The Temple of Segesta by Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, American Artist, 1801-1848
The Temple of Segesta with the Artist Sketching, circa 1842, oil on canvas, 49.8×76.5 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

O that I was there again, and in the same spirit! wrote Thomas Cole in 1834, in the letter he sent to William Dunlap, for publication in the latter’s book, the ‘History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States’. The artist was fortunate to revisit Italy in 1841/42, from November 1841 through May 1842. These seven months in Italy marked one of the artist’s most productive periods, during which dozens of canvases were created, most of them showcasing the architectural glory of Italy’s antiquity. My new BLOG POST, The Temple of Segesta by Thomas Cole, features one of these paintings, presenting an intriguing example of a combined landscape and self-portrait scene!

The Temple of Segesta stands as an iconic testament to ancient Greek architecture, nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of northwestern Sicily, in Italy. Believed to have been constructed around the 5th century BC by the Elymians, an indigenous Sicilian people, the Temple is a magnificent Doric structure that has endured centuries, maintaining its grandeur and allure. The temple’s majestic columns, characterized by their timeless simplicity, rise proudly against the backdrop of rolling hills, creating a scene of remarkable historical resonance. Surrounded by an aura of mystery, the Temple of Segesta invites visitors to embark on a journey through the remnants of classical antiquity, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the region. Its enduring presence and architectural splendor make the Temple of Segesta a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and admirers, like Thomas Cole, of ancient civilizations alike.

Temple of Segesta Seen from the site of the ancient town, built in the 420s BC, Sicily, Italy

The Temple of Segesta by Thomas Cole, housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is a captivating artistic rendition that brings the ancient structure to life on canvas. Executed during the artist’s visit to Italy in 1841/42, the painting reflects Cole’s mastery in capturing the essence of historical and architectural marvels. The Temple of Segesta, with its majestic silhouette, becomes a focal point within the artwork, surrounded by the lush landscapes that often characterize Cole’s romanticized depictions. The meticulous attention to detail and the play of light and shadow in the painting evoke a sense of timelessness, transporting viewers to the ancient realm of Segesta.

A fascinating element unfolds as the artist ingeniously incorporates a self-portrait within the scene. The composition subtly reveals Cole in the act of sketching, positioned within the broader landscape of the ancient temple. Through skillful brushstrokes and nuanced details, Cole captures himself engaged in the artistic process, seamlessly blending the realms of creation and observation. The inclusion of the self-portrait adds a layer of narrative depth, inviting viewers to contemplate the intersection of the artist’s presence with the historical and architectural subject matter. This deliberate inclusion not only showcases Cole’s technical prowess but also provides a unique perspective into the artist’s connection with the Temple of Segesta, creating a dynamic interplay between the observer, the artist, and the timeless beauty of the depicted scene.

As a part of the Metropolitan Museum’s collection, this painting not only preserves the beauty of the Temple of Segesta but also serves as a testament to Thomas Cole’s enduring legacy of capturing the spirit of both nature and history through his art.

Thomas Cole, born on February 1, 1801, in Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, England, emerged as a prominent figure in 19th-century American art, particularly as the founder of the Hudson River School. Emigrating to the United States with his family in 1818, Cole’s early artistic endeavors unfolded in Philadelphia before he gained recognition for his landscape paintings that depicted the American wilderness in its sublime beauty. His career took a significant turn when he traveled to Europe in the 1820s, absorbing the influences of European art and cultivating a deep appreciation for classical and historical subjects. Returning to the U.S., Cole’s panoramic landscapes, marked by meticulous detail and romanticism, established him as a leading artist of his time. Notable works like “The Course of Empire” series and his depictions of the Catskill Mountains solidified his reputation. Thomas Cole’s untimely death in 1848 marked the conclusion of a prolific career that left an indelible mark on American landscape painting, inspiring generations of artists to come.

For a Student Activity inspired by Thomas Cole’s landscape paintings, please… Check HERE!

Interesting to read: History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, by William Dunlop, in 2 Volumes, George P. Scott and Company, Printers, 1834,+and+in+the+same+spirit!%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=F_JtbUxzrG&sig=ACfU3U0zijol2CsenuZbywUHWpAkvYNP0w&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi6xKiZyfeCAxXoR_EDHejjAKgQ6AF6BAgJEAM#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CO%20that%20I%20was%20there%20again%2C%20and%20in%20the%20same%20spirit!%E2%80%9D&f=false

Achelous and Hercules

Thomas Hart Benton, American Artist, 1889-1975
Achelous and Hercules (and detail), 1947, Tempera and Oil on Canvas mounted on plywood, 159.6 x 671.0 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA

The myth of the fight between Achelous and Hercules is a captivating tale from Greek mythology. In this legend, Achelous, an ancient Greek river god, transforms into various shapes during his battle with Hercules in an attempt to defeat the hero and win the hand of Deianira, the beautiful Calydonian princess. Despite his shapeshifting abilities, Achelous is ultimately outmatched by Hercules, who manages to break off one of the river god’s horns. This horn becomes the Cornucopia, or the “Horn of Plenty,” symbolizing abundance and nourishment. The myth highlights Hercules’ strength and resourcefulness, as well as the enduring theme of divine contests and transformations in Greek mythology.

Ovid’s narrative in Book 9 of the Metamorphoses provides a detailed account of this myth, including the transformations of Achelous and his fateful battle with Hercules. Who wants to recall the battles he has lost? The great river God tells Theseus, the Athenian hero… But, I will tell it as it happened: since the shame of being beaten is no less than the honour of having fought. It is a great consolation to me that the victor was so famous… Ovid, a prominent Roman poet who lived during the 1st century BC, is known for his retelling of various Greek and Roman myths. He became famous and influential in preserving and popularizing these ancient stories.

Thomas Hart Benton, American Artist, 1889-1975
Achelous and Hercules (and details), 1947, Tempera and Oil on Canvas mounted on plywood, 159.6 x 671.0 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA

In 1947 American artist Thomas Hart Benton was hired by Lester Siegel Sr., proprietor of Kansas City’s Harzfeld department store, to decorate the wall above the store’s elevator area. Benton settled on a retelling of the Achelous and Hercules myth from ancient Greece, setting it in present-day Missouri. The artist viewed this legend as a parable of his beloved Midwest. The Army Corps of Engineers had begun, at the time, efforts to control the Missouri River, and Benton imagined, and depicted, a future where the waterway was tamed, and the earth swelled with robust harvests. and

Photo Portrait of Thomas Hart Benton and Photo of his Studio from ‘The OFFICIAL Facebook page for the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site in Kansas’

The artwork features a dynamic and muscular Hercules wrestling Achelous, who is depicted as a ferocious bull. Benton’s composition is characterized by bold, exaggerated forms and a strong sense of movement, which is a hallmark of his unique approach to storytelling through art. This painting is a prime example of the artist’s ability to fuse classical themes with the American experience, creating a powerful and visually compelling narrative.

Thomas Hart Benton, American Artist, 1889-1975
Achelous and Hercules (detail), 1947, Tempera and Oil on Canvas mounted on plywood, 159.6 x 671.0 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA

In Achelous and Hercules, Benton not only showcases his technical prowess but also his deep appreciation for the human struggle and the mythological underpinnings that resonate with American themes of strength and determination. The painting stands as a testament to Benton’s skill in merging classical and contemporary elements, and it remains a significant piece in the realm of American art history.

Thomas Hart Benton was a prominent American artist known for his contributions to the American Regionalist movement in the early to mid-20th century. Born in Neosho, Missouri, in 1889, Benton’s work is characterized by its celebration of everyday life in rural America. He was a master of capturing the essence of the American heartland through his vivid and dynamic paintings, often depicting scenes of farmers, laborers, and small-town life. Benton’s art not only showcased his exceptional technical skill but also conveyed a deep sense of patriotism and a connection to the working-class people he portrayed. His distinctive style combined elements of European modernism with a uniquely American perspective. Benton’s legacy lives on as his art continues to be celebrated for its evocative storytelling and its role in shaping the American art landscape.

For a PowerPoint on Thomas Hart Benton’s oeuvre, please… Check HERE!

November First

Andrew Wyeth, American Artist, 1917-2009
November First, 1950, Watercolour on Paper mounted on Paperboard, 55.2 x 75.4 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, USA

Let me quote Andrew Wyeth… I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something awaits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show… and introduce to you November First, a landscape of loneliness, decay, and renewal.

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was a highly acclaimed American artist known for his realistic and detailed paintings, primarily in a style known as American Realism. He was born in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and was the youngest of the five children of the well-known illustrator and artist N.C. Wyeth. He gained widespread recognition for his works that often depicted the rural landscapes and people of Pennsylvania and Maine. He had a deep connection with the natural world, which was reflected in his art. Some of his most famous works include Christina’s World, a haunting and iconic painting depicting a young woman lying in a field, and the Helga Testorf series, which portrayed a German model and became a subject of much interest and controversy.

The artist masterfully captured for example, textures, surfaces, and subtle variations in light and shadow, creating a sense of hyper-realism in his paintings. His work centered around nature, landscapes, and rural scenes showing a deep appreciation for the natural world and often depicting it with great accuracy and sensitivity. He preferred a subdued and muted colour palette, typically using earth tones, greys, and muted greens. This choice of colours and the interplay of light and shadow in his paintings contributed to the quiet and contemplative mood of his works, evoking a sense of isolation, solitude, and introspection, quiet contemplation, and emotional depth. Depicting scenes and characters from rural America, Wyeth managed to capture the essence of American rural life, and portray its beauty, simplicity, and the passing of time.

Wyeth primarily used two main painting techniques, egg tempera and watercolour. Egg tempera involves mixing pigment with a water-soluble binder made from egg yolk, resulting in a luminous and finely detailed surface. Watercolour, on the other hand, allowed for a more fluid and transparent approach.

Created in 1950, November First is a watercolour painting on paper mounted on paperboard. Part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Wyeth’s painting depicts tattered cornstalks in a harvested field, and captures the cold damp of late autumn, portraying the inevitable cycles of decay and renewal… The cornfield shown in this watercolor was located near his studio in Chadds Ford, behind the house of Dr. Margaret Handy, the pediatrician who cared for Wyeth’s two children.

Employing a subdued and muted colour palette that resonates with the November scenery, shades of ochre, gray, muted greens, and hints of blue, dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, and a range of brushwork techniques in watercolour, including washes, and drybrush, Wyeth created a painting that evokes the distinct feelings associated with the month of November. His composition is simple yet elegant, focusing on the beauty and essence of the seasonal landscape, emphasizing a sense of quietude, contemplation, and peacefulness often associated with late autumn and winter.

For a PowerPoint presentation, please… Check HERE!

Warhol by Basquiat Basquiat by Warhol

Jean-Michel Basquiat, American Artist, 1960-1988
Dos Cabezas, October 4, 1962, acrylic and oil stick piece created on canvas and mounted on wood supports, 151.8  × 154 cm, Private Collection
Andy Warhol, American Artist, 1928-1987
Self-Portrait with Jean-Michel Basquiat, October 4, 1962, Polaroid, Collection Bischofberger, Männedor-Zurich, Switzerland
(Photos: Amalia Spiliakou, May of 2023, Exhibition Basquiat × Warhol. À Quatre Mains, Fondation Louis Vuitton)

On the 8th of May, while in Paris, I visited the Exhibition Basquiat × Warhol. À Quatre Mains (From 05.04.2023 to 28.08.2023) at Fondation Louis Vuitton. Two Portraits of the famous duo, the first a Polaroid Photo of the two artists by Andy Warhol, the other, a painted version of the Warhol Polaroid by Basquiat, were the first steps taken towards an artistic collaboration that started on the 4th of October 1982 and resulted in about 160 paintings. My new BLOG POST titled Warhol by Basquiat Basquiat by Warhol will present you with the first impressions of the legendary first meeting of the two artists, organized by Swiss Gallery owner Bruno Bischofberger, as documented by the protagonists.

At Fondation Louis Vuitton for the Basquiat x Warhol, À Quatre Mains Exhibition… (Photo Credit: Katerina Floran-Ioannou)

Down to meet Bruno Bischofberger (cab $7.50). He brought Jean-Michel Basquiat with him. He’s the kid who used the name ‘Samo’ when he used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts, and I’d give him $10 here and there and send him up to Serendipity to try to sell the T-shirts there. He was just one of those kids who drove me crazy… And so had lunch for them and then I took a Polaroid and he went home and within two hours a painting was back, still wet, of him and me together. And I mean, just getting to Christie Street must have taken an hour” (A. Warhol, ‘October 4, 1982″, The Andy Warhol Diaries, ed. P. Hackett, New York, 1989, p. 462).… Warhol wrote in his Diary.

Andy Warhol’s diary entry provides a glimpse into his interaction with Jean-Michel Basquiat, highlighting the first dynamics of their relationship and capturing the essence of their future artistic connection. Warhol’s introduction to the meeting sets the tone for the casual and straightforward nature of the rest of the entry. Jean-Michel Basquiat, mentioned as the kid who used the name ‘Samo’  is significant. The reference to Warhol providing Basquiat with occasional financial support and sending him to sell his T-shirts at Serendipity adds a layer of mentorship or support that Warhol extended to the young artist. Warhol’s remark about Basquiat driving him crazy, however, hints at the upcoming complexities of their relationship. It suggests that Basquiat may have been a somewhat challenging individual to handle, but it’s also possible that Warhol found him intriguing or enigmatic in some way. The diary entry captures a sense of Warhol’s enduring fascination with unique and unconventional characters.

Andy Warhol, American Artist, 1928-1987
Self-Portrait with Jean-Michel Basquiat, October 4, 1962, Polaroid, Collection Bischofberger, Männedor-Zurich, Switzerland (Photo: Amalia Spiliakou, May of 2023, Fondation Louis Vuitton)
Jean-Michel Basquiat, American Artist, 1960-1988
Dos Cabezas, October 4, 1962, acrylic and oil stick piece created on canvas and mounted on wood supports, 151.8  × 154 cm, Private Collection (Photo: Amalia Spiliakou, May of 2023, Fondation Louis Vuitton)

The mention of lunch together highlights the casual nature of their encounter. It’s noteworthy that Warhol took a Polaroid photograph of himself and Basquiat, capturing the moment of their meeting. The fact that Basquiat promptly painted a portrait of both of them, which Warhol describes as still wet, demonstrates Basquiat’s creative energy and immediate response to the encounter.

Overall, Andy Warhol’s diary entry provides a glimpse into his interaction with Jean-Michel Basquiat, highlighting the dynamics of their relationship and capturing the essence of their artistic connection. It showcases Warhol’s role as a mentor and the impact he had on Basquiat’s early career, while also revealing the complexities and idiosyncrasies of their shared artistic world.

Responsible for organizing the meeting between the two artists was Bruno Bischofberger, the Swiss gallery owner, who, at the time, represented both Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His recollection of the Warhol-Basquiat first meeting expands upon the diary entry by providing additional details and emphasizing the creative exchange between the two artists. It portrays a sense of mutual artistic admiration and the vibrant energy that surrounded their interaction, further enriching our understanding of this significant moment in art history.

Warhol photographed Basquiat with his special Polaroid portrait camera. Jean-Michel asked Warhol whether he could also take a photo of him, took some shots, and then asked me to take some photos of him and Warhol together. We then wanted to go next door to have the customary cold buffet lunch. Basquiat did not want to stay and said goodbye. We had hardly finished lunch, one, at most one and half an hour later, when Basquiat’s assistant appeared with a 150 x 150 cm (60″ x 60″) work on canvas, still completely wet, a double portrait depicting Warhol and Basquiat: Andy on the left in his typical pose resting his chin on his hand, and Basquiat on the right with the wild hair that he had at the time. The painting was titled Dos Cabezas. The assistant had run the ten to fifteen blocks from Basquiat’s studio on Crosby Street to the Factory on Union Square with the painting in his hands because it wouldn’t fit into a taxi. This is how Bischofberger, who facilitated the meeting, recalled the events that led to the famous artworks!

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Valuable Information for my BLOG POST came from…

For Information and two short Videos on the Exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton, please… Check… Basquiat × Warhol. Painting four hands (

Swimmers on a Wooden Pier

Michael Axelos, Greek Artist, 1877-1965
Swimmers at Palaio Faliro beach, 1935, Oil on plywood, 24.5 x 35.2 cm, Bank of Greece, Athens, Greece
George Wesley Bellows, American Artist, 1882 – 1925
42 Kids, 1907. Oil on canvas, 106.7 x 152.4 cm, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Michael Axelos’s painting oeuvre attests to his solid technique and undeniable talent. It was not by chance, writes Yannis Stournaras, Governor of the Bank of Greece, that he was the first Greek artist to be entrusted, initially by the National Bank of Greece and subsequently by the Bank of Greece, with the design of banknotes and coins, which he imbued with an aesthetic quality. The Exhibition Michael Axelos (1877-1965) – Between two worlds (December 22, 2015 – July 6, 2017), organized by the Bank of Greece – Centre for Culture, Research, and Documentation, shed new light on both known and unknown aspects of the artist’s life. Going through the Exhibition Catalogue, the painting Swimmers at Palaio Faliro Beach caught my attention, and curiosity… how different, or similar, is the Greek artist’s painting compared to George Wesley Bellows composition 42 Kids? A new BLOG POST, Swimmers on a Wooden Pier, will not give you the decisive answer. Maybe information to reflect upon…

Michael Axelos, an artist of exceptional skill, whose significant output spanned different genres, was a graduate of the Athens Law School and of the Athens School of Fine Arts. From 1911 to 1914 he continued his studies in Paris, at the Académie Julian and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where his rather conservative initial training was infused with the new artistic developments, on one hand, Fauvism, and on the other hand Cubism, as presented in the Salons of 1910 and 1911. Axelos devoted a large part of his life and work to the Bank of Greece, where he designed banknotes, coins, and security documents. His retirement in 1846 starts a new period in his artistic life. Without changing his style radically, his painting becomes somehow liberated, is less strict, and escapes from the conservative framework where he had consciously placed it.–18771965—–?ctx=9b1ea4a74a6d7c70df84ae52cbab3c959873d6f8&idx=4

Michael Axelos, Greek Artist, 1877-1965
Swimmers at Palaio Faliro beach, 1935, Oil on plywood, 24.5 x 35.2 cm, Bank of Greece, Athens, Greece

In 1935, while still working for the Bank of Greece, Axelos painted Swimmers at Palaio Faliro beach, one of my favorite, most charming paintings. Palaio Faliro is a coastal suburb of Athens and a popular destination for beachgoers. Axelos’ painting depicts a group of swimmers, with the blue sky, the sea, and the not-so-distant Athenian coast, forming a prominent part of the composition. The swimmers are portrayed in a gestural and loose manner, emphasizing movement and dynamism. They take advantage of the well-constructed wooden piers and enjoy a typical Greek summer day, diving into the sea, splashing with joy in the water, and sunbathing. Axelos’ use of tints and little shade, expressive brushstrokes, and direct sunlight, creates a delightful, persuasive composition of a classic Greek summer morning.

George Wesley Bellows was an American artist known for his depictions of New York City life. He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and studied at the Ohio State University before moving to New York City in 1904 to study at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri. Bellows quickly became known for his bold and expressive style, which captured the energy and dynamism of the city. His early work focused on the working-class neighborhoods of New York, depicting scenes of tenement life, street vendors, and labor strikes. He was a member of the Ashcan School, a group of artists who sought to depict the realities of modern life in their work. Tragically, Bellows died at the age of 42 from a ruptured appendix. Despite his short career, he left a lasting impact on American art and is considered one of the most important artists of the early 20th century.

George Wesley Bellows, American Artist, 1882 – 1925
Forty Two Kids, 1907. Oil on canvas, 106.7 x 152.4 cm, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

In August 1907 Bellows painted Forty-Two Kids, which depicts a band of nude and partially clothed boys engaged in a variety of antics—swimming, diving, sunbathing, smoking, and possibly urinating—on and near a dilapidated wharf jutting out over New York City’s East River.

In terms of aesthetics, Bellows has used bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors to capture the energy and excitement of the children. The figures are depicted in dynamic poses that convey their movement and joy. The composition is carefully balanced, with the rough wooden pier stretching out to the right of the canvas, and the water and sky occupying the upper two-thirds of the painting. The use of color is particularly striking in this painting. The boys’ gangly bodies are loosely painted and brightly lit from the upper left. Most are nude, and Bellows employs hues of bright, cream white to medium brown to capture their skin tones. For the rest of the painting, the river in particular, Bellows uses intense shades of blue, emerald green, and yellow that convey a sense of summertime and warmth. The reflections of the children in the water create a sense of depth and perspective, and the overall effect is one of a moment frozen in time, capturing the exuberance of roaming young boys from New York’s Lower East Side tenements.

Do you see similarities or differences? The decision is yours…

For a Student Activity, titled Swimmers on a Wooden Pier, please… Check HERE!

The Fourth of July 1916

Childe Hassam, American Artist, 1859-1935
The Fourth of July 1916, 1916, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.7 cm, New York Historical Society, USA,_1916_Childe_Hassam.jpg

A glorious sea of American flags, crowded streets, and Fifth Avenue skyscrapers, The Fourth of July 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May) by Childe Hassam (1859-1935) is a beloved work of American Impressionism. It was painted at the height of Hassam’s powers and is one of some 30 related paintings of flag-decorated streets that the artist produced between 1916 and 1919, during and immediately after the First World War. That they are intensely patriotic works is patent, while aesthetically they bear witness to the example of Claude Monet, both in the subject (Monet created two paintings of flag-bedecked avenues on a single day in 1878) and in the concept (a series of paintings of a motif, such as haystacks or Rouen Cathedral). and

Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was an American Impressionist painter known for his depictions of urban landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes. He was born Frederick Childe Hassam in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and grew up in a middle-class family. Hassam showed an early interest in art and studied at the Boston Art Club and the Lowell Institute. He worked as an apprentice in a wood engraving firm and began his career as a freelance illustrator, creating illustrations for magazines and newspapers. In the spring of 1886, along with his wife Kathleen Maude Doane, he traveled to Paris to study painting at the Académie Julian. While in Paris, Hassam was greatly influenced by the Impressionist movement, which was then emerging in France. He was particularly drawn to the work of Claude Monet and the French Impressionists, and he began to incorporate their techniques into his own work. He returned to the United States in 1889 and recognizing the prominence of New York as an international art center, he settled in New York City, where he established himself as a leading American Impressionist painter.

Throughout his career, Hassam painted a wide range of subjects, including landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, and portraits. He was especially known for his depictions of urban life in New York City, and his paintings capture the energy and vibrancy of the city. Hassam was also deeply patriotic and painted many works featuring the American flag, which he saw as a symbol of national unity and identity.

As a prominent member of the US Preparedness Movement, Hassam created a series of paintings known as the Flag Series, which featured American flags prominently displayed in various settings, including urban landscapes and rural scenes. These paintings were seen as a way of promoting patriotism and support for the US Preparedness Movement.

Childe Hassam, American Artist, 1859-1935
The Fourth of July 1916 (detail), 1916, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 66.7 cm, New York Historical Society, USA

The Fourth of July 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May), is one of the first paintings created for the Flag Series. It shows the bustling 5th Avenue decorated for the July 4th, Independence Day holiday. Hassam’s brushwork is loose and expressive, creating a sense of movement and energy within the painting, his gestural brushwork, expressive and spontaneous, generates movement and energy, and his color choice of primarily red, white, and blue keenly echoes the colors of the American flag, adding to the lively and vibrant feel of the composition. As Dr. William H. Gerdts has noted, “Hassam was already recognized as one of the artists most identified with ‘Americanness,’ but it was in these works that he was able to give the modern cityscape patriotic and spiritual resonance. This pictorial sequence constitutes one of the greatest achievements of American art.”

For a Student Activity, inspired by Childe Hassam’s, The Fourth of July 1916, please… Check HERE!

Childe Hassam, American Artist, 1859-1935
Flag Day, Fifth Avenue, July 4th, 1916, 1916, watercolor, ink and chalk on paper, 26 x 17.1 cm, Private Collection

Fish and Waves by Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany, American artist, 1848 – 1933 – Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company
Fish and Waves Table Lamp, attributed to Clara Driscoll, circa 1900- 1903, Leaded Glass, patinated bronze, H. 38.1 cm, Private Collection

In a 1917 Harper’s Bazaar article, Louis Comfort Tiffany explained how he combined his love of water and his appreciation of Asian art and symbolism, in the decoration and landscaping of his home, Laurelton Hall: “Well, you see…here water is used as an element of beauty, following the methods of the Far East. The Orientals worship water. To them, it is a treasure rare, a guest they honor. Here it not only harmonizes with the architectural scheme, but the vital liquid suggests hope, a message even to those living in the arid places of life. So here I have a cascade. Just listen to its merry music as it splashes over the rockery. It is the quick movement of the water that interests me, constant and pure as sunlight. I glory in its whimsicality. Fish and Waves by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the artist’s rare and iconic Table Lamp, best exemplifies his belief.

When I think of Louis Comfort Tiffany, I think of nature’s power, its brittleness, and joy. I think of radiance, luminosity, and brilliance in colour… Let’s start by answering some questions about the great American creator, starting with Who …

Who was Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933)? He was an American artist and designer best known for his work in stained glass. He was born in New York City to a family of artists and craftsmen and was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design. Tiffany began his career as a painter but soon turned his attention to decorative arts and design. In 1879, he founded the Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated Artists, which produced furniture, ceramics, and metalwork, as well as stained glass. Tiffany’s most famous work is his stained glass, which he began producing in the 1880s. He developed a technique for producing iridescent glass, known as Favrile glass, which became one of his trademarks. In addition to his work in stained glass, Tiffany was also a prolific interior designer and created a number of luxurious and ornate interiors for wealthy clients. He was also involved in the design of jewelry, particularly in the Art Nouveau style. Tiffany was a prominent figure in the art world of his time and received numerous awards and honors throughout his career.

Who were the artists or craftsmen who worked with Tiffany to create his iconic stained glass artworks? Tiffany had a team of skilled artisans and craftsmen who worked with him at his studio, the Tiffany Studios, in New York City. These artisans and craftsmen were responsible for creating the various components of the stained glass window, including cutting and assembling the glass pieces, creating the metal framework, and painting and firing the glass. Some of the notable artisans who worked at the Tiffany Studios were women, like Agnes F. Northrop, who was the head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department, and Clara Driscoll, who was the head of the Women’s Glass Decorating Department. Other skilled workers at the studio included glass cutters, glass painters, and metalworkers who helped bring Tiffany’s designs to life.

Who was Clara Driscoll, the head of the Women’s Glass Decorating Department at Louis Comfort Tiffany Studio? Clara Driscoll was an American artist and designer who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio, primarily designing lamps and mosaics. She was born in 1861 in Tallmadge, Ohio, and studied art and design at the Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Driscoll began working for Tiffany in 1888 and quickly rose through the ranks to become the head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department. She was responsible for designing many of Tiffany’s most famous lamps, including the Dragonfly, Wisteria, Peony lamps, and Fish and Waves Table Lamp. Driscoll’s contributions to Tiffany’s studio were largely uncredited during her lifetime. However, in recent years, her contributions have been more widely recognized, and she is now considered to be one of the most important designers of the Art Nouveau period. In 2007, a collection of her personal letters was discovered, shedding new light on her contributions to Tiffany’s studio and her life as a female artist in the early 20th century.

Tiffany’s Table Lamp ‘Fish and Waves’ is perhaps the finest representation of water’s ever-changing beauty, Tiffany’s fascination with the Orient, and goldfish vigorously swimming among the seaweed. This is a fine example of how Tiffany brilliantly combined the Art of Glass and Metalwork. Let’s finish this presentation with questions starting with How…

How can we introduce Tiffany’s Table Lamp ‘Fish and Waves’? Dated circa 1900-1903, the ‘Fish and Waves’ Table Lamp is known for its intricate and colorful design featuring a school of goldfish swimming among waves of blue and green glass. The designer is believed to be Clara Driscoll. The inspiration comes from Tiffany’s fascination with the Far East, and particularly Koi, the Japanese goldfish that symbolizes perseverance and inner strength as well as prosperity.

How does Clara Driscoll describe Tiffany’s fascination with Japanese Art? In a letter in 1898, she revealingly notes that Tiffany’s home was filled with Japanese art… ‘like a dream of poetry and harmony that might have come out of the East. It is somewhat oriental in effect but not in detail. As if Mr. Tiffany had gone to the same great sources of inspiration but had evolved his own conception of their great principles. I told him that I felt that his work was in some ways suggestive of Eastern thought, which seemed to please him – and he said, ‘Yes I have always been influenced by the oriental idea of form and color’. He said he thought that I was gaining in my work and that I was thinking in the right direction.’

Louis Comfort Tiffany, American artist, 1848 – 1933 – Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company
Fish and Waves Table Lamp, attributed to Clara Driscoll, circa 1900- 1903, Leaded Glass, patinated bronze, H. 38.1 cm, Private Collection

How would the ‘Fish and Waves’ Table Lamp Shade be described? The shade, of a ‘circular’ shape with a diameter of around 40.6 cm, is made up of hundreds of individual pieces of stained glass, each carefully cut and soldered together to create the complex design of an unsurpassed sense of motion. The depicted goldfish, brilliantly rendered in amber and orange-streaked yellow glass, swim counter-clockwise, among the sinuous vertical strands of seaweed, in glorious shades of green, aquamarine, teal, and blue, that sway gently upwards, with some overlapping a few of the goldfish. The glass selected for the background water passages is equally exceptional. Composed of rippled transparent green-streaked navy and blue glass, the pieces were placed so that the ripples go in a number of different directions, greatly adding to the overall effect of moving water. Mauve glass streaked with brilliant jewel-tone hues is selectively interspersed, evoking the sense of light reflecting on the water’s surface.

How would the ‘Fish and Waves’ Table Lamp cast bronze base be described? The base of the lamp is typically made of cast bronze, and it features three large fish swimming upwards against the current towards cresting waves surmounted by a rope-twist collar that supports the shade. The casting is of phenomenal quality, as is the applied rich brown patina with green highlights.

In 2019, Paul Doros, presenting the Fish and Waves by Louis Comfort Tiffany Table Lamp for Sotheby’s, wrote… A major aspect of Tiffany Studios’ marketing at the turn of the 20th Century was to proclaim that their glass and lamps were true works of art, the equivalent of any great painting or sculpture. This unique example of their Fish and Waves lamp superbly exemplifies that claim and highlights the firm’s remarkable standards of excellence in both manufacturing and aesthetics. It is indeed a masterwork and an object to be revered and treasured by all admirers of Tiffany’s oeuvre.

For a Student Activity inspired by Fish and Waves by Louis Comfort Tiffany, please… Check HERE!

Hartwell Memorial Window by Tiffany

Tiffany Studios (1902–32, American Manufacturer), Agnes F. Northrop (American Artist – 1857–1953, Designer), Louis Comfort Tiffany (American Artist – 1848-1933, Manufacturer)
Hartwell Memorial Window (Detail), 1917, Leaded glass, 798.7 × 554.7 × 42.5 cm, the Art Institute of Chicago, USA

The stained glass artist for Tiffany Studios, Agnes Northrop, was at the height of her power in 1917 when she designed the dazzling Hartwell Memorial Window by Tiffany, dramatically backlit to mimic sunlight flooding through, creating a kaleidoscope of color. As head of a group called “The Tiffany Girls,” she created some of Tiffany’s most memorable windows and was the first at the preeminent studio to execute landscapes and gardens in stained glass. She was a true virtuoso in what was referred to at the time as painting in glass.

Agnes Northrop was one of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s most trusted designers and a member of the famous Tiffany Girls. The great Master did not work alone. “Tiffany” designed artworks that were high in demand, and he employed hundreds of artists and artisans. Amongst them are the Tiffany Girls, entrusted with some of the most complex design work in Tiffany’s studios, including window and lamp design, glass selection, and glass cutting. Interestingly, Tiffany thought a woman’s sense of color and the nimbleness of her fingers to be superior to a man’s and entrusted his female designers with this essential part of making his windows.

Agnes Northrop, American Glass Artist, 1857-1953

Agnes Northrop was born in Flushing, Queens, in 1857 and died in 1953 in the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan at age 96. She was most likely introduced to Tiffany in the late 1880s and by the 1890s had, according to Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen (Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art),  forged an independent role for herself within the studio.

Among the first six designers hired by the company, as early as the 1880s, Northrop’s talent was recognized by Tiffany, who entrusted her to design the company’s famous stained glass windows. She was also one of the few women actually given credit for work in exhibitions and catalogs. She was known for her talent in composing floral scenes and was given the prestige of a private studio in Tiffany Studios’ Fourth Avenue building.

Hartwell Memorial Window (Detail), 1917, Leaded glass, 798.7 × 554.7 × 42.5 cm, the Art Institute of Chicago, USA

The Hartwell Memorial Window is one of the most extraordinary leaded glass windows ever made by Tiffany Studios, the leading glass firm of America’s Gilded Age. It was commissioned, over a century ago, by Mary Hartwell, to honor Frederick Hartwell, her late husband. It was originally gifted to the Community Church of Providence, Rhode Island, and remained in the church sanctuary until 2018 when a unanimous decision by the congregation saw it handed over to the Art Institute of Chicago. It was wisely thought that in the Art Institute the precious Tiffany Memorial Window would be well conserved, and appreciated by a wider public. The Art Institute of Chicago welcomed this extraordinary gift and installed the Hartwell Memorial Window in the Henry Crown Gallery at the top of the Women’s Board Grand Staircase in the Art Institute’s historic Michigan Avenue building.

For a Student Activity, inspired by Hartwell Memorial Window by Tiffany, please… Check HERE!

An Art Institute conservator works on the restoration of the Tiffany Studios’ Hartwell Memorial Window by Jonathan Mathias

Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, American Artist, 1894-1978
Freedom From Want, 1943, Oil on canvas, 115.16×89.20 cm, Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA, USA

On Thanksgiving Day remember Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882) and Give thanks for each new morning with its light, / For rest and shelter of the night. / For health and food, / For love and friends, / For everything they goodness sends… and ‘feast’ your eyes with Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell.

The ‘Four Freedoms’ speech, the 1941 State of the Union Address by US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is the only Presidential speech in American history that inspired a multitude of books and films, the establishment of its own park, a series of paintings by a world famous artist, a prestigious international award and a United Nation’s resolution on Human Rights. On the 6th of March 1943, The Saturday Evening Post published Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want, a painting inspired by the ‘Four Freedoms’ speech, and one of my favourite Rockwell paintings.

Norman Rockwell had a long-standing collaboration with The Saturday Evening Post, which he considered to be the greatest show window in America. The collaboration started in 1916, when the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for the magazine, and continued over the next 47 years. By 1963, when the collaboration with the Post ended, 322 Rockwell paintings had appeared on the cover of the magazine.

Freedom From Want is an iconic Rockwell painting we associate with Thanksgiving. Did Norman Rockwell paint Freedom from Want to celebrate a Thanksgiving feast?

No, he did not! Freedom From Want was one in a series of four paintings Rockwell made in response to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address known as the “Four Freedoms.” (The other freedoms were “freedom of speech,” “freedom of worship,” and “freedom from fear.”) He offered the series to the Office of War Information (OWI). The Office turned him down ‘unceremoniously,’ answering back to him… ‘The last war, you illustrators did the posters. This war, we’re going to use fine arts men, real artists.’

Norman Rockwell, American Artist, 1894-1978
Freedom From Want was reproduced in millions of posters promoting the sale of War Bonds. Charleston Museum, USA

However, Ben Hibbs, editor of the Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell’s devoted ‘employer,’ had a different opinion! Rockwell’s paintings of the Four Freedoms were published, and they became so popular, that the magazine decided to offer prints for sale. The OWI, which had turned down Rockwell just a few months earlier, asked to use prints of the paintings in a war bond campaign that would ultimately garner over $132 million in bonds and stamps. Bottom line, millions of posters of Rockwell’s paintings were distributed across the country and posted in schools, libraries, and post offices.

Freedom From Want depicts an idealistic white, middle-class family seated around a crisply adorned dinner table. The patriarch, placed at the head of the table, presides over the holiday gathering accompanied by the family matriarch, who presents a roasted turkey, the ‘piece de resistance’ of the artist’s painting. In a typical Rockwell manner, the people portrayed in the painting were his friends, family, and neighbors in the town of Arlington, Vermont, whom he photographed in his studio and painted into the complex composition individually (they never sat together).  and

Norman Rockwell, American Artist, 1894-1978
Freedom From Want, detail, 1943, Oil on canvas, 115.16×89.20 cm, Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA, USA

Rockwell’s painting has its critics and its supporters. Even Rockwell himself thought that it ‘lacked a wallop.’ There are, however, many more who treasure it. Like Deborah Solomon, his biographer, who goes so far as to call the light-filled canvas ‘one of the most ambitious plays of white-against-white since Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 1.’ For me, the composition is highly organized, the colour tones are warm (even the whites), and light is soft. This is a family scene we have all experienced, a moment we cherish, and a Norman Rockwell painting we love!

I would like to draw your attention to page 82 of Picturing America, and how masterfully the controversy over Rockwell the artist, or Rockwell the illustrator, is addressed… Rockwell had been born into a world in which painters crossed easily from the commercial world to that of the gallery, as Winslow Homer had done. By the 1940s, however, a division had emerged between the fine arts and the work for hire that Rockwell produced. The detailed, homespun images he employed to reach a mass audience were not appealing to an art community that now lionized intellectual and abstract works. But Rockwell knew his strengths did not lie in that direction: “Boys batting flies on vacant lots,” he explained in 1936, “little girls playing jacks on the front steps; old men plodding home at twilight, umbrella in hand — all these things arouse feeling in me.”

For a PowerPoint on Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the ‘Four Wants,’ please… Check HERE! 

La Carmencita by John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, American Artist, 1856-1925
La Carmencita, c. 1890, Oil on Canvas, 229,0 x 140,0 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Celebrated as the leading society portraitist of his era, write the NGA experts, John Singer Sargent influenced a generation of American painters. His personal captivation with Spain resulted in a remarkable body of work that documents his extensive travels from the north to the south and to the island of Majorca. Over three decades Sargent responded to the country’s rich culture by producing landscapes and marine scenes, pictures of everyday life, and architectural studies, as well as sympathetic portrayals of the locals he encountered. La Carmencita by John Singer Sargent is one such painting I would like to learn more about…

In 1889, while visiting the Exposition Universelle in Paris, John Singer Sargent had his first encounter with Carmen Dauset Moreno, known as La Carmencita (1868 – 1910), the famous Spanish-style dancer, who danced at the Nouveau Cirque with great acclaim. Sponsored by theatrical agent Bolossy Kiralfy at first, La Carmencita became a theatrical sensation in the United States dancing in the ballet Antiope. In 1890, under the management of John Koster and Albert Bial, she performed in their 23rd Street Concert Hall with great success. Carmencita is the first woman performer to appear in front of an Edison motion picture camera and may have been the first woman to appear in a motion picture in America.

Sargent, enamored with Spanish music, and dancing since the 1880s, described La Carmencita as a bewildering superb creature. In 1890, the same year William Merritt Chase did his portrait of the famous dancer, Sargent persuaded a restless and demanding Carmencita pose for him. He was restless as well… and he made many studies of her dancing, but in the end, he opted to portray her in a stationary pose. According to the MET Museum experts the critics were divided… how dare did Sargent represent ‘a common music hall performer in such a monumental way…

John Singer Sargent, American Artist, 1856-1925
La Carmencita (and detail), c. 1890, Oil on Canvas, 229,0 x 140,0 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Painted in bold colours, hands on hip, right leg extended, against a dark background to highlight his skills as a painter Sargent creates the portrait of a snapshot posing dancer. Her posture is elegant and majestic, projecting her magnetism. Her face, like that of several of Sargent’s models of the time, is rendered white and masklike from cosmetics, with arched eyebrows, hinting at a proud, even haughty presence. Using a charming theme, swift brushstrokes, and washes of warm earthy colours, Sargent created a magnificent painting of feminine allure. When during 1890 La Carmencita was exhibited in Chicago, crowds of visitors went to the Art Institute to admire the famous painting. In 1892, two years after its creation, the painting was purchased from the artist by the French state. Today La Carmencita is in the collection Musée d’Orsay.

For a PowerPoint on Sargent and Spain, please…  Click HERE!

John Singer Sargent, American Artist, 1856-1925
La Carmencita, c. 1890-1910, Brush on Paper, 0.346 x 0.226 m, Louvre Museum, Paris, France, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

From the Library of Congress, Washington DC, La Carmencita, the Spanish Performer, as she danced in front of an Edison motion picture camera. Filmed by William Heise, March 10-16, 1894, in Edison’s Black Maria studio…

The Sargent and Spain Exhibition can be seen in the National Gallery in Washington DC (October 2, 2022 – January 2, 2023). According to the NGA Experts, the Sargent and Spain  Exhibition presents for the first time, approximately 120 dazzling oils, watercolors, and drawings, many of which are rarely exhibited. Also featured from the artist’s travels are some 28 never-before-published photographs, several almost certainly taken by Sargent himself. It is an Exhibition worth visiting!