Boating by Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating, 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436947

Boating by Édouard Manet was exhibited in the Salon of 1879, and the art critic J. K. Huysmans wrote… The bright blue water continues to exasperate a number of people… Manet has never, thank heavens, known those prejudices stupidly maintained in the academies. He paints, by abbreviations, nature as it is and as he sees it. The woman, dressed in blue, seated in a boat cut off by the frame as in certain Japanese prints, is well-placed, in broad daylight, and her figure energetically stands out against the oarsman dressed in white, against the vivid blue of the water. These are, indeed, pictures the likes of which, alas, we shall rarely find in this tedious Salon. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Masterpieces_of_European_Painting_1800_1920_in_the_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art  pages 104-105

Édouard Manet, the scion of a wealthy French family, was a Parisian good-looking, charming, and cosmopolitan artist of great talent… He believed, according to the National Gallery of Art experts, that art should be about modern life and embraced the role of social commentator. He admired the old masters… but his artistic inspiration came from the ‘modern’ city of Paris, dramatically transformed at the time of Napoleon III, by the vision of Baron Georges Haussmann. His goal was to document the world around him: the grand boulevards, fashionable cafés, busy racetracks, and people and activities in his own neighborhood, and wherever else fashionable Parisians were expected to be. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdouardManet.pdf

In the summer of 1894, Édouard Manet was at Gennevilliers, opposite Argenteuil, on the river Seine where the Manet family had a country estate. He was in good company! His friend Claude Monet lived nearby, at Argenteuil. The two artists accompanied, at times, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted together and continued their conversations which were for Manet precious… Nothing could have been more interesting than our discussions… he once said. The summer of 1874 was also pivotal as the time when Manet’s friendship with the younger Impressionist Claude Monet took deep roots. http://www.worldsbestpaintings.net/artistsandpaintings/painting/172/

Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating (Detail), 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://blog.artsper.com/en/a-closer-look/understanding-impressionism/
Édouard Manet, French Painter, 1832-1883
Boating (Detail-Woman), 1874, oil on canvas, 97.2 x 130.2 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89douard_Manet#/media/File:Edouard_Manet_Boating.jpg

At Argenteuil Manet painted Boating along with more paintings on similar subject matter like Monet in his Studio Boat, The Monet Family in their Garden, Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil,  and more. Boating depicts one of the most popular leisure activities of the French bourgeoisie… sailing on the Seine! There has been a lot of speculation as to who the people in the painting are. It has been suggested that the depicted “sailor” is Rodolphe Leeenhoff, Manet’s brother-in-law. No consensus has been reached, however, as to who the female in the painting is. According to the Metropolitan Museum experts, she might be Alice Lecouvé, the model for the 1875 painting The Laundry in the Barnes Foundation. https://www.edouard-manet.net/boating/ and https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Masterpieces_of_European_Painting_1800_1920_in_the_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art  pages 104-105

Shown in the Salon of 1879, Boating was deemed “the last word in painting” by Mary Cassatt, who recommended the acquisition to the New York collectors Louisine and H.O. Havemeyer. Louisine bequeathed it to The Met upon her death in 1929. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436947

For a PowerPoint on Boating by Édouard Manet and the Summer of 1874, please… Check HERE!

Poppies on the Isles of Shoals

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals, 1891, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Childe_Hassam,_Poppies,_Isles_of_Shoals,_1891.jpg

At the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore lies the small garden which in the following pages I have endeavored to describe. Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old. From this, year after year, the larger one, which has given so much pleasure to so many people, has grown. The first small bed at the lighthouse island contained only Marigolds, pot Marigolds, fire-colored blossoms which were the joy of my heart and the delight of my eyes. This scrap of the garden, literally not more than a yard square, with its barbaric splendors of color, I worshiped like any Parsee… writes Celia Thaxter, the lover of gardening, flowers, and the good friend of painter Childe Hassam. Poppies on the Isles of Shoals is one of his many paintings celebrating the flora of this unique group of nine small, rocky islands off the coast of New Hampshire, in the Atlantic. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/thaxter/garden/garden.html

Appledore (House) Hotel and landing, Isles of Shoals, NH, between 1901 and 1906, Detroit Publishing Co., publisher, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
https://www.historynet.com/childe-hassams-island-escape/

Imagine a summer day in the company of novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, poets Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and artists Childe Hassam, and  William Morris Hunt. Now add conversations on art, and music, recitations of poetry, intellectual “arguments,” and gardening “lessons.” The result is… a summer day at Appledore House, a family-run Hotel on Appledore Island, off the coast of Maine, where every summer Childe Hassam and a group of musicians, writers, and artists mad an informal colony as guests of Celia Thaxter, poet extraordinaire, passionate gardener and Hotel proprietor. https://americanexperience.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Hassam.pdf

Childe Hassam painting on Appledore, from The Cruise of Mystery and Other Poems by Celia Thaxter, 1888, archival photograph. Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department https://www.christies.com/features/Lot-427-Childe-Hassam-The-East-Headland-Pool-Appledore-9072-6.aspx

For three decades (between 1886 and 1916), Childe Hassam was perfectly happy to spend his Summers at Appledore House painting, en plain air, Celia Thaxter’s Hotel garden, and the rugged landscape of the Isles of Shoals. His body of work at Appledore remains a pinnacle of American Art of the Impressionist movement. He was particularly fond of painting Babb’s Cove from the shaded piazza of Thaxter’s cottage. He routinely set up his easel there to paint the vista, which included the brilliant field of Iceland poppies cascading beyond the borders of her famous flower garden. As Thaxter wrote in 1894, “How beautiful they are, these grassy, rocky slopes shelving gradually to the sea, with here and there a mass of tall, blossoming grass softly swaying in the warm wind against the peaceful, pale blue water!” https://www.incollect.com/articles/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals and https://www.pem.org/exhibitions/american-impressionist-childe-hassam-and-the-isles-of-shoals

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals (detail), 1891, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Childe_Hassam,_Poppies,_Isles_of_Shoals,_1891.jpg

The National Gallery Poppies on the Isles of Shoals painting of1891 is my favorite! The painting, as Franklin Kelly wrote, presents a broad vista moving from a dense foreground of flowers to a background of rocks, water, and sky. The poppies that spread beyond Celia Thaxter’s garden were the artist’s favorite subject. They cover the foreground with brilliant, warm hues of green and red in wavy brushstrokes. For the rest of the painting, the middle and background is painted in cooler tones of blue, purple, and white for the rocks and water, and pale blue for the sky. Hassam’s brushwork is equally varied, ranging from lush red and white strokes defining the flowers to long drags of pigment suggesting the multihued surfaces of the rocks. The artist’s painting is a tour de force of Impressionistic landscape painting en plein air. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html

Childe Hassam, American Artist,1859–1935
Poppies on the Isles of Shoals (Detail of Signature), 1891, Oil on Canvas, 50.2×61 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
https://www.lonequixote.com/blog/hassam-poppies-isles-of-shoals-details-1891-b

For anyone accustomed to academic landscape painting, seeing one of Hassam’s Isles of Shoals paintings was, as one reviewer wrote, “like taking off a pair of black spectacles that one has been compelled to wear out of doors, and letting the full glory of nature’s sunlight color pour in upon the retina.”  https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.103172.html

For a PowerPoint titled 15 Paintings by Childe Hassam depicting the Isles of Shoals, please… Check HERE!

An original UNC-TV Documentary (27.55min) exploring the North Carolina Museum of Art exhibit of American impressionist painter Childe Hassam. The documentary focuses on Hassam’s work on Appledore Island over the course of thirty years… https://www.pbs.org/video/unc-tv-presents-childe-hassam-and-isles-shoals/

Portrait of Alexander Cassatt and Robert Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American Artist, 1844 – 1926
Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt, 1884, Oil on Canvas, 100.3 × 81.3 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA https://philamuseum.org/collection/object/104479

The Portrait of Alexander Cassatt and Robert Cassatt by Alexander’s sister Mary Stevenson Cassatt is a perfect example of what an American artist could achieve in Paris… the Mecca of Modern Art, and Old World charm. Starting in 1865, at the end of the Civil War, traveling to Europe became an American institution! Americans were attracted by French culture and bohemian life. They attended social events, art exhibitions, and archaeological monuments. They studied art or collected antiquities, artworks of the Old Masters, or paintings by contemporary artists. This phenomenon is best described by Henry James who wrote…It sounds like a paradox, but it is the simple truth that when, today, we look for American art, we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it. https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/americans-in-paris–1860-1900

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American Artist, 1844 – 1926
Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt (Detail), 1884, Oil on
Canvas, 100.3 × 81.3 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA
https://www.gazette-drouot.com/en/article/mary-cassatt-the-franco-american/4732

How more affectionate can a father/son moment be! The great Alexander J. Cassatt is depicted sitting comfortably on a plush armchair reading his paper while his son Robert sits on the chair’s arm embracing him. Both portraits share similar characteristics… focused gazes, flushed cheeks, and black clothing. Mary Cassatt achieved to depict an intimate moment, the special bond between father and son, and the natural physical resemblance between them. Clad in black Alexander and Robert stand out, further emphasizing their tender rapport… Mary Cassatt’s famous double Portrait of Alexander Cassatt and Robert Cassatt was painted in December of 1884, during a surprise visit to Paris by her relatives. https://philamuseum.org/collection/object/104479

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American Artist, 1844 – 1926
Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt, 1880, Oil on Canvas, Pastel, 92.3×72 cm, Seattle Art Museum, USA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt_-_Portrait_of_Alexander_J._Cassatt_-_Seattle_Art_Museum.jpg

Alexander J. Cassatt was the first vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and one of the most powerful businessmen in the United States. He was also Cassatt’s beloved older brother, whom she painted on several occasions. Every time she did so, he is depicted casually posing in his sister’s house, a dear relative rather than a  famous public persona, absorbed in his thoughts, revealing both the kindness and formality that were attributed to him. In a letter home to the United States, Alexander’s wife wrote: “Mary has painted a very good portrait of Aleck for which he has been posing every morning for two hours for two weeks.” http://art.seattleartmuseum.org/objects/10259/portrait-of-alexander-j-cassatt;jsessionid=14B64D561385E3770309506FB79F6022

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American Artist, 1844 – 1926
Portrait of Master Robert Kelso Cassatt, c. 1882, Oil on Canvas, 50x61cm, Private Collection https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/american-art-n09689/lot.45.html

Images of Mary Cassatt’s friends and family constitute a pivotal, according to the Sotheby’s experts, a component of the artist’s prolific body of work. Robert Kelso Cassatt was Mary’s favourite nephew and one of her favorite models. Robert first bonded with his expatriate aunt during the summer of 1880, when he visited the artist and his grandparents at their rented villa in Marly, in the countryside outside of Paris. Robert was not the easiest of Mary’s models… he wouldn’t sit still… but Cassatt grew fond of him, hoping for a time that he would become an artist himself… https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/american-art-n09689/lot.45.html

Happy Father’s Day

For a Student Activity on the Portrait of Alexander Cassatt and Robert Cassatt, please… Check HERE!

Camille Pissarro Flower Arrangements

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Pink Peonies, 1873, Oil  on Canvas, 73 x 60 cm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK
https://www.wikiart.org/en/camille-pissarro/pink-peonies-1873

The flower that smiles to-day / To-morrow dies; / All that we wish to stay / Tempts and then flies. / What is this world’s delight? / Lightning that mocks the night, / Brief even as bright.    /    Virtue, how frail it is! / Friendship how rare! / Love, how it sells poor bliss / For proud despair! / But we, though soon they fall, / Survive their joy, and all / Which ours we call.    /    Whilst skies are blue and bright, / Whilst flowers are gay, / Whilst eyes that change ere night / Make glad the day; / Whilst yet the calm hours creep, / Dream thou—and from thy sleep / Then wake to weep. Everything is ephemeral and transitory for Percy Shelley like bouquets of flowers… like Camille Pissarro Flower Arrangements! Could this be the reason why the artist painted so few Still Life Paintings of Flowers? Was he afraid of all hopes, desires, and delights the world has to offer are short-lived and doomed to fade away? https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45133/mutability-the-flower-that-smiles-to-day and https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/10-of-the-best-poems-about-flowers/

Camille Pissarro was the only painter to exhibit in all eight Impressionist exhibitions organized between 1874 and 1886. He became a pivotal artist and mentor within the movement, and he is best known for his landscapes and his images of the day-to-day life of French peasants. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pissarro-camille/life-and-legacy/#biography_header

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Self-Portrait with Hat, 1903, Oil on Canvas, 41×33 cm, Tate Britain, UK
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camille_Pissarro_-_Self-portrait2_-_Tate_Britain.jpg

Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro was born and raised in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, then the Danish West Indies. His parents were merchants of modest means, but in 1842, young Pissarro was sent away to a boarding school in Passy near Paris, France, where he was introduced to the arts and encouraged to draw directly from nature and to use direct observation in his drawings, empirically rendering each object in its truest form. Pissarro returned to St. Thomas to immerse himself in the family business; however, he got quickly tired of mercantile pursuits and upon meeting the Danish painter Fritz Melbye, in the early 1850s, he abandoned the family business, following his Dutch friend to Caracas, Venezuela, and committing himself to becoming a painter. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pissarro-camille/life-and-legacy/#biography_header

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Tropical Landscape with Farmhouses and Palm Trees, 1856, Oil on Cardboard, 24.8×32.7 cm, National Art Gallery, Caracas, Venezuela
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camille_Pissarro_-_Paisaje_tropical.jpg

By 1855, Pissarro had returned to Paris, where he was exposed to the artwork of Eugène Delacroix, and Realist landscapists like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Jean-François Millet. Largely if not entirely self-taught at the time, Pissarro started taking classes at the Academie Suisse in 1859 where he met Cézanne, one of his closest lifelong friends. In 1861, Pissarro registered as a copyist at the Musée du Louvre, and around this same time, he met Julie Vellay, the daughter of a vineyard owner in the Burgundy region. He got married in London in 1871 and became the caring father of eight children. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pissarro-camille/life-and-legacy/#biography_header

Pissarro began submitting to the Salon in the late 1860s with landscape paintings reflecting his profound knowledge of and exposure to the compositional techniques of the eighteenth-century French masters. However, spending time and painting en plein air in Louveciennes, an area much favoured by the Impressionists, Pissarro’s style gradually changed. He focused on light effects and atmospheric conditions created by the change of the seasons developing a pure, mature Impressionist style. As he grew older, he worked hard to keep his art avant-garde and relevant by testing new theoretical concepts like the Pointillist technique. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pissarro-camille/life-and-legacy/#biography_header

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Medley of Still Life Paintings of Flowers

In 2005, at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Exhibition “Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro, 1865–1885” placed Camille Pissarro, the artist pretty much behind every art movement of the 19th century, in the same league as Paul Cézanne, the artist whose art will define the 20th century. Pissarro’s landscapes are indisputably important… but, I like to focus on Pissarro’s few Still Life paintings… discover his modernist approach, notice his ability to manipulate colour for a “truer” visual image, and relish at his direct, unadorned approach to his subject matter.

Paul Cézanne (left) and Camille Pissarro (right) at Auvers-sur-Oise, Private Collection, by an Anonymous Photographer https://newcriterion.com/issues/2005/9/cezanne-pissarro-a-crucial-friendship and http://art-cezanne.com/photography_cezanne/1874%20Paul-Cezanne%20&%20Camille%20Pissarro%20in%20%20Auver.jpg

To end this short presentation I will quote Paul Cézanne, who three years after Pissarro’s death, identified himself in a retrospective exhibition, as “Paul Cézanne, pupil of Pissarro.” https://www.theartstory.org/artist/pissarro-camille/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and https://www.haberarts.com/cezannep.htm

When I teach Impressionism… I like to stress how important Pissarro’s Still Life paintings of Flowers are! I use Visual Learning Strategy Questions to help my students reflect upon their significance, and experience a process of enduring understanding!

For a PowerPoint of Camille Pissarro’s paintings of Flowers, please… Check HERE!

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / or may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sassiness upset you? / Why are you beset with gloom? / ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room.    /    Just like moons and like suns, / With the certainty of tides, / Just like hopes springing high, / Still I’ll rise.    /    Did you want to see me broken? / Bowed head  /and lowered eyes? / Shoulders falling down like teardrops.    /    Weakened by my soulful cries.    /    Does my haughtiness offend you? / Don’t you take it awful hard / ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines / Diggin’ in my own back yard.    /    You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?    /    Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.    /    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise / Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, / I am the dream and the hope of the slave.    /    I rise    /    I rise    /    I rise… writes Maya Angelou and I think of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens… https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/dance

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (detail), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/shop/category/edgar-degas

Edgar Degas found ballet dancing irresistible and at the Paris Opéra, he frequently attended grand ballet productions on stage and small ballet classes in rehearsal studios. He was an astute observer of the ballerinas’ daily routine of rehearsing, stretching, and resting. He studied dance movements and filled numerous notebooks with sketches to help him remember details so he could later compose paintings and model sculptures in his studio. His penetrating observations are best exemplified in the artist’s statue of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen exhibited in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens. The Little Dancer’s name was Marie van Goethem… and she was a young student at the Paris Opéra Ballet School. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Adolescent Marie, according to Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation experts, is presented standing in a dynamic but relaxed way, her feet in the “fourth position,” her hands held behind her back, the head slightly raised, and the entire appearance revealing all the ambiguity of an adolescent figure deformed by the dancing practice. The thinness of her body, the possible malnutrition suggested by a slightly swollen belly, does not diminish the girl’s sensuality, whose proud position, almost with an air of defiance, may seem, according to observers, dignified, provocative, or despisingI rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I risehttps://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (back view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen
Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (side view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Degas worked on Little Dancer Aged Fourteen for more than two years. He first created an armature of metal, wood, wire, rope, and two long paintbrushes for the dancer’s shoulders. Then, he modeled the figure first with clay to define the muscles, and then he modeled the final layer of the sculpture in wax. It was not enough… He dressed the statue in real ballet satin slippers, a linen bodice, a muslin tutu, and a wig of human hair, braided and tied with a ribbon. Finally, to complete the illusion, a coat of wax spread smoothly with a spatula over the surface of the sculpture, giving it an overall waxy,  lifelike look. After Degas died in 1917, copies of this wax figure were cast in plaster and bronze, and Little Dancer Aged Fourteen grew in fame around the world. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Museum Hall view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/visit/be-athens

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American Artist, 1834-1903
Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (Portrait of Christine Spartali),
1863-1865, Oil on Canvas, 201.5×116.1 cm, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Princess_from_the_Land_of_Porcelain#/media/File:James_McNeill_Whistler_-_La_Princesse_du_pays_de_la_porcelaine_-_brighter.jpg

The sitter’s sister Marie (artist Spartali-Stollman) told Pennell: ‘At first the work went quickly, but soon it began to drag. Whistler often scraped down the figure just as they thought it all but finished, and day after day they returned to find that everything was to be done over again … Mrs. Stillman remembers that Whistler partly closed the shutters so as to shut out the direct light; that her sister stood at one end of the room, the canvas beside her; that Whistler would look at the picture from a distance, then suddenly dash at it, give one stroke, then dash away again … The sittings went on until the sitter fell ill … The head in the “Princess” gave him most trouble … During her illness, a model stood for the gown, and when she was getting better, he came one day and made a pencil drawing of her head, though where it went to Mrs. Stillman never knew. There were a few more sittings after this, and at last, the picture was finished.’ The Princess from the Land of Porcelain by James Abbott McNeill Whistler has more stories to tell… https://www.whistler.arts.gla.ac.uk/correspondence/people/biog/?bid=Spar_C&fbclid=IwAR0Z8K3QjV1wsba9ee8HPO7ax0Ri9r3uvxu9QKVkwZdKKaVn-PSZ6Bpaca8 (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 122-25, 130, 157, 203-04; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer, and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.)

Image of the Peacock Room featuring the Princess in the Land of Porcelain painting by James McNeill Whistler, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, USA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Peacock_Room.jpg  

During the 1860s until the final years after the First World War, Japanese Art was all the rage amongst the world of Western Αrt ant Ιntelligentsia. At the time, James Abbott McNeill Whistler was a most fervent Japonist. Inspired by ukiyo-e prints, ancient Greek sculpture, music, and dance, Whistler created works of art of entranced female figures…Japanese and ancient Greek art set the tone. Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain is one such happy consequence. Painted between 1863 and 1865 with Christine Spartali as the model, and described in 1865 as “unready for display and lacking in substance” by the art critic Gustave Vattier, the painting was not an immediate success. Without a direct buyer, the work changed hands for a few years – at one point landing in Dante Rossetti’s studio – before it was purchased by Frederick Leyland for his dreamed porcelainzimmer! In 1903, the painting was bought by Charles Lang Freer, and today Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain can be seen in Washington DC, the Freer Gallery of Art, a much-appreciated part of the Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-story-behind-the-peacock-rooms-princess-159271229/ and https://artofdarkness.co/post/137432960224/whistler-princess-from-land-porcelain-gigapixel-details

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American Artist, 1834-1903
Sketch for Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain
, between 1863 and 1864, oil on hardboard, 61.3 × 35.1 cm, Worcester Art Museum, MA, USA  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Princesse_du_Pays_de_la_Porcelaine_-_James_Abbort_McNeill_Whistler_-_Sketch.JPG

Whistler’s painting Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain was part of a series of costume pictures undertaken by Whistler in the mid-1860s in which western models appear in Asian dress, surrounded by Chinese and Japanese objects from Whistler’s own collections. He modeled the princess on Christina Spartali, a young woman of Greek descent who is dressed in a kimono and surrounded by luxurious objects that suggest an imaginary “land of porcelain.” Not intended as a portrait, the painting instead demonstrated a new ideal of beauty, one derived from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and the elongated figures painted on Chinese porcelain. https://asia.si.edu/object/F1903.91a-b/#object-content

Kitagawa Utamaro, Japanese Artist, 1753-1806
Washing and stretching cloth
, 1796-1797, Color woodblock print on paper, Triptych: each sheet 38.1 x 25.4 cm, NY Public Library, USA
https://artvee.com/dl/drying-and-stretching-cloth/

When I teach American Art, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, in particular, I like to compare Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain to Kitagawa Utamaro’s Washing and stretching cloth print of 1796-1797. The elegant postures of Ukiyo-e Ladies, their body language, grace, style, and refinement captivated Whistler’s imagination, creating… wonderful paintings! https://artvee.com/dl/drying-and-stretching-cloth/ and https://risdmuseum.org/exhibitions-events/exhibitions/women-floating-world

For a PowerPoint on paintings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler depicting European Women wearing Asian costumes, please… Check HERE!

Julia Margaret Cameron, 1815-1879
Christina Spartali (later Countess Edouard Cahn d’Anvers), 1868, albumen cabinet card, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/christina-spartali-the-model-for-la-princesse-ca-1865-70-julia-margaret-cameron/qwF4d-HWJ94Gtg

Christina Spartali, the model for Whistler’s Princess from the Land of Porcelain,  was Michael Spartali and Euphrosyne Varsini Spartali’s second daughter. Her father, a prosperous London resident merchant, became Consul-General for Greece in 1866. From 1864, the family lived in London at “The Shrubbery” in Clapham Common, and through their relatives, the Ionides, prominent patrons of the arts, became acquainted with members of the contemporary art world, including James McNeill Whistler. The photographer Julia Margaret Cameron was the Spartalis’ neighbor at Sandford, the family’s estate on the Isle of Wight, where photographs of the Spartali sisters were taken. In 1868, Christina married Count Eduard Joseph Cahen D’Anvers, a Jewish banker from Belgium, moved to Paris, and live the life of an upper-class, apparently not so happy, socialite. https://www.costumecocktail.com/2016/09/26/christina-marie-spartali-ca-1870/ and http://fannycornforth.blogspot.com/2018/12/sunday-16th-december-christine-spartali.html

Five O’Clock Tea with Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea, 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt_-_The_Tea_-_MFA_Boston_42.178.jpg

I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock… Oscar Wilde humorously wrote in Act 1 of his famous play The Importance of Being Earnest… Five O’Clock Tea with Mary Stevenson Cassatt is how an American painter portrayed, in all seriousness, the same customary ritual with paints. https://www.shmoop.com/importance-of-being-earnest/act-i-full-text-2.html

Cassatt seated in a chair with an umbrella. Verso reads “The only photograph for which she ever posed. Courtesy of Durand-Ruel.”, 1913
Source: http://digitalcollections.frick.org/digico/#/archive/Archives/Images%20of%20Artists%20
Images of Artists Collection. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt_photograph_1913.jpg

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844 – 1926) was a fortunate lady! Born into a prosperous family in Pennsylvania who believed it was important for women to receive an education, she grew up attending school in Philadelphia and traveling to Europe where …Art kept changing. Reaching adulthood, she persuaded her parents that her life’s destination was to be in Europe, and painting professionally was to become her life’s pursuit! It was not easy for her father to accept Mary’s artistic ambition, but after serious deliberation, he came around and… in 1866, with her mother and family friends acting as chaperones, she settled in Paris and was accepted to study Art in the private studios of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Charles Joshua Chaplin and Thomas Couture. She expanded her training with daily copying in the Louvre and trips to the French countryside where she drew from life. Two years later, in 1868, her painting A Mandoline Player, was accepted for exhibition in the Paris Salon. She was noticed as a professional painter, but she was not fully content!

Everything changed in 1877 when she submitted paintings to enter the year’s Salon and was rejected by the committee. When she met Edgar Degas, an artist she greatly admired, Cassatt was disillusioned with academic painting and eager to experiment. The French artist invited her to collaborate with the Impressionists and exhibit with them in 1879, during the 4th Impressionist Exhibition… I accepted with joy, she later recalled as I hated conventional art. She was one of just a few women, and the only American, to exhibit with the group. She was finally happy in an artistic environment that suited her needs… Plein Air painting, vibrant, metallic in some cases, color, in short, dancing brushstrokes, flat space, the discovery of Japanism… and scenes of everyday modern life in Paris – her family, friends, and their children. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-MaryCassatt.pdf and https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea (Details – 2 women), 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
https://atsunnyside.blog/2018/08/31/tea-by-mary-cassatt-1880/

In 1880 Mary Cassatt painted Five O’Clock Tea documenting the trendy social ritual of well-to-do women like herself. Paintings of women taking afternoon tea became a popular theme for Cassatt in the late 1870s and early 1880s, and in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mary Cassatt aficionados can admire three fine examples of this trend, two paintings in oil and a print. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cast/hd_cast.htm

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
The Cup of Tea, ca. 1880–81, Oil on Canvas, 92.4 x 65.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
Afternoon Tea Party, 1890–91, Drypoint and aquatint, printed in color from three plates, Plate: 34.6 x 26.7 cm, the MET, NY, USA
Lady at the Tea Table, 1883–85, Oil on Canvas, 73.7 x 61 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/The_Cup_of_Tea_MET_DT88.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Afternoon_Tea_Party_MET_DP819587.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Lady_at_the_Tea_Table_MET_DT516.jpg  

The MFA Five O’Clock Tea, modern, intimate, and informal, is my favourite. It displays a contemporary drawing room, sometimes described as Cassatt’s own. The fine striped wallpaper and carved marble fireplace, ornamented with an elaborately framed painting and a porcelain jar, are typical of an upper-middle class Parisian interior, and the antique Silver Tea Service on the foreground table implies a distinguished family history. The truth is that the depicted Tea Service was part of a family Tea Set made in Philadelphia about 1813, of which six pieces (but not the tray) are now in the MFA’s collection. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7 and https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7f/ef/3d/7fef3d6daead8cc0cbed4636a232971f.jpg

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1844-1926          
Five O’Clock Tea (Detail Tea Set), 1880, Oil on Canvas, 64.7×92 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
https://atsunnyside.blog/2018/08/31/tea-by-mary-cassatt-1880/

Mary Cassatt’s Five O’Clock Tea is a testimony to modernity by rejecting several traditional artistic conventions. For example, the artist denies the human form its usual compositional primacy as the tea service seems larger in scale than the women themselves. Taking further steps towards novelty in art, Mary Cassattt renders the depicted guest in the transitory act of drinking. By selecting the only point in the action when her subject’s face is almost completely hidden by the teacup, Cassatt reiterates her modernist creed that her painting is not only about representing likeness, but also about design and color. Furthermore, she uses the oval shapes of cups and saucers, trays, hats, and faces as repetitive patterns, offsetting the strict graphic geometry of the gray and rose striped wallpaper. I am not surprised that J.-K. Huysmans wrote that the Five O’Clock Tea was an excellent canvas. https://collections.mfa.org/objects/32829/the-tea;jsessionid=20E4DE2A8A06D4816FA7D20AFF171D7C?ctx=884b7166-374f-468a-8909-136f2658e914&idx=7

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Pissarro’s Basket of Pears

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life: Pears in a Round Basket, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 45.7 x 55.2 cm, The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum, USA
https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/21437

They are juicy and sweet, can be tart or buttery, soft, or crunchy, they have been around since the 5th millennium BC, they are my favourite winter fruit! We celebrate them on the 5th of December… during World Pear Day! Lamar Cole’s poemIt always made him feel so refreshed and new. / When he tasted pear juice. / On pears he loved to munch. / He loved the sound of their crunch. / He was happy as could be. / Because on his grandma’s farm. / There were many pear trees… sets the tone! Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears invites me to contemplate and Enjoy! https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/pears-3/ and https://nationaldaycalendar.com/world-pear-day-first-weekend-in-december/

Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears is a rare treat! An exceptional theme for Camille Pissarro, the Princeton Museum painting surprised me… ever so pleasantly, I may add. It dates from the year after his move to Pontoise, a village north of Paris where, in 1872, joined by Cézanne, who regarded Pissarro as a father figure, the artists, often working side by side outdoors, experimented with the Impressionist techniques pioneered by some of their friends. https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/21437

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Self-Portrait, 1873, Oil on Canvas, 55.5×46.0 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/portrait-de-lartiste-366

According to the experts at Sotheby’s… Pissarro lived in Pontoise, a village located northwest of Paris, between 1872 and 1882, finding great inspiration in its landscapes. Pontoise played an integral role in Pissarro’s work, establishing his reputation as an innovative painter of rural scenes, as well as contributing to the emergence of Impressionism. For this reason, his works painted between 1872 and 1873 are often considered his masterpieces, works that would have a long-lasting influence on both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists. The 1877 Musée d’Orsay painting of Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, is a wonderful example of how Pissarro, during his ten years at Pontoise, developed his style influenced by Gustave Corot, Claude Monet, and William Turner. Painted en plain air, with short, visible brushstrokes, and colorful cast shadows, the Orsay painting of Flowering Trees, I would like to think of them as Pear Trees! exhibits all the characteristics of the Impressionist style, Pissarro is so famous about. https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/impressionist-modern-art-day-sale-/lallee-des-vignes-a-pontoise

Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Orchard with Flowering Trees, Spring, Pontoise, 1877, Oil on Canvas, 65.5×81 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camille_Pissarro_-_Orchard_with_Flowering_Trees,_Spring,_Pontoise.JPG
Camille Pissarro, French Artist, 1830–1903
Still Life with Apples and Pitcher, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 46.4 x 56.5 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437317

During his sojourn at Pontoise, in 1872 to be exact, Pissarro painted two, very similar Still Lives, I particularly like. Identical in size, Pears in a Round Basket (Princeton University Art Museum), and Still Life with Apples and Pitcher (the MET, New York), stun the viewer with the artist’s clarity of vision, and simplicity of composition. Featuring the same floral-patterned wallpaper in the background, I love its vertical orientation, floral design, and pastel colour scheme, both paintings clearly expressed forms and subtle manipulation of light. The viewer can only wonder… How much were Cezanne’s Still Life paintings influenced by Pissarro? https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437317

For a PowerPoint on Camille Pissarro’s Basket of Pears, please… Click HERE!

The Turkeys by Claude Monet

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109  

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 The Turkeys by Claude Monet.  https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109and https://www.southernliving.com/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-poems

Claude Monet was a prolific painter, an innovator, and an astute businessman. He painted over 2.000 paintings, disillusioned with the Académie and the Salon system, along with friends like Degas, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, and others, he founded the Impressionist movement, and despite popular belief, he became quite independently wealthy. Early on, at Le Havre, where he grew up, the15 years old Monet was quite known and popular as a caricaturist, charging the local buyers 10 to 20 francs for his art, signed O. Monet, as his first name is Oscar. As a teenager, Monet was also introduced to painting at Plein Air by his mentor and friend Eugène Boudin, who instilled in him a deep appreciation for the play of light on natural forms… If I have become a painter, it is entirely due to Eugène Boudin, Monet later acknowledged. It is interesting to know that in 1861, at the age of twenty, Monet was drafted into the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry and served for one year in Algiers where, upon later reflection, he believed that the impressions of light and color that he received there…contained the germ of his future researches. https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/21-facts-about-claude-monet

In 1876, Monet painted The Turkeys, a unique theme for his artistic repertoire as Monet hardly ever painted birds. The painting was originally commissioned, along with three more canvases, by Ernest Hoschedé, his wealthy patron at the time, but soon changed owners until 1947, when the Princess Edmond de Polignac bequeathed the painting to the State of France to be exhibited in the Louvre Museum, and in 1986, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Turkeys, not a particularly known painting by Monet, was first exhibited in 1877 at the 3rd Impressionist Exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Gallery. It was also part of major early 20th century Exhibitions like the 1910 Universal and International Exhibition in Brussels, and the first, 1931, Claude Monet: Retrospective Exhibition at the Orangerie Museum in Paris. The last grand Exhibition, this very unique Monet painting was presented, was the 2018-2019 Orsay as seen by Julian SchnabelExhibition at the Orsay Museum. https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/oeuvres/les-dindons-1109 and https://www.leparisien.fr/archives/grandeur-et-decadence-du-mecene-de-monet-31-01-2015-4493225.php

Claude Monet, 1840-1926
The Turkeys, 1876, oil on canvas, 1876 174×172 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Museum View
Photo Credit @scribeaccroupi
https://scribeaccroupi.fr/visite-privee-collection-depeaux-musee-des-beaux-arts-rouen/

The Turkeys, or Les Dindons, in French, exhibit all of Monet’s visual aesthetics and the driving characteristics behind them. His asymmetric, diagonal composition, in Japanism style, is set in a serene, lush, French countryside landscape. Painted en Plein Air,  Les Dindons use a palette of vibrant whites and fresh greens with splashes of red to create an atmosphere of radiance. Finally, Monet’s brushstrokes, a key feature of all of his paintings, are short, fast, turning and twisting, quick to portray the reflective power of the bright morning sun.

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Rouen Cathedral in the Morning

Claude Monet, 1840 – 1926
Rouen Cathedral in the Morning (Pink Dominant), 1894, Oil on canvas, 100.3 × 65.5 cm, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Claude_Monet_-_La_Cathedrale_de_Rouen_Le_Matin%2C_dominante_rose_-_Goulandris_Museum.jpg

“The subject is something secondary, what I want to reproduce is what lies between the subject and myself” writes in one of his letters Claude Monet and the painting of the Rouen Cathedral in the Morning, a great masterpiece in the Collection of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens, helps me explore this idea.

It was 1892, Monet was in Rouen and the city’s Gothic Cathedral, lofty and imposing, captivated, challenged, and stymied him. How can I capture the “invisible” that connects us and constantly “transforms” this amazing building, he probably thought. Can I “trap” that elusive  “light and atmosphere” that “hang” between us… design and create something substantial out of the intangible? Difficult questions to answer and most of all realize. Yet, Claude Monet was a persistent and resilient man. It took him 3 years, countless hours of painting, and over 30 canvases to create the Rouen Cathedral Series, an accomplishment to be proud of.

The artist’s idea was to create yet another series of paintings/studies of how the depicted subject matter, the façade of the Rouen Cathedral, changes under different conditions of light and weather. Monet was familiar with the idea… the famous paintings of the Haystacks in the outskirts of Giverny were created between 1890 and 1891, causing a sensation.

In Rouen, during the early months of 1892, Monet rented a studio space facing the West Façade of the Cathedral, set up multiple canvases, and working long hours, began painting many canvases at the same time, eager to capture the atmosphere corresponding to a particular moment in time. He worked as a dancer swiftly moving from one canvas to the other… but the process was slow and frustrating. Things don’t advance very steadily, primarily because each day I discover something I hadn’t seen the day before… In the end, I am trying to do the impossible… he wrote and by April 1982 he was back at Giverny. https://www.theartwolf.com/monet_cathedral.htm

In 1893 he returned at Rouen struggling, once more, to capture… the moment, the ephemeral, tonal subtleties and nuances of colour. I am furious at myself… he wrote to his wife Alice, I am doing nothing of value: I don’t know how many sessions I have spent on these paintings and do what I may, they don’t advance…it’s depressing. Yet, working and reworking on his canvases, at Rouen but in his Studio at Giverny as well (1894) and creating a very distinctive textured surface, Monet was finally pleased! More so, in May of 1895, to great acclaim, he selected twenty of his canvases and exhibited them at the gallery of his friend and art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. His canvases were highly-priced, but eight of them were sold before the exhibition was over! https://www.mfa.org/article/2020/rouen-cathedral-series

As for the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation version, the Museum Experts present the painting as “one of the most complete paintings of the series and probably the one Monet himself appreciated the most…”  and they continue describing how “the colour palette dominated by pink, automatically conveys us (the viewer) to the first minutes of the day. The viewer (the experts proceed) feels privileged before this spectacle, as it is portrayed at a time when few people go out. The sun, which is not yet shining on the façade, diffuses a light that allows us to gaze at it for some time and see all the details of the decoration. The cathedral demands respect regardless of the religious faith of the one standing before it, a fact that reminds us of the variable temporality of the passing time, but enlivens the same emotions daily.”

For a PowerPoint on the Rouen Cathedral Series, please… Check, HERE!

For the PowerPoint Photo Credits, please… Chek HERE!