Monday, March 2, 2015

Architecture or Sculpture? You Decide


Java, Indonesia, Siva Temple, Loro Jonggrang, Prambanan, ca. 856–915 CE. © Davis Art Images. (8S-10184)
I have been stunned recently by the overwhelming beauty of Hindu-Buddhist temples in Java. I think they rival the beauty of any architecture anywhere else in the world. It is interesting to compare these stunning structures with what was being built elsewhere in the world at the time. It was not yet the period of cathedrals in Europe, gorgeous churches were being built in the Byzantine Empire, and it was just about the end of the Classic Period in Mesoamerica, a time that saw the construction of some of the most beautiful planned cities in the world. I would like to see more attention paid to striking architecture such as this as part of the global “March of Time in Art and Architecture.”

It is generally believed that the earliest inhabitants of the Indonesian archipelago were of Indian or Burmese origin. Later migrants known as Malays came from Southern China and Indochina at around 3000 BCE. Since the early period, the Javanese established trade with India and China. Prior to the arrival of Buddhism and Hinduism to Java, the native inhabitants practiced a form of animism.
     
Hinduism was introduced from India through trade during the first century CE. Hindu kingdoms were established in Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Java between the 400s and the 1200s, some of which had also absorbed Buddhist influences. Javanese architecture began under Hindu influence, with a surge of Buddhism from about 750 to 850 (as evidenced by the monumental Stupa in Borobudur), and a second flourishing of Hindu architecture that lasted from the late 800s until the 1300s with the coming of Islam.

The Siva Temple at Loro Jonggrang is the most preeminent of Javanese temples. It is part of a complex of at least 200 subsidiary temples and stupas, built of brick. The Siva Temple shows the tendency of late medieval Hindu architecture to be placed on larger and larger platforms. The tower of the temple is based on the Dravidian pyramidal style temple towers in Indian architecture, with much more elaboration in sculpture programs.

The idea of the sacred mountain evolved in temple architecture during the late 600s in Southeast Asia. The mountain (Mount Meru, sacred in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism) was considered the axis of the universe, and, as in Western pyramids, ziggurats, and even cathedrals, provided access to the divine. While the basic form of the temple ("candi") in Southeast Asia was similar from region to region, the elaborate and exuberant sculptural programs on the exterior are of greatest impact. The reliefs around the pedestal/platform of the temple show scenes from the Ramayana interspersed with niches containing sacred figures. The sculptural style of Prambanan is a combination of the classic Shrivijaya Kingdom (750–850 CE) style seen at Borobudur, and elements that hark back to the Gupta period (320–647 CE) in India. The entrances on all four sides are a tradition dating back to early stupas and other Buddhist architecture.

Siva Temple, Loro Jonggrang, sculpture: Guardian of a Direction. © Davis Art Images. (8S-10187)
Siva Temple, Loro Jonggrang, sculpture: Rama. © Davis Art Images. (8S-10188)

Here’s another beautiful temple in the same part of Java as Loro Jonggrang:

Java, Candi Plaosan, ca. 830–850 CE, Prambanan Plain, near Yogyakarta. © Davis Art Images. (8S-10183)
This temple, where Buddhism was worshipped, is part of a complex of 248 smaller temples and stupas. Ironically, it was only used until about 1006, when a nearby volcano erupted and covered everything in volcanic ash.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 1.1; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 6.31, 6.33; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.20; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 3.14, 3.18; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 4.20; Exploring Visual Design: 6; A Global Pursuit: 8.5; Discovering Art History: 4.5

Monday, February 23, 2015

African American History Month 2015 II


Jae Jarrell (born 1935, US), Urban Wall Suit, ca. 1969. Sewn and painted cotton and silk, two piece, 37 1/2" x 27 1/2" x 1/2" (95.3 x 69.9 x 1.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum. © 2015 Jae Jarrell. (BMA-4837a)
The G.I. Bill after World War II (1939–1945) allowed unprecedented numbers of African Americans to attend art schools. Since African Americans served with distinction in both WWII and the Korean War (1951–1953), they believed opportunities in the arts would improve. Unfortunately, discrimination and racism revived big time during the 1950s. Some African American artists continued to study in Europe. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s galvanized black artists, however, into pushing for a revival of exhibitions and studies of African American art in the US. Many groups were formed to address the black artists’ role in modernism, while still highlighting their community and heritage. Jae Jarrell and her husband Wadsworth Jarrell (born 1929) were active in establishing African American art in the forefront of American modernism.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, critics summarily categorized much African American art that addressed injustices in American society as “protest art.” The trend toward positive messages in politically aware art began with the urban mural movement of that period, pioneered in Chicago, which sought to bring not only beauty to urban neighborhoods, but also uplifting, positive messages about African American—and other minority—life.

After the painting of the Wall of Respect in Chicago in 1969, a collaboration by numerous artists, five black artists formed the group COBRA (Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists). They were Jae Jarrell and Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Gerald Williams, and Jeff Donaldson. This group emphasized positive images of the strong African American family, and proud and profound members of the black community, rather than documenting injustices meted out by the US government on minorities. Like many artists of the Harlem Renaissance (ca. 1918–1939), these artists produced works that celebrated African American life, neighborhoods, achievements, and their African heritage.

The group grew to ten people and the name changed in 1970 to AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). It was during this period that Jae Jarrell created Urban Wall Suit.

Many of the Africans brought to the US as slaves came from West Africa, where there is a long, honored tradition of textile art, woven, painted, and dyed. In Africa, most weavers are men, but in the US, before emancipation, African women became the textile artists, producing quilts, rugs, and clothing, often repeating patterns and motifs from Africa. Jae Jarrell carries on that tradition as a fashion designer.

Jarrell is very proud of Urban Wall Suit, especially because it was received with such critical acclaim everywhere she wore it. The multi-colored two-piece suit represents a brick wall with appliquéd mortar lines in velvet, with graffiti, posters, notices, and tagging in acrylic paint. These are positive words representing not only black pride, but also carrying on the tradition of African American artists representing their particular neighborhood, and their unique contribution to American culture.

Urban Wall Suit was one of a group of 44 works by 29 African American artists bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 2013 from a collector in Detroit. The group of works, including two outfits by Jarrell, bridges the museum’s collection between African American art of the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary African American art.
Urban Wall Suit, reverse. (BMA-4837b)

Jae Jarrell, Ebony Family dress, ca. 1968. (BMA-4836a)

Studio activity: Design an outfit based on family or neighborhood. Using a pencil, draw on a piece of white construction paper the outline of a dress, suit, pants or shirt so that it fills most of an 11 x 8 ½” sheet. Go over the outline with a black felt tip marker. Using color pencils, create designs on the clothing item drawn to reflect personal values, experiences or family history. Try to combine images of objects of personal significance as well as words or sayings that summarize personal feelings.

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 1: 6.33; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 6.32, 6.33; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.27-28 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.5-6 studio, 2.9; A Personal Journey: 1.1, 3.1, 3.3; A Community Connection: 5.2; A Global Pursuit: 2.1; Experience Painting: 4, 9; Exploring Painting: 6; Exploring Visual Design: 11; The Visual Experience: 10.8, 12.4

Monday, February 16, 2015

It’s All in the Title


Paul Cézanne (1839–1906, France), Melting Snow, Fontainebleau, 1879–1880. Oil on canvas, 29 1/8" x 39 3/4" (74 x 101 cm). © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (MOMA-P2557)
The words “melting snow” probably sound pretty good to most people who live in the northeast US. As a transplanted Midwesterner, snow doesn’t really phase me, but I must say, this year it’s been really…intriguing in Massachusetts. And it always seems to snow on the same day each week. Anyway, what better way to think about snow than a) when it’s melting because it spring might be a-comin’ and b) when it’s in a beautiful Cézanne painting? With those two reasons, how can one lose?  Among the many “favorite artists” I cherish, Cézanne is right up there toward the top with Monet. These two guys had a major impact on changing the direction of painting in Western art, and really, their work led to abstraction.

Paul Cézanne’s paintings of the 1860s were dark and painterly, often involving mythological or literary subjects. Cézanne had studied the great masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, as well as Romanticism, especially the work of Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). He also gravitated toward more unconventional contemporary painters Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) and Edouard Manet (1832–1883).

The most significant influence on his early work was Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), at the time an unrecognized painter living near Paris. Pissarro introduced Cézanne to the impressionist palette and technique of painting outdoors. Cézanne developed a painting style that involved working outdoors rapidly and at reduced scale, using small touches of pure color. He exhibited with the impressionists between 1874 and 1878, his so-called “Impressionist Period.”

By the late 1870s, Cézanne felt that Impressionism was too restrictive.  Formally, Cézanne was drawn to Baroque and Renaissance art because of the emphasis on structure and balance. He resolved to work with a style that combined the Impressionist technique with the underlying structure of basic geometry of the Renaissance and Baroque. Because of this shift, his work is often classified as Post-Impressionism. The palette of this work is a relatively conservative, traditional one of earth tones with a grey-green underpainting. In many of his works from this period, Cézanne worked areas of the canvas with a palette knife, seen in the snow of this painting. The result is a thick impasto, visible in this work, and heavily defined, almost sculptural forms.

 
Studio activity:  On a piece of brown or green construction paper, draw a group of bare winter trees in black chalk. Using white chalk to indicate snow, and the brown or green of the construction paper as the ground, indicate a scene of melting snow. Allow the green or brown of the paper to show through in spots. Use other colors of chalk such as blue or green to give texture to the snow covering.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.1, 1.3; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.5, 1.6, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 7.1, 7.2, 7.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 11; Exploring Visual Design: 1, 7; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4; Discovering Art History: 13.2

Monday, February 9, 2015

African American History Month 2015


William Edmondson (ca. 1870–1951, US), Squirrel, 1941(?). Limestone, 13 1/2" x 5" x 7 1/2" (34.3 x 12.7 x 19.1 cm). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. (PMA-3508)
African-American artists in the 21st century have embraced every art form, style, and new development, as well as pioneering many on their own. They have the added distinction of contributing a unique vision to American art based on the history of black culture in America, and its rich foundations in African art. Self-taught artists have a long history in many western cultures, and, in the United States, particularly in the African American community. If an inquiring art historian mind thinks about it, “self-taught” probably describes 90 per cent of the artists on the planet. In the instance of African American art, it is particularly important, because African slaves in the US passed on their knowledge of African artistic traditions from one generation to another. This rich history, in an amazing variety of art forms, sure was not going to be taught at the National Academy of Design in New York or the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the two premier “art schools” of the 1800s! The term I like the best for this genre of art is “visionary,” because it really is.

William Edmondson was born in Nashville of former slaves. He worked a number of different jobs, including as a stonemason in the building trade. When the Depression affected construction jobs, he began carving stone sculpture around 1931, intrigued by the solid dignity and enduring quality of the stone medium. Edmondson had no training in sculpture or painting, nor had he studied American or European art. He believed that God had told him to become a sculptor and carve pieces of limestone, which he had gathered, lying in his driveway. He initially began carving tombstones that he sold to members of his church. Eventually he began carving non-utilitarian works. He carved limestone exclusively because it was abundant locally and inexpensive. Most of it was discarded sections of street curbstones. Sometimes he could find larger pieces on the sites of building demolitions. He used tools he fashioned himself from old railroad spikes.

Famous fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895–1989, US) met Edmondson in 1937. She photographed him in his studio in Nashville, working and with his pieces. Dahl-Wolfe helped organize a show of twelve of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was the first African American artist to have a one-person show at the Museum of Modern Art. He was twice employed in the sculpture division of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression (1929–1940), and had many shows of his work subsequent to MoMA. He was also photographed in the 1930s by the photojournalist Consuelo Kanaga (1894–1978), one of the first American photographers to document the lives and struggles of African Americans.

Many of Edmondson’s subjects involve the animal world. His early non-tombstone work involved many Biblical subjects, including animals that were symbolic in the Bible, such as doves. When he expanded his figurative work to non-religious subjects, he also included the range of animals he depicted. Many of the animals he chose have symbolic significance in African art. The African ground squirrel, for example, was considered to be endowed with sharp wits, resourcefulness, and protection of family. This piece is most likely the first of many versions he did of this subject, most in the same pose.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.13, 3.14, 3.15-16 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 4.20; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.connections, 4.21-22 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.9-10 studio; A Community Connection: 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Exploring Visual Design: 6; The Visual Experience: 10.2; Discovering Art History: 2.1

Monday, February 2, 2015

Art History Survey, A New Slant, No. 12: Abstraction

In our art history survey, we are now at the end with the 1900s. The big “revelation” in Western art starting very late in the 1800s and flowering in the early 1900s was abstraction. Abstraction is defined basically as any art that does not represent observed elements of the physical world. Where objects of the physical world are the subject matter, they are abstract if reduced to simple, stylized forms. The basic change in Western art was from the physical to the cerebral.  Isn’t it interesting how these criteria are found in art long before abstraction was “invented” by Western artists?

The following are works from cultures that are known to have influenced groundbreaking Western artists and led them to explore abstraction.    

Ancient Aegean, Cycladic Culture, Figure of a Woman, ca. 3000–2000 BCE. Marble, 13 3/8" x 3 5/8" x 1 3/4" (34 x 9.2 x 4.4 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-44)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 1.4; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Exploring Visual Design: 10; Discovering Art History: 6.1; The Visual Experience: 10.2


Ancient Mexico, Colima Culture, Standing Female, ca. 300 BCE–500 CE. Terra cotta, 7 1/4" x 2 3/4" x 1 1/8" (18.4 x 7 x 2.9 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-901)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 1.5, 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Discovering Art History: 4.9; The Visual Experience: 10.2

Britain, Celtic culture, Male Head, ca. 100s–200s CE. Sandstone with traces of red pigment, 13" x 11 3/4" (33 x 29.9 cm). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-588)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Discovering Art History: 7.1; The Visual Experience: 10.2

Maruyama Ōzui (1766–1829, Japan), Carp and Waterfall, 1796. Ink and color on silk, hanging scroll, 52 1/2" x 16 9/16” (133.5 x 42.1 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-951)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art 1 4.connections; Explorations in Art 2 3.14; Explorations in Art 3 5.27-28 studio; Explorations in Art 4 4.conn., 4.21-22 studio; A Community Connection 6.2; A Global Pursuit 7.5; Experience Painting 4; Exploring Painting 5; Exploring Visual Design 1, 7, 12; The Visual Experience 9.3, 13.5; Discovering Art History 4.4

Dan People, Liberia, Mask, late 1800s–early 1900s. Wood, 11 3/8" x 9" (29 x 23 cm). Private Collection, photo © Davis Art Images. (8S-10551)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.30, 5-29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 3.17-18 studio; A Personal Journey: 7.6; A Community Connection: 3.2, 7.6; A Global Pursuit: 1.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 10.15, 14.3, 14.7; Discovering Art History: 4.8


Iatmul People, Papua New Guinea, Suspension Hook, late 1800s to early 1900s. Wood, fiber, shell, and pigment, 36" x 11" x 6" (91.4 x 27.9 x 15.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-738)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1,4; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience :10.2; Discovering Art History: 4.6


The following are artworks that I feel meet the criteria of “abstraction.” As you can see, they come from all places and all periods.  Some of these cultures may have, over the last hundred-something years, had an impact on the abstraction of some Western artist, or contemporary artists in these cultures.

Ancient Egypt, “Marsh” Bowl, ca. 1400 BCE. Faience ware, width: 6 3/16" (15.7 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-722)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.17-18 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 6.35; A Personal Journey: 3.4; A Community Connection: 2.6, 5.2; A Global Pursuit: 1.4; Experience Clay: 4; The Visual Experience: 10.6, 15.3; Discovering Art History: 5.3

Ancient Panama, Chest plaque, from Sitio Conte, 400–900 CE. Hammered gold, 9 7/8" x 10 1/2" (25.1 x 26.7 cm)  © Cleveland Museum of Art (CM-432)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 2.11; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 2.7-8 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4, 5.29; A Personal Journey: 7.conn.; A Community Connection: 1.5, 5.2; Exploring Visual Design: 1; The Visual Experience: 10.7, 14.4; Discovering Art History: 2.2, 4.9


Byzantine, Saint Matthew Writing his Gospel, page excised from a lectionary, from Constantinople (current Istanbul), Turkey, 1057–1063. Tempera and gold leaf on vellum, 11 5/16" x 9 1/2" (28.8 x 24.3 cm). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CM-429)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3, 3.17-18 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.4, 3.16; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 3.4; Experience Painting: 1; Communicating Through Graphic Design: 5; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 15.6; Discovering Art History: 7.2, 7.activity 2


India, Buddha Seated in Meditation, from Tamil Nadu, ca. 1100s. Granite, 63" x 47 5/16" x 22 1/8" (160 x 120.2 x 56.3 cm). © Art Institute of Chicago. (AIC-386)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.3-4 studio; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 3.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.3, 10.13, 13.2; Discovering Art History: 4.2



Byzantine, Head of a Saint, 1100s–1300s. Fresco fragment transferred to panel, commissioned for the Church of Hagiou Staurou, Jerusalem, 14 3/4" x 10 9/16" (37.4 x 27 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1220)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.1-2 studio, 1.3; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.3, 1.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 2.4; Experience Painting: 8; Exploring Painting: 4, 10; Exploring Visual Design: 10; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 15.6; Discovering Art History: 7.2

Maori People, New Zealand, Maskette, 1800s–1900s. Wood, haliotis shell, height: 6" (15.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-747)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.30; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4, 3.17-18 studio; A Personal Journey: 7.6; A Community Connection: 3.2, 7.6; A Global Pursuit: 6.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 10.15, 14.7; Discovering Art History: 4.6

Monday, January 26, 2015

Art History Survey, A New Slant, No. 11: The 1800s: The (Relatively) Unknown Impressionists

Art in the 1800s brought us the terms Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Realism, covered in my New Slant on Art History. The second half of the century saw a major shift in how artists used art to portray the world around them. Let’s look at “Impressionism,” a made-up stylistic term based on a Monet painting Impression Sunrise.

Impressionism is the first more or less revolutionary art movement since antiquity in the West. Instead of the emphasis being on subject matter, style, or the hierarchies of “fine art” espoused by the French Academy, Impressionism was basically a documentation of the artist’s perceptions of transient effects of light on the local color of objects. Landscapes, still life, genre scenes, even portraits became mere vehicles for the artist’s analysis of capturing a moment in time in color and light. It revolutionized art in these ways: artists painted a complete work out of doors in order to capture light accurately; no underpainting was used, just the application of pure color; traditional earth tones such as browns, black, and yellow were avoided in favor of pure color combinations; many compositional traditions such as symmetry, closed composition, and narrative were out the window.

By the 1880s, when most of the original Impressionists began to feel the style had become too restrictive, the style spread to the US and other countries. To the present day, Impressionism is a very popular style, as evidenced in the continued existence of such schools of painting as the California Plein Air Painters. Below are some Impressionists from the original period who, for some reason, usually fly under the radar in Western art history survey texts.
 
Giovanni Boldini (1845–1931, Italy), Highway at Combes-la-Ville, 1873. Oil on canvas, 27 ¼" x 40" (69.2 x 101.4 cm). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. (PMA-1029)
Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara and left school early to pursue an interest in painting and drawing. He was academically trained in Italy, where he developed a fresh, naturalistic approach to landscape, more in keeping with Impressionist than Realist aesthetics. His style featured fluid, swishing brushwork, and adapted the habit of working on landscapes outdoors.

In 1872 he moved to Paris, where he remained, more or less, the rest of his life. He became friends with Edgar Degas (1834–1917), a key Impressionist. Although he adapted the Impressionist palette and penchant for spontaneously capturing landscapes in certain light conditions, he habitually exhibited his portraits in the official Salon. His portraits, influenced greatly by his friend John Singer Sargent (1856–1925, US), became very fashionable among the wealthy in Paris. Like Sargent’s portraits, Boldini’s featured a lively, light-struck surface and flattering, idealized likeness.

This view of Combes-la-Ville was near a rented house where Boldini stayed outside of Paris. In the 1870s, Boldini made the acquaintance of another Italian painter, Antonio Mancini (1852–1930), whose portraits and work also took on the Impressionist palette and an emphasis on flickering light through wispy brushwork. This sundrenched landscape has the freshness and spontaneity typical of Impressionism, and was most likely painted on the spot.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 11; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 13.1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Dennis Miller Bunker (1861–1890, US), The Pool, Medfield, 1889. Oil on canvas, 18 1/2" x 24 ¼" (47 x 61.6 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-124)
A practically ignored, important figure in the American development of Impressionism, Dennis Miller Bunker, like many of the other American Impressionists, initially trained in the US in the academic style and palette. Early on he showed a penchant for landscapes, but in order to make money did many portraits. These works of his early mature period (1880–1882) reflect the tradition of preparatory sketches and later finished work in the studio in a somewhat somber palette.

Bunker’s palette lightened somewhat on his visit to France from 1882–1883, where he began producing finished works outdoors in brighter colors, with emphasis on brilliant light. Although this did not result in an overly Impressionist style when he returned to the US, he taught and hung out with American Impressionists in New England such as William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Thomas W. Dewing (1851–1938), and, most importantly, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). His work acquired more atmospheric effects; subtle tonal changes; and a lighter, more saturated palette.

After painting with Sargent in England in 1888, Bunker’s style finally exploded into fully Impressionist. This work dates from the period when he was teaching in Boston, living in a boarding house in Medfield, MA. His earlier emphasis on darks and lights in a traditional palette now emphasize the effect of bright sunlight on the local colors of the meadow.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 5.4, 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 11; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 13.1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883, France), Nanny and Child, 1877 / 1878. Oil on canvas, 25 9/16" x 32" (65 x 81.4 cm). © National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (NGA-P1140)
Besides Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) and Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), Eva Gonzalès was the only other woman artist active in the group of Impressionists in Paris. However, she doesn’t get the “book time” the other two women do, I’ve found. This is perhaps because she did not fully adapt all of the aspects of Impressionism, such as the use of pure colors, lack of underpainting, and flickering brushwork.

Gonzalès trained academically before she met Édouard Manet (1832–1883) in 1869. Manet was a Realist who, in the 1870s, adapted the Impressionist palette and habit of painting outdoors.  Gonzalès’ first exhibit came in 1870 at the age of 21, where she already showed the influence of Manet’s works of the early 1860s in the somber, muted palette; limited middle tone; silhouetting of the subject in strong back lighting; and fluid brush work. This palette, as it was with Manet, was the influence of Gonzalès’ interest in Spanish Baroque painting. Her work, however, was praised for its sensitivity, an acclaim never given to other Impressionists’ work.

Works such as Nanny and Child are strongly reminiscent of Manet’s work, such as his 1873 The Railway, although by that time Manet had adapted Impressionist color, which Gonzalès never did. The capturing of a simple, intimate moment in carefully studied light and the casual composition set her work firmly within the sphere of Impressionism.

Édouard Manet (1832–1883, France), The Railway, 1873. Oil on canvas, 36 3/4" x 43 7/8" (93.3 x 111.5 cm). © National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (NGA-P0052)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 2.8, 2.9-10 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3, 1.4; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.2, 1.3, 1.5; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; A Personal Journey: 2.4; A Community Connection: 2.3, 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 10; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4; Discovering Art History: 13.1 

Jean-Baptiste Guillaumin (1841–1927, France), Bridge in the Mountains, 1898. Oil on canvas, 25 3/4" x 32 1/4" (65.4 x 81.9 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1210)
Jean-Baptiste Guillaumin, who never achieved the “stature” of Impressionists such as Monet and Renoir, was nevertheless an active member of the group, and one of the key artists in spreading the style. He studied at the Academie Suisse in Paris in 1861, where he met Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), both artists who initially painted in the nascent Impressionist style in the 1870s. Cézanne’s later work was influenced by Guillaumin’s tendency to paint in broad, flat brush strokes.

Guillaumin exhibited with the first Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejects) in 1863, an exhibition that set the precedent for the Impressionist salons starting in 1874, in which Guillaumin participated. He is most known for his scenes of Paris, but I like his rural landscapes. This one is gorgeous, and as you can see, he did not abandon the style through his later career. This painting reminds me of Monet’s series of the Valley of the Creuse.

Claude Monet (1840–1926, France), Valley of the Creuse (Gray Day), 1889. Oil on canvas, 25 3/4" x 32" (65.5 x 81.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-26)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 11; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 13.1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Maruyama Banka (1867–1942, Japan), Postcard, 1900–1910. Color lithograph on card stock, 5 7/16" x 3 7/16" (13.8 x 8.8 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1062)
It is always tempting for me to show Japanese art from the late Impressionist period simply because it’s like a 360 degrees turnaround of artistic influence. Japanese art had quite an impact on the Impressionists in the reverence for nature and open, seemingly unplanned and often asymmetrical compositions. And, it was not because he had seen Swiss art that Monet built a grand Japanese garden complete with bridge and water lilies!

Maruyama Banka initially trained in the literati style of traditional Japanese landscape painting that evolved from the ages old tradition of the Chinese scholar-artists.  He eventually became Japan’s most celebrated watercolorist. However, in the 1880s, Maruyama began studying Western art, and subsequently visited Europe where he saw Impressionism, among other trends. He brought influences of the style back to Japan: the soft contours, atmospheric lighting, and solid emphasis on form rather than suggestion (such as mist) to define recession. This post card is a lovely translation of Impressionism into lithography, an art form introduced in Japan during the last two decades of the 1800s.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Community Connection: 4.5, 8.2; Experience Printmaking: 6; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 4.4; The Visual Experience: 9.4, 13.5

Francisco Oller y Cestero (1833–1917, Puerto Rico), The Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree, c. 1887–1888. Oil on canvas, 19 1/4" x 27 1/4" (48.9 x 69.2 cm). © Ponce Museum of Art, Ponce, Puerto Rico. (PON-6)
During the 1800s, Puerto Rican artists struggled with the aesthetic tradition of Spanish art and the increasing desire to cast off that mantle and establish an indigenous Puerto Rican painting school. Francisco Oller y Cestero was the first native Latin American artist to study in Europe. He studied in the 1850s in Spain, then in the 1860s in France, where he studied under the Barbizon Realists Thomas Couture (1815–1879) and Gustave Courbet (1819–1877). He also associated with future Impressionists Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley, who helped him ultimately formulate an Impressionist style that he took back to Puerto Rico in 1865. His earliest landscapes of Puerto Rico were in the Barbizon Realist style.

Another visit to Paris in 1873 cemented his interest in Impressionism. When he returned to his native Puerto Rico in 1884, he continued painting landscapes in the open air with the high-key Impressionist palette. This site gave Oller the opportunity to render reflections of light on water, a signature theme of Impressionism. He most likely painted this work while seated beneath overhanging foliage. Shadows cast from the leaves appear in the painting’s foreground, uniting the painter and viewer with the natural environment.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 11; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 13.1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.

Theodore Robinson (1852–1896, US), Giverny, c. 1889. Oil on canvas, 16" x 22" (40.7 x 55.8 cm). © The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. (PC-551)
Impressionism cannot be adequately studied without looking at American artists who adapted the style. Because American art in the 1800s was firmly entrenched in realism, it must have been quite a stretch for American painters to introduce the Impressionist style in the US. Theodore Robinson is one of the leaders in introducing Impressionism into American art.

Robinson, although trained academically in the US, went to Paris first in 1877–1879 during the heyday of Impressionism, and then again in 1884. It was during his second visit that he Impressionism transformed his style. He was greatly influenced by Monet, with whom he had become friends and neighbors in Giverny, where he stayed from 1888–1892.

When Robinson returned to the US, he obtained teaching positions and worked with groups of other American painters interested in Impressionism, particularly John H. Twachtman (1853–1902) and Julian A. Weir (1852–1919) in the Cos Cob art colony in Connecticut. The paintings he produced of the American landscape show how successfully Robinson merged his Impressionist style with a fervent love for American views.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.3, 1.5-6 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.4, 1.5, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7, 11; Exploring Visual Design: 5; Discovering Art History: 13.1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Medardo Rosso (1858–1928, Italy), The Golden Age, 1886. Wax on plaster, 16 9/16" x 17 3/4" x 10 3/4" (42.22 x 45.08 x 27.30 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-84)
We probably do not usually think of sculpture when talking about Impressionism. Medardo Rosso’s work, although he was a sculptor, definitely expresses some of the aims of Impressionism, even though the movement was obsessed with the effect of light on color. Rosso’s work explored the effects of light on sculpture and how it could infuse a sculpture with movement.

Rosso was trained as a painter in Milan. After being dismissed from the Brera Academy there in 1883, he moved to Paris where he studied with the great transformer of French sculpture, Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Rodin’s sculpture bucked the prevailing academic stodginess of French sculpture that was stuck in the classical/historical/heroic mode. His works broke new ground in compositions without limbs (influenced by ancient sculpture), and works with roughly textured surfaces that seemed to come alive in light. Rosso seemed most influenced by the rough surfaces of Rodin’s work. Like Rosso’s work, Rodin’s work, too, has sometimes been associated with Impressionism.

Rosso’s favorite medium was wax, because of the ability to create the subtlest nuances in transition between figures, and between figures and background. Because of the medium, his works are very intimate, a fact that had impact on modernist sculpture in the 1900s. This work of a mother and child recalls the intimate, unmannered subjects of Impressionists such as Cassatt and Morisot. Like the Impressionists, obviously, Rosso was a master at capturing a fleeting moment with a striking immediacy.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 2.9-10 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 5.29; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3-4 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.2, 1.3-4 studio; A Community Connection: 2.3, 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 7.4; Beginning Sculpture: 2; Exploring Visual Design: 6, 12; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 16.4; Discovering Art History: 13.1