Category Archives: 19th century

ORIGINS OF GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST PAINTING: THE EARLY MODERN ART CAREER OF ALEXEI VON JAWLENSKY (1864-1941), RUSSIAN-ÉMIGRÉ PAINTER, FROM 1889 TO THE BLUE RIDER IN MUNICH IN 1911.

Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.

SUMMARY:

Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), a young Russian-émigré artist to Germany beginning in the mid 1890’s, became one of the most progressive avant-garde modernist artists of his generation. His international search—from Russia to France, England and the Low Countries, as well as his lifelong expatriate base in Munich, Germany—led him to experiment and synthesize unto German Expressionism the main currents of modern art styles before World War One. This included significant borrowings from Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Jawlensky, with Russian compatriot Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and German painter Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), among several others, pursued a decade-long dialogue of their individual experimentation, particularly in the liberation of color and form, as, in part, an artistic response to a modern society increasingly saturated by industrialization and mechanization. Within the socio-economic context of a rising newly-formed German Empire before World War I, these emergent German Expressionists sought to free the object (and unto the natural world) from its objective fixity and situate it within the inner feelings and spirit of the artist. Within European modernism, Jawlensky developed a wide network of contacts and took especial inspiration from modern painters such as Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and others. Jawlensky sought in modern art exhibitions and the co-founding of, and participation in, the New Munich Artist’s Association in 1909 and Der Blaue Reiter in 1911, to lead modern art towards representational expressionism and abstraction.

Alexei von Jawlensky, Self Portrait, 1912.

In 1871, the newly-founded German Empire fused together most of the German speaking states in Central Europe under Prussian leadership. Over the next 60 years under several different forms of government—that of Emperor Wilhelm I (1871-1888), his grandson Wilhelm II (1888-1918) and, following World I, the Weimer Republic (1918-1933) —Germany worked to create and define a political and cultural identity all its own.

In World War I (1914-1918), the recent German Empire fought to consolidate its gains but the effort failed—and Central European powers were divided up into smaller states after the war. The German Empire had risen and fallen in less than 50 years.1

Before unification in 1871, German-speaking denizens of Central Europe came from many independent and differing political units. The Kingdom of Prussia, which in 1816 annexed the Kingdom of Brandenburg, was the foremost German power alongside Austria. Long-held liberal dreams based on the French Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic empire (defeated at Waterloo in 1815) and later mid-19th century pan-European revolutions looked to unify these diverse states into a national union based on self-determination. But these idealistic political aspirations did not reflect all the conditions and facts in these lands.

Napoleon’s invasions into Central Europe in 1806 and 1807 resulted in German state governments that were conservative and anti-constitutional monarchies. When unification came for Germany in 1871, it was not by popular uprisings or democracy. It was the diplomatic handiwork of the six-foot-three-inch Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).

Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).

In 1849, Otto von Bismarck was elected to the Landtag, or Prussian parliament. Following a decade of government service, König Wilhelm of Prussia appointed Bismarck in 1862 as Minister President of Prussia and Foreign Minister. This gave Bismarck virtual absolute power.

In 1866, Bismarck started a short, decisive war with Austria. It proved Prussia was the dominant force in German territory. The Austrian war led to the Prussians with their allies annexing territories and forming the North German Confederation comprised of 22 German states. Nationalism throughout German-speaking Europe rose significantly after this military victory over Austria which had in the contest lost its dominant power position in Europe.

By 1870, German unification was both cause and effect of German nationalism. Unification was opposed by European nations, particularly France, as well as German expansion. The smaller German kingdoms reacted to the diplomatic opposition by uniting with Prussia. It was France that, since the 17th century, was viewed as the actual destabilizing force in Europe, and not a new Germany.

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 which started when France was maneuvered by Bismarck to declare war on the North German Confederation, was a disastrous defeat for France. The Prussian victory allowed them to annex Alsace-Lorraine from the French and became another impetus for independent German states to join a united Germany. The German empire was founded and declared on New Year’s Day, 1871. Bismarck crowned Wilhelm as Kaiser Wilhelm I, and Bismarck became Grand Chancellor.

With Austria as an exception, Bismarck ruled the German states as the Second Reich. He brutally censored and repressed any contradictory forces to German nationalism—including the Catholic Church and the Communists and worked to mold scattered German speaking residents into one political and cultural nationality. This nationalistic vision of centralized power—and entangling alliances to support or offset it—led to the mechanized death mill of World War I. In that conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire—the so-called Central Powers—fought the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and, later, the United States.

In this “Great War” the total number of military and civilian casualties on both sides was around 40 million—about 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. Of the 20 million deaths, it included about 10 million in the military and 10 million civilians. The Allies lost almost 6 million soldiers and the Central Powers lost about 4 million.2

World War I was a dividing point in modern history which also had effects on modern art in Germany. Many young, avant-garde artists were killed in action as soldiers in the war. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), both Russian-émigrés, had to flee Germany, only to emerge from the general carnage years later. After the war, German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) believed that his work could be picked up precisely where it was left off before the war. But Gropius quickly realized that was not going to happen going forward, as if the worldwide calamity could exclude art-making in its whirlwind.

Prior to World War I, however, the German Empire experienced dynamic activity and prosperity. During Wilhelm II’s 30-year reign (1888-1918), rapid industrialization, population growth, and the growing gap between an increasingly wealthy and politically influential elite and disenchanted working class rippled throughout the empire. Berlin became Germany’s national capital and Europe’s young new city.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, c. 1901, by German painter Christian Heyden (1854-1939).

Antique map of the German Empire in 1900 showing population density.

Within this modern-state commotion, the role of art in Germany became a battle for the nation’s soul: from the pole of freedom to produce outstanding artworks in the modernist spirit to a regressive cultural heritage with proto-fascist overtones. Cultural conservatives argued for turning inward to German sources for the future direction of German art. These conservative critics dismissed French Impressionism as nonacademic, genre painting of modern life. Above all, it was foreign.

Conversely, the Berlin Secession (1898-1934) and Neue Galerie Thannhauser in Munich challenged academic and state-sponsored artwork and introduced international styles. These venues were where Germans went to see post-Impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh and later Cubists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

By the dawn of the 20th century, what it meant to be German, and among a culturally diverse citizenry, was a 30-year experimental construct forged by Bismarck using raw power so to achieve a unified empire on the world stage. The fall of that empire and the peace that followed it, helped set the stage for the rise of Fascism leading to World War II.

Modern artists of the key artistic movements of the Wilhelmine period, particularly Expressionist art groups such as Die Brücke (“The Bridge”) in Dresden from 1905 to 1913 and Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”) in Munich from 1911 to 1914 — avant-garde forms of modernist abstraction and romanticism — wanted to offset conventional social values based on German industrial materialism by using a contradictory form of self-expression based on the sensual and spiritual.

The issue of what exactly was, or would be, “German” art in the modern age were the stakes for these artists. These artists sought to unify body and soul by expressing internal qualities through exterior appearances and saw this integrated expression as their contribution to that societal and artistic endeavor.3 Progressive artists never dismissed the idea of a German art. They sought its expression in avant-garde artistic elements and forms thereby rejecting its basis on historical and cultural anecdote or nostalgia.

Published in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1900 the map of the Russian Empire is labeled in French with topography relief shown by hachures and Paris as the meridian reference. Transcontinental rail lines in Russia and extend to Paris. Jawlensky, born in western Russia in 1864 was stationed in the 1880’s as a soldier in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As a professional artist in Germany in the 1890’s and afterwards, Jawlensky returned to visit Russia including in the year this map was made. (see- https://www.mapsofthepast.com/russia-empire-kartograficheskoe-circa-1900.html

Alexei von Jawlensky, born in Torzhok in western Russia in 1864, started his career in the military. At 25 years old, in 1889, Jawlensky, stationed in Moscow, requested a transfer to St. Petersburg to study painting at the Academy of Arts. In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky learned about the French Impressionists, particularly the artwork of Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). In 1892, while taking painting lessons with Russian naturalist painter Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Jawlensky met realist painter Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938) who became his mistress and dedicated patron. In 1893 Von Werefkin invited Jawlensky to her father’s estate in Kovno governorate (modern Lithuania) where Jawlensky met Hélène Nesnakomoff (1881-1965), Von Werekin’s personal maid. In time she became Jawlensky’s mistress, mother of his child and, ultimately, in 1922, his wife.

Jawlensky at 23 years old in his military uniform in Russia in 1887.

Marianne von Werefkin.

After seven years studying art in St. Petersburg, Jawlensky’s request to leave the military was granted. He left in early 1896 with a 20-year half pension and the rank of staff captain. That summer Jawlensky traveled through Germany, Holland and Belgium with Marianne von Werefkin and a female friend. Returning to St. Petersburg by way of Paris and London, Jawlensky viewed and admired artwork of J. W. M. Turner (1775-1851) and living artists, James Whistler (1834-1903) and Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898).

In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky entrusted his possessions with family in Russia. With two young painter friends, Igor Grabar (1871-1960) and Dmitrij Kardovskij (1866-1943), he set off to settle in Munich at the end of 1896. Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff joined Jawlensky soon after. From his arrival into Munich, Jawlensky lived, with the exception of World War I, in Germany until his death in 1941. In 1897 Jawlensky, Von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff took an apartment at Giselastrasse 23, a residential street near the Englischen Garten, where they lived until 1914.

Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky in their studio at Gut Blagodat, 1893.

In Munich Jawlensky attended Anton Ažbe’s art school where he met other young German artists, and in 1897, fellow Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. Anton Ažbe (1862-1905), a Slovene realist painter, was a master of human anatomy. He enforced figure drawing studies in his classes which Kandinsky loathed but Jawlensky had been studying since 1890. Kandinsky did appreciate Ažbe’s expressed view that an artist should never conform to a theory or set of rules. Ažbe, who died at 43 years old of cancer in 1905, said: “You must know your own anatomy but in front of the easel you must forget it.”4

Anton Ažbe, Self portrait, 1886.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Jawlensky met Kandinsky in 1897 in Munich at Anton Ažbe’s art school.

After five months in Munich, Jawlensky traveled to Venice in April 1897. He went with Werefkin, Grabar and Kardovskij, and Anton Ažbe. The next summer, in 1898, Jawlensky returned to Russia with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff to visit family. That autumn the Russian group returned to Munich, where artists continued to draw heads and nudes at Azbé’s school. In 1898 Jawlensky met German Symbolist painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) and Kandinsky, in 1900, matriculated in his art class.5 Jawlensky’s conversation with von Stuck was not on the expression of German character in Symbolist art but the technical issue of working in tempura. In 1898 Jawlensky also received a visit from Russian portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911).

Franz von Stuck, Lucifer, 1890, oil on canvas, Bulgaria. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, critics observed that Franz von Stuck (1863–1928) was “one of the most versatile and ingenious of contemporary German artists.” Jawlensky met the renowned Symbolist painter, architect, designer, and co-founder of the Munich Secession in 1898.  

Valentin Serov (1865-1911). Self portrait, c. 1888.

In 1899, with Grabar and Kardovskij, Jawlensky executed the ambitious project to open their own painting school in Munich which was short-lived. Kardovskij returned to Russia in 1900 to eventually become a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1907. Grabar returned to Russia in 1903 to became director of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Jawlensky, remaining in Munich, was painting still lifes and looking for color harmonies.

Painter Dmitri Nikolayevich Kardovsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Igor Grabar, and Jawlensky in 1900.

Alexei von Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Samowar (Still life with a samovar), 1901.

Jawlensky visited Russia in 1901 with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff. They visited the Ansbaki estate in the Vitebsk governorate (modern Belarus). When Jawlensky fell ill possibly with typhus, he recovered at the Black Sea with Marianne von Werefkin. There he met Kardovskij and his wife, Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya (1875-1952), a painter who studied at Anton Ažbe’s in Munich in 1898 and 1899.

Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, Self portrait, 1917.

The following year, in January 1902, a son, Andreas, was born to Jawlensky and Hélène Nesnakomoff. Jawlensky was continuing to paint still lifes and figural pictures, some of which were influenced by Swedish artist, Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Jawlensky’s pictures featured as models Hélène and her sister, Maria, after she arrived to Munich in November 1902 to aid the new parents. In a visit in 1902, Prussian-born artist Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) advised Jawlensky to send a painting to the Berlin Secession. Jawlensky did so and it was exhibited.

Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Self portrait, 1896.

Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), Self-portrait with Skeleton, 1896, Lenbachaus, Munich. Corinth is a leading figure painter marked by draftsmanship and brushwork. Like Jawlensky, Corinth pursued his artistic training throughout Europe, including in Munich and Paris, and settled permanently in Berlin in 1902. (https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/ap-201701.)

Jawlensky, Hyazinthentöpfe (Haycinth-pots), oil on canvas, 1902. (https://www.artsy.net/artwork/alexej-von-jawlensky-jacinthes

Jawlensky, Stillleben mit orangen (Still Life with Oranges), 1902, oil on canvas.

Jawlensky, Cottage in the Woods, 1903.

Between 1903 and 1907, with Munich as his base, Jawlensky spent much time in France, including in Paris, Brittany and Normandy. In 1903, as Marianne von Werefkin and Georgian artist Alexander Salzmann (1874-1934) traveled in Normandy, Jawlensky was in Paris where he was fascinated with the color and texture of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). That same year, in Munich, Jawlensky attended lectures on aesthetics by Theodor Lipps and met the young, eccentric Austrian printmaker Alfred Kubin (1877-1959). Lipps’ theory of aesthetics involved the overlap of psychology and philosophy creating a framework for the concept of Einfühlung (“empathy”) which, defined as “projecting oneself onto the object of perception,” became a key component of Expressionism.5

In 1904, an over-worked Kubin married Hedwig Gründler, an older widow. In early 1906 Jawlensky painted her portrait in his Munich apartment before the Kubins left Munich to live in Austria. In the 23 x 30 inch, oil-on-cardboard portrait, Jawlensky’s colors and modeling of the face showed the influences of French Impressionism and emergent Fauvism.

Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1903. (Dube, p.114).

Jawlensky, Porträt Hedwig Kubin (Portrait of Hedwig Kubin), 1906, oil on cardboard.

Jawlensky stayed in Reichertshausen in the summer of 1904. A woody hamlet 15 miles east of Heidelburg, Jawlensky painted a series of landscapes. In 1905 he followed up with a series of landscapes at Füssen. Jawlensky made friends with Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), a young Russian painter who relocated to Munich in 1904 in admiration of Jawlensky. Like the older artist, Bechtejeff stayed in Munich until 1914. When Jawlensky visited the 38-year-old German composer Felix vom Rath (1866-1905), son of a wealthy industrialist, Jawlensky saw for the first time at his home a painting by Paul Gauguin (Riders on the Beach of Tahiti, 1902, Essen). At Vom Rath’s home, Jawlensky also met pianist Anna Langenhan-Hirzel (1874-1951).7

Gauguin, Riders on the Beach, 1902, Essen. Jawlensky saw this, his first Gauguin, in a private collection in Germany in 1904.

Jawlensky, Selbstbildnis mit Zylinder (Self-portrait with a top hat), 1904, private collection.

Jawlensky, Hélène im spanischen Kostüm (Hélène in Spanish costume), 1904, Wiesbaden.

Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Weinflasche, 1904.

Jawlensky, Marianne von Werfekin, 1905, Switzerland.

Jawlensky, Portrait de Madame Sid, 1905.

Jawlensky, The Hunchback, 1905.

The middle years of the first decade of the 20th century—1905, 1906 and 1907—were key to Jawlensky’s artistic development. It is likely that Jawlensky traveled to France in 1905. He exhibited six paintings in the Paris Salone d’Automne in 1905, the exhibition which gave birth to the Fauves.

In January 1906 Jawlensky returned to St. Petersburg to exhibit nine paintings. As evidenced in his correspondence, he traveled to France in 1906. He visited Paris and Carantec in Brittany which was a region where Gauguin had worked. That same year Jawlensky exhibited ten paintings at the Paris Salone d’Automne in the newly-formed Russian Pavilion organized by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). At the salon, either in 1905 or 1906, Jawlensky met Henri Matisse (1869-1954) whose Fauvist artwork Jawlensky unreservedly admired. During Jawlensky’s visit to France in 1906 he also met Russian painter Elisabeth Ivanowna Epstein (1879-1956) and studied the artwork of Gauguin, Paul Cézanne (who died in October 1906), and Maurice de Vlaminck (1872-1958). Over the next couple of years, Jawlensky wrestled with Cézanne’s influence on his art.8

Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1905 or 1906.

Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Blumen und Früchten, c. 1905.

Jawlensky, Bretonische Bäuerin, 1905.

In 1905 and 1906 Jawlensky painted landscapes and character studies, mainly heads. Following the 1906 exhibition in Paris Jawlensky traveled to the Mediterranean resort town of Sausset-les-Pins outside of Marseilles to continue to paint landscapes. Jawlensky returned to Munich by way of Geneva where he visited Swiss Symbolist artist, Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918).

Ferdinand Hodler, Self Portrait, 1900.

Jawlensky, Self portrait, 1905.

Jawlensky spent the fall of 1906, as evidenced in correspondence, in Wasserburg am Inn outside of Munich. He painted landscapes and portraits. The next year, in 1907, he returned to Wasserburg for a shorter stay with his 5-year old son, Andreas. That fall with Hélène Nesnakomoff and Andreas, he went to Paris to view the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. He also visited at Matisse’s studio. Near Marseilles to paint landscapes, Jawlensky believed that he achieved his primary goal to use color that was autonomous from the object and based on the artist’s inner feeling. This was a major breakthrough for his painting. Jawlensky’s Mediterranean Coast became his talisman for landscapes going forward.9

Jawlensky, Mittelmeerkűste (Mediterranean Coast), 1907, oil on hardboard, Munich.

Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn, 1907, oil on board.

Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening), 1907, oil on cardboard.

The landscape Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening) provides insight into Jawlensky’s artistic development at this time. Painted at Wasserburg Am Inn outside Munich in 1907, Jawlensky experimented with applying the techniques of French post-Impressionism, especially Van Gogh, Gauguin and Henri Matisse. The painting expresses Jawlensky’s goal of making unnatural color harmonies and giving visual form to the artist’s inner nature or spirituality. In the manner of Van Gogh, Jawlensky used chisel-like brush strokes and, like Gauguin, thick outlining to achieve a rhythmic, flat, two-dimensional landscape.

Back in Munich after Christmas, Jawlensky met Dutch Symbolist artist Jan Verkade (1868-1946) in early 1908. Verkade was a Dutch post-Impressionist and Symbolist painter who was a member of the French Nabis under Gauguin in Brittany. Verkade taught Jawlensky and Marianne Weferkin about Gauguin’s ideas on Synthetism. A convert to Catholicism in the mid1890s, Verkade became a Benedictine monk and lived at a monastery in nearby Beuron. In 1907 and 1908 Verkade stayed in Munich and at times painted in Jawlensky’s studio. Jawlensky also learned from Verkade about the writings of French theosophist Edouard Schuré (1841-1929) who influenced the Nabis’ art. In 1908 Jawlensky met Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) who painted The Talisman, an icon to Gauguin’s ideas of Synthetism. 10

Jan Verkade, Self-portrait, 1891.

Paul Sérusier, The Talisman, 1888, Musée D’Orsay.

In Munich in 1908 Jawlensky met other significant figures for his art, including the acquaintance of German painter Karl Caspar (1879-1956) and 22-year-old Alexander Sacharoff (1886-1963). Sacharoff was one of Europe’s most innovative solo dancers. Jawlensky formed a lifelong friendship with Sacharoff and painted his portrait several times between 1909 and 1913. Jawlensky’s 1909 portrait of Sacharoff was painted spontaneously one evening when Sacharoff arrived to Jawlensky’s studio before a performance. In his full theater costume, Jawlensky’s portrait of Sacharoff is notable in that it was one of the first examples of the painter’s motif of wide, piercing eyes.11

Jawlensky, Alexander Sacharoff, 1909.

Jawlensky, Girl with Peonies, 1909. Von der Hevdt Museum.

Vincent Van Gogh, La Maison du père Pilon, 49 × 70 cm, May 1890.

In 1908, with the help of Theo van Gogh’s widow, Jawlensky acquired a Van Gogh painting, La maison du Père Pilon. Jawlensky spent the next three summers—in 1908, 1909 and 1910—in southern Bavaria at Murnau am Staffelsee with Hélène Nesnakomoff, Andreas, Marianne von Werefkin, Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter (1877-1962).

In 1909 Jawlensky met Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Baltic German painter Ida Kerkovius (1879-1970), and German Expressionist painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and August Macke (1887-1914). These were all notable figures to the formation of avant-garde expressionism. Jawlensky also met the Ukrainian brothers and avant-garde artists David Burliuk (1882-1967) and Wladimir Burliuk (1886-1917).

Jawlensky’s summer visits to Murnau led to significant development in his painting, This was especially true for his large format portraits. In 1909, his Murnau landscape is a highly stylized reduction of the subject of mountains, trees, and pathway into flat, geometrical forms and harsh, contrasting and unnatural colors influenced by French Cloisonnism and French Cubism. The painting, Murnau landscape, is another example of Gauguin-inspired Synthetism with its high degree of stylization and artificial bright colors. Some of the experimental nature of the painting is indicated by the color samples in the lower righthand corner of the painting.

Jawlensky, Murnauer Landschaft, (Murnau landscape), 1909, oil on cardboard.

It was Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter who discovered Murnau in the spring of 1908 on a bicycle tour. They told Jawlensky about it who visited that summer with Marianne von Werfekin and wrote to Kandinsky to join them. In 1909 Münter and Kandinsky bought a house in Murnau which they called “The Russia House.” The importance of the Bavarian landscape as an inspiration to these artists’ work cannot be underestimated. The Murnau years of 1908 to 1910 was the start and bonding of artists that evolved in 1911 to the formation of The Blue Rider. In 1908 it was Jawlensky’s sharing of his new ideas gained from his visits to France that made him the progressive leader of the group in this period. Accompanied by Marianne von Werfekin, Jawlensky returned to this market town several times where he stayed at Gasthof Griesbräu.12

Jawlensky, Vue de Murnau, c. 1908–1910.

Jawlensky, Skizze aus Murnau (Murnau Sketch), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.

Jawlensky, Weisse Wolke (White Cloud), summer 1909, oil on textured cardboard mounted, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.

Jawlensky, Kiefer (Pine Tree), summer 1909, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.

Jawlensky, Sommerabend in Murnau (Summer Evening in Murnau), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.

The painting Summer Evening in Murnau is marked by intense colors, dark contours, simple drawing, and a reduction of form reflecting Jawlensky’s understanding of Gauguin’s “Synthetism.” Sérusier had observed that “art is above all a means of expression.” Within the embryonic Blue Rider group of artists before 1911, Gauguin’s “Synthetism” meshed to Wassily Kandinsky’s idea of “inner necessity.” Intense colors and imaginary reduction of forms that marks German Expressionism had its nascent development in Jawlensky’s paintings at Murnau.13

In March 1909 Jawlensky co-founded Neue Künstlervereinigung München (“New Munich Artists”), an exhibition organization to counteract the inability of official academic art to accommodate avant-garde practice in a new century and counteract the Munich Secession, one of the oldest breakaway modern art groups founded in 1892. Before the first NKVM exhibition in Munich in December 1909, Jawlensky, Kandinsky and other artists resigned from the Munich Secession.14

In 1909 Jawlensky. Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, and art historian Oskar Wittenstein and Heinrich Schnabel elected Kandinsky as NKVM president and Jawlensky as vice-president. German magic realist painter Alexander Kanoldt (1881–1939) was appointed secretary and German painter Adolph Erbslöh (1881–1947) was made chairperson of the association’s exhibition committee. German painter and printmaker Paul Baum (1859-1932) joined as did Russian painter Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), and German painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and Carl Hofer (1878-1955). Alexander Sacharoff, Austrian Symbolist printmaker Alfred Kubin, and East European artist Moissey Kogan (1879-1943) soon joined this German avant-garde secession.

The NKVM hosted, in Munich, three annual exhibitions—in 1909, 1910, and 1911. These Munich shows then traveled around Germany. On December 1, 1909 the first New Munich Artists (NKVM) show opened at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It included ten painters, one sculptor, one printmaker and other invited artists. Though half of the exhibitors were Russians, these visual artists showed no similarity in style.15 The first show traveled to Brünn, Elberfeld, Barmen, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, Schwerin, and Frankfurt am Main. It was greeted almost universally with jeers by the public. The critics called it a “carnival hoax” and saw their art as evocative of bad French Impressionism.16

Designed by Kandinsky, the poster advertising for the first exhibition by the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, December 1909. Lenbachhaus, Munich.

The pamphlet for the foundation of the artist association stated, “Our starting point is the idea that the artist not only receives new impressions from the world outside from nature, but that he also gathers experiences in an inner world. And indeed, it seems to us that at the moment more artists are again spiritually united in their search for artistic forms. They are looking for forms that will express the mutual interdependence of all these experiences and which are free from everything irrelevant. The aim is that only those elements which are actually necessary should be expressed with emphasis. In other words, they are striving for an artistic synthesis This seems to us a solution that is once again uniting in spirit an increasing number of artists.”17

Jawlensky, Schwebende Wolke (Floating Cloud), 1909-10, oil on cardboard, 32.9 x 40.8 cm, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.

In 1909 and 1910, working in Murnau am Staffelsee, Alexei Jawlensky took outings into the foothills of the Bavarian Alps to paint. It was a manageable walk for the 45-year-old artist into surrounding mountains and woods. Floating Cloud is one painting that is part of a group of artworks from this period that evokes mountains, clouds and trees. The painting is undated so there is no irrefutable proof it was painted in 1910 — Jawlensky’s final summer stay in Murnau — but its varied and discordant colors and tendency to synthetic composition points to having been created in 1910 or summer 1909.

Its foreground green, dark trees, pink clouds, and orange sky are formal elements found in landscapes from the period. The painting had been later discarded by the artist though under exactly what circumstances is unclear. When World War I began in August 1914, Russian-émigré Jawlensky had to leave works behind in Munich to be retrieved in 1921 and 1922. Floating Cloud was brought to the United States in 1924 by its owner, Galka Scheyer (1889-1945). Jawlensky began his series of monumental heads by 1910 that defined his artwork in the years ahead.

In Floating Cloud, shapes are precisely delineated; the chain of the pine trees’ triangular forms are echoed in the repetition of the mountain chain’s pointed shapes in the background. The clearly defined planes of foreground, middle distance, and background are parallel to the picture plane but compressed into a narrowed, stage-like area. Jawlensky also began many figural drawings of the female nude in 1910 though he did not use them for paintings much. Its formal properties as well as subject is similar to paintings of Henri Matisse in this time period.18

Jawlensky, Sitzender Weiblicher Akt (Seated female nude), c. 1910 oil on cardboard.

Jawlensky, Girl with the Green Face, 1910, oil on hardboard, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Meanwhile Kandinsky’s Blue Mountain in 1908-1909 continued to demonstrate his direction towards abstraction. In the picture, a blue mountain has a yellow and a red tree on each side of it. A procession of human figures and horses crosses in the foreground. Their faces, clothing, and saddles are composed of bold colors, with little linear detail. The flat, contoured colored shapes indicate French Fauvist influences.

Kandinsky, Der Blaue Berg (Blue Mountain), 1908-1909, Guggenheim, New York.

Kandinsky, 1908, oil on card, Murnau, Landschaft mit Turm (Murnau Landscape with Tower Centre), Pompidou, Paris.

Floating Cloud was exhibited by Jawlensky, along with ten other of his paintings, in the important second exhibition of the New Artists’ Association which opened in September 1910 at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. In that second show, Jawlensky also exhibited Child with Doll (Kind mit Puppe). In that painting, the sitter was a local school girl in Murnau. In 1912 Jawlensky returned to the subject of a girl with doll and gave one such picture to Franz Marc.19

Jawlensky, Kind mit Puppe (Child with Doll), c. 1910, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, Norton Simon.

Heinrich Thannhauser (1859-1934) opened his gallery in Munich in 1904. In 1908 it hosted an important exhibition of over ninety works by Vincent van Gogh. The Neue Galerie Thannhauser became the leading proponent of international modern art in Germany in the 1910’s exhibiting French Impressionist and post-Impressionist art as well as German and other international modern artists. Designed by Paul Wenz in the glass-domed Arcopalais developed by Georg Meister and Oswald Bieber at Theatinerstraße 7 in the heart of Munich’s shopping district, several rooms of the Neue Galerie Thannhauser were set up as fashionable domestic environments. With Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in December 1911, Thannhauser organized the first exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter.

Lovis Corinth, Portrait of the Art Dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, 1918, Kimbell.

The second NKVM exhibition is important in that it was the world’s first modern art exhibition that assembled an estimable scope of international artists represented by Germans, French, Russians, and others.

The second exhibition expanded to include French Cubists, including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Postimpressionists, and Fauvists, such as Henri Le Fauconnier, Andre Dérain, Maurice Vlaminck, and Kees van Dongen.20 The historic showing at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser afterwards traveled to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Hagen, Paul Cassirer Berlin, Leipzig, Galerie Arnold Dresden, Munich Weimar, and the Neue Secession Berlin. The exhibition was the precursor of future great international shows such as the Cologne Sonderbund in 1912 and New York Armory Show in 1913. The Armory Show, in which Neue Galerie Thannhauser participated, introduced European Modernism to the United States.

The Munich gallery occupied over 2,600 square feet of the glass-domed Arcopalais and was divided between two floors. Nine exhibition rooms were on the ground floor with a skylit gallery on the floor above. Similar to the first NKVM exhibition, the Munich public derided the offerings of the second. The German press called for its closure as the artists were “anarchists.” A small group of sympathizers gathered to support the avant-garde exhibitions including other modern artists and some German curators, one of whom was afterwards dismissed from his official curatorial posts because he espoused contemporary nonacademic views.21

Picasso, Head of a Woman, spring 1909, gouache, watercolor, and black and ochre chalks, manipulated with stump and wet brush, on cream laid paper. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Gabriele Münter, Landschaft mit weisser mauer (Landscape with a White Wall), 1910, oil on hardboard, Hagen.

The second exhibition catalog had five articles and was illustrated by Picasso’s Head of a Woman. In addition to Jawlensky’s 11 art works, Gabriele Münter exhibited 7 art works, including Landscape with White Wall from 1910. Kandinsky had carefully defined his different categories for a painting—an impression; an improvisation; and a composition.22 Kandinsky exhibited examples of all three at the second NKVM show in September 1910, including Composition no.2 of early 1910 and Improvisation no.12-The Rider painted in summer 1910.

Kandinsky, Improvisation no. 12 The Rider, summer of 1910.

Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921), an important German patron of European avant-garde art, founded the Folkwang Museum at Hagen, Germany, in 1902. Following the second New Artists’ Association exhibition, Osthaus organized an even larger exhibition of Expressionist painting with works by Jawlensky and Kandinsky.

Ida Gerhadi, Portrait of Karl Ernst Osthaus, 1903.

By 1910, with 20 years of art practice, Jawlensky had built up and continued to expand his circle of collectors. His friendship with Cuno Amiet (1868-1961), a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland, likely started in 1909. In Still Life with Vase in 1909 Jawlensky painted in simplified forms, vivid colors, and decorative lines, following the example of Henri Matisse.23 From 1906 to 1911, Jawlensky’s still lifes were influenced by Matisse who Jawlensky met in Paris. In 1909 and 1910 Jawlensky painted still lifes that are among his finest works. Starting in 1911, Jawlensky focused increasingly on the human face. Regarding his still lifes, Jawlensky observed that he was not searching for a material object, but by way of form and color, “want[ing] to express an inner vibration.”24

Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Vase und Krug (Still Life with Vase and Jug), 1909, oil on Hardboard, Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Früchten, (Still Life with Fruit), c. 1910, oil on cardboard.

In late 1909 and into early 1910 Marianne von Werefkin visited family in Lithuania. Since the early 1890’s, Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin were a pioneering artist couple of the avant-garde. With the founding of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in 1909, from which The Blue Rider emerged in 1911, individually and as a couple they advanced modernism as a conceptual and creative force making a significant contribution to early 20th century modern art. Each had found the other’s soulmate in which their interpersonal relationship was intense and complex. Lily Klee (1876-1946), wife of painter Paul Klee, wrote in her memoirs that Jawlensky and von Werfekin were “no marriage” but rather “an erotically platonic friendship love.” Though their domestic partnership ended, they remained loyal partners and art colleagues. A wealthy, Russian aristocrat, Von Werfekin was, as a painter and knowledgeable supporter of their theories and ideas, an influential force in the NVKM and Blaue Reiter that benefitted these progressive artists’ work.25

Marianne von Werefkin, Selbstbildnis I (Self portrait I), , c. 1910, tempera on paper on hardboard, Städtische Galerie am Lenbachhaus Munich.

In 1910, Jawlensky met German painter and printmaker Franz Marc (1880-1916) and, in 1911, after seeing the second exhibition of the Neue Künstlervereinigung, Marc joined NKVM. Pierre Girieud and Henri Le Fauconnier also joined. That same year Kandinsky, Marc, and others in the NKVM resigned and founded Der Blaue Reiter.

The approach of Le Fauconnier’s painting influenced by Gauguin and Emile Bernard greatly influenced Jawlensky’s work in this period. Kandinsky’s mediation led to Jawlensky exhibiting 6 paintings in Vladimir Izdebsky’s salon in Odessa and Kiev from December 1909 to February 1910 and again in Odessa at the same venue in December 1910. Jawlensky also exhibited at the Sonderbund Westdeutscher Künstler in Düsseldorf. In 1911 Jawlensky visited Franz Marc in Sindelsdorf, south of Munich and spent that summer with his family and Marianne von Werefkin in far northern Germany. At Prerow on the Baltic Sea he painted landscapes and large figural works in bright strong colors. The artist considered his time at Prerow as “a turning point in my art.”

Jawlensky, Blonde, c. 1911, oil on carboard. The time Jawlensky spent in the summer of 1911 on the Baltic coast was a turning point in his art.

Jawlensky, Blühendes Mädchen (Blossoming Girl), c.1911. Norton Simon. The precise date and the sitter are unknown, and the work was titled much later and not by Jawlensky.

Jawlensky, Turandot I, 1912, Privatsammlung.

In Fall 1911 Jawlensky traveled to Paris with von Werefkin where he saw Matisse, visited with Pierre Paul Girieud (1875-1940) and met Kees van Dongen (1877-1968). Later that year Girieud stayed with Jawlensky in Munich where Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957) visited him in the studio in November. In December 1911 Kandinsky, Marc, Münter, Kubin and Macke resigned from the Neue Künstlervereinigung and Kandinsky and Marc founded Der Blaue Reiter.

The fault line between NKVM and The Blue Rider was over the degree of artistic importance of representation (Kanoldt and Erbslöh) versus nonrepresentation (Kandinsky, Marc, Kubin, Münter) in avant-garde German expressionism. The resignations came after Kandinsky and Marc had forcefully advocated for a jury show and, then, having overcome some other members’ intractable resistance, one of Kandinsky’s large format pictures was rejected by the jury for the 1911 NKVM show.26

Adolf Erbslöh, Mädchen mit rotem Rock (Girl with Red skirt), 1910, Von der Heydt Museum.

Alexander Kanoldt, Nikolaiplatz, 1910-13.

Jawlensky, Yellow Houses, 1909.

Kandinsky in 1910 produced the first painting, a watercolor, that was completely nonrepresentational—Untitled in the collection of the Pompidou in Paris. In late 1911 Kandinsky, seeing his painting as a triumph of art over the external object, published his art theories in a major treatise entitled Über das Geistige in der Kunst (“On the Spiritual in Art”). Kandinsky, who was informed on European modern art currents, synthesized and personalized ideas that were broadly available at the turn of the 20th century—one, that there is an order of pre-eminent human experiences; second, that all artworks possess spiritual or expressive qualities to be researched, expanded to the sensory faculties and refined to and superseded by physical and psychological effects; and, third, that the essential nature of art makes it autonomous of naturalistic external appearances.

Modern, specifically abstract, art, through the artist’s practice of relaying his emotive and spiritual qualities can, within the broad engagement of culture as well as art that possesses an autonomous spiritual-expressionist nature, can become a barometer for social progress and gauge the spirit of the age.

Since art is the embodiment of spirit or expression, Kandinsky postulated no specific formal or stylistic language—form is meaningless apart from the expression, the making visible, of the artist’s inner reality. This is true for the “great” avenues of realism or abstraction. The immediate use of Cubist and Futurist forms dematerialized further into a spiritual significance of colors and nonrepresentational forms in Abstract Expressionism.27

The third and final NKVM show was held in December 1911 at Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It featured 58 paintings and 8 illustrations by eight of the original and early member artists, namely, Jawlensky, Adolf Erbslöh, Alexander Kanoldt, Erma Barrera-Bossi, Wladimir von Bechtejeff, Moissey Kogan, Pierre Girieud and Marianne von Werefkin. It was hardly mentioned in the German press.

The show closed on January 12, 1912 and likely did not travel though scheduled to do so. In the same month of December 1911 and in the same gallery Der Blaue Reiter hosted its first exhibition. Though Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin sympathized with Kandinsky and der Blaue Reiter, they did not follow into the group until 1912.

Neither did Jawlensky follow Kandinsky into nonrepresentational abstract art. He continued with representational motifs. Jawlensky was more concerned with synthesis—a term and practice with a broad, diverse, and even contradictory definition. For Jawlensky, synthesis occurred between impressions of the outer world and experiences of the artist’s inner world. In terms of his art, it involved the “outer” object and “inner” expressive, unnatural colors. It involved the “outer” pictorial composition and “inner” colors and forms, with these categorical elements being fluid in terms of their opposition.

Kandinsky, Untitled, 1910, watercolor, Indian Ink and pencil on paper. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Reputedly the first nonrepresentational (abstract) painting.

Franz Marc, Pferd in Landschaft (Horse in a Landscape), 1910, oil on canvas, Folkwang Museum, Essen.

Jawlensky, Hügel (Hills), 1912, oil on hardboard, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund.

Jawlensky, Landschaft mit gelbem Schornstein (Blue mountains landscape with yellow chimney), 1912, Museum Wiesbaden.

Jawlensky, Jünglingskopf (Head of a Young Man, called Hercules), 1912, oil on hardboard, Dortmund.

Kandinsky, Der Blaue Rider (The Blue Rider), 1903, private collection.

NOTES

1. German Unification – Confronting Identities in German Art: Myth, Reactions, Reflections, Smart Museum, Chicago, 2002, pamphlet.

2. World War I casualties- http://www.centre-robert-schuman.org/userfiles/files/REPERES%20%E2%80%93%20module%201-1-1%20-%20explanatory%20notes%20%E2%80%93%20World%20War%20I%20casualties%20%E2%80%93%20EN.pdf

3. Idea of German art–https://www.britannica.com/place/Torzhok

4. Ažbe Quote- Boehmer, Konrad, Schonberg and Kandinsky: An Historic Encounter (Contemporary Music Studies), Routledge, 1998, p. 209.

5. matriculated at von Stuck’s- Watson, Peter, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, HarperCollins, 2010, p. 515.

6. Trip to Paris and Brittany– Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, Pall Mall Press, 1971.; Theodor Lipps– Encyclopedia Britannica.

7. Hedwig Kubin—Hoberg, Annegret, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, Prestel, Munich, 1989. Wladimir Bechtejeff —https://www.kreisbote.de/lokales/garmisch-partenkirchen/schlossmuseum-murnau-zeigt-bilder-wladimir-bechtejeff-9688996.html

8. Paris Salone d’Automne and Matisse- Donald Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900-1916, Munich, 1974.

9. On Mediterranean Coast painting- Elger, Dietmar, Expressionism: A Revolution in German Art, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 1998, p.166.

10. Melancholy in the evening –https://mfastpete.org/obj/wasserburg-on-the-inn-melancholy-in-the-evening/; Verkade- http://www.peterbrooke.org/art-and-religion/denis/intro/beuron.html

11. Sacharoff portrait—Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.

12. Murnau art colony—Watson, German Genius, pp. 516-518; progressive artist- Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus; Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002, p. 84.

13. Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.

14. Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974. p.185.

15. ibid., p 186 and 191.

16. First NKVM exhibition travel cities– Hoberg, not paginated; carnival hoax—Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p. 191.

17. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 168; Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p 191; Watson, German Genius, p. 516.

18. Selz, p. 195; Barnett, p. 86.

19. Barnett, p. 90.

20. Hoberg (not paginated); Selz, p.193.

21. Selz, p. 196.

22. “An impression is a direct impression of nature, expressed in purely pictorial form. An improvisation is a largely unconscious, spontaneous expression of inner character, non-material nature.  A composition is an expression of a slowly formed inner feeling, tested and worked over repeatedly and almost pedantically. Reason, conscious, purpose, play an overwhelming part. But of calculation nothing appears: only feeling…” Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, quoted in Selz, p.196.

23. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 169.

24. Hoberg, not paginated.

25. Elgar, Expressionism, p.177.

26. Selz, p. 197.

27. Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000, p 86); Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971, pp. 126-127; Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983, p. 203).

Bibliography

Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002.

Boyle, Nicholas, German Literature: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2008.

Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971.

Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, Oxford University Press, New York and Toronto, 1972.

Elger, Dietmar, Expressionism: A Revolution in German Art, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 1998.

Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000.

Hoberg, Annegret, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, Prestel, Munich, 1989.

Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983.

Koldehoff, Stefan and Chris Stolwijk, editors, The Thannhauser Gallery: Marketing Van Gogh, Mercatorfonds, Brussels, 2018.

Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974.

Taylor, A.J.P., Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman, Vintage Books, New York, 1967 (originally 1955).

Watson, Peter, The German Genius : Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, HarperCollins, 2010.

https://www.academia.edu/44447406/ORIGINS_OF_GERMAN_EXPRESSIONIST_PAINTING_THE_EARLY_MODERN_ART_CAREER_OF_ALEXEI_VON_JAWLENSKY_1864_1941_RUSSIAN_%C3%89MIGR%C3%89_PAINTER_FROM_1889_TO_THE_BLUE_RIDER_IN_MUNICH_IN_1911

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893). This active lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the U.S. Midwest.

Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893), Chicago, Illinois, 2017.

Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse dating from 1893.

About one-half mile beyond Navy Pier, the lighthouse stands at the north of the main entrance of the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the American Midwest and remains an active aid to nautical navigation today.

For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has staffed this lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock. The lock separates Lake Michigan from the mouth of the Chicago River.

The lock was built in the mid-1930’s and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lock is one of the entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

The “Chicago Light” is at that waterway system’s headwaters as it stands in the outer harbor constructed in 1880. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later, in 1918, the tower was reconstructed and the base building which contains a fog-signal room and boathouse was added. The architects are not identified.

Through its breakwaters, the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. It is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of two remaining examples in the state of Illinois.

The mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. About one mile ahead, the Chicago Harbor Lock, built in the 1930’s, provides the entrance/exit of the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

PHOTO Credits:

Chicago Light–by John P. Walsh.

Chicago River —“chicago river.” by alyssaBLACK. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

SOURCES:

The Chicago River: an illustrated history and guide to the river and its waterways, David M. Solzman, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998, pp.126-128.
Chicago Landmarks Map [brochure], City of Chicago, 2006.
https://web.archive.org/web/20070410173708/http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/C/ChicagoHarborLighthouse.html – retrieved December 2, 2017.

A 2-HOUR DRIVE FROM CANCÚN’S BEACHES, THE MYSTERIOUS AND LOOMING PYRAMIDS AND TEMPLES OF CHICHÉN-ITZÁ OFFER A FASCINATING JOURNEY INTO AN ANCIENT MAYAN CITY IN MEXICO’S YUCATÁN JUNGLE INTERIOR.

Chac-Mool statue on top of the Temple of the Warriors at the ancient Mayan archeological site of Chichén-Itzá. This impressive sculpture was used in ancient times as an altar for sacrifices.

Text and photographs by John P. Walsh

Cancún’s spit of land at the northern tip of the Yucatán peninsula was uninhabited by the ancient Mayans, trodden by the conquistadores, and used by assorted pirates as a hide-out. Today, oozing like wet plaster into the Caribbean sea, the beaches are a new jet-age resort. I visited the Yucatán from Chicago for a few days in May 1988.

Though the tourist board in Cancún was telling of more resort development by the mid-1990s, during my trip it already boasted of 85 hotels and about 9,000 guest rooms.

After two days acclimating myself nicely to the Caribbean climate and working my way un poco with the Spanish language, I signed up with a local tour operator for a 12-hour bus tour to one of the most famous sites on the Yucatán peninsula, as well as the world: the ancient Mayan archeological site of Chichén-Itzá.

With its mysterious, virtually-intact looming pyramids and temples as well as startling tales of human sacrifice and one of the world’s most accurate cosmic calendar systems—all from over 1,000 years ago—I was excited to adventure out of the comfort of Cancún’s “Zona Hotelera” into the Yucatán jungle interior.

Setting out from Cancún into the Yucatán jungle

The ancient Mayan cities and later Spanish colonial ones that sit on top of them are a stark contrast to the touristy jet-set beaches of Cancún. An extensive jungle stretches across the Yucatán’s three states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatán that are inhabited by human communities as well as wild animals such as jaguars. We frequently saw black-headed, blue-bodied birds called Yucatán jays. We also saw iguanas on the sun-washed rocks.

I left the hotel and met the bus in Cancún town at 8:00 a.m. Francisco drove the air-conditioned 40-seater as Raúl toted a microphone and told the group about some of the things we were seeing.

They would take us out of Quintana Roo’s Cancún to Yucatán’s Chichén-Itzá about 125 miles away. On arrow-straight highway 180 we drove into several small local communities along the two-lane road. We would finally reach Chichén-Itzá by way of a short distance out of the Mayan/Spanish colonial city of Valladolid which is sometimes called the most colorful town in Mexico.

Chichén-Itzá’s famous complex of Mayan ruins dates from the Classic period of 600 CE to 1200 CE. Important archeological sites in the Yucatán still await reclamation from the jungle–such as a smaller Cobá in Quintana Roo. Guided tours like this one are recommended for a remarkably extensive and safe visit into these interesting but backwater places.

Route 180: From Cancún to Valladolid

Yucatán’s South 180.

The bus climbed onto south highway 180 and followed it through villages such as Cocoyol, Catzin, Chemax, Xalaú, and others. Along the route there were thatched-roof dwellings which held patterned hammocks inside. Outside, dogs slinked around and small farm animals sometimes shared the road. The entire Yucatán peninsula is sparsley populated with only a fraction (about 4%) of Mexico’s total population. 

Francisco told us that the thatched-roof dwellings were durable. One such dwelling could last almost 20 years. The huts were made of sticks which we were told kept dwellers cool and comfortable year-round. Raúl said that the average year-round temperature on the peninsula was 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Starting in April, humidity levels rose and the temperature hovered over 100 degrees. Thatched hut dwellings were the predominant local housing we saw from highway 180.

With few exceptions, the lifestyle of modern Mayans has not strayed far from their ancestors of previous millennia. Traditional Mayan homes are oval-shaped huts made of sticks bound together to form walls. Palm fronds are laid upon this wood frame for a peaked roof. Inside there is a main room usually with a dirt floor. Hammocks create a sleeping area.

In Valladolid, a Spanish colonial town founded in 1543, there were larger stores. From the bus windows, we saw local women in the huipil, the traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America, doing their errands. They outnumbered men on the street who were mostly absent on this sunny, hot weekday May morning.

Raúl said the men worked in Cancún during the week for about eight dollars a day, This wage was significantly higher than the $5 a day usually earned on the peninsula. The workers, Raúl said, are “smart” because when they are working, they live at the hotels where they eat, shower, and live rent-free. When they return home to the villages, they bring all of their earnings with them to their families. In most of these outlying towns it requires about $40 per week in income to meet living expenses, whereas workers in Cancún can earn nearly twice that amount.

Iglesia de San Servacio (1545), Valladolid

The Iglesia de San Servacio is in the center of Valladolid on the south side of the main square. It was founded and built by Fr. Francisco Hernandez on March 24, 1545.

In 1705 part of the original church was demolished by order of the Benedictine bishop of Yucatán, Pedro Reyes de los Ríos de Lamadrid (1657-1714). The bishop ordered this partial demolition following the desecration of the sacred building during a political battle in July 1703 known as the “Crime of Mayors.”

San Servacio, founded 1545, Valladolid, Mexico.

After Captain Hipólito de Osorno lost political favor in Valladolid he decided, together with his lawyer Pedro Gabriel de Covarrubias, to take refuge in the church of San Servacio.

But the political excitement of the time had reached an uncontrollable situation. In the pre-dawn hours of July 1703, a frenzied mob, led by Valladolid’s newly-elected mayors, Señors Avuso and Tovar, broke into the sacred enclosure.

The lawyer De Covarrubias was killed in the church after being driven through by a spear. His blood spilled upon and stained the altar. The captain was also mortally wounded when the mob found him hidden behind the organ. The ruckus in no way benefitted the two new mayors. Both Señors Ayuso and Tovar were found guilty of murder and hanged.

Catholic cathedral in Valladolid demolished and rebuilt after being profaned by a mob during the hot summer of 1703

Due to this murder in the cathedral the bishop had it rebuilt in 1706 as it is seen today. The altar’s position was moved to face north and west towards Rome. The church building is located on Valladolid’s main square named after Francisco Cantón Rosado (1833-1917), a conservative governor of Yucatán (1898-1902).

The church building’s main façade has a coat of arms carved on stone with arabesques, a royal crown, and a Franciscan cord. There are images of an eagle and a palm that were frequently used in the decoration of Franciscan churches in the Yucatán. Two square-shaped towers rise on either side of the central façade.

Near downtown Valladolid.

The Ancient Mayans — from the Bronze Age (2600 BCE) to Classic period (1200 CE)

The Mayan civilization is shrouded in the mists of history. Archeologists, anthropologists and historians have speculated that they originated in about in 2600 BCE in the middle of the Bronze Age (3300 BCE to 1300 BCE). The origins of the Mayans therefore predate the oldest books of the Bible by 1,000 years.

Mayan culture made remarkable advances in mathematics and astronomy. Mayans are also known for their impressive urban planning, farming methods, and architectural achievements, all of which are on view at Chichén-Itzá in its pyramids, temples, ball courts, palaces, and observatories.

Mayan technical skill extended to complex calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing whose images are in evidence at Chichén-Itzá. Mayan artisans were skillful weavers and potters and artifacts have been found in vast quantities at the site. The ancient Mayans also cleared routes for trade. Their main source of fresh water was from cenotes (sink-holes) and they stored rainwater in reservoirs called chultun.

Complex, evolving social structures.

By 300 BCE Mayan society had evolved into a hierarchical social structure where kings and priests ruled. Stretching from Cancún through the Yucatán, Belize, and Guatemala to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Mayan civilization was a highly structured society. It consisted of several independent states, each possessed of several classes—a ruling class, warrior class, and agricultural class. The society reached its apex in the Classic period from about 200 CE to 900 CE.

The stone monuments at Chichén-Itzá were built as a ceremonial center during the Classic period. As it continues to impress visitors today, it accomplished the same thing for ancient Mayans over 1,000 years ago.

The decline of ancient Mayan civilization started around 900 CE as they began to surrender their independence to the Toltecs who absorbed them. Though Chichén-Itzá as a ceremonial center would not die for another 250 years, the city became a vestige of itself whose remnants alone of a great civilization survived when conquered by the Spanish colonists in the 15th century.

Arriving to Chichén-Itzá

It was hot and humid when we arrived into Chichén-Itzá. Discovered by explorers as early as the 1830’s—and opened to the public in 1922—it was today an impressive and expansive series of ancient stone monuments on a grassy 1200-acre campus carved out of jungle. Do people live further into the jungle? Raúl said about one mile from the road there are small communities of two or three hundred people who live in farther from the main road.

The pyramids and temples of Chichén-Itzá are the Yucatán’s best known monuments. The Mayan city was absorbed by the Toltecs in 987 CE. According to legend, a man named Kukulcan—who is the same figure as Quetzalcoatl from the Toltec capital of Tula —arrived from the west “for the redemption of his people.” In Chichén-Itzá, Kukulcan built this magnificent city which combined the Puuc style of the Mayans and the motifs of the Toltecs, namely, the feathered serpent, warriors, eagles and jaguars.

Modern Mayan explorers

Starting in the midnineteenth century and then again at the end of the century, there was a range of scientists and explorers associated with the discovery and excavation of the archeological site of Chichén-Itzá that we see today.

As its great natural water well (or cenote) likely gave Chichén-Itzá its name, one major figure worth considering is the early American explorer Edward Thompson (1857-1935). For most of his adult life Edward Thompson lived and worked at Chichén-Itzá including famously dredging and diving into the sacred well in search of treasure and human remains for evidence of legends of human sacrifices.

A diplomat by profession and an amateur archeologist, Thompson had an indefatigable curiosity about the ancient Mayan ceremonial city and did important work here.

As a young scholar Thompson was inspired by the writings of American explorer and diplomat John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852). Together with English artist Frederick Catherwood (1799-1845) they were pivotal figures in the rediscovery of Maya civilization in Central America.

Catherwood’s detailed drawings of the ruins of the Maya civilization explored by Stephens led to best-selling books published in the early 1840s such as Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán and Incidents of Travel in Yucatán. These were illustrated works that introduced Europe and the United States to the civilization of the ancient Maya.

Portrait of John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán published in 1854.

Lithograph of a maize god by Frederick Catherwood in Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatán published in 1844.

Stephens and Catherwood in turn had been inspired by earlier pioneers of scientists and explorers. Two figures who influenced them were Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Juan Galindo (1802–1840).

Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt by Joseph K. Stieler (1843). Charlottenhof.

Juan Galindo before 1839. From the book Ancient Maya Cities: The Hidden Wonders in the Forest.

Von Humboldt was a Prussian geographer, naturalist, and explorer whose work in botanical geography led to the development of the field of biogeography. Galindo was an Anglo-Irish military and administrative officer in the short-lived liberal Federal Republic of Central America (1823-1841) and who was actively engaged in Maya archeology.

In 1847 the Caste War of Yucatán broke out limiting access to the Yucatán’s unexcavated ruins. The Caste War restricted the borders of Yucatán and Quintana Roo to all but indigenous Maya for nearly 60 years, making travel to the area dangerous. When the United States appointed Edward Thompson archaeological consul to the Yucatán in 1895 he became one of the first to explore the land since the Caste War.

Edward Thompson, before 1920. Thompson famously dredged and dived the sacred well at Chichén-Itzá and brought up a fortune of gold and jade as well as human skeletons providing evidence for legends of ancient human sacrifice.

Edward Thompson arrived in the Yucatán at Mérida in 1895. He had purchased land in 1894 that included the unexcavated site of Chichén-Itzá. For the next 30 years Thompson dedicated his life to exploring the site.

In 1904 Thompson started to explore the bottom of the sacred well— the cenote sagrado. Thompson used divers (including himself) and dredges. Over six years he brought up a fortune in gold, copper and jade as well as a wealth of vases, obsidian glass knives and the Maya incense called copal. Thompson did some of his explorations for major American museums such as The Field in Chicago and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, among others.

From his arrival, the sacred well attracted Thompson’s intense interest. In his 1932 book, People of the Serpent, Thompson stated he became intrigued with the murky waters of the great well as soon as he first saw it from the top of El Castillo.

Though most ancient Maya artifacts as well as its codice books with its written language were destroyed by the local Catholic Church authorities in the 16th century, Thompson read the colonial Spanish accounts of Mayan history.

Spanish Franciscan Fray Diego de Landa (1524-1579), colonial bishop of Yucatán. De Landa later regretted destroying the Maya civilization’s cultural treasures and wrote a history of the Mayas (Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, c. 1566) to make up for his thoughtless, wholesale destruction. Edward Thompson read the bishop’s account of the “cenote,” where Fray Diego detailed the pilgrimages of ancient Maya priests and farmers to the sacred well to “appease the gods.” These pilgrimages included throwing gold and ornaments into the waters. The bishop’s history also told of human sacrifices there as well.

To implement his plan to explore the cenote, Thompson returned to his hometown of Boston where he raised money, took diving lessons, and constructed a specialized diving mechanism. Thompson sent the dredging bucket, winch, tackles, steel cables, derrick and 30-foot boom to Chichén-Itzá.

The dredge buckets brought up ornaments and objects of daily life. Thompson’s and another diver’s plunges discovered more precious treasures, including human skeletons. These discoveries were controversial. The fact that this ancient site was being disturbed brought critics. Further, Thompson was neither a scientist nor academic but simply an enthusiastic amateur. He published his Maya civilization studies in Popular Science Magazine. But these critiques aside, Thompson’s field work virtually single-handedly put Chichén-Itzá on every world explorer’s own bucket list.

Edward Thompson dredged the sacred well at Chichén-Itzá between 1904 and 1910.

The cenote in May 1988 from the platform of El Castillo. This is the view Edward Thompson had when he first became fascinated with the sacred well in the late 1890’s. Author’s collection.

Thompson also excavated graves at the Ossario (High Priest’s Temple), the mid-sized step-style pyramid within the Ossario Group complex of Mayan temples found just south of the Kukulkan pyramid series. Thompson’s discoveries there offered an outcome not unlike the cenote. In the Ossario pyramid and its cave Thompson found more jade, pottery, human bones, and various other ancient Mayan artifacts.

How the pyramids at Chichén-Itzá were built

Close to Chichén-Itzá Thompson discovered pits with quarried veins of lime gravel that the Mayan’s used for mortar. Nearby he found stones of calcite (to hammer), flint (to pick) and smooth stones used to produce flat surfaces on walls. Ancient Mayan craftsmen had no metal tools, but these stone implements helped scientists to reconstruct how the monumental buildings could be constructed. Thompson also uncovered shards of nephrite (a type of jade) as well as the so-called Mayan “date” stone, known later as the Tablet of the Initial Series. This stone let iconographers decipher the dates of Chichén-Itzá’s Classic period.

In 1926 Thompson’s land was seized by authorities of Mexico’s new nationalist government and Thompson was charged with removing artifacts illegally. It was only in 1944, almost a decade after Thompson’s death, that the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in the North American explorer’s favor.

Major sites at Chichén-Itzá

Visitors climb El Castillo’s steps to the top in May 1988. A visit to the pyramid (Temple of Kukulkan), is a highlight at Chichén-Itzá.

It is thrilling to see the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican step pyramid that, at almost 80 feet tall, dominates the center of the archaeological site of Chichén-Itzá. It was built between 700 CE and 1100 CE.

Chichén-Itzá relief carving depicting a Mayan warrior in elaborate headdress and jewelry. Warriors were one of the major classes in Mayan society in the Classic period.

El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan. Each side of the pyramid has 91 steps for a total of 364 steps. With the platform at the top, it equals the 365 days of the year. There are 52 smooth stone panels on each side of the pyramid which coordinates with the ancient Mayan calendar’s 52-year cycle. The nine terraces on each side of the pyramid represent the 18-month solar calendar.

Twice during Spring Equinox (March 21) at sunrise and sunset, the sunlight is observed to move down stair by stair from the top stair of the northern stairway until it touches the famous serpent head stone carving at the base of the pyramid. In a marvel of nature, sunlight and shadow work to form a “serpent” that appears to descend into the earth. The cosmological phenomenon was an important fertility symbol for the Mayans whose society was agricultural. It signaled that the golden sun had entered the earth in the form of a serpent and that it was time to plant corn.

Serpent head at the base of El Castillo

Unexcavated El Castillo in 1882 in a photograph by Teobert Maler

El Castillo dominates the Great North Platform Series. Known as the Kukulkan Pyramid and the Temple of Kukulkan, the 8-story 1,500-year-old stone structure is a masterpiece of ancient Mayan Cosmovision. Author at Chichén-Itzá in May 1988.

Snakehead sculpture at Chichén-Itzá in Mexico. There are smaller pyramids inside the Chichén-Itzá ruins with “snakehead” statues scattered around.

Walking towards the Nunnery complex with the stone steps of its north side in the distance.

El Palacio in the complex of buildings called the Nunnery. Edward Thompson used these buildings as his headquarters during his first explorations of Chichén-Itzá.

Teobert Maler (1842–1917) was another pioneer of ancient Maya research. Maler’s expeditions in the Yucatán began furtively in the 1870s and he explored over 150 ruins. This 1892 photograph of El Palacio (Templo de tres Cuerpos) of the building complex called the Nunnery at Chichén-Itzá gives record to one such expedition. Several ruins Maler described and photographed had been discovered by him, and his photographs of its architecture and inscriptions aided further research in ancient Maya civilization. Many sites Maler photographed were not visited by scientists until decades later—and as the ruins were often further damaged by climate events or human impact—the photographs remain often the best record of known Maya ruins. Because of Maler’s work at Chichén-Itzá and elsewhere, the German explorer is regarded as one of the most important research photographers of the 19th century.

At Chichén-Itzá, the buildings of the Nunnery (Las Monjas) –including La Iglesia (partial view, left) – are Mayan-temple structures in the Puuc style. These buildings at Chichén-Itzá shared similar designs with the ruins at Kabah and Uxmal about 100 miles to the southwest of Chichén-Itzá.

Chichén-Itzá serpent head sculptures guard a staircase.

In the day’s heat and humidity, the profligate flora delights the visitor’s senses at Chichén-Itzá. On the site’s 1200 acres, the blooms of jungle growth offer a feast of fragrances, colors and living forms. From the Temple of Warriors, the visitor can see nestled beyond a field of red flowers the Grupo de las Mil Columnas (“The Forest of 1,000 Columns”). These stone columns may once have had a thatched ceiling to enclose an expansive space.

In the landscape of Chichén-Itzá there are a variety of mammals, hundreds of species of birds and many reptiles. On the Yucatán peninsula there are almost 150 varieties of snakes, many of which, including at the archeological site, are highly venomous. This is a shot of the jungle from the air in May 1988.

One visitor climbs atop the Nunnery, the Mayan temple complex built in the Puuc style during the Classic period of 600-1200 CE at Chichén-Itzá.

The El Caracol observatory temple at Chichén-Itzá. The Mayas built the observatory over an extended period of time to coincide its construction with their increasing knowledge of day-time and night-time skies. The Mayas’ objective was to acquire more exact measurements of cosmic bodies. We visited the dark recesses of El Caracol’s central circular tower. The highly sophisticated Maya calendar system was based on their study of the movements of the sun, moon, and planets, particularly Venus’s orbit. The position of El Caracol’s front staircase aligns with Venus’s most northern position while the building‘s corners are affixed to the sun’s position at sunrise of summer solstice (June 21) and sunset of winter solstice (December 21).

The “Venus” staircase of the observatory at Chichén-Itzá.

The Observatory temple at Chichén-Itzá in a photograph by Teobert Maler. When explorers first viewed the ruin in the late 19th century, it was buried in centuries of natural debris.

Maya Calendar System. Ancient Maya time-keepers designed highly accurate methods to measure time that interwove calendars as space/time cycles. Mayan calendars formed an understanding of the interrelationships of cosmic bodies—the moon orbiting the Earth; the Earth orbiting the sun; and the sun as it travels in the galaxy.

The Great Ball Court at Chichén-Itzá from El Castillo. Almost two football fields in length (181 yards), it is enclosed by 13-foot high stone walls and is the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. Sports arenas like this were a staple in the sacred complexes of ancient Mayan cities. Some archeological anthropologists believe the nature of play in the ball courts had a purely sporting purpose, though the games may have had high-stakes cosmological and mythological dimensions.

Grand Ballcourt—field of play.

Temple of Warriors. The Chac-Mool sits atop the platform of this temple dedicated to the Mayan warrior class.

OTHER PHOTOGRAPH CREDITS:
YUCHATAN JAYS – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic  license. Tony Hisgett – originally posted to Flickr as Yucatan Jays – immature
IGUANA – CC BY-SA 2.0 view terms.

Quotations: Chief Joseph (c.1840-1904), Nez Percé leader. (3 Quotes).

Somebody has got our horses. Reaction to violation of surrender treaty terms by U.S. Government.

“When the terms of surrender were violated by the government, [Chief] Joseph did not dig up the tomahawk and go on the warpath again…. He…. spoke with a straight tongue , and was a gentleman of his word. Nor did he blame [Maj. Gen. O. O.] Howard or [Col. Nelson A.] Miles for what his people suffered. He remarked only the above. (Quoted in Saga of Chief Joseph, H. A. Howard, University of Nebraska Press, 1978, p. 348.)

If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect him to grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth, and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented, nor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They cannot tell me. Chief Joseph (c.1840-1904), Nez Percé, North American Review, Cedar Falls, Iowa, April 1879.

The gravesite of Chief Joseph. Photograph by author.

My son, never forget my dying words, this country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and mother. Chief Joseph (c.1840-1904), Nez Percé. To his son on defending his homeland and people.

Quotations: Saint John Henry Newman. (13 Quotes).

Photographic portrait, John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1880.

Introduction by John P. Walsh

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was a theologian and poet who was first an Anglican priest and later a Roman Catholic priest and cardinal. In the 1830’s and until his conversion to Catholicism in 1845, Newman was a leading figure in the Oxford Movement. They were a group of Anglicans who looked to create a bridge between the Church of England and the Catholic Church by adopting many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals from before the English Reformation. Newman eventually came to believe for himself that these religious efforts proved insufficient and he left the Anglican Communion for the Catholic Church in 1845. Already an articulate and influential religious leader in Britain, Newman’s decision brought with it the burden of having upset his friends as well as being challenged by them and others for his changed religious opinions on polemical grounds. Newman, a longtime writer and speaker, responded after a while with his now-celebrated Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–1866), which served as a defense of his religious opinions after he quit his position as Anglican vicar at Oxford. Newman, a 19th-century master of English prose and poetry, had already published The Idea of a University (1852) and went on to publish Grammar of Assent (1870) as well as several poems, some of which were set to music or served as hymns. In 1879, at the age of 78 years old, Pope Leo XIII named Newman a cardinal for his work on behalf of the Catholic Church in England as well as his having co-founded the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854, which today as University College Dublin is Ireland’s largest institution of higher learning. On October 13, 2019, John Henry Newman was canonized a Catholic saint at the Vatican by Pope Francis. St. John Henry Newman became the first saint canonized from Britain since 1976. In remarks by Prince Charles who led the British delegation to the Vatican for Newman’s canonization, the Prince of Wales said: “In the age in which he [Newman] attains sainthood, his example is needed more than ever – for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion.” London-born Cardinal Newman died in England in 1890 at 89 years old. He founded the Oratory at Birmingham in 1848 and through his writings spoke to many about the issues of faith, education, and conscience.

“A given opinion, as held by several individuals, even when of the most congenial views, is as distinct as are their faces.” Oxford University sermons, 1843.

“It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.” Oxford University sermon, December 11, 1831.

“From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know of no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1864.

“I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true; my imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers, and talismans. I thought life might be a dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, my fellow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me from the semblance of a material world.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Up to 1833).

“I was brought up from a child to take great delight in reading the Bible; but I had formed no religious convictions till I was fifteen. Of course I had perfect knowledge of my Catechism.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Up to 1833).

“I read Joseph Milner’s Church History, and was nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine and the other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Part III).

“I read Newton on the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 1843.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Part III).

“There are virtues indeed, which the world is not fitted to judge about or to uphold, such as faith, hope and charity; but it can judge about Truthfulness; it can judge about the natural virtues, and truthfulness is one of them. Natural virtues may also become supernatural; Truthfulness is such…” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Part II).

“Catholics on the other hand shade and soften the awful antagonism between good and evil, which is one of their dogmas, by holding that there are different degrees of justification, that there is a great difference in point of gravity between sin and sin, that there is a possibility and the danger of falling away, and that there is no certain knowledge given to anyone that he is simply in a state of grace, and much less that he is to persevere to the end.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Part III).

“Let is seek the grace of a cheerful heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as well as walking in His light, and by His grace. Let us pray to Him to give us the ever-abundant, ever-springing love, which overpowers and sweeps away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which above all unites us to Him, Who is the fountain and center of all mercy, loving kindness and joy.” 17, Religious Joy (Sermon for Christmas Day), 1868.

“Ex Umbris et Imaginibus in Veritatem! (From shadows and symbols into the truth!), Epitaph at Edgbaston.

“Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom; Lead thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on! Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.” The Pillar of the Cloud, 1833.

This is what the Church is said to want, not party men, but sensible, temperate, sober, well-judging persons, to guide it through the channel of no-meaning, between the Scylla and Charybdis of Aye and no. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), Apologia Pro Vita Sua, “History of My Religious Opinions from 1839-1841” (1864).

John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1881, Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, President Royal Academy of Arts (1829-1896). National Portrait Gallery, London: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw07727/John-Newman

PHOTO CREDITS:

Photographic Portrait of John Henry Cardinal Newman (1880).

https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw07727/John-Newman

History, commentary and criticism of a selection of Nadar’s photographic portraits of French cultural figures in Nineteenth Century Paris.

By John P. Walsh. This presentation is excerpted from content of university course I taught whose research project is ongoing.

Nadar was born on April 6, 1820 to 26-year-old Thérèse Maillet and 49-year-old Victor Tournachon at 195 rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. His parents didn’t marry until 1826. After Gaspard-Félix (Nadar’s birth name) was born his parents moved to 26 rue de Richelieu. A younger brother, Adrien, was born in 1825. In an age of political censorship, Victor Tournachon’s printing business began to decline and the family moved again to 45 rue Saint-André-des-Arts on the Left Bank. Tournachon brothers’ upbringing was marked by this financial difficulty of their father, especially after the July Revolution in 1830. After Victor Tournachon closed his business in 1833 he moved with his family to Lyon. Gaspard-Félix stayed in school at Versailles where he started his creative writing and had a natural inkling for making friends.  His school career effectively ended in 1837 when his father died and Gaspard-Félix moved to Lyon. Though he started medical studies with the idea of supporting his mother and brother, it belied his active interest in journalism.

In 1838, Gaspard-Félix returned to Paris. Into the 1840’s his expanding circle of friends became his new family where his nickname of Nadar began to evolve and he started a journalism career working for up-and-down literary publications, writing reviews and short stories, and drawing caricatures. Throughout the 1840’s he traveled in bohemian literary circles, made the rounds of Paris cafés and met a string of artists, writers, critics and poets such as Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and Théodore de Banville (1823-1891) – all of whom became subjects for Nadar’s photography. Part of the reward for this aesthetic conviction was to spend time in a Paris debtor’s prison at the start of the 1850’s. While Nadar’s literary and artistic activities continued for the next forty years he also remained a type of eccentric politically-radical bohemian even after he was rich and famous.

Mid-nineteenth-century Paris was a city in upheaval both politically and physically. The Revolution of 1848 ended up toppling the constitutional monarchy and replacing it with a second republic. Georges-Eugène, Baron Haussmann’s renovation of Paris literally turned over the old city.  These developments perfectly mirrored Nadar’s character to be restlessly innovative, curious, energetic, concrete, and persuasive. In a writing career that worked in the burgeoning literary world of newspapers, magazines, journals, gazettes, etc., and, as the press was starkly partisan, Nadar encountered many personalities who favored the liberal side of the political and cultural spectrum. By way of a journal for which he was editor in chief, Nadar in 1839, met Honoré de Balzac. An active member of the Société des gens de lettres since 1844, Nadar connected to the professional literary group for friends, funds and more writing opportunities, mainly short pieces for periodicals.  Nadar never became disenchanted with writing or wanting to be a literary celebrity, but starting in 1844, began to augment his skills and income by publishing caricatures. He made sketches and drawings for a short-lived Journal du dimanche, the influential Le Charivari, an antisocialist Le Journal, a new weekly La Revue comique, and also Journal pour rire (which became Journal amusant), Tintamarre, Illustrated London News, and Count Charles de Villedeuil’s L’Éclair. Nadar’s success as a draughtsman – as well as his intuitive grasp of the emerging celebrity culture in Paris – led to the establishment in 1850 of the first studio under the Nadar brand name. Patronage for his caricatures allowed him in 1854 to move to 13 rue Saint-Lazare with his mother who, with Adrien, had returned to Paris in 1845.  This address eventually served as Nadar’s photographic studio. When Nadar began his photographic services career there was a handful of professional photographers in Paris. By 1870, around the time Nadar exited the full-time profession in 1873, there were many hundreds. Nadar was at the start of a cultural sensation. Practicing a new and exciting medium, the photographer still held an undetermined and possibly precarious socio-economical position in Paris –was he an artist or technician? Was Nadar’s photographic services installed in what should be called a studio or shop?

Nadar married Ernestine-Constance Lefèvre (1836-1909) in 1854, a woman half his age, who fully supported her husband’s photographic venture. His young wife was one of his first—and final–photographic models. Nadar’s portraits included a wide range of sitters, many of whom were bohemian friends and notable personalities of his day. Nadar who for years had made portrait caricatures of celebrities such as in his lithographic project, Panthéon Nadar, now took their photographic portraits. A large number of Nadar portraits included painters, sculptors, actors, writers, historians, philosophers, politicians, journalists, and musicians as well as the public bourgeois clientele. The subject Nadar photographed the most was Nadar himself.  A sitter would be welcomed into the outdoor courtyard on rue Saint-Lazare which served as Nadar’s studio. His first work was often done in the natural light that achieved a high contrast between light and dark on the sitter’s features. Like in a theatrical production, sitters were costumed by Nadar in place of their street clothes which worked to generalize their social position and contemporaneity. Using plain dark backgrounds and no props to begin, Nadar’s portraits are spare. Another key practice by Nadar to achieve a successful portrait is the photographer’s skillful lighting of the sitter. From the mid1850s until the early 1870s Nadar’s relaxed and easy style inviting friends and celebrities into his studio for portraits resulted in a sympathetic rapport between a seductive and energetic photographer and his trusting and extemporaneous subjects enthusiastically interacting to produce these portraits.

Adrien learned how to take photographs from Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884). Le Gray, who was the same age as Nadar, was already one the most important photographers of his time. Adrien first set up photographic services with his older brother taking portraits. Yet Adrien and Le Gray remained contacts for Nadar only through the 1850s: Le Gray fled France in 1860 because of creditors and the brothers split professionally in a lawsuit brought by Nadar and decided in 1859. In April 1860 Nadar took over renting Le Gray’s sumptuous studio at 35, rue des Capucines and expanded it with an iron-and-glass penthouse which opened in September 1861. This became Nadar’s fashionable quarters until 1872 when he retired and, in 1873, left a thriving photographic business to his son, Paul Nadar. In 1861 the new establishment, lavish and sporting its famous outdoor sign “Nadar,” one of its unforgettable modern notes made by 21-year-old Antoine Lumière (1840-1911), was packaged to attract the urban bourgeois. Nadar also looked to charge high prices based on his appeal as an anti-establishment photographer who sometimes took erotic photographs and always cultivated Paris’s society of artists and political radicals.

At the new studio his photographs were more polished than his and Adrien’s work on rue Saint-Lazare in the 1850’s. Nadar took photographs of Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) and George Sand (1804-1876) in several sittings. Nadar was a man of constant curiosity and enthusiasm which led to creative innovations in taking photographs. In addition to portraiture, Nadar used artificial light to photography the Paris catacombs in 1864. For anyone who has visited this underground necropolis, it is naturally always pitch dark. The Paris sewers, a modern marvel, also attracted Nadar’s camera and artificial lighting. The first aerial photographs in history were taken by Nadar when he hooked up a gondola to a balloon and lifted into the air over Paris in 1865. It promoted both the cause of human flight and his photography business. During the seige of 1870, Nadar took to the air again with his camera for patriotic reasons.

SOURCES:

The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera, Adam Begley, Tim Duggan Books, NY, 2017.

Nadar: Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (55), James H. Rubin, Phaidon Press, 2001.

The World of Proust as seen by Paul Nadar, edited by Anne-Marie Bernard, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002.

Nadar, Maria Morris Hambourg, Françoise Helibrun, Philippe Neagu, et.al., Harry N. Abrams, 1995.

Nadar self portrait 1854

Nadar, Self Portrait, 1854. Throughout his career, Nadar took images of himself. This was used as a simple record of the artist but also a form of publicity for his business.

Nadar self portrait

Nadar, Self Portrait, 1855. 

nadar-35-boulevard-des-capucines


Nadar, Atelier at 35, boulevard des Capucines, c. 1861. Nadar moved out of his mother’s house where he had his first studio into this grandiose showplace on the new boulevard which attracted celebrities, onlookers, and those eager to have their portrait taken in the nineteenth century. The script sign “Nadar” across the building’s facade at its upper floor offered a dramatic advertisement for the enterprising photographer.

Nadars


The Nadars, c. 1864. Paul Nadar (1856-1939), Gaspard-Félix Nadar (1820-1910), Ernestine-Constance Nadar née Lefèvre (1836-1909). A family portrait portrayed both a close family unit of mother, father, and son, as well as the dynastic quality of Nadar’s photographic business to be inherited by none other than young Paul by the 1890’s.

de nerval

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), 1855. The poet played a major role in introducing French readers to the works of German Romantic authors, including Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803), Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1804), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805). His own poetry was a major influence on Marcel Proust (1871-1922), André Breton (1896-1966), and the avant-garde movement of Surrealism in 1920’s that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Nadar claimed that Nerval sat for him just once and only days before the bohemian poet committed suicide.

Charles Baudelaire


Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), 1855. In an early portrait by Nadar, his friend Baudelaire reclines in an armchair with an intense and dreamy gaze. The poet and critic was involved in producing poems to be published in 1859 as Les Fleurs du mal. Baudelaire’s critique of photography was its negative impact on judgement and feeling of the beautiful.

Charles Baudelaire


Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), 1855. The lumpy coat is likely a costume provided by Nadar that helps contrast the sitter’s slim frame and fine facial features.  The formal gesture of the right hand inside the coat, a pose known in Ancient Greece to indicate good manners, had appeared in eighteenth century art to establish calm and deliberation in its subject so posed. Baudelaire’s left hand in the pocket is informal and could intentionally serve to undermine or mock the classical gesture. Nadar’s portrait series of Baudelaire is important to view as a group since these are the few images of the French Symbolist poet that exist from the mid nineteenth century and in a manner of pose inspired by the artistic interchange of the diverse and inventive Nadar and his subject who was also his friend, the experimental modernist writer Baudelaire.

baudelaire

Nadar, Baudelaire, c. 1856.

Baudelaire 1862

Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), c. 1862. Rather than dreamy, Baudelaire’s expression — mouth turned down, eyes gleaming — is defiant and the pose is stern but whimsical.

Baudelaire c. 1862


Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), c. 1862.

Théodore de Banville

Nadar, Théodore de Banville (1823-1891). Banville was a French poet , writer and critic who was a leader of the Parnassians and whose work was later influential on French Symbolism. His first book of verse, Les Cariatides (“The Caryatids”) in 1842, owed much to the style and manner of  Victor Hugo (1802-1885). The chief quality of his poetry is its technical virtuosity — he experimented with forms such as the ballad and rondeau that had been neglected for 300 years — though contemporaries also admired his poems’ erudition, wit and whimsy. His best-known collection, Les Odes funambulesques (“Fantastic Odes”) published in 1857, is dedicated to Hugo who praised it. Such is the first stanza of Mascarades: Le Carnaval s’amuse!/ Viens le chanter, ma Muse,/En suivant au hasard/ Le bon Ronsard!

de Banville 1854

Nadar, Théodore de Banville, 1854. 

henri murger c 1855

Nadar, Henri Murger (1822-1861), Paris, c. 1855. 

Charles Philipon

Nadar, Charles Philipon, Paris, 1854. The founder of Le Charivari in 1831, among other popular journals, Charles Philipon (1800-1862) was Nadar’s mentor and an important collaborator in Nadar’s bid to establish himself as a caricaturist. Philipon and Nadar, though from different generations, both shared an energetic and inventive personal character as well as a keen interest, skill, and talent for contemporary caricature (though censorship killed political cartoons after 1851). Charles Philipon, however, being the better businessman, provided Nadar in this period with editor in chief jobs at new magazines that Philipon founded and, until the day he died in 1862, stayed solicitous of Nadar’s future in illustration. Except that, after Charles Philipon died, Nadar lost all interest in the practice.

Adrien Tournachon

Adrien Tournachon (1825-1903), c. 1855. Nadar’s younger brother was a quirky and talented artist and photographer in his own right. By the mid-to-late 1850’s Adrien collaborated closely with his older brother in the photographic studio’s services.  Their work in this period is often enmeshed so that an exact delineation between them can be difficult to ascertain.  Is this photograph a self portrait or a collaborative (self-)portrait? The photograph presents Adrien at about age thirty, wearing casual attire and posing with a bohemian air marked by a broad-brimmed dark straw hat and holding a hand-rolled and lit cigarette in his mouth. Adrien Tournachon opened a photographic studio at 11, boulevard des Capucines in 1853. The two brothers worked together closely in photography which each also worked in other professions, Nadar as a caricaturist and Adrien as a painter (whom Nadar helped to establish).  Adrien’s photography career included being active in newly-formed photographic societies, securing a patent for a photo-mechanical process, and later specializing  in horse and animal photography as well as other photography-related businesses.

Charles Deburau Pierrot 1

Pierrot

Jean-Charles Deburau (1829-1873) as Pierrot series, c. 1855.  This is another series of Nadar’s photographs–Deburau’s portrayal of the stock character Pierrot– that should be viewed as a group to appreciate the sitter portrayed in a single portrait, although this post includes only a small portion. A collaborative project by Nadar and Adrien. Nadar issued the invitation for Deburau to pose in the studio. Deburau is dressed as Pierrot, the famous commedia dell’arte character. These are rare full-length portraits in Nadar’s oeuvre and include Pierrot in a variety of dramatic poses, some more natural than others, in strongly sculptural light and  shadow. There is Pierrot surprised, Pierrot listening, Pierrot in pain, Pierrot laughing and, most famously, Pierrot photographer which explicitly suggests the performative dialogue  between sitter and photographer.

pierrot running

Pierrot running.

Pierrot laughing

Pierrot laughing.

Pierrot listening

Pierrot listening.

Pierrot photographer
gautier

Nadar, Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), Paris, c. 1855. Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.

Nadar Michelet c 1857

Nadar, Jules Michelet (1798-1874), c. 1858. Historian of France.  Nadar positions his camera lens below the subject so that Michelet can look out from above and has arranged the light reflectors to sculpt Michelet’s features in high relief.

Nadar Prince Czartoryski c. 1858

Nadar, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (1770-1861), c. 1858. A Polish patriot, Nadar’s portrait of the prince was exhibited in 1859 at the Société Française de Photographie. In 1848 Nadar had volunteered to fight for the liberation of Poland when Lamartine called for an expeditionary force of 300 Polish and 200 French (including Nadar) to incite revolution against a Russian regime there since 1830. Nadar was captured, spent time in prison in Germany, and returned by foot to Paris.

Auguste Preault

Auguste Préault (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1854. A student of David d’Angers (1788-1856), Préault was a sculptor who first exhibited at the Paris salon in 1833. Works by Préault are in the Louvre, d’Orsay, and other museum collections mainly in France.

louvre-silence 1842

Created in 1842,  the medallion titled Le Silence in the Louvre is one of the most famous works of Auguste Préault, who was the romantic sculptor par excellence. Reduced to its simplest expression, the deeply-engraved artwork — a funereal figure with a finger on the lips evoking the chasm between Life and Death — both fascinates and terrifies. This is the sculptural work on the tomb of Jacob Roblès in Père Lachaise where Préault abandoned recent traditional funerary imagery begun by his mentor David D’Angers of artwork that evokes the person who died, and fashioning in its place an enigmatic and mysterious evocation of death itself. Préault, who died in 1879, is also buried in Père Lachaise.

Nadar E Pelletan 1855-59

Nadar, Pierre-Clément-Eugène Pelletan (1813-1884), c. 1857. Protestant minister, mystic, socialist pamphleteer, an associate of George Sand and Lamartine. This is lionizing portrait – gleaming eyes, furrowed brow – that epitomized for the photographer the nobility of the Romantic hero.

molin 1858

Nadar, Benoît Molin (1810-1894), Paris, 1858. A student of Baron Gros (1771-1835), Molin was a portrait, genre, Religion and History painter. Molin regularly exhibited at the Salon starting in 1843 and became the Director of Chambéry Musée des beaux-arts in 1850.

Molin_Le_Baiser_rendu_Judas_et_Satan1

Molin, Le Baiser rendu (Judas et Satan), 1840s, Chambéry; Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Nadar Rossini 1856

Nadar, Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868).  Italian composer who wrote 39 operas, including his French grand opera, Guillaume Tell (William Tell) in 1832 based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1804 play that is based on the previous William tell legend.

Gioachino Rossini: William Tell Overture (1829). London Philharmonic, Alfred Scholz.

Alexandre Dumas pere

Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), Paris, c. 1855. The French writer’s works have been translated into many languages, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. Many of his historical novels of high adventure were originally published as serials including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Twenty Years After, among others. His novels have been adapted since the early twentieth century into hundreds of films.

Based on the 1844 novel Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas père, this excerpt from the 1998 French-Italian TV miniseries finds Edmond Dantès (Gerard Depardieu), who is now the Count of Monte Cristo, encountering his beautiful former fiancée, Mercédès (Ornella Muti). When the count as a young man is unjustly betrayed and sent to the Château d’If – from which he escapes after several years – Mercédès has married not only another man but one of the Count’s betrayers. Though Mercédès regrets marrying Fernand and not waiting for Dantès, she never stops loving Dantès and ends up being miserable for it.

Francoius-Louis Lesueur

François-Louis Lesueur (1820-1876), Paris, c. 1855. Lesueur was a French actor.

Goncourt Brothers

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Edmond Goncourt (1822-1896) and Jules Goncourt (1830-1870), Paris, c. 1855. The brothers were taste-makers of their time. The Prix Goncourt, the best known and most prestigious of French literary awards, is named for them.

Nadar & Adrien Fremiet 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910), 1854. Sculptor.

Paris PlacedesPyramidesJeanned'Arcequestre Frémiet 1874

Joan of Arc on Horseback, 1874, Place des Pyramides, Paris by Frémiet. The pedestal was designed by the architect Paul Abadie (1812-1884). The model for Joan was Aimée Girod (1856–1937).

Nadar Couder c. 1856

Nadar, Louis-Charles-Auguste-Couder (1789-1873), c. 1856. French painter and student of Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825).

Couder Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, 20 juin 1789

Couder,  Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, 20 juin 1789, 1848,  Musée de la Révolution française, Vizelle.

mariette2

Nadar, Mariette (Standing Nude), c. 1855. Only by viewing Nadar’s nude portraits in a group can the viewer begin to get a sense of the photographer’s inventiveness and grace in posing the model that achieves the maximum effect of the sitter’s degrees of vulnerability and beauty.

Seated Nude Partial drapery

Nadar, Mimi, c. 1857.

draped standing nude 1

Nadar, Draped Standing Nude, c. 1858.

maria l'antillaise

Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, c. 1858.

Mademoiselle de Sanzillon, c.1858

Mademoiselle de Sanzillon, Paris, c. 1858. Nadar took photographs of this society woman of the time. In a time when married women were still the legal property of their husband, Nadar’s portraits reveal a liberality of practice to find and display the individual personality of each female sitter. This is achieved by how the photographer posed them and captured their expression and outward fashion. The extent of Nadar’s abilities in the area of photographing women is best appreciated by seeing a select grouping of small-sized portraits that illustrate the range of this quality that he produced though a fraction of his oeuvre.

Finette c. 1857

Finette, c. 1857. 

mere marie jamet c. 1860

Mère Marie Jamet, c. 1860. From an inscription on the back of the photograph, it is speculated, though by no means certain, that this is the founder and mother superior of the Petites Soeurs des Pauvres (Little Sisters of the Poor).

ernesta grisi 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Ernesta Grisi, 1854. 

Mlle de baste c 1855

Mademoiselle de Basté, c. 1855. 

musette, c. 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon?), Musette (also Mariette), c. 1855. 

young woman in profile c 1859

Young woman in profile, c. 1859.

Marie Laurent

Marie Laurent (1826-1904), Paris, c. 1856. 

maria d'antillaise

Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, c. 1858.

young model

Young Model, Paris, c. 1858.

juliette adam

Juliette Adam (1835-1936), Paris, c. 1858.

Carlotta Grisi

Carlotta Grisi ( 1819-1899), Paris, 1865. 

Jules Janin


Nadar (Adrien Tournachon), Jules Janin (1804-1874), Paris, c. 1855. Known as the “prince of critics,” Janin enjoyed a 40-year-career as a theater critic, novelist, and literary historian from the 1830’s to the 1870’s.

Kopp

Kopp (d. 1872), Paris, c. 1857. Kopp was a comic actor at the Théâtre des Variétés, a theatre and “salle de spectacles” on the boulevard Montmartre in Paris. Several opéra bouffe by Jacques Offenbach premiered there in the 1860’s.

14

Le Théâtre des Variétés, sur le boulevard Montmartre, à Paris (IIe).

Nadar Emile Blavier1

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon),  Émile Blavier, 1854.  A young sculptor who gained recognition at the Salon of 1852.

Buste de fillette au chignon Blavier.jpg

Blavier, Buste de fillette au chignon.

Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Paris, c. 1857.  Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un artiste … en cinq parties (Fantastic  Symphony: Episode in the Life of an Artist… in Five Parts) was composed  in 1830. and is one of the most important orchestral works of the period. Franz Liszt made a piano transcription of it in 1833. Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature. The symphony is in five movements.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances is conducted by Stéphane Denève.

Paul Chenavard

Paul Chenavard (1807-1895), Paris, c. 1857. 

Nadar P-A Ravel 1854

Nadar, Pierre-Alfred Ravel (1811-1881). Master comic on the Paris stage at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal for a quarter of century. Each brilliant conversationalists, both sitter and photographer were both at the height of their powers. The glorious theater interiors that still stand in Paris today give the best indication of the celebrity quality that surrounded many of Nadar’s sitters.

foyer theatre du Palais Royal

Foyer, Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 38 Rue de Montpensier, (1e).

Théâtre du Palais Royal Salle de-spectacle

Théâtre de la Montansier/Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 1er, Paris.

Rosine Stolz

Rosine Stolz (1815-1903), Paris, c.1857. 

Pierre Ciceri

Pierre Cicéri (1782-1868), Paris, c.1857.

JBC Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Paris, c. 1857. 

Honore Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857. Four masterful portraits taken in the same sitting. Nadar and Daumier both started their cartoon careers under Charles Philipon. Daumier started by drawing and was prompted, again by Philipon,  to model unbaked clay figurines of lawmakers in the July Monarchy. For the rest of his long career Daumier was a master in drawing, painting, sculpture and lithography where the contemporary human element was key admired by Delacroix and Baudelaire. Daumier was friends with the sculptor Préault, painters Corot, Daubigny, Rousseau, and Dupré, and writers Théodore de Banville and Théophile Gautier. Although his first large solo exhibition (at Impressionist art dealer Durand Ruel’s gallery) was when the caricaturist was 70 years old, he had already been compared to novelist Balzac and philosopher Saint-Simon in that his art chronicled an era in French history. It is by viewing the several poses by Nadar of sitter during the same session that one begins to understand the appearance and personality of the subject for the first time.

Honore Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857.

Nadar Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857. This portrait of Daumier was exhibited in 1859 at the Société Française de Photographie.

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857.

honoré-daumier-caricature-de-photographie---a-collection-of-ten-lithographs


Daumier, Caricature de Photographie-A Collection of Ten Lithographs, lithograph, 36 x 24 cm. (14.2 x 9.4 in.), c. 1840–1867

Daumier_Passé,_présent,_avenir

Daumier, Le passé, le présent, l’avenir, lithographie, 19.6 x 21 cm, Coll. privée,  “La Caricature.”

Gustave Dore

Gustave Doré (1832-1883), Paris, c. 1857. 

Gustave Dore 2

Nadar, Gustave Doré, Paris, 1867. 

Jean Journet

Jean Journet (1799-1861), Paris, c. 1858. Fourierist “apostle.” Champfleury included Journet in his Excentriques and Nadar looked to achieve a passionate and inspired image in this photographic portrait portrait to offset Courbet’s anti-idealized artwork of Journet included below (Lithograph in black on wove paper, 1850, The Art Institute of Chicago).

Courbet Journet 1850
Francois Guizot

François Guizot (1787-1874), Paris, c. 1857. Guizot was a government official in certain of the conservative governments that ruled in early-to-mid-nineteenth century France. Where Guizot was contentious and controversial as a public official, his breath of learning on French History and European Civilization led to the publication of historical tomes that he wrote on these subjects that are comprehensive and well written and remain exciting classics of the period.

moses saphire

Moses Saphire (1795-1857), Paris, c. 1857. A cartoonist and satirist known as Maurice Gottlieb.  

eugene Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Paris, 1858. Many volumes could be and are dedicated to the work of this great French Romantic artist and painter. The Musée Delacroix in Paris reports that the artist lived in ten different dwellings and changed studios six times prior to 1857, the year he moved to 6 Rue de Fürstenberg. The apartment he occupied there became the Musée Delacroix in 1932. Delacroix decorated the Salon du Roi (1833–1838) and the library (1840–1846) of the Assemblé Nationale, followed by the library of the Sénat (1840–1851). He was then commissioned for the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon for the Musée du Louvre (1850–1851). Between 1851 and 1854, he also created the décor of the Salon de la Paix in the Paris Hôtel de Ville, although his work was unfortunately lost in the fire of 1871. Apart from that particular ensemble, all of Delacroix’s secular decoration still remains in its original location for our viewing pleasure today. The Musée Delacroix has the model of the Orpheus for one of the hemicycles of the Assemblée Nationale ceiling, as well as the model for the hemicycle of the Sénat library depicting Alexander Placing Homer’s Poems in a Golden Chest.

Two Bearded Heads after Veronese from The Marriage at Cana delacroix 1820

Delacroix, Two Bearded Heads, after Veronese (detail from “The Marriage at Cana”), 1820, oil on canvas. Photo by author.

Delacroix Lion Hunt 1861

Delacroix, Lion Hunt (detail), 1861, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by author.

adolphe cremieux

Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880), Paris, c. 1858.

Isidore Severin

Isadore Severin, Baron Taylor (1789-1879), Paris, c. 1858. 

Nadar chennevieres c. 1855

Nadar, Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel (1820-1899), c.1855. Museum administrator and scholar. A good friend of Baudelaire who praised Chennevières’ modesty in the face of his humanitarian ideals and work ethic.

emma livry

Emma Livry (1842-1863), Paris, c. 1859. 

Nadar self portrait c 1857

Nadar, Self Portrait, c. 1858. 

Nadar c 1859

Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1859. 

Nadar c 1860


Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1860.

Nadar in artificial light c 1859

Nadar, Self Portrait in artificial light, c.1859-1860. 

Nadar c 1865


Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1865. 

nadar self portrait

Nadar Self Portrait.

Nadar

Nadar in old age.

giacomo meyerbeer

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), Paris, 1860. 

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Nadar atelier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), Paris, 1862. 

Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), Paris, c. 1863. 

Manet

Nadar, Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Paris, c. 1864. 

steamboat-leaving-boulogne

Manet, Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Manet Dead Christ with Angels 1864 Met NY

Manet, Le Christ mort et les anges / Le Christ aux anges (The Dead Christ with Angels), 1864, Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Nadar Legrand c 1858

Nadar, Legrand, c. 1858. An understudy to Baptise Deburau as Pierrot and a friendly rival to Charles Deburau, Legrand was short and stocky and in his performances was known for his deftness in pantomime to convey character, especially sentiment and tears.

George Sand

George Sand (1804-1876), Paris, 1864.

Sarah_Bernhardt 1864

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), Paris, c. 1864. 

Sarah Bernhardt late teens

Sarah Bernhardt in her late teens, c. 1859. 

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), Paris, c. 1864.
In 1893 Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) took over the direction of the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. Built in 1873, the theater stands next to the Porte Saint-Martin monument constructed in 1674. During the next six years (until 1899) many productions premiered in Bernhardt’s theater: Gismonda, a Greek melodrama in four acts, by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) in 1894; La Princesse Lointaine, a play based on the story of a 12th-century troubadour, by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) in 1895; two plays by Maurice Donnay (1859-1945), Amants in 1896 and L’Affranchie in 1898; La Figurante by François, Vicomte de Curel (1854-1928) in 1896; and two other productions in 1898, La Ville morte by Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) and Lysiane, a five-act play, by Romain Coolus (1868-1952). In 1896, Sarah Bernhardt in the Théâtre de la Renaissance, played the title role in Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio, performing the part at the age of 52 and declared by the critics to be “from beginning to end, and at every moment, incomparably sublime.”

Sarah Bernhardt 1864

Théâtre de la Renaissance1

Théâtre de la Renaissance, Paris (10e).

stage, Le théâtre de la Renaissance à Paris

Stage, Théâtre de la Renaissance, 20 boulevard Saint-Martin (10th), Paris. Sarah Bernhardt directed this theater from 1893 to 1899. It was built in 1873.

Divine Sarah by nadar

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar.

SB in title role of theodora 1884

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in the title role of Théodora in 1884.

Theatre SB 1899

In 1899 Sarah Bernhardt signed a long lease for the Théâtre des Nations/Théâtre Lyrique at 2 Place du Châtelet in the Fourth arrondissment and renamed it Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt. It was designed by Gabriel Davioud (1824-1881) and built in 1862 by Baron Haussmann (1809-1891). It was virtually  completely destroyed by fire in May 1871 at the end of Paris Commune and rebuilt according to the original plans in 1874. The renowned actress produced there until her death in 1923.

The impressive Haussmannian architecture of the Théâtre de la Ville has stood opposite the Théâtre du Châtelet, on the square of the same name in the centre of Pa

Impressive Haussmannian architecture of the Théâtre de la Ville has stood opposite the Théâtre du Châtelet, on the square of the same name in Paris, since 1862.

Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt today is Théâtre de la Ville.

Theatre SB program 1906-07 for La Vierge d'Avila

Part of a program for a production of La Vierge d’Avila in 1907-1907 at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt.

Divine Sarah by Nadar in La Tosca 1887

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in a production of La Tosca in 1887.

Jules Champfleury

 Jules Champfleury (1821-1889), Paris, c. 1865. French writer and modern art critic. Champfleury was a prominent supporter of the Realist movement in painting and fiction and a champion of Gustave Courbet.

Nadar_Champfleury
Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Paris, c. 1866. 

Courbet Woman with a Parrot 1866 Met

Courbet, Woman With A Parrot, 1866, oil on canvas, 51 x 77 in. (129.5 x 195.6 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York. When this painting was shown in the Salon of 1866, critics censured Courbet’s “lack of taste” as well as his model’s “ungainly” pose and “disheveled hair.” Yet the provocative picture found favor with a younger generation of artists who shared Courbet’s disregard for academic standards.

Charles-François Daubigny c. 1857

Nadar, Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), c. 1857. Born near Paris into a family of artists, Daubigny was first taught by his father, the artist Edme François Daubigny. His uncle Pierre Daubigny, a miniaturist, was also influential in his life. Daubigny carried on the tradition by his son Karl Daubigny (1846-1886), an accomplished landscape painter.

Daubigny Village of Groton 1857 San Francisco

Daubigny, The Village of Groton, 1857, Oil On Panel, 29.8 x 53.7 cm (11 3/4 x 21 1/8 in.), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Nadar Millet c. 1857

Nadar, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), c. 1857. Nadar admired Millet of whom he wrote in 1857 was “one of the most serious talents of the French school.” Some wanted to make Millet’s canvases into sociopolitical manifestos such as in Courbet’s works, but Millet was not intentionally political. Rather Millet’s works looked to depict a toiling peasantry with monumentality and the noble simplicity.

Millet The Angelus c. 1857


Millet, The Angelus, c 1857, Oil on canvas, 55.5 x 66 cm, Musée d’Orsay.

Jacques Offenbach

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), Paris, 1875. 

The famous can-can from Orphée aux Enfers (“Orpheus in the Underworld”) composed in 1858.

Charles Garnier

Charles Garnier (1825-1898), Paris, 1877. Architect of the opulent Opéra Garnier constructed between 1861 and 1875.  The Palais Garnier  is probably the most famous opera house in the world and one of the symbols of Paris.

opera garnier 1

Paris Opera exterior and interior. Stock photos.

Le Grand Foyer Opera Garnier Paris
Constance Queniaux 1861

Constance Quéniaux (1832-1908), Paris, 1861. Documentary evidence (a letter between Alexandre Dumas fils and Georges Sand) points to the sitter in Nadar’s photograph, a former dancer at the Paris opera and a mistress of the Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil Bey as the subject in Gustave Courbet’s erotic painting, The Origin of the World (1866), in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Ernestine Nadar 1854

Ernestine-Constance Nadar (1836-1909), Paris, 1854. 

nadar_photographers_wife1890

Nadar, Ernestine Nadar, 1890. The Photographer’s wife displays a winsome expression in this portrait.

vitorhugonadar2g

Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

NADAR

Eugène Atget, Photographer: L’Art Dans Le Vieux Paris.

Eugène Atget Studio c. 1910

Eugène Atget, Photographer’s Studio, c. 1910.

Atget anonymous


Eugène Atget in an anonymously-taken photograph. Atget was born in 1857 near Bordeaux (Libourne) and after his parents died in 1862, the 5-year-old boy was brought up by his grandparents in Bordeaux. Atget received a solid education and, similar to Paul Gauguin, eventually went to sea in the merchant navy and later, in 1878, settled in Paris where he aspired to be a dramatic actor. For the next decade, Atget was a traveling thespian in the Paris theaters. Even after he left Paris and the theater profession in 1888 to become a fine arts painter in the provinces, Atget always considered himself to be an actor. By 1890, his brief painting career over, Atget was back in Paris where he decided to become a documentary photographer.

There is a portrait of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) by Berenice Abbott created in 1927 that can be found here: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/eug%C3%A8ne-atget?all/all/all/all/0. The portrait was taken in Berenice Abbott’s studio after Atget had recently taken up photography again. In August 1927, he died. It was at Man Ray’s suggestion that Berenice Abbott introduced herself to Atget in 1925 and began taking photographs of him. Of her subject she observed: “[Atget] will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization.” (quoted in Paris Eugène Atget 1857-1927, Taschen, 2000, p. 22).

Atget, Children Playing Luxembourg Gardens, c 1898


Eugène Atget, Children Playing, Luxembourg Gardens, c.1898. Atget created many photographs with people in them, including this straightforward portrayal of Parisian life that also serves as a document of historical interest.

Atget The Old School of Medicine, 1898.


Eugène Atget, The Old School of Medicine, Rue de la Bûcherie, 1898. Near the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris and the Place Maubert, between La Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain, Rue de la Bûcherie is one of the oldest Left Bank streets. In the Middle Ages discarded meats were prepared here to feed the poor. The dome of this sixteenth-century building built for the University of Paris housed an auditorium in which classes were held. In Atget’s time it was a hotel that housed a street-level wine shop. After 1910 it became a school dormitory and a library after that. Today, the Old School of Medicine has been restored to original appearance.

Atget, St-Julien-le-Pauvre Facade


Eugène Atget, Façade, St-Julien-le-Pauvre, 1898. The chapel on this site since the sixth century was destroyed in the ninth century by the Normans. Remnants of a twelfth century church that was sacked by students in 1524 remain after the church was reconstructed in 1651. During the French Revolution the church was used to store and sell various stock, and rededicated as a church in 1826. When Atget photographed it, St Julien-le-Pauvre was a Melkite Catholic Church which it is today. The arch at the top of Atget’s photograph is a camera effect from the glass plate not being covered by the lens. The church guard is seated to one side of the main door. The buildings to the side of the passageway in the photograph are largely gone today.

Atget Place Saint Medard


Eugène Atget, Place Saint-Médard, 1889-99.

Atget, Hotel de Brinvilliers Rue Charles V


Eugène Atget, Hôtel de Brinvilliers, Rue Charles V, 1900.

Atget, Au Bon Puits, rue Michel-Le-Comte, 1901


Eugène Atget, Au Bon Puits, rue Michel-Le-Comte, 1901.

Atget, Lampshade seller, rue Lepic


Eugène Atget, Lampshade Seller, rue Lepic, 1901.

Ragpicker, avenue des Gobelins, 1901

Eugène Atget, Ragpicker, avenue des Gobelins, 1901.

Atget, Fountains at Juvisy, 1902.

Eugène Atget, Fountains at Juvisy, 1902.

Atget. Petit Bacchus, 61, rue-St-Louis-en-l'Ile, 1901-02


Eugène Atget, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.

Atget,Au Petit Bacchus rue St-Louis-en-Ile detail


Eugène Atget, detail, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.

Atget, Temple of Love, the Petit Trianon, 1902.


Eugène Atget, The Temple of Love, the Petit Trianon, 1902.

Atget, Paris Antique Store, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore 1902


Eugène Atget, Paris Antique Store, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 1902.

Atget, Paris Maison, Place du Caire, 1903


Eugène Atget, Façade du no 2 , Place du Caire, 1903.

Atget, Courtyard of Farewells, Fontainebleau, 1903

Eugène Atget, Courtyard of Farewells, Fontainebleau, 1903.

Atget, Ancienne Barrière du Trône, Paris, 1903-04.

Eugène Atget, Ancienne Barrière (tollgate) du Trône, Paris, 1903-04.

Atget, France Triumphant, Versailles, 1904

Eugène Atget, France Triumphant, Versailles, 1904.

Atget, Paris Palais Royal


Eugène Atget, Palais-Royal, Paris, 1904-05.

Atget, Tree Roots, Saint Cloud Park, 1906.


Eugène Atget, Tree Roots, Saint Cloud Park, 1906.

Atget, Rue Sainte Opportune, Paris, 1908 (or 1912)


Eugène Atget, Rue Sainte Opportune, Paris, 1908 (or 1912).

Eugène Atget, Water Lilies, before 1911.

Eugène Atget, Water Lilies, before 1911.

Old Courtyard, rue Quincampoix, 1908 or 1912.


Eugène Atget, Old Courtyard, rue Quincampoix, 1908 or 1912.

Atget, Entrée du passage de la Réunion, 1 et 3 Rue du Maure, 3° arrondissement en 1911.


Eugène Atget, Entrée du passage de la Réunion, 1 et 3 Rue du Maure, 3° arrondissement, 1911.

Atget, Tinsmith's Shop, rue de la Reynie, 1912


Eugène Atget, Tinsmith’s Shop, rue de la Reynie, 1912.

Dress shop, rue de la Corderie, 1920.


Eugène Atget, Dress shop, rue de la Corderie, 1920.

Atget, Hairdresser's shop, boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912


Eugène Atget, Hairdresser’s shop, boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912.

Atget, Ragpicker's Hut, 1912.


Eugène Atget, Ragpicker’s Hut, 1912.

Atget, old mill, Charenton 1915.

Eugène Atget, Old Mill, Charenton, 1915.

Atget, Reflecting Pool, Saint-Cloud, 1915-19.

Eugène Atget, Reflecting Pool, Saint-Cloud, 1915-19.

Atget, rue de l'hotel de Ville 1921

Eugène Atget, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 1921.

Atget, Cour de Rouen, 1915.

Eugène Atget, Cour de Rouen, 1915.

Atget, Hotel Richelieu, 18 quai de Bethune 4th 1900

Eugène Atget, Hôtel Richelieu, 18 quai de Béthune, (4th arr.), 1900.

Atget, Ancienne maison de la maitrise 1902

Eugène Atget, Ancienne maison de la maîtrise, 1902.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: his complete 31 mass-produced art posters in color.

By John P. Walsh

The nineteenth century in France brought about a radical transformation of the role of the artist. In place of artwork for aristocratic patrons, artists in all media were increasingly left to their own devices and began creating works of art in their studios and looking to sell them in the open marketplace. Innovative forms, new subjects, and new styles emerged from these changing economic structures brought about by the dawning of the industrial and technological age as well as the growing importance of cities.

In Paris and elsewhere, enterprising artists sought to attract new clients increasingly composed of the urban bourgeoisie. By the mid-to-late nineteenth century the involvement of the public in artistic matters became an irrevocable fact which had been secured by the improved means of mass production. New processes in lithographic and photographic printmaking, for example, made art widely available to a popular audience. The entry of this sort of democracy into artistic production coincided with current aesthetic influences such as a Japonisme movement prevalent in France in the years before 1890. In addition, there was a new understanding of modern beauty that began around 1830 that rejected traditional forms of beauty manifested in classical and later art forms.

By the early 1890’s when Henri Toulouse Lautrec (French, 1864-1901) created his mass-produced posters in Paris a new artistic practice had appeared whose idea of beauty was contemporary, sophisticated and subtly realistic. By 1890, Lautrec’s art could react in several ways to the modern art tradition. Toulouse-Lautrec repudiated the bourgeois modernity of the Impressionists from the 1870’s and 1880’s displayed in the drawing-room paintings of Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) and, owing to cultural spaces that had shifted by the 1880’s to artistic cabarets and literary cafés, Lautrec could also claim to be a direct heir to an earlier 1830’s romantic bohemian and 1840’s flâneur.

There are several interpretations for this cultural shift and its effects on artists and artistic practice in the 1890’s including Toulouse-Lautrec’s mass-produced commercial posters. Building on a rejection of bourgeois art forms, Mary Gluck at Brown University argues that artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec—who with others was a creature of the cabarets and cafés—desired commercial mass media to be the means by which the public sphere would eclipse individual lives which modern society had fragmented. At the center of their art production, Gluck believes, is a distinct vision of modernity identified with a city’s public space as opposed to the private anonymity of bourgeois culture (see Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris, 2005). To strive to transform the public sphere by way of the legacy of the café-concert about and for which Toulouse-Lautrec created a significant amount of his mass-produced commercial art could only be an ambitious cultural task. These cabarets and café-concerts, mostly centered on and around Montmartre in Paris, were crowded, loud and often rowdy. Its performances and clientele were often unpolished and popular. Small but well-known art movements such as Les Arts incohérents and their Montmartre cabaret Les Hydropathes begin to describe the level of social parody and frivolity to be expected within these establishments. While Lionel Richard at the University of Picardy attributes these activities to social rebels (see Cabaret, Cabarets: Origines et décadence, 1991), Jerrold Seigel at New York University views it as a calculated new relationship between the popular classes and the bourgeoisie where the aspiring artist, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, could create art for potential customers (see Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930, 1986). For T. J. Clark, the cabaret’s diverse audience as a venue for some form of cultural democracy by way of a mixing of classes is illusory (see “The Bar at the Folies-Bergères,” The Wolf and the Lamb: Popular Culture in France, From the Old Régime to the Twentieth Century, 1977). Charles Rearick of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, casts an eye on those frivolous aspects of the Montmartre cabarets, dance halls, and literary cafés. His conclusion is that these activities allowed a Parisian to escape modern society’s social constraints of respectability typically found everywhere else (see Pleasures of the Belle Epoque: Entertainment & Festivity in Turn-Of-The-Century France, 1985). Phillip Dennis Cate at The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University viewed the role of cabarets in the artistic context of these bohemian antics being the genesis of what became twentieth-century avant-garde aesthetics (see The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905, 1996). It is the affirmation of the values of spontaneous experience and direct communication as an integral aspect of the modern experience and, for the fin-de-siècle bohemian, parodic performances which helped criticize the official art establishment that carried forward into artistic attitudes in the new century.

The fruit of reflection for this late-nineteenth-century artistic period in Paris is numerous and diverse. It leads to the observation—whether of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec or the variety of subjects in his mass-produced commercial art—that the stereotype of the artist, poet, or performer as bohemian, owing to their psychological nuance and stylistic antisepsis as aesthetic modernity—and possibly its inverse—becomes a source for their estrangement and alienation from modernity—that is, to emerge as an alienated human figure detached from their society and time. With Toulouse-Lautrec’s sixth poster (Divan Japonais, 1893) it is clear that his mass-produced commercial poster art in Paris was making an important impact on modern art in the 1890’s. It was a new art form for its deploying the rapidly developing technique of color printing. It utilized new approaches to composition and subject matter which were created for a mixture of new and popular commercial establishments. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they became the first regularly displayed art commodity for public mass consumption. Each of these art principles and practices found in Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of the 1890’s continue to impact contemporary art-making today.

Toulouse-Lautrec_-_Moulin_Rouge_-_La_Goulue
1. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Moulin Rouge-La Goulue, 1891.

1. Moulin Rouge-La Goulue is a lithograph done in 4 colors: yellow, blue, red, and black. The Moulin Rouge opened in 1889 and, in summer 1891, the poster was commissioned by its owners. It depicts La Goulue (“The Glutton”) who is 21-year-old Louis Weber (1870-1929) and Valentin-le-Désossé (“the Boneless”) (1843-1907). This is Toulouse-Lautrec’s first, largest, and many estimate, most complex and artistically important poster. Printed by Charles Levy, it is made up of two sheets although Toulouse-Lautrec thought the printer had made mistakes and didn’t use him again. When this poster was plastered around Paris, the artist knew that his own silhouetted profile could be found in the background of silhouetted figures. The art of the streets pioneered by Jules Chéret (1836-1932) and immediately recognized for its implications by writers such as the Goncourt brothers and J.K. Huysmans (1848-1907) Lautrec exploited in the 1890’s aided by technological advances in color printing that continued to improve throughout the decade.

le Pendu
2. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Le Pendu, 1892

2. The poster Le Pendu is a lithograph done in 2 colors: black and dark green. It was commissioned by a magazine editor to publicize a new theater play. Based on a true story of a wrongful capital death, the poster depicts the son’s suicide. Created in charcoal in late 1891, it was printed in 1895 in a limited edition for collectors only.

Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_002
3. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Ambassadeurs Aristide Bruant, 1892.

3. The poster Ambassadeurs Aristide Bruant is a lithograph in 5 colors yellow, blue, red, black, and olive green. Aristide Bruant (1851-1923) was a singer and this was a promotional poster for a café concert that opened in June 1892. The poster appeared all over Paris and on stage during the performance. The café owner thought the poster was a “disgusting mess” and refused to hang it until Bruant threatened to cancel his show. The subject wears a heavy dark velvet jacket, red shirt scarf, and wide brimmed hat with a riding crop. His head rises out of a dark mass which is lifted wholesale from a Japanese print by Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792).

Toulouse-Lautrec_Eldorado_Aristide_Bruant
4. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Eldorado Aristide Bruant. 1892.

4. The poster Eldorado Aristide Bruant is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, red, blue, and black). It includes the letters “TL” and signed monogram which will appear on other posters. The poster was created for the singer’s event on Boulevard de Strasbourg (north of Boulevard Montmartre at Sebastopol). With the same but reversed design, the customer and artist cut poster costs while increasing brand identity. In modern art the figure of the imposing heroic individual performer was new and Bruant became an overnight celebrity that year in Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec made no money on this project because the café owners were shocked by its content and refused to pay him.

Lautrec_reine_de_joie_poster_1892
5. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Reine de Joie, 1892

5. The poster Reine de Joie is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red, and black). It includes the emblematic letters “TL” and is signed. The poster was an advertisement for a suggestive new serialized novel by Victor Joze (1861-1933) and depicted the moment in the novel when the heroine kisses a fat banker, the latter being modeled by Georges Lasserre, a Lautrec friend. The poster, also used as the novel’s cover, caused a scandal across Paris and prompted a poster tear-down campaign. Speculation ran rampant as to who might be the real-life personalities on which characters in the novel were based.

Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_-_Divan_Japonais
6. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Divan Japonais, 1892-93.

6. The poster Divan Japonais (1892-93) is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red, and black). The cabaret on rue des Martyrs came under new ownership in 1892 and was totally refurbished in a trendy Japanese style. The poster depicts 24-year-old Jane Avril (1868-1943) with critic Edouard Dujarden (1861-1949) in the cabaret. On stage are shown the long black gloves of new singer Yvette Guilbert (1865-1944). In a stylistic move, the artist cuts off Guilbert’s head and shoulders in the poster much to the consternation of the young singer just getting started in her career. (She later commissioned a poster by another artist to depict her complete figure). When this poster went up all over Paris it created a sensation and was another triumph for Lautrec. In 1894 the Divan Japonais closed to be replaced by another establishment. As with his other posters, there were several preliminary sketches the artist made for Divan Japonais. The posters used the new and improving popular mechanical technique of color printing and applied it to commercial establishments and popular entertainers, subject matter usually reserved for cruder forms of advertisement.    

Divan Japonais is one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s early posters. In his poster career the artist usually used anywhere from 2 to 5 colors. It is signed by Toulouse Lautrec. This Montmartre cabaret was taken over in 1892 by a new owner and totally refurbished in the avant-garde Japanese style which was the inspiration for the cabaret’s name. By February 1893 when this sixth poster was made by Lautrec and put up all around Paris, his 5 previous posters had already made him famous.

Jane_Avril_by_Toulouse-Lautrec
7. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Jane Avril, 1893.

7. The poster Jane Avril is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, orange, red, and black). The same subject who appeared in Divan Japonais, Jane Avril commissioned this poster for her performance at the Jardin de Paris, a new café-concert. The letters for the name of the establishment were added later by someone other than Lautrec. The artist first produced 20 collector prints and after, with its newly-added letters, the poster went into mass production. Known as La Mélinite—a type of explosive—Jane Avril looked to this poster to reinvigorate her career as a performer in Paris. The poster helped her to take Paris by storm as she went on to perform at the Casino de Paris, the Moulin Rouge and the Folies-Bergères. In terms of composition, the poster is noteworthy for its strong diagonals inspired by Japanese prints and the detail of a large musical instrument—including the meticulously drawn hairs of a musician’s fingers—which rounds out the design and is seen as homage to Degas who used a similar motif in his artwork.

Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_003
8. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Aristide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret, 1893.

8. The poster Aristide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, brown, red, and black). Lautrec’s third image of the singer became a Parisian icon. From the poster’s inception the singer used this image to promote his appearances—and for the next twenty years until 1912.

Au Pied De L'Echafaud, 1893
9. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Au Pied De L’Echafaud, 1893.

9. The poster Au Pied De L’Echafaud is a lithograph in 4 colors (grey, red-brown, red, and black). The poster was an advertisement for the memoirs of a prison chaplain published in 1893.

Lautrec_caudieux_poster_1893
10. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Caudieux, 1893.

10. The poster Caudieux is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red and black). Lautrec depicts Caudieux, who was a popular cabaret comedian, to be striding across the stage. Lautrec used the partial figure in the prompt box in other artwork.

Bruant Au Miriton 1893
11. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Bruant Au Miriton, 1893.
Bruant Au Miriton, 1893.
Bruant Au Miriton, 1893.

11. The poster Bruant Au Miriton is a lithograph in 2 colors (olive green or black and red). Represented with his back to the viewer, the popular performer is identified simply by his costume and the way he stands. This artistic device had already been used by Degas based on a theory by an art critic that a person’s economic and social class could be revealed simply by the way he or she comports themselves. The poster was recycled by Bruant as a songbook cover.

Babylone D'Allemagne, 1894
12. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Babylone D’Allemagne, 1894

12. The poster Babylone D’Allemagne is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, red, dark blue and black). This was Lautrec’s second poster for another Victor Joze novel following his Reine de Joie. Lautrec wrote to his mother at this time to relate how busy he was with his art projects. Because of Joze’s anti-German message in the book, the author wanted the poster suppressed but it went up all over Paris nonetheless.

Lautrec_l'artisan_moderne_(poster)_1894
13. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – L’Artisan Moderne, 1894.

13. The poster L’Artisan Moderne is a lithograph in 4 colors (dark blue, yellow, green, and brown). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. Because of the impact of the cabaret and book posters, Lautrec began to be commissioned to make posters for the trades. This poster was provided to an interior design firm.

P. Sescau, Photographe, 1894
14. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – P. Sescau, Photographe, 1894

14. The poster P. Sescau, Photographe is a lithograph in 4 colors (dark red, yellow, green, and dark blue). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. This poster was provided to Paul Sescau, a professional photographer and personal friend of the artist.

confetti_512
15. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Confetti, 1894.

15. The poster Confetti is a lithograph in 3 colors (dark olive green, red and yellow). This is Lautrec’s poster for the English paper manufacturer Bella & de Malherbe. The model is Jeanne Granier (1852-1939). These paper manufacturers hosted poster exhibitions in 1894 and 1896 to which Lautrec was invited.

Lautrec_may_belfort_poster_1895
16. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – May Belfort, 1895.

16. The poster May Belfort is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive black, red and yellow). Following his trades posters Lautrec returned to the subject of the single musical performer. May Egan (whose stage name was May Belfort) was an Irish singer who appeared at the Cabaret des Décadents where Jane Avril performed.

La Revue Blanche, 1895
17. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Revue Blanche, 1895.

17. The poster La Revue Blanche is a lithograph in 4 colors (blue, red, black, and green). The subject is Misia Natanson (1872-1950) who was married to Thadée Natanson whose brother was editor of La Revue Blanche from 1891 to 1903. Misia was muse to a generation of avant-garde artists, composers, and writers as the publication itself was the remarkable meeting point for the Paris literary and artistic worlds in the 1890’s. Lautrec shows Misia wearing an ostrich feather hat, spotted dress, fur jacket and muff and ice skating which was a popular activity in Paris. Two preparatory drawings for this poster are known.

Lautrec_may_milton_poster_1895
18. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – May Milton, 1895.

18. The poster May Milton is a lithograph in 5 colors (blue, red, black, yellow and olive green). This poster was never posted in Paris but produced as an advertisement in a magazine to promote the U.S. tour of May Milton, an English dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Picasso owned a copy of this poster and used some of its compositional elements in his own artwork. Art dealers would commission limited editions of black-and-white lithographs of performers such as May Milton because they sold quickly.

toulouse_lautrec Napoleon
19. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Napoleon, 1895.

19. The poster Napoleon is a lithograph in 5 colors (blue, reddish brown, black, yellow and olive green). Toulouse-Lautrec produced this poster for a book cover competition that he lost. Failing to sell this artwork, the artist produced a limited edition of 100 copies at the artist’s expense.  The artist’s fee for his poster artwork varied a good deal, although during his career Lautrec clearly made more money from the output of his graphic work than his paintings.

Salon des Cents, 1895
20. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Salon Des Cents, 1895.

20. The poster Salon Des Cents is a lithograph in 6 colors (blue, dark blue, black, yellow, ochre, and red). This poster is Lautrec’s homage to a married woman he met and became infatuated with during a summer cruise in 1895. The young woman sits in a deck chair under an awning facing out to sea. He produced the poster at his rentrée to Paris that fall and used it for international poster exhibitions sponsored by the journal La Plume at the Salon des Cent during winter 1895-96 and later in 1896 at the Libre Esthétique exhibition in Brussels.

800px-Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec_-_Rue_Royale_-_The_Chap_Book_-_poster
21. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – The Chap Book, 1895.

21. The poster The Chap Book is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, blue, yellow, pink and red). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. The artist used the setting of an Irish-American bar near Place Madeleine in Paris to promote The Chap Book, an American magazine.  Along with its identifiable characters, Lautrec includes the image of a bartender preparing a cocktail which was a libation newly introduced to Paris.

La Chatelaine, Ou 'Le Tocsin', 1895
22. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Chatelaine, Ou ‘Le Tocsin’, 1895

22. The poster La Chatelaine, Ou ‘Le Tocsin’ is a lithograph in 2 colors (blue and blue-green). This poster was commissioned by former Republican politician and Editor-in-chief Arthur Huc (1854-1932) to advertise a novel by Jules de Gastyne (1847-1920) which appeared in his newspaper in popular serial form in 1895. Letters were added by others after copies of the poster were printed for collectors of Lautrec’s increasingly popular artwork.

troupe
23. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Troupe De Mlle Églantine, 1896.

23. The poster Troupe De Mlle Églantine is a lithograph in 4 colors (green-blue, red, yellow and dark brown). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was commissioned by Jane Avril for her work in London at the Palace Theatre and elsewhere. The formation dance was comprised of four identified dancers including Mlle Églantine and Jane Avril and derived from the famous French can-can.

Lautrec_la_vache_enrage_the_mad_cow_1896
24. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Vache Enragee, 1896.

24. The poster La Vache Enragée is a lithograph in 5 colors (dark blue, green-blue, red, yellow and black). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was an advertisement for a new monthly magazine founded by Adolphe Willette (1857-1926). Its editor, Adolphe Roedel, organized an annual parade through Montmartre called the Vachalcade to lampoon the artist’s state of life in a major urban center.

Elles, 1896
25. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Elles, 1896.

25. The poster Elles is a lithograph in 4 colors (yellow, dark green, orange and blue). Later lettering is not designed by Lautrec. Degas would visit a Paris brothel to sketch its denizens, but Lautrec moved in for weeks at a time to do his artwork. Elles is a series of lithographs of the lives of prostitutes. Although considered some of the finest of lithographs of the nineteenth century, its portfolio of prints could not find collectors and they had to be sold singly. An exhibition of the complete lithographic series was held at La Plume starting in April 1896 where Lautrec adapted Elles’ title-page lithograph as the poster to advertise the show.

L'Aube, 1896
26. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – L’Aube, 1896.

26. The poster L’Aube is a lithograph in 2 colors (dark blue and blue-green). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was another advertisement for a new journal, the leftist L’Aube, first published in 1896. After its printing, the printer and artist had a rafter of remainders of this poster which they tried to sell for next to nothing.

Cycle Michael, 1896.
27. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Cycle Michael, 1896.

27. The poster Cycle Michael is a lithograph in 1 color (olive green). Bicycling had developed into a cult sport in France by the 1890’s. Lautrec’s interest in the new sport led to this poster commission of British cyclist Jimmy Michael with his trainer (left background) and a sports writer with a hand in his coat pocket. The bicycle company rejected Lautrec’s design in part because the depiction of its mechanics was inaccurate which left the artist to print a limited edition for collectors at his own expense.

La Chaine Simpson, 1896
28. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Chaine Simpson, 1896

28. The poster La Chaîne Simpson is a lithograph in 3 colors (red, yellow and blue). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This is Lautrec’s second poster for the new sport of bicycling which had become immensely popular in France in the 1890’s. It depicts popular rider Constant Huret (left) and, in the background wearing hats, two British and French bicycle and chain manufacturers. Lautrec was fascinated with the cycling sport and its imagery appears in other of his artwork.

The Ault & Wiborg Co, 1896
29. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – The Ault & Wiborg Co, 1896.

29. The poster The Ault & Wiborg Co is a zincograph in 4 colors (brown, red, yellow and black). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. The smallest of Lautrec’s posters, it was commissioned by an American ink manufacturer whose sitters are not precisely identified. Before it became a poster advertisement, Lautrec had an edition of it printed which he titled Au Concert.

Jane Avril, 1899
30. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Jane Avril, 1899.

30. The poster Jane Avril is a zincograph in 4 colors (black, red, yellow and blue). After six years of intense poster production, Lautrec temporarily left its practice in 1897 and 1898. When he returned to it in 1899 he found that technology had advanced to make the printing technique for his artwork more efficient. This poster was commissioned by Jane Avril but never publicly displayed. Lautrec looked to capture her dancing style and graceful and wistful figure which the artist admired. The serpentine-themed dress Jane Avril wears was a popular motif in the Art Nouveau.

La Gitane, 1899-1900
31. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – La Gitane, 1899-1900.

31. The poster La Gitane is a lithograph in 5 colors (black, grey, red, brown and blue). The lettering is designed by Lautrec. Lautrec’s last poster was produced for a Carmen-like play that opened in January 1900 at the Théâtre Antoine in the tenth arrondissment. The play was unpopular, the poster never published, and Lautrec’s modern art poster career had come to an end.

Select Bibliography:
Ash, Russell, Toulouse-Lautrec:The Complete Posters, Pavilion Books Limited, London, 1991.
Beauroy, Jacques, Bertrand, Marc, Gargan, Edward T., editors, The Wolf and the Lamb: Popular Culture in France, From the Old Régime to the Twentieth Century, Anma Libri, Saratoga, CA, 1977.
Cate, Phillip Dennis, The Color Revolution: Color Lithography in France, 1890-1900, Peregrine Smith, Inc., Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1978.
Cate, Phillip Dennis and Shaw, Mary, editors, The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1996.
Denvir, Bernard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Thames and Hudson, London, 1991.
Gluck, Mary, Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005.
Foxwell, Chelsea, Leonard, Anne, et.al. Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2012.
Oberthur, Mariel, Cafés and Cabarets of Montmartre, Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, 1984.
Rearick, Charles, Pleasures of the Belle Époque: Entertainment & Festivity in Turn-Of-The-Century France, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1985.
Seigel, Jerrold, Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930, Penguin Books, New York, 1986.
Thory-Frèches, Claire, Roquebert, Anne, Thomson, Richard, Toulouse-Lautrec, South Bank Center, 1991.
Weisberg, Gabriel P., Montmartre and the Making of Mass Culture, Rutgers University Press, News Brunswick, New Jersey and London. 2001.

Text ©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925): Portraits of the 1870’s and 1880’s.

By John P. Walsh

These works by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) are in oil, watercolor, and pastel. They begin to present Sargent’s professional output during his formative years in France and England and his trips to the United States.

While Sargent’s early portrait subjects range from famous people such as writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) and actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928) in her role as Lady Macbeth, Sargent’s first portraits were mostly of family and friends. These included artists, writers, musicians, and some of the artist’s romantic interests.

Sargent’s artistic practice developed within a swiftly expanding social circle of prominent American expatriates and Europeans which included portrait commissions from business, military, legal and medical practitioners. His portrait work extended to their wives and children. It was during this creative period that Sargent painted his well-known group portrait The Daughters of Edward D. Boit (1882) and the portrait of an exotic and controversial Madame X  (Mme. Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau).  

Each of the following artworks are identified and described in a brief caption. These include the artwork’s title (usually the sitter’s name), date created, and dimensions, markings and location, when known. Further, it often discusses how the sitter knew Sargent and the historical context of the artwork including some of a particular artwork’s provenance and exhibition history.

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Violet Sargent, c. 1875, oil on panel, 27.7 x 23.5 cm (10 ½ x 9 ¼ in.), private collection. Originally inscribed across the top “Violet” but removed in a later cleaning. The sitter was the artist’s youngest sister (1870-1955).

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Resting, c. 1875, oil on canvas, 8½ x 10 9/16 in. (21.6 x 26.8 cm), inscribed upper right: John S. Sargent, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Informal pose and setting, bold treatment of light, this is one of the artist’s early outdoor works. The identity of the sitter is unknown.

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Mrs. Emily Sargent Pleasants, c. 1876, oil on canvas, 55.8 x 40.6 cm (22 x 16 inches), private collection. The artist’s aunt (his father’s sister). Dr. Pleasants (Emily’s husband) visited the artist’s family in France in 1875, but it is not known if she came along. The next year the 20-year-old American artist, born in Florence, Italy,  visited the United States for the first time and went to the Pleasants home in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The high-backed rocking chair in the painting points to this portrait being done there.

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Frank O’Meara, c. 1876, oil on canvas, 44.5 x 39.5 cm (17½ x 15½ inches), inscribed upper left: John S. Sargent. Inscribed upper right:1875. Typewritten label on reverse signed by Austin Strong, 14/5/1931, The Century Association, New York. O’Meara was an “impecunious and dreamy” Irish art student with Sargent in Carolus-Duran’s atelier. Sargent painted it for O’Meara to give to an American girl during a summer romance. Then Isobel Osbourne (1858-1953) returned home and married somebody else.

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Mrs. Charles Deering, c.1877, oil on canvas, 55.8 x 43.2 cm (22 x 17 in.), Rhode Island School of Design. The family of Annie Rogers Case (1848-1876) met the Sargents in Florence in the 1860s. Her father (“the Admiral”) owned a Sargent Salon picture and dined with them on Christmas Day 1874. In 1876 JSS visited with the Deerings at Newport, Rhode Island,  but did not paint Annie’s portrait. Mrs. Deering died the next year in childbirth. In the Sargent-Deering letters preserved at Chicago the artist agreed to the widower’s request to paint a posthumous work of his wife.

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Violet Sargent, 1877, oil on canvas, 34.9 x 25.4 cm (13 3/4 x 10 in), inscribed upper right: Violet 17th May 1877/7 years old. Location unknown. Sargent’s younger sister, the later Mrs. Frances Ormond. It had been owned by French Academic painter Auguste-Alexandre Hirsch (1833 -1911).

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Harriet Louise Warren, 1877, oil on panel, 26.7 x 21 cm (10 1/2 x 8 1/4 in), inscribed lower right: JSS/Jan 18 1877. Private collection. Harriet Louise Warren (1854-1919) and Sargent were early friends. Later, in 1890, the artist painted her daughter, Beatrice.

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Emily Sargent, c.1877, oil on canvas, 31.1 x 22.9 cm (12 ¼ x 9 in.), private collection. Six siblings comprised the FitzWilliam and Mary Newbold Singer Sargent family. John was the second oldest and only boy. Of his five sisters only two lived to adulthood. This is JSS’s sister Emily (1857-1936) born one year after him. About 20 years old in this painting, the two were inseparable at home and roamed Europe and America together. Emily was a watercolorist and naturally cheerful.

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Eugène Juillerat, c. 1877-78, oil on canvas, 40.6 x 31.1 (16 x 12 ¼ in.), inscribed upper right: à mon ami Juillerat/J.S. Sargent. Inscribed on label on back by sitter on April 19, 1927. Private collection. Juillerat and Sargent were the same age and both studied under Carolus-Duran in Paris. Juillerat was an award-winning lithographer and sculptor receiving medals at the Salons of 1895 and 1899 and at the Exposition Universelle in 1900.

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Head of an Italian Girl, 1878, oil on canvas, 45.7 x 38.1 (18 x 15 in.), Inscribed upper center: To my cousin Kitty Austin/ John S. Sargent; upper left: 1878. The Sargents had roots in New England yet resettled in Philadelphia where JSS’s father was a surgeon and married JSS’s mother. With the death of their firstborn, the Sargents left for Europe and stayed. JSS was born in Italy in 1856. He first visited the U.S.A. at 20 years old. This painting’s whereabouts and sitter’s identity are unknown.

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Mary Turner Austin, oil on canvas, 45.7 x 38.1 (18 x 15 in.), Inscribed upper left: to my friend, Mary, John S. Sargent. The Christopher Whittle Collection. The Austins, like the Sargents, were American expats in Europe. Dr. Sargent mentions the Austins in correspondence and writes that the girls are “quite attractive.” Mary was an art student. Chicago artist J.C. Beckwith at dinner with the Sargents hoped to see “the pretty Miss Austin.” French artist Auguste Hirsch owned this portrait.

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Head of an Italian Woman, c. 1878-1881, oil on canvas, 45.7 x 38.1 (18 x 15 in.), Inscribed upper right: J. S. Sargent. The Arkell Museum, Canajoharie, New York. Gift of Bartlett Arkell. Hair piled at the nape of the neck is a typical mid1870s woman’s hairstyle, though the dress is less fashionable. The model may be a Sargent cousin – a later Mrs. Wurts – who owned this picture in 1926.

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Portrait Sketch c. 1910, graphite on thin, slightly textured off-white laid paper (tissue) 10 x 9.1 cm (3 15/16 x 3 9/16 in.). Gift of Mrs. Francis Henry Taylor, The Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts. Dated c.1910, this drawing had been only recently identified as the same model as “Head of an Italian Woman” painted by Sargent sometime between 1878 and 1881 and today in the Arkell Museum.

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Carmela Bertagna, c.1879, oil on canvas, 59.7 x 49.5 (23.5 x 19.5 in.), inscribed upper L: à mon ami Poirson; upper R: John S. Sargent; lower L: Carmela Bertagna/rue du/16 Maine. Bequest F.W. Schumacher. The picture’s history is muddled by the sitter’s questioned identity (a professional model, possibly Carmela B.), its stylistic clues (no later than 1880), diverse inscriptions (to later friends) and exactly from whom it was acquired before it was given to the Columbus Museum of Fine Arts.

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Mme. François Buloz, 1879, oil on canvas, 54 x 46.2 cm (21.25 x 18.25 in.), Inscribed lower L: à mon amie Me Buloz/John S. Sargent/Ronjoux 1879, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Mme. Buloz was from a family of writers and musicians. In summer 1879, Sargent was in the Savoy to paint her daughter Marie’s full length portrait for her marriage. Madame complained that this portrait, painted in haste, made her look ten years older than she was.

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Marie-Louise Pailleron, 1879, 38.7 x 45.1 cm (15.25 x 17.75 in.), Inscribed, upper R: à ma petite amie Marie-Louise/John S. Sargent 1880, private collection. Daughter of Marie (Buloz) and Edward Pailleron, Sargent’s first important patrons. Two years after this portrait, Marie-Louise (1870-1950) was the subject of an important double portrait with her brother Edouard.

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Marie-Louise Pailleron, 1879, watercolor on paper? Dimensions? Untraced. Sargent did other wash drawings of Marie-Louise that are better documented. The head on the left has a halo or other decorative design. This image is taken from a photograph the sitter made available in 1948 when the sketch was in her house at Ronjoux.

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Fanny Watts, 1877, oil on canvas, 105.7 x 83.5 cm (41.5/8 x 32.7/8 in.), inscribed upper R: John S. Sargent. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Following money reverses in the U.S., Fanny’s New York family traveled to Nice and Florence in the 1860s and met the Sargents. The young Sargent and Fanny began a romance in 1876 that was nixed by Mrs. Sargent. The portrait is the artist’s attempt to reminisce about their time together. Dr. Sargent thought this portrait was his son’s “first serious work” and had it shown at the Salon. Fanny and the artist stayed lifelong friends.

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Carolus-Duran, 1879, oil on canvas, 116.8 x 95.9 cm (46 x 37 3/4 in.), inscribed upper R: à mon cher maître M. Carolus Duran, sur élève affectioné/John S. Sargent 1879. Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts. Teacher and portrait painter Carolus-Duran (1838-1917) had a profound influence on JSS’s artistic practice in the mid to late 1870s. The sitter wears a red ribbon of the Légion d’honneur in his buttonhole. It was Sargent’s second portrait exhibited at the Salon and this painting received critical praise in Europe and America.

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Edouard Pailleron, 1879, oil on canvas, 127 x 94 cm (50 x 37 in.), Inscribed lower L: John S. Sargent. Musée d’Orsay. Edouard Pailleron (1834-99) was JSS’s first major patron. How the 45-year-old famed poet and playwright met the unknown 23-year-old painter is a mystery. One impetus may be the favored portrait of Carolus-Duran at the Salon of 1879. This casually posed portrait of studied bohemianism was painted in Paris in  summer 1879 and soon paired with one of Mme. Pailleron.

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Madame Edouard Pailleron, 1879, oil on canvas, 208.3 x 100.3 cm (82 x 39.5 in.), Inscribed lower R: John S. Sargent/Ronjoux 1879. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Sargent’s first full length portrait depicts Mme. Pailleron (1840-1913). It was painted at her parents’ house at Chambéry in the Savoy. She posed at the entrance to the allée des Tilleuls with house and garden behind. At the Salon of 1880 critics remarked that the black satin dress was out of place in an outdoor setting.

Madame Edouard Pailleron, 1879, study. The painting was Sargent’s first full length portrait.

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Robert de Cévrieux, 1879, oil on canvas, 84.5 x 48 cm (33.25 x 18.875 in.), inscribed lower L: John S. Sargent, 1879. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Salon of 1879 was a watershed for JSS’s artistic career. Out of it came six portrait commissions in Paris including presumably this 6-year-old and his terrier. Carolus-Duran, by now JSS’s former teacher, painted children holding pets which were exhibited in mid1870s Salons. The child wears a velvet suit with no pant legs and matching jacket.

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Jeanne Kieffer, 1879, oil on canvas, 43.2 x 35.6 cm (17 x 14 in.), inscribed upper right: John S. Sargent 1879. Private collection. By his early 20s some saw Sargent as an artist of “great talent and a real future.” He was also described as “practically starving.” This portrait of a 7-year-old sitter is quirky for the direct frontal pose and that the pink dress was an afterthought. The artist had originally painted her in a black velvet dress.

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Le Vicomte de Saint-Périer, 1879, oil on canvas, 61 x 50.5 cm (24 x 19.875 in.), inscribed upper L: John S. Sargent. Musée d’Orsay. Sargent was paid 1,500 francs – a typical French worker’s annual wages – for this portrait of a well-connected professional soldier. The expressive realism of the head recalls his recent portraits of Edouard Pailleron and Carolus-Duran.

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Henry St. John Smith, 1880, oil on canvas, 62.2 x 49.5 cm (24.5 x 19.5 in.), inscribed upper R: John S. Sargent 1880. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Boston lawyer Henry St. John Smith (1852-1896) graduated from Harvard in 1872 and went to Europe virtually annually. In 1880 he was an eligible bachelor. Smith saw Sargent’s studio in Paris and didn’t like it. Friends Augustus Jay and Boston artist Francis Brooks Chadwick intervened and the result is this head-and-shoulders portrait that earned Sargent a commission of 1,500 francs.

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Peter Augustus Jay, 1880, oil on canvas, 45.8 x 37.5 cm (18 x 14.75 in.), inscribed upper L: John S. Sargent 1880. Private collection. The future U.S. Ambassador to Argentina is painted when he was a 3-year-old with golden shoulder-length hair and dressed in a bibbed white blouse. It was when Henry St. John Smith was with the boy’s father Augustus “Gussie” Jay at Sargent’s Paris studio when St. John Smith was having his portrait painted that the commission for the child’s portrait probably originated.

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Eleanor Jay Chapman, c.1881, oil on canvas, 43.8 x 53.3 cm (17.25 x 21 in.), inscribed upper L: John S. Sargent. Private collection. In 1881, Eleanor Jay Chapman was the 16-year-old daughter of a stockbroker. Through her mother, she was a descendant of John Jay, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Eleanor and her younger sister Beatrix had their portraits painted by Sargent in Paris (Beatrix’s was later destroyed). There is no evidence for how the Chapmans met Sargent, but it happened before her father’s financial collapse in 1882.

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Edward Burckhardt, 1880, oil on canvas, 55.2.x 46.4 cm (21.75 x 18.25 in.), inscribed lower L: To my friend Valerie/John S. Sargent Paris June 1880. Private collection. Sargent was an intimate friend of Swiss businessman Edward Burckhardt (1815-1903) and his American wife and their family. The portrait, painted in Paris in May 1880, has inspired little positive critical commentary.

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Mrs. James Lawrence, oil on canvas, 61 x 45.7 cm (24 x 18 in.), inscribed upper R: John S. Sargent 1881. Sargent painted companion portraits of Boston’s James Lawrence (1853-1914) and his new wife Caroline Estelle Mudge (1850-1920). Neither portrait has survived. Both were destroyed by fire in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1939. In 1888 it was noted that the sitter wore a black dress in front of a red background.

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The Pailleron Children, 1881, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 175.3 cm (60 x 69 in.), upper right: John S. Sargent. Des Moines Art Center. Édouard (b.1865) and Marie-Louise (b.1870) are children of Sargent’s first patron. Seated on a bench, the boy is dressed in a suit with an Eton collar and silk bow tie and the girl, hair up, is wearing a satin dress with lace trim. Carolus-Duran had to calm Marie-Louise to cooperate for a double portrait that required 83 sittings done in Sargent’s studio. It was exhibited at the Salon of 1881.

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Marie-Louise Pailleron, c.1881, watercolor, 27 x 20 cm (10.625 x 7.875 in.). Private collection. Aside from a couple of dabs of blue, the portrait is executed nearly in one color, that is, en grisaille. Marie-Louise wears her hair “down” unlike in the formal portrait with her older brother done at the same time where the 10-year-old was exasperated by the artist’s insistence that she wear her hair “up.”

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Marie-Louise Pailleron, c.1881, pen, ink and wash on paper, 23.2 x 18.1 cm (9.125 x 7.125 in.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A second monochrome facial study of 10-year-old Marie-Louise by JSS. The work has a playful aspect in that the paper’s back side (or verso) has a child’s drawing of a house.

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Dr. Pozzi (or Dr. Pozzi at Home), 1881. Oil on canvas, 204.5 x 111.4 cm (80 ½ x 43 7/8 in.). Inscribed upper right: John S. Sargent 1881. UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Below: Detail of left hand, Dr. Pozzi, 1881.

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Madame Ramón Subercaseaux, c. 1881, sepia wash, 22.2 x 32.4 cm (12 ¾ x 8 ¾ in.), inscribed, lower right: John S. Sargent. Private collection. This is not a study for the painting below but a derivation from it. The artist made it for the painting’s reproduction in the Salon catalog.

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Madame Ramón Subercaseaux, c. 1880-81, oil on canvas, 165.1 x 109.9 cm (65 x 43 ¼ in.). Inscribed, lower right: John S. Sargent. Private collection.

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Mrs. John Joseph Townsend, 1881, oil on canvas, 124.5 x 83.8 cm (49 x 33 in.). Inscribed, upper right: John S. Sargent Paris 1881. Location unknown. Catherine Rebecca Bronson (1833-1926) was from a family of U.S. politicians and married a New York businessman. The Bronsons were part of the American expatriate community in Florence and Venice with the Sargents. This is Sargent’s first portrait of the old family friend. She sits on a low couch, right elbow on pillows and holds a swan’s-down fan.

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Mrs. John Joseph Townsend, c. 1882, oil on canvas, 69.9 x 56.5 cm (27½ x 22¼ in.). Inscribed, upper left: to my dear friend Mrs Townsend/John S. Sargent. Location unknown.

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John Joseph Townsend, 1882, oil on canvas, 128.9 x 86.4 cm (50 ¾ x 34 in.). Incribed, upper right: John S. Sargent/Paris 1882. Private collection. Mr. Townsend (1825-1889) was a New York lawyer who served in the State Assembly. A Columbia University trustee and Union Club president, he married Catherine Bronson, a Sargent family friend, in 1854.

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Beatrice Townsend, c. 1882, oil on canvas, 81.9 x 58.4 cm (32 ¼ x 23 in.). Inscribed, upper center: to my friend/Mrs. Townsend/John S. Sargent. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Mellon Collection). (Eleanor) Beatrice Townsend (1870-1884), born in New York, was the sixth of seven children of Mr. and Mrs. Townsend. The teenager died tragically of peritonitis, an abdominal disease in 1884.

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Mr. and Mrs. John Field, 1882, oil on canvas, 111.8 x 82.5 cm (44 x 32½ in.). Inscribed, upper right: John S. Sargent, Paris 1882. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Gilbert Stuart painted the father of Mrs. Field (Eliza Willing Spring Peters, 1820-1897) and she was painted by Thomas Sully in 1841– and now by Sargent. European travel led Mr. Field (1815-1887), a trader, into art collecting. In a June 1882 letter, British writer Vernon Lee noted that it was the Fields (or possibly the Townsends) who were nonstop talkers.

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Isabel Vallé, 1882, oil on canvas, 132.1 x 81.3 cm (52 x 32 in.). Inscribed, upper left: John Singer Sargent; upper right: Paris 1882. Private collection. Likely exhibited at the third exhibition of the Cercle des arts libéraux in 1882 on rue Vivienne in Paris, Isabel Vallé (1864-1947) became Mrs. Austin but later divorced. The three-quarter-length portrait of the 18-year-old possesses a “soft, liquid beauty.”

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Mrs. Jules Félix Vallé, 1882, 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.), Inscribed, upper right: John S. Sargent/1882. Lost. Mrs. Vallé was Isabel Vallé’s mother.

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Mrs. Daniel Sargent Curtis, 1882, oil on canvas, 71.1 x 53.3 cm (28 x 21 in.). Inscribed, upper left: Venice 1882; upper right: John S. Sargent/to his kind friend Mrs Curtis. Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas. Ariana Randolph Wormeley (1833-1922) came from a family of writers and linguists. At 20 years old she married Dr. Sargent’s cousin and moved from Boston to a palazzo in Venice where she established a fashionable salon. Sargent called her the “Dogaressa” and was a frequent guest in later years.

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Mademoiselle Boussenet-Duclos, 1882, oil on canvas, 55.6 x 46 cm (21 7/8 x 18 7/8 in.). Inscribed, upper left: John S. Sargent; upper right: 1882. Verso: Mr. John Sargent/ 8….. Private collection. The whereabouts of this portrait of a young woman dressed in a black outdoor coat with fur edging was unknown until it reappeared in public in 1988.

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Madame Allouard-Jouan, c. 1882, oil on canvas, 74.9 x 55.9 cm (29½ x 22 in.). Inscribed, upper left: à Mme Allouard Jouan/témoignage d’amitié; upper right: John S. Sargent. Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. In 1882 the portrait was exhibited at French art dealer Georges Petit’s gallery. The portrait was described as being painted “with verve, by the hand of a master.”

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Madame Paul Escudier, 1882, oil on canvas, 128.3 x 90.2 cm (50½ x 35½ in.). Inscribed,lower right: John S. Sargent 1882. Private collection. Louise Lefevre (1861-1950) married Paul Escudier (1858-1931), a sometime French entertainment lawyer. This informal portrait with a beautiful subject and setting in delightful light, the sitter’s identity is not certain. Sometimes compared to Belgian artist Alfred Stevens, the work’s reflection in the mirror seems to evoke Jan Van Eyck.

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Madame Paul Escudier, c. 1882, oil on canvas, 73.2 x 59.5 cm (18 ¾ x 23 ½ in.). Inscribed, upper left: à Madame Escudier/John S. Sargent. Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts. The sitter is dressed in a black coat and diamond pin, ready for a possible soirée. She is wearing a fashionable white-ribboned black hat for a finish.

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Louise Burckhardt (or, Lady With a Rose), 1882, oil on canvas, 213.4 x 113.7 cm (84 x 44¾ in.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Below: detail of the right hand Louise Burckhardt (or, Lady With a Rose), 1882.

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Daughters of Edward D. Boit, 1882, oil on canvas, 221.9 x 221.6 cm (87 3/8 x 87 5/8 in.). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1882. The group portrait depicts the four daughters of Sargent’s friend and fellow American painter, Edward Boit and his wife, Mary Louisa. In Europe the Boits lived in Rome and Paris where this painting, directly influenced by Velázquez, was painted in the family flat on Avenue de Friedland. Exhibited at Georges Petit and the Salon. The Japanese vases remain in the family today.

John Singer Sargent, Judith Gautier, 1883-85

Judith Gautier, c. 1883-1885. Detroit Institute of Arts, oil on panel. 39 x 24 1/2 in., (99.1 x 62.2 cm)

JSS, Judith Gautier or Gust of Wind, c, 1883-1885, private collection, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 15 in. (61.3 x 38.1 cm).

Judith Gautier or Gust of Wind, c, 1883-1885, private collection, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 15 in. (61.3 x 38.1 cm).

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Henry White, 1883

Margaret Stuyvesant Rutherfurd White (Mrs. Henry White), 1883, oil on canvas, 225.1 × 143.8 cm (88 5/8 × 56 5/8 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. , from Corcoran Collection , 2014.

REFERENCE: John Singer Sargent, Complete Paintings, Volume 1: The Early Portraits by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, Yale University Press/Paul Mellon Centre, 1998.

REVIEW: “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 to May 10, 2016.

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Van Gogh’s Bedrooms at The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 to May 10, 2016. The photograph depicts the three versions of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” in Arles, France, in this blockbuster exhibition’s penultimate gallery.

From the collections (left to right) of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (1889), The Art Institute of Chicago (1889), and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (1888).

The three masterworks were gathered together side by side in North America for the first time in art history.

By John P. Walsh. May 6, 2016.

I saw the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago (February 14-May 10, 2016) on the last Friday afternoon before the show closed. The museum that day was drawing a large crowd and it was challenging to navigate through the multi-room art show in a mass of frequently immobile art lovers. Exactly for what cause some stationary patrons might be transfixed could only be speculated upon but often no art was present. No one I think comes to art shows to be caught in a logjam of people yet that recurrent phenomenon in Van Gogh’s Bedrooms soon became one of its unpleasant features. The expansive exhibition space—striking for its illogical reasoning to display three relatively small masterpieces—proved impractical, or at least a two-edged sword, in terms of containing its throngs.

Those three featured paintings are this show’s raison d’être and prove a marvelous highlight after reaching them by way of a dozen or so high-ceiling galleries. Once arrived to the show’s penultimate room, my eyes settled on the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam’s version as the most intriguing of the three superficially identical works. The other two versions are from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

When 35-year-old Van Gogh painted his The Bedroom series starting in October 1888, the Dutchman had been an artist only a short while: about 7 years. This had followed a variety of other occupations, although Van Gogh began his professional life as an art dealer.  By late 1888—less than two years before his death by self-inflicted gunshot in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890—Van Gogh had traveled long and far from his beginnings in North Brabant. He arrived into Paris in 1885 to paint and join his brother Theo who was an avant-garde art dealer in the Rue Montmartre. Looking to sell more of his artwork, he began painting in the bright Impressionist style for which Van Gogh is probably most famous today.  By February 1888 Van Gogh relocated to Arles in the South of France on account of his health and to possibly start an art colony.  Still quite poor and alone, this roughly 15-month period in Arles proved to be prolific for the artist’s production when Van Gogh completed 200 paintings, and over 100 drawings and watercolors. Many of Van Gogh’s most famous works were created in this fecund period—for example, his portraits of Eugène Boch (Musée d’Orsay), Postman Joseph Roulin and Augustine Roulin (both Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)  and Madame Ginoux (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) among several others; sunflowers and irises such as Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (National Gallery, London), Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (Neue Pinakothek, Munich) and Irises (Getty Museum, Los Angeles); 15 canvases of cypresses; and his iconic Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin in the Harvard Art Museums.

None of these contextual artworks were in the Chicago show but demonstrate the range and depth of Van Gogh’s artistic vision in the same time period that The Bedrooms—which shared his body of work’s intoxication with color and decorative strategieswere painted. Despite its title—Van Gogh’s Bedrooms—this show is not content to let their presence in Chicago suffice. Instead, much of the other parts of this massive show were from the Art Institute’s permanent collection of mostly Barbizon and Impressionist artwork.  Perhaps if they had been left on whatever museum walls from which they had come, these fine artworks might have maintained an even greater impact for themselves and this show’s ultimate purpose than crowding them onto walls into this special exhibition space.  That said, the condensed interpretive curatorial exercise of parts of the permanent collection in this show could prove interesting for visitors who are not willing or able to visit other parts of the museum. In a show that took on the formula of a typical Regenstein Hall blockbuster, its propensity for Impressionist rehash (“delve” was the museum’s word) had a boring art textbook’s sensibility. That the show dipped into the museum storehouse to retrieve the life-size maquette of the Yellow House from AIC’s vastly superior exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South in 2001, produced a dispiriting effect on at least one viewer who recognized it. But so far I am quibbling: this AIC exhibition brings together the powerful canon of all three versions of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom for the first time in North America which is very special and undoubtedly sufficient to any museum goer’s time and interest. I don’t believe, however, that their full artistic power was best served by being able to see these objects intensely advertised in the media markets and then only hung at the show’s virtual end following a cacophony of mostly extraneous art historical resources however severely earnestly presented. Instead, a surfeit of front-loaded artistic riches labors to obscure these significant Van Goghs that finally appear in the second to last gallery, all of which are jam-packed with art, people, various filmic explorations, somewhat bloviating wall texts, whole house reconstructions, etc.

AMSR+TERDAM FINAL exh_vangogh-bedroom-Amsterdam_main_480

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam,  October 1888. 72.4 x 91.3 cm.

CHGO Vincent van Gogh. The Bedroom, 1889. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.exh_vangogh_bedroom_main_480

Chicago, 1889. 72.4 x 91.3 cm. Version Van Gogh painted in the asylum at St. Rémy.

PARIS FINAL exh_vangogh-bedroom_Paris_main_480

Paris, 1889. 57.5 x 74 cm. Destitute bachelor artist Van Gogh gave this version to his mother and sister to assure them in part that he was working..

It is certainly obvious that Van Gogh’s Bedrooms possibly could have benefited by not pulling out all the stops (AIC: “in-depth study”) but to focus on the three colorful masterpieces uniquely gathered in their essential power. If one wants to read blow by blow explanations of virtually every curatorial application in the show, one might turn to other reviews cited in “Further Reading” below. The equitably in-depth appreciation of this trio of Van Gogh worksand minus the Disney World trappingsmight be advanced using timed tickets (as done for Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South) and within a pared down and simpler exhibition scope. The way things are constructed by the show’s curator Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition transmits encyclopedic knowledge while largely missing a tangible evocation of bachelor Van Gogh’s humble petit boulevard persona who produced in Arles in 1888 and in Saint-Rémy in 1889 these bold canvases of his simple bedroom and even gifting one of the versions (the one now in Paris) to his aged mother and sister to reassure them in his destitution. For Van Gogh the motif of his private and hard-featured bedroom in Arles continued his bold self-expression in a tightly woven and complex painting composed in broad outlines using a many-hued post-impressionistic palette in thick impasto. Despite Van Gogh’s reputation as madhe mutilated his ear in this bedroom in December 1888he soon carried on painting two more versions of The Bedroom (the last one slightly reduced) with the apparent added intention to express to his family and friends that the artist was as stable and restful as his artistic subject.

What should an exhibition advertised as Van Gogh’s Three Bedrooms wish to have its spectators looking for and come away with? By the time a visitor reaches Van Gogh’s three paintings after plowing through the aforesaid gauntlet of people and well-known Chicago art resources, the exhibition almost runs the danger of displaying these highly-prized artworks not as denouement but incidental. These Van Gogh paintings are hardly allowed to speak freely for themselves. Of course they have a fascinating history but to what degree should these particular artworks’ written history be simultaneous to their exhibition? Thinking of the viewer, does the display of three paintings of an artist’s bedroom (albeit Vincent Van Gogh’s) that when placed side by side measures the whole of about ten feet across merit thousands of cubic feet of mostly academic groundwork before a viewer can even see them? To what degree are artistic exhibition and their intellectual exposition necessarily complementary since many museum art shows follow this tactic?

The final gallery after the display of the three bedrooms continued Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’ devotion to comprehensive information and theatricalityalthough a side-by-side blow-up of the bedrooms’ diverging painterly details was perhaps the most useful techie display so to appreciate the artist’s handling of the individual paintings. Yet it begged a question: could this orientation to detail, to seeing the painting, somehow serve as the exhibition’s primary or sole introduction, such as in a film theater? This last gallery then led directly to the ubiquitous and depressing gift shop hosting the galleries’ multitude disporting themselves basically as they did in and among the art. Hearing its timbre I wondered if a unique opportunity to view together these three Van Gogh bedroom paintings“the first time in North America”had under- or overplayed its hand? As its elemental objective, had the exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms rightly oriented and imparted to its viewers an intimate and perhaps personally revealing look into these three sensitive treasures of Van Gogh’s oeuvre? Or had the artist Van Gogh merely omitted to paint into his own scene the proverbial kitchen sink?

FURTHER READING: