, 1993)

Claude Monet
Corner of the garden at Montgeron
ca. 1876
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Claude Monet
Pond at Montgeron
ca. 1876
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Pool in a Harem
ca. 1876
canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Alfred Stevens
After the Ball
1874
oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Claude Monet
Garden
1876
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier
Musketeer
1870
oil on panel
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Paul Cézanne
Apples, Peaches, Pears, Grapes
ca. 1879-80
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Paul Cézanne
Fruit
ca. 1879
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Paul Cézanne
Jas de Boufon - The Pool
ca. 1876
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

John Singer Sargent
A Road in the South
ca. 1878
oil on canvas
Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Modernism's Brokenness and Ruthlessness

Odilon Redon
Cellule auriculaire
1893
lithograph
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Edvard Munch
Death of Marat
1907
oil on canvas
Munch Museum, Oslo

"Modernism's brokenness and ruthlessness, say its enemies, are willed, forced, and ultimately futile.  We may even have escaped from them at last.  Modernism's extremity, say its false friends, is just surface appearance, beneath which the real matter of art  not just delights of manufacture, but what those delights have always given onto, moments of vision, here-and-now totalities, a usable past  is kept in being, no doubt against the odds.  When I say "false friends," it is not that I doubt the passion of their defense, or even that its rhetoric corresponds to much that modernists said of themselves.  But modernism, we shall see, is a process that deeply misrecognizes its own nature for much of the time.  How could it not be?  It is Art.  And for Art to abandon what Art most intensely had been, and nonetheless to proceed, nonetheless to go on imagining the world otherwise  just otherwise, not epitomized or complete  is not likely to happen without all kinds of reaction-formation on the part of artists."

 T.J. Clark, from Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (Yale University Press, 1999)

Edvard Munch
Shore with red house
1904
oil on canvas
Munch Museum, Oslo

Edgar Degas
Woman ironing
ca. 1892-95
oil on canvas
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Ladies in the dining room
ca. 1893-95
oil on cardboard
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Eugène Jansson
Ring Gymnast I
1911
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Koloman Moser
Loïe Fuller in the dance, The Archangel
1902
watercolor
Albertina, Vienna

Gustave Klimt
Hope II
1907-08
oil on canvas
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Maximilien Luce
Street in Paris in May 1871
oil on canvas
ca. 1903-06
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Nackte Mädchen unterhalten sich
1907
oil on canvas
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Ferdinand Hodler
The Sacred Hour
ca. 1902-1916
oil on canvas
Cincinnati Art Museum

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Study for Patriotism
ca. 1893
oil on paper
Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan

Lovis Corinth
Blind Samson
1912
oil on canvas
Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Édouard Vuillard
The Artist’s Mother opening a door
1886-87
oil on cardboard
Minneapolis Institute of Arts