30 June 2011

Lighting America: Luminism

In observing the 4th of July we also celebrate the diverse physical beauty of the United States. Luminism was a poetic art movement of the late nineteenth century that captured light as it played across the American landscape. It was derived from the Hudson River School that was influenced by European Romanticism. Luminist paintings often depicted cool waterscapes reflecting nuanced skies. These dramatic works were America's counterpart to French Impressionism. American painter and printmaker Fritz Henry Lane (1804-1865) was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts and would have pursued a maritime career if it were not for a life-long handicap. He instead translated his knowledge of nautical subjects to paintings such as Boston Harbor. Connecticut born artist and engraver John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) is best known for his landscapes and seascapes of upstate New York and New England as characterized by his painting Hudson River. Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was a German American painter who is remembered for his panoramic paintings of the mythic West; in The Shore of the Turquoise Sea he painted translucent tropical waves.


26 June 2011

Dressed to Kill: The Paintings of Ignacio Zuloago

Spanish Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (1870-1945) created dramatic images using the culture, landscape and folklore of Iberia. Although he studied painting in Rome and Paris it was the great Spanish masters, Francisco de Zurbarán, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, and Francisco Goya, that ultimately influenced his work. A reoccurring theme in his paintings is the figure of the Terero or bullfighter in the traditional traje de luces (suit of lights). Zuloaga also depicted his female subjects wearing the Spanish mantilla and peineta (comb) as seen in his portrait of the aristocrat and socialite, María del Rosario de Silva, Duchess of Alba. The painting is reminiscent of another Duchess of Alba, María Cayetana de Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba. Goya painted her in white, known as The White Duchess and in black, which is called The Black Duchess.

18 June 2011

Argus, Hermes and Hera: How the Peacock got his Eyes

The month of June is named for the Roman Goddess Juno. Her Greek counterpart Hera was associated with the peacock. It was the goddess who retrieved the hundred eyes of her slain servant Argus and set them like jewels amid the feathers of her favorite bird. At Hera's request the ever watchful giant was guarding the nymph Io from her unfaithful husband Zeus. The god had transformed her into a beautiful white heifer in an attempt to hide her from his jealous wife. Zeus sent Hermes to sing Agrus to sleep, sealing his eyes with his magic staff and then decapitating him. Russian painter Pyotr Ivanovich Sokolov (1753-1791) depicted Argus in human form being enchanted by Hermes. The god holds his caduceus and wears a winged hat in the painting by German artist Hans Thoma (1839-1924). Italian Baroque painter Orazio Riminaldi (1586-1631) shows Hera putting the eyes on the peacock's tail while Hermes flies away in the distance.

11 June 2011

Truth is Fire: Verita in Art

Perugian born Cesare Ripa (1560 -1622) wrote Iconologia, an emblem book depicting allegorical figures of virtues, vices, passions, arts and sciences. The woodcut Verita personifies truth as a naked woman holding the sun in her right hand while standing on a globe of the world. In her left hand she holds an open book with a palm leaf. The sun represents the clarity and illumination of truth. French figure painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911) replaced the sun with a mirror reflecting the truth in his La Vérité. The French-Russian theatre actress Sophie Croizette (1847-1901) modeled for the painting. Nuda Veritas or Naked Truth by Viennese Secessionist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is accompanied by a quote from German poet, novelist and composer Leopold Schefer (1784-18620), "Truth is fire, and to speak the truth means to shine and to burn".