ART 4 2-DAY 12 February
Born on 12 February 1837: Thomas
Moran, US Hudson
River School painter, specialized in Landscapes
US West, who died on 25 August 1926. His Western landscapes inspired
US citizens to conserve their most spectacular wilderness areas as part
of their national heritage.
Thomas Moran was born in Bolton, England. He moved to Kensington, Pennsylvania in 1844, after his father, a hand-loom weaver, was replaced by machine during the Industrial Revolution. After completing his primary education, Thomas entered an apprenticeship with an engraving firm. It wasn't soon after, that he terminated the apprenticeship to join his brother Edward, and aspiring artist, in his studio.
Moran began to study informally under several painters in the Philadelphia area. In the early 1860's, his brother encouraged Thomas to display his paintings. Often they would take excursions to the Pennsylvanian forests on sketching trips. Moran would return to the studio and reproduce the fascinating landscapes, with extraordinary detail, such at The Autumnal Woods.
At about this time, Moran became vividly interested in the works of J.M.W. Turner, an English landscape artist. Joined by his brother, he traveled back to England in 1862 to following the sketching route used by Turner along the England coastline.
In 1866, Moran once again returned to Europe to continue his study of the European masters, and to exhibit some of his own major early work, Children of the Mountain, in the Exposition Universelle in Paris. This painting was used four years later to help finance his first western trip, and ultimately, change the course of his career.
In 1871, Thomas was requested by Scribner's Magazine, to rework some sketches that had been submitted, for an upcoming article Titled "The Wonders of Yellowstone." This would be the first extensive description of the Yellowstone landscape, to be published in the East. Moran quickly arranged to join a government-sponsored survey of Yellowstone, that would be led by Ferdinand V. Hayden, a geologist that was being sent to measure and map the area. Moran rapidly adapted to life on the trail, and on 11 July 1871 he wrote:
Passed over debris of a great land slide, where the whole face of the mountain had fallen down at some time, laying bare a great cliff some 500 feet high. The view of the lake, as we approached it, was very beautiful. . . The Mountains surrounding it are about 11'000 feet high. . . having snow still upon them. . . After descending to the shore of the lake, some of the party fished in it & caught a few of the finest trout that I have ever seen. After a rest. . . all the party started back for camp excepting Jackson, Dixon & myself, we having concluded to remain over until the next day for the purpose of photographing & sketching in the vicinity. Made a large fire & cooked our supper of black tailed deer meat. . . During the night it rained a little but not enough to wet us to any extent. Got up early enough in the morning to get our breakfast, and commence photographing as soon as the sun rose.
During the trip, he completed dozens of watercolor studies. These were the first color images of Yellowstone ever seen in the East, and served as the basis for his paintings. He worked closely with the expedition photographer, William Henry Jackson, and produced water color paintings of the waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs of Yellowstone, including The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Soon after Moran returned east, Hayden and others, began promoting the idea that Yellowstone should be protected and preserved as a national park. Since none of the members of Congress had seen Yellowstone, Hayden and his colleagues brought Moran's watercolors, along with the photographs taken by Jackson, to Capitol Hill. It was reported that these played a decisive role in the establishment of Yellowstone as the first national park in March 1872. Congress later appropriated $10'000 for the purchase of Moran's Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The seven by twelve foot painting offers panoramic view of Yellowstone Canyon featured the distant falls and a striking display of the canyon's golden walls. In the foreground Moran placed a group of figures that includes Hayden, and the artist himself. This purchase was followed by a second one, two years later, of a landscape titled Chasm of the Colorado, from Moran's 1873 trip to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River with John Wesley Powell.
third great western landscape was completed in 1875. This time the subject
matter was a famous Colorado peak, renown for a cross of snow on its side.
Moran approached the endeavor with the same liberty he had seen exhibited
by Turner, during his trek through England. The finished landscape, Mountain
of the Holy Cross, included a waterfall in the foreground that Moran
invented, in his attempt to capture the true impression of the scene.
By 1876, Thomas Moran had established himself as one of the major landscape painters of his day. Moran's medium of choice was watercolor, and he would take watercolor sketches from the field, and use them as the basis for studio variations. One series of images centered around the Great Springs of the Fire Hole River. Clearly visible underneath watercolored brushstrokes of color across the upper portion and the lower left portion of the painting, are the pencil sketchings and notes enter by Moran while developing the picture. Louis Prang published this study of the Great Springs in a color portfolio, which brought rave reviews. For the first time, both Yellowstone and Thomas Moran became available to a wider audience, that had never had the opportunity to view and appreciate either of these two wonders. Mouse over image at right to see detail of field notes
Thomas Moran was a man with a broad spectrum of interests, and was never at a lost for inspiration. While the popularity of his paintings of the West soared, Moran worked on other subjects that had peaked his creative instincts, including coastal life, pastoral settings, urban and industrial views and historical scenes.
During the 1880's Moran relocated his studio to East Hampton, Long Island, closely situated to the beach. The move renewed his interest in marine painting, and he eagerly began painting the sea, it's temperaments and disasters of shipwrecks that occurred along the eastern shore of Long Island. It was during this same time that Moran furtherexplored other themes for his paintings, and soon, his pastoral depictions of Long Island, were as much in demand as his western landscapes. Thomas delved into scenes of urban and industrial imagery, most notably in Lower Manhattan from Communipaw. This painting viewed the Manhattan skyline from a sugar refinery located across the Hudson River, in New Jersey. Moran displayed his ability to effectively capture the reflection of the city upon the sunlit water.
In 1882, Moran returned to Bolton, England, with his family for an exhibition of his works. Included in the exhibition were over a hundred watercolors, 22 oil paintings, 25 illustrations from Longfellow's Hiawatha, the complete set of Prang chromolithographs of Yellowstone, and a series of etchings and proof engravings. The show was a triumphant success, and Thomas sold nearly all of the works displayed, before he returned home.
Remaining an enthusiastic traveler, Moran left for Cuba and Mexico shortly after his return from England. Moran explored the countries, on his endless search for new subject matter, and returned with a large number of sketches. Of particular interest to him, was the Trojes Mine in central Mexico, which he recreated in several extraordinary paintings.
During 1886, Thomas Moran traveled to Venice, Italy, visiting the city that he had seen depicted in Turner's paintings. Moran traveled to sites, developing watercolor sketches of them, that he would return home with, to produce studio paintings. His previous technique of concentrating on a central object, and freely building foreground elements, again came into play. The Fisherman's Wedding Party displayed this method of painting, as notable venetian buildings are seen across the center of the painting, and gondolas and boats are placed in the foreground with costumed figures. These paintings became extremely popular in the United States during the end of the 1800's, due to the romantic and poetic imagery they projected. America was bustling with activity as industry and advancements in technology was thrusting the country forward at a frightening rate of speed. Moran's paintings offered viewers the chance to stop back and take a breath, as they slipped back to a slower, easier time.
Moran made plans to return west with another of his brothers, Peter, to gather material for more paintings. The pair travel throughout the Sierra Nevada range stopping outside of Salt Lake City and Lake Tahoe to sketch, before heading up toward the Snake River in Idaho. The brothers stopped by the Teton Mountains, where Thomas was able to view the Teton peak that Hayden had named "Mount Moran" in his honor. Moran returned to his studio after the trip, painting The Three Tetons.
joined his longtime friend Jackson, during 1892, when they returned to the
Grand Canyon, and later Yellowstone. Resulting from this expedition were
a painting titled Golden Gateway to the Yellowstone and a sketch,
which he called In the Lava Beds.
During this period, Thomas Moran continued to also paint the Long Island landscapes, that had become favored in the east coast market. While he enjoyed the subject matter, he stated to a reporter, "I prefer to paint western scenes, but the Eastern people don't appreciate the grand scenery of the Rockies. They are not familiar with mountain effects and it is much easier to sell a picture of a Long Island swamp than the grandest picture of Colorado." Moran's colleagues marveled at his dual ability to vividly portray the US wilderness of the west, and the paint serene views like, June, East Hampton (1895).
After the death of his wife in 1900, Thomas Moran returned to Yellowstone with his youngest daughter Ruth. In route to Yellowstone, they stopped in Utah and Idaho, where they journeyed by stage coach to Shoshone Falls on the Snake River. It was here that Moran created the last of his great major western landscape. Shoshone Falls on the Snake River, measured an impressive six by 11 feet, suggesting that Moran had hoped it be part of a special exhibition. The following year, the painting took the silver medal at the Pan-American Exposition, but strangely, it remained unsold at the time of his death. Moran's interpretation of Shoshone Falls would be one of the last, as a reclamation project, utilizing the Snake River as a source of irrigation water, began in the next decade.
Thomas and Ruth would return to the Grand Canyon over the next two decades, for the winter months. Moran offered paintings of the canyon in exchange for rail passes and hotel accommodations. They images were used in advertisements in hotels, offices, railway cars, and even on stationary and calendars. He also entered into a business relationship with the Santa Fe Railroad, which had commissioned him to produce a painting of the Grand Canyon, for marketing purposes. Moran, soon became closely identified with the Grand Canyon, and the railroad used his image in their advertisements.
Thomas Moran would eventually be known as the "father" of the national park system. His paintings of landscapes brought the western wilderness to the attention of the country. While the parks have been protected by actions of Congress, business has prospered outside the park gates. Moran maintained his love for the beauty of the American wilderness throughout it life, and continued painting it well into the 1920's. After returning from a trip to Europe, Moran proclaimed, "I looked at the Alps, but they are nothing compared to the majestic grandeur of our wonderful Rockies. I have painted them all my life and I shall continue to paint them as long as I can hold a brush. I am working as hard as I ever did...." Moran died at his home in Santa Barbara, California.
Thomas Moran was a painter of Irish ancestry, born (like Thomas Cole) in Lancashire and raised in Philadelphia. Unlike Bierstadt, this son of poor immigrant handweavers was entirely self-taught. He got some training as an engraver and opened an engraving business with his two brothers. But his heart was in painting, and his predilections intensely, youthfully Romantic. One of his earliest paintings, Among the Ruins-There He Lingered (1856), took its title from Shelley's Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude (1815), in which the pure young poet is imagined pursuing "Nature's most secret steps," where'er / The red volcano overcanopies / Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice / With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes / On black bare pointed islets ever beat / With sluggish surge....
Shelley's imaginary landscape predicts the real one of Yellowstone that Moran would eventually paint. Indeed, one dealer was later able to sell a very early Moran entitled Childe Roland under a new and topographical title, The Lava Beds of Idaho. And Moran would always be on the lookout for the sublime, the exceptional, and the picturesque landscapes that satisfied the Romantic prototype. Only the great scene, he viscerally believed, could produce the great picture. He would find such scenes in the West, and nowhere else.
rationalized his lack of formal training, as the self-taught are apt to
do, with the belief that art was not "teachable." "You can't teach an artist
much how to paint," he would declare in his later years. "I used to think
it was teachable, but I have come to feel that there is an ability to see
nature, and unless it is within the man, it is useless to try and impart
it." Nevertheless, the example of two painters obsessed him: Claude Lorrain
He was able to spend a year in England in 1861 studying Turner and copying
his works in oil and watercolor: in particular, Ulysses
Deriding Polyphemus (1829), the central picture in Turner's career.
Moran kept his full-size copy of Ulysses in his studio thereafter,
and it is not difficult to see why the painting had such a deep effect on
him. Its high-keyed, unusually saturated color yellows, ochers, crimsons,
and rolling tracts of impasted white cloud is just what Moran would
reach for in his landscapes of the Green River and of Yellowstone. Turner's
vision of Polyphemus' island, the crags on which the giant mistily reclines,
is remembered in Moran's later visions or, as he insisted, accurate
transcriptions of Western scenery.
The turning point in Moran's career came in 1871, when Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the US Geological Survey, invited him to join an expedition into the Yellowstone area of Wyoming. At that time Yellowstone was terra incognita to the Whites. It was known, for its hot mud lakes, geysers, and constant geothermal activity, as "the place where Hell bubbled up," but apart from a few mountain men and trappers, the only white man to describe it had been John Coulter, a member of Lewis and Clark's expedition, who strayed into it in 1807. The expedition was backed by the US government, and Moran's role was funded partly by the directors of the Northern Pacific Railroad - who reasoned, shrewdly, that the circulation of Moran's images of Yellowstone, and the publicity they got, might help create a new tourist destination and thus a profitable new railroad line.
Besides Moran, Hayden brought along a former stagecoach driver turned photographer, William Henry Jackson. The two had worked together before: Jackson had accompanied the painter Sanford Gifford on Hayden's 1869 survey of Wyoming, and the two had made parallel images of the same scenes. With his cumbersome cameras, tripods, developing equipment, and fragile glass plates (some of them twenty by twenty-four inches, yielding the largest outdoor photographs ever attempted) all loaded onto pack mules, Jackson now worked alongside Moran. He provided the objective record of Yellowstone's world of wonders, for a public which believed the camera couldn't lie. Moran's watercolors, more interpretative, supplied the color. The photographs confirmed the reality of Moran's strange sketches of fumaroles, sulfur pinnacles, and Dantesque hot lakes. To those back east who saw them on his return to New York, Moran's watercolors of Yellowstone looked as thrillingly alien as the first photos from the moon would a century later. Yet there were some scenes whose scale and grandeur neither a plate negative nor a watercolor could adequately convey, and one of these was the direct view down the chasm of Yellowstone, toward the falls.
Hayden remembered Moran saying "with a sort of regretful enthusiasm, that these beautiful tints were beyond the reach of human art." What the sketchbook could not encompass, however, memory and imagination perhaps could, and as soon as he got back to New York, Moran ordered an 2.4x4.3 meter canvas and flung himself into work on the climactic panorama of the US's years of Western expansion: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Meanwhile, Hayden had been busy lobbying Congress, with the enthusiastic backing of the Northern Pacific Railroad's directors, to set aside Yellowstone as a national park a museum of US sublimity. To prove its uniqueness, he displayed Moran's sketches and Jackson's photographs; and in March 1871 President Grant signed into law an act of Congress protecting the whole Yellowstone area, 5800 square kilometers, in perpetuity. This was to do wonders for the Northern Pacific Railroad's cash flow and, not incidentally, for Moran's. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone became the first US landscape by a US artist ever bought by the US government. It cost $10'000, and it went straight on view in the Capitol, where the effigies of so many flesh-and-blood heroes were to be seen. This, too, was a painting of a hero: the landscape as hero, limbs of rock, belly of water, hair of trees, all done with absorbing virtuosity. It rivaled Church and outdid Bierstadt in offering the panoramic thrill that no watercolor can give, and the density of substance that no photograph could rival. It became a prime symbol of wilderness tourism. Two years later, Moran tried to repeat its success with an even larger canvas, The Chasm of the Colorado, the result of an expedition down the Grand Canyon led by Colonel John Wesley Powell, another surveyor who needed, as he put it, an artist of Moran's stature to paint scenes that were "too vast, too complex, and too grand for verbal description." Moran certainly did his best, but the Canyon defeated him as it has defeated all landscape painters since; not even he could solve the principal problem of painting it, the lack of any scale that related to the human body and so might allow the viewer to imagine himself on the edge of the scene.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming (1906, 51x76cm; 3/8 size, 179 kb _ ZOOM to 3/4 size, 687kb)
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1893, 50x40cm; half~size, 202 kb _ ZOOM to full size, 747kb)
The Great Blue Spring of the Lower Geyser Basin (739x1059pix, 60kb)
Grand Canyon with Rainbow (1912, 63x76cm; 3/8 size, 170kb _ ZOOM to 3/4 size, 720kb)
Venice (1894, 13x22cm; 5/4 size, 146kb)
New York from the Bay (1883, 26x43cm; 3/4 size, 210kb)
Mountain of the Holy Cross (1875, 208x163cm) Chasm of the Colorado (1874)
— Cliffs of the upper Colorado River, Wyoming territory (1882, 41x61cm; 662x1000pix, 180kb)
Children of the Mountain Sierra Nevada, California (1866) Ponce De Leon in Florida (1878)
Salvador Rosa Sketching the Banditi (1860) Rain in the Canyon (1913)
Old Faithful Geyser (1873) Hotsprings of the Yellowstone (1872)
Hot Springs and Gardiner's River (1872) Castle Geyser (1871)
Slaves Escaping Through the Swamp (1862) The sacrifice of Isaac (1868, 63x76cm)
— 62 images at Webshots
Died on 12 February 1690: Charles
Le Brun, French painter and art theorist born on 24 February
1619, the dominant artist of Louis XIV's reign. He studied under Nicolas
Poussin and Simon
Vouet. Le Brun's students included Charles
de La Fosse.
After being trained by Vouet Le Brun went to Rome in 1642 and worked under Poussin, becoming a convert to the latter's theories of art. He returned to Paris in 1646. In 1662 he was raised to nobility and named 'Premier Peintre du roi', and in 1663 he was made director of the reorganized Gobelins factory. Also in 1663 he was made director of the reorganized Académie, which he turned into a channel for imposing a codified system of orthodoxy in matters of art. His lectures came to be accepted as providing the official standards of artistic correctness and, formulated on the basis of the classicism of Poussin, gave authority to the view that every aspect of artistic creation can be reduced to teachable rule and precept. In 1698 his small illustrated treatise Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions was posthumously published; in this, again, following theories of Poussin, he purported to codify the visual expression of the emotions in painting.
Despite the classicism of his theories, Le Brun's own talents lay rather in the direction of flamboyant and grandiose decorative effects. Among the most outstanding of his works for the king were the Galerie d'Apollon at the Louvre (1663), and the famous Galerie des Glaces (1679-84) and the Great Staircase (1671-78, destroyed in 1752) at Versailles. His importance in the history of French art is twofold: his contributions to the magnificence of the Grand Manner of Louis XIV and his influence in laying the basis of academicism. Many of the leading French artists of the next generation trained in his studio. Le Brun was a fine portraitist and an extremely prolific draftsman.
Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist at Porta Latina (1642, 282x224cm) _ This is an early work of the artist showing a strong influence of Simon Vouet. It was executed for the church Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris where it can be seen since then.
The Triumph of Faith (1660) The decoration for the newly constructed château of Vaux-le-Vicomte was begun by Le Brun in 1658 and was probably completed by 1660. On the ceiling of the Hôtel Lambert in Paris, on that of the great room in this Château, and in that of the Galeries des Glaces at Versailles Charles Le Brun rivalled the Italian decorative artists.
Chancellor Séguier at the Entry of Louis XIV into Paris in 1660 (295x351cm) _ Le Brun must not be rejected as a mere decorator, even though so much of his other art is relatively inaccessible, deposited in provincial museums or surrounded in the Louvre by so much more exciting and exacting painting. There was no sense of his inferiority at the time - on the contrary, his art was highly esteemed by his contemporaries - and the ambivalent attitude towards him came about only in later centuries when the art of the period came to be assessed as history. Le Brun was in fact the most important painter in France in the second half of the century and portrait of Chancellor Séguier in the Louvre justifies a high estimation of his talent. The composition forms an enormous pyramid with the figure of Séguier at its apex. The scale is almost life-size, and the characterization of the sitters is worthy of Champaigne. Acknowledged as a masterpiece even though the name of Le Brun is forgotten, it is a unique record of an important official surrounded by his attendants.
Entry of Alexander into Babylon (1664, 450x707cm) _ Louis XIV was interested in the story of Alexander the Great because of his own special type of megalomania could see itself reflected in the Greek past. Le Brun accordingly executed the truly colossal series of four canvasses depicting episodes from the life of Alexander the Great. This series executed between 1662 and 1668 was considered by the artist himself to be his masterpiece. The four paintings of the series are the Passage of the Granicus, the Battle of Argela, the Entry of Alexander into Babylon and Alexander and Porus. Like so many Herculean undertakings, the paintings impressed everybody by their sheer size. Later history has not been kind to them, but even so, tremendous energy burst out of every corner of these pictures, some of which are more than twelve metres long. The source, without any doubts, is Rubens. This is not the exuberant Rubens of the Medici cycle, but the Rubens of the vast hunting scenes and tapestry cartoons. Le Brun had in effect changed sides, as he moved from modest echoes of Poussin to a full-blown eulogy of Rubens.
Apotheose of Louis XIV (1677, 109x78cm) _ In this allegoric painting Providence put the crown on the head of King riding a horse in Roman costume. Angels coming from the cloak of Providence fight the enemies of France, the lion (Netherlands) and the eagle (Germany).
The Resolution of Louis XIV to Make War on the Dutch Republic (1671, 72x98cm) _ At the end of the 1670s Le Brun began the most exacting of his tasks - the decoration of the ceiling of the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles. Many of the sketches for the main compositions survive, and allow an assessment, on a small scale, of his inventiveness, which is usually lost in the vastness of the decorated ensemble. A typical example is The Resolution of Louis XIV to Make War on the Dutch Republic, depicting an event which was to have enormous repercussions (Louis XIV was eventually defeated by the Dutch). The handling, rapid and sure, is taken almost completely from Rubens, and yet the composition is original and dramatic, and demonstrates that Le Brun conformed to the grand tradition of Rubens and Pietro da Cortona in Italy. His work at Versailles shows that he belongs among the great decorative painters on the grounds of his energy, originality and appropriateness of setting, but even in France his reputation is not as high as it should be.
Adoration by the Shepherds (1689, 151x213cm) _ This picture shows how clever Le Brun was at composition, at mingling the world beyond with earthly life and at controlling the fantastic effects of the light produced by a screened fire.
Born on 12 February 1621: Jacques
Courtois le Bourguignon, French painter who
died on 14 November 1676.
Jacques Courtois and his brother Guillaume (1628-1679) were active in Italy and often known by the Italian forms of the names, Giacomo and Guglielmo Cortese. They came from Burgundy and both had the nickname Il Borgognone or Le Bourguignon. Jacques was a prolific painter of battle scenes, fairly close in style to those of Salvator Rosa, but more colorful. Courtois is an example of a painter who has escaped notice in terms of art history, because of both his isolation from his native Franche Comté (incorporated into France by Louis XIV) and his lack of association with Italian art, even though he spent his whole career in Rome. Courtois evolved the archetypal small battle piece, depicting plenty of violence and the smoke of combat, a format that was to remain standard right up to the end of the eighteenth century, though few of its exponents were French. Authentic works by Courtois frequently appear on the art market, but much of his oeuvre has till to be identified.
The Battle of Mongiovino (138x276cm) _ The painting is one of a series of battle pieces representing the victories of the patron, in this instance against the troops of Pope Urban VIII in 1643. The painting is signed in the center by the Italian name of the artist: Iacomo Cortesi.
— Bataille d'Arbelles, 331 av. J.C. (188x328cm; 402x726pix, 78kb poor definition)
— Rencontre de Cavaliers (74x96cm; 474x600pix, 85kb poor definition)
Died on 12 February 1942: Grant
DeVolson Wood, US Regionalist
painter born on 13 February 1892.
Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa. He lived most of his life in Iowa, and is known, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, as the third in the Regionalist painters triad. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1912; and at the Academie Julian in Paris around 1920, and upon his return to Iowa began seriously painting. He died in 1942 in Iowa City.
Grant Wood was one of the major exponents of Midwestern Regionalism, a movement that flourished in the United States during the 1930s. Perceptive insight combined with dry caricature make Wood's figurative paintings outstanding among the works of the US Regionalist school. His landscapes sometimes have an air of the deliberately primitive. The tension he sets up between his scrupulously veristic detail and the psychological impactof an overwhelming sense of "presence" raises his best work above most Regionalist painting to the level of truly memorable art.
Grant Wood adopted the precise realism of 15th-century northern European artists, but his native Iowa provided the artist with his subject matter. American Gothic depicts a farmer and his spinster daughter posing before their house, whose gabled window and tracery, in the American Gothic style, inspired the painting's title. In fact, the models were the painter's sister and their dentist. Wood was accused of creating in this work a satire on the intolerance and rigidity that the insular nature of rural life can produce; he denied the accusation. American Gothic is an image that epitomizes the Puritan ethic and virtues that he believed dignified the Midwestern character.
Born and raised in Iowa, Grant Wood became one of America's best-known Regionalists, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry. He was trained in various crafts, woodworking, metalworking, and jewelry making, before attending painting and drawing classes at the Art Institute of Chicago (1913–1916). During the 1920s Wood traveled to Europe four times, visiting Paris, Italy, and Germany. The most important lessons he brought back were from Munich, where he was impressed by the contemporary art movement known as the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which rejected abstraction in favor of an orderly, realistic art. He also admired the primitive Flemish and German painters, particularly the way in which they depicted mythological or biblical stories in contemporary costumes and settings, making them more relevant to the viewer than strict history paintings. Back in Iowa, Wood applied these ideas to his depictions of ordinary life. His work, like that of the other Regionalist painters, rejected the abstract modernist currents of European art in an effort to forge a realistic style that could depict typically American subjects. Wood first came to public attention in 1930, when his painting American Gothic won a medal at the Art Institute of Chicago. Unlike his modernist contemporaries, Wood remained committed to depicting regional life in America and, he hoped, the creation of a national style.
Grant Wood was born on a farm near Anamosa, Iowa. After his father’s death in 1901, the Wood family moved to Cedar Rapids where Grant attended school and even at an early age revealed his artistic talent. He and his friend, Marvin Cone, made scenery for plays and drawing for their high school yearbook and both were enthusiastic volunteers at the Cedar Rapids Art Association. On the night of his high school graduation in 1910, Grant Wood boarded a train for Minneapolis where he enrolled in art school. He returned home in 1911 and began teaching in a one-room country school. In 1913, he moved to Chicago to attend the Art Institute and worked in a silversmith shop. Later, after serving in the Army as a camouflage painter, Wood once again returned to Cedar Rapids and taught art in the public schools.
Between 1920 and 1928, the artist made four trips to Europe, the first with Marvin Cone, who remained a close friend throughout his life. While abroad, Grant Wood was exposed to current trends in European painting but concentrated on the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. In this, he was several decades behind European painters but current with most US artists. Wood’s 1928 trip abroad was to Munich, where he supervised the execution of a large stained glass window he had designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids. While in Munich, he responded with great enthusiasm to the paintings of the northern Renaissance masters, particularly the works of Hans Memling. He was attracted to the glowing colors, smooth surfaces, carefully defined outlines and decorative repetition of shapes and patterns which characterize the works of these artists. Such elements can be found in his mature works such as Woman with Plant and Young Corn.
In 1932, Grant Wood and others founded the Stone City Art Colony, an art school and artist’s colony near Anamosa, Iowa, His hope was that the artists who participated in the Colony would create artworks expressing the unique character of the Midwest. “A true art expression,” he wrote, “must grow up from the soil itself.” In 1934, the artist was appointed Director of the PWAP (Public Works of Art Projects) in Iowa. A year later, Wood began teaching at the University of Iowa, an affiliation which continued until his death in 1942. During these same years, Wood also taught and lectured throughout the United States, becoming a spokesman for the concept of Regionalism in art. Grant Wood is recognized as one of the US’s outstanding regional painters. His American Gothic is one of the most recognizable images in Western art. He, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, shaped America’s vision of the Midwestern landscape and the people that inhabit it.
An extensive illustrated commentary: Going Back to Iowa: the World of Grant Wood
Dinner for Threshers (1934, 50x202cm) The Perfectionist (1936)
Stone City, Iowa (1930) Self~Portrait (1932) Daughters of the Revolution (1932)
Return from Bohemia (1935) January Near Sundown (1933)
19 prints at FAMSF
Gothic _ American
Gothic _ American
Gothic (1930, 74x62cm) _ Regionalism in US painting developed at the
beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. Exclusively Midwestern in origin,
Regionalism portrayed US life as simple and rural, in direct contrast to
the urban-based Realist paintings that had dominated the US art scene since
the turn of the century. Unlike Realism, Regionalism left no room for social
criticism. So went the theory. In reality, this may not have always been
so. Since first shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930, Grant Wood's
American Gothic has been fodder for speculation. In one camp were
those who believed the painting was a celebration of "American" values;
in the other were those who saw it as a satiric critique of the selfsame
The pair's dour expressions led many outside the Midwest to believe that Wood, a self-proclaimed Regionalist, was poking fun at rural life. Wood himself denied this in some interviews, but in others hinted that there were indeed some satiric elements present. (He wouldn't say which elements those were.) Wood's subjects spurred much of the debate. Was the pair a farmer husband and wife, or a father and daughter? Many Iowa farmers' wives objected to what they perceived as a negative portrayal, writing letters of complaint to the artist. Wood later revealed that the models were his 30-year-old sister Nan and their 62-year-old family dentist B. H. McKeeby.
The subjects' motivations, even when considered as father and daughter, are unclear: The man may be a farmer holding a pitchfork, nothing more than a piece of farming equipment. Or he may not be a farmer at all, but a preacher, perhaps, jealously guarding his daughter from male suitors. Critics who interpret the woman as his daughter have often assumed that she was a spinster -- but just what kind of spinster is left to the imagination. Some see the stray curl at the nape of her neck as related to the snake plant in the background, each one symbolizing a sharp-tongued "old maid." Or the curl may be a sign that she is not as repressed as her buttoned-up exterior might indicate.
The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover, West Branch, Iowa (1931, 75x101cm) _ The notion that anyone can grow up to become president is one of the United States' most beloved and enduring myths. Herbert Hoover rose from humble beginnings in a small midwestern town to become the 31st president of the United States. The precise linear patterns and close attention to details in this painting are hallmarks of Grant Wood's Regionalist style.
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931) _ A year after American Gothic, Wood painted The Ride of Paul Revere, which makes no attempt at historical accuracy — for example, eighteenth-century houses surely would not have been so brightly lit. The picture has a dreamlike sense of unreality. The bird's-eye view makes the setting look like a New England town in miniature. Note the geometric shapes of the buildings and the landscape (even the treetops are perfectly round); the precisely delineated, virtually unmodulated light emanating from the buildings and raking across the foreground; the distinct, regularized shadows; and the way in which the forms in the darker background are almost as clear and visible as those in the brightly lit foreground. With his clean line and his even, unerring hand, Wood has thrown the scene into high relief, heightening reality so as to make it almost otherworldly, a quality that differentiates him from his fellow Regionalists. His precision evokes the work of eighteenth-century US limners.
Woman with Plant (1929, 52x45cm) _ Encircled by a frame of his own making, this portrait of Grant Wood's mother is one of his first works in the Regionalist style for which he became famous. Unlike earlier works which were either locales far from his roots or locations unspecified altogether, this can only be Iowa. Gone are the visible brushstrokes and the dappled sunlight; they are replaced with an incredibly smooth surface and a new solidness to his trees, hills and figures. Wood paints his mother as a symbol for all pioneer women and tells her story through the use of painstaking details such as her weathered hands, her wedding ring and the hardy plant she holds [this plant looks to me like the plant called Mother-in-Law's Tongue for its sharp-pointed leaves. Was Wood aware of that?]. She is so much a part of the land behind her that her eyes are the same color as the sky, her hands are the same color as the corn and her apron is the same color as the rolling hills.
Young Corn (1931, 60x75cm) _ Painted the same year as American Gothic, this landscape was painted as a memorial to a teacher from Wilson School in Cedar Rapids and is an excellent example of Wood's mature vision of rural Iowa. The high horizon line provides ample room for Wood to explore various textures, giving the viewer a sense of the richness and productivity of the land; the message is that Iowa is a place of peace, prosperity and order. The stylized trees and crop furrows are classic Grant Wood; a detail of this painting was used for the Iowa Sequicentennial Commemorative stamp.
Spring Turning (1936) _ Grant Wood, along with Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, was a major US Regionalist painter. Spring Turning has been widely reproduced and is considered one of Grant Wood's masterpieces, second only in importance to his celebrated American Gothic. Grant Wood studied at the Academie Julian in Paris and made several trips to Europe. He returned to his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he found the source of inspiration for his entire artistic career. Spring Turning evidences that, like artists or seamstresses, farmers make abstract art out of their fields. In Spring Turning farmers guide horse-drawn plows to fashion the earth's surface into a gigantic quilt. The vast distances suggested in this picture are a result of the immense scale of the landscape in relationship to the figurative elements, e.g. the farmer and his horse-drawn plow, the cattle on the hillside. Grant Wood explained, "The rhythms of the low hills, the patterns of crops upon them, the mystery of the seasons, and above all, a feeling for the integrity of the ground itself -- these are my deep rooted heritage."
Arnold Comes of Age (1930, 68x58cm) _ What time of year is it--on the left side of the painting? And on the right side of the painting? There is more here than meets the eye! Arnold Comes of Age conveys quite convincingly the traditions of Flemish and late quattrocento portraiture into a US idiom. It was painted in 1930, the same year he completed American Gothic, the work which, more than any other, established the artist's style and regionalist identity.1 Arnold Comes of Age suggests some of the lessons Wood absorbed in Europe. This work portrait of the artist's young friend Arnold Pyle places the subject in the immediate foreground, centrally before a landscape filled with allegorical detail.. Next to the right elbow of this thin, pensive young man, a moth, symbol of metamorphosis, displays patterned wings. In the landscape beyond Arnold, symbolism underscoring the principle of change continues.
Beneath a tree in startling pink foliage, are two young bathers. One stands on the bank of a river that flows across the middle ground of the work; the second figure rather like a trecento painting in which the same character is shown in sequential actions has already entered the water. To the left of the canvas stands another deciduous tree, so placed that only a few of its leaves are visible. These, however, are not pink but green. Beyond this tree and across the river, two shocks of corn stand in bright sunlight. On the right side of the painting, however, the field shows only neat rows of stubble. In the background are two trees, nearly perfect oval masses of foliage; these, however, are not in fall colors, but in the greens of summer. Thus in planes from foreground to background, and in 'panels' at the right and left of the subject, the bathers and the contrast of seasons underscore the passage of time. As the title accurately reports, this work is not simply a depiction of the artist's friend, but an allegorical portrait of Arnold Pyle's transition from adolescence to adulthood. It is a rendering that is not at all satiric, unlike a number of Wood's paintings, but an empathetic representation of a young man who gazes fixedly not at the viewer but, by implication, at his own future.
Born on 12 February 1884: Max
painter who died on 27 December 1950.
Max Beckmann, often hailed as Germany's greatest 20th-century artist, was one of the founders of what we now call modern art.
In Beckmann's 1939 painting Woman with Large Shell and Wine Glass, the vibrant colors are applied with quick, edgy brushstrokes. This painting is a beautiful example of the joyous aspects of Beckmann's work that began during his Paris years.
Max Beckmann is not known for his joyousness. Born in Germany he died in the US he is famous for brooding, symbol-laden self-portraiture, for his mastery of the morose. Sometimes mythic and always dramatic, Beckmann may well be the epitome of Expressionism, Germany's great contribution to modern art. It's a style critics came to love; Hitler to hate (and even some Hitler-haters concur with Hitler on this one point). But at the start, he was just a gifted, if romantic, realist.
He was a very fine academic person; he studied the traditions, especially Rembrandt. He was an excellent draftsman; his anatomy was perfect. He had a perfect understanding of human structure.
Beckmann's canvases grew with his ambition. The Titanic, painted in 1912, is as busy as turbulent, as theatrically tragic as the scene it depicts. But it was World War I that forged Beckmann's famed Expressionism. A medic on the front, the artist faced such brutality that he simply broke down. His post war work is radical, dark, and, above all, personally expressive, as in 1917's Christ Saving an Adulteress From Stoning a Christ who looks a lot like Max Beckmann.
Beckmann was one of the great stars in Germany, one of the hottest painters of the time. For what did he need to go to Paris? He wanted to be a cosmopolitan, a painter recognized on the European level such as Picasso, Matisse, and Braque were recognized internationally. In 1929, Beckmann moved to Paris, to exhibit there and get the French art world to take a German as seriously as it did its own.
In Beckmann's Resting Woman with Carnations, a serene, sensuous figure is set against an intricate, decorative pattern of stylized stripes, tiles, and latticework. This may be compared to Henri Matisse's exotic Odalisque With Green Scarf (or Harem Woman), which was painted in 1926. The model in Beckmann's Resting Woman with Carnations also takes an alluring seated pose. Beckmann's model is his second wife, Quappi. He painted Quappi flamboyantly, dozens of times, in various stages of dress and undress. Part of his new Paris persona: Macho artist with sexy wife.
Beckmann didn't just challenge Matisse, however, but Picasso as well. An example of Picasso's classical style of the 1920's is a portrait called The Reader. Beckmann's response is a woman reading.
The German took up specifically French themes as well: The French seaside is serene to Matisse; to Beckmann, it's an occasion for a bizarre bathing scene.
Rugby teams to France's Robert Delaunay are all color. By contrast, Max Beckmann's tangled web of soccer players by contrast bristles with dark feeling.
Even Beckmann's still-lifes are emotional. Consider a marine comparison: Picasso's catch of the day, almost funny; Braque's flat, formal, elegant. Beckmann's creatures, however, convey menace and a sense of drama in the composition through these enormous teeth that the fish show, giving it a harshness and a forcefulness that goes away from a purely esthetic rendering of objects or shapes.
Ultimately, Beckmann was rejected by France, and not long after, the king of German painting was spurned by his own country as well. A surviving photo shows how mildly this painting had begun in 1933: Beckmann, the proud sovereign; Quappi, his young queen. But in 1937, the Nazis had turned on him, confiscating hundreds of his paintings and taunting several in their infamous degenerate art show. Beckmann reworked this painting in 1937 when he was declared degenerate and made it more brooding and less of a self-portrait than almost like a dark and dramatic painting that almost forebodes the terrible things that are going to come.
Beckmann fled to Holland, safe in part because his son was a surgeon in the Luftwaffe. There, he painted fineart''' is gone the acrobats. He sees dark things, ugly things. The paintings take on a gloomy look. There's a Roman soldier with a spear that's a thinly disguised Nazi. There's a bellhop coming in. The bellhop in Beckmann's paintings is always a messenger bringing news of various kinds, usually bad. And the acrobats refers to people who make their living by creativity, who are onstage, disguising themselves, taking different roles, like Beckmann himself, who sometimes played the acrobat.
It was after the war that, fed up with Europe, Beckmann was offered a teaching job in America, at Washington University in St. Louis. There, art student Wally Barker became his assistant. St. Louis was in a sense Beckmann's Paris, but here, he ruled the roost at last. In 1950, receiving an honorary degree from Washington University, he summed up: "Greatness," he said in his speech, "depends alone on the fertile imagination of the individual. If you love nature with all your heart, new and unimaginable things in art will occur to you." New and unimaginable things: It might as well be the motto of modern art. And if Max Beckmann hasn't attained the stature of his French rivals, well, maybe it's because they're more important, or maybe because his nervy, odd imagery is just a bit harder to appreciate.
Selbstbildnis als Krankenpfleger (1915, 55x38cm) _ Beckmann served in the medical services in eastern Prussia, then in Flanders and at Strasbourg. He was a witness to the first mustard gas attacks around Ypres. At Courtrai, he was present at operations that surgeons attempted on the wounded and made detailed drawings of them. His self portrait is built around three elements: the eye that scrutinizes, the hand that draws, and the red cross. There is hardly any color. A few months later, Beckmann was sent home to Germany after suffering a serious mental breakdown. He sought refuge in Frankfurt where he slowly took up painting again.
Self Portrait in Olive and Brown (1945, 62x50cm)
— Self Portrait in Bowler Hat (1921 etching, 32x24cm; full size, 1262kb) _ Here Beckmann depicts himself as a dandy with a bowler hat, stiff collar, and cigarette. The profile of a cat sitting on a table behind him to the left and an ashtray and kerosene lamp to his right fill out the tight composition. Beckmann created about eighty self-portraits over a career that spanned virtually half a century. He used his own image and persona to delve into the complexities of the human soul, showing the variety of selves that make up an individual. In Self-Portrait in Bowler Hat Beckmann shows that he is every bit the modern man, confident in his powers of observation and cool, critical detachment.
— Self-Portrait (1919 drypoint, 23x19cm; full size, 99kb)
Christ with a Woman Taken in Adultery (1917) _ Beckmann came out of a war very badly hurt, physically and mentally. In this picture you see this guy with blood all over his hands, the guy who's so superior to the adulteress. What Beckmann is actually saying here is a plea for mercy, protecting someone. Beckmann the painter used various modern devices, seeing his subjects from multiple points of view, for instance. You can look down on the feet of Christ. And about halfway up the picture you're looking straight across at him. And at the top of the picture, you're looking up, like we're seeing the underside of the guy's face. Different perspectives on one scene it's what French Cubism was known for: Picasso's double faces, seen at once head-on and in profile; Braque's still-lifes, seen both straight ahead the legs that hold up the table and from above the newspaper and the tabletop itself. Playing with perspective intrigued Beckmann, but he was more interested in emotions, in energy.
— The Skaters (1932, 128x98cm; half-size, 2673kb)
— Blind Man's Buff (1945, 206x439cm for 3 panels: 187x102cm left, 207x104cm center, 188x106cm right; 1/7 size, 2243kb) This is the most important of the five triptychs created by Max Beckmann while exiled in Holland between 1937 and 1947, a prudent exile considering the Nazi's inclusion of ten of his works in their exhibition of "degenerate art" in 1937. Like much of his art, Blindman's Buff is allusive and symbolic, inviting explication yet resisting explicit interpretation. Yet, the artist's use of the three-paneled format that was traditional to Medieval and Renaissance altarpieces evokes religious associations. Beckmann also drew upon classical sources, calling the figures at center "the gods" and the animal-headed man the "minotaur." Throughout the triptych, figures engage in sensual pleasures in a place where time, represented by a clock without XII or I, has no beginning or end. In sharp contrast on each wing are the blindfolded man and kneeling woman who, like prayerful donors in a Renaissance altarpiece, turn their backs to the confusion behind them.
Family (1920) Dancing Badden Badden (1923) Tux
Man and Women Umberto Afternoon (1946) Argonaux
— 26 Jun - 29 Sep 2003 MOMA exhibition (PDF) with images of [Self-Portrait? with Trumpet?], Small Death Scene (1906), The Sinking of the Titanic (1912), The Night (1919), Family Picture (1920), The Dream (1921), The Harbor of Genoa (1927), Russian Actor Zeretelli (1927), Self-Portrait with Sailor Hat (1926), Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (1927), Departure (1933), Journey on the Fish (1934), The Actors (1942), Hell of the Birds (1938), Falling Man (1950)
27 etchings at FAMSF