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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Art History Survey, A New Slant, No. 10: The 1800s: The Ubiquitous Real

So far we have taken a look at Classicism and Romanticism around the world in the 1800s. Now let’s look at “realism,” which—like every other style—has been a trend somewhere on Earth in art since antiquity.

“Realism” is not just a stylistic term defining an art movement—mainly in France—in the 1850s and 1860s. I dare say realism is seen in the art of every culture on the face of our planet, in varying degrees of emphasis through time. For the last time, let’s examine a Western artistic style enshrined in art history survey books, in the context of similar impulses in non-Western cultures at the same time. Once Impressionism hits, our “new slant” will take on a different tack.

Korea, Bookshelf, panel from a Chaekgado screen, 1850s. Colors on paper, 39 3/16" x 10 11/16" (99.5 x 27.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1299)
For centuries, Korea played a pivotal role in the East, transmitting culture between China and Japan (especially in the field of ceramics). Always influenced by Chinese art after a thwarted Mongol invasion in the 1500s, Korea became a semi-independent state until it was invaded by Japan in 1910. During the 1700s, Chinese influence waned in Korea, and Korean painting came into its own. Everyday life and objects were one of the two most popular genres of Korean painting of the 1700s and 1800s, next to landscapes. Chaekgado is a late manifestation of the Joseon period (1392–1910). Chaekgado literarly means books and things.

This panel comes most like from an eight-fold or ten-fold screen. Both common people and nobility used such screens alike. The subject is the attributes of a scholar: books, paintings, ceramics, ink stones, pen containers, and musical instruments scattered in bookshelves. The subject itself is actually inspired by the reverence for scholars who esteemed learning and art above all else. This itself was a Chinese tradition, which had nurtured the whole school of “literati painting” of scholar/artists. The subject would have appealed to both commoner and noble alike. While the objects are realistically portrayed, their placement within each shelf is somewhat mystical, as if some of them are actually floating. The perspective within each shelf is typical of Chinese and Japanese painting and prints at the time.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 1.4; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 5.27; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 6.36; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 2.8, 2.7-8 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.6; A Personal Journey: 2.6; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 4.5; Discovering Drawing: 4; Experience Painting: 2; Exploring Painting: 9; Discovering Art History: 13 Activity 1; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 13.6

Ren Yi (1840–1895, China), The Five Cardinal Relationships, 1895. Ink and colors on paper, hanging scroll, 73 3/16" x 38 1/4" (185.9 x 97.2 cm). © Art Institute of Chicago. (AIC-385)
Landscape and nature painting in Chinese art are the centuries-old subject of constant debate and analysis by scholars and artist-scholars. By the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), nature painters were loosely divided into “traditionalists” and “individualists.” Ren’s work lies somewhere between the two strains.

Ren was the son of a rice merchant, but trained as a painter. His favorite subject matter was landscape, but he supplemented his income doing portraits. While his early style was emblematic of the tight compositions of classic Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE) landscapes, his later works, such as this, took on the abbreviated brush strokes, suggestion of space and form, and wet application of paint of such earlier Qing masters as Zhu Da (1626–1705).

This painting represents, in bird symbolism, the Five Virtues or Cardinal Relationships. These follow the Confucian belief that implementation of proper hierarchies in social groups leads to social harmony. The long tailed phoenix in the upper right represents benevolence (ruler and subjects); the two cranes in the middle represent longevity (filial piety); above the cranes are orioles representing propriety (sibling relationship); the swimming ducks represent fidelity (martial loyalty); and the two wagtails above the ducks are friendship.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.13, 3.14, 3.16; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 5.26, 5.25-26 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.21; A Personal Journey: 5.5; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 4.5; Experience Painting: 4; Discovering Art History: 4.3; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 13.4

Iran, Portrait of a Man in a Turban, mid-1800s. Ink wash or watercolor on paper, 5 5/8" x 4 3/16" (14.4 x 10.6 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-822)
The long tradition of painting in Iran first developed in manuscript illumination. The great period of literary illustration occurred during the Timurid (1350–1502) and Safavid (1502–1736) Dynasties. However, during the 1600s, book illustration was replaced in importance by individual works of art, in part because they were less costly than lavishly decorated books. While an elegant, stylized court style persisted in individual paintings and drawings, an inherent Iranian interest in realism led to whole new genre in Iranian art that focused on everyday life.

This painting displays an interest in monumentality through chiaroscuro, which may have been influenced by Western art. This depiction of an older man pays particular attention to his particular physical characteristics, such as missing teeth. The interest in unflinchingly realistic portrayal of the not-so-beautiful aspects of life was a trend that also became popular in Mughal art in India.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 2.8; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.2, 1.3; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.1; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.2; Discovering Art History: 4.7, 7.3; The Visual Experience: 9.2, 14.2

Utagawa Hiroshige I (1797–1858, Japan), Nagakubo, #28 from the series “Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido,” 1834–1842. Color woodblock print on paper, 9" x 13 13/16" (22.9 x 35.2 cm). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-2810)
When one thinks of the “Ukiyo-e” style in printmaking, one usually conjures up images of kabuki theater actors, great beauties, and literary scenes. Landscape subjects only became popular during the early 1800s, in great part because of the work of Hiroshige I and Hokusai (1760–1849). Ukiyo-e prints were primarily an art form for the middle class. Most middle class art patrons could not afford painted landscapes by the various schools connected primarily to the emperor’s court, so the subject was translated into the woodblock print medium.

The importance of landscape painting was passed on from Chinese art. While woodblock prints were geared toward middle class patrons, artists such as Hiroshige I observed the same conventions in landscape as did painters. As in painting, distance is implied by misty distant forms, in this case by parts of the woodblock being rubbed to remove most of the ink. Small genre scenes, strong diagonals leading into the background, and a focus on trees in importance are age-old elements important to landscape depiction.

Series such as the stops on the Kisokaido were meant to remind viewers of the scenic beauty of the road between Kyoto and Edo. Like many landscape artists around the planet, Hiroshige I manipulated his views of the route to create a pleasing composition, while maintaining the integrity of important recognizable landmarks. 

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 1.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2 1.1; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.5, 1.6, 4.21; A Community Connection: 4.5, 8.2; A Global Pursuit: 7.5; Experience Printmaking: 3, 4; Discovering Art History: 2.2, 4.4; The Visual Experience: 3.5, 9.4, 13.5


Western Artists of Realism You Might Not Have Encountered:

Realism was an important style outside of countries where it revolted against Neoclassicism. Plus, I’ve included one of the French Realists who does not often make it into standard surveys of Western art history.

Piotr Michalowski (1800–1855 Poland), Old Man from a Village, ca. 1846–1848. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Warsaw. (8S-7423)
Before the 1700s, Poland, like Russia, had major painting schools attached to noble patrons in major cities. After the partition of Poland in the 1700s and 1800s, the major cities, such as Krakow, ended up as part of partitions of Austria, Russia or Germany. Krakow enjoyed a brief period of autonomy after Napoleon’s final defeat (1815), until 1830 when it was crushed and placed back within the Austrian partition. These dramatic and disheartening events produced a sort of national romantic yearning for a united Poland, which affected Polish painting. This Romanticism was tempered with an inherent, down to earth realism in certain subjects.

Piotr Michalowski is considered a leading painter of Romanticism in Poland because of his history paintings about Napoleon. Napoleon was, oddly enough, revered in Poland because he had busted much of the Russian and Austrian partitions (by conquest, naturally), and had established Polish cities as independent city-states. Aside from his history paintings, however, Michalowski did numerous studies of everyday people in Poland, especially members of Poland’s large Jewish population.

Michalowski’s portraits are sympathetic and honestly rendered. The only drama going on with these works is the usually dramatic lighting, and vigorous brushwork. These elements influenced Michalowski’s work when he studied in France and became interested in the work of Dutch, Spanish, and Flemish Baroque masters.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.1, 1.2, 1.1-2 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.1, 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.2; Exploring Painting: 9; A Community Connection: 2.3, 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 7; Exploring Visual Design: 9; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Fidelia Bridges (1834–1923, US), Bird’s Nest and Ferns, 1863. Oil on panel, 7 7/8" x 6 9/16" (20 x 16.8 cm). © Art Institute of Chicago. (AIC-289)
Fidelia Bridges, born in Salem, MA, studied painting under William Trost Richards (1833–1905) in Philadelphia. At the time he was influenced by the English Pre-Raphaelite movement that emphasized a detailed study of nature with botanical accuracy. This work is very much in the same spirit as the work of the English Pre-Raphaelite William Webbe (active 1853–1878).

Bridges set up her own studio in Philadelphia in 1862. Richards sponsored her among his wealthy patrons there. At this time she was exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1867 she went to Rome for a year and joined a group of women artists who wished to work without the strictures of American society. After this trip Bridges began to form her mature style, quite apart from Richards’ influence.

Bridges turned entirely to watercolor in her later. Her work varied little in subject matter throughout her career: close-ups of small fragments of nature such as flowers, grasses, and birds focusing on minute details in vibrant colors.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.2, 1.1-2 studio, 3.15; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 4.21-22 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art 6 2.9; A Community Connection 5.4, 6.2; Experience Painting 6; Exploring Painting 9; Discovering Art History 12.3; The Visual Experience 9.3; 16.4

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807–1876, France), Trees and Pool, ca. 1840–1850. Oil on panel, 8 5/16" x 12 3/16" (21.1 x 31 cm). © Brooklyn Museum. (BMA-1219)
Narcisee-Virgile Diaz de la Peña was a leader of the so-called “Barbizon School,” a group of Realist landscape painters who worked in the commune of Barbizon near Fontainebleau Forest, from which they derived much of their inspiration. In Realism’s rejection of academic admonition to define everything by strict formulas, ignoring nature around them, artists such as Diaz de la Peña moved to Barbizon in order to be close to nature and capture landscape faithfully.

Diaz de la Peña began as a decorator of ceramics but began painting landscapes when he met the Barbizon painters. His enthusiasm for the landscape painting school eventually led him to mentor younger artists, some of them future Impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919).

Like many of the Barbizon Realists, Diaz de la Peña was influenced by Dutch Baroque landscape painting, and the works of the English Romantic landscapist John Constable (1776–1837). The Dutch landscapists worked directly outside to produce studies for landscapes, while Constable often painted entire compositions outside. Eventually, Diaz de la Peña and many of the other Barbizon painters painted en plein air, a major influence on Impressionism.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.21, 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.1, 1.4; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 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: 6.3, 6.4; Discovering Art History: 12.3; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4

Monday, January 12, 2015

Art History Survey, A New Slant, No. 9: The 1800s: What is Romanticism?


Last week I discussed the stylistic designation “classicism” in both Western and Non-Western art produced in the 1800s. For today’s New Slant on Art History, I continue to look at these terms used to classify art of the 1800s: Romanticism. This has actually been a trend in art since antiquity.

“Romantic” is from the French meaning “novel like” (roman is novel in French). It does not necessarily refer to love-relationshippy (a word?) type of stories, but more in the spirit of anything that is adventurous or dramatic. Whipping up a style name from “romantic” (Romanticism) is a way of characterizing, in Western art, the rejection of the conservative strictures of Neoclassicism during the second quarter of the 1800s. Romantic artists preferred drama, open compositions, movement, bright color, fluid brush strokes, exotic subject matter…in other words, Excitement. Let’s see that spirit in Non-Western examples…(Today seems to be a Brooklyn Museum-fest, but, so what? It’s an AWESOME museum.)

India, Gods in Battle with a Tiger, scene from the “Mahabharata” (Ancient Epic of India), probably from Maharashtra, ca. 1830–1850. Watercolor on paper, 11 1/4" x 16 1/2" (28.6 x 41.9 cm). © Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. (BMA-1003)
After the fall of the Mughal Empire around the mid-1700s, the many small kingdoms they had conquered resumed semi-autonomy and their painting schools flourished anew. Maharashtra was one of the most active of these centers, with a distinctive, abstract style. It may just be me because I look at too much art, but these figures are depicted in a manner that reminds me of Mesoamerican figures, especially in the elaborate head ornament. And no, I’m not suggesting cross-cultural influences!

I’m not sure if any of the European Romantic painters ever tackled sacred Hindu texts, but, boy, would they have a treasure trove of exciting narratives to illustrate! The “Mahabharata” was one of two great epic Indian texts that chronicled the merging of spiritual and historical events in ancient India. The style of this manuscript has a wonderful, abstract quality in the stylized figures with wide, staring eyes, the flattened forms, and the lack of pictorial space. Compare the stylization of this tiger to Japanese, Korean, or Chinese renditions of the animal.
           
The “Mahabharata” achieved its final form around 400 CE, but is thought to have been compiled starting around 400 BCE. Many scholars consider it a valuable insight into the early development of Hinduism. The tiger is mentioned often in the “Mahabharata,” particularly when it refers to a person’s either physical (“tiger-wasted Bhima”) or moral strength (“valor that was tiger-like”). This scene is most likely from one of the adventures of Krsna (blue-skinned). It has all the elements that would qualify as romantic: dynamic action, drama of the hunt, exotic garments, and shallow picture plane that forces the viewer’s attention on the dramatic event.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 3.17; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 3.studio 17-18; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 5.27; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 3.16, 3.18, 3.connections; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 3.5; Communicating through Graphic Design: 5; Experience Painting: 1, 2

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) (1786–1864 Japan), Ichikawa Danjūrō as Unno Kotarō Yukjuji Disguised as Yamagatsu Buō, from the play “The Barrier Gate,” at the Ichimuraza Theater (Edo), 1828. Color woodcut with extensive use of metal pigments on paper, 8 1/4" x 7 7/16" (21 x 18.9 cm). © Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. (BMA-2671)
Utagawa was one of the most popular artists of prints in the Ukiyo-e style. Ukiyo-e means pictures of the floating world in the sense of the transience of earthly pleasures such as beautiful people and Kabuki theater drama. He was also a book illustrator and painter. As many Japanese artists did to honor their teachers, he took the name of his, Utagawa Toyokuni (1769–1825). Much like contemporary magazines about popular culture such as “People” or “Us Weekly,” these prints were collected by people and displayed in the home.

If you’ve ever seen a kabuki play, then you realize, like grand opera in the West, there are a lot of exciting, tragic tales told. There are also a lot of battles and fights, all choreographed in the most amazing dances. Diagonal compositions like this were a big influence on Romantic artists in the West, and especially on Impressionists. In the iconography of the actor prints, when eyes are crossed it usually indicates the moment of highest drama. In this particular play, Unno wields a massive ax in a fight with another character.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 3.studio 13-14; Explorations in Art Grade: 2 4.19, 4.20; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3, 3.studio 17-18; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.4; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.4, 3.16, 3.connections; A Personal Journey: 1.1, 1.3; A Community Connection: 8.2; A Global Pursuit: 7.5; Experience Printmaking: 3, 4; Exploring Visual Design: 1, 11, 12; The Visual Experience 9.4, 13.5; Discovering Art History 4.4

Attributed to Simeon Stilthda (ca. 1799–1889, Haida Culture, British Columbia), Crest frontlet, ca. 1850. Wood, abalone shell, pigment, 7" x 5 3/4" x 2 ¼" (17.8 x 14.6 x 5.7 cm). © Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. (BMA-5130)
I am rather surprised that Western artists of the Romantic bent—especially in the US—did not look right at their back door for inspiration, when the rich cultures of Aboriginal peoples surrounded them in the Americas. The iconography of the First Nations cultures’ art would certainly have appeared exotic to Western artists. Maybe the iconography and cosmology of the works were too sophisticated for Western tastes?

There is archeological evidence that the Haida people had a sizeable population as early as 5000 years ago. They inhabit areas off the coast of northern British Columbia and southern Alaska. One of the major art forms for the Haida culture was wooden sculpture. As is the case with the Indian painting, there is a wonderful sense of simplification and abstraction in these sculptures, while they impart important messages about the connection between humans and helpful spirits.

Simeon Stilthda was a major Haida artist active during the mid- to late-1800s. He is most famous for his masks, some of which bare striking similarities to portraits of actual individuals. Crest frontlets such as this were not masks, but rather headdress. They were worn by high-ranking clan members for welcoming dances, ceremonies, and potlatches. This frontlet represents a spirit (upper earth) and a human (middle earth). Abalone was often used to indicate a spirit being having a sort of nimbus (halo).

Correlations to Davis programs: A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 2.1, 2.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 14.5; Discovering Art History: 4.10

Happening in Western Art History: Romanticism

Although France is seen by Western art historians as the center of the Romanticism movement in art, the romantic impulse is never far from the artists of every culture in the world. There is often an interest in subject matter that elicits emotion because of drama, danger, excitement, heroics, or jarring color and form. Romanticism can also be characterized by an interest in sentimentality, awe, or even national pride.

Jan Nepomucen Glowacki (1802–1847, Poland), Morskie Oko Lake in the Tatra Mountains, ca. 1837. Oil on canvas. © Muzeum Narodowe, Kracow, Poland. (8S-7413)
Poland was practically partitioned out of existence permanently between the 1700s and 1800s by Russia, Austria, and Germany. The dividing up of Poland’s territory to the various European powers left the Poles with a yearning to cherish their own land that had slipped through their fingers because of wars and power grabs in central and eastern Europe at the time. Poland was not restored as a sovereign country until 1918. In the meantime, many Polish artists became prominent focusing on Polish subject matter.
           
Jan Nepomucen Glowacki is considered the father of painting the Polish landscape in Poland. He trained in Krakow, Prague, Munich and Rome, absorbing all of the current trends in painting and returned to Poland to teach in Krakow. While in Italy he saw the works of artists such as Bernardo Bellotto (1720–1780), who painted detailed views of Poland before the partitions, and it inspired him to likewise portray Poland for foreigners to marvel at.
           
Glowacki is most noted for his many depictions of the Tatra Mountains. While his landscapes are realistic depictions of actual places, like the Hudson River School artists, he manipulated and compressed compositions for maximum impact on the viewer, a type of Romantic-Realism. The romantic element is heightened by the cross on the lower left, a symbol that Poland was indeed God’s country, and a country worth reuniting.

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.4, 1.5; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.8, 2.studio 7-8, 2.connections; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 11; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4.

Karl Bodmer (1809–1893, Swiss), Scalp Dance of the Minitarres, from the “Travels in the Interior of North America” portfolio, printed by Ackermann and Company (London). Aquatint and etching on paper, 11 13/16" x 17 5/16" (30 x 44 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bayou Bend Collection. (MFH-777)
Having just posited about why Western artists did not use First Nations as subject matter more during the 1800s, we come to Karl Bodmer. Just as the lives of Arabs or Greeks or Africans would have been the topic of much wild speculation by European art aficionados during the Romantic period, so, too, were Aboriginal peoples of the US. They were considered especially “exotic” because they were “not civilized.”

Bodmer was a classically trained artist, who studied in Paris before he went to Germany to sketch landscapes. While there he met a German naturalist-prince who convinced him to accompany an expedition to produce accurate depictions of the western US and document what he saw as vanishing cultures. The 1832 expedition, which mimicked the route of both Lewis and Clark and George Catlin, encountered numerous native cultures, among them the Hidatsa (called “Minetarree” by the prince) in what is now North Dakota. The Hidatsa were practically wiped out by Western smallpox between 1837–1838 and joined with the Mandan culture.
Bodmer made copious sketches for 81 paintings that he produced when he returned to Europe in 1834. This depiction of a dramatic moment in the scalp dance was sketched by Bodmer at Fort Clark, ND, in 1834, in a number of drawings of individuals and groups of individuals. Bodmer’s over 400 sketches from the trip were published in print form between 1839 and 1843.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 5.27; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3, 1.4; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 6.studio 35-36; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.4; Experience Printmaking: 5; The Visual Experience: 9.4, 16.4; Discovering Art History: 12.2
             
James Renwick (1818–1895, US), Smithsonian Institution, 1849. Washington, DC. © Davis Art Images. (8S-6864)
And finally, what could be more romantic than harking back to the past good-old-days for stylistic advice? Starting during the Romantic period, a number of past architectural styles were revived as an offshoot of the Neoclassicism that continued to dominate many public buildings. Often, revival styles were mixed together in one building, such as Roman and Greek. The Smithsonian Institution is a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque revivals. Interest in the Gothic and Romanesque periods sprang from the Romantic obsession with medieval chivalry and literature, especially in Britain.

James Renwick, a child prodigy, trained as an engineer from the age of 12. He had grown up with cultured, affluent parents and was well trained in world (European) history and art and architectural history. Between 1839 and 1843 he worked as a structural engineer on the Erie Railroad. Although he had no practical design experience, he submitted the winning design for the Smithsonian Institution’s “Castle” in 1846. Although the Smithsonian trustees requested Romanesque Revival for the style, Renwick added some Gothic elements such as tall, narrow windows; rose windows; and vaulted ceilings. He also added Saxon and Norman decorative motifs.

Renwick’s vast knowledge of architectural history meant that most of his designs incorporated numerous styles in one building. This helped formulate a uniquely American style of revivalist architecture. Among the other famous buildings he designed are Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington.

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: 3.18; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 2.11, 2.12; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 4.20; A Community Connection: 4.4; Discovering Art History: 12.2; The Visual Experience: 11.4