Art Gush
Rudolph Ernst: A Moorish Interior

(by Pontenigra)

Rudolph Ernst (1854-1932) was an Austrian orientalist living in Paris. Read more about his life, travels, and works here

Yes, I have a special place in my art-heart reserved for orientalists. My inner romantic holds her breath when I imagine what it must have been like travelling to the Orient one hundred years ago. My inner historian would like to point out that Ernst’s paintings are not historically or culturally accurate, but even she is silenced by the grace and beauty. Rudolph Ernst couldn’t, of course, paint those harem scenes from life, so most of what you see came from his memory and imagination. For this purpose he collected a large amount of artefacts - cloth, tiles, lamps, jewellery etc. - and used them to piece together the picture he had in mind. I find it highly impressive. If he lived today, I think he would become the greatest fantasy painter ever. 

I love many of his paintings, but my favourite has to be the Moorish Interior, and here is why:

  • The choice of colours. It is definitely one of Ernst’s darkest pictures. While harmonious and aesthetically pleasing, it also creates the atmosphere of a gilded cage. Romantic, luxurious, but also a bit oppressive and gloomy.
  • Light and shadows. I like how both figures are subtly illuminated and yet fit in perfectly with the rest of the scene. The box in the foreground does wonders with the composition. But note how the light patch is cleverly disrupted by a piece of dark cloth. Without it, it would probably be too much of a visual distraction. 
  • The composition - well, I think this is one of the best compositions I have ever seen. I can’t stop staring at it. So ingenious. The balance of light and dark parts is perfect, and also - have you noticed the shape of the curtain is visually mirrored by the placement of the two figures?
  • The curtain itself. I only wish I had a bigger picture. It must be simply stunning from up close. Ernst was a master at painting fabrics, and this is a clear demonstration of his skills.
  • The still, quiet, frozen and rather dark scene is perfectly highlighted by the patch of clear blue sky that shows behind the curtain. Excuse me while I am blown away by such brilliance.
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida: Bulls in the Sea

(by Pontenigra)

I first saw a painting by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863 – 1923) in a gallery in Venice, and it was stunning. But then I forgot about him, I am ashamed to say, and only rediscovered him about two months ago. As you might have noticed I have a weakness for seascapes, and Sorolla’s paintings are now amongst my top favourites. Whereas painters like Aivazovsky could conjure images of the sea as an entity to be admired and worshipped, untamable and ever-changing, dangerous and lovely at the same time, Sorolla’s view is much more intimate. His paintings present the sea as human experience. Fishermen, people mending sails and nets, children playing in the tide, bathing women, white clothes and sails gleaming in the afternoon sun.

Most of Sorolla’s paintings have a sketchy, almost unfinished look about them, but I find I don’t need any more details to be transported right into the scene. Sorolla’s world is a land of a never-ending summer, where seagulls cry above sun-pierced sails, water gently laps against the sides of the boat, and the rigging clangs and chimes in the evening wind.

My favourite picture is Bulls in the Sea. Why?

  • The overall composition. I must remember not to be afraid of high horizons. It works so well here.
  • The high contrast. The bulls are very dark against the white of the sea foam.  I love that. It clearly conveys the atmosphere of a late afternoon.
  • The purple sky. Enough said.
  • The water has such a nice colour too.
  • The reflection of the water on the bulls wet bellies.
Francis Danby: The Deluge

(by Pontenigra)

Francis Danby (1793 – 1861) was an Irish painter who seems to have led an unhappy life marked by scandals and poverty. But what do we know? Do we judge someone’s life as a summary of their achievements, fame, happy marriages and children? Francis Danby wasn’t just a painter - apparently he was also a passionate boat-builder. And I believe that passion is incompatible depression. Maybe he wasn’t so unhappy after all.

In any case, The Deluge is overflowing with passion. I stumbled across this painting while browsing the Google Art Project, and it took my breath away. (Yes, I am predictable like that.)

I love:

  • The sense of inescapable doom. The painting is, quite literally, a vision of my nightmares, and still I am blown away by the beauty.
  • There is so much movement! The overall dynamics of the composition is accentuated by the contrast created by the black rock and that strong, bright shaft of light. A true masterpiece!
  • Details, of course. Look at that weeping angel… next to a dead giant. A lion caught in a desperate attempt to save its life.
  • The ark in the distance. Illuminated, tiny, and sailing away. Mankind’s hope.
Boatbuilding, anyone?
Anders Zorn: The Love Nymph

(by Pontenigra)

Anders Zorn (1860 – 1920) was a brilliant portraitist. Just as much as I wish for Vermeer’s skill in capturing the quiet essence of the moment, I wish for Zorn’s skill in creating captivating, honest portraits. But his other paintings are equally fascinating. Zorn’s style is usually loose, seemingly careless, and I often feel like I am looking at a casually taken photograph. The more time I spend with his paintings, the more I like them for their down-to-earth, unpretentious quality.

I picked The Love Nymph because it’s so different. I wasn’t sure that I liked it at first. It was unexpected. Playful, almost frivolous, Boucher-style. Then I realised looking at it is so very pleasant. I like it, I said to myself after a while. It is beautiful, I thought when I came back to it a day later. Another day passed and I was in love with it.

Here’s why:

  • The composition. Do I even have to say more? The light on the nymph’s body and bed creates a strong focal point and sucks me right in. The plants frame it so well, and yet they do not make it static. 
  • The nymph is perfect. Her expression is exactly what a love nymph’s should be like. Her breast looks very natural, even from the foreshortened angle. Speaking of foreshortening, look at that hand! That one pointing finger is mind-boggling. A blob of paint, a touch lighter then the rest of the hand. Easy, no big deal. (Irony.)
  • The choice of colours. Painting vegetation is so tricky. (Experience.) It’s hard  to make it believable, and not to go over the top with the, ah, well, green. But here, even if the whole scene seems to be bathing in green light, it’s perfectly balanced. There is a lot of blue in that plant in the top left corner, and a lot of red in the plant in the foreground. The yellowish white sits neatly in the middle. Mmm, nice!
  • The little ones. I don’t even know what to call them. Now, I am not a big fan of plump babies in cute outfits. But these have so much character. The one on the left seems to be lost in thought, or even sad. The one in the middle has exactly the kind of expression you will see on a child’s face before they hit you in the head with something. And the one behind the tree - oh my god. Words fail me. 

You can find many of Zorn’s paintings here.

Francis Bacon: Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

(post by ThoTerez)

Francis Bacon

 (Dublin, 28.10 1909 – 28.4 1992) One of the most influential and important  painters of  bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery (As it was nicely put in wikipedia, where you can find much more about his life and work.)

 

As a person, I really can´t tell, but after seeing the first part of the documentary.  I´m not sure if we could maintain conversation for long. Nevertheless, his work and the way how he expresses his feelings has a lot to tell me. This is not to say I would consider myself in such a bad mood or anxiety, which explicitly radiate from his paintings (so clearly that it almost makes one blind); it´s more that it evokes some kind of respect, maybe sympathy and certainly admiration for his piece of work.

At the first sight, Francis´s life isn´t presented as the easiest one, having an authoritarian father in his childhood, being socially condemned for his different sexuality feelings, therefore moving to Berlin to live with his uncle, not being quite satisfied with his paintings. Although he became renowned, many times he destroyed his paintings for not feeling good about them.

He was influenced by Picasso and surrealist abstraction.


Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Francis Bacon: Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Velázquez´s original painting: here

What I feel while observing this painting

- I appreciate Bacon´s idea to express the feeling inside, not only the shell of person from the outside appearance. Velazquez surely did a very good job painting a portrait, but it´s interesting to see how Bacon felt about all this. Maybe imagining, how the pope feels inside, while sitting on the throne-like armchair? Scream, pope screaming, evokes questions: why is that so?

 - The scream itself, so well expressed that I get the goose skin almost every time I look at it. Not that I look for those feelings, only I appreciate how well one can catch the “something” and express it so well and make it so real only with oils and paper (canvas). Makes me shiver all over.


Jean-Michel Basquiat
(by luJad)
to be honest I do not know too much about him…
except that he lived in new york, worked also with andy warhol                                   and died very young at the age of 22 (1960-1988).
his paintings are so expressive to me, 
so much strength
conflicts within the society and the individual 
the imperfect body between machine and vulnerability
pieces in progress, notes like, and still finished as it is presented to us
a few other pictures can be found on his webpage and here:
http://www.basquiat.com/artist.htm  (here also more to his life)
http://alpinesmusic.blogspot.com/2011/02/bast-modern-day-basquiat.html
I just saw the exhibition in basel already some time ago and was so inspired that I wanted to share his way of expressing in art with you.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

(by luJad)

to be honest I do not know too much about him…

except that he lived in new york, worked also with andy warhol                                   and died very young at the age of 22 (1960-1988).

his paintings are so expressive to me, 

so much strength

conflicts within the society and the individual 

the imperfect body between machine and vulnerability

pieces in progress, notes like, and still finished as it is presented to us

a few other pictures can be found on his webpage and here:

http://www.basquiat.com/artist.htm  (here also more to his life)

http://alpinesmusic.blogspot.com/2011/02/bast-modern-day-basquiat.html

I just saw the exhibition in basel already some time ago and was so inspired that I wanted to share his way of expressing in art with you.

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Concert

(by Pontenigra)

Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (Terbrugghen) (1588 - 1629) was a Dutch painter, one of the Carravagisti - followers of Carravagio. He took some of that Carravagio energy and passed it down the line of great Dutch painters. Ter Brugghen’s influence can be traced in the works of such masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals and Vermeer. It seems a little bit unfair that he doesn’t get half as much attention now. Well, I have no problems with showing him some love.

The Concert is enchanting.

  • The overall mood is very intimate. I confess I have a weakness for paintings like this - candlelit, natural, frozen in time. I can “feel the moment”.
  • The man’s and woman’s eyes turn to us as if we have just entered the room, disturbing their music session, while the boy keeps on singing. I imagine he would stop in a second. This painting captures precisely the moment before he noticed. 
  • The composition is perfectly balanced, yet not static. And it seems so effortless, too. Just look how natural it is to follow the line of light from the woman’s turban, down across her shoulder to her sleeve, and then to the man’s sleeve and face. Then notice how the grapes and the small candle behind the boy’s head complete the composition, disrupting the circle, making it more dynamic. This painting seems to be thought out very carefully.
  • The light and shadow effects are stunning. My favourite bit is the shadow cast by the flute on the man’s face.

You can find more works by Hendrick ter Brugghen at WikiPaintings.

John William Waterhouse: ‘I am Half Sick of Shadows,’ said the Lady of Shalott

(by Pontenigra)

John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917) seems to be very popular, and you can find his paintings all over the internet. (A good gallery is here.) Even though he is often included in the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, he was not one of them, as he worked long after the group broke up. He found his inspiration in their legacy though, and I have to admire him for doing his thing even when it was no longer in fashion.

Ever since we started this blog, I knew that at some point I would write about Waterhouse’s depictions of the Legend of the Lady of Shalott. He painted three versions, in 1888, 1894 and 1916, and judging from the distance between the years, I think the story (a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson) must have been a lifelong fascination for him. 

So, what’s the story about? Let me quote Wikipedia’s article on the first version:

"According to legend, the Lady of Shalott was forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world; instead she was doomed to view the world through a mirror, and weave what she saw into tapestry. Her despair was heightened when she saw loving couples entwined in the far distance, and she spent her days and nights aching for a return to normality. One day the Lady saw Sir Lancelot passing on his way in the reflection of the mirror, and dared to look out at Camelot, bringing about a curse. The lady escaped by boat during an autumn storm, inscribing ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and certain death, she sang a lament. Her frozen body was found shortly afterwards by the knights and ladies of Camelot, one of whom is Lancelot, who prayed to God to have mercy on her soul. The tapestry she wove during her imprisonment was found draped over the side of the boat."

I love all three versions. The first one is the most famous, and it is also the one that led me to look up other Waterhouse’s paintings. The second painting is rough, possibly unfinished, but very intense. But for today’s post, I will focus on the third version from 1916. 

What I love about this version:

  • The tapestry. I like that she’s actually weaving in the images she can see in the mirror, in a round mirror shape. It also leads to the focal point of the painting - the mirror itself - and makes the composition very well balanced and pleasing.
  • The Lady’s posture. She is bored at this point in the story, and her back likely hurts from all the weaving.
  • Her face perfectly matches the title of the painting.
  • I like the small round window-panes, and the balls of yarn on the floor. 
  • Her dress, and the lamp, and the pillow she is sitting on. 

There is a beautiful song version of the poem by Loreena McKennitt. She is an excellent harper with a voice to die for. (The video is all made of pictures by Waterhouse, too!)

Posted by Meghan
Self-Portrait: Vivian Maier, February 1955
Writing about Ernst Hass yesterday reminded me that I should definitely write about Vivian Maier. Maier was a street photographer-cum-nanny who worked and lived in New York and Chicago from the mid 1950s until the 1990s. Her work was only recently uncovered when John Maloof unknowingly purchased boxes of her negatives at thrift house auction, investigated them, and undertook the huge project of scanning and publicizing her pictures. The entire collection consists of somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 negatives. Holy crap!
The quality of Maier’s work is astounding with or without acknowledging the fact that she was virtually self-taught. Perhaps this spirit of discovery that induced her to take up photography also lead to the development of her unique perspective on some of the forgotten communities of urban America.
Anyway, I love her photographs, and while the self-portrait above isn’t the most stylistically sophisticated or technically perfect, it stuck out to me for its whimsy and wit.
Great things:
1). The guy holding the mirror: Maybe you wouldn’t even identify this as a self-portrait at first. It’s a bit confusing to look at: the man holding the mirror seems, initially, to be the subject of the photo. He’s interesting enough on his own! Is he looking at himself?
2). Clearly, Maier taking the picture: The look of excitement at having caught such a fantastic shot is so evident that it’s impossible not to smile, too. Maybe the man is looking at her also?
3). The sharp diagonal lines and gradating colors of the buildings juxtaposed with the dark blacks and curves of the clutter of the blankets in the foreground: Clearly this isn’t a painstakingly composed picture, it’s a spontaneous one-off. Maier still has the wherewithal, however, to quickly establish scene and give the viewer a sense of textural interest.
Check out more of Maier’s photos here. Maier took loads of self-portraits, another of my favorites (left click: View Image to see it un-squished).

Posted by Meghan

Self-Portrait: Vivian Maier, February 1955

Writing about Ernst Hass yesterday reminded me that I should definitely write about Vivian Maier. Maier was a street photographer-cum-nanny who worked and lived in New York and Chicago from the mid 1950s until the 1990s. Her work was only recently uncovered when John Maloof unknowingly purchased boxes of her negatives at thrift house auction, investigated them, and undertook the huge project of scanning and publicizing her pictures. The entire collection consists of somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000 negatives. Holy crap!

The quality of Maier’s work is astounding with or without acknowledging the fact that she was virtually self-taught. Perhaps this spirit of discovery that induced her to take up photography also lead to the development of her unique perspective on some of the forgotten communities of urban America.

Anyway, I love her photographs, and while the self-portrait above isn’t the most stylistically sophisticated or technically perfect, it stuck out to me for its whimsy and wit.

Great things:

1). The guy holding the mirror: Maybe you wouldn’t even identify this as a self-portrait at first. It’s a bit confusing to look at: the man holding the mirror seems, initially, to be the subject of the photo. He’s interesting enough on his own! Is he looking at himself?

2). Clearly, Maier taking the picture: The look of excitement at having caught such a fantastic shot is so evident that it’s impossible not to smile, too. Maybe the man is looking at her also?

3). The sharp diagonal lines and gradating colors of the buildings juxtaposed with the dark blacks and curves of the clutter of the blankets in the foreground: Clearly this isn’t a painstakingly composed picture, it’s a spontaneous one-off. Maier still has the wherewithal, however, to quickly establish scene and give the viewer a sense of textural interest.

Check out more of Maier’s photos here. Maier took loads of self-portraits, another of my favorites (left click: View Image to see it un-squished).

posted by Meghan
Ernst Hass: Untitled (or rather, I don’t know the title)
Breaking my personal rule and posting about a white, male artist AGAIN…*shrug*. Rules are for jerks.
So, Ernst Hass! Austrian, Magnum photographer, genius. Really! Looking through photos for this post made my stomach get all squiggly: they’re that good.
Hass is mostly known for his contribution to color photography and his fuzzed-out, experimental, rule-bending shots (it’s a theme today, I’m breaking rules, he’s breaking rules!), but the photos I’m most drawn to are his fantastic black and whites. Clearly, to be a Magnum photographer, you’ve got to have an intense base of technical skills, but my favorite photographers are able to internalize these elements and move beyond the scientific, paint-by-numbers aspects of shooting film.
So, anyway, to the photo above. Man, was it hard to choose one. I was tempted to post two but really no one wants to hear me blabber on, so you should just click here and go through ALL of the pictures.
This photo is phenomenal. In my opinion, that’s because of:
1). The composition: I love that the visual heaviness of the dark roof (?) of the bridge(?)/structure(?) is balanced by the textural density of the sand. These two elements re-frame the central beach action so effortlessly.
2). The texture generally: The sand, the criss-cross (Yeah I did that. It’s the soundtrack for this post!) pattern of the fence, and those two little spots of plaid on the illuminated shirts: these elements of the shot give it a buzzing energy that balances the static weight of the silhouetted figures and objects.
3). The tonal range: Blackest blacks, whitest whites, and the junk in between. All here.
4). The lady in the white swimsuit: She’s all “Yeah! I’m wearing a white swimsuit! I may go swimming! White swimsuits are totally impractical! What of it?”.
5). The little girl exploring: Can’t get enough of those curly little wisps of hair. I can almost smell the salt water and suntan lotion.
Posting two more photos. Oh man. Can’t resist breaking the rules. Ernst, you’re a bad influence.

posted by Meghan

Ernst Hass: Untitled (or rather, I don’t know the title)

Breaking my personal rule and posting about a white, male artist AGAIN…*shrug*. Rules are for jerks.

So, Ernst Hass! Austrian, Magnum photographer, genius. Really! Looking through photos for this post made my stomach get all squiggly: they’re that good.

Hass is mostly known for his contribution to color photography and his fuzzed-out, experimental, rule-bending shots (it’s a theme today, I’m breaking rules, he’s breaking rules!), but the photos I’m most drawn to are his fantastic black and whites. Clearly, to be a Magnum photographer, you’ve got to have an intense base of technical skills, but my favorite photographers are able to internalize these elements and move beyond the scientific, paint-by-numbers aspects of shooting film.

So, anyway, to the photo above. Man, was it hard to choose one. I was tempted to post two but really no one wants to hear me blabber on, so you should just click here and go through ALL of the pictures.

This photo is phenomenal. In my opinion, that’s because of:

1). The composition: I love that the visual heaviness of the dark roof (?) of the bridge(?)/structure(?) is balanced by the textural density of the sand. These two elements re-frame the central beach action so effortlessly.

2). The texture generally: The sand, the criss-cross (Yeah I did that. It’s the soundtrack for this post!) pattern of the fence, and those two little spots of plaid on the illuminated shirts: these elements of the shot give it a buzzing energy that balances the static weight of the silhouetted figures and objects.

3). The tonal range: Blackest blacks, whitest whites, and the junk in between. All here.

4). The lady in the white swimsuit: She’s all “Yeah! I’m wearing a white swimsuit! I may go swimming! White swimsuits are totally impractical! What of it?”.

5). The little girl exploring: Can’t get enough of those curly little wisps of hair. I can almost smell the salt water and suntan lotion.

Posting two more photos. Oh man. Can’t resist breaking the rules. Ernst, you’re a bad influence.