ART 4 2-DAY 30 March
BIRTH: 1853 VAN GOGH
whose life and death show that there's
PAIN in PAINTING
Born on 30 March 1853: Vincent
van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who died
on 29 July 1890.
Van Gogh’s brief nine-year career as a painter began in the Netherlands. His early works were dark but later became intensely luminous after he moved to Paris and the south of France. A great collector of Japanese prints, he created an expressive style that combined direct observation with a Japanese use of outline and flattened areas of color. Plagued by poor health, he committed suicide at the age of 37.
Van Gogh worked as an art dealer, a teacher and a lay preacher before becoming a painter. Van Gogh was not ‘mad’ but probably suffered from a form of epilepsy easily treatable with today’s drugs.
| It was only after
van Gogh's death that he gained fame when his paintings were shown at
the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris on 17 March 1901. The 71 paintings,
which captured their subjects in bold brushstrokes and expressive colors,
caused a sensation across the art world. Eleven years before, while living
in Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, van Gogh had committed suicide without
any notion that his work was destined to win acclaim beyond his wildest
dreams. In his lifetime, he had sold only one painting, and was hoping that
some day his paintings would sell for more than the price of the paints
and canvas. It is only posthumously that his wish was fulfilled... and then
some. One of his paintings the Sunflowers
identical to two others) now at the Yasuda museum sold for just
under $40 million at a Christie's auction in 1987. Later another one sold
for $82 million (bear in mind that past dollars are worth more than present
Born in Zundert in the Netherlands, van Gogh worked as a salesman in an art gallery, a language teacher, a bookseller, and an evangelist among Belgium miners before settling on his true vocation as an artist. What is known as the "productive decade" began in 1880, and for the first few years he confined himself almost entirely to drawings and watercolors while acquiring technical proficiency. He studied drawing at the Brussels Academy and in 1881 went to the Netherlands to work from nature. The most famous work from the Dutch period was the dark and earthy The Potato Eaters (1885), which showed the influence of Jean-François Millet, a French painter famous for his peasant subjects.
In 1886, van Gogh went to live with his brother, Théo, in Paris. There, van Gogh met the foremost French painters of the postimpressionist period, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat. He was greatly influenced by the theories of these artists and under the advice of Pissarro he adopted the kind of colorful palette for which he is famous. His painting Portrait of Père Tanguy (1887) was the first successful work in his new postimpressionist style.
In 1888, van Gogh, mentally exhausted and feeling he was becoming a burden on Théo, left Paris and took a house at Arles in southeastern France. The next 12 months marked his first great period, and working with great speed and intensity he produced such masterful works as his sunflower series [14 Sunflowers in a Vase] and The Night Café (1888). He hoped to form a community of like-minded artists at Arles and was joined by Gauguin for a tense two months that culminated when van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor blade and then cut a piece of his own left ear off (he painted two mirror images of himself with the bandaged ear, with and without pipe). It was his first bout with mental illness, diagnosed as dementia. Van Gogh spent two weeks at the Arles Hospital and in April 1889 checked himself into the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He stayed there for 12 months and continued to work between recurrent attacks. One of the great paintings from this period was the swirling, visionary Starry Night (1889).
In May 1890, he left the asylum and visited Théo in Paris before going to live with Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, a homeopathic doctor and friend of Pissarro, at Auvers-sur-Oise. He worked enthusiastically for several months, but his mental and emotional state soon deteriorated. On 27 July 1890, feeling that he was a burden on Théo and others, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest. He dies two days later, in the arms of his brother, in Auvers. He had exhibited a few canvases at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and in Brussels, and after his death both salons showed small commemorative exhibits of his work. Over the next decade, a handful of other van Gogh exhibits took place, but it was not until the Bernheim-Jeune show in 1901 that he was recognized as a truly important painter. In subsequent decades, his fame grew exponentially, and today his paintings are among the most recognized works of art in the world.
| Van Gogh is generally considered
one of the two greatest Dutch painters (along with Rembrandt),
and one of the greatest Post-Impressionists. Profoundly influenced the development
of Expressionism in modern art. Van Gogh, the oldest of six children of
a Protestant pastor, grew up in the Brabant region of the southern Netherlands.
His early years were happy, and he loved the countryside. Vincent's introduction
to the art world came at 16 when he was apprenticed to the Hague office
of his uncle's art dealership, Goupil and Co. Van Gogh's artistic output
can be divided into two periods. During the first (1873-1885) he struggled
with his own temperament while seeking his true means of self-expression.
It was a period of repeated apprenticeships, perceived failures, and changes
in direction. The second (1886-1890) was a period of complete dedication,
rapid development, and artistic fulfillment. Sadly it was interrupted by
a series of mental breakdowns that lasted from 1889 until his suicide. Van
Gogh worked for Goupil in London from 1873 until May 1875, and then in Paris
until April 1876. Daily contact with works of art piqued his artistic sensibilities,
and he developed profound fondness for Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and other
Dutch masters, along with preferences for two contemporary French painters,
Jean-François Millet and Camille Corot. Van Gogh hated art dealing.
Moreover, his outlook on life darkened when he suffered a broken heart in
1874. His desire for human affection thwarted, he became and remained increasingly
solitary. He then became a language teacher and lay preacher in England.
Feeling called to give himself to his fellow men, he envisioned joining
the ministry. He began the study of theology but abandoned his project for
short-term training as an evangelist in Brussels (1878). However, he argued
with the orthodox doctrinal approach. He failed to get an appointment after
three months, so he left.
Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most widely recognised in the world. The countless poster reproductions of his Sunflowers and high prices at auction (the record standing, in 2002, at over US$82 million) have saturated public consciousness. This current fame contrasts with his short, lonely and poverty stricken life. His artistic career lasted 10 years and during only three he produced his now most critically acclaimed works. He sold one work, in the year he died, and just one critical review was published in his 37-year lifetime.
Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853, the son of a vicar. His three uncles were art dealers and in 1869 he followed in their footsteps working in The Hague, London and Paris. Before he was dismissed as unsuitable in 1876 he was exposed to influences, such as English illustrative engraving, that were to form part of his artistic vision. The social and moral message of this medium, combined with his interest in Jean-Francois Millet’s work, shaped his idea that art should be related to and understood by all.
During a spell working in the academy in Antwerp in 1885 Van Gogh also became familiar with Impressionist painting and Japanese prints. He shared his enthusiasm of these latter works with Degas. Both admired their strong colors and innovative compositional impact.
A year later Van Gogh moved to Paris and was introduced to some of the Impressionists by his brother, Theo. The influence of his meetings with Pissarro, Signac and Seurat can be seen in his adoption of small brushstrokes and brilliant, pure colors. His subject matter at this time of restaurants and street scenes was also typically Impressionist, however, he always claimed that Delacroix was a greater influence.
Van Gogh's unique artistic vision was similar to that of Gauguin who joined him for a short spell in Arles in 1888. Both artists looked for parallels between painting, music and literature. In one of his 755 letters that document his ideas and artistic development, Van Gogh wrote, “I want to say something comforting in painting as music is comforting”. However where Gauguin insisted that true creativity came from the imagination, Van Gogh insisted that his further layers of meaning should derive from a close study of nature.
He was a religious man and saw his paintings as a way of communicating, as revealed in the expressive color of Vincent’s Chair (1888). This idea became more important than the depiction of reality and links Impressionism with Expressionism, paving the way for artists such as Matisse and Picasso.
The friendship with Gauguin came to an end when, in 1888, Van Gogh suffered a fit of insanity, attacking his friend and mutilating his own ear. This is portrayed in the painting Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1888). This episode, his confinement in the asylum at Saint-Rémy, and subsequent suicide in 1890, are well known but should not cloud judgement on his artistic output. Van Gogh only painted when his mind was clear. He wrote in a letter from Arles, “The emotions are sometimes so strong that one works without being aware of working…and the strokes come with a sequence and coherence like words in a speech or a letter.”
On 30 March 1853 a boy was born to the family of a Dutch village vicar, Theodorus van Gogh (1822-1885) and his wife Anne Cornelia, nèe Carbentus (1819-1907). A year before, exactly the same day, another boy was born to the family, he died, and now the new-born received his name: Vincent Willem van Gogh.
After getting school education, van Gogh started his career as a picture salesman: in The Hague (1869) he entered the branch office of the Paris art dealer Goupil & Cie, founded originally by his uncle Vincent. As an agent of the company he worked in its branches in Brussels (1873), London (1873), Paris (1875). But his personal disappointment increased and he left Goupil.
Van Gogh tried himself as a teacher in Ramsgate near London (April-December 1876), then he worked as an apprentice lay preacher and wanted to devote his life to evangelization of the poor. In 1878 Vincent convinced his father of his religious vocation and in August began a three-month course in preaching in Evangelist school in Laeken, near Brussels. At school he was considered unsuitable for the lay-preaching profession. But he persistently followed his inclination and went to Borinage, the Belgian coal mining area close to the French border. There, living in extreme poverty, he visited sick people and read the Bible to the miners.
In 1879 Vincent got permission to work for 6 months as a lay preacher in Borinage. But his involvement in the plight of the poor irritated his superiors, and his contract was not extended under the pretext that his rhetorical talents were insufficient. He continued to work without any payment until July 1880. In Borinage Vincent experienced a period of deep personal crisis, which was to mold his later life. While in Borinage he drew much, made sketches of the miners’ environment. Meanwhile his four-years younger brother, Theo ((1857-1891), began to work at Goupil’s in Paris and started to support Vincent financially, he also encouraged Vincent in his wish to become an artist.
Having chosen art as his new profession van Gogh went to Brussels (October 1880- April 1881), where he studied anatomical and perspective drawing at the Academy of Art. In January 1882 he moved to The Hague and settled there not far from his cousin, the artist Mauve, whom he admired and who became his teacher. With Mauve van Gogh for the first time tried oils. Accordingly, his early painting of August 1882 Beach with Figures and Sea with a Ship is strongly influenced by The Hague School to which Mauve belonged. During 1883-1885 van Gogh traveled and worked in The Hague, Nueven, where his parents' new home was, Amsterdam. His models were poor people, slums, hard working peasants; he painted landscapes and town views, all in dark, somber colors.
On 26 March 1885 his father died. Vincent was heart-broken. In this mood he painted The Potato-Eaters, the main work of his Dutch period. In January 1886 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp, but already in March he left it and arrived in Paris. He started studies in Cormon studio, the owner of which, the painter Fernand Cormon, was a fairly unknown artist, but a quite successful teacher. Van Gogh studied in the studio for 3 months. Here he made friends with Toulouse-Latrec and Emile Bernard. Theo introduced him to Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Signac, Seurat, and Gauguin who came to Paris from Pont-Aven. From now on the colors on Vincent’s palette became considerably brighter; under the influence of Impressionists his style also changed. View of Paris from Montmartre, Paris Seen from Vincent's Room in the Rue Lepic, Terrace of the Cafè "La Guinguuette" and others are based on a typical Impressionist interpretation.
Together with Gauguin and Bernard, Van Gogh spent many days in Asnières, a popular spa town on the Siene, not far from Paris. There he painted the views of Asnières and the well-known The Seine with the Pont de la Grande Jatte in summer 1887. In Paris he frequently visited the Café de Tambourin on the Boulevard de Clichy and had a love affair with its owner Agostina Segatori, a former model of Corot and Degas. She sat for van Gogh and he painted her many times, e.g. Agostina Segatori in the Café du Tambourin. In the café, together with Bernard, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, he exhibited his works; they also decorated the walls with Japanese colored woodcuts. They called themselves “Peintres du Petit Boulevard” (painters of small boulevard) in contrast to the “Peintres du Grand Boulevard” (Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Seurat), who exhibited in Theo van Gogh’s gallery. That year Vincent painted several pictures using the techniques of Pointillism, e.g. The Vase with Daisies and Anemones. During his two years in Paris van Gogh painted more than 200 pictures.
In 1888 he left Paris and went to Arles. At first Vincent rented a room in a restaurant. The small attic was completely unsuitable for a studio and he mainly worked out of doors. He did not know anybody who could sit as his model, and so the landscapes of area around Arles with its trees, hills, bridges, huts became his main theme. “An endlessly flat landscape – seen from a bird’s eye view from the top of the hill – vineyards, harvested corn fields. All this is multiplies to infinity and spreads like the surface of the sea to the horizon, which is bordered by the hills of Grau,” wrote Vincent van Gogh about his surroundings. He painted many pictures with blooming flowers and trees, which reminded of Japanese landscapes. On receiving the news of Mauvre’s death he dedicated a picture to his memory Peach Tree in Bloom. Soon he moved to the “yellow house”. Gradually he made friends with people, who agreed to sit for him: le zouave Milliet, a soldier, Joseph Roulin, the country postman, Madame Ginoux, an owner of a station restaurant in Arles, and others.
October, after Vincent’s repeated requests, Gauguin came to stay with him
in Arles. Van Gogh was overjoyed. He gladly let Gauguin take the lead-role
in art, placing himself in the role of a student. They worked out a lot
of motifs together, compared the results and argued over artistic concepts.
But their partnership could not last long, they were too different personalities,
and besides, van Gogh was seriously ill. Guaguin decided to leave, but “ever
since I wanted to leave Arles, he has been behaving so strangely that I
hardly dare to breathe. ‘You want to leave’, he said to me and as soon as
I answered in the affirmative he tore a piece, containing the following
sentence, from the newspaper: ‘The murderer, has fled’,” Gauguin was later
to recall in a letter. Van Gogh really appeared to be going mad. Gauguin
waited with leave: “In spite of a few differences I can't be angry with
a good chap who is ill and suffering and calling for me.” On the 23rd of
December Gauguin went for a walk in the evening and heard steps behind,
he turned and saw van Gogh, his face distorted, a razor blade in his hand.
Gauguin spoke softly to Vincent, the latter turned and went away. When later
Gauguin returned home, the whole of Arles was already there. Plagued with
hallucination, Van Gogh cut off part of his left ear; after he managed to
stop bleeding he wrapped the cut-off piece in a handkerchief, ran to the
town brothel and gave the awful package to a prostitute. Then he returned
home and slept. In this state police found him and took to town hospital.
Gauguin immediately left. In order to quiet his bad conscience he later
wrote in his autobiography that van Gogh had threatened him.
Theo immediately came to Arles. Epilepsy, dipsomania and schizophrenia were the presumed causes of Vincent’s illness. He stayed in hospital for two weeks. Back in his studio he painted the result of the catastrophe: his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Sleeplessness and hallucinations went on. The scared citizens of Arles initiated a petition asking to take Vincent back into hospital. Looked after by a priest and a doctor, he lived in the Arles hospital both as patient and prisoner until the beginning of May 1889. In May, although he felt better, he went on his own desire into the mental hospital Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. “I am ready to play the role of a madman, although I have not at all the strength for such a role”. Theo paid for two rooms for Vincent, one as a studio with a view of the garden. He was allowed to paint outdoors under the supervision of the ward attendant Poulet. In the hospital he painted mainly landscapes. On 23 January 1890 Theo’s son was born and baptized Vincent Willem after his uncle and godfather. Van Gogh dedicated the Branches of an Almond Tree in Blossom to his nephew.
In May 1890 Vincent visited Theo and his family in Paris and then settled in Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. The town was chosen because Dr. Gachet, himself a hobby painter and friend of the Impressionists, was living there, he agreed to take care of Vincent. In Auvers van Gogh painted more than 80 pictures. During these last weeks of his life it was only due to his work that he could forget about his illness, and he painted as if possessed. Among the works of the period are religious works after Delacroix, Pietà and Good Samaritan, the masterpiece The Church in Auvers, multiple landscapes and portraits.
On the evening of 27 July 1890 van Gogh went at dusk into the fields and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. With all his strength he managed to drag himself back to the inn; here he died two days later in the arms of his brother, who had hurried to his side. Besides Theo and Dr. Gachet some friends from Paris, amongst them Bernard and “Père” Tanguy, took part in the funeral.
Thus ended the singular life of an artist who defies comparison with any other.
“I can’t change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.” Vincent van Gogh
Portraits: Van Gogh by Toulouse-Lautrec Van Gogh (1886) by John Russell
Landscape with the Cloister at Montmajour of Arles (1888)
Self Portrait (1887)
Self-Portrait as an Artist (1888, 65x50cm) _ Although Van Gogh painted many self-portraits, this is one of the few in which he depicted himself as an artist, with all the attendant equipment: palette, brushes, and a canvas on a wooden easel. Contrasting colors, such as the blue of the smock and the orange-red of the beard, are set right next to each other in order to strengthen their effect. The red and green strokes of the face are placed so close together that they appear as a grey shadow when seen from a distance. While most of Van Gogh’s other self-portraits are rather sketchy, this one has been finished down to the last detail. The short, dry strokes have been applied with care. Van Gogh probably worked on the painting for some time, and he was apparently quite satisfied with it: in contrast to most of his works in this genre, he has signed it prominently.
In addition to depicting himself as a professional artist, Van Gogh also strove to reflect his somber mood in this work. In a letter to his sister Willemien, he spoke of his wrinkled forehead and red beard as “rather untidy and sad.” Evidence of depression during his last months in Paris can be found in other letters as well: “When I left Paris [I was] totally broken, very sick and virtually an alcoholic,” he wrote several months later to Gauguin. (Letter to Willemien van Gogh, 22 June 1888)
Van Gogh painted a total of 35 self-portraits during the course of his career of these, 29 date from Paris. He very much wanted to paint portraits in this period, but could not afford models. Using his own reflection was a natural, inexpensive and easy solution. It allowed him to experiment with various styles, techniques and effects of light and color. As he later wrote to Theo: “If I succeed in painting the colors of my own face, which is not without its own difficulties, then I should be able to paint those of other men and women.” This series of self-portraits clearly illustrates how Van Gogh’s coloration became brighter and livelier over time. There is an enormous difference between the brown tints of the earliest studies and the light, bright colors of the Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Pipe from Arles (August 1888, 40x32cm). The development of his characteristic “dash style” can also be followed in these examples.
Most of the Parisian self-portraits are somewhat smaller than the Self-Portrait as an Artist. They were clearly meant as studies and as experiments. This can be seen in the loose, very free manner in which many were executed, and in the use of cheap materials such as cardboard in place of linen or canvas. Van Gogh also saved money by using some of his supports twice, painting on both sides. He made a number of studies of his own face on the back of earlier still lifes, and on the reverse of The Potato Pealer (one of the oil sketches for The Potato Eaters) Another self-portrait was even painted over an older work, one Van Gogh apparently did not feel was very successful.
Self-portrait with a Straw Hat (41x32cm) [no pipe] _ Van Gogh painted at least twenty-four self-portraits in Paris between March 1886 and February 1888, including seven in which he wears a straw hat. This work, which shows the artist's awareness of Neo-Impressionist technique and color theory, is one of several that are painted on the reverse of an earlier peasant study. The Potato Peeler is on the reverse side.
The Potato Peeler (on reverse side of the above, 41x32cm) _ This painting of February–March 1885, with its restricted palette of dark tones, coarse fracture, and blocky drawing, is typical of the kind of works Van Gogh painted in Nuenen, the year before he left Holland for France. Van Gogh's peasant studies of 1885 culminated in his first important painting, The Potato Eaters. _ [This may be the same as the silhouetted Peasant Woman Seated before an Open Door, Peeling Potatoes (Nuenen: March 1885, 36x25cm) though the stated dimensions are different.]
Links to all 39-1/2 van Gogh self-portraits
Abris à Montmartre (1886)
Wheatfield with Crows
Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase (1888, 92x73cm) _ These sunflowers [15 of them, it seems] are in the light of the south of France, where Van Gogh had recently taken up residence. He painted them to decorate a room intended for Gauguin. Innovations in paint-making enabled him to use new chromium and cadmium yellows and the paint laid onto the canvas in thick strokes suggests three-dimensional flowers. Each bloom is at a different stage some newly blossomed, some wilting and dying. Traditionally in Dutch painting this is interpreted as representing the stages of human life.
This is one of four paintings of sunflowers dating from August and September 1888. Van Gogh intended to decorate Gauguin's room with these paintings in the so-called Yellow House that he rented in Arles in the South of France. He and Gauguin worked there together between October and December 1888. Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888, "I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when you know that what I'm at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers ... it gives a singular effect." The dying flowers are built up with thick brushstrokes (impasto). The impasto evokes the texture of the seed-heads. Van Gogh produced a replica of this painting in January 1889, and perhaps another one later in the year. The various versions and replicas remain much debated among Van Gogh scholars.
_ See Gauguin's Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, (1888)
Links to all 11 van Gogh sunflowers paintings including the above (they count 15 flowers) and two copies.
Still Life (27x35cm) Path between Garden Walls (Auvers Landscape) (30x39cm)
Women Picking Olives (1890, 73x91cm) _ In December and early January 1889–90, Van Gogh painted a group of three pictures of women gathering olives. This is probably the one he sent to his sister and mother. He wrote: "I hope that the picture of the women in the orchard of olive trees will be a little to your liking — I sent a drawing of it to Gauguin, . . . and he thinks it good. . .
The most complete Van Gogh web site
A few Self-Portraits of van Gogh [click on an image to enlarge]
Died on 30 March 1879: Thomas
Couture, French Academic
history, portrait, and genre painter born on 21 December 1815.
Couture was an academic history and genre painter. He studied under Baron Antoine-Jean Gros [16 Mar 1771 – 26 Jun 1835] and Paul Delaroche. Won Prix de Rome in 1837. Was very popular as a teacher. His students included Edouard Manet [23 Jan 1832 – 30 Apr 1883], Jean-François Millet [04 Oct 1814 – 20 Jan 1875], Puvis de Chavannes [14 Dec 1824 – 24 Oct 1898], William Morris Hunt [21 Mar 1824 – 08 Sep 1879], John La Farge [1835-1910], Maria Oakey Dewing [1845-1927], George P.A. Healy [1813-1894], John Whetten Ehninger [1827-1889] and Elizabeth Lyman Boott Duveneck [1846-1888].
Couture was a student of Gros and Delaroche [1797-1856]. He is chiefly remembered for his vast orgy picture Les Romains de la Décadence, which was the sensation of the Salon of 1847. Like other one-picture painters, his reputation has sunk with that of his big work, which now if often cited as the classic example of the worst type of bombastic academic painting, impeccable in every detail and totally false in overall effect. His more informal works, however, are often much livelier in conception and technique, for as a teacher he encouraged direct study from landscape.
— Couture followed the path of numerous talented artists born to modest, provincial backgrounds in the nineteenth century. He was born in Senlis in 1815, but his shoemaker father moved the family to Paris in 1826. At the age of fourteen, Couture studied for one year (1829) at the École des Arts et Métiers and then entered the studio of the academic history painter Gros the following year and then the state-sponsored École des Beaux-Arts (1831). Failing the prestigious Prix de Rome competition at the École six times, Couture turned to the official exhibitions, the Salons, to make his career.
He made his name in 1847 with the monumental historical genre painting The Romans of the Decadence, which garnered great acclaim.
Government commissions (The Enrollment of the Volunteers of 1792, The Baptism of the Prince Imperial, and religious mural paintings in the church of Saint-Eustache in Paris) followed from the late 1840s through the 1850s, spanning the political changes from the Second Republic to the Second Empire. But Couture never completed the first two commissions, while the third met with mixed criticism.
Troubled by his own inability to finish projects as well as the unfavorable reception of his murals, Couture moved away from Paris in 1860, first to his hometown of Senlis, then to Villiers-le-Bel, where he increasingly distanced himself from the art scene in Paris but continued to teach and advise artists who came to him.
Shortly after his 1847 success, Couture opened an independent atelier meant to challenge the École in producing the best new history painters. He published a book on his ideas and working methods, Méthode et entretiens d'atelier (1867), in which he encouraged the use of the ébauche and gave specific "recipes" for certain tonal effects. In making explicit his technique and process, Couture thumbed his nose at the academic establishment, which, until 1863, did not actually teach painting and sculpture in the École curriculum and had consistently mystified the process of artistic education in order to maintain control over it.
Among Couture's students were Manet, Anselm Feuerbach [12 Aug 1829 – 04 Jan 1880], and many men and women from the US. For this reason, a number of small works, some of which served as teaching exercises, found their way into US collections. These students, in turn, directed fellow US collectors to Couture, who was able to sustain his later career through such private patronage.
Couture died at Villiers-le-Bel. His fiery temperament and periods of self-doubt and sluggishness were significant factors in his rocky career. Perhaps he put it best, responding to an editor's request for an autobiography in 1856: “Biography is the exaltation of personality, and personality is the scourge of our time.”
— Self-Portrait — Self-Portrait (drawing)
Head of a Boy (lithograph 36x 26cm)
— Les Romains de la Décadence _ detail 1 _ detail 2 _ detail 3 _ Conservative critics admired Couture for having revived the flagging genre of history painting through a harmonious composition of numerous figures in various natural poses set within a grandiose architectural setting; the depicted nudity and wanton behavior were acceptable because they served as indications of the physical and moral decline of ancient Rome. More progressive commentators admired the textural, luminous quality achieved through Couture's innovative technique, in which he retained aspects of the ébauche, or preliminary phase of working up a final canvas, and exploited the ground color, letting it flicker up through darker tones or pulling drier, brighter paint over it.
— Pierrot à la correctionnelle (1870, 32x39cm) _ This painting belongs to a series illustrating the Pierrot and Harlequin story, a satirical tale of social behavior. The clown Pierrot, dressed in white, sits accused of stealing food from a restaurant. The chef and a cook sit at the left, witnesses for the prosecution, with food and wine nearby as evidence. As judges doze, the masked Harlequin speaks for the defense. Pierrot had great difficulty controlling his appetite, a personality trait that Couture apparently shared. The painter also despised lawyers and made several paintings mocking them.
— Pierrot the Politician (aka Arlequin et Pierrot) (1857, 119x155cm) — The Little Bather (1849, 117x90cm) — La soif de l’or (1844, 154x188cm) — Horace and Lydia (1843, 38x46cm)
— Bulles de Savon (1858, 131x98cm) _ There is an 1859 version. Soap bubbles are traditional symbols of ephemeral existence, and the wilting laurel wreath (which is fresh in the 1859 version) underscores the fleeting character of reward and fame.
— The Thorny Path — Le Joueur de Cornemuse (aka Pifferaro) (1877, 146x114cm)
— L'Avare (1876, 81x65cm) — Le Réaliste (1865, 47x38.cm) — The Falconer (1855, 51x38cm)
— Retour des Champs (1841, 66x54cm) — A Judge Going to Court — Head of an Epochal King
— Le Baiser de Judas — Petite Fille La Fille de l'Artiste (1878, 45x37cm)
Portrait of a Lady (55x46cm)
The Duel after the Masked Ball (1857, 49x64cm; half-size _ ZOOM to full size)
Head of Bacchus (44x29cm) — Jeune Romain (65x55cm)
— L'Engagement des Volontaires de 1792 _ Un des volontaires (51x41cm)
Born on 30 March 1746: Francisco
José de Goya y Lucientes, Spanish
painter who died on 16 April 1828.
BIOGRAFÍA EN CASTELLANO (distinta de las que se dan aquí en Inglés)
Francisco de Goya is one of the great Spanish masters, known for such works as Nude Maja, Clothed Maja and Third of May, 1808. The student, and later brother-in-law, of Francisco Bayeu, Goya was initially trained in the then-current Rococo style. He gradually developed his own distinctive style of painting, showing the influence of Velázquez and Rembrandt. Goya's late works became quite dark in mood, from his satirical caricatures to the so-called Black Paintings such as Saturn Devouring One of his Sons.
Goya was a consummately Spanish artist whose multifarious paintings, drawings, and engravings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th- and 20th-century painters. The series of etchings Los desastres de la guerra (1810-1814) records the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion. His masterpieces in painting include The Naked Maja and The Clothed Maja (1805). [They never say what is a maja. It means a provocative young woman or a belle of the lower classes.]
For the bold technique of his paintings, the haunting satire of his etchings, and his belief that the artist's vision is more important than tradition, Goya is often called "the first of the moderns." His uncompromising portrayal of his times marks the beginning of 19th-century realism.
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes was born in Fuendetodos, a village in northern Spain. The family later moved to Saragossa, where Goya's father worked as a gilder. At about 14 young Goya was apprenticed to José Luzán, a local painter. Later he went to Italy to continue his study of art. On returning to Saragossa in 1771, he painted frescoes for the local cathedral. These works, done in the decorative rococo tradition, established Goya's artistic reputation. In 1773 he married Josefa Bayeu, sister of Saragossa artist Francisco Bayeu. The couple had many children, but only one--a son, Xavier--survived to adulthood.
From 1775 to 1792 Goya painted cartoons (designs) for the royal tapestry factory in Madrid. This was the most important period in his artistic development. As a tapestry designer, Goya did his first genre paintings, or scenes from everyday life.
The experience helped him become a keen observer of human behavior. He was also influenced by neoclassicism, which was gaining favor over the rococo style. Finally, his study of the works of Velázquez in the royal collection resulted in a looser, more spontaneous painting technique.
At the same time, Goya achieved his first popular success. He became established as a portrait painter to the Spanish aristocracy. He was elected to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in 1780, named painter to the king in 1786, and made a court painter in 1789.
A serious illness in 1792 left Goya permanently deaf. Isolated from others by his deafness, he became increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind. He evolved a bold, free new style close to caricature. In 1799 he published the Caprichos, a series of etchings satirizing human folly and weakness. His portraits became penetrating characterizations, revealing their subjects as Goya saw them. In his religious frescoes he employed a broad, free style and an earthy realism unprecedented in religious art.
Goya served as director of painting at the Royal Academy from 1795 to 1797 and was appointed first Spanish court painter in 1799. During the Napoleonic invasion and the Spanish war of independence from 1808 to 1814, Goya served as court painter to the French. He expressed his horror of armed conflict in The Disasters of War, a series of starkly realistic etchings on the atrocities of war. They were not published until 1863, long after Goya's death.
the restoration of the Spanish monarchy, Goya was pardoned for serving the
French, but his work was not favored by the new king. He was called before
the Inquisition to explain his earlier portrait of The Naked Maja,
one of the few nudes in Spanish art at that time.
In 1816 he published his etchings on bullfighting, called the Tauromaquia. From 1819 to 1824 Goya lived in seclusion in a house outside Madrid. Free from court restrictions, he adopted an increasingly personal style. In the Black Paintings, executed on the walls of his house, Goya gave expression to his darkest visions. A similar nightmarish quality haunts the satirical Disparates, a series of etchings also called Proverbios.
In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there.
^ Goya was an innovative Spanish painter and etcher; one of the triumvirate—including El Greco and Diego Velázquez—of great Spanish masters. Much in the art of Goya is derived from that of Velázquez, just as much in the art of the 19th-century French master Edouard Manet and the 20th-century genius Pablo Picasso is taken from Goya. Trained in a mediocre rococo artistic milieu, Goya transformed this often frivolous style and created works, such as the famous Third of May, 1808 (1814, Museo del Prado, Madrid), that have as great an impact today as when they were created.
Early Training and First Projects
Goya was born in the small Aragonese town of Fuendetodos (near Saragossa) on March 30, 1746. His father was a painter and a gilder of altarpieces, and his mother was descended from a family of minor Aragonese nobility. Facts of Goya's childhood are scarce. He attended school in Saragossa at the Escuelas Pias. Goya's formal artistic education commenced when, at the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a local master, José Luzan, a competent although little-known painter in whose studio Goya spent four years. In 1763 the young artist went to Madrid, where he hoped to win a prize at the Academy of San Fernando (founded 1752). Although he did not win the desired award, he did make the acquaintance of Francisco Bayeu, an artist also from Aragón, who was working at the court in the academic manner imported to Spain by the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs. Bayeu (the brother of Goya's wife) was influential in forming Goya's early style and was responsible for his participation in an important commission, the fresco decoration (1771, 1780-1782) of the Church of the Virgin in El Pilar in Saragossa.
In 1771 Goya went to Italy for approximately one year. His activity there is relatively obscure; he spent some months in Rome and also entered a composition at the Parma Academy competition, in which he was successful. Returning to Spain about 1773, Goya participated in several other fresco projects, including that for the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, near Saragossa, in 1774, where his paintings prefigure those of his greatest fresco project, executed in the Church of San Antonio de la Florida, Madrid, in 1798. It was at this time that Goya began to do prints after paintings by Velázquez, who would remain, along with Rembrandt, his greatest source of inspiration.
Years as Court Painter
By 1786 Goya was working in an official capacity for King Charles III, the most enlightened Spanish monarch of the 18th century. Goya was appointed first court painter in 1799. His tapestry cartoons executed in the late 1780s and early 1790s were highly praised for their candid views of everyday Spanish life. With these cartoons Goya revolutionized the tapestry industry, which, until that time, had slavishly reproduced the Flemish genre scenes of the 17th-century painter David Teniers. Some of Goya's most beautiful portraits of his friends, members of the court, and the nobility date from the 1780s. Works such as Marquesa de Pontejos (1786) show that Goya was then painting in an elegant manner somewhat reminiscent of the style of his English contemporary Thomas Gainsborough.
Etchings and Later Paintings
In the winter of 1792, while on a visit to southern Spain, Goya contracted a serious disease that left him totally deaf and marked a turning point in his career. A mood of pessimism entered Goya's work. Between 1797 and 1799 he drew and etched the first of his great print series Los caprichos, which, in their satirical humor, mock the social mores and superstitions of the time. Later series, such as Desastres de la guerra (1810) and Disparates (1820-1823), present more caustic commentaries on the ills and follies of humanity. The horrors of warfare were of great concern to Goya, who observed firsthand the battles between French soldiers and Spanish citizens during the bloody years of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain. In 1814 he completed Second of May, 1808 and Third of May, 1808. These paintings depict horrifying and dramatically brutal massacres of groups of unarmed Spanish street fighters by French soldiers. Both are painted, like so many later pictures by Goya, in thick, bold strokes of dark color punctuated by brilliant yellow and red highlights.
Straightforward candor and honesty are also present in Goya's later portraits, such as Family of Charles IV (1800), in which the royal family is shown in a completely unidealized fashion, verging on caricature, as a group of strikingly homely individuals.
The Black Paintings, scenes of witchcraft and other bizarre activities, are among the most outstanding works of the artist's late years (about 1820). Originally painted in fresco on the walls of Goya's country house and now transferred to canvas, they attest to his progressively darkening mood, possibly aggravated by an oppressive political situation in Spain that forced him to leave for France in 1824. In Bordeaux he took up the then new art of lithography, producing a series of bullfight scenes, considered among the finest lithographs ever made. Although he returned to Madrid for a brief visit in 1826, he died in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux two years later. Goya left no immediate followers of consequence, but his influence was strongly felt in mid-19th-century painting and printmaking and in 20th-century art.
Goya was born in a very poor village called Fuendetodos, near Saragossa, in Aragon, on 30 March 1746. Goya’s father was a gilder in Saragossa and it was there that Goya spent his childhood and adolescence.
He began his artistic studies at the age of 13 with a local artist, José Lusán, who had trained in Naples and who taught Goya to draw, to copy engravings and to paint in oils. In 1763 and 1766, he competed unsuccessfully for a scholarship of the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, probably working in the studio of the Court Painter Francisco Bayeu, who was also from Saragossa. To continue his studies he went to Rome at his own expense. In April of 1771 he participated in a competition held by the Academy of Parma introducing himself as a student of Francisco Bayeu. By the end of 1771, Goya was back in Saragossa, where he received his first official commission, the frescoes in the Cathedral of El Pilar.
In 1773 Goya married Josefa Bayeu, sister of Francisco Bayeu. In 1774, the German artist Anton Raphael Mengs summoned Goya to Madrid to paint cartoons for tapestries for the Royal Factory of Santa Barbara. It is possible that Goya first met Mengs in Rome, since many years later he wrote that it was Mengs who made him return to Spain. In any event, it was Mengs who started him on his career at court. Under the direction first of Mengs, and later of Francisco Bayeu and Mariano Maella, Goya executed over 60 tapestry cartoons between 1775 and 1792, see e.g. Fight at the Cock Inn, The Parasol, La Cometa.
1780, Goya was elected a member of the Royal Academy of San Fernando. In
1780-1781, he worked on the frescoes of El Pilar in Saragossa. On his return
to Madrid he received the royal invitation to paint one of seven large altarpieces
for the newly built church of San Francisco el Grande. The King’s opinion
of his work must have been favorable, because in 1785, a year after the
paintings were first shown to the public, Goya was appointed Deputy Director
of Painting in the Academy. In 1786, he became a court painter.
Among Goya’s early admirers and most important patrons during a period of 20 years were the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, who commissioned not only portraits of themselves and a family group but also a number of paintings to decorate their country residence near Madrid, the Alameda Palace, known as El Capricho. Among other paintings for the Duke of Osuna are two altarpieces, commissioned in 1788 for the chapel of his ancestors, St. Francis Borgia, in Valencia Cathedral.
In 1783-1785, Goya painted a number of portraits of the influential persons of his time: the portrait of the Chief Minister of State, the Count of Floridablanca, in which Goya himself appears; the family portrait of the Infante Don Luis, the King’s brother, with himself again in the picture; the court architect, Ventura Rodriguez. In 1785, he was commissioned for a series of portraits of offices of the Banco Nacional de San Carlos. In these early official portraits, Goya adopted conventional XVIII century poses. His portrait of Charles III in Hunting Costume is based directly on Velásquez’s paintings of royal huntsmen.
The death of Charles III in 1788, and the outbreak of the French Revolution, brought to an end the period of comparative prosperity and enlightenment in Spain during which Goya had reached maturity. Under the rule of the weak Charles IV and his unscrupulous Queen, María Luisa, Spain fell into political and social corruption, which ended with the Napoleonic invasion of Spain. Under the new regime Goya reached the height of his career as the most fashionable and successful artist in Spain. The new King raised him to the rank of Court Painter in 1789.
During a visit to Andalusia towards the end of 1792, Goya was struck down by a long and serious illness of which the effect, as he wrote even a year later, made him, ‘At times rage with so ill a humor that he could not tolerate himself’. The nature of the illness is not known for certain but it caused temporary paralysis and partial blindness and left him permanently deaf, so that henceforth he could only communicate by writing and sign language. He returned to Madrid in the summer of 1793.
After the death of Francisco Bayeu in 1795, Goya succeeded his former teacher as Director of Painting in the Academy (but resigned for reasons of health two years later), and in 1799 was appointed First Court Painter. In 1799, Goya published the series of 80 etchings called Los Caprichos, bitter caricatures of life. Despite the veiled language of Los Caprichos they were withdrawn from sale after a few days.
From the time of their ascension until 1800, Charles IV and María Luisa sat for him on many occasions, and many replicas were made of his portraits of them. He painted them in various costumes and poses, ranging from the early decorative portraits in full regalia in the tradition of Mengs to the simpler and more natural compositions in the manner of Velázquez.
Goya was 62 years old when the Napoleonic invasion of Spain started in 1808, and Spain was subjected to six years of war and revolution. Goya was in Madrid during the tragic events of 02 and 03 May 1808 when the population rose against the French and the uprising was savagely repressed. In 1814 he recorded the events in two of the most famous of his paintings The Second of May, 1808: The Charge of Mamelukes. and The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid. Meanwhile, with thousands of other heads of families, Goya swore allegiance to the French King, Joseph Bonaparte. During the war he was occupied with portraits of family groups and private citizens. At the time he made his personal record of the war in expressive and fearful drawings Desastres de la Guerra, which were later used for a series of 82 etchings, which were published only in 1863.
In August 1812, when the British entered Madrid, Goya accepted a commission for an equestrian portrait of the Duke of Wellington and, soon afterwards, painted one other portrait of his only recorded English sitter. On the restoration of Ferdinand VII in 1814, Goya resumed his office as First Court Painter. The portraits of Ferdinand were Goya’s last royal portraits, he went out of favor and fashion. From now on Goya was chiefly occupied with paintings for private patrons, for friends and for himself. He continued to record his observations and ideas in drawings. During this period Goya received two important ecclesiastical commissions for St. Justa and St. Rufina, painted in 1817 for the Seville Cathedral, and for The Last Communion of St. Joseph of Calasanz, painted in 1819 for the church of the Escuelas Pías de San Antón in Madrid.
As a result of the revolution of 1820 Ferdinand VII was forced to recognize a constitution, but already in 1823 the French army restored the Spanish king to absolute power, and the persecution of the liberals was renewed with greater violence than ever before. Goya, who had made his last appearance at the Academy on 04 April 1820 to swear allegiance to the Constitution, went into hiding early in 1824. After the declaration of amnesty Goya left Spain. Except for two short visits to Madrid in 1826 and 1827, the painter remained in France, mainly in Bordeaux, for the rest of his life. He died in Bordeaux.
— Self-Portrait (1795 drawing) — Self-Portrait (1815)
Paintings: Self-Portrait With Doctor Autoretrato
— 3 de Mayo de 1808 Maja With Masked Men
Inquisition Carlos III
Familia de Carlos IV (280x336cm)_ La Familia de Carlos IV supone la culminación de todos los retratos pintados por Goya en esta época. Gracias a las cartas de la reina María Luisa de Parma a Godoy conocemos paso a paso la concepción del cuadro. La obra fue realizada en Aranjuez desde abril de 1800 y durante ese verano. En ella aparecen retratados, de izquierda a derecha, los siguientes personajes: Carlos María Isidro, hijo de Carlos IV y María Luisa de Parma; el futuro Fernando VII, hijo primogénito de la real pareja; Goya pintando, como había hecho Velázquez en Las Meninas; Doña María Josefa, hermana de Carlos IV; un personaje desconocido que podría ser destinado a colocar el rostro de la futura esposa de Fernando cuando éste contrajera matrimonio, por lo que aparece con la cabeza vuelta; María Isabel, hija menor de los reyes; la reina María Luisa de Parma en el centro de la escena, como señal de poder ya que era ella la que llevaba las riendas del Estado a través de Godoy; Francisco de Paula de la mano de su madre, de él se decía que tenía un indecente parecido con Godoy; el rey Carlos IV, en posición avanzada respecto al grupo; tras el monarca vemos a su hermano, Don Antonio Pascual; Carlota Joaquina, la hija mayor de los reyes, sólo muestra la cabeza; cierra el grupo D. Luis de Parma; su esposa, María Luisa Josefina, hija también de Carlos IV; y el hijito de ambos, Carlos Luis, en brazos de su madre. Todos los hombres retratados portan la Orden de Carlos III y algunos también el Toisón de Oro, mientras que las damas visten a la moda Imperio y ostentan la banda de la Orden de María Luisa. Carlos IV también luce la insignia de las Ordenes Militares y de la Orden de Cristo de Portugal. Alrededor de esta obra existe mucha literatura ya que siempre se considera que Goya ha ridiculizado a los personajes regios. Resulta extraño pensar que nuestro pintor tuviera intención de poner en ridículo a la familia del monarca; incluso existen documentos en los que la reina comenta que están quedando todos muy propios y que ella estaba muy satisfecha. Más lógico resulta pensar que la familia real era así porque, de lo contrario, el cuadro hubiese sido destruido y Goya hubiese caído en desgracia, lo que no ocurrió. El artista recoge a los personajes como si de un friso se tratara, en tres grupos para dar mayor movimiento a la obra; así, en el centro se sitúan los monarcas con sus dos hijos menores; en la derecha, el grupo presidido por el príncipe heredero realizado en una gama fría, mientras que en la izquierda los Príncipes de Parma, en una gama caliente. Todas las figuras están envueltas en una especie de niebla dorada que pone en relación la obra con Las Meninas. Lo que más interesa al pintor es captar la personalidad de los retratados, fundamentalmente de la reina, verdadera protagonista de la composición, y la del rey, con su carácter abúlico y ausente. La obra es un documento humano sin parangón. Estilísticamente destaca la pincelada tan suelta empleada por Goya; desde una distancia prudencial parece que ha detallado todas y cada una de las condecoraciones, pero al acercarse se aprecian claramente las manchas. Goya, a diferencia de Velázquez en Las Meninas, ha renunciado a los juegos de perspectiva pero gracias a la luz y al color consigue dar variedad a los volúmenes y ayuda a diferenciar los distintos planos en profundidad. Fue la primera obra de Goya que entró en el Museo del Prado, siendo valorada en 1834 en 80'000 reales.
Holy Name Queen of Martyrs Holy Family
The Great He~Goat or Witches Sabbath Marquesa de Pontejos
— Don Ramón Satué, Alcade de Corte (1823) Fight at the Cock Inn
The Parasol La Cometa Charles III in Hunting Costume
The Second of May, 1808: The Charge of Mamelukes.
an equestrian portrait of the Duke of Wellington The Last Communion of St. Joseph of Calasanz
— 103 images at Webshots
Etchings: Que Se Rompe la Cuerda Es Peor Desgracia
Contra el Bien General — Accuse the Time (1812) — El Sueno de la razon produce monstruos (1799)
252 prints at FAMSF
Devouring One of his Sons (1823, 146x83cm) _ detail
The image seems to have arisen in a nightmare: the cannibal god on bended knees, engulfed in darkness; the mad haunted eyes and black-blooded mouth; the rending fingers, threaded with blood, and the ravaged figure in their grasp — like a huge, mad Richard Nixon or Dubya Bush, devouring the young men of the US through their insane wars: a cannibal father, jealous of our freedoms, determined to destroy us, our ideals, our hopes. Critics have called this Saturn a symbol of evil, a Satan, a monster. The painting evokes in the viewer an interior terror, a sense of isolation, loneliness, grief — this god on his knees, tearing apart his own child, enshrouded in a blackness that is like a psychic tar, in a drama of primal murderousness.
This story of fathers and sons is one of the foundation tales of Western tradition: Abraham binding his son Isaac for sacrifice on Mount Moriah; God offering the sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross. The earliest version of the Kronos myth — Saturn is the later Roman name — was written down by Hesiod in his Theogony, about the eighth century BC.
First comes Chaos; then Earth/Gaia; Tartarus in the bowels of Earth; and finally Eros. Earth gives birth to Heaven, also known as Ouranos, and then bears twelve of his children, the last, "most terrible of sons / The crooked-scheming Kronos."* Earth and Ouranos have three more sons, so fearsome and mighty that Ouranos forces them back inside their mother, burying them alive. She forms a sickle, and asks her other sons to use it against their father, “For it was he / Who first began devising shameful acts.” All are afraid, except Kronos. She gives him the sickle, hides him in her, and he castrates his father, preventing him from having more children, then assumes power among the Titans. But fear lives in his heart; a usurper himself, he learns that one of his own children will usurp him, and he devours them at birth: “As each child issued from the holy womb / And lay upon its mother's knees, each one / Was seized by mighty Kronos, and gulped down.” Through a ruse by his mother, the last born, Zeus, survives, leads a war against Kronos, and casts him down to Tartarus. Even gods cannot overcome Fate.
Goya produced a chalk drawing, Saturn Devouring His Sons, in 1797, most likely influenced by a Rubens painting of the same subject. Both works are illustrative of a literary theme, passionless, even morbidly comic. Rubens's Saturn is out on a stroll, his foot resting momentarily on a stone, one hand holding his staff, the other grasping his meal — his infant son — biting into the boy's chest like a sturdy Flemish burgher stooping to a roast goose. Goya's Titan is cunning-eyed; his mouth, clamped upon his son's leg to the thigh, is turned upwards in a leering grin; the legs of a second son he holds almost daintily, his pinky slightly raised. Neither work is likely to evoke more than a passing grimace from a viewer.
All of this changes with the Saturn of 1824, one of the series known as the Black Paintings. What returned Goya to this subject? What did he recognize in himself that charged the work with such raw, wounding power?
Goya and his wife, Josefa, had between five and twenty children: the exact number is unknown. Only one boy, Javier, survived beyond childhood. Did the early deaths of his other children, reflected upon in the solitude of the Quinta del Sordo — the house he moved into in 1819, seven years after Josefa died — inspire Goya's vision of the cannibal god? Was he portraying his sense of potential cut off, of lives interrupted before they can begin?
This interpretation is inconsistent with the fact that the figure gripped in the giant's hands is no child, but a full grown adult, which leads to another, allied interpretation: Saturn / Kronos as the ancient deity Time, implacable devourer of all humankind.
Shortly before he began the Black Paintings, Goya survived a near fatal illness, documented in his Self-portrait with Dr. Arrieta, where the pained and weary artist, surrounded by dark, phantasmal faces, is ministered to by the doctor. Did Goya, sick, deaf, in his seventies, paint his lonely terror of his own mortality through his Saturn?
But if the giant represents Time, why is he painted on bended knees, with spindly misshapen legs that seem unable to bear the weight of his enormous torso? Is this Goya's sardonic commentary on Spain's recent war with France — presenting a crippled Time, forced to overfeed on the numberless dead? On the dead of all wars? Did the early nineteenth century supply Saturn / Kronos with such quantities of corpses, that Time himself is brought to his knees, his wild eyes bulging, as if he were unable to stomach another bite? Or is the figure a symbol of war itself, the culminating portrait of the horrors he chronicled in his series of etchings, The Disasters of War, in 1810-1820?
Every interpretation of a painting rooted so complexly in the mind of Goya leads, as with dreams, to new interpretations.
In the universe before the coming of Christ, Saturn, frenziedly eating his own child-god, might be seen as engaged in an act of perverse communion. The Christian God sacrificed his son that all humankind might live; the Titan acts out of fear and jealousy, and the body of his child reveals not the mystery of resurrection, but the dark and violent mysteries of the psyche, a Tartarus of blood and madness, where all instincts and emotions merge, and consequence is forgotten. A realm of unconsciousness. Of mutilation and murder.
From this perspective, Saturn might be Goya's warning to humankind, whose wars and wanton cruelties, devotion to superstition and false gods will lead it to dissolution, to the Nada scrawled by the corpse as its last message in the etching, "Nothing. We shall see." (The Disasters of War #69)
And yet, for all the mythological, political, social, historical, and religious meanings we attach to the painting, there is something we still turn away from, the most basic theme — a man destroying his own son. Think of Javier, Goya's only child to survive to adulthood. From the beginning, Goya loved him, pampered him, fretted over him.
Fathers and sons enjoy, or are condemned to, the play of uniquely powerful forces of love and pride, disappointment and dominance, the scales forever unbalanced, sometimes seeming to shift in a single moment, then swaying back. Communications, in the best of circumstances, are infinitely complicated and the effects of Goya's deafness should not be underestimated. It developed in 1793, when Javier was nine, and the use of sign language must have impeded dialogue. What remained unsaid between them? We subtly shade our speech through inflection, expecting understanding. Did Javier feel Goya's eyes always on him — as father, as deaf man, as artist — studying his face for clues to his thoughts?
Goya had hopes that Javier would follow in his footsteps and devote himself to art. In 1803, he presented the plates and the remaining sets of his Caprichos to Charles IV, from whom he obtained a pension of twelve thousand reales for Francisco Javier.
In 1805, Javier married the daughter of a respected, wealthy family from Saragossa. Goya undertook, in the marriage contract, to be financially responsible for the couple, their servants, any children they might have. In his later years, it was said that he had spent most of his wealth on his only child and his daughter-in-law, leaving little for himself. Soon after the marriage, Goya painted a portrait of the twenty-one-year-old Javier. Despite his love and pride, he is an artist, and cannot help but render what he sees: a handsome, foppish, self-regarding young man with a somewhat weak chin, seeming to lacking the depth of character necessary to create great art. At what age did Javier realize that he would never fulfill his father's ambitions for him?
Seven years later, as the war against Napoleon's armies was ending, Josefa died. Javier claimed his mother's inheritance, and when the property was divided, Goya gave to his son the house, library, and, curiously, nearly all his own art work in a collection of seventy-eight paintings and prints, like a man making restitution for genius denied in the blood. He kept for himself only two portraits: the bullfighter Romero, and the Duchess of Alba, the celebrated beauty he had followed to Andalusia in 1795, after she was widowed, and had lived with for almost a year, while Josefa and the twelve-year-old Javier remained in Madrid. In her will, signed during Goya's stay, the Duchess bequeathed a lifetime annuity for Javier.
In 1819, Goya retreated across the Manzanares River on the outskirts of Madrid to his villa, known coincidentally as the Quinta del Sordo. He had already achieved the pre-eminent position of First Painter of the Royal Bedchamber, and was the most famous artist in Spain; survived war, pestilence, famine, a near-fatal illness; endured the deaths of so many loved ones. Surely he had earned, at seventy-three, an existence free of turmoil in the peace of the Quinta, if he so wished. Quickly, he filled the walls with vivid landscapes in lush greens and sky blues; mountains, rivers, donkeys, small figures; even a man dancing with castanets — all revealed in recent years through radiography and stratigraphy.
Then, something happens. Goya suddenly unleashes his art, covering over the colorful landscapes, refusing himself the bland pleasures of the merely picturesque, recognizing in every surface a new opportunity, until the Quinta mirrors his internal world, the meanings personal, all sense of decoration dismissed. Only truth remains. On the dining room wall, two-and-a half feet by four-and-a-half feet, a thick-shouldered, murderous colossus begins to take shape. If he once exposed his son's nature in a portrait, he now strips himself bare with his Saturn.
One more time, we look at the painting. Cover the right side of the face, and we see a Titan caught in the act, defying anyone to stop him, the bulging left eye staring wildly at some unseen witness to his savagery, his piratical coarseness heightened by the sharp vertical lines of the eyebrow, crossed like the stitches of a scar. Cover his left eye, and we are confronted by a being in pain, the dark student gazing down in horror at his own uncontrolled murderousness, the eyebrow curved upwards like an inverted question mark, as if he were asking, "Why am I compelled to do this?"
In this painting one may see, with revulsion, only the image of a gruesome giant, father as devourer. But it may be that a hidden knowledge evoked in Goya his terrible compassion for the cannibal god. The primal battle between fathers and sons is inescapable, the roots of such terrifying instincts too deep to be thoroughly excised. As fathers, we fear not only that we might destroy our sons — through anger, jealousy, fear; through our sometimes desperate love; through a thousand seemingly small sins — but that we secretly intend to destroy them. We want to protect them from the monsters that inhabit their nightmares, only to discover among the faces of those monsters our own.
If human beings are made free only by their admission of their darkest fears and impulses, this admission, unalterably expressed, may have granted Goya a sense of well-being, as did the entire series of Black Paintings. Javier, writing after his father's death, referred to the pleasure Goya had experienced in viewing daily in his house those pictures he had painted for himself with freedom and in accordance with his own genius.
The ancient myth that once provided him with the subject for an unmemorable drawing, becomes, in this late period of his life, the inspiration for uttering the unutterable. It is ironic that the very painting the world sees and shudders at — the image it considers one of the most horrifying in all Western art — may have given its creator peace.
Died on 30 March 1842: Marie
Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, French Neoclassical
painter specialized in Portraits, born on 16 April 1755. Starting in 1835,
she wrote Souvenirs, her autobiography: VIGEE ONLINE: [English
Her students included Marie-Guillemine Benoist [1768-1826]
She was one of the most successful of all women artists, particularly noted for her portraits of women. Her father was Louis Vigée, a pastel portraitist and her first teacher. She studied later with a number of well-known painters, among them Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Joseph Vernet. In 1776 she married a picture dealer, J.-B.-P. Lebrun. Her great opportunity came in 1779 when she was summoned to Versailles to paint a portrait of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The two women became friends, and in subsequent years Vigée-Lebrun painted at least 25 portraits of Marie-Antoinette in a great variety of poses and costumes; a number of these may be seen in the museum at Versailles. Vigée-Lebrun became a member of the Royal Academy in 1783. On the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, she left France and for 12 years traveled abroad, to Rome, Naples, Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Moscow, painting portraits and playing a leading role in society. In 1801 she returned to Paris but, disliking Parisian social life under Napoleon, soon left for London, where she painted portraits of the court and of Lord Byron. Later she went to Switzerland (and painted a portrait of Mme de Staël) and then again (1810) to Paris, where she ceased painting. Vigée-Lebrun was a woman of much wit and charm, and her memoirs, Souvenirs de ma vie (1837), provide a lively account of her times as well as of her own work. She was one of the most technically fluent portraitists of her era, and her pictures are notable for the freshness, charm, and sensitivity of their presentation. During her career, according to her own account, she painted 877 pictures, including 622 portraits and about 200 landscapes.
Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland, Marchioness Wellesley (1791, 99x75cm) Bacchante (1785, 112x85cm)
Prince Henry Lubomirski, amour de la gloire (1789, 105x83cm) [as “Genius of Fame”: a long-haired boy, with wings, down on one knee, holding a crown of laurel]
— Prince Henry Lubomirski, Allegory of the Genius of Alexander I (1814, 110x85cm) [same winged long-haired boy, facing the other way, holding a shield]
— Prince Henry Lubomirski as Amphion playing the Lyre, admired by three Naiads (Mlles Guichet, Polignac, and Julie Le Brun) (1795) _ The sitter is Heinrich Fürst Lubomirski [15 Sep 1777 – 20 Oct 1850]. Julie Le Brun [1780 – 1819], daughter of the artist, was the subject of 13 of her portraits, from Self portrait with daughter Julie (1786, 105x84cm) to Julie LeBrun as Flora (1799, the goddess of flowers, beloved of Zephyrus, the wind) and Sainte Geneviève (1821, Julie at age 12); one of the best being Julie Lebrun (1791).
La Reine Marie-Antoinette
Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat (after 1782, 98x70cm) _ The daughter and student of a minor Parisian painter, Louis Vigée, Madame Vigée-Lebrun was an attractive and charming woman, who specialised in the attractive and charming portrayal of women and children while remaining a competent portraitist of men. Eighteenth-century notions of graceful spontaneity may strike twentieth-century viewers as arch or sentimental; nevertheless, she pioneered a new style. Her fashionable portraits in the simplified dress called à la grecque dispense with Baroque props of columns or curtains to demonstrate 'natural' manners and feelings, anticipating the Neo-classical portraits of David.
Madame Vigée-Lebrun fled the French Revolution in 1789, avoiding the fate of her most illustrious patron, Queen Marie-Antoinette, to become an international success in the capitals of Europe. She returned to her native city after the Restoration in 1814 and gave an account of her early life and later tribulations and triumphs in the highly readable, if unreliable, Memoirs published in 1835.
The painter Claude Joseph Vernet, she recalls, advised her to study the Italian and Flemish masters but above all to follow nature. This picture is an autograph replica of a self portrait painted in Brussels in 1782 which wittily records her admiration of a famous Flemish masterpiece, Rubens's Portrait of Susanna Lunden, known as the 'Chapeau de Paille'. '[Its] great effect', she wrote, 'resides in the two different kinds of illumination which simple daylight and the light of the sun create...This painting...has inspired me to the point that I made my own portrait...in search of the same effect.'
The bright gleam and the general radiance of direct and reflected outdoor light as represented in Rubens's picture are indeed carefully noted, but Madame Vigée-Lebrun takes care also to record her debt to nature. She shows herself in the open against a cloud-flecked sky, and - not surprisingly since she is both sitter and painter - as almost a personification of the art of painting. For this fictitious excursion into the fields, but also to demonstrate her powers of observation, she wears a genuine chapeau de paille, unlike Rubens's sitter whose hat is actually made of beaver felt. To the dashing ostrich feather she has added a wreath of freshly picked rustic flowers. Her hair is her own, not a wig, and is left unpowdered. Where Susanna Lunden modestly crosses her arms above her waist and peers out from below her hat, Madame Vigée-Lebrun extends her unaffected friendship to the viewer. Most natural of all, however, is her charming bosom. For unlike Rubens's beauty, whose breasts are moulded by her tight corset, Madame Vigée-Lebrun lets it plainly be seen in her low décolletage that she has no need of such artifice. another Self-Portrait (1800) yet another Self-Portrait (1781, 64x53cm, in a black hat)
Madame Perregaux (1789, 100x79cm) _ Madame Perregaux was the wife of a Parisian banker whose clients included the artist. Vigée-Lebrun, ravished by the charm of her own appearance, and hardly able to paint a male sitter, continued the 18th century's cult of women. In Vigée-Lebrun we have the last view of eighteen-century woman - who had begun as a goddess, became a courtesan, and now ended all heart - before Napoleon and War banished her from the centre of events.
Woman's Head (1780, 48x41cm) _ This picture, showing the head of an attractive woman, recalls the Rococo. In pastel - a popular medium in the 18th century - the artist modeled the laurel-wreath head of an allegorical figure of peace over a preparatory drawing in black chalk. The work was intended as a study for a painting (La paix ramenant l'Abondance). While the theme and technique are conventional, the flattened composition and the idealized beauty of the head with its cool lustrous and porcelain-like skin tones correspond to Classicist ideas.
— The Vigée-Lebrun supersite.
Died on 30 March 1929: Thomas
Tuke, British painter born on 12 June 1858.
Tuke entered the Slade School of Art, London, in 1875, under Alphonse Legros and Sir Edward Poynter. In 1877 he won a Slade scholarship and in 1880 traveled to Italy, where he made his first nude life drawings, an important revelation to him of light, color and the human form. From 1881 to 1883 he was in Paris and met Jules Bastien-Lepage, who encouraged his studies en plein air. Admiring Bastien-Lepage's practice of focusing different areas of a painting by degrees of finish, Tuke adopted this in his own mature work.
In 1883 Tuke settled in Newlyn, Cornwall, and was a founder-member of the Newlyn school. In 1885 he moved to Falmouth, spending the rest of his life based there. During the 1880s he produced anecdotal plein-air paintings of the life of the Cornish fishing community. All Hands to the Pump (1888, 185X140cm) is a typical example, showing his alertness to tensions and movements in the human body and his ability to combine classical compositional principles with naturalistic detail, while giving coherence by sensitive rendering of atmosphere.
In 1892 Tuke traveled to Italy, Corfu and Albania; thereafter his palette lightened dramatically, and his technique gained a new Impressionistic freedom. The nude adolescent male emerged as his principal motif in such pictures as August Blue (1893, 122x183cm). His admiration of James McNeill Whistler appears in the creation of mood at the expense of narrative and in his preference for evocative titles. An implicit homoerotic element caused some unease at the time.
In 1886 Tuke was a founder-member of the New English Art Club and in 1900 he was elected an ARA. He also acquired a London studio where he spent the winters, usually working on portrait commissions. His work in this field was much admired, and he painted such notable figures as the cricketer W. G. Grace and T. E. Lawrence (1921). An accomplished watercolorist, in 1911 he became a member of the Royal Watercolor Society. He also worked in pastels and executed a single sculpture, The Watcher (1916), of which five bronze casts were made.
In 1914 Tuke was made an RA, and his painting style and subject-matter remained substantially unchanged: Aquamarine (1928), probably his last easel painting, closely resembles the earlier Ruby, Gold and Malachite (1901). In later pictures, however, the models are no longer portraits, but interchange heads and bodies as vehicles of Tuke's vision. Impersonality and detachment combined with sincere commitment to subject and atmosphere characterize his mature style and challenged artistic expectations of the time, broadening the parameters of British plein-air painting.
In 1923 Tuke visited Jamaica and Central America, producing some fine watercolors. Penetrating the interior of Belize, however, he became ill and was forced to return home. He never fully recovered his health, although his passion for travel remained undiminished.
The Promise The Rowing Party (28x63cm) — The Fisherman (35x64cm)
— Mrs. Florence Humphris (1892, 40x32cm) — Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower (1897, 61x51cm)
— Midsummer Morning — The Run Home — Ruby, Gold And Malachite (1901, 40x60cm)
— All Hands to the Pumps (1889, 186x140cm) _ Tuke shows a ship that has lost one of its sails, and is being swamped by heavy seas. The crew desperately pump water out of the hull. The figure standing in the shrouds gestures towards something, but it is ambiguous whether it is rescue or a wave that will destroy the ship. At the time of painting this picture Tuke was living aboard an old French brig, the Julie, anchored in Falmouth Harbour. In a letter to his mother he wrote 'I am just ordering a stretcher for my great pumping picture which is to be rather a big venture, about ten figures altogether...all this is quite contrary to your notions of doing small pictures but I am rather of Mr. Bartlett's opinion that the big uns get yer name up, Tooke.'
— August Blue (1894, 122x183cm) _ The fall of sunlight on the young nude male body fascinated Tuke, and he painted it again and again. He believed in open air painting, and August Blue was started out of doors in Falmouth Harbour. Tuke helped set up the New English Art Club in 1886. Although he was a Newlyn artist he was much respected by the Impressionist clique of Sickert and Steer, and when the Newlyn painters resigned from the Club in 1890, Tuke stayed on. The ambition to paint large scale figures in a natural light united the many trends of advanced painting in Britain in the 1880s.