Saturday Art: ‘Tea Time’ by Jean Metzinger – Beginnings of Cubism

File:WomanWithFlowers1920 - MetzingerLegoûter.jpg

Cannot find a picture of just the right side painting, sorry.

(Picture courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art at wikipedia commons.)

The beginning of the movement in art called Cubism is sometimes ascribed to the display of the painting above right, by theorist and artist Jean Metzinger.   Building  on Cezanne’s later paintings, it left behind the style of perspective that made a two dimensional canvas give the illusion of another dimension, and presented many surfaces at once.

The original concept startled and inspired Picasso, Braques, Gris and several other esteemed artists of the day, and discernibly influenced their painting of that time.

Tea Time is an oil painting on cardboard with dimensions 75.9 x 70.2 cm (29.9 x 27.6 in), signed Metzinger and dated 1911 lower right. The painting represents a barely draped (nude) woman holding a spoon, seated at a table with a cup of tea. In the ‘background’, the upper left quadrant, stands a vase on a commode, table or shelf. A square or cubic shape, a chair or painting behind the model, espouses the shape of the stretcher. The painting is practically square, like the side of a cube. The woman’s head is highly stylized, divided into geometrized facets, planes and curves (the forehead, nose, cheeks, hair). The source of light appears to be off to her right, with some reflected light on the left side of her face. Reflected light, consistently, can be seen on other parts of her body (breast, shoulder, arm). Her breast is composed of a triangle and a sphere. The faceting of the rest of her body, to some extent, coincides with actual muscular and skeletal features (collar bone, ribcage, pectorals, deltoids, neck tissue). Both of here shoulders are coupled with elements of the background, superimposed, gradational and transparent to varying degrees. Unidentified elements are composed of alternating angular structures, The colors employed by Metzinger are subdued, mixed (either on a palette of directly on the surface), with an overall natural allure. The brushwork is reminiscent of Metzinger’sDivisionist period (ca. 1903–1907), described by the critic (Louis Vauxcelles) in 1907 as large, mosaic-like ‘cubes’, used to construct small but highly symbolic compositions.[8]

The figure, centrally positioned, is shown both staring at the viewer and gazing off to the right (to her left), i.e., she is seen both straight on and in profile position. The tea cup is visible both from the top and side simultaneously, as if the artist physically moved around the subject to capture it simultaneously from several angles and at successive moments in time.

“This interplay of visual, tactile, and motor spaces is fully operative in Metzinger’s Le Gouter of 1911″, write Antliff and Leighten, “an image of an artist’s model, semi-nude, with a cloth draped over her right arm as she takes a break between sessions […] her right hand delicately suspends the spoon between cup and mouth.” The combination of frames captured at successive time intervals is given play, pictorially, in simultaneous conflation of moments in time throughout the work. The Cézannian volumes and planes (cones, cubes and spheres) extend ubiquitously across the manifold, merging the sitter and surroundings. The painting becomes a product of experience, memory and imagination, evoking a complex series of mind-associations between past present and future, between tactile and olfactory sensations (taste and touch), between the physical and metaphysical.[9]

Though less radical than Metzinger’s 1910 Nude—which is closely related to the work of Picasso and Braque of the same year—from the viewpoint of faceting of the represented subject matter, Le goûter is much more carefully constructed in relation to the overall shape of the picture frame. “Not only was this painting more unequivocally classical in its pedigree (and recognized as such by critics who instantly dubbed it ‘La Joconde cubiste’) than any of its now relatively distant sources in Picasso’s oeuvre,” writes David Cottington, “but in its clear if tacit juxtaposition, remarked on by Green and others, of sensation and idea—taste and geometry—it exemplified the interpretation of innovations from both wings of the cubist movement that Metzinger was offering in his essays of the time, as well as the paradigm shift from a perceptual to a conceptual painting that he recognized as now common to them.”[10]

The quite atmosphere of Tea Time “seduces by means of the bridge it creates between two periods”, according to Eimert and Podksik, “although Metzinger’s style had already passed through an analytical phase, it now concentrated more on the idea of reconciling modernity with classical subjects”.[11]

A preparatory drawing for Tea Time (Etude pour ‘Le Goûter’), 19 x 15 cm, is conserved in Paris at the Musée National d’Art ModerneCentre Georges Pompidou.[12]

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Pictorial space has been transformed by the artist into the temporal flow of consciousness. Quantity has morphed into quality, creating a ‘qualitative space’, “the pictorial analogue”, write Antliff and Leighten, “to both time and space: temporal heterogeneity and the new geometries.” In accord with this view of pictorial space, Metzinger and Gleizes encouraged artists to discard classical perspective and replace it with creative intuition. “Creative intuition is manifest in an artist’s faculty of discernment, or ‘taste’, which coordinates all other sensations.” Antliff and Leighten continue, “As we have seen Metzinger celebrated this faculty in Le Gouter, and Apollinaire advised artists to rely on their ‘intuition’ in The Cubist Painters (1913).”[9][28]

Metzinger’s interests in proportion, mathematical order, and his emphasis on geometry, are well documented.[10] But it was his personal taste (gout in French) that sets Metzinger’s work apart from both the Salon Cubists and those of Montmartre. While taste inTea Time was denoted by one of the five senses, it was also connoted (for those who could read it) as a quality of discernment and subjective judgement.[10] Le gouter translates to ‘afternoon snack’ but also alludes to ‘taste’ in an abstract sense. This painting, writes Christopher Green, “can seem the outcome of a meditation on intelligence and the senses, conception and sensation. The word in French for tea-time is “le goûter”; as a verb. “goûter” refers to the experience of tasting.[24]

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Saturday Art: Diego Rivera

The Flower Carrier by Rivera
The Flower Carrier by Rivera

(Picture courtesy of Wally Gometz at flickr.com.)

Mural representing history of Mexico
Mural representing history of Mexico by Diego Rivera

(Picture courtesy of pegatina1 at flickr.com in Palacio Nacional.)

En El Arsenal by Diego Rivera
En El Arsenal by Diego Rivera

(Picture courtesy of Shannon at flickr.com.)

The previous Art Saturday subject was the artist Frida Kahlo, who was married to the subject of today’s post,  Diego Rivera.   Both were credited with many styles, often as impressionist, and shared the fervor of the times they lived in during the Mexican Revolution and worldwide turning away from feudal standards and repression.

From the age of ten, Rivera studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. He was sponsored to continue study in Europe by Teodoro A. Dehesa Méndez, the governor of the State of Veracruz. After arrival in Europe in 1907, Rivera initially went to study with Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid, Spain, and from there went to Paris, France, to live and work with the great gathering of artists in Montparnasse, especially at La Ruche, where his friend Amedeo Modigliani painted his portrait in 1914.[7] His circle of close friends, which included Ilya Ehrenburg, Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani and Modigliani’s wife Jeanne Hébuterne, Max Jacob, gallery owner Léopold Zborowski, and Moise Kisling, was captured for posterity by Marie Vorobieff-Stebelska (Marevna) in her painting “Homage to Friends from Montparnasse” (1962).[8]

In those years, Paris was witnessing the beginning of Cubism in paintings by such eminent painters as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris. From 1913 to 1917, Rivera enthusiastically embraced this new school of art. Around 1917, inspired by Paul Cézanne‘s paintings, Rivera shifted toward Post-Impressionism with simple forms and large patches of vivid colors. His paintings began to attract attention, and he was able to display them at several exhibitions.

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Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921 to become involved in the government sponsored Mexican mural program planned by Vasconcelos.[10] See also Mexican muralism. The program included such Mexican artists as José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo, and the French artist Jean Charlot. In January 1922,[11] he painted – experimentally in encaustic – his first significant mural Creation[12] in the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City while guarding himself with a pistol against right-wing students.

In the autumn of 1922, Rivera participated in the founding of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors, and later that year he joined the Mexican Communist Party[13] (including its Central Committee). His murals, subsequently painted in fresco only, dealt with Mexican society and reflected the country’s 1910 Revolution. Rivera developed his own native style based on large, simplified figures and bold colors with an Aztec influence clearly present in murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City[14] begun in September 1922, intended to consist of one hundred and twenty-four frescoes, and finished in 1928.[11]

His art, in a fashion similar to the steles of the Maya, tells stories. The mural En el Arsenal (In the Arsenal)[15] shows on the right-hand side Tina Modotti holding an ammunition belt and facing Julio Antonio Mella, in a light hat, and Vittorio Vidali behind in a black hat. However, the En el Arsenal detail shown does not include the right-hand side described nor any of the three individuals mentioned; instead it shows the left-hand side with Frida Kahlo handing out munitions. Leon Trotsky lived with Rivera and Kahlo for several months while exiled in Mexico.[16] Some of Rivera’s most famous murals are featured at the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo near Texcoco (1925–27), in the Cortés Palace in Cuernavaca (1929–30), and the National Palace in Mexico City (1929–30, 1935).[17][18]

Outstanding for his participation and commemoration of changing and dramatic times as well as for his talent, Rivera made the arts a promotion of equality as well as a presentation of history.

(Picture courtesy of Joaquin Martinez at flickr.com.)

Prehistoric Mexico, cover for book, by Diego Rivera
Prehistoric Mexico, cover for book, by Diego Rivera

Book cover for Pablo Neruda’s Canto General. 1950

Also, thanks, dubinsky, for linking this Bruce Springsteen tribute to Rivera;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=63&v=1Azxbh-zZi4

 

Saturday Art: Frida Kahlo

Image 10 | by libbyrosof

Frida Kahlo-Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

 (Picture courtesy of Yuan Tian at flickr.com.)

5268454628_5c132fa657_z(Picture courtesy of Maria de Oro at flickr.com.)

Born to a photographer who moved to Mexico and adopted it as his home, Kahlo gave her birthdate as that of the Revolution there, in 1910.   She has attained some of the resonance of the fiery days of that time, and much of her artwork has the distinction of her time, and its atmosphere.

Kahlo’s life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.[6]

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art.[7] Her work has also been described as surrealist, and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo’s art as a “ribbon around a bomb”.[6] Frida rejected the “surrealist” label; she believed that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams.[8]

Kahlo had a volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She suffered lifelong health problems, many caused by a traffic accident she survived as a teenager. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people, and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits of one sort or another. Kahlo suggested, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”[9] She also stated, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.”[10]

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Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. She insisted, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”[24]

Diego Rivera had a great influence on Kahlo’s painting style. Kahlo had always admired Rivera and his work. She first approached him in the Public Ministry of Education, where he had been working on a mural in 1927. She showed him four of her paintings, and asked whether he considered her gifted. Rivera was impressed and said, “You have got talent.” After that, he became a frequent welcomed guest at Kahlo’s house. He gave her many insights about her artwork while still leaving her space to explore herself. The positive and encouraging comments made by Rivera strengthened Kahlo’s wish to pursue a career as an artist.[25]

Kahlo was also influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism and primitive style. She frequently included the monkey, which in Mexican mythology is a symbol of lust, and Kahlo portrayed it as tender and protective symbols. Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work.[26] She combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings.

Kahlo has a position of isolation, and unique femininity and is one of Mexico’s most recognized artists.

(Picture courtesy of Theresa Huse at flickr.com.)

 Self Portrait by Frida Kahlo

Theresa Huse 2010 Frida Kahlo | by Msartist Theresa Huse

Saturday Art: Horace Vernet

Hunting at the Pontine Marshes by Vernet
Hunting at the Pontine Marshes by Vernet
The Dog of the Regiment Wounded by Vernet
The Dog of the Regiment Wounded by Vernet

(Picture courtesy of snapshooter46 at flickr.com.)

Battle de Bouvines, Château de Versailles, France by Vernet
Battle de Bouvines, Château de Versailles, France by Vernet

(Picture courtesy of fmpgoh at flickr.com.)

Born into a family of artists, Vernet was known for hunting and battle scenes, and was very much part of the royal household in his work and life.

He was born in the Paris Louvre, while his parents were staying there during the French Revolution. Vernet quickly developed a disdain for the high-minded seriousness of academic French art influenced by Classicism, and decided to paint subjects taken mostly from contemporary culture. Therefore, he began depicting the French soldier in a more familiar, vernacular manner rather than in an idealized, Davidian fashion. Some of his paintings that represent French soldiers in a more direct, less idealizing style, include Dog of the Regiment, Trumpeter’s Horse, and Death of Poniatowski.

He gained recognition during the Bourbon Restoration for a series of battle paintings commissioned by the duc d’Orleans, the future King Louis-Philippe. Critics marvelled at the incredible speed with which he painted.[2] Many of his paintings made during this early phase of his career were “noted for their historical accuracy as well as their charged landscapes.”[3] Examples of paintings in this style include the Battle of Valmy, the Battle of Jemappes, and the Battle of Montmirail.

Over the course of his long career, Horace Vernet was honoured with dozens of important commissions. King Louis-Philippe was one of his most prolific patrons.[2] His depictions of Algerian battles, such as the Capture of the Smahla and the Capture of Constantine, were well-received, as they were vivid depictions of the French army in the heat of battle. After the fall of the July Monarchy during the Revolution of 1848, Vernet discovered a new patron in Napoléon III of France. He continued to paint representations of the heroic French army during the Second Empire and maintained his commitment to representing war in an accessible and realistic way. He accompanied the French Army during the Crimean War, producing several paintings, including one of the Battle of the Alma, which was not as well received as his earlier paintings. One well known and possibly apocryphal anecdote maintains that when Vernet was asked to remove a certain obnoxious general from one of his paintings, he replied, “I am a painter of history, sire, and I will not violate the truth,” hence demonstrating his fidelity to representing war truthfully.

His depiction of the life around him seems to have been almost inevitable.   His stature among artists seems to have been obscure, as he was more part of the court than of the art world.

(Picture courtesy of institutnationaldhistoiredelart at flickr.com.)

 Battle of Isly by Vernet

Battle of Isly by Vernet

Saturday Art: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

One morning in Ville d'Avray. Rouen. by Corot
One morning in Ville d’Avray. Rouen. by Corot
Wheat field in the Morvan by Corot
Wheat field in the Morvan by Corot

(Pictures courtesy of jean louis mazieres at flickr.com.)

Agostina by Corot
Agostina by Corot

(Picture courtesy of Cliff at flickr.com.)

A precursor of the impressionists, Corot painted with care and planning yet gave an impression of dreaminess that has led him to be associated with the movement itself.   He was prolific and dedicated, but the academicians of his time were cool to him and his art only appreciated fully by his fellow painters.

While recognition and acceptance by the establishment came slowly, by 1845 Baudelaire led a charge pronouncing Corot the leader in the “modern school of landscape painting”. While some critics found Corot’s colors “pale” and his work having “naive awkwardness”, Baudelaire astutely responded, “M. Corot is more a harmonist than a colorist, and his compositions, which are always entirely free of pedantry, are seductive just because of their simplicity of color.”[32] In 1846, the French government decorated him with the cross of the Légion d’honneurand in 1848 he was awarded a second-class medal at the Salon, but he received little state patronage as a result.[33] His only commissioned work was a religious painting for a baptismal chapel painted in 1847, in the manner of the Renaissance masters.[34] Though the establishment kept holding back, other painters acknowledged Corot’s growing stature. In 1847, Delacroix noted in his journal, “Corot is a true artist. One has to see a painter in his own place to get an idea of his worth…Corot delves deeply into a subject: ideas come to him and he adds while working; it’s the right approach.”[35]

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Corot 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 in 1897, “There is only one master here—Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.”[48] 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.

Historians have divided his work into periods, but the points of division are often vague, as he often completed a picture years after he began it. In his early period, he painted traditionally and “tight”—with minute exactness, clear outlines, thin brush work, and with absolute definition of objects throughout, with a monochromatic underpainting or ébauche.[49] After he reached his 50th year, his methods changed to focus on breadth of tone and an approach to poetic power conveyed with thicker application of paint; and about 20 years later, from about 1865 onwards, his manner of painting became more lyrical, affected with a more impressionistic touch. In part, this evolution in expression can be seen as marking the transition from the plein-air paintings of his youth, shot through with warm natural light, to the studio-created landscapes of his late maturity, enveloped in uniform tones of silver. In his final 10 years he became the “Père (Father) Corot” of Parisian artistic circles, where he was regarded with personal affection, and acknowledged as one of the five or six greatest landscape painters the world had seen, along with Hobbema, Claude Lorrain, Turner and Constable. In his long and productive life, he painted over 3,000 paintings.[50]

Though often credited as a precursor of Impressionist practice, Corot approached his landscapes more traditionally than is usually believed. Compared to the Impressionists who came later, Corot’s palette is restrained, dominated with browns and blacks (“forbidden colors” among the Impressionists) along with dark and silvery green. Though appearing at times to be rapid and spontaneous, usually his strokes were controlled and careful, and his compositions well-thought out and generally rendered as simply and concisely as possible, heightening the poetic effect of the imagery. As he stated, “I noticed that everything that was done correctly on the first attempt was more true, and the forms more beautiful.”[51]

Corot’s approach to his subjects was similarly traditional. Although he was a major proponent of plein-air studies, he was essentially a studio painter and few of his finished landscapes were completed before the motif. For most of his life, Corot would spend his summers travelling and collecting studies and sketches, and his winters finishing more polished, market-ready works.[52

The fame he knew was tenuous, but Corot was part and parcel of his artistic community, respected and revered, and he returned that regard.

(Picture courtesy of thomas Hawk at flickr.com.)

Hagar in the Wilderness by Corot
Hagar in the Wilderness by Corot

Saturday Art: Jean-Antoine Watteau

Pleasures of the Ball by Watteau
Pleasures of the Ball by Watteau

(Picture courtesy of Irina at flickr.com.)

Nymph and Satyr by Watteau
Nymph and Satyr by Watteau

(Picture courtesy of Jean Louis Mazziere at flickr.com.)

Remarkable animation of the spirit of his time seems to have been the major characteristic that brought Jean-Antoine Watteau to the ranks of foremost artists, and gave him distinction there.

One of the most brilliant and original artists of the eighteenth century, Antoine Watteau (1684–1721) had an impact on the development of Rococo art in France and throughout Europe lasting well beyond his lifetime. Living only thirty-six years, and plagued by frequent illness, Watteau nonetheless rose from an obscure provincial background to achieve fame in the French capital during the Regency of the duc d’Orléans. His paintings feature figures in aristocratic and theatrical dress in lush imaginary landscapes. Their amorous and wistful encounters create a mood but do not employ narrative in the traditional sense. During Watteau’s lifetime, a new term, fête galante, was coined to describe them. Watteau was also a gifted draftsman whose sparkling chalk sheets capture subtle nuances of deportment and expression.

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Despite his unconventional training, Watteau was permitted to compete for the Prix de Rome at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. He won a second-place prize in 1709, but to his great disappointment was never sent to study in Italy. With the backing of Charles de La Fosse (1636–1716), a fellow admirer of Rubens and Venetian painting, Watteau was accepted into the Academy in 1712. His innovative subject matter did not fit into any established category in the academic hierarchy, and he was ultimately accepted with the unprecedented title “painter of fêtes galantes.” His reception piece, Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera (Musée du Louvre, Paris), was finally submitted to the Academy in 1717. It depicted amorous couples on the mythical island of Cythera, in various stages of their metaphoric “journey” of love.

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Admiration for the drawings of Watteau has always been equal to that of his paintings. He drew few compositional studies; for the most part, his graphic oeuvre is made up of chalk studies of heads or figures. In contrast to prevailing practice, Watteau seems usually not to have made figure studies in preparation for predetermined compositions, but apparently filled sketchbooks with incisive renderings of figures drawn from life, which he would later mine for his painted compositions. A drawing of a Seated Woman (1975.1.763), for example, has captured all the spontaneity and grace of a young woman’s natural movements, yet does not seem to have been used in a painted composition.

Although he limited himself to chalk, there is a clear evolution in the technique of Watteau’s drawings. His earliest studies are in red chalk alone, with black chalk eventually added to the red, as in Savoyarde (1978.12.1). Around 1715, he added white chalk to the mix. Although Watteau did not invent the technique of trois crayons, or three chalks (Rubens and La Fosse, among others, had used it before him), his name is always linked to the technique for his intuitive mastery of it, melding red, black, and white to great painterly and coloristic effect. In Standing Nude Man Holding Bottles (1972.118.238), the three colors of chalk, in combination with the tone of the paper reserve, create a convincing rendering of flesh tones.

Watteau’s artistic legacy pervades French art up to the emergence of Neoclassicism. The sweetness of his palette, an homage to Rubens and the colorism of sixteenth-century Venetian painting recast in delicate pastels to suit the scale and aesthetic of Rococo décor, was widely followed, as was his preference for erotic genre subjects adapted from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish sources.

The times dictated his paintings subject and spirit, but Watteau’s mastery was unique.  The paintings of pierrots, or harlequins, are reflected in Picasso’s artwork, and the painting below will remind us of much of that work.

(Picture courtesy of Jean Louis Mazlere  at flickr.com.)

Pierrot dit autrefois Gille by Watteau
Pierrot dit autrefois Gille by Watteau

Saturday Art: Jean-Baptiste Oudry

Henri, Camille, Chevalier de Berengen by Oudry
Henri Camille, Chevalier de Berenghen by Oudry
Misse and Latine by Oudry
Misse and Latine by Oudry

A painter known best for his portrayal of animals, Oudry studied and showed expertise from an early age and began as a portrait artist.   He showed mastery in art featuring animals and attracted interest from members of the court of Louis XV and support that gave him a solid profession in a comfortable life.

Through his friend, Jean-Baptiste Massé, a portrait-painter and miniaturist, Oudry was introduced to the Marquis de Beringhen, hereditary master of the royal stables,[3] for whom he painted a pair of paintings in 1727,[4] followed by a suite of landscapes in the Flemish manner. Through this connection, he was commissioned to produce the painting that made his reputation, Louis XV hunting a deer in the Forest of Saint-Germain (1730; now at Toulouse). Subsequently he was commissioned to produce numerous works for the King, who was passionate about the hunt and appointed Oudry Painter-in-Ordinary of the Royal Hunt,[5] in which capacity he produced portraits of dead game, the day’s kill. Oudry was granted a workshop in the Tuileries and an apartment in the Louvre.

M. Hultz, an adviser to the Académie de Peinture, commissioned Oudry to produce a buffet, or still-life combining silver plates and ewers, fruit and game; the work was exhibited in the Salon of 1737. Oudry timidly asked for tenpistoles for his work, but Hultz valued it much higher, insisting on paying twenty-five. Oudry was also commissioned to produce a buffet for Louis XV (exhibited in the Salon of 1743), that went to the château de Choisy, the King’s favoured hunting residence.

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Although Oudry produced excellent scenes of animals and of hunting, he also painted portraits, histories, landscapes, fruits and flowers; he imitated bas reliefs in monotone tints en camaïeu, used pastels, and created etchings. He was often sent examples of rare birds to draw.

An important patron was Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who commissioned two pairs of paintings from Oudry: Three Does Watching Two Stags Fighting and A Family of Roe Deer; and A Boar Hunt and A Wolf Hunt, both delivered in 1734.[8] He later purchased a series of large paintings of animals from Louis XV’s menagerie at Versailles. Oudry’s initial motive for painting these works is obscure. When exhibited at the Paris Salon, they had been described as having been painted for the French king; however the commission seems to come through the king’s surgeon, François Gigot de la Peyronie, who had engravings made after them,[9] and in a letter to Christian dated March 1750, Oudry wrote that they had become available for sale due to de La Peyronie’s death. In addition to the portraits of the animals from the royal menagerie, Christian also bought Oudry’s life-size painting of “Clara“, an Indian rhinoceros which had been exhibited all around Europe to great public interest.[10] The works are still at Schwerin.

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Saturday Art: John Singleton Copley

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Watson and the Shark, by Copley

(Picture courtesy of Eric Wilcox at flickr.com.)

Colonial America produced more industry than art, but even for this time Copley gained stature in English-speaking society for his depiction of the figures of his time, and of historically and physically true representation in artwork.   His careful choice of accurate detail distinguished his portraits, and his rich surface and color renderings brought attention throughout the art appreciators of the time. (more…)

Art Saturday: Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Chardin Still Life
Still Life with a White Mug, Above, Fruit, Jug and a Glass, Below; Chardin Still Life

A staunch member and supporter of the French Academy,  Chardin has been called master of still life.

Upon presentation of The Ray in 1728, he was admitted to the Acadèmie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. …Chardin’s work had little in common with the Rococo painting that dominated French art in the 18th century. At a time when history painting was considered the supreme classification for public art, Chardin’s subjects of choice were viewed as minor categories. He favored simple yet beautifully textured still lifes, and sensitively handled domestic interiors and genre paintings. Simple, even stark, paintings of common household items (Still Life with a Smoker’s Box) and an uncanny ability to portray children’s innocence in an unsentimental manner (Boy with a Top [below]) nevertheless found an appreciative audience in his time, and account for his timeless appeal.

Largely self-taught, he was greatly influenced by the realism and subject matter of the 17th-century Low Country masters. Despite his unconventional portrayal of the ascendant bourgeoisie, early support came from patrons in the French aristocracy, including Louis XV. Though his popularity rested initially on paintings of animals and fruit, by the 1730s he introduced kitchen utensils into his repertoire (The Copper Cistern, ca.1735, Louvre). Soon figures populated his scenes as well, supposedly in response to a portrait painter who challenged him to take up the genre. At any event, he was presently painting half-length compositions of children saying grace, as in Le Bènèdicitè, and kitchen maids in moments of reflection. These humble scenes deal with simple, everyday activities, yet they also have functioned as a source of documentary information about a level of French society not hitherto considered a worthy subject for painting. The pictures are noteworthy for their formal structure and pictorial harmony.

In 1756 he returned to the subject of the still life. In the 1770s his eyesight weakened and he took to painting in pastels, a medium in which he executed portraits of his wife and himself.

Chardin’s paintings are often used as prints by decorators, his subdued tones and subjects much in conformity with interiors that are calm and lend themselves to easy living.