Friday, July 31, 2009

painting of the month

July -- Fairfield Porter, 1971 (Spencer Museum of Art)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

almond trees and tragic lives

British artist John William Godward was one of the last great Neo-classicist painters and did not handle the advent of modernism well. In fact, it essentially led to serious depression and feelings of hopelessness, and to Godward's eventual suicide in 1922. Godward was a "beauty painter" and produced many lovely female visions during his career, and he was also considered part of the "marble school" like Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, known for their frequent use of Greco-Roman marble elements and backdrops. This painting (top image) by Godward of a blossoming red almond tree makes me wonder why he was so troubled by changing styles in art, because it almost has Impressionist tendencies. However, it may have been that he dreaded new artistic trends along with changes in social values and attitudes, as the structure and standards of the Victorian era gave way to the intensities of the 20th century.

The other almond blossom painting is by Vincent van Gogh, who was of course so ahead of the curve that he wasn't fully appreciated during his lifetime. Van Gogh too was a suicide and another prisoner of his own troubled thoughts. Neither man married and both experienced feelings of social awkwardness, although Godward was supposed to have been rather conventionally handsome in his day. ** According to the Van Gogh Museum website, this work was done in 1890 by Van Gogh in honor of his brother Theo and Theo's wife Johanna's newborn son, who was named Vincent after Van Gogh himself. Van Gogh wanted to give them a painting that reflected the hopeful beauty of spring and celebrated the birth of their baby boy. Unfortunately, 1890 was also the year when Van Gogh decided that he just could not stand to be in the world anymore, and by July 29th, he was gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

days at the beach

Above: Beach Scene -- Jane Peterson, 1935 (National Museum of Women in the Arts)

Below: Summer Sunlight -- Beatrice Whitney Van Ness, ca. 1936 (National Museum of Women in the Arts)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

rage against the bastille

Today marks the 220th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a vast prison in Paris which was attacked by a revolutionary mob on July 14, 1789. The Bastille had a history of holding -- among others -- anyone perceived to be a suspicious or seditious individual. Cardinal Richelieu was the initial main man behind these arrests, done via a lettres-de-cachet brought to the individual, who was then hauled off to the Bastille without benefit of a trial or appeal.

Once released, there could be no public objection to the arrest nor divulging of what had been experienced within the prison walls. Essentially, the Bastille loomed as a longstanding symbol of intimidation -- and it was also where huge stores of gunpowder were kept -- and eventually the outrage of the people broke through.

While only seven prisoners of dubious honor happened to be in the Bastille at the time of the revolt, the actions of the people quickly led to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and also resulted in a further striking-down of royal power tactics. The pictured Storming of the Bastille painting was done by Jean-Pierre Houel in 1789, and
this website offers more information on the incident and various other revolutions as well. Today is a national holiday in France, and the Paris Daily Photo blog's Le 14 juillet 2009 entry details the coinciding 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower and how to watch the Bastille Day fireworks on-line.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Venice (1887) --
Willard Leroy Metcalf,
b. July 1, 1858 -
d. March 9, 1925