May 31, 2013

The Art of M.C. Escher

Mauritus Cornelis Escher (1898 – 1972) nicknamed “Mauk” or otherwise know as M.C. was a famous Dutch graphic artist. Uniquely left handed like Leonardo and Michelangelo, his optical illusions, mind boggling puzzles and mathematically inspired woodcuts, mezzo-tints and lithographs prints are still in high demand today.
(Escher, M.C. Ascending and Descending. c. 1960. lithograph)

Born in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Escher was the fourth child. Five years after, his family moved to Arnhem, where he spent most of his childhood. His father, a working civil engineer, had a huge influence on Escher's obsession with architecture and mathematics. Although incredibly intelligent, Escher failed all of his high schools exams and barely made it into the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem.

(Escher, M.C. Hand with Reflecting Sphere. c. 1935. lithograph)

His graphic art teacher Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, looked at his sketches and immediately encouraged him to continue on with graphic arts. With only one week at the school, Escher informed his father that he would rather study graphic art instead of architecture.

(Escher, M.C. Sky and Water. c. 1938. woodcut)

Inspired by the Italian countryside, Escher traveled to Italy soon after he finished school. He spend long hours drawing and sketching for the various prints that he would make after he returned home. He also traveled through Switzerland, Spain and he made several returning trips to Italy. He met his wife in Italy in 1924 and they were both settled in Rome by 1935. As the rise of fascism became prominent, they moved to the Netherlands where Escher spent the rest of his life.  

(Escher, M.C. Belvedere. c. 1958. lithograph)

The patterns sculpted into the walls of the Alhambra, a fourteenth-century Moorish castle in Granada, Spain and the tessellations found on the floors of the Italian basilicas and churches has a huge influence on Escher’s work.

(Escher, M.C. Swans. c. 1938. woodcut) 

Tessellations are created from repeating shapes that cover a plane without any gaps or overlaps. A reoccurring theme in Escher's later work. His artistic style is characterized by the use of positive and negative shapes interacting together built around the concepts of infinity, unrealistic constructions and architecture.

(Escher, M.C. Reptiles. c. 1943. lithograph)

Manipulated architecture, perspective drawing and fantasy, Escher created his own and unique worlds with meticulous detail, mathematically accurate but physically impossible and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)


February 5, 2013

The Art of Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix

Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863) was a famous French painter, draft-person, lithographer, writer, art critic but most of all, he was regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school. His master piece Liberty Leading the People, inspired by the French revolution, truly and famously embodied the French Romantic artistic ideals.

(Delacroix, Eugène. Liberty Leading the People. c. 1830. oil on canvas. Louvre Paris, France.)

Delacroix was born in Charenton Saint-Maurice near Paris but he was orphaned at age 16.  He became a talented young artist and a huge follower of the Neoclassical painter, Jacques-Louis David. Delacroix received a number of coveted commissions for public buildings early in his career, so he painted them large and used themes that revolved around Greek mythology.  This was typical of the current Neoclassical style that was in vogue at that time.

(Delacroix, Eugène. A Girl Seated in the Cemetery  c. 1823-1824. oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.)

The Neoclassical painters drew their inspiration from Greek classical art and the Italian Renaissance painters, who valued simplicity and calm grandeur. Delacroix was unique, instead he was inspired by the brushwork of the famous Peter Paul Rubens and he drew his inspiration from the Venetian Renaissance painters, whose work was sensuous and appealed to the viewer's emotions.

(Delacroix, Eugène. The Death of Sardanapalus. c. 1827. oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.)

Delacroix eventually studied under the famous artist, Théodore Géricault. He even posed as one of the figures in the grand and famous Raft of Medusa master piece. After the painting's completion, he was deeply influenced by the effects of its magnitude and he began to use his art to make bold statements that revolved around an emotional response.  He even tackled scenes with severe violence.  The "man versus nature" theme as well as the use of emotion became typical of the Romantic movement during its height from 1800 - 1840.

(Delacroix, Eugène. Portrait of a Turk in a Turban. c. 1826. pastel on paper. Louvre, Paris, France.)

Géricault's Raft of Medusa and Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People are two of the most famous pieces that represent the French Romantic period. The Romantics intent was to harness the power of imagination and to take the viewer on an escape from their everyday lives. Romanticism was a counter reaction to the industrial revolution and the past Age of Enlightenment.  Delacroix states, “I do not care for reasonable painting at all. My turbulent mind needs agitation, needs to liberate itself. There is in me some black depth that must be appeased.”

(Delacroix, Eugène. Arab Horseman Attacked by a Lion. c. 1849. oil on canvas. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.) 

In 1832, Ambassador Charles de Mornay asked Delacroix to embark on a mission that would smooth over public relations with Morocco's Sultan Moulay Abd al-Rahman and he couldn't refuse.  During his adventure, he traveled through Spain, Tangiers, Algiers and Morocco.  He soon began painting architecture and the subjects that he had encountered in North Africa. The ancient, proud and exotic culture moved him to write "I am quite overwhelmed by what I have seen."

(Delacroix, Eugène. Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains. c. 1863. oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)

Delacroix's work was characterized by passion and color. He used incredibly expressive brushwork which captures the energy and movement of his subjects rather than utilizing the clarity of the outline or the carefully modeled forms from Neoclassicism.  Delacroix became known as the “master of color” for his  innovative color techniques and his work eventually inspired the future French Impressionist movement.

If you ever have the chance to see one of Delacroix’s original paintings in person be sure to get up close and observe his unique brushwork. It will reveal the artistic genius, which is still revered even by the present art critiques today and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

October 21, 2012

The Art of Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656) was a female Italian Baroque painter in a time when women were not accepted as artists and certainly not even allowed to paint. Today she is now considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation after Caravaggio and is well known for painting strong minded women that dominate over men from mythology.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1625. oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.)

Gentileschi was born in Rome to the painter, Orazio Gentileschi. Her mother died when she was twelve and her father unexpectedly took her on as an apprentice. He taught her how to paint and introduced her to the artists of Rome of that time, including Michelangelo.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Self Portrait. c. 1638. oil on canvas. Royal Collection, Windsor.)

Unfortunately in 1611, an artist who worked with Artemisia’s father, Agostino Tassi was able to seclude her and then he raped Artemisia. Her father filed charges against him for the injury and damage of his daughter.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Judith Beheading Holofernes. c. 1611-12. oil on canvas. Museo Nationale di Capodimonte, Naples.)

The trial would last over seventeen months with counter accusations from Tassi that Artemisia was not a virgin, a whore and a talentless painter. During his trial, Artemisia was also tortured in order to test the truth of her evidence. Tassi was finally convicted for the rape but he served less than one year in prison.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Judith and her Maidservant. c. 1612-1613. oil on canvas. Galleria Palatina, Florence.)
During the trial and after Gentileschi began to design and paint the story of Judith slaying Holofernes from the Bible. Judith was already a popular subject matter of the time but, Gentileschi’s portrayal of Judith is both original and unique.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Penitent Magdalene. c. 1630. oil on canvas.)

In 1614, Gentileschi became the first official female member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, which was probably made possible by her patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo II of the Medici family. Artemisia's style is characterized by tenebrism, from the Italian word tenebronso (murky) which is also called dramatic illumination. This style of painting uses very pronounced chiaroscuro or the high contrast of light and dark.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Yael and Sisara. c. 1620. oil on canvas. Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Museum.)

Artemisia’s unusual liberties combined with her painful experiences and talent allowed her to create some of the best chiaroscuro paintings of that time and her work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing. 2008.