May 31, 2013

The Art of M.C. Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 – 1972) was a famous Dutch graphic artist otherwise known as M.C. Escher. Uniquely left-handed like Leonardo and Michelangelo, his optical illusions, mind-boggling puzzles, and mathematically inspired woodcuts, mezzotints, 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. His family moved to Arnhem, where he spent most of his childhood. His father, a working civil engineer, significantly influenced Escher's obsession with architecture and mathematics. Although incredibly intelligent, Escher failed all of his exams in high school and barely made it into the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem.

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

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

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

Escher traveled to Italy after finishing school and was inspired by the countryside. He spent long hours drawing and sketching the designs for the various prints he would make after returning home. In addition to several trips to Italy, Escher also traveled through Switzerland and Spain. 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 that were 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 had a significant influence on Escher's work.

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

Tessellations are created from repeating shapes covering a plane without gaps or overlaps. A reoccurring theme in Escher's later work. His artistic style is characterized by 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 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 masterpiece Liberty Leading the People, inspired by the French revolution, famously and truly 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. Orphaned at age 16, he became a massive follower of the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David and a talented you artist. Early in his career, Delacroix received several coveted commissions for public buildings. He painted large, typical of the current Neoclassical style in vogue during this time. 

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

While his contemporaries drew inspiration from classical Greek themes and the Italian Renaissance painters who valued simplicity and calm grandeur. Delacroix was unique in that he was inspired by the brushwork of the famous Peter Paul Rubens, and he drew his inspiration from the Venetian Renaissance painters. They valued the 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 masterpiece. 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 and 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 representing the French Romantic period. The Romantics' intent was to harness the power of imagination and 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.

“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.”
-- Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix
(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. He traveled through Spain, Tangiers, Algiers, and Morocco. He soon began painting architecture and the subjects he 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. Rather than utilizing the clarity of the outline or the carefully modeled forms of Neoclassicism, Delacroix used incredibly expressive brushwork to capture the energy and movement of his subjects. He 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 can 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 today's contemporary art critiques, 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 most were certainly not allowed to paint unless they lived in an Abbey. Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation of artists who came after Caravaggio and is well known for painting courageous or strong-minded women 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, her mother passed away when she was twelve. Her grieving father then unexpectedly took her on as his apprentice and taught her how to paint like a master. She was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, an accomplished painter, and talented artist. He introduced her to the famous artists of Rome of the time, including the infamous Caravaggio with whom he was close friends. Caravaggio casually stopped by their home to borrow props and perhaps even encouraged her to paint.

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

In 1611 when Artemisia was 18 years old, Agostino Tassi an artist, who worked with her father unfortunately secluded and raped her. When her father found out, he demanded justice and filed formal charges against Tassi for the injury and damage to his daughter's honor.

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

The trial was horrendous and lasted over seventeen months Artemisia was physically tortured publicly in the courtroom to recant her statement and test the truth of her accusations with counter-accusations from Tassi that she was not a virgin, a whore, and a talentless painter. 

Tassi was finally convicted and sentenced to prison for the rape, but only served less than one year because he had connections with the pope.

(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 has a unique perspective.

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

Artemisia's style is characterized by "tenebrism," from the Italian word "tenebroso" (dark or gloomy), which describes a painting style where dark colors dominate over the light ones or the extreme contrasts of light and dark areas have dramatic illumination. 

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

In 1614, Gentileschi became the first official female member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, which was only made possible by her most famous patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo II of the Medici family. Artemisia’s unusual liberties combined with her traumatic experience, allowed her to create some of the best chiaroscuro paintings of that time, and her work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

  • King, R. Art. New York: DK Publishing. 2008.