Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden, 1891, Oil on Board, 60,7 × 55 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/el/collection/highlights

How vainly men themselves amaze / To win the palm, the oak, or bays, / And their uncessant labours see / Crown’d from some single herb or tree, / Whose short and narrow verged shade / Does prudently their toils upbraid; / While all flow’rs and all trees do close / To weave the garlands of repose …     /     Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, / And Innocence, thy sister dear! / Mistaken long, I sought you then / In busy companies of men; / Your sacred plants, if here below, / Only among the plants will grow. / Society is all but rude, / To this delicious solitude… writes Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) back in the 17th century… and I think that maybe… Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden, sitting uptight with fingers intertwined, seeks in the wild garden of Père Forestdelicious solitude… a place of repose and restfulness… an escape from the more frenetic world of public life that lies beyond the boundaries of the garden. https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/a-short-analysis-of-andrew-marvells-the-garden/ and https://poets.org/poem/garden

In Montmartre, in Paris, where Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived, at the bottom of rue Caulaincourt, not far from Place de Clichy, Père Forest, an enthusiastic Parisian archer, owned a half-wild, half-cultivated garden where he often welcomed friends to walk in the undergrowth. Among Père Forest’s friends was Toulouse-Lautrec, whose studio was nearby, and upon the arrival of spring, used to walk down to his friend’s garden, where he would receive his models, paint en plein air surrounded by a large group of onlookers, and share many drinks with old friends and acquaintances till the late hours of the afternoon. https://www.histoires-de-paris.fr/toulouse-lautrec-jardin-pere-forest/

From 1889 to 1891, Lautrec experimented with the plein-air approach of the Impressionists, producing a group of studies showing figures set against the foliage in the garden of Monsieur Forest, his neighbor in the Paris district of Montmartre. Lautrec referred to these self-imposed exercises in technique as “impositions,” for which friends, as well as models, posed. One such “imposition” is the Basil and Elise Goulandris’s Foundation painting titled Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden of 1891. https://vrallart.com/artworks/woman_in_the_garden_of_monsieur_forest/ and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/henri-de-toulouse-lautrec-woman-in-monsieur-forests-garden

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden (detail), 1891, Oil on Board, 60,7 × 55 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/el/collection/highlights

The woman depicted in the Lautrec painting in Athens was named Honorine. She was most probably not a professional model or prostitute, and she was painted at least twice. In the Athens version, according to the Goulandris Foundation experts, the model appears in a three-quarter pose, looking the viewer straight in the eye, with her fingers intertwined, without wearing accessories. The painter opted for a minimalist palette with white, green, violet, and a warmer touch for the reddish-gold hair. The face is undoubtedly more treated: the thin brush strokes are small and precise; the features are subtly rendered, refuting the accusations that the painter constantly pursued caricature at that time. The gaze, reflecting a subtle worry, is not at all distant, but straight and gracious. https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/henri-de-toulouse-lautrec-woman-in-monsieur-forests-garden

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman with Gloves (Honorine Platzer), 1891, oil on cardboard, 54×40 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/node/89835  

Toulouse-Lautrec painted Honorine Platzer three times as he clearly had some affection for her. In the Musée d’Orsay painting Woman with Gloves, the artist captured his model almost in spite of herself, her gaze focused elsewhere… ignoring the painter. Honorine was a slim, elegant woman with beautiful strawberry-blond hair and a gentle yet strong character. Both paintings show how close Toulouse-Lautrec approach to portraiture was to the Impressionists, who frequently painted outside using colours splashed with sunlight. But whereas the Impressionists searched out the passing moment, the ephemeral nature of the effects of light, and did not linger over the features in this type of portrait, Lautrec, in contrast, would disregard the changing elements to capture the inner personality of his models. https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/node/89835

For a PowerPoint on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Portraits of Women in the Garden of Père Forest, please… Check HERE!

Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
https://www.centrepompidou.fr/fr/ressources/oeuvre/cyjjkkA#&gid=viewer-lightbox&pid=0

The French artist Suzanne Valadon is the protagonist of a unique Exhibition at the Barnes, in the heart of Philadelphia, that introduces to the general public a late 19th – early 20th-century Woman of extraordinary qualities. The Exhibition will be open to the public until the 9th of January, 2021, and so far, the Artist and the Exhibition have been described as… A thrilling tour of [her] portraits, nudes, still lifes, and drawings by The New York Times, or… A brilliant artist making breathtaking paintings that have the flat, colorful solidity of Gauguin, but a piercing intelligence and emotional insight by The Washington Post, or… She is a maverick artist, who often drew from her own life to create a body of work that envisions the 20th-century woman by WHYY, and Breathing new life into rebellious early 20th-century art by the Broad Street Review. https://www.barnesfoundation.org/whats-on/exhibitions/suzanne-valadon?gclid=CjwKCAjwzaSLBhBJEiwAJSRokgRhEY928WI-tXfLFrUON5esRwP3uD8RRKR9pNAu2rdgIPlxP88W8hoCkC4QAvD_BwE

Maurice Utrillo and his mother Suzanne Valadon, c. 1890 by an unknown photographer
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M_Utrillo_et_sa_m%C3%A8re_S_Valadon_vers_1890.jpg

Born Marie-Clémentine, Suzanne Valadon, was born into poverty, as the daughter of an unmarried domestic worker. She grew up in Montmartre, the bohemian quarter of Paris, supporting herself from the age of ten with odd jobs: waitress, nanny, and circus performer. A fall from a trapeze led her in a new direction…that of modeling for some of the most important artists of her time. She was more than a model… she became the muse and the friend of artists like Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Miguel Utrillo, who agreed to give Maurice, Valadon’s son, born out of wedlock, his last name and legally recognize him as his son. Suzanne was artistic. She loved to draw while in the company of her artists/friends, practice her skills by observing them paint, and with the encouragement and tutelage of her mentor Edgar Degas, learn how to master the art of drawing and etching techniques. Valadon soon transitioned from an artist’s model into a successful artist with …a complicated personal life. She was a free spirit and a bohemian in every sense of the word… Suzanne Valadon, her second husband André Utter, and her son Maurice Utrillo were known as the trinité maudite (cursed trinity) because the family environment was characterized by violent outbursts, reconciliations, and alcoholism. https://nmwa.org/art/artists/suzanne-valadon/ and https://www.messynessychic.com/2021/10/15/renoirs-art-model-was-the-greatest-painter-you-never-heard-of/?fbclid=IwAR33WEcmDTxJ4n84O07M7RIJ1rv5WaCZb8Xtc8auSwKRndJhQPfTpaliFZI and https://www.arts-spectacles.com/Valadon-Utrillo-et-Utter-la-trinite-maudite-entre-Paris-et-Saint-Bernard-1909-1939-du-16-octobre-au-12-fevrier-2012_a6460.html

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self-Portrait, 1898, Oil on Canvas, 40×26.7 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suzanne_Valadon_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

The artist is famous for her unapologetic female and male nudes… bold, controversial, and provocative! My favourite Valadon painting is her 1912 Self Portrait with Family…odd, disturbing, and unconventional. https://www.centrepompidou.fr/fr/ressources/oeuvre/cyjjkkA#&gid=viewer-lightbox&pid=0

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Portrait_de_famille%2C_1912_-_Suzanne_Valadon.jpg

The Centre Pompidou painting shows Suzanne Valadon in the center, flanked by André Utter, her second husband, her mother Magdeleine Valadon, and her son in the foreground, Maurice Utrillo. Suzanne Valadon is the only one directly facing the viewer, but she does so tentatively, with her hand on her chest… Utter and Madame Valadon are gazing to their right, each foreseeing a different future: the young man looks confident and rather content, while the woman – all wrinkled and slightly hunchbacked, with the corners of her mouth turned downwards – appears resigned. Maurice Utrillo’s depiction earns the most sympathy, for he seems to be the most miserable and out of place, gazing melancholically with his head leaning on his hand, as if he simply cannot muster the energy to stand or sit upright… What an unusual family portrait! https://artschaft.com/2018/05/23/suzanne-valadon-family-portrait-1912/

For a Student Activity inspired by the Exhibition at the Barnes, in Philadelphia, please… Check HERE!

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Portrait of the painter Maurice Utrillo, 1921, Collection of the City of Sannois, Val d’Oise, France, on temporary loan to the Musée de Montmartre, Paris
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maurice_Utrillo,_par_Suzanne_Valadon.jpg

Still Life à la cafetière

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life à la cafetière, Still Life with Coffee Pot, May 1888, Oil on Canvas, 65 × 81 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The three primary colours, red, blue yellow, a touch of orange… and how you can create a masterpiece! Still Life à la cafetière in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, at Athens, is a case to study!!!

“Painting Still Lifes is the beginning of everything,” Van Gogh said back in the winter of 1884/85, and as Dutch in origin, he was so right! Let’s not forget the Netherlandish attachment to this genre. During his prolific career that did not last more than a decade, from 1881 until his death in 1890, Van Gogh painted more than 170 Still Lifes! https://www.museum-barberini.com/en/van-gogh/

He started by “paying tribute” to his Dutch, 17th-century tradition of painting Still Lifes with sombre, melancholy, earthy tones. We can describe these early Still Life paintings as experiments in colour! Direct, powerful, and sincere, these early Still Life studies were created while living with his parents in Nuenen. Across a dark background, he used humble everyday objects that were probably used by his family for their everyday meals. By mixing primary colours himself, his palette was dark, brown and greyish, and the objects he was presenting were brought to life with touches of white paint. His painting, titled Still life with three bottles and earthenware, is a perfect example. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0138V1962?v=1

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life with three bottles and earthenware, 1884/5, oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

That was not enough for Van Gogh! He felt the need to develop and evolve, to practice and struggle in getting better… and so, he travels to Paris, gets in touch with Impressionism, and his Still Life paintings gradually acquire the bright Mediterranean colours of Southern France, which he so loved. Painting Still Lifes during the Paris period is very important for him. He studies every book he can get on the fundamentals of “Colour Theory” and experiments until his colour palette dramatically changes. He doesn’t mix colours any more, he uses them separately, he combines complementary colours and gets rid of the use of browns. In Paris, painting flowers fascinates him, changing his technique intrigues him, communicating his feelings as well as what he sees becomes his objective. The newly authenticated Vase with Poppies at the Wadsworth Atheneum is such a representative example of his efforts at the time. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/blog/two-van-gogh-exhibitions-in-a-single-week

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Vase with Poppies, ca. 1886, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, 56.0 cm × 46.5 cm, Hartford, Connecticut

Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in early 1888, and his palette positively explodes with colour and vibrant brushstrokes. The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation painting Still Life à la cafetière is an amazing example of his final period. Quoting a description of the painting in a Van Gogh letter to his brother Theo, we read… “A coffee pot in blue enamel, a cup (on the left) royal blue and gold, a milk jug checkered light blue and white, a cup (on the right) white with blue and orange patterns on a plate of earthenware yellow-grey, a pot of barbotine or majolica blue with red, green, brown patterns, finally two oranges and three lemons; the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background yellow-green, thus six different blues and four of five yellows and oranges.” The art of simplicity at it’s best. Once more, dispassionate items of his everyday life, search for immediacy and turn into a moving painting of extraordinary vitality. The three primary colours, lots of blues and greens, an amazing red borderline that encloses the painting, juxtapose to “touches” of complementary oranges. A diagonal composition with crossed lines animates the composition. Incredible brushstrokes forcefully convene in the enamel coffee pot, creating a sense of perspective. He works like a man in a frenzy and creates a world, his world, that feels ALIVE! Color, Space, and Creativity: Art and Ontology in Five British Writers, by Jack Stewart, 2008, Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., page 224, and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/vincent-van-gogh-still-life-coffee-pot

For a Student Activity, please… check HERE!

The Magic of the Olive Tree

Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890
Olive Picking, 1889, oil on canvas, 73.5 × 92.5 cm, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The Magic of the Olive Tree inspired so much Vincent Van Gogh that while in Saint-Remy-de Provence in 1889, he painted at least 15 paintings depicting their beauty! The same magic inspired our wonderful Pinewood Kindergarten Teacher… who organized a Unit to remember!

“The Kindergarten theme on Olives began with the intention of it being a transdisciplinary unit so that the children would learn many facets about it. It was introduced in a simple way – when the children reached the letter O in the English alphabet they decided to remember this letter sound by saying ‘O is for olive’… From there they learned that olives are fruit and that they grow on Olive Trees in Greece. Inspired by short videos showing how olives are picked in late Autumn, the children took a sheet, a stick and a basket and went olive picking on the school grounds. They hit the branches of the school Olive Trees and collected the fruit that fell… So enthusiastic about what they did they decided to capture their experience by making their very own olive tree grove Bulletin Board.”

Pinewood Kindergarten students “listened in awe as they travelled back into mythological times, to when Athena bestowed the gift of an Olive Tree to the Athenians. This helped the children understand what a treasure the Olive Tree is because of all the various gifts that it gives: wood (for heat, furniture), oil ( for cooking, eating, light, fuel) and soap… They tasted both green and black olives, they washed their hands with olive soap, they lit an oil-lamp with olive oil and they made olive bread… They created olive wreaths by counting card leaves and plasticine olives to a given number and learned that in ancient times an olive wreath, just like the ones they had made, were placed on the heads of champion athletes.”

Finally, students “realized how thankful they are for this humble fruit and all it provides. So when it came to Thanksgiving Day the children chose to honour the Olive Tree by writing their messages of thanks inside their olive wreaths and entitling their display, ‘In Greece, we are thankful for Olive Trees’.”

Kindergarten student Bulletin Board Art photographed by Kostas Papantoniou

“O is for Olive” is the amazing Lesson Plan prepared by the school’s Kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Anna Maria Mathias, with assistance provided by Mrs. Kathy Lekkas. The PowerPoint photos that follow HERE! were taken by the school’s photographer, Mr. Kostas Papapatoniou.

For the purposes of this BLOG, The Magic of the Olive Tree, “teachercurator” put together a PowerPoint on Van Gogh and paintings of Olive Trees… please check HERE!

The new Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens has a wonderful Vincent Van Gogh painting of Olive Picking from his 1889 period. Apparently, Van Gogh painted “three versions of this picture. He described the first as a study from nature “more coloured with more solemn tones” (in the Goulandris Collection) and the second as a studio rendition in a “very discreet range” of colours (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).” The third painting is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and accordingly is “the most resolved and stylized of the three.” The third painting was “intended for his sister and mother, to whom Van Gogh wrote: “I hope that the painting of the women in the olive trees will be a little to your taste—I sent [a] drawing of it to Gauguin… and he thought it good… ” https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436536 and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/vincent-van-gogh-olive-picking