A Dash of Art History

Large (Wikimedia)
Helen Allingham’s The Staircase, Whittington Court, Gloucestershire is probably not, as I’ve seen it labeled, simply a watercolor.
Watercolor, a highly translucent medium, cannot be made lighter by adding paint; highlights must be “reserved,” either with a wax resist or simply by avoiding the area.
Here, though, the woman’s dress appears to be painted in white over the shadowed wall, using the beige as the shadow of the fabric. The wood is more ambiguous, but does appear to have its highlights painted in.
Thus I suspect she also used gouache, which is basically just watercolor with something mixed in (often chalk) to make it opaque.
In any case, the fond little confrontation between a cat and her human would delight in any medium.

Large (Wikimedia)

Helen Allingham’s The Staircase, Whittington Court, Gloucestershire is probably not, as I’ve seen it labeled, simply a watercolor.

Watercolor, a highly translucent medium, cannot be made lighter by adding paint; highlights must be “reserved,” either with a wax resist or simply by avoiding the area.

Here, though, the woman’s dress appears to be painted in white over the shadowed wall, using the beige as the shadow of the fabric. The wood is more ambiguous, but does appear to have its highlights painted in.

Thus I suspect she also used gouache, which is basically just watercolor with something mixed in (often chalk) to make it opaque.

In any case, the fond little confrontation between a cat and her human would delight in any medium.

Large (Wikimedia)
There are some holidays one doesn’t expect to be able to find celebrated in paintings.
Until recently, Palm Sunday was one of those holidays for me.
Then I ran into Alfred Stevens’ Palm Sunday, from 1862.
Technically speaking, it appears that this young woman has opted for boxwood—rather more accessible in Europe than palm—but, as the Walters Art Museums writes, she nonetheless tucks the sprig of it “behind the frame of her mother’s portrait hanging on the bedroom wall. Another bough, lying on her cloak, is intended for the adjacent miniature, presumably a portrait of her father.”
There is something wonderful about the quiet memorial of it, about the care with which she slips the branch behind the wooden frame.

Large (Wikimedia)

There are some holidays one doesn’t expect to be able to find celebrated in paintings.

Until recently, Palm Sunday was one of those holidays for me.

Then I ran into Alfred Stevens’ Palm Sunday, from 1862.

Technically speaking, it appears that this young woman has opted for boxwood—rather more accessible in Europe than palm—but, as the Walters Art Museums writes, she nonetheless tucks the sprig of it “behind the frame of her mother’s portrait hanging on the bedroom wall. Another bough, lying on her cloak, is intended for the adjacent miniature, presumably a portrait of her father.”

There is something wonderful about the quiet memorial of it, about the care with which she slips the branch behind the wooden frame.

…And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Once more unto the blogging breach, dear friends, once more!

Apologies, Dear Reader—Until Next Week

I’m afraid I’ve made the very poor tactical decision to present at a conference, a workshop, and a symposium in three consecutive weeks—during the busiest part of my academic semester.

I’m now at the halfway mark, and also ill.

For the moment, though, something has to give—so, dear reader, until next week!

Large (Wikimedia)
According to the BBC, “The Irish artist William Orpen (1878-1931) was a hugely successful society painter, and one of the first artists to be appointed as a war artist by the British Department of Information in 1917.”
This, probably his most famous piece, is The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, from 1919.
According to the Imperial War Museum, “Above [the] heads [of the Allied representatives] reads the legend ‘Le Roy Gouverne par lui même’ [The King governs alone], a pointed reference to the conference’s endless squabbling, as Germany claimed not to be able to meet the penalties imposed and the allies were unable to agree a compromise.”
The architecture lower down offers a commentary, too—fragmenting the reflections as the group itself fragments by opinion.

Large (Wikimedia)

According to the BBC, “The Irish artist William Orpen (1878-1931) was a hugely successful society painter, and one of the first artists to be appointed as a war artist by the British Department of Information in 1917.”

This, probably his most famous piece, is The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, from 1919.

According to the Imperial War Museum, “Above [the] heads [of the Allied representatives] reads the legend ‘Le Roy Gouverne par lui même’ [The King governs alone], a pointed reference to the conference’s endless squabbling, as Germany claimed not to be able to meet the penalties imposed and the allies were unable to agree a compromise.”

The architecture lower down offers a commentary, too—fragmenting the reflections as the group itself fragments by opinion.

Large (Wikimedia)
John Collier (like John William Godward) continued to paint what were—in essence—Victorian paintings, long into the 20th century.
His 1921 painting The Sleeping Beauty, with its Pre-Raphaelite-like subject, certainly upholds the claim.
Unlike Godward, though, Collier also painted landscapes and portraits: in sufficient quantities and of sufficient quality to prevent his falling wholly out of favor (and providing him, of course, an income).
But his passion landed squarely in the 19th century.
As Christie’s observes, “in the popular mind, both at the time and now, [Collier] was associated above all with the so-called ‘problem picture,’ works with teasing titles like The Cheat, The Death Sentence, The Return of the Prodigal or The Fallen Idol, ‘story-telling compositions’, as his Times obiturarist put it, ‘which still left something to the ingenuity rather than the imagination of the spectator.’”

Large (Wikimedia)

John Collier (like John William Godward) continued to paint what were—in essence—Victorian paintings, long into the 20th century.

His 1921 painting The Sleeping Beauty, with its Pre-Raphaelite-like subject, certainly upholds the claim.

Unlike Godward, though, Collier also painted landscapes and portraits: in sufficient quantities and of sufficient quality to prevent his falling wholly out of favor (and providing him, of course, an income).

But his passion landed squarely in the 19th century.

As Christie’s observes, “in the popular mind, both at the time and now, [Collier] was associated above all with the so-called ‘problem picture,’ works with teasing titles like The Cheat, The Death Sentence, The Return of the Prodigal or The Fallen Idol, ‘story-telling compositions’, as his Times obiturarist put it, ‘which still left something to the ingenuity rather than the imagination of the spectator.’”

Large (Wikimedia)
I’ve always been a little peculiar on the subject of Vincent van Gogh.
I tend, as you may have gathered, to prefer art with more deliberate semantic content—something to read, something to put into the context of biography or period.
So when laclefdescoeurs requested that I write about Van Gogh’s 1885 Still Life with Bible, I was a little skeptical.
However, the painting certainly isn’t devoid of meaning.
It evokes those ubiquitous still-lives of the 17th century, at which time (as the Van Gogh Museum points out) the books and candle would have been “considered symbols of mortality and the transience of knowledge, wealth and other earthly things, which were usually seen in contrast to the eternal nature of the Christian faith.”
Here, though, they convey almost the opposite.
The Bible opens to Isaiah 53, which rails against the inherent and universal ingratitude and ignorance of man—who must be saved by the intercession of some higher, greater, good.
Next to it, in contrast, lies a well loved copy of the year-old book Émile Zola’s La joie de vivre—in which one must be one’s own intercessor.
The candle suggests that the days of the former text, with its guilting and complacent message—like the days of Van Gogh’s own father, a reverend, who died the year this work was painted—are spent.
Before I get too sentimental, however, I’ll quote the Van Gogh Museum one more time: “Van Gogh appears to have wanted to prove to his brother that black could be used to good effect in painting, a question they had discussed at great length in their correspondence…Later, in Paris, he admitted to Theo that he now found his earlier, dark palette old-fashioned, and he adapted his coloration to newer norms.”
Ah, those age-old themes: palette, and religion.

Large (Wikimedia)

I’ve always been a little peculiar on the subject of Vincent van Gogh.

I tend, as you may have gathered, to prefer art with more deliberate semantic content—something to read, something to put into the context of biography or period.

So when laclefdescoeurs requested that I write about Van Gogh’s 1885 Still Life with Bible, I was a little skeptical.

However, the painting certainly isn’t devoid of meaning.

It evokes those ubiquitous still-lives of the 17th century, at which time (as the Van Gogh Museum points out) the books and candle would have been “considered symbols of mortality and the transience of knowledge, wealth and other earthly things, which were usually seen in contrast to the eternal nature of the Christian faith.”

Here, though, they convey almost the opposite.

The Bible opens to Isaiah 53, which rails against the inherent and universal ingratitude and ignorance of man—who must be saved by the intercession of some higher, greater, good.

Next to it, in contrast, lies a well loved copy of the year-old book Émile Zola’s La joie de vivre—in which one must be one’s own intercessor.

The candle suggests that the days of the former text, with its guilting and complacent message—like the days of Van Gogh’s own father, a reverend, who died the year this work was painted—are spent.

Before I get too sentimental, however, I’ll quote the Van Gogh Museum one more time: “Van Gogh appears to have wanted to prove to his brother that black could be used to good effect in painting, a question they had discussed at great length in their correspondence…Later, in Paris, he admitted to Theo that he now found his earlier, dark palette old-fashioned, and he adapted his coloration to newer norms.”

Ah, those age-old themes: palette, and religion.

Large (Wikimedia)
I just finished Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, so I thought a religious theme was in order.
This is Ary Scheffer’s Greek Women Imploring at the Virgin of Assistance, painted in 1826.
According to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, “The motif [of this painting] is taken from the contemporaneous incident of the Greeks fighting their independence from the Turks.”
"[P]opular in France for his portraits and history paintings," according to the National Gallery in London, Scheffer here chooses to paint a modern scene—but lends it an air of the historic.
The icon itself Scheffer perhaps intended to evoke the Byzantine Empire, which had fallen so long ago to the Ottoman Empire, against whom the war was being fought.

Large (Wikimedia)

I just finished Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, so I thought a religious theme was in order.

This is Ary Scheffer’s Greek Women Imploring at the Virgin of Assistance, painted in 1826.

According to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, “The motif [of this painting] is taken from the contemporaneous incident of the Greeks fighting their independence from the Turks.”

"[P]opular in France for his portraits and history paintings," according to the National Gallery in London, Scheffer here chooses to paint a modern scene—but lends it an air of the historic.

The icon itself Scheffer perhaps intended to evoke the Byzantine Empire, which had fallen so long ago to the Ottoman Empire, against whom the war was being fought.

Large (Wikimedia)
This, dear reader, is how speaking at a lectern always takes me.
Unfortunately, today I’m merely presenting a poster, so I highly doubt I’ll be provided with such an aid—not to mention fire and brimstone.
John Martin, however, has given this man the Dantean capital of Hell itself—Pandemonium, the name of the place and the 1841 piece—to speak to.
But then, Martin always could command an audience: as the Tate writes, “[h]is paintings, typically vast landscapes and cityscapes peopled with a myriad of tiny figures, enjoyed great success, as did the engravings made from them.”
As the British Museum points out, “[h]e was keen to make prints after his paintings, as a ‘means which would enable the public to see my productions, and give me a chance of being remunerated for my labours.’”

Large (Wikimedia)

This, dear reader, is how speaking at a lectern always takes me.

Unfortunately, today I’m merely presenting a poster, so I highly doubt I’ll be provided with such an aid—not to mention fire and brimstone.

John Martin, however, has given this man the Dantean capital of Hell itself—Pandemonium, the name of the place and the 1841 piece—to speak to.

But then, Martin always could command an audience: as the Tate writes, “[h]is paintings, typically vast landscapes and cityscapes peopled with a myriad of tiny figures, enjoyed great success, as did the engravings made from them.”

As the British Museum points out, “[h]e was keen to make prints after his paintings, as a ‘means which would enable the public to see my productions, and give me a chance of being remunerated for my labours.’”

Large (Wikimedia)
After yesterday, I figured I’d better reassure you that—really—some cat art isn’t unbearably silly.
This, for example, is Giuseppe Maria Crespi’s The Kitchenmaid, from the early 18th century.
According to the Getty, “Crespi’s work reflects his sincerity, tenderness, and keen observation of nature, transformed by startling light effects and thick, fluid application of paint.”
The glowing brilliance of the kitchenmaid herself and the soft little cat on the chair uphold the Getty’s claim.
There’s something kind of unusual about the style, though.
And indeed, The Encyclopædia Britannica writes that Crespi was an “Italian Baroque painter who broke dramatically with the formal academic tradition to achieve a direct and immediate approach to his subject matter that was unparalleled at the time.”
Never has a rebel looked so endearingly quaint.

Large (Wikimedia)

After yesterday, I figured I’d better reassure you that—really—some cat art isn’t unbearably silly.

This, for example, is Giuseppe Maria Crespi’s The Kitchenmaid, from the early 18th century.

According to the Getty, “Crespi’s work reflects his sincerity, tenderness, and keen observation of nature, transformed by startling light effects and thick, fluid application of paint.”

The glowing brilliance of the kitchenmaid herself and the soft little cat on the chair uphold the Getty’s claim.

There’s something kind of unusual about the style, though.

And indeed, The Encyclopædia Britannica writes that Crespi was an “Italian Baroque painter who broke dramatically with the formal academic tradition to achieve a direct and immediate approach to his subject matter that was unparalleled at the time.”

Never has a rebel looked so endearingly quaint.