The Getty Paintings section houses 84 images of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and early Modern
paintings taken at the Getty Center that were selected and compiled from several visits to the museum.
The images are arranged chronologically and by artist, covering 600 years from the 1300s to early 1900.
This page has images of Dutch, Italian, French, German, Swiss and English paintings from 1650-1900.
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The Alchemist Bega 2389
The Alchemist, Cornelis Bega, Dutch, 1663, oil on panel.
Oblivious to his cluttered surroundings, the unkempt figure of an alchemist sits among a chaotic jumble of paraphernalia. He holds a scale while weighing out a red powdery substance for one of his experiments in making gold. He is surrounded by the detritus of his profession: books, papers, cryptic substances, bottles, strangely shaped jars, and chipped earthenware abound. Bega depicted these items with astonishing fidelity. Every chink, imperfection, and reflection in the implements scattered about the room has been deftly captured. He even expertly rendered the dust lying on the discarded clay vessels in the foreground.
Alchemy, a philosophical tradition claimed to be the precursor to profound power since antiquity, had as its primary goal the Magnum Opus (Greak Work): the creation of the Philosopher's Stone which was said to be able to turn base metals (such as lead) into gold, as well as being able to create the Elixir of Life (granting eternal life or eternal youth). While Alchemy played an important role in the early development of science (especially chemistry and medicine), its principles and practice included mythology, magic, religion and spirituality. By the seventeenth century, alchemy was no longer considered to be a respectable science, and its practitioners were often the subject of ridicule.
In this genre scene, Cornelis Bega commented on time wasted on materialistic and futile pursuits. Like other Dutch artists of his time, Bega was a close observer of natural appearances. Textures and surfaces of the assorted cracked clay and glass vessels are accurately described. Light pouring in through the open window and the harmonious tones of brown, gray, and blue give the painting a cozy warmth. Bega did at least four paintings with this subject (another resides in the National Gallery of Art).
Architectural Scene Scagliola Fistulator 4008
Architectural Scene and Frame, German and Italian, c. 1650, frame 1730 -1740
Workshop of Blausius Pfeiffer (known as Fistulator, active 1587-1622), Munich
Plaque: scagliola; frame: ebonized wood with gilt-bronze mounts. (1.02 MB)
This vibrant architectural scene is a tour de force of illusionism and perspective. It is made of scagliola, a mixture of stucco, glue and colorants put on a stucco surface and intended to imitate the more expensive and technically demanding medium of commesso or stone mosaic. Scagliola was also preferred because it allowed for a more painterly rendering. The plaque depicts a classic Renaissance coffered arcade that recedes to a landscape of other Italianate buildings and a park. Imitation marble is used here to depict real marble buildings, and linear perspective creates the illusion of a three-dimensional scene. Perspective prints and stage-set designs published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries inspired this picturesque scene. The tricks of perspective exemplify the Baroque interest in illusion and theatricality. The plaque may have been originally planned for insertion in a piece of furniture or to be framed and hung on the wall.
The picturesque Italianate scene on this plaque was inspired by perspective prints and stage set designs published in the 16th and 17th centuries. Blausius Fistulator and his followers created a number of similar plaques for the Munich Residenz. The plaque was placed in its frame nearly a century after it was made (conceived and executed in the style of Giovanni Battista Foggini, court artist to the Medici — see the Night Clock on the Decorative Art page and the Laocoon on the Bronze Sculptures page). The frame is surmounted by the coat of arms of Lorenzo Corsini (1652-1740) who was elected Pope Clement XII in 1730. It is unknown whether the Pope had it framed, or if it was framed to present to the Pope as a gift.
Architectural Scene Scagliola Fistulator 3222
Detail of the scagliola plaque itself without the frame (1500 x 1293, 1.1 MB).
Scagliola was first developed in southern Germany at the end of the 16th century as a less expensive (and less time-consuming) alternative to pietre dure inlay. The technique involved attaching pulverized and pigmented gypsum to a wet gesso ground. The surface was then highly polished to imitate the gloss of pietre dure.
South German artist Blausius Fistulator, born Blausius Pfeiffer, is the earliest known scagliola artist whose works survive today. Mastering the newly invented technique of scagliola, which imitated hardstone inlay, Fistulator headed a talented family of plasterers, stucco artists, and scagliola workers. Their production, continuing well into the 1600s, influenced artists throughout Germany, Austria, and the Alpine regions. Fistulator, who looked to architectural treatises for inspiration for his reliefs, became known for creating illusionistic perspectives of classic Italian architecture as well as of buildings recalling those of the celebrated Renaissance architect Bramante. Employed primarily by the Bavarian courts, Fistulator created illusionistic reliefs for the Munich Residenz, or palace. His scagliola panel in the Antiquarium of the Munich Residenz, a grand salon built to house the ducal collection of antique statuary, is a tour de force of vanishing perspective and imitation marble. He also created reliefs for the church of Saint Michael's and began panels for the Reiche Kappelle (State Church) of the Residenz, though they were not completed until 1630 or 1632 by his son Wilhelm.
Italianate Landscape Both HS9323
An Italianate Landscape with Travelers on a Path, Jan Both, Dutch, 1645-50, oil on canvas.
Jan Both was one of the most important Dutch painters of innovative and majestic Italianate landscapes. In 1637 or 1638 he joined his older brother Andries in Rome and stayed there until his return to his native city of Utrecht in 1642. While in Rome, Both collaborated on two projects with Claude Lorrain, whose ideal of the classical landscape greatly influenced the younger artist. Both's refined brushwork and attention to detail, however, are characteristics of his Dutch heritage.
Painted in Utrecht after Both returned from Rome, this scene which shows travelers crossing a mountain path reflects the artist's first-hand study of the Italian countryside. The hazy golden light which beautifully unites the sweeping composition was adopted from his friend Claude Lorrain, the leading landscape painter in Rome. The delicately painted foliage, seen particularly in the foreground, reveal Both's Dutch sensibilities.
On loan to the Getty from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Naples, FL.
Moonlit Landscape New Amstel River van der Neer HS9328
Moonlit Landscape with a View of the New Amstel River and Castle Kostverloren
Aert van der Neer, Dutch, Amsterdam, 1647, oil on panel.
A fiery glow charges the sky in Aert van der Neer's view along the New Amstel River. While most Dutch landscape painters in the 1600s used cloud-filled blue skies to endow their work with a powerful presence, van der Neer mastered the genre of nocturnal landscapes. In this painting, the moon commands attention. Its light is filtered over the scene, emphasizing the river's watery surface and the outlines of trees and reeds. Two small figures at right are also highlighted by the moonlight.
A master at representing light, Aert van der Neer painted moonlit river views that embody the principles of Dutch landscape painting in the 1600s. Those principles included isolated figures on meandering paths that cut through a wooded forest, and cloud-filled skies. Van der Neer used a restricted palette of earthy colors and, like most artists during this period, painted indoors. Although he did not receive much attention in his own time, modern scholars praise his ability to create a sense of space and atmosphere.
Van der Neer usually depicted imaginary places in his landscape paintings. In this rare example, however, he painted an identifiable landmark, the Castle Kostverloren. The evocative river setting, painted inside a studio, is not accurate. During the 1600s, Dutch artists typically composed idealized scenes with imaginary skies while indoors.
St. Matthew Dolci 4133
St. Matthew Dolci 1936c
St. Matthew Writing His Gospel, Carlo Dolci, Italian, c. 1670s, oil on canvas.
Carlo Dolci painted this canvas for his priest confessor Carpanti as part of a series depicting the four Evangelists. Wearing delicately painted robes of red and blue, Saint Matthew leans to the left, concentrating on his work. He is writing the words that open the Gospel of Matthew, considered to be the first divinely inspired Christian text. The words are accurately reproduced in Hebrew, the saint's native language. At his side, a winged putto holds an inkpot and looks up admiringly at Matthew.
Dolci meticulously described the textures of the saint's wispy beard, his wavy hair, the heavy softness of his robe, even minute details like the dirt under the saint's fingernails. Highly popular in his time, Dolci was known for his devotional paintings. His refined canvases combined a polished, precise technique with a sentimentality that appealed to patrons, particularly in his native Florence.
While in the Leon Medina collection, this painting was still accompanied by a painting of St. John the Evangelist which had the same dimensions and was mounted in the same 19th century frame. They probably constituted half of the series depicting the Four Evangelists (I found a reference to a companion pair like this, which were removed from Florence by Lucien Bonaparte, that were sold at Christie's from the collection of Sir Simon H. Clarke in 1840. This was the pair later in the Medina collection). Other octagonal paintings of the Evangelists by Dolci are known: the St. Mark is in Weid, Germany (supposedly from the collection of William II), and two other St. Johns are in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence and in Berlin. The St. Luke from the Carpanti series is still missing. Dolci apparently painted more than one series of the Evangelists.
Dolci's artistic training began at age nine in Jacopo Vignali's studio, where he learned to combine Vignali's emotive approach with the elegant design and bright local color of the Florentine style. Intensely religious, Dolci stated his "firm intention to paint only works that would inspire the fruits of Christian piety in those who saw them." He specialized in devotional works, although he also earned his international reputation through the portraits and still lifes he intended for his sophisticated patrons. Dolci captured detail in lavish textiles, jewelry, and the face and hands. His evangelist portraits display his typical polished surface finish, which was probably influenced by Agnolo Bronzino, as well as a Caravaggesque chiaroscuro and Correggio's softness. Dolci had a large studio; his daughter was also a painter. According to Baldinucci, who said that Dolci would "sometimes take weeks over a single foot", Dolci's final decline was triggered by Luca Giordano's 1682 visit to Florence. Luca joked that his own rapid style had brought him a fortune, but Dolci would starve if he kept taking so long. Already suffering from depression, Dolci plunged deeper into despair.
Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa Ricci 3813
Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa
Sebastiano Ricci, Italian, c. 1705-1710, oil on canvas.
In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus was famous for killing Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon whose grotesque appearance turned men to stone. This painting shows a later episode from the hero's life. At Perseus' and Andromeda's wedding, their nuptials were interrupted by a mob led by Phineus, an unsuccessful suitor to his fiancé Andromeda. After a fierce battle, Perseus warned his allies to turn away their eyes while he revealed the head of Medusa to his enemies. In the midst of battle, Phineus and his cohorts are turned to stone.
Sebastiano Ricci depicted the fight as a forceful, vigorous battle. In the center, Perseus lunges forward, his muscles taut as he shoves the head of Medusa at Phineus and his men. Phineus holds up a shield, trying to reflect the horrendous image and almost losing his balance. Behind him, soldiers already turned to stone are frozen in mid-attack. All around, other men have fallen and are dead or dying. Ricci used strong diagonals and active poses to suggest energetic movement.
One of the principal figures in the late Baroque revival of Venetian painting in the 1700s, Sebastiano Ricci came from a noted family of artists. He received formal artistic training in Venice, but following a charge of attempted murder, he departed for Bologna in 1681. Over the next fifteen years, Ricci was almost constantly on the move and is known to have worked in Parma, Rome, and Milan. His brushes with the law persisted, but Ricci established his career as a decorative painter producing frescos and paintings for churches and palaces.
Ricci finally returned to Venice in 1698 and received many commissions in the region. He also accepted important commissions in Vienna and Florence. His works for Grand Duke Ferdinando de' Medici in the Pitti Palace are considered to be his masterpieces, and gained him fame and requests from foreign lands. After working in Venice for three years, he received a major commission from Lord Burlington, and in 1711 traveled to England with his nephew Marco, also an established painter. The luminous, decorative works Ricci produced for the British aristocracy secured his international reputation. In his later years, he increasingly collaborated with his nephew, creating works across Europe until shortly before his death in 1734. He was known as a brilliant colorist as well as for his dramatic, vivid style, which recalled the art of Paolo Veronese (an earlier influential Venetian painter). Ricci’s work appealed to royal and ecclesiastical patrons across Europe.
Saint-Albin Rigaud 1709
Saint-Albin Rigaud 3821
A detail crop from another image taken in more neutral light, yielding more color saturation. This image is cropped to show about 40% more detail than the image at left, which shows the restored frame, designed by Giles-Marie Oppenord.
Charles de Saint-Albin, Archbishop of Cambrai, Hyacinthe Rigaud, French, 1723, oil on canvas.
The Archbishop of Cambrai, Louis-Charles de Saint-Albin, was the illegitimate son of Philippe, Duc d'Orléans, and a dancer at the opera. Although his father never recognized him officially, he smoothed his son's swift advance in the Church hierarchy and aided his appointment as the Archbishop of Cambrai. In the year of his appointment, the archbishop commissioned this portrait from Hyacinthe Rigaud, the most accomplished and flattering portraitist at the court of Louis XIV.
Shown in his robes of office, Saint-Albin balances a book on his knee and presses his left hand to his chest, a gesture suggesting his spirituality. Rigaud masterfully displayed the different textures of his shimmering satin robe and the exquisitely patterned lace of the garment worn underneath. A soft ermine cape is painted so realistically that the viewer can see the indentations left by Saint-Albin's fingers as they press against the fur.
When the Getty acquired the painting in 1988, the frame had suffered heavy damage and most of its ornamentation had been removed beyond the eight inch core of the frame. It took 14 years of advocacy and research, and a key discovery by a French scholar, but finally, researchers found an original drawing of a similar frame, and it was determined that Giles-Marie Oppenord, the chief architect and director of buildings for the Duc d'Orléans during the Regency period when he was head of state, did the drawing and design for the frame to show the power and status of Archbishop Louis-Charles de Saint-Albin.
The Oppenord drawing was used as a guide for the reconstruction of the frame. A central cartouche included the bishop's staff, crook, hat, crown, eagle, sword and shield. Acanthus, overlapping scales, and floret ornamentation run along the sight edge, and carved laurel branches in a small, hollow diaper pattern with ovals and floret ornaments on a cross-hatched background form the outer frame. Ornamentation on the outer frame include alternating leaves and a stopped flute back edge, and pronounced corners with dragons and scallop shells. Parisian carvers and gilders with 18th century skills were commissioned, and the restoration of the frame took over five years. The painting, reinstalled in its restored frame, was back on display in 2002.
Gabriel Bernard de Rieux - de la Tour HS4793
Portrait of Gabriel Bernard de Rieux, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour
French, c. 1739-1741, pastel and gouache on paper mounted on canvas
Gabriel Bernard de Rieux was the second son of Samuel Bernard, the immensely successful financier and knowledgeable amateur. Samuel purchased for Gabriel the title comte de Rieux in 1702, along with an estate in Languedoc. Gabriel Bernard de Rieux became conseiller to the Paris Parlement at the age of twenty-five. Ten years later, in 1727, he was named président of the second chambre des enquêtes of the Parlement, a post he would hold until his death. Here, in the world’s largest pastel mounted in another spectacular frame, he wears the robes of his office as president of the second Court of Inquiry.
From a large tome held on his lap, de Rieux lifts a sheet of paper. Intending to declare the sitter's erudition, wealth, and status, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour placed de Rieux in his study, surrounded by fashionable and expensive objects. Behind him is a richly ornamental screen; on a table covered with blue velvet cloth are books, papers, and an inkstand with a quill pen. A globe stands next to the table and a Turkish carpet covers the floor. These objects identify the sitter as a connoisseur of fine and precious thing, like his father, whose considerable fortune de Rieux inherited the year this portrait was painted. The deliberately old-fashioned furnishings and Gabriel Bernard's poised hauteur create the aura of old wealth and status, a fiction delightfully undone by the brazen grandeur of his portrait. In this work the high ambitions of a patron and an artist, who was said to produce a new marvel of perfection every year, seamlessly coincide.
Samuel Bernards considerable banking fortune was divided between his two sons at his death in 1739. This inheritance may have provided Gabriel the means and impetus to commission this portrait from La Tour. Its scale was unprecedented in the pastel medium and was presumably intended to showcase the ability of pastel to compete with oil. The only comparable work of the period is La Tour's slightly smaller Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour in the Louvre, Paris. This large, full-length portrait, still in its original, massive gilt frame, was assembled from separate sheets of paper laid on canvas and drawn entirely in pastel. The most sought-after portraitist of his day, La Tour worked exclusively in pastel, producing likenesses of the nobility and the wealthy middle class that were applauded for both their technical mastery and their astonishing verisimilitude. In fact, one contemporary critic marveled that such a work as this portrait could be created using crayons.
Grand Canal Bellotto 1678
View of the Grand Canal and the Dogana, Bernardo Bellotto, Italian, Venice, c. 1740.
Originally attributed to Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), a painter renowned for his idealized views of Venice, this was actually painted by his nephew Bernardo Bellotto, in whose studio he worked. Together they produced many painted vistas for tourists who stopped in Venice on their Grand Tour of Italy. Grand Tourists would have purchased these types of paintings as souvenirs and reflections of their cultural sophistication.
One of Bellotto’s earliest masterpieces, View of the Grand Canal demonstrates the sweeping monumentality, luminous contrasts and the alternatively brushy and liquid handling of paint which characterized Bellotto's mature work. View of the Grand Canal is the primary version of a composition repeated in at least fourteen versions by Canaletto's studio. Its attribution to Bellotto is supported by a pen-and-ink drawing by him which follows this painting closely.
Looking toward the opening of the Grand Canal into the Bacino di San Marco, Bellotto presented a cross-section of Venetian society going about business on a sunny morning. Light from the east falls upon the Palazzo Pisani-Gritti with its arched windows and painted façade. A Venetian devotional box housing various types of religious icons hangs below the arched windows of the building at the left. Such boxes were usually placed on a building right next to the canal so that passers-by could pause for a moment of prayer upon leaving or arriving.
Its image reflected in the canal, the Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute dominates the right bank. Next to it, behind a shadowy row of houses, stands the Gothic façade of the Abbey of San Gregorio. In the distance at left center is the Dogana or customs building. Gondolas and ferries, modes of transportation still in use today, traverse the water between the two banks. The mouth of the canal, where seafaring vessels leave or enter the city, is visible in the distance.
Muse Carriera 1862
A Muse, Rosalba Carriera, Italian, c. 1725, pastel on laid blue paper.
(this work was displayed in a very dark area at the time that I shot it).
This alluring muse gracefully turns her head to the left, exposing a seductive neck and tender pink earlobe. Transparent gauze covers her shoulders. Rosalba Carriera rendered the porcelain skin, flushed cheeks, and wavy hair with subtly blended pastel colors, creating a soft, velvety surface. The intense contrast between the ivory flesh and dark background imbues the divine creature with radiance. This delicate head crowned by soft curls and an ivy wreath was one of many idealized images Carriera made called teste di fantasia, a kind of fanciful rendering of a beautiful woman with a mythological or allegorical appearance. Celebrated throughout Europe for her mastery of pastel, Carriera likely created this image for Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
Rosalba Carriera, raised in a modest Venetian family, began her career painting miniature portraits on ivory to decorate the inside of snuffbox lids. Her subjects focused on the everyday activities of women and mythological themes connected with women's lives. A successful woman in a profession dominated mainly by men, Carriera became so famous that her pastels were bought not only by visitors to her native Venice, but also requested (and sent by mail) to patrons all over Europe.
After painting a pastel portrait of the printmaker Antonio Maria Zanetti, for which she achieved considerable fame, Carriera received commissions from England's influential ambassador in Venice, Christian Cole, first duke of Manchester. Carriera was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome in 1705. As her career progressed, Carriera's luminous pastel portraits took on a more personal style. Subtly blended colors and an interest in rendering the sitter's inner psychology gradually began to characterize her work.
While the guest of French banker Pierre Crozat in Paris, she created portraits of Louis XV as a child and other members of the French aristocracy and court. While there, she developed a friendship with Antoine Watteau, who had a significant impact on her work. She, in turn, had a formative influence on Maurice-Quentin Delatour, Jean-Etienne Liotard, and other important pastel painters. King George III collected her works, and Frederick-Augustus II, elector of Saxony, filled a room in his Dresden palace with more than one hundred of her pastels.
Vase of Flowers van Huysum HS9343
Vase of Flowers, Jan van Huysum, Dutch, 1722, oil on panel.
The Dutch fascination with nature is described in a riotous display of beautiful and exotic flowers. Arranged in a terracotta vase displaying an antique relief, Jan van Huysum included flowers from all seasons of the year, roses, anemones, hyacinths, tulips, and more, and painted them directly from life. The flowers' nearly overripe quality attests both to nature's bounty and its transience. The bouquet is ordered in a loose pyramidal shape, with flowers and greenery almost bursting to be free of the vase. Butterflies and other insects fly or crawl amongst the arrangement, and drops of water are visible on leafs and shiny petals.
Van Huysum painstakingly applied layer upon layer of thin oil glazes to capture the brilliant colors and delicate textures of the blossoms. Because each flower could only be painted while in season, it sometimes took the artist several years to complete a single painting. The details of his highly finished technique were a carefully guarded secret.
Dance Before a Fountain Lancret 3823
Dance before a Fountain (Le Moulinet), Nicolas Lancret, French, by 1724, oil on canvas.
In a luxuriant park adorned with a monumental fountain, two couples perform a country dance, accompanied by the music of a rustic bagpipe. The focus of the composition is an elegant figure of a woman, facing the viewer near the center of the scene in a pearlescent dress. On either side, other couples play out the game of love in its various stages of anticipation, entreaty, and reward. Lancret's subject was an 18th century invention called a fête galante. Paintings of a fête galante depicted a pastoral landscape peopled by elegant figures, who seemed uninhibited by the stiff conventions of formal society, as they strolled, made music, or attempted to woo their partners. Lancret's fluid brushstroke is evident in the shimmering highlights of the costumes and in the play of their opulent colors against the harmony of the landscape background. The painting's relatively large size suggests that it was commissioned by a prominent collector, possibly an aristocratic patron or member of the French royalty.
Paintings of the fête galante derived from 17th century paintings from the Low Countries such as Rubens’ The Garden of Love and numerous others, and often the early 18th century French artists derived their figures from engravings of theatrical costumes and fashion plates (gravures de mode), which gave them limitless examples of people in fashionable and contemporary dress pursuing leisure activities. Outdoor gatherings of well-bred people to socialize, flirt, picnic and dance were called fêtes galante before the end of the 17th century, long before the painting genre existed.
Nicolas Lancret's early career never indicated his future renown as Paris's best-known practitioner of the fête galante. After training as an engraver, he apprenticed to a moderately successful history painter. By 1708 he was studying at the Académie Royale, from which he was expelled for bad behavior. Probably because of the popularity of Jean-Antoine Watteau's elegant new fêtes galante, Lancret chose to join the workshop of Watteau's teacher Claude Gillot. By 1719 Lancret was an Académie Royale member in the fête galante category. His commercial success exploded in the early 1720s, after Watteau's and Gillot's deaths made him the leading source for such pictures.
Under Louis XV's enthusiastic patronage, Lancret's paintings adorned the walls of numerous royal residences, including Versailles. While Lancret's subject matter derived from both Watteau and Gillot, his rich palette of colors, such as pastel yellows combined with rich poppy reds, were uniquely his own. He painted more than 700 pictures, including allegorical cycles and portraits which he often depicted as genre scenes. Also a skilled draftsman, he worked in red chalk or, like Watteau, in the trois crayons technique. His complex and often humorous narratives influenced many other painters such as François Boucher, William Hogarth, and Thomas Gainsborough. Lancret was instrumental in advancing the status of genre painting in the minds of patrons so that, by the end of his career, it was ranked at the same level as that of history paintings (although the critics were never convinced that genre paintings had the same value, the patrons were).
Mark Leonard, who restored Prince Rupert of the Palatinate (Dou) and The Abduction of Europa (Rembrandt) among others, was responsible for cleaning off the old, yellowed varnish and removing areas of clumsy overpainting which covered areas of original paint, in some cases obscuring or altering architectural elements. Once the varnish and overpainting was removed, it was possible to determine that the setting was recognizable as the Fountain of Maria de' Medici in the Luxembourg Gardens. Also during the restoration, the inventory number was determined to have been overpainted. Examination determined that another number previously existed, meaning that the inventory of paintings that this belonged to numbered in the thousands. Not many aristocratic collections contained that number of works, and research narrowed it down, allowing the painting to be matched to a 1797 inventory of paintings in the Russian Imperial collection of Catherine the Great. Mark Leonard carefully retouched the work, in-painting the areas with flaking losses and restoring the original architectural configuration of the fountain based on the revealed original paint, retouching scattered areas of damage, and applying new layers of varnish to provide depth and saturation. The finished result restored the original architectural fidelity and opulent color.
Bird Catchers Boucher 3787
Fountain of Love Boucher 3785
The Bird Catchers, François Boucher, French, 1748, oil on canvas.
The Fountain of Love, François Boucher, French, 1748, oil on canvas.
Responding to the contemporary rage for pastorals depicting amorous countryside games, in the Bird Catchers (at left) François Boucher exhibited young, fashionable couples in the act of catching birds. In the 1700s, small birds played an important symbolic role in courtship ritual: the gift of a caged bird from a man to a woman signified her capture of his heart. Posed in front of the ruins of a temple to Vesta, young aristocratic women dressed in exquisite finery play with small birds; some still hold them on strings while others daintily hold them on their fingers.
In the Fountain of Love (at right), a youth with a flute gazes languidly at his companion while another youth offers a shell full of fresh water to a dainty maiden in a diaphanous gown of purple-gold and red satin. A rosy-cheeked, barefoot woman dressed in red silk looks longingly at the man with the flute. Suitors woo and babies frolic in an idyllic setting of lush, green, leafy trees under a pale blue sky with gray-pink clouds. By blending sensuality, covert eroticism, and refinement, pastoral paintings such as these brought the world of aristocratic society and amorous games to the countryside. The pastoral genre in which François Boucher excelled delighted his patrons, answering the contemporary nostalgia for nature and excluding coarse reality.
The Bird Catchers and its pendant, The Fountain of Love, were finished cartoons or models for a series of six tapestries known as the Noble Pastorales. Beginning in 1755, the Beauvais tapestry manufactory wove the tapestries directly over the cartoons. Eventually, the cartoons were cut up into sections and sold separately. The tapestries reveal how large the cartoons originally were and how much is missing from the cut-up sections. These in their present form are among the largest paintings by the hand of François Boucher, but each section was half again as wide before the two were separated. The paintings were once a single composition depicting young aristocrats dressing up as peasants to act out their amorous games in the countryside.
Below are two detail crops from the right side of each painting, taken in different light.
Bird Catchers Boucher 3118c
For François Boucher, "art" meant "artifice". He could paint straightforward genre scenes and portraits when appropriate, but the times called for enchantment and frolic, with just the right touch of titillation. Boucher's paintings and drawings celebrated a silvery, shimmering world of perfumes and powders, inspiring copies of his designs in media ranging from textiles and marquetry to porcelain. Boucher also designed tapestry cartoons for the Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory and in 1756 became the supervisor of the Gobelins manufactory. His designs had a significant impact on the decorative arts throughout Europe, especially at Sèvres, where his designs were painted on and modeled in porcelain.
Fountain of Love Boucher 3127c
François Boucher was perhaps the most celebrated decorative artist of the 18th century, with most of his work reflecting the Rococo style. Boucher began his career engraving Jean-Antoine Watteau's works. The native Parisian won the Prix de Rome in 1723, but he admired little in Italy. In 1734 he became a member of the Académie Royale and the following year obtained his first commission for Versailles. From then on, his Rococo designs graced stage sets and the most important decorations and remodeling of royal residences and town houses. He gained renown for his charmingly suggestive mythological scenes, ultimately inspired by Peter Paul Rubens and Jean-Antoine Watteau. In 1749 he began teaching engraving and drawing to Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and by 1765 was named first painter to the king and director of the Académie.
Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles Tiepolo HS4837
Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles,
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Italian, Italy, c. 1740, oil on canvas.
A boyish artist gazes longingly at the regal woman whose portrait he is painting. The young artist is Alexander the Great's court painter, Apelles, whom ancient writers considered the greatest artist of their time. According to Pliny's Natural History of 77 AD, Alexander commissioned Apelles to paint a portrait of his favorite concubine, Campaspe. The story illustrates art's transformative powers: Apelles fell in love with his sitter as he captured her beauty on canvas. Alexander so esteemed his painter that he presented Campaspe to Apelles as a reward for the portrait.
The tale of Alexander and Apelles, a favorite of Renaissance and Baroque painters, celebrates the power and nobility of painting. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted this episode at least three times. For this, the third rendering, he adopted a classicizing style in which antique architectural elements and relief sculptures evoke a sumptuous palace setting. The background provides a focal area for the gaze of Alexander the Great, who appears handsome and self-confident, yet unaware of the charged glances shared by Apelles and Campaspe.
The French Vichy government confiscated this painting and over 70 others among 155 works of art from the estate of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, a Venetian collector of Jewish descent who died of natural causes a few weeks before the Nazis stormed into Paris in 1940. The French auctioned off the paintings and other artwork to straw buyers who represented Nazi officials to pay debts of the estate. Family members who were able to had fled to Canada and the US (others died in concentration camps) and they were unable to represent their interests due the German occupation although they had assets to pay the debts. Five paintings went to Hermann Goering for Karinhall, and after the war, the paintings ended up in the Louvre. When Giuseppe’s daughter tried to recover them in 1950, the Louvre refused to return the art. It took until 1999 for surviving descendants to get them back (they are still trying to recover many others). The Getty acquired the Tiepolo when the family auctioned it in 2000.
Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone Liotard 3798
Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at Seven, Jean-Étienne Liotard, Swiss, 1755-1756, pastel on vellum.
Liotard visited Holland in 1755 and remained for over a year, during which time he was patronized by members of the Dutch court and by aristocratic sitters from The Hague, Amsterdam, and Delft. The artist was introduced to the van Reede family by the diplomat William Bentinck, Second Earl of Portland, whose portrait he painted. The Baroness van Reede, related to Bentinck's half sister, was painted by Liotard as were her two children. Her seven-year-old daughter, Maria Frederike (1748-1807), is portrayed dressed in a winter cape of blue velvet trimmed with ermine. The image is made less formal by the presence of a lap dog and the artist's evident delight in the young girl's fresh and captivating features.
Changing attitudes towards children and the emergence of a large middle class in 18th-century Europe increased the demand for portraits of children such as this one. Maria Frederike looks off to the side in a three-quarter view. Lost in thought, she is composed yet somewhat shy in comparison to her dog, who stares out with unabashed curiosity. With startling naturalism, Liotard captured her youth and beauty, setting off her eyebrows, lashes, and lustrous hair against her soft, fresh complexion.
Liotard developed remarkable technical skills in the difficult medium of pastels. Brilliantly describing surfaces and defining volume through subtle gradations of color, he depicted forms, textures, and the play of light with great immediacy. He favored using pastels, especially for portraits of children, because they could be manipulated with greater speed and ease, had no odor, and allowed for frequent interruptions.
Russian Cradle Le Prince 1713
The Russian Cradle, Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, French, c. 1764-1765, oil on canvas.
In a rural setting, a peasant family sits admiring a baby in a cradle suspended from the branches of a tree. The composition takes its name from the distinctive hanging cradle made of boughs lashed together. Surrounded by goats and sheep, an old woman in a red dress and decorative headscarf holds a distaff and points towards the infant as if telling its fortune. The blue sky with pink-tinged clouds recalls the influence of François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Le Prince's former teacher.
Jean-Baptiste Le Prince served in Saint Petersburg at the court of Catherine the Great between 1760 and 1762. Upon his return to Paris in December 1763, he made this painting and thirteen others that he exhibited in the Salon. To an 18th century French audience, this improbable scene would have seemed exotic and picturesque. In reality, Russian peasants were still serfs tied to the land and its owner; it is unlikely that they would have enjoyed the leisure time depicted here.
Based on drawings and recollections from the artist's extensive travels throughout Russia, The Russian Cradle proved to be immensely popular, and was replicated in drawings, prints, and as decoration on Sèvres porcelain. Le Prince created paintings and etchings of the Russian countryside and daily life, often using Russian costumes and mannequins to get the exactitude he desired. Le Prince became famous for creating this new kind of genre picture, and also perfected the technique of making aquatint etchings. Upon becoming a member of the Académie Royale in 1765, Le Prince exhibited fifteen paintings at that year's Salon, all Russian subjects. The Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory wove his Russian Games tapestry cartoons many times.
Lord Willoughby de Broke and Family Zoffany 3777
John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke and his Family, Johann Zoffany, German, c. 1766, oil on canvas.
John Peyto, fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and his wife, Lady Louisa North, appear about to take tea with their three young children in the Breakfast Room at Compton Verney House. She holds her daughter, who stands on the table attempting a first step. In high spirits, one son enters on the right pulling a bright red toy horse. Another son attempts to take a piece of buttered bread from the table while receiving an admonishing gesture from his father. From the mid-16th century until the late 19th century, young boys wore dresses until they were able to easily handle the complicated fastenings of breeches or trousers.
Johann Zoffany, with his ability to portray lively figures interacting together in meticulous detailed settings, excelled at conversation pieces. The informal group portraits, introduced as a new genre of painting in England in the 1700s, vividly recorded the settings and social customs of the time. Zoffany took care to include the details of the gentry's lives: Lady Louisa's shimmering light blue gown, the landscape painting above the fireplace mantel, the fine porcelain tea service, and the reflections on the highly polished silver urn. The sparse room also makes a statement about the family's social position. Only an ancient, titled family of the British ruling class would adopt the deliberate casualness of the olive-drab walls and worn carpet. The family has nonetheless displayed its wealth with their fashionable costumes. Zoffany used a pyramidal composition, which was popular at the time to express the hierarchy of the family.
Mars and Venus Allegory of Peace Lagrenee 3809
Mars & Venus, Allegory of Peace, Louis Jean François Lagrenée, French, 1770, oil on canvas.
In this gentle allegory of peace by Louis Jean François Lagrenée, Mars, the Roman god of War, throws back the rich green bed curtains that frame the scene. As the drapery parts, the morning light spills in to reveal the form of the sleeping Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Mars gazes at her, utterly captivated by her beauty. Her love has tempered his fierce character, and his shield and sword lie abandoned on the floor. Echoing the lovers' bliss, a pair of white doves, symbolizing Peace, build a nest in Mars's helmet.
As a student, Louis Jean François Lagrenée won the Prix de Rome at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1749. Following a brief stay in Rome, he was received into the Académie in 1755 with the completion of a painting that earned him favorable comparisons with Guido Reni. From 1760 until 1762, he directed the Saint Petersburg Academy at the Russian court. Upon his return to Paris, Lagrenée became a professor at the French Académie and received a range of important public commissions. Critics nonetheless considered his medium-size and small paintings to be his greatest strength, and they were highly sought after by private collectors.
Lagrenée played an important part in the French movement away from the Rococo style toward a more restrained, classicizing expression. Deliberately rejecting the exuberant, artificial aesthetic of the mid-1700s, he revived instead the previous century's taste for cool colors and polished, refined technique. Lagrenée created his finest works, including this small, jewel-like painting, around 1770. The lavish folds of drapery, the delicate play of light over fabric and skin, and the rich, restrained palette combine to create a captivatingly beautiful image.
Countess Anne Gainsborough 1683
Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield, Thomas Gainsborough, English, 1777-1778, oil on canvas.
Anne Thistlewaite, the Countess of Chesterfield, appears lost in thought as she sits with her left arm resting on a plinth. Dense foliage furnishes a backdrop for her figure, while the right half of the painting provides a distant, unobstructed view of her lands. A pale beige shawl trimmed with gold fringe wraps loosely around her back and shoulders, and dainty white slippers emerge from underneath her elaborate blue satin gown. Her fashionable upswept hair and low-cut gown reveal the graceful curve of her neck and breast. breast. Gainsborough was commissioned to paint this portrait and its companion of Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield after their marriage in 1777.
Among Thomas Gainsborough's many portraits of English aristocrats, this large painting stands out as a remarkably loose and freely painted example. He conveyed a sense of immediacy in the large sweeping brushstrokes used to describe material, foliage, and background sky. Short, curved brushstrokes form the tree trunk, while longer strokes of blue and white paint create an illusion of shimmering, rustling fabric. Small dabs of white and gold paint applied to the shawl lend it a rich, glimmering effect.
Although Gainsborough's true desire was to paint landscapes exclusively, portraits were in much greater demand in 18th century England. As a portraitist, he was highly acclaimed and sought after by the English aristocracy for his elegant and flattering portrayals. He developed his painting style by studying the portraits by Anthony Van Dyck. In his late forties, Gainsborough settled permanently in London and became a founding member of the Royal Academy.
James Christie Gainsborough 1699
Portrait of James Christie, Thomas Gainsborough, English, 1778, oil on canvas.
A charming and persuasive speaker, James Christie founded the fine arts auction house in London that still bears his name. He was a close friend and neighbor of Thomas Gainsborough, who painted this portrait. Gainsborough depicted the cultivated auctioneer leaning on one of the artist's own landscape paintings and holding a piece of paper in his right hand, perhaps an auction list. Christie wears a sober brown frock suit, a white linen shirt, and a formal wig. On the little finger of his left hand is a signet ring, and two pendant seals dangle from watches worn about his waist. His dress and jewelry befit a cosmopolitan English gentleman of the 1770s.
In the 18th century, London was the center of the international art trade. Public museums did not yet exist, and except for a few private collections to which one might gain entry upon request, auction houses were one of the few places where a large number of artworks were regularly available for viewing. James Christie was the founder of the auction house of Christie’s (later Christie, Manson & Woods), the most important and successful in Europe. Christie's auction rooms were next door to the studio of his friend Thomas Gainsborough, who at that time was one of the most famous portrait and landscape painters in England. The Portrait of James Christie hung in a place of honor at Christie's auction house in London until it was sold in 1846. The portrait immortalized the auctioneer and perpetuated his association with Gainsborough.
Penelope Unraveling her Web Wright of Derby 1690
Penelope Unraveling Her Web, Joseph Wright of Derby, English, 1783-1784, oil on canvas.
This canvas is one of the most accomplished of Joseph Wright of Derby’s history paintings. Josiah Wedgwood, the famous manufacturer of ceramics directly inspired by ancient vases unearthed in Italy, commissioned this painting from Joseph Wright of Derby as a tribute to female loyalty and ingenuity. In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope, awaiting the return of her husband Odysseus from the Trojan War, was beset by suitors who claimed that Odysseus had been shipwrecked. She promised to marry one of them after she completed a shroud for her father-in-law. Steadfastly loyal to her absent husband, Penelope unraveled her weaving at the end of each day to avoid remarrying.
In the bedroom, where their only son Telemachus is sleeping, she patiently awaits with their faithful dog beside her. Wright presented Penelope late at night, rewinding her thread into a ball. In the foreground, the backlit statue of Odysseus invokes his presence. Moonlight bathes the sleeping figure of their son Telemachus while Penelope looks on. The strong effect of light and dark contributes to the hushed atmosphere and increases the drama of Penelope's plight. The composition faithfully reflects the standards of Greek vase painting of the fifth and fourth centuries BC in so far as husband and wife face one another in profile (the man standing naked, holding a spear, the woman seated) in a setting rendered almost abstract by the effect of lighting. The pale insert of the child asleep in this world of soft colors is a remarkable effect that simultaneously softens the linearity of the scene and conveys a sensitivity liable to stir the beholder’s empathy.
The effects of light fascinated Joseph Wright of Derby. An attorney's son, he trained as a portrait painter in London, but he returned to Derby, the first major English painter to build his career outside the capital. With scientific experiments a source of general fascination, his meticulously painted figure groups in dark interiors illuminated by candles or lamps carried his reputation to London. His dramatic contrasts of light and shade showed the influence of artists like Gerrit van Honthorst and Rembrandt van Rijn, but Wright invented the scientific Enlightenment subject: scenes of experiments, new machinery, and the leaders of the Industrial Revolution. In 1773, Wright went to Italy. Vesuvius's volcanic eruption and Rome's annual fireworks display impressed him, and he began to understand how his interest in light sources could combine with landscape painting. Returning to Derby in 1777, he found a steady stream of portrait clients, whom he satisfied with more penetrating characterizations, more complex iconography, more subdued coloring, and, frequently, literary themes.
George Gregory Russell HS4799
Portrait of George de Ligne Gregory, John Russell, English, 1793, pastel on paper, laid on canvas.
John Russell's engaging portrait of George de Ligne Gregory was likely painted to celebrate Gregory's appointment as High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1793. Gregory, the holder of Harlaxton Manor, is shown wearing the sober, sensible garments typical of a nobleman in the early 1790s: a brown double-breasted wool coat with black collar set against a brilliant white linen cravat. In his hand he casually holds a black hat lined with glowing white satin. Gregory's hat and collar are covered with white powder from his fashionably dressed hair. He is somberly yet richly dressed, alert yet seated at ease. Gregory's decorous pose embodies Russell's ideal of depicting the sitter in a manner appropriate to his age.
The portrait's brilliant whites, velvety blacks, and masterful interplay of varied flesh tones with blues are all characteristics of Russell's virtuoso application of pastel. Russell achieved the even tonality by manually smudging broad, soft areas of crayon onto the paper. He then applied fine, linear flourishes, such as the white highlighting on the cravat and in the hat lining, with a hard, pointed crayon. Russell's extraordinary technical facility and acute powers of observation resulted in an engaging representation of the sitter. Russell's achievements in the art of pastel were the result of his thorough understanding of its technique and materials. In 1780 he published The Elements of Painting in Crayon, one of a handful of known treatises on pastel written in the 1700s. At the time of its publication, it was considered a cornerstone for understanding this difficult medium.
Louise Feuardent Millet 1657
Louise Feuardent Millet 3097c
Louise-Antoinette Feuardent, Jean-François Millet, French, 1841, oil on canvas.
Before Jean-François Millet achieved international success as a painter of peasant life, he earned his living as a portraitist. Here, he depicted Louise-Antoinette Feuardent, the wife of his lifelong friend Félix-Bienaimé Feuardent, a clerk in the library at Cherbourg. In this portrait painted shortly after her marriage, Louise-Antoinette prominently displays her wedding band on her left hand while looking out of the picture, her brown eyes calmly assessing the viewer.
Ambitiously rejecting the hard-edged academicism of contemporary society portraiture which was made popular by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Millet turned to models in 17th century Dutch painting. This portrait of a quietly contained bourgeois wife has the atmospheric stillness of a work by Gerrit Dou. Relying on a limited palette, simple tonal harmonies, tightly controlled line and composition, and fluid, often visible brushstrokes, Millet captured the restrained elegance of this demure, yet poised and self-possessed woman. The portrait's impact depends on the harmonious balance between monochromatic tones (termed by Millet the "ponderation of tonality") and between fluid brushwork and tightly controlled line. Millet's resolution of formal opposites is a means of expressing the sitter's self-containment, her alert shyness, her poised composure.
Princess Leonilla Winterhalter 2260
Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn,
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, German, 1843, oil on canvas.
In a daring pose reminiscent of harem scenes and odalisques, the Princess Leonilla of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn reclines on a low Turkish sofa on a veranda overlooking a lush tropical landscape. Only her unassailable social position made it possible for Franz Xaver Winterhalter to use such a sensual pose for a full-length portrait in Paris in 1843. The Russian-born Princess Leonilla Ivanovna Bariatinskaya married Prince Ludwig zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, one of the Tsar's aides-de-camp, in 1843, the year this portrait was painted in Paris. Her reclining pose, reminiscent of traditional Venuses and Jacques-Louis David's Madame Recamier of 1800, is appropriate to the princess' status as an international beauty and hostess with political interests. The portrait is in its original frame, made by P. Souty fils, Paris.
Princess Leonilla Winterhalter HS9075
A 1600 x 1000 detail crop from a different image taken in softer light.
Known for her great beauty and intellect, the Princess is resplendent in a luxurious gown of ivory silk moiré with a pink sash around her waist. A deep purple mantle wraps around her back and falls across her smooth arms. Under carefully arched eyebrows, her heavy lidded eyes gaze languidly at the viewer while she artfully toys with the large pearls around her neck. Winterhalter contrasted sumptuous fabrics and vivid colors against creamy flesh to heighten the sensuality of the pose, the model, and the luxuriant setting.
Born in a small village in Germany's Black Forest, Franz Xaver Winterhalter left his home to study painting at the academy in Munich. Before becoming court painter to Louis-Philippe, King of France, he joined a circle of French artists in Rome. In 1835, after he painted the German Grand Duke and Duchess of Baden, Winterhalter's international career as a court portrait painter was launched, and the royal families of England, France, and Belgium all commissioned him to paint portraits. His monumental canvases established a substantial popular reputation, and lithographic copies of the portraits helped to spread his fame.
Winterhalter's portraits were prized for their subtle intimacy, but his popularity among patrons came from his ability to create the image his sitters wished or needed to project to their subjects. Able to capture the moral and political climate of each court, Winterhalter adapted his style to each client until it seemed as if his paintings acted as press releases, issued by a master of public relations. He painted over 120 portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family, and after the accession of Napoleon III in 1848 he became the chief portraitist of the Imperial family and court of France. He also painted many other royal and aristocratic portraits, and eventually became known as the Painter of Princes. No other portrait painter ever enjoyed such an extraordinary royal patronage as Winterhalter, and only Rubens and Van Dyck worked as he did in an international network.
La Promenade Renoir 3753
La Promenade, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French, Paris, 1870, oil on canvas.
What Pierre-August Renoir himself titled this painting is unknown, but La Promenade is in part an homage to earlier artists that he greatly admired, and one of Renoir’s most beloved paintings, which he painted at the age of 29. Renoir had spent the previous summer painting outdoors with Claude Monet, who encouraged him to move toward the lighter, more luminous palette of the Impressionists and to indulge his penchant for luscious, feathery brushwork. Here Renoir retained something of Gustave Courbet's green-and-brown palette while choosing his subject from the sensual, lighthearted garden jaunts of eighteenth-century painters such as Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, whose works he had studied in the Louvre. This work is first recorded at an 1898 auction in Paris (the first owner and original title are unknown).
In La Promenade, Renoir utterly repudiated the conventional thought, primarily espoused by Ingres, that hard, clear-cut linear boundaries must be used to separate forms. Renoir followed Delacroix's point of view, which stated that there were no lines in nature, and in La Promenade, transitions between forms are for the most part soft, feathery and gradual. The overall play of varied color further emphasizes Renoir's allegiance to Delacroix's example.
Unlike the images of seduction created by his predecessors, Renoir's is a brief moment caught by chance. Two middle-class Parisians are glimpsed fleetingly while immersed in nature, possibly at a local park rather than set before a studio backdrop. The male figure in the painting is thought to be painter Alfred Sisley. Artist Edmond Maitre's mistress, a woman known as Rapha, was probably the model for the dark-haired female, although it has been suggested that it was Renoir’s own mistress Lise Tréhot. The dappled light filtering through the foliage would become a trademark of Renoir's finest Impressionist works of the 1870s and 1880s. He used a thin, oily paint mix, his glazes here floating into each other to create depth.
The Getty bought La Promenade at a Sotheby’s auction in 1989 for a record $17.7 million.
d’Anvers Renoir 3768
Albert Cahen d'Anvers, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French, near Dieppe, 1881, oil on canvas.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicted the self-assured composer Albert Cahen d'Anvers, a former pupil of César Franck, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette at a friend's home. Traditionally, portraits of men were somber, but Renoir combined decorativeness with fidelity to his sitter's appearance. Facial hair was regarded as a powerful indicator of male sexuality, and Renoir shows Cahen d'Anvers's curled mustache echoing the wallpaper's curves, his ruffled red hair referring to the potted plant's feathery leaves. Cahen d'Anvers's authority and status are suggested through his alert, commanding gaze and details such as his elaborate cigarette holder and cravat.
Renoir hoped that success in portraiture would lead to success in the wider potential market attracted by the Salon. Twenty years into his career, he had become so disenchanted with Impressionism that he called the movement a "blind alley." He modified his style, combining the loose, painterly effects of early works such as La Promenade with Renaissance painting's firm contours and weighty forms. He began receiving portrait commissions, often from wealthy Jewish patrons. Only a year after making this portrait, however, his uncertainty about achieving his aims through portraiture and his increasing anti-Semitism meant that portraiture no longer appeared to be the route to recognition.
Valabregue Cezanne 3772
Portrait of Anthony Valabrègue, Paul Cézanne, French, c. 1869-1871, oil on canvas.
When a jury member at the Paris Salon of 1866 first saw Paul Cézanne's portrait of the journalist and critic Antony Valabrègue, he exclaimed that the portrait was not painted with a knife but with a pistol. Although the Salon refused him admission, Cézanne continued to paint many portraits of his friend, including the present example, thought to have been painted c. 1869 to 1871.
Here, Cézanne used a palette knife rather than brushes. With the spatula-like instrument, he applied paint in thick, successive layers, giving the surface a complex, rough-and-smooth texture. He then used the knife to squeeze the paints together so that they mixed directly on the canvas. In this fashion Cézanne moved the paint around, eliminating contour lines and instead creating impastoed areas of color, as if sculpting in paint. In a portrait of his friend made four years earlier, the coarse, almost violent appearance created by Cézanne's technique led Valabrègue to complain in a letter to the writer Zola: "He has given me such a fierce complexion that it reminds me of the statue of Champfleury when it was stained with squashed blackberries."
Anthony Valabrègue (d. 1900), poet and critic, whose friendship with Cézanne began in their native Aix-en-Provence, joined the circle of artists and writers around Emile Zola in the 1860s. Cezanne painted Valabrègue three times between 1866 and 1871. Cézanne did not achieve any measure of public acceptance until the mid-1870s, when he and members of his Impressionist circle (Pissaro, Monet, Degas and Renoir) inaugurated their own exhibitions in Paris. Prior to that time, the establishment refused admission of their work at the annual Salons, and Cézanne's work in particular received scathing criticism. His painting technique was very direct, and at times even violent. Although his style was loathed by critics, it inspired admiration from a few like-minded artists, certain writers (especially his friend Emile Zola), and even a few art historians such as Anthony Valabrègue. Even though the two men were friends and spent a lot of time together, Valabrègue never wrote about Cézanne or his work.
Jeanne Kefer Khnopff 3786
Jeanne Kéfer, Fernand Khnopff, Belgian, Brussels, 1885, oil on canvas.
Fernand Khnopff depicted the daughter of a composer friend on a porch before a closed door, with her tiny thumb catching the edge of her bow as she reaches into her coat. With this small gesture, Khnopff captured the child's vulnerability and uncertainty in facing the outside world. To further evoke a child's perception of a world scaled for grown-ups, he framed Jeanne Kéfer's tiny body against the adult-sized door and tilted the floor ever so slightly. Jeanne is further isolated by the free, abstract brushwork in the reflective door window behind her. Typical for Khnopff, Jeanne is not warm and inviting but cut off in the shallow background, a fixed gaze of haunting intensity on her face.
Khnopff became a popular society portrait painter in the 1880s, using elements that served him well as an avant-garde Symbolist painter: visual realism and a mood of silence, isolation, and reverie. He frequently posed his models leaning against a closed door, flattening the space and resulting in a meditative, hermetically sealed image.
Jeanne Kefer Khnopff 3100
With the portrait of Jeanne Kéfer, isolated in front of a door while pinning the viewer with her intense frontal gaze, Khnopff achieved social success beginning with Brussells' high society and extending to numerous major commissions across Europe, while still continuing his Symbolist research and creating portraits such as Jeanne Kéfer, which would considerably influence many later artists.
The son of a magistrate from an old aristocratic line, Fernand-Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff was born at the family's castle in Grembergen-lez-Termonde, Belgium. In 1860 the family moved to Bruges, where his father had been appointed deputy prosecutor. They stayed there until 1864, moving to Brussels when his father was promoted. Khnopff abandoned law school after one year and entered the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1876, studying under Realist artists. After twice traveling to Paris, Khnopff left the Académie for Paris in 1879. There he trained under French Realist painters and studied Paris's artistic masterpieces. Khnopff first exhibited publicly in 1881 at the Salon de L’Essor in Brussels.
The reception of the critics was very harsh with the exception on Emile Verhaeren, a Belgian poet and playwright and one of the chief founders of Symbolism, the artistic revival at the turn of the 20th century. In response to the conservative policies of the academic Salon and L'Essor (the Literary and Art Society of Brussels), Khnopff and a group of other Belgian artists founded Les XX (Les Vingt) and held their own exhibition for ten years beginning in 1883. They invited 20 international artists each year to participate, including Camille Pisarro, Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Paul Gaugin, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh.
Dissatisfied with the lack of spiritual meaning in academic and Impressionist painting, he developed a style combining precisely depicted surfaces with enigmatic states of mind. Applying this approach to portraiture, he became popular with Brussels society and painted thirty-four portraits between 1884 and 1890. The first paintings Khnopff exhibited with Les XX displayed an Impressionist style indebted to another founding member, James Ensor. But as the two artists turned in different artistic directions, they became rivals. Around 1900 Khnopff developed an international reputation. He designed sets and costumes for a major Berlin play and numerous operas in Brussels, and was involved in many significant architectural decorative designs. Khnopff achieved a cult status during his lifetime.
Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros Bouguereau 2248
A Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros, Adolphe William Bouguereau, French, c. 1880, oil on canvas.
A young nude woman sits with her arms outstretched, pushing away a winged boy. He is Cupid, the god of love, holding up an arrow to pierce her. The title suggests that the young woman is trying to defend herself, yet she smiles and struggles unconvincingly against the mischievous little god with the tiny wings of a dove. Bougereau placed his mythological fantasy in an idyllic, Arcadia-like landscape. In fact, he made this composition in his studio, copying the landscape from the neighboring French countryside and using one of his favorite models.
Visitors to the Paris exhibitions of the 1870s and 1880s loved Adolphe Bougereau's paintings. He was one of the most honored painters of his period, although he was reviled by the avante-garde community. This painting repeats a larger composition that Bougereau made for the Paris Salon in 1880, which was described as one of the artist’s best mythological paintings, a viewer at the Salon probably saw the larger version there and requested a smaller one for private viewing.
Bouguereau was sometimes known as William-Adolphe, William Adolphe or Adolphe William Bouguereau. He generally signed as William Bouguereau or W.BOVGVEREAV-date, using the Latin alphabet. He painted within the traditional academic style during his entire career. An early reviewer compared him to Raphael, a favorite of Bouguereau, who derived his genre paintings and mythological themes from Classical subjects, concentrating on the naked female body which appealed to wealthy patrons. His painting of skin, hands and feet were especially admired. He created well over 800 paintings (many have not been found).
One of J. Paul Getty’s early acquisitions, this painting was in his collection from 1941 until he donated it to the museum in 1970.
Irises van Gogh 3106
Irises, Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, Saint-Rémy, France, 1889, oil on canvas.
After episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalization due to an argument with Paul Gaugin and serious flood damage to his home and studio, Vincent van Gogh chose to enter the asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence, France in May 1889. There, despite several disturbing relapses in the last year before his death, he created almost 130 paintings. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum's garden. The cropped composition, divided into broad areas of vivid color with monumental irises overflowing its borders (Iris germanica and a single white Iris albicans), was influenced by the decorative patterning of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, along with Pointillist color theory and Impressionist subject matter. Irises is considered to be one of van Gogh's most beautiful paintings, noted for its energetic brushwork, its luminosity and intensity of color, the isolation of the single white iris, and the low angle point of view.
There are no known drawings for this painting; Van Gogh himself considered it a study. His brother Theo quickly recognized its quality and submitted it (along with Starry Night over the Rhone) to the Salon des Indépendants in September 1889, writing Vincent of the exhibition: "[It] strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life." Each one of Van Gogh's irises is unique. He carefully studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. The painting's first owner, French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh's earliest supporters, wrote: "How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!"
Vincent van Gogh was a post-Impressionist Dutch painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art. Unsuccessful during his lifetime (he sold only one of his 900 paintings), he was the archetypical tortured artist who painted for only ten years from 1880 until he took his own life in 1890. After his death, memorial exhibitions and several retrospectives spread knowledge of his work, and by the middle of the 20th century he was considered to be one of the greatest painters in history. His work is now among the the most valuable in the world, with some (including Irises) valued at over $100 million.
Irises was acquired by the Getty in 1990 for a record price of between $55-60 million.
Spring Alma-Tadema HS9056
Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Spring, still in its original frame, inspired by Classical architecture and designed by the artist himself. At right is a 907 x 2000 crop from a different image, which was taken on a darker day with less natural light.
Spring Alma-Tadema 1665 LG
(907 x 2000)
Spring, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dutch, 1894, oil on canvas.
A procession of women and children descending marble stairs carry and wear brightly colored flowers. Cheering spectators fill the windows and roof of a classical building. Lawrence Alma-Tadema here represented the Victorian custom of sending children into the country to collect flowers on the morning of May 1, or May Day, but placed the scene in ancient Rome, based loosely on the Roman festival of the Floralia (a fertility festival similar to the Cerelia, which was dedicated to Ceres, goddess of agriculture). In this way, he suggested the festival's great antiquity through architectural details, dress, sculpture, and musical instruments based on Roman originals. His curiosity about the ancient world was insatiable, and the knowledge he acquired was incorporated into over three hundred paintings of ancient archeological and architectural design.
Alma-Tadema completed this painting in 1894 after four years of sporadic work and at least one alteration. The architecture and groups of figures provide the basic structure of the composition and are the key to the painting's subject, but the color, life, and interest come from the details that cover its surface like fantastic embroidery on a conventionally cut garment. Bits of columns, bunches of flowers, glimpses of silver and bronze reveal Alma Tadema's concentration on small issues. Alma-Tadema derived his architecture from contemporary stage sets and trompe l'oeil wall paintings found in Pompeii. Details give Spring not only form but also color and focus. The basic stage set is white, and the actors wear pale-colored gowns, so the whole would be very bland without the addition of scarlet and purple flowers, yellow garlands, green malachite, spotted marbles, bronzes, and Pompeiian red walls. Colors become increasingly subtle or more widely dispersed the farther they are from front and center.
Exhibited to great effect at the Royal Academy in 1895, reproduced in thousands of prints, and sold at ever higher prices in the decades preceding the First World War, it vanished from sight after the artist's memorial exhibition in 1913. After his death, the artist's reputation perished due to changing styles in art, changing tastes, and the effects of World War I, although his large panoramic depictions of Greek and Roman life caught the attention of Hollywood (Caesar’s triumphant return to Rome in Cecil B. De Mille's film Cleopatra (1934) was inspired by this painting). Spring reemerged from obscurity in Southern California in the 1970s in the wake of publicity surrounding television personality Allen Funt (Candid Camera) and his collection of works of art by "the worst painter of the 19th century" (Alma-Tadema was despised by 20th century art critics, especially John Ruskin who made that quote). In 1972 Spring was purchased at auction by the Getty Museum after sharp competition from Funt. Since then, it has become the favorite work of art in the museum (based on comments from the viewing public, including my wife).
Mischief and Repose Godward 1681 LG
(2000 x 897)
Mischief and Repose, John William Godward, English, 1895, oil on canvas.
For many Neoclassical artists, ancient settings enabled explorations of sexuality that were not permissible in other contexts. Stretched out on a tiger skin, a young woman, personifying repose, reclines seductively as her companion, embodying mischief, teases her with an ivory hairpin. The figures' sensuousness, highlighted by their diaphanous robes fashioned after chitons worn by women in ancient Greece and their luxurious surroundings, is typical of painter John William Godward, who painted numerous scenes of idealized beauties in Pompeian interiors. The colored marble walls and the black-and-white floor mosaic in the doorway are copied from Roman residences discovered near the Bay of Naples.
For over half a century after the continued excavations of Pompeii began in 1748, artists were fascinated with Greek and Roman life. John William Godward painted many scenes like this one of idealized beauties in calm, often sterile environments. In this painting, the figure of Repose is arranged seductively, with her breast and nipple showing through the thin material of her dress. But there is something distinctly untouchable about these women; they do not engage the viewer with an inviting gaze nor solicit personal contact. Like their antique setting, they possess a monumental, marmoreal quality, resembling Greek statues frozen in time.
Godward was inspired by the painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and imitated his Neoclassical style. Both were counted among the members of the "Marble School", known for its depictions of subjects drawn from ancient Greek and Roman life placed in elaborate settings, with especially careful and realistic rendering of details like marble and flowers.
Bridge over the Water Lily Pond Monet HS9659
The Bridge over the Water Lily Pond, Claude Monet, French, 1905, oil on canvas.
Claude Monet's water lily pond at his house in Giverny was the source of over 300 paintings. Here he painted the smaller pond with its Japanese footbridge in a wide-angle view, playing with the illusion of depth by reflecting the sky and plants on the water. Monet designed his gardens and the water meadow with its lily ponds, and occupied himself with the water lilies for over 20 years, painting numerous different perspectives in a fluid, abstract style, some close detail scenes and others with a wider point of view.
Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionism, along with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisely and Frédéric Bazille (who died at 28 in the Franco-Prussian War). The Impressionists constructed their pictures from freely brushed colours that took precedence over lines and contours, following the example of painters such as Eugène Delacroix and J. M. W. Turner. They also painted realistic scenes of modern life, and often painted outdoors (en plein air). Previously, still lifes and portraits as well as landscapes were usually painted in a studio. Their style violated the rules of academic painting, and their work was treated with great hostility by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which preferred carefully finished works which looked realistic upon close examination. The Impressionist style was regularly rejected for exhibition in the Paris Salon, with especially harsh criticism in 1863, but after Emperor Napoleon III saw the rejected works, he decreed that the public should be allowed to decide for themselves and the Salon de Refusés was inaugurated in 1863. The Salon des Refusés drew attention to the existence of a new tendency in art and attracted more visitors than the regular Salon. Requests for subsequent Salon des Refusés in 1867 and 1872 were denied by the Académie.
The Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting en plein air. They portrayed overall visual effects instead of details, and used short "broken" brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed colour (not blended smoothly or shaded, as was customary) to achieve an effect of intense colour vibration. The term Impressionism itself derives from the title of Monet's painting Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which was exhibited in 1874 in the first of the independent exhibitions mounted by Monet and his associates, the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs (Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers) as an alternative to the Salon de Paris. In this first exhibition, he also displayed The Luncheon, 1868 (which had been rejected by the Paris Salon of 1870), as one of four oils and seven pastels. While the first exhibition did not yield many sales, Monet gradually became more successful, and after the death of his first wife Camille in 1878 he created some of his best work of the 19th century. By 1890, he was quite prosperous, and already beginning to create his extensive water lily series.
Bridge over the Water Lily Pond was on loan to the Getty from a private collector.
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