Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass (1888)

Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass (1888)
One of my favorite still life subjects of Van Gogh, the cut branch in a glass, I ran across this one with the book behind creating a complicated compositional element. Note also the use of complementary colors, red and green, creating a vibration in the painting.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Frank Gehry

Happy Birthday Frank Gehry!! Vanity Fair has dubbed the Canadian born architect the “most important architect of our age”. He was born in Toronto in 1929 and named Frank Goldman. As a young boy, he began building miniature cities out of scrap wood and bits of metal, wire, etc. at his grandfather’s hardware store. He moved to California, graduating from the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 1954. Many of his structures are in the Deconstructivist style, or a movement interested in advancing modern architecture away from restricting rules. His home in Santa Monica, in the this style is pictured below.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Marino Marini

Happy Birthday Marino Marini!! Italian artist, born today in 1901, Marino Marini originally studied to be a painter but then by 1922 became primarily a sculptor. His work shows Etruscan influences and he was associated with artists Arturo Martini, Giorgio de Chirico and Alberto Giacometti, among others. After traveling to Paris, Switzerland and Rome, in 1940 Marini settled in Milan where he was professor of sculpture at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera. He is best known for his life sized, stylised horses with riders’ arms outstretched or thrown above.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tex Avery

Happy Birthday Tex Avery!! Creator of familiar characters such as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and the character Bugs Bunny, obviously Avery was a cartoonist who was born in Texas, in 1908. Interested in animation early on, Avery created comics in high school and studied art at the Chicago Art Institute for a summer before moving to California to work as an animation field painter. He later became a storyboard artist and went to work for Warner Brothers, where he eventually created his popular characters. Later he worked for MGM, enjoying the artistic freedom he was given and creating slapstick humor changed the cartoon industry. His beloved character Droopy is his most endearing. Later the Frito Bandito was born in the realm of TV commercials.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jacques Philippe Caresme

Happy Birthday Jacques Philippe Caresme!! Born on my birthday, Caresme was from France, 1734, and the son of painter Claude-Francois Caresme. He was a painter, engraver and illustrator. He studied with his cousin, Charles-Antoine Coypel before being accepted into the Royal Academie and exhibiting regularly at the Salon. Caresme painted commissions for the Bayonne Cathedral and in Versailles, but after neglecting to complete one commissioned by the Academie, he was expelled. Caresme continued to paint and create engravings after his paintings until his death in 1796. The Guitar Player is pictured below.

Royal Academie of Painting and Sculpture-An institution in Paris modeled after like foundations in Rome, for artists of the Royal Court. It was intended to give them the necessary education, “stamp of approval” and permission to exhibit at the Salon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mattia Preti

Happy Birthday Mattia Preti!! Italian painter, from a small town Taverna Calabria, Preti was born in 1613 during the Baroque period. Caravaggio (1573-1610) also from that region, was a great influence. Preti traveled to Rome, doing easel paintings as well as frescoes. He was also in Naples and finally Malta, where he lived the remaining 40 years of his life. In 1659 he was deemed Knight of Grace in the order of St. John and perhaps his most remarkable work is his contribution to the church of St. John, in Malta, where his vault painting, a narrative of the life of St. John the Baptist has been called the purest form of High Baroque decoration. The portion below is an image of St. John the Baptist preaching; note the great emotion, even fear, on the listeners in the lower section, as the angel peaceably strums his harp.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

George Frederick Watts

Happy Birthday George Frederick Watts!! Englishman born in 1817, Watts painted primarily portraits and historical allegories (symbolic works describing love, death, chaos, etc). He studied at the Royal Academy and after winning a mural design contest, traveled to Italy on the prize money, to work there for a time. He returned to Britain to stay, earning his living by painting portraits. The allegorical work pictured today is Hope, showing a young woman sitting atop the earth playing a lyre with only one remaining string.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Horace Pippin

Happy Birthday Horace Pippin!! Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1888, Horace Pippin was an African-American painter. He was self-taught, and working in a simplistic, naïve style rose from poverty to fame. He worked in menial jobs, and then fought in World War I where he was injured and received a pension for the rest of his life. This allowed him to pursue his art, painting his family and other genre scenes. Considered a Folk Artist, since he lacked formal training, his work was brightly colored, flat shapes without depth or value shading. The painting included here, is titled The Domino Players.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hubert de Givenchy

Happy Birthday Hubert de Givenchy!! The French couturier was born today in 1927. Following his father’s death when he was quite young, his mother and grandfather brought up Givenchy. He visited the “fashion pavilion” at the international Exhibition in Paris at age 10, stemming his interest in high fashion. As a youth he poured over fashion magazines, becoming enthralled with Balenciaga. Givenchy was educated at the Beaux Arts School in Paris. After working at various fashion houses, he eventually opened his own in 1952 and went on to become a world-renowned top designer. He was the first designer to present “ready to wear” clothing at a show, using this as his venue for his “fun clothes”. His vintage designs from the 50’s and 60’s are still sought after today. Two of his famous clients were Jacqueline Kennedy  and Audrey Hepburn. Pictured below is the black dress Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Elie Nadelman

Happy Birthday Elie Nadleman!! Although born in Poland, in 1882, the sculptor relocated first to Paris and then to America, becoming a citizen in 1927. His work transformed from Classical to Folk Art, created from marble, bronze, painted plaster and wood. Unfortunately the popularity of his worked faded with the Great Depression and much of it rotted and was destroyed after being improperly stored in an attic. In addition to sculpting, Nadelman, like other artists of his day recognized the value and became a collector of Folk Art as well as a creator. Tango, pictured below was sculpted in 1922, and is one of the works that was destroyed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Constantin Brancusi

Happy Birthday Constantin Brancusi!! Rumanian born sculptor in 1876, Brancusi was an abstract artist, sometimes creating just one fine, highly polished shape. As a child he showed a love for carving, beginning with farm tools. He began his study of sculpture at the Bucharest School of Fine Arts and then traveled to Paris where he remained. Auguste Rodin was a mentor, but he left his studio after a short time, stating: “Nothing can grow under big trees”. His work is said to be as important to modern sculpture as Picasso’s was to modern painting. His Kiss series is a well-known group of sculptures, one of which I am including today.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Max Klinger

Happy Birthday Max Klinger!! German symbolist, Klinger was born in 1857 in Leipzig, Germany. He studied at the Grand Ducal Baden Art School and then the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin. He was a painter, sculptor and engraver. His work depicts dream-like fantasies and delusional qualities of the mind. He was an influence on metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico. Probably his most famous works are a series of 10 etchings in which he traces the imagined adventures of an errant glove he found one day at an ice skating rink. I am including the ninth etching today, depicting the glove being flown away in the mouth of a mythical creature as grasping hands break through a window in a futile effort to retrieve it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pierre-Auguste Cot

Happy Birthday Pierre Auguste Cot!! Born today in 1837, this popular French painter painted in the Academic Classical style. He studied in Toulouse and Paris, then made a successful showing at the Salon in 1863. He was married to the daughter of academic sculptor Francisque Duret. His specialty was portraits but two figurative works, perhaps based on Greek mythology, are The Storm (pictured here) and Le Printemps. The paintings exhibit incredible handling of light. His women are delicate, almost ethereal, and his men strong and attentive. Both have been displayed at the Metropolitan Art Museum, The Storm is actually owned by the museum. Unfortunately this artist died at the age of 46 leaving relatively paintings for us to enjoy today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Christian Selzer

Happy Birthday Christian Selzer!! Mennonite Pennsylvania German (sometimes known as Pennsylvania Dutch), born in 1749, Christian Selzer was a prominent cabinetmaker. Using walnut, oak, yellow pine, and tulipwood, he created what became known as the Jonestown school of decorated furniture. He was known for his painted blanket chests among other pieces.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jean Baptiste Lemoyne

Happy Birthday Jean Baptiste Lemoyne!! This French sculptor was born in 1704. His father was also a sculptor. In 1725 he won the Rome prize but never did make the trip to claim it. His fantastic portrait busts were his specialty. Lemoyne had several pupils including Falconet, Pigalle and Houdon. His work can be found in museums throughout the world. I have included his favored religious work Baptism of Christ.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alfred Thomas Agate

Happy Birthday Alfred Thomas Agate!! American miniaturist, Alfred Thomas Agate was born in 1811, in Sparta, New York. He specialized in landscapes and scientific drawings. He worked for the United States Exploring Expeditions, creating illustrations of plant life well as scenic views in minute detail. He used a camera lucida to project images onto his canvas to help achieve the intricacy. The steel engraving included today is Shasty Peak, the first know drawing of Mount Shasta, drawn in 1841, and published as a full page engraving in 1844, for the expedition headed by Commander Charles Wilkes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Happy Birthday Giovanni Battista Piazzetta!! Born in 1682, Venetian painter Piazzetti was the son of a woodcarver. He studied with Crespi in Bologna, gaining from him an interest in genre painting. He worked deliberately and slow, so he created comparatively few paintings in his lifetime. He began with Rembrandt's influence, painting with deep chiaroscuro, genre scenes such as the Shepherd Boy below, evolving into the free flowing style of Rococo.  There is some speculation thta the "Shepherd Boy" represents the Shepherd Jesus as a young boy. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eugene Atget

Happy Birthday Eugene Atget!! Born in France in 1857, Atget was a little known photographer. After becoming an orphan, he was raised by his uncle from age 7 and eventually became a ship boy for a time and then briefly moved into acting. Although he did not remain an actor for long, he did meet Valentine De Lafosse, an actress, whom he married and spent the rest of his life with. Settling in Paris in the 1890’s, he began to photograph architectural scenes and sell them to artists. It was popular at the time, for artists to paint from photos, and Atget was able to capitalize on this, creating over 10,000 photographs. His work remained fairly obscure until Bernice Abbott (a portrait photographer and art connoisseur) began to promote his work to the rest of the world. The view of Paris included here is typical of Atget's style: misty, mysterious nostalgic images.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Carlo Carra

Happy Birthday Carlo Carra!! Born in Italy in 1881, Carra was one of the original Futurists. He began his artistic career as a mural decorator at age 12. He studied at Brera University in Milan. The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli is his most famous work, painted in his Futurist style, depicting the funeral of Italian Angelo Galli who was killed by police in a strike in 1904. The artist was in the crowded procession when it turned into a violent standoff between police and followers, describing the confusion in this painting. His work gradually shifted from Futurism and motion to a still, quiet style, painting still life and landscapes.

Futurism-Art movement originating outside of Paris, in 1909, ending with World War I. Artists were involved with depicting transformations of the world as a result of science primarily representation of figures and machines in motion. Boccioni, Carra, Russolo, Balla, and Severini signed the Manifestos.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nicolas Taunay

Happy Birthday Nicolas Taunay!! French painter, born in 1755, Nicolas Taunay began his study of art with Bernard Francois Lepic at age 13. He was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Paris and then traveled to Rome, Germany and finally Brazil to become the professor of landscape painting at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. After a disagreement regarding the new director of the school, he returned to France a year later. Morro de Santo Antonio, painted in Brazil in 1816 is pictured below.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

J. J. P. Oud

Happy Birthday J. J. P. Oud!! The Dutch architect was born in 1890. He received his education at the Arts and Crafts School in Amsterdam and then went on to the Technical University at Delft. Oud was an original member of De Stijl, but left the group due to philosophical differences. A socialist, Oud encouraged the movement toward functionalism. His work has the clean line of Dutch Funtionalist architecture. The picture I am including today is his housing complex Weissenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart.
De Stijl (The Style) co-founded by Mondrian with Theo van Doesburg, the group was known for attempting to achieve spirituality, harmony and order through what they termed “neo-plasticism”. Their work was abstract, their colors (usually primary with black and white) and lines pure with no ornamentation.  Geometric lines based on the square and rectangle dominated the work, creating a play between positive and negative spaces.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Happy Birthday Guercino!! Italian born Baroque painter from 1591, his nickname means “squint-eyed”. His true name was Francesco Barbieri. He studied under Carracci. Aurora is considered his masterpiece, and is located on the ceiling of Casino Ludovico, in Rome. A prime example of High Baroque, the images are luxuriously flamboyant. Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn, announces the waking of the Sun.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Russell Drysdale

Happy Birthday Russell Drysdale!! Born in Sussex, England in 1912, Russell Drysdale relocated to Australia with his family when he was 11 years old. He began studying to become an artist at age 20 in Melbourne as well as traveling to Europe. Poor eyesight did not deter Drysdale, even though he was nearly blind in one eye. His style became stark landscapes with spare, gangly figures. The Cricketers is one example of his eerie depictions of Australian outback with three boys playing against the apparently vacant, deserted buildings. It has been described as the “most important and famous Australian artwork of the 20th century.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Emile-Othon Friesz

Happy Birthday Emile-Othon Friesz!! Born in 1879, in France, Frieze was educated at the urging of his parents at Ecoles des Beaux-Arts in Le Havre, and then on scholarship at Ecoles Nationale Superiuere Beaux-Arts in Paris. His lifelong friend Raoul Dufy accompanied him in his studies at both institutions. He worked in the Fauvist style, influenced by Pisarro, among others. Later he taught at several academies in Paris and Scandinavia. His work gradually became more traditional when compared to his earlier boldly colorful Fauvist paintings.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

H. R. Giger

Happy Birthday H. R. Giger!! Swiss Giger was born in 1940 to a chemist. He studied industrial design and architecture at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich. He began working in pen and ink drawings and oil painting, publishing his first poster in 1969. His work is surrealistic and he has published several books, the most popular being Necronimocon, which became the visual basis for the movie Alien. Giger designed the main character, earning the Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1980. He went on to design for Poltergeist II, Alien 3, Species, etc. He currently lives with his wife in Zurich and works in film, set design and sculpture.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fernand Leger

Happy Birthday Fernand Leger!! French artist born in 1881, Leger studied art at Ecoles des Arts Decoratifs and Academie Julian. He became one of the three major Cubist painters with Picasso and Braque. His work contrasted human forms with machines. He gradually moved away from abstraction and began painting simple forms in bold bright colors. European art was introduced to the American public in 1913 at the Armory Show where he was a major success. Following World War II, Leger settled in New York where he taught at Yale, but returned to Paris to open an academy. The painting I have included today is titled The City, with Leger attempting to depict the shallow crowded space of a city.

Cubism can be thought of as the beginnings of abstract art. Originated by Picasso and Braque, natural or inanimate objects are faceted into geometric shapes, losing nearly all resemblance to reality. Multiple views are shown in an effort to depict the object, scene, etc. in entirety.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Alvar Aalto

Happy Birthday Alvar Aalto!! Born in Finland in 1898, Aalto made important contributions to modern architecture and design. He studied in Finland at the Helsinki University of Technology. Aalto was fascinated with the Cubist work of Braque and Picasso and his love of painting influenced his architectural work. He was married to architect Aino Marsio and they worked in partnership until her death in 1949. The pair designed not only the structure, but also the furnishing and details of the buildings. His work has a wide span, from city planning to furniture, glassware and painting. His lines were clean and his designs include large voids of soothing empty space. The Baker House at MIT (Massachusetts) is included here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Michelangelo Cerquozzi

Happy Birthday Michelangelo Cerquozzi!! Italian born in 1602, the Baroque painter lived and worked in Rome. Although he is best known for his small genre scenes, especially battles, he did paint mythological scenes as well as still life works such as the one pictured below. His friend, Dutchman Pieter van Laer was also a painter of everyday peasant life and a great influence on Cerquozzi. It is reported that he had a fascination with foreign residents of Rome, especially the Spanish that led to connections and commissions for his work.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Takashi Murakami

Happy Birthday Takashi Murakami!! Born in 1963, in Japan, Takashi Murakama’s birthday is today. After studying art at Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music, Murakami pursued traditional Japanese art, but then after realizing the public’s fascination with anime and manga, he turned to contemporary art. He created a style called “Superflat” which transforms items of interest to the popular culture into monumental sculpture and murals. The style involves graphic images depicted with flat planes of color. His fantasy world includes mushroom cartoon characters such as those in Smooth Nightmare, below, whom some speculate may represent the meaninglessness of existence.

Anime-Japanese animation

Manga-Japanese comics and print cartoons spanning a wide subject range including romance, horror, sports, drama, history, etc.