FEATURE image: Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), READING ALOUD, 1884, oil on canvas, 42.24 x 81 in., Glasgow Art Gallery & Museum.
INTRO: Albert Joseph Moore was born in 1841 into a family of artists in North Yorkshire in England. Moore through his own advanced aesthetic experiments in the milieu of theoretical and practical advancements of mid-to-late 19th century modern art in England and France – such as a systematic analysis of nature, mathematical plotting, and principles for quintessential combinations of color, line and form – created art that was, in formal terms, in its conception and execution, on the cutting edge of abstraction that would continue to develop and blossom into early 20th century Cubism. Moore’s art gained the respect of other progressive artists (Moore was called “a painter’s painter”), patrons and collectors, if not always the critics and contemporaries who viewed Moore’s work as merely decorative. Moore was actively collected in his lifetime and exhibited regularly in major venues such as the Royal Academy. Unmarried and of a lifelong independent disposition, Moore died in 1893 at 52 years old, having just completed his last monumentally ambitious artwork (“The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons,” Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, posted below) a handful of days before. Several of Moore’s pictures are now in public collection throughout the UK, including the Tate and the British Museum in London.
Azaleas was a popular artwork by Albert Moore for its harmonies of color and the “Greek refinement” that the artist infused into his work. This bigger-than-life-size canvas called Azaleas was painted in 1867, exhibited in 1868 and demonstrates the artist’s ability to represent the human figure on a grand scale.
The 26-year-old artist had some architectural design experience in theory and practice and used this in his preparatory process. This artwork incorporated ideal geometry along with typical academic methods.
Moore’s process followed, first, making studies of the nude figure and draped figure. Moore next made a larger-than-life-sized full-scale nude figure cartoon which, at this stage, was informed by geometric abstraction of the figure in a setting guided by, or through, the milieu of the object in the artist’s hands.
The geometric quality guided the composition rather than was externally imposed by the artist. Moore’s “system of line arrangement” sought the directions of the prominent lines of the composition so to plot parallels of them throughout the drawing resulting in a statuesque yet corporeally vivacious figure.
Nature, specifically the landscape, ultimately served as the inspiration for the manifestation of line parallels and optical balance rather than the mathematically ideal. Moore’s geometric construct and its interplay determined every element of the composition – from the position and placement of the figure to the location of accessories, such as wall hangings, distribution of drapery folds, and architectural elements. The canvas’s shape and size also were ultimately determined by this idiosyncratic geometric arrangement.
Traces of Moore’s preparatory practice are in evidence in Azaleas’ full size nude cartoon with its vestiges of diagonal and horizontal lines through the midsection of the figure and near to her feet. Using these lines in the nude drawing it is apparent that Moore experimented with the placement of the figure’s head, the extended hand, and a raised heel which was ultimately hidden under opaque drapery. Moore used a live model for his figure.
The final nude cartoon was transferred to the canvas and this outline was built up with oil colors. A drapery cartoon was then transferred on top of the transferred, built-up nude figure cartoon. Using this method Moore rendered greater transparency of the fabric since the underlying nude cartoon showed through faintly. This painstaking preparation was masked by Moore’s fresh and free style of painting. For instance, the drape folds of the left shoulder are painted in long, fluent, and elegant strokes while the azaleas are rendered in energetic strokes. Moore’s objective was for the final painting to look like an impromptu and expressive sketch when, in fact, it was carefully planned and executed.
About painting Moore taught his students to think long about it but execute with quickness and determination. This technique aided in transforming oil painting into the manner of Graeco-Roman fresco in that Moore’s working method allowed for painting only what could be finished in a day.
Moore’s careful planning, rapid execution, and brush technique also suggested the influence of Japonisme. Asian influences in Azaleas included the carp bowl held in the women’s arm (an actual studio prop) and the geometric pattern in the azalea pot whose symmetry Moore saw as part of both Greek and Japanese art. To integrate and transition the predominantly yellow figure in the predominantly white background Moore used a device taken from Japanese art of painting flitting butterflies around the azalea bush. Moore also painted russet blossoms in the woman’s hair and bowl and on the floor that further unites the monumental composition.
Moore’s observation of Japanese prints also likely influenced the English artist’s color scheme in Azaleas. This is identifiable in its limited schematic of hues. The color placement, however, was also subject to the geometric practices in the whole composition.
When Azaleas was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1868 it was consigned to an out of the way place on the wall of its North Room. It was observed that Moore’s canvas looked more like a tapestry than an oil painting. In this way, Moore anticipated James McNeill Whistler’s comment about color in that it should appear “embroidered” on the canvas, in the same way a thread is embroidered on fabric. Whistler attributed this color quality to Japanese art in that those artists looked for repetition in color application and not contrast.
Architecture critics in 1868 noticed and especially admired Moore’s Azaleas. Its systematic repetitions and geometric construction were labeled the only “decorative” painting in the 1868 English exhibition. Art critics were less generous. Straining with opera glasses just to see the work they recognized its beauty and Moore’s talent but called its design and execution eccentric. Others turned up their critical nose to the new decorative work as “curious” and little more than a luxurious indulgence of art for art’s sake. Art critics were unhappy with the paintings’ colors as they found they lacked the requisite black that marked contemporary French art and, instead, opted for a quiet and delicate dreamscape.
English writer William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) declared Azaleas one of the most important English pictures of 1868 and decried those looking to judge it by way of actual historical pictures from Greek antiquity. With Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909), Rossetti compared Moore’s artwork to another painting in the 1868 exhibition: “The Wife of Pygmalion, A Translation from the Greek” by the older George Frederic Watts (1817-1904). In that work Watts sought to create a painterly equivalent of classical sculpture. William Gladstone (1809-1898) wanted to purchase Watts’ picture after seeing it at the Academy in 1868. In a letter to Gladstone in May 1868 Watts informed Gladstone that it had been “claimed” but invited Gladstone to visit him in his studio to see the cast of the fragmentary Greek original from which the painting was derived.
Swinburne saw the poetry and musicality of Moore’s artwork .While most art critics snubbed the painting (and by extension the painter) for its art for art’s sake qualities, Swinburne praised them. Of Azaleas, Swinburne wrote: “The melody of color, the symphony of form is complete: one more beautiful thing is achieved, one more delight is born into the world; and its meaning is beauty; and its reason for being is to be.”
Sea-gulls was accepted for the 1871 Royal Academy exhibition. It was the third painting for Albert Moore to exhibit at the Royal Academy. Moore was absorbed in painting Sea-gulls, a major work, for British shipping magnate Frederic Leyland (1831-1892) and this work occupied him up to the Royal Academy Exhibition that spring.
Its creation by the 36-year-old Moore was not without headaches owing to controversy. Moore’s friend and admirer, American ex-patriate artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), had learned of Moore’s preliminary work on the painting through Leyland, a major art collector and the artists’ mutual friend.
Whistler expressed concern that Moore’s work perhaps overlapped adversely with some of Whistler’s own preliminary sketches for a painting. Whistler saw a pair of sketches Moore had sent to Leyland as potential commissions. Whistler felt that Moore’s sketch may have been influenced by seeing one of Whistler’s sketches. Whistler feared that if Moore’s painting was exhibited first, it would reflect badly on Whistler as an imitator when in fact the artwork Whistler was working on ante-dated Moore’s conceptions. This was a mortifying prospect for Whistler who prided himself on originality.
Whistler’s anxiety may have also stemmed from the fact that with Sea-gulls, Moore would fulfill his second commission for Leyland, while Whistler who introduced them had yet to complete a picture for Leyland that had been commissioned in 1867.
To ease Whistler’s fears, the American artist proposed that Moore accompany another mutual friend, architect William Nesfield (1835-1888), to Whistler’s studio in Chelsea to inspect his older original sketch that Moore had seen.
Nesfield, acting as mediator, concluded in September 1870 that the recent work of the two artists shared themes, but each maintained their own artistic originality. The crisis was averted and led to Moore exhibiting Sea-gulls.
During this crisis and shortly thereafter, Moore did not finish to his satisfaction his painting when it was time for its exhibition in April 1871. A major effort required to complete Sea-gulls had deeply undermined Moore’s health. After the exhibition the painting was returned to the artist, but he could not yet immediately set to work on it to completion. Months later it was finished and sold to Leyland.
In Sea-gulls Moore introduced obvious analogies between the liquid patterns of the sea and the rippling and splashing motion of the figure’s hair and drapery. Moore’s intention was to discern patterns inherent in nature. The drawings also suggest that he exaggerated the effect of air currents by employing the revolving fans that were simultaneously in use for Sea-gulls and another painting titled Shells.
Much of Moore’s work to complete the painting after the exhibition revolved around redressing the picture surface. Moore had been experimenting for some time with the surface quality of his paintings. In the early 1870s, Moore’s technique had developed to combine transparent and opaque fabrics that created unusual layering effects. Following the 1871 exhibition, Moore seemed to apply this technique in Sea-gulls that involved unusually thick paint layers.
Much later, during the winter of 1880, Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913) – the British artist and watercolorist founded Grosvenor Gallery on Bond Street as an alternative exhibition space to the Royal Academy which became a venue for avant-garde artists, particularly those associated with art for art’s sake – mounted a show on the subject of artists’ working sketches. Moore contributed the preparatory studies for Sea-gulls to the show that included his sketches of hands, heads, drapery, plants and flowers, as well as the painting’s cartoon.
Although biographers of Whistler and Moore have attached no importance to their friendship, particularly after the September 1870 controversy over Sea-gulls which they claim ended it, the artists in fact remained on intimate terms unbroken until Moore’s death in 1893. In the later 1870s they again were thrust together in a contentious situation but this time on the same side of sorts. When Whistler became involved in libel proceedings against Ruskin in later 1878 Albert Moore was the only artist who the American ex-patriate artist could rely on to both publicly attend the proceedings and actually give evidence on Whistler’s behalf.
Reading Aloud was one of three large-format paintings Albert Moore completed in the 1880s. Completed in 1884, Moore had been working on Reading Aloud for years – at least since 1881. Moore had drawn a chalk sketch of the geometrically designed composition over which the artist would lay a piece of translucent glass. By painting directly on the glass, he could experiment with colors without redrawing the picture. He then could transfer the trial color experiment on glass (as well as a final drawing) onto tracing paper by which the final artwork was then made by pinning the tracing paper to the canvas. The artist then painted the composition directly to the canvas, section by section, working as he painted to unify color scheme and, as figural poses and other details are different in the final artwork than surviving preparatory materials, drawing. It was meticulous organizing and harmonizing creative work that helps to explain why Moore labored for years on the almost 7×4 foot oil on canvas.
While these three reclining figures are static their contrasting drapery folds whether they are swirls, zigzags or sweeping diagonals – with the sofa’s swags to unite them – enliven the picture. As classicism revivalists are noted for their mere realism and moralistic anecdote, Moore’s evocation of classicism, though containing allegorical qualities, belies a modernity by way of its abstract combination of line and form in the depiction of languid female figures in a neutral setting. The black-and-white owl vase that Moore included in the lower right corner of the painting had been absent from previous studies (originally it was a seated cat) and provides a narrative sign. It connotes the quality of wisdom as well as perhaps the goddess Athena with which the owl is associated so to apply it to the various states of the readers though the overall picture with its fascination with repose is more subtly mysterious than anecdotal. Yet the classicism/modernity enigma continues as the honey bee which Moore paints on the face of the owl vase was the symbol used by the picture’s purchaser, pig iron industrialist William Connal (1819-1898), for himself.
After his wife of 25 years Emelia Jessie (Campbell) Connal died in 1877, 56-year-old industrialist William Connal faced life alone at Solsgirth, his Scottish country manor. Connal turned his attention to the arts and, in addition to Moore, became an avid collector of contemporary art by such painters as Edward Burne Jones (1833-1898), Edward Poynter (1836-1919), Frederick Sandys (1829-1904), Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829-1908), Fernand Knopff (1858-1921) and Adolphe Monticelli (1824-1886) along with the Old Masters. Connal owned Symphony in Silver and Grey by American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) who greatly admired Moore. In 1883, Connal invited Moore to stay at Solsgirth House in Perthshire for a month allowing the artist to recuperate after a serious illness. It was during this stay that Connal commissioned Moore to paint his portrait that shows him wearing a honeybee brooch, the emblem that Connal used on his personal items (Connal’s portrait today is in York Art Gallery).
Moore’s pictorial methodology which he continued to develop over his artistic career is in evidence in Reading Aloud. Moore works out and unifies various and moving parts depicting a scene’s animating personality based in psychology with its physical forms that are mathematically contrived by way of lines and curves and, ultimately, color and texture, and whose impact on the viewer of the completed artwork is allowed to be emotional rather than cerebral. In Reading Aloud Moore constructed the image based on two pairs of diagonals that intersect into a pattern. Though the geometric system is visually subdued, it is evident in the figure on the right whose arms coincide with a set of diagonals. It is obvious also in the picture’s overall use of contrasting bold colors – the fabrics’ pinks and creams are integrated to, though angularly distinct from, the charcoal greys of the covered limbs and book cover. The edges of the book cover also coincide with some of the complex design of diagonal lines whose subliminal quality is an intrinsic expression of the psychic nature of the artwork. This angularity based on diagonals was a deliberate strategy for Moore when he painted the final artwork. There is also the horizontal lines component in the painting manifested in the outstretched arms of the crouching figure at left and the table and vase. Moore’s design strategies were innovative in 1884 startling contemporary viewers approaching to what Cubism would accomplish 25 years later. Critics when viewing Reading Aloud, being neither particularly understanding nor sympathetic to Moore’s methods or intentions, praised the picture’s overall gracefulness but impugned his drawing skills and identified the painting as mostly static decoration. Yet the static figures form part of a complex array of abstract and naturalistic patterns that fill every inch of canvas. Reading Aloud is a testament to the artist’s ability to translate such natural phenomena into a stylized form. Most prominent among them is a fabric effect found in other of Moore’s paintings of the period, in which white lace is layered over cloth of a darker color. Reading aloud was exhibited at the Royal Academy where, starting in 1883, Moore chose to exhibit annually.
The Loves of the Winds and the Summer was English artist Albert Moore’s final and largest artwork of his career. It is 6 feet tall and 7 feet wide and is the jewel in the crown of the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery near Manchester, England. It is the result of Moore’s study of the psychology of his subject matter, that of love. Love begins to manifest formally for Moore by the expression of soft bodily postures, changing and harmonious curves, and piercing gazes expressed in deep coral colors. The male figure of the Wind is flanked by the spurned female figure of Summer to the left and the embraced female figure of Autumn to the right. Moore was so enveloped in his amorous themes that while working on this picture he was writing poetry about what the human face was like when in love – and it is found in his picture. The Love of the Winds and the Seasons is Moore’s fullest expression of animating personality united to depicted physical forms that are first lines, curves and color, with the result being an emotional impact on the viewer who encounters the artwork. This exquisite artistic sensitivity by Moore is made more remarkable since the artist was dying in 1893. In the company of his young and attractive live models in his new capacious art studio, Moore worked day after day on this work. Moore had cancer (a tumor on his thigh) and had submitted to three operations to keep ahead of it. When his doctors told him they could operate no more, and that the cancer continued to spread throughout his body, Moore was resigned to his situation. He is reported to have said: “Well, there’s an end of it.” In the limited time left to him Moore intended to finish his painting of love, The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons. The artist did not want to lose any time. His legs had swollen to twice their size and had to be drained. In acute pain he worked around the clock for the next six months. His friends thought the intense work as well as the cancer was killing Moore but as the painting progressed to completion, they observed that the artist’s personal tranquility and happiness became apparent. The project was monumental – numerous preparatory studies, drapery studies, full scale and life-sized cartoons (i.e., 4’ 9” tall by 1’4” wide for Autumn) , nude studies – all technically meticulous and versatile- and that underwent the artist’s elaborate and idiosyncratic geometric platting system that he began in the late 1870s. Moore was the consummate auteur that slightly older American ex-patriate painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1904) most admired in England. Moore conceived his paintings from start to finish – and The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons was at once its pinnacle and completion. Moore, as Whistler aspired to be, was sole master of his work. In 1893 Moore now expanded this mathematical process to amalgamate his diagonals with horizontals so that his creative process could not suffer the critique that Ruskin hurled at Whistler of “ask(ing) 200 guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” The painting was a commission for the Australian mine-owner George McCulloch (1848-1907). Moore’s calculations included various adjustments of the models’ natural poses to submit to the mathematical formulas on the canvas. This formal submission of subjects to linear construction extended to each detail in the entire composition, such as the flowers for which also study drawings were made. Within these design rigidities, the preparatory drawings of the live models and subjects were transferred to the artwork with little idealization though slight but important adjustments were made, such as to Summer’s hairstyle. Knowing his own time was short, Moore made his cartoons in color so that his transfer to the canvas was as efficient as possible as he painted the final artwork. Critics have observed that despite the intense planning and preparation, the final artwork is executed unevenly – parts are meticulous and vigorous, mostly in the foreground, while others in the background are loose and crude. To what degree this is the artist’s intention or the result of his declining health, is a matter for speculation. During the artistic process the terminally ill artist isolated himself mostly. His handful of visitors remarked that the artist was cheerful, cracked jokes, told funny stories, and smoked his pipe. These select parties knew, however, that their social calls were in the context of final good-byes. In those last days and months of Moore’s life, the artist’s mind, by evidence of the art from his past that he referenced in 1893, stretched back to an earlier career which shared long-held important aspects with The Loves of the Winds and the Summer. For his last artwork. Albert Moore glossed the picture’s narrative in verses he wrote to accompany it:
Lo! fickle Zephyr chaseth wayward Spring,
It is a merry race;
Flowers laugh to birds that sing,
Yet frequent tears shall cloud her comely face.
The South Wind shall with blushing Autumn mate,
Contented with her lot;
Summer sigheth – such her fate
She and her burning kisses are forgot.
Two lovers rough for shudd’ring Winter strive,
Beneath a shroud of snow;
Heaven haply shall contrive
Their violence she may not further know.
Through its figural and intellectual prism of ancient classical mythology, Moore worked in his career to update the complex equation of the natural world’s varying and transitory seasons to human life’s copious physical, emotional, and spiritual expressions and contradictions. With their immersion in Moore’s modern art, the painter achieved a graciously-contrived visual dramatic interplay of nature and humanity, ancient and present-day, whose quest is eternal in time and space.
Albert Joseph Moore passed away in the middle of the night on September 25, 1893. He died 9 days after finishing his last painting, The Loves of the Winds and the Summer. Moore was 52 years old.
FEATURE image: Eugène Boudin, The Beach at Villerville, 1864, Oil on canvas, 18 × 30 1/16 in. (45.7 × 76.4 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
In 1893, in the last years of his long and successful art career, 69-year-old Eugène Boudin returned to the Normandy coast for which this French painter of skies and beaches is rightly associated. It was at this time that he painted Sunset on the Beach (below) in a private collection. After Boudin began to be widely collected in the 1870’s and 1880’s he traveled and lived and worked far away from the region where he was born and grew up and had embarked on a career as an artist. Yet, as soon as the mid-to-late 1850’s, important artists and writers were already appreciating the sensitivity to which Boudin painted artwork in nature. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) believed he could identify with precision the season and hour of Boudin’s subject matter. Realist painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who once said “show me an angel and I will paint him” called Boudin a “seraph.” Remarkably, Barbizon painter Camille Corot (1796-1875) exclaimed: “Boudin, you are king of the skies!”
Throughout the mid-to-late nineteenth century, Boudin’s subject matter was timeless land, sea and skyscapes which he sometimes populated with contemporary human figures in modern bourgeois costume and dress. Often, the landscapes are devoid of human presence excepting the artist’s gaze.
Boudin was a friend of the Impressionists and exhibited in their first exhibition in Paris in 1874. Claude Monet (1840-1926), born in Paris, also grew up in Normandy. Boudin and Monet painted together en plein aire as each sought, discovered, and honed their artistic styles.
Boudin did not think of himself primarily as an avant-garde artist and did not exhibit in the Impressionist exhibitions after 1874. Yet, with these Impressionists, Boudin’s artwork depicted light and its reflections, especially its darker filaments, in preference to volumes and forms.
In addition to beach scenes, skies, sea, and countryside, Boudin painted still life, animals, and a few portraits. In the 1870s Boudin painted harbors and ships. In his subject matter his pictures presented a complete and even-handed depiction, evocative of eighteenth-century genre paintings.
Slightly older Dutch painter Johan Jongkind (1819-1891) had encouraged Boudin to paint outdoors. Boudin, now surrounded by nature, became increasingly spontaneous in his artwork and used brighter colors.1
In 1859, 35-year-old Eugène Boudin, the painter of seascapes and beaches, made his debut at the Salon. The annual Salon began in the late 17th century (1667). It was sponsored by the monarchy and highlighted artwork of members of the Academie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The all-important Salon operated in this basic form for almost 200 years. It was held irregularly at first (frequently there would be no exhibition held for years) though between 1774 to 1792 the Salon was held biennially.
This elite Salon was a competitive platform for artists to display their work where the goal was to gain public and private commissions. The Salon was the sole venue in France for contemporary fine art and was popular to visit by a cross-section of society where many purchased the livret, the Salon’s official catalogue. In 1795 during the French Revolution the historically royal venue was opened to all artists. This more inclusive Salon experience led to the extension of official French art’s influence throughout Europe. In the Salon of 1800, American artists exhibited for the first time.2
Between 1864 and 1879 Boudin exhibited in the Salon every year.3 However, important critics, such as the influential Albert Wolff (1835-1891), ignored Boudin for much of this time. It was in 1881, 22 years after Boudin’s Salon debut, that M. Wolff published an article in Le Figaro that led to Boudin’s greater official recognition.4
In the last decades of the 19th century, Boudin exhibited yearly from 1880 to 1889 at the Salon des Société des Artistes Français5 and, with a single exception, from 1890 to 1897 at the Société National des Beaux-Arts.6 Some of Boudin’s works were bought by the State in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s.7 Ernest Chesneau (1833-1890) had written on Boudin in Paris-Journal that while the painter was ignored by official art world critics he was a “real talent” among the Salon’s “latest banalties.”
In 1881 control of the Salon was ceded to the Société des Artistes Français. In the 1880’s and 1890’s there were several groups outside the Salon who mounted exhibitions. These included the one-time Salon des Refusés in 1863, the Société des Artistes Indépendants or Salon des Indépendants, beginning in summer 1884, and the salons of the Société nationale des beaux-arts, from 1890. These types of independent, unofficial exhibitions, continued into the 20th century with the Salon d’automne in 1903.8
In 1859 Boudin met Gustave Courbet who introduced Boudin to the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire. Courbet, painting at Boudin’s side, exclaimed: “Mon Dieu, you are a seraph, Boudin! You are the only one of us who really knows the sky!” In 1861 Boudin met Camille Corot who called Boudin the “king of the skies.”
Charles Baudelaire noted in 1859 that he had seen in Boudin’s studio “hundreds of pastel studies improvised before the sea and the sky.” Baudelaire described these artworks as “the prodigious magic of air and water.”9 The economy of Boudin’s artwork with its summary figures of modern life attracted Baudelaire’s praise during the 1859 Salon. Baudelaire became convinced, when looking at a Boudin painting, that he could identify the season, hour and wind direction of the subject matter depicted in pastel or paint.10
At the Impressionist Exhibition of 1874, the critic Castagnary (1830-1888), author of “The Triumph of Naturalism” in 1868, wrote on Boudin in Le Siècle. He cited “the very high prices” that Boudin was experiencing as collectors “fought over” his beach scenes and seascapes. Castagnary concluded in 1874 that the 50-year-old Boudin had “commanded respect for years.”11 In 1868 Boudin’s auction of 40 paintings and 100 watercolors and pastels at the Hôtel Drouot had been quite successful. That same year Boudin won a silver medal at the Exposition maritime international exhibiting with Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), Monet and Édouard Manet (1832-1883).
In 1874, Marc de Montifaud (Marie Amélie Chartroule, 1850-c.1912), art critic for L’Artiste and soon to found L’Art modern magazine in 1875 (and which merged with Les Beaux-Arts in 1877) cited the titles of a few paintings by Boudin out of the 13 works he exhibited which included watercolors and pastels. Yet De Montifaud’s placement of Boudin’s work under the category of “marine paintings,” did little to elucidate exact canvasses when the time came later to identify such.12
In the 1860’s Paris dealers such as Martin, Hagerman and Gauchez were regularly buying his work. Boudin’s growing reputation and financial security enabled him to travel extensively in the 1870s and 1880s. Boudin, who married Marie-Ane Guédès in 1863, painted in Belgium, the Netherlands and southern France in that period. From 1892 to 1895 he regularly visited Italy, traveling to Venice. In addition to being awarded medals at the Salon, the Exposition Universelle in 1889, and other exhibitions, Boudin, in 1881, became represented by Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).
In the late 1870s Boudin, then without dealer representation, held several auctions of his artwork which produced varying sales results. In 1881, Durand-Ruel bought all of Boudin’s studio inventory. In 1883 Boudin had a solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s that featured 150 paintings, and pastels and watercolors and in 1886 an exhibition of 23 works at Durand-Ruel’s in New York City. From July 8 to August 14, 1889 – the year Boudin’s wife died – the artist staged a one-man exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s featuring 98 pictures.13 In 1890 Boudin held an exhibition at Durand Ruel’s in Boston featuring 13 paintings and a solo exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s with 34 paintings, and as many pastels and several drawings in 1891.
As a refuge for his ill-health, Boudin lived in the south of France for many years but finally returned to Deauville. In 1898 Boudin died at 74 years old under the skies of La Manche which he had been inspired to paint often.
In 1892 Eugène Boudin was made a knight of the Légion d’honneur which recognized the artist’s talent and influence on the art of his contemporaries. Today, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts gives the Eugène Boudin Prize.
After Boudin’s death, his artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1899, The École des Beaux Arts held a major retrospective with 457 works (including 364 paintings, 73 pastels, and 20 watercolors). Boudin was praised by art critics Roger Marx (1859-1913), Arsène Alexandre (1859-1937), and Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), among others,
Despite the artist’s modest consideration for his art, Boudin was viewed in retrospect by 20th century’s critics as an initiator of the avant-garde, though he did not quite ascend to the turbulent aesthetic heights of Manet and Monet.14.
In 1872, art critic Louis Duranty (1833 -1880) published a short story that included fictional and historical characters including artists such as Boudin, Manet, Corot, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Courbet. Of Boudin, Duranty wrote: “Here is a simple, sagacious, conscientious mind who puts forward (the artwork’s) feeling in gray, fine, fair notes.”
FEATURE image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on cardboard, private collection.
By John P. Walsh
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Symbolist and Expressionist artist from Norway.
In the 1890s, anti-naturalism mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. This movement informed the art of Edvard Munch throughout that decade and into the twentieth century. Inspiration from literature, however, was not illustration. By the 1890s the younger generation of modern artists saw that by giving the artist an example of constructing an irrational logic, the artist’s dream, or more specific to Munch, psychology, had been freed not only from the restrictions of nature in terms of form, line, color and subject but also its potentially literary or ideological sources. It manifests as a style of drawing that the imagination has liberated from the concern of natural details in order that it might freely serve only as the representation of conceived things.
For Edvard Munch, this resulted in the creation of several fantastic scenarios which are designed and constructed as the artist deems them necessary to be. The distinction between Impressionism and Symbolism is the difference emanating from the tradition of naturalism and the expression of ideas by means of its symbol that is searching beyond naturalism.
Edvard Munch is a precursor and practitioner of Expressionism. Although the major portion of Munch’s artwork lies outside this classification, his expressionist paintings are some of his best-known works.
The Scream is Munch’s most famous work, and is widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. It is one of modern art’s most iconic paintings along with Whistler’s mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black, Number One, D’Orsay), Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Louvre), and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago).
Expressionism was a movement that was a combination of Symbolism, ideals of the human spirit, often confined in solitude, and poetical lyricism laced with emotion.1
1870’s, 1880’s KRISTIANIA (OSLO): MUNCH’S FIRST ARTWORK AND “THE SEEDS OF MADNESS”
In an artistic career that spanned from the early 1880s until his death in 1944 at 80 years old, Edvard Munch experimented within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photography and film.
Growing up in Kristiania (today’s Oslo) Munch decided at 17 years old that he was going to be a painter. Munch’s family encouraged his artistic pursuits so that in 1880 Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania where he expanded his drawing repertoire to include live models and en pleine aire (out of doors).
Often ill as a child, Munch believed that in his experiences growing up, “…I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”
In his career, Munch painted mania in several pictures, including Melancholy (1901). It depicted his younger sister Laura who suffered from schizophrenia, and was hospitalized regularly for what was diagnosed as “hysteria” and “melancholia.”2
SOUL PAINTING: MUNCH’S FIRST ARTISTIC BREAKTHROUGH
Between 1884 and 1889 young Munch made a range of drawing and paintings that was extensive and meaningful. His portfolio included landscapes, domestic environments, portraits, self-portrait, still life, and fictional motifs. Munch’s drawings included industrial sites along the Akerselva River, and promenading denizens and local farmers at work.
In Munch’s early work there is a hint of his wrestling with eros and the nature of woman that became a lifelong obsession.
In Kristiania Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of anti-establishment writer Hans Jaeger (1854-1910). Jaeger urged Munch to paint his own emotional and psychological state called “soul painting.”
Munch’s first “soul painting” was The Sick Child (1886). The artist produced five versions over decades. Munch’s freedom of treatment and color – also found in the painting Tête-à-Tête in 1885 – is largely owed to Impressionism. In 1886, Munch participated in the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania and exhibited The Sick Child. It met with very negative reaction. The motif of the sick was popular but Munch’s hasty Impressionistic treatment was seen as insensitive. It was the first breakthrough for Munch’s art.
Munch later painted Hans Jaeger’s portrait in Oslo in 1889 after Jaeger lost his job and had to flee Norway one step ahead of the law. This was after Jaeger published a novel about local Bohemian life that the authorities considered inflammatory. Young Munch began to explore in his art personal situations, emotions, and states of mind. He wrote in his “soul” diary: ” I attempt In my art to explain life and its meaning to myself.”3
PARIS AND ÅSGÅRDSTRAND IN 1885: MUNCH ENCOUNTERS OLD MASTERS, MODERNIST ÉDOUARD MANET—AND HAS HIS FIRST LOVE AFFAIR
With friends, Munch rented a studio in Kristiania. His mentor, established artist Christian Krohg (1852-1925), encouraged Munch to conform to his own artistic vision.
In 1885, 22-year-old Munch traveled to Paris for the first time to explore the world’s art capital. During his three-week stay in Paris Munch visited the Louvre and the Salon and was particularly impressed by French Modernist painter, Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Munch began to incorporate those ideas and techniques of French Modernism into his artistic vision. In the same year Munch produced his full-length Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell to the derision of critics in Kristiania. The penchant for Manet’s artwork continued for Munch into the new century with a full-length portrait called The Frenchman (Monsieur Archimard) in 1901.
In summer of 1885 Munch had his first love affair which affected him deeply. It occurred in the coastal resort town of Åsgårdstrand when Munch met Milly Thaulow (1860-1937), a fashion model and singer.
Milly had been married since 1881 when she met Munch and they had a passionate affair. The short, secret relationship filled Munch with mixed feelings of love and shame. Its inevitable ending produced melancholy that affected Munch’s artmaking.
Milly Thaulow remained active in the arts, translating Maurice Maeterlinck’s French play, Pelléas et Mélisande, into Norwegian in 1906. She went on to divorce her husband in 1891 and remarry that same year. Her second marriage ended in divorce. In the end, Munch justified his experience with Milly as part of radical bohemian artist culture which Hans Jaeger preached where love is free and self-expression is paramount.
PARIS IN 1889-91: MUNCH’S MODERNIST VISION AND TECHNIQUE
In 1889 Munch rented exhibition space in Kristiania to display 110 of his artworks. His entrepreneurship resulted in receiving state grant funds that led to a second, yet back and forth, stay to Paris whose time amounted overall to about two years.
In Paris, Munch took drawing lessons, explored art galleries, and networked with expatriate artists, especially at the venerable 17th-century Café de la Régence near the Palais-Royal.
In his study, Munch became inspired by the rhythmical and decorative art of Paul Gauguin (1847-1903), several of the Nabis, Japonisme, and the Symbolist drawing of Odilon Redon (1840-1916).
Though Munch rejected Realism in art, he embraced Impressionism, particularly the technique of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Munch was particularly impressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and their unnatural use of color to express sensory perception and emotion. In this milieu Munch painted Rue Lafayette (1891).
The 26-year-old Munch had just arrived into Paris when his father died, an event which devastated the artist. Running low on money, Munch left the city and, with Danish poet Goldstein, rented a small apartment in the suburb of St. Cloud.
Munch’s experiences of relative poverty and the death of a loved one offered new insights and impetus for his art in terms of seeking to understand and express the memory of his human existence.
He painted Night In St. Cloud (1890) and Evening on the Karl Johan (1889) in this time period. Munch also conceived the idea of The Frieze of Life, a series of paintings exploring human existence from a range of pathos, terror, desire, dread, nightmare, and anxiety, to other fascinations, so to include The Dance of Life, The Scream, The Vampire, Madonna, and Death and the Maiden.
In 1891 Munch had exhibitions in Kristiania, Berlin, and Munich. He returned to Paris several times in the next decade for short term visits as in 1899 which included a trip to Italy.4
BERLIN 1892-1895: MUNCH’S ARTISTIC POWER REACH MATURITY
In 1892, Munch’s pictures were again exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in Oslo (it was his final time)–and led to the 29-year-old artist being invited to exhibit at the Verein der Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists) in Germany in November 1892 for a one-man exhibition.
Munch’s exhibition of Melancholy (1891) in Oslo was called Norway’s “first Symbolist painting.” His exhibition of 55 pictures in Berlin proved another breakthrough for Munch’s reputation in Europe: it made him infamous. The critical reaction to his artwork was divided. Critics described Munch’s art as “repugnant, ugly and mean.” As it shocked the Berlin public, German artists Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and Ludwig von Hofmann (1861-1945) setting up a dissident “Group of XI” that led to the establishment of the Berlin Secession later on May 2, 1898.
The government of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) set the mood for the public reaction in that art which “presumes to overstep the limits and rules” which Wilhelm had set, “is no longer art.” In the eyes of German society, Munch’s artwork “misused the word ‘freedom’ and (with) a total loss of restraint and excess of self-esteem.”
Later, by around 1910, that same Emperor in his constant pursuit of cultural influence, mostly supported the Berlin Secession. Yet the Secession’s public and financial success which Wilhelm II eventually helped to build, came at the price of a benevolent autocrat’s constant interference, particularly in the modern art group’s jury process.
Munch stayed in Berlin until 1895. In the Berlin exhibitions of 1893 and 1895 Munch presented a sequence of pictures he called Man’s Life, From the Modern Life of the Soul and, simply, Love. These all contained artwork that contributed to The Frieze which Munch intended to be a symbolic expression of reality and not a mere symbol of or for reality.
Munch’s bohemian circle in Berlin included editors of the magazine Pan, the German arts publication analogous to France’s La Revue Blanche. It also included Swedish avant-garde writer, August Strindberg (1849-1912) who would soon provide Munch with influential introductions to the Berlin and Paris art worlds. In 1890 Strindberg broke with naturalism and was in his own artistic and personal crisis as he sought new art forms within an emerging Symbolism. Munch met German art critic Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935) and socialized with Polish decadent naturalist and Symbolist novelist, dramatist, and poet Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927) along with Przybyszewski’s paramour and later short-term wife, Dagny Juel (1867-1901). Munch painted both of these friends’ portraits.
Munch’s Berlin friends understood what Munch was doing with symbolism though the German critics did not. Przybyszewski wrote: “The old kind of art and psychology was an art and psychology of the conscious personality, whereas the new art is the art of the individual. Men dream and their dreams open up vistas of a new world to them.”
In addition to exhibiting in Berlin in both 1893 and 1894, Munch exhibited in Copenhagen, Dresden and Munich in 1893 and in Stockholm in 1894.
Working on the Frieze of Life, Munch created painting with turbulent, ambiguous and morose themes with titles such as Despair (1892), The Girl and Death (1893), Stormy Night (1893), The Voice (1893), Anxiety (1894), The Three Stages of Woman (1894), Ashes (1894), Death Struggle (1895), and Jealousy (1895). Aspects of Symbolism extended to romantic aspects of nature in paintings such as Coastal Mysticism (1892), Evening (Melancholy) (1893), Moonlight (1893), Starlit Night (1893), Sunrise at Åsgårdstrand (1893) and The Evening Star (1894). He painted many portraits in this period, in addition to those in his Berlin Bohemian circle, including Sister Inger (1892). Other iconic, overtly anecdotal Munch paintings were created such as Self Portrait in Hell (1895), Self Portrait under a female mask (1892), and Self portrait with Burning Cigarette (1895).
Other paintings, including casino scenes, showed Munch’s simplification of form and detail. The artist favored shallow pictorial space and a minimal backdrop for his foreground figures. Poses, forms, colors, lines and subjects were carefully constructed images that expressed psychological and emotional states, and often appear monumental as if they were playing a role on the stage of life.5
PARIS IN 1895 TO 1897: MUNCH ADOPTS “IDEA” PAINTING. THE SCREAM
Until 1870, young artists from Norway went to Dűsseldorf to study and pursue an art career though sometimes to Berlin, Paris, Munich and Karlesruhe. By 1880, Paris was the center of the art world and Munch returned to Paris in 1895, 1896, and 1897 for extended visits (he also visited Nice in 1897).
Thadée Nathanson’s La Revue Blanche published Munch’s lithograph The Scream in December 1895. The Scream exists in four versions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are several lithographs of The Scream from 1895 and later.
With The Scream, Munch met his stated goal in his diary of his art expressing “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self.” Philippe Jullian argues that it had been the combination of influences of Strindberg, Redon, and Gauguin that explained Munch’s conversion from Naturalism and Impressionism to “Idea” painting expressed in Symbolism. Munch was the first to express the individual’s anguish in modern society and facing death. He was an inventor of the ectoplasm line (“ectoplasm” is a spiritualism term first used in 1894). Munch’s figures, including The Scream, emerges from pastel, oil, or ink like an apparition, yet to be identified with the “souls” of ordinary persons.
Anxiety, jealousy, loneliness; Munch illustrates people who pictorially express Symbolism’s darkest visions and themes.
In Paris Munch exhibitions were organized at the Salon des Indépendents and Siegfried Bing’s Salon de L‘Art Nouveau. Young avant-garde art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) included Munch in his first Album des Peintres Graveurs. Munch was commissioned by the Cent Bibliophiles to illustrate Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil. Like young Nabis Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Munch designed programs for Symbolist theatre (Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre). He did portraits of Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and August Strindberg. Munch created some of his most iconic motifs, including The Scream (pastel version), Vampire (a woman seductive and destructive), Puberty (an anxious girl seated naked on a bed), and Madonna (a synthesis of the mystical and erotic).
MUNCH MASTERS MODERN EXPERIMENTAL PRINTMAKING
In Berlin in 1894 Munch had produced his first dry point etchings. In Paris in 1896, following the explosion of color printing in the 1890’s, Munch produced his first color lithographs and woodcuts (Vampire was his first woodcut). Influenced by Gauguin and Max Klinger (1857-1920), printmaking allowed Munch to be highly experimental in the creation of an image. Particular to Munch as an artist, the subject of the artwork determined which of the various styles to be deployed. At his death Munch retained over 15,000 prints in his Oslo studios. During his lifetime, inspired importantly by his work in mid-1890’s Paris, Munch became a master of all graphic techniques, such as color, volume, and line. Munch’s production of an immense portfolio of graphic art sought to create images which are subordinated to the experiences of the self’s impulses and drives.
Munch’s attempts to market his new artwork in Paris as he did in Berlin to acceptance and fame resulted in relative failure in the world’s art capital. His parting milestone in Paris in this period was in the 1897 Salon des Artistes Indépendants where Munch displayed in the main hall his ever-augmenting Frieze of Life. The cycle was characterized by continuous reworkings as new paintings; versions that replaced paintings which had sold; and, new compositions added to the series.
In terms of public acclaim, the effort appeared for naught. French resistance to Munch’s “repugnant, ugly and mean” art endured. French critics decried Munch’s art as “violent and brutal” and, when they weren’t chastising him, they ignored him—and this attitude lasted deep into the 20th century. However, another exhibition in Munch’s native Oslo of 85 paintings was well received.6
MUNCH’S AMBIVALENCE IN LOVE AND OBSESSION WITH DEATH
In 1898 Munch met Tulla (Mathilde Larsen) and they became lovers. Munch continued a productive period of art-making as he continually refused to marry Tulla. Munch portrayed many artworks displaying his view of life and death and the destructive force of love where both man and woman suffer– Madonna (1893), Salome, The Maiden and the Heart (1896), Under the Yoke (1896), Cruelty, The Woman and the Urn (1896), and, later, his Alpha and Omega lithograph series (1909). Munch remained fascinated by women as expressed in The Kiss (1892), The Three Stages of Women (1894), and The Dance of Life (1900).
One explanation of the ambivalent relationship of Munch the artist and Woman as artistic subject may be understood through the Symbolist art aesthetic. Symbolism connoted the idea of a desirable union of the human being with a philosophic ideal. In its view, Woman, though called real is a false appearance, and thereby not ideal. Further, Woman acts mainly as a temptress, the then-popular notion of a femme fatale, as she reveals man’s animal nature which obscures and prevents the desirable union to the ideal. Woman must be avoided and, if engaged by man, done so with peril.
Munch was an idealist before he became a Symbolist, and, as Christian Krohg ominously wrote about him in 1892: “dares to subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood.“
In 1899 Munch exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in Dresden. The Berlin Secession held its first exhibition in 1899 on its own premises but did not invite Edvard Munch. Though the Berlin group invited no foreigners that year, Munch’s art continued to be viewed by status quo cognoscenti as “undesirable.” Yet, at the same time, Munch’s art was beginning to influence young Expressionist artists in Germany. In artworks such as The Voice and Summer’s Night, Munch appealed to these younger avant-garde artists for his illustrating the upsurge and resonance of raw emotion.
MUNCH IN THE NEW CENTURY; THE FRIEZE OF LIFE
Little is known about Munch’s personal relationships with individual women that would greatly enlighten the artist’s overall character and how these relationships’ impacted his artwork in his adult years. Fantastic stories are told. How, in his room at Åsgårdstrand with an unknown woman (likely Tulla), did a gunshot go off in Fall 1902 from a revolver that injured Munch’s hand? Munch successfully chased Tulla out of his life, though after she married another man, the artist felt betrayed by Love and brooded over it. Even as Munch had numerous short-lived affairs with beautiful women who wanted to marry him, he fled them all and verbally expressed no known regrets. Throughout his life, Edvard Munch never married.
Munch started the year 1900 in Gudbrandsdalen and moved on to Berlin. In 1901 he painted in Nordstrand and in 1902 returned to Berlin. Along with artwork of Édouard Manet, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Claude Monet, Munch exhibited at the Berlin Secession in 1902. He had continually worked at the Frieze of Life, the group of images representing human existence, a subject that fascinated the artist. He exhibited 22 paintings from the completed Frieze at that year’s Berlin Secession. Though the Berlin critics began to appreciate Munch’s art, the public continued to view him as warped and weird. In 1902 he met ophthalmologist Dr. Max Linde (1862-1940), an art collector and author of a Munch study while Hamburg judge and art collector Gustav Schiefler (1857-1935) started a catalogue of Munch’s voluminous graphic art that year.
In 1903 Munch visited Dr. Max Linde in Lübeck and painted a frieze for his house though Dr. Linde ended up rejecting Munch’s work. Munch exhibited in Berlin at Paul Cassirer modern art gallery.
EVA MUDOCCI’S PREGNANCY AND MUNCH’S NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
In 1903 Munch met British violinist Eva Mudocci (1872-1953) in Paris where Munch had an exhibition. Fully aware of his commitment only to art, Eva Mudocci reportedly became Munch’s mistress and Munch soon immortalized her in The Woman with the Brooch.
In this period, Munch received several commissions for portraits and prints. In 1904 the German rights to his graphic art and paintings was sold to two prominent galleries. Munch exhibited in Vienna and Paris and became a member of the Berlin Secession. In 1905 Munch exhibited 75 paintings in Prague at the Manés Gallery and in 1906 was invited to exhibit with the Fauves in Paris. In Berlin, Munch painted stage sets for Henrik Ibsen plays (Ghosts and Hedda Gabler) at the Max Reinhardt Theatre. A frieze that was commissioned for the Reinhardt Theatre was sold by its director before the frieze was unveiled to the public.
In 1907 Munch summered in Warnemünde as he turned his attention to human figures and situations. He exhibited with Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne at Cassirer Gallery, the purchaser of the German rights to Munch’s graphic art. In November 1907 Eva Mudocci went on a concert tour in Norway for three weeks where She and Munch spent time together in Åsgårdstrand and Oslo. In early 1908 Eva Mudocci was pregnant and gave birth to twins in Denmark at the end of the year. Friends insisted that Munch must have been the father but Mudocci never said who the father was.
Almost simultaneous with Mudocci’s pregnancy, 45-year-old Edvard Munch had a nervous breakdown. In December 1908 he checked himself into a clinic in Copenhagen for several month’s treatment for alcoholism and exhaustion. Munch later wrote: “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.”
In 1909, Mudocci and Munch parted ways though they stayed in touch for the next 18 years, until 1927. At the clinic, Munch painted portraits of his doctor (Dr. Daniel Jacobsen, 1909) and a nurse as well as close friends and a self-portrait using short, thick, and forceful brushstrokes—it was a watershed moment in Munch’s life and art.7
NORWAY 1909: MUNCH COMES HOME
Following his recuperation at the clinic, Munch was sober for the first time in years. In 1907 and 1908 he created Bathing Men, a scene of cleansing by immersion reminiscent of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Suddenly the totality of Munch’s art of the 1890’s and early 1900’s, where he explored his dark and tormented feelings, thoughts, and experiences, became passé for the artist. With the same vigorous brushwork and unnatural, expressionistic colors, Munch turned to painting everyday subjects.
Renting a house in Kragerø, a fishing village in Norway, Munch permanently settled in his homeland. In 1912 he exhibited in Cologne at the Sonderbund exhibition where he was ranked with Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. That year Munch had his first American exhibition In New York City. In 1913, the 50-year-old artist traveled extensively, had tributes paid to him, and rented larger quarters at Jeløya.
Munch turned to landscapes and large-scale art projects as he continued the murals for Oslo University which were, after lengthy controversy, finally accepted in 1914. Already a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olaf since 1909, the Oslo National Gallery began buying some of Munch’s most important works – The Day After, Ashes, Puberty, Two Girls at the Verandah, and The Frenchman. The State museum received gifts from collectors as well. Olaf Schou (1861-1925) gave them Madonna, The Sick Child, Mother and Daughter, Girls on the Bridge and, later, The Scream, Death in the Sick Chamber, The Dance of Life, Girl at her Toilet, Betsy, Moonlight in Nice, and others.
Meanwhile, Munch decided to turn for inspiration to some of the outward obsessions of a new 20th century: its advancing technologies, mass media, high-speed transportation and urban life. 8
GLOBAL FAME, LAST EXHIBITIONS, OLD AGE AND DEATH
From 1914 until his death in January 1944, Munch sold nearly nothing but pictures bought by museums and new, commissioned work. Until then Munch had to sell pictures to live though he was reluctant and made replicas for himself. He did not sell works closely aligned to his emotional life. In 1916, Munch, now a famous artist, had finished the murals in the assembly Hall of Oslo University and purchased Ekely at Skøyen just outside the city. The artist constructed fences, let hedges and weeds grow tall, and closed off his residence to onlookers. Not strictly a misanthrope, Munch chose to live in glorious isolation. He hardly stayed in contact with family or relatives and permitted few friends to visit.
At Ekely Munch constructed interior and exterior studio spaces where, situated among works, Munch stored The Frieze of Life. At his death in January 1944 at Ekely, Munch bestowed all works in his possession to the city of Oslo– more than 1000 paintings, 15,000 prints, and about 500 watercolors and drawings. There was also some sculpture. These artworks comprise most of today’s Munch Museum – see https://www.munchmuseet.no/
In 1922 Munch painted 12 murals for a chocolate factory in Oslo. In the 1920’s and 1930’s he exhibited his art frequently— in Zurich, Basel, Berne, Berlin, Mannheim, Dresden. In 1936 and 1937, he exhibited in London, Amsterdam and Stockholm. There were major shows and retrospectives.
LAST PAINTINGS RETURN TO EARLIER DARKER SUBJECTS AND THEMES
Besides monumental work for public projects, Munch late paintings included almost genre-type scenes such as horses and workers in the field, fishermen, an elm forest, fruit trees and a garden. While the main mural for Festival Hall at Oslo University is mostly decorative, The Sun (1909-11) recalls aspects of Symbolism that Munch depicted in his darker pictures of the 1890s. Some late pictures stirred with the memory of past, darker experiences such as The Death of the Bohemian (1926) and The Bohemian’s Wedding (1926). In 1915 he painted a new version of the Death Struggle from 1895.
After contracting Spanish Flu in 1919, Munch painted his self-portrait as a convalescent from sickness and death. Twenty years later the artist painted a self portrait as an insomniac in The Night Wanderer (1939). Munch produced paintings and graphic work in great number. There are self-portraits; portraits; beach motifs; motifs from life of workers, fishermen, and farmers; garden scenes; nudes; landscapes; the theme of Faust, etc.
When Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1940 during World War II, Munch’s exhibitions outside Norway ceased by 1942. In 1937 the Nazis had labeled 37 of Munch’s paintings as “degenerate art” and they were removed and sold. After the invasion of Norway, Munch refused to have anything to do with the German occupiers. Munch stayed in Norway where he died at Ekely on January 23. 1944, at 80 years old.9
1. Odilon Redon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986, p. 23.
Quoted in Martha Kapos, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993, pp. 175-180.
Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 6 and 24
2. Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 2.
Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, pp. 196, 203, 228, 236.
Edward Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 189.
8. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, pp. 127-128.
Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 373. 9. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 167.
Michael Gibson, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p.149.
Munch, Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, New York: Universe Books, 1964, p. i-ii; 1.
Bischoff, Ulrich, Edvard Munch 1863-1944, Cologne: Taschen, 2000. Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982. Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. Eggum, Arne, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, New York: C.N. Potter, 1984. Gibson, Michael, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999. Goldwater, Robert, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998. Hodin, J.P., Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Jullian, Philippe, Dreams of Decadence: Symbolist Painters of the 1890s, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971. Kapos, Martha, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993. Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, Munch, New York: Universe Books, 1964. Lucie-Smith, Edward, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 207. Paret, Peter, The Berlin Secession, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. Prideaux, Sue, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Rapetti, Rodolphe, Symbolism, Paris: Flammarion, 2005. Redon, Odilon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986. Selz, Jean, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974.
LIST OF WORKS BY EDVARD MUNCH
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1886.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, crayon, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, Laura.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1882, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Interior Pilestredet, oil on canvas, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Still Life with Jar, Apple, Walnut and Coconut, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, From Saxegårdsgate, c. 1882, oil on canvas, Lillehammer Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Laura, 1882, oil on paper (top) and oil on cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Andreas Studying Anatomy, 1883, Oil on Cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Tête-à-tête, oil on canvas, 1885, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child (original version), 1885-86, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Hans Jæger, 1889, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night on the Beach, 1889, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait, c. 1888, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell, 1885, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night In St. Cloud, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening on the Karl Johan, 1889, oil, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy, 1891, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue Lafayette, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue de Rivoli, 1891, oil on canvas, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, 1893, oil, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (The Yellow Boat), 1891, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the window, 1892, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1892, oil, Private Collection.
Edvard Munch, The Girl by the Window, 1893, oil, Art Institute of Chicago.
Edvard Munch, Separation, 1893-94, Gouache, watercolor and crayon on paper, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Parting, 1894, oil on canvas, 67 x 128 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Three Stages of Women (Sphinx), c. 1894, Bergan.
Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894–1895, oil on canvas, 151.5 x 110 cm, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Despair, 1893, oil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Inger in Black and Violet, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The storm, oil on canvas, 1893, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Summer Night’s Dream The Voice, 1893, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Coastal Mysticism, 1892.
Edvard Munch, Sketch of the Model Posing, 1893, pastel on cardboard, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Edvard Munch, The Hands, 1893, oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Under the Mask of the Woman, 1893, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait in Hell, c. 1895, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski,1895, pastel, 62x55cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895. Ink.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, Dry-point and aquatint, 34.8 x 28 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, woodcut, n.d., 44.7 x 44.7. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1896, Lithograph, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894, Dry-point, 30.2 x 22 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening),1896, woodcut, 37.6 x 45.5. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Attraction, 1896, Lithograph, 47.2 x 35.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Lithograph, 42.1 x 56.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening, Melancholy I, woodcut, 1896.
Edvard Munch, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Auguste Strindberg, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1895, Lithograph, 45.5×31.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Lady From the Sea (detail), 1896, oil on canvas. 100 cm × 320 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Voice Summer Night, 1896, 90 cm × 119 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo
Edvard Munch, Paris Boulevard, 1896, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 130 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas, 141 x 121 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Two people, 1899, oil on canvas, 175 x 143 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907, oil on canvas, 118 x 99 cm
Edvard Munch, Marat’s death, 1907, oil on canvas, 151 x148 cm, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, The Murderess, 1906, Munch museum.
Edvard Munch, Death of Marat I, 1907, 150 x 199 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1897, oil on canvas, 99 x 80.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893, oil on canvas, 128 x 86 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Man and Woman, 1898, oil on canvas, Bergen.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski (The Vampire), Oil and/or tempera on unprimed cardboard, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Weeping Nude, 1913–1914, 110 cm × 135 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Against a Green Background and Caricature Portrait of Tulla Larsen, 1905.
Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1893,
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900.
Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Brooch, 1903, lithograph, 60×46 cm.
Edvard Munch, Salome, 1903, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Fertility, 1898, woodcut, 42 x 51.7 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Women on the Beach, 1898, woodcut, 45.5 x 50.8 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Red and White, 1899–1900, 93 cm × 129 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906, Thiel Gallery, Stockholm.
Edvard Munch, Red Virginia Creeper, 1900, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.
Edvard Munch, Young People on the Beach, 1902, oil on canvas, 90 x 174 cm.
Edvard Munch, On the beach, 1905, oil on canvas, 81x 121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 194 x 294 cm.
Edvard Munch, Shore with Red House, 1904, oil on canvas, 69 × 109 cm, Munch Museum. Edvard Munch, Train Smoke,1900, 84 cm × 109 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At The Sign of the Sweet Girl, 1907, oil on canvas, 85 x 130 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Four Girls Åsgårdstrand, 1905, oil on canvas, 87x111cm.
Edvard Munch, Avenue in the snow, 1906, oil on canvas, 80 x100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904, 197×91 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, 1906, 110 cm × 120, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Deathbed, 1900, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm.
Edvard Munch, Village Street, 1905, oil on canvas, 100×100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Prayer, 1902, woodcut, 45.8 x32.5 cm.
Edvard Munch, Dr. Daniel Jacobson, 1909, oil on canvas, 204 x 112 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nurse, 1909, dry point, 20.5×15.2 cm.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Bergen, 1916, oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Men, 1907–1908, oil on canvas, 206 x 227.5 cm, Atheneum, Helsinki.
Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894/5, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Moonlight in Nice, 1895, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom, 1893, pastel on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge,1899-1901, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Mother and Daughter, 1897, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude, 1919, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Artist and his Model, 1919-1921, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
Chicago’s “Picasso” in today’s downtown Daley Plaza was officially unveiled on Tuesday, August 15, 1967 at 12 noon.
Weeks before the public event excitement (and some dread) swirled among Chicagoans and others as to what Pablo Picasso’s monumental outdoor sculpture would be like.
In the photograph on the wall, Mayor Daley and others pull the cord on August 15, 1967 unveiling Chicago’s iconic Picasso.
The famous Basque artist was first approached by Chicago leaders in May 1963. This encounter led more than four years later to the Cor-Ten steel sculpture’s installation and unveiling on a beautiful Tuesday summer’s afternoon in the Chicago Civic Center Plaza. Many in the crowd of thousands who had gathered to witness the historic event gasped and jeered at the modernist art work when the fabric cover was taken off. Local newspaperman Mike Royko wrote in The Daily News that the art work looked like a “giant insect.” Photo Credit: “Picasso in Chicago” by Emily Barney is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (October 2011).
Chicago’s first major public outdoor sculpture started a long term national trend to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public
The now-iconic Picasso unveiled in 1967 is credited with being the first public outdoor sculpture installed in Chicago that put Chicago on the map as one of America’s first major cities to display massive outdoor contemporary art for the public.
In 1958 there was an untitled art work by Richard Lippold (1915-2002) constructed in the lobby of the Inland Steel Building (1954-58) by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in downtown Chicago. It is four blocks from City Hall and the new Civic Center Plaza that the same architectural firm was helping to design and build in the early 1960’s.
Untitled (known today as The Radiant One), Richard Lippold, commissioned in 1957, Inland Steel Building, Chicago. Author’s photo (December 2017).
This was followed in 1964 by a large modernist work unveiled at the University of Chicago Law School entitled, Construction in Space and in the Third and Fourth Dimensions. It was made in 1959 by Russian Constructionist Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962).
The reputation and fame of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) in 1967 helped catapult the idea and cultural practice of the installation of modern art, often monumental, in high-profile public spaces across the country, and starting in large measure, in Chicago.
In the following years and decades installation of public art that had broadened beyond the commemorative extended to established artists, many with international reputations, as well as more recent and sometimes emerging artists. In 2021, one online list of public art on campus at the University of Chicago demonstrates its extensive practice that was largely ushered in with Chicago’s Picasso (Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983, p. xiii; https://arts.uchicago.edu/public-art-campus/public-art-campus#Antoine_Pevsner – retrieved June 9, 2021).
Since before the mid-20th century, public art in America has been often characterized by Modernism (i.e., MoMA’s modernist sculpture garden dated from the 1940’s). Modernism began as a cultural rebellion against prevailing classical-romantic art work. Until around Rodin’s Balzac in 1898, art work in the classical and romantic style filled parks and plazas throughout the 19th century and afterwards that memorialized people, places, and events. Modernists identified the classical-romantic style as old, trite, exhausted, and artistically bankrupt in rapidly changing times. Instead, Modernism offered artistic forms and creative responses that met and expressed an increasingly global and machine age – and not by grand depictions and tired motifs of old Romans standing (or lying) on privileged porticos in togas (i.e., Thomas Couture (1815-1879) Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay).
Thomas Couture (1815-1879), Romans during the Decadence, 1847, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay. Starting no later than 1900, contemporary society was increasingly artistically influenced by Modernism. Characterized by the rejection of centuries-old literary and historical subjects and forms, it turned to abstraction and imaginative artistic responses as more fitting expression for a rapidly changing modern society.
Pablo Picasso had dominated the modern art scene for most of the 20th century, starting and particularly as the innovator of Cubism with French painter Georges Braque (1882-1963). Picasso was one of several artists who, as Harper’s Bazaar observed about the magazine’s engagement with modern artists, “broke new ground, challenged established thinking, and signaled seismic shifts in the culture” (Harper’s Bazaar, March 2021, p. 236).
Pablo Picasso, Three Women, 1908, oil on canvas, 200x 178 cm, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Picasso, Student with a pipe, Paris, 1913, Oil, gouache, cut-and-pasted paper, gesso, sand, and charcoal on canvas, 28 ¾ x 23 1/8 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the side looking to the southeast. Author’s photo (July 2015).
On a representational level, a woman’s facial profile (eye, nose, lips, chin) followed by two “wings” of flowing hair, and rounded shoulders are in plain sight. Yet other interpretations for the sculpture are also reasonably feasible. For example, from the back, are the top symmetrical curves of the wings reflective of the curves of a woman’s buttocks with legs constituting the rest? Are the cut-out shapes like a head and neck in this context possibly a phallus? Picasso famously did many pieces of art that were highly sexualized. In 1932 Pablo Picasso produced an entire series of what would become iconic paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his young, blonde-haired mistress, in the most lascivious and sensual positions imaginable. Picasso’s Minotaur and Wounded Horse is one example of it produced in Boisgeloup (outside Paris) on April 17, 1935 and today in the permanent collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. (See – https://johnpwalshblog.com/2013/05/15/picasso-and-chicago-the-show-may-be-over-but-its-best-parts-stay-on-display-its-called-the-art-institute-of-chicagos-permanent-collection/).
Picasso narrowed the central plane of the head toward the top, and indicated its slight tilt backward. Using Student with Pipe as a guide, what is usually interpreted as flowing hair past a woman’s head and body, these immense curved symmetrical “wings” in Chicago’s Picasso may be conceived as the shadow or shadows of a head and body. If the rods are not representative of something specific – i.e., guitar strings – but, as Picasso alluded in the LOOK interview of November 1967, an aesthetical connection, then this interpretation of a figural foreground and shadowed background that makes for a sculptural whole is also feasible.
The Chicago sculpture’s circular eyes and long flat nose are typical of Picasso heads of the 1913-1914 period which were translations of the features of African, specifically Wobé, masks. Picasso used their economy and schema to transform them into his personal and whimsical art work. (William Rubin, Picasso in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, 1972, pp. 88-89).
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo. (December 2017).
Mask (Kifwebe), Songye, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 12 x 7 1/8 x 6 1/8 in. (30.5 x 18.1 x 15.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum. The object is a female mask with projecting mouth, triangular nose, pierced eyes, overall concentric linear carving, and polychrome pigment.
The mask type that was shared by other African societies is characterized by angular and thrusting forms, and the entire face is covered in unique patterns of geometric grooves. Female masks, such as this one, are distinguished by the predominant use of white clay and, in a feature shared by Chicago’s Picasso, the rounded form of the head crest. (See – https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169088– retrieved June 9, 2021).
Picasso was 72 years old and Jacqueline Roque was 26 years old when they met in 1953. Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova, died in 1955. Picasso romanced Jacqueline until she agreed to date him and they married in 1961. During their courtship and marriage of 20 years, Picasso created over 400 portraits of Jacqueline, more than any of his other muses.
Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline Roque Picasso (1927-1986), gave her portrait to the president of Iceland and the bust was consigned in 1988 to the National Gallery of Iceland. A more realistic figure, Picasso’s slightly earlier art work evokes features and forms found in the abstracted sculpture for Chicago done a little later, such as the wing-shaped curves of the flowing hair that comes to a point at the bottom. https://www.listasafn.is/english/exhibitions/nr/476
Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon, 1962, sheet metal, cut-out, bent, and painted, 19 5/8 inches, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Completed no later than 5 years after Jacqueline with a Yellow Ribbon in 1962 the dramatic shapes and formulations of the monumental sculpture share recognizable affinities. Author’s photo (July 2015).
Perfect Summer’s Day for Unveiling Ceremony
August 15, 1967 was a perfect summer’s day with temperatures in the low 80s and no rain to worry about in the forecast. The Woods Theater across the Plaza on Dearborn was playing Jack Nicholson’s new film, Hells Angels On Wheels. Before the unveiling, Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902-1976) spoke before the crowd. The mayor told the crowd that he was “very happy” that they had “come to share” in the dedication of what was “a great gift to our city” by Picasso. That Mayor Daley and Pablo Picasso, both Roman Catholics, unveiled Picasso’s gift on August 15 would be coincidental to the significant Catholic religious holiday of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary that also falls on the date.
A lunch-time crowd packed the new Civic Center Plaza on the day of the unveiling. The new plaza fronted a new modernist courthouse skyscraper and a modern outdoor sculpture – Chicago’s Picasso – as the major components of architectural plans virtually from its start.
In 1963, the Public Building Commission of Chicago decided to build a new modernist 31-story civic center fronted by a public plaza. The new complex would complement and contrast with the 10-story City Hall across Clark Street that opened in 1911. The new courthouse and plaza development was part of Mayor Daley’s overall downtown development that by 1963 was in high gear and would remain so past his unexpected death 5 days before Christmas in 1976 at 74 years old.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architectural firm associated with the project, wanted the art work to be by Pablo Picasso. When the project’s coordinator, architect William E. Hartmann (1916-2003), told Mayor Daley of these plans, the mayor quickly supported the choice. The challenge now was to convince Picasso.
The Chicago Civic Center’s supervising architects was C.F. Murphy led by the Aurora, Illinois-born architect Jacques Brownson (1924-2012). Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Loebl, Schlossman, Bennett & Dart were associated architects. Al Francik was this drawing’s delineator.
The Chicago Civic Center was the first of several important new public buildings constructed in Chicago from the late 1950s to the 1980s as part of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s development of municipal government. The glass-and-steel modernist building held over 100 courtrooms, office space and a large law library. It boasted wide spans between weight bearing columns and 18-foot-tall floor to floor heights. Though the plan included a sculpture in the public plaza, Picasso’s sculpture came later after he was persuaded by William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to make the artwork. Chicago’s Picasso continues to draw Chicagoans and visitors from all over the world to the plaza.
On August 15, 1967, Mayor Daley continued his remarks to the assembled crowd: “Today, with its unveiling, it becomes a permanent part of the Chicago scene. As mayor, I dedicate this gift, in the name of the people of Chicago, confident that it will have an abiding and happy place in the city’s heart.”
The Deed of Gift, dated August 21, 1966, was signed by Picasso with one of its witnesses being, Jacqueline, his wife and written in both English and French. The entirety of the Deed of Gift in English reads: “The Monumental sculpture portrayed by the maquette pictured above has been expressly created by me, Pablo Picasso, for installation on the plaza of the Civic Center in the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, United States of America. This sculpture was undertaken by me for the Public Building Commission of Chicago at the request of William E. Hartmann, acting on behalf of the Chicago Civic Center Architects. I hereby give this work and the right to reproduce it to the Public Building Commission, and I give the maquette to The Art Institute of Chicago. Desiring that these gifts shall, through them, belong to the people of Chicago” (Balton-Stratton, The Chicago Picasso, p. 33).
Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. Skateboarder on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015).
Children’s slide on Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021).
Picasso’s “gift” cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today
Picasso donated his sculpture to the people of Chicago in 1967. The artist’s gift constituted the 42-inch maquette and the rights and privileges surrounding it. The monumental sculpture based on Picasso’s “gift” of the maquette cost $300,000 to fabricate–or around $2 million today – and paid for by private monies (Bach, p. 76).
The Picasso sculpture could not be completely a matter of artist largesse (though he did not accept a fee). Gertrude Stein in Picasso, her memoir of the artist written in 1938, writes of the young and then-impoverished Picasso who gave a prominent collector one of his desirable art works when he might have paid for it. Picasso told Stein about the collector: “He doesn’t understand that at that time the difference between a sale and gift was negligible” (Stein, Picasso, p. 8). Fast forward about fifty years and something similar might have applied for Picasso in 1967 in terms of acknowledging the people (and collectors) of Chicago.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (May 2021) .
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Author’s photo (July 2015) .
Not everyone who gathered at Daley Plaza in August 1967 during the “Summer of Love” and then-escalating Vietnam War was there to welcome Picasso’s sculpture. Though Chicago had a long and venerable history with Picasso’s art – The Art Institute of Chicago began collecting it in 1923 and the first Picasso exhibition was at The Arts Club of Chicago that same year—protesters held signs at the unveiling, some of which read: “Let’s give it back now!!!,” “The Colossal Boo Boo,” and “It’s a Monsterment.” To what degree connoisseurship influenced protesters in August 1967 would appear to lie in the outright rejection of Modernism though more nuanced criticism could include crass commercialization of Picasso’s art work.
From its unveiling in August 1967 until today, Chicagoans have been mystified by their publicly owned “Picasso.” Picasso’s untitled artwork has had its boosters and detractors. Over the years, it appears public opinion has mellowed about the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten (self-weathering) steel sculpture, even turning mostly in favor of the enigmatic work of art.
In more than 50 years of debate, Chicagoans have come to accept that they probably will never know exactly what it is that Picasso gave “to the people of Chicago.”
Though mysterious – is it a butterfly or bird? or, as Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984) interpreted it, the abstracted head of a woman with ample flowing hair – many seek it out or find it as they cross the plaza. It adds grace, beauty, personality, proportionality and perspective to the urban space between Dearborn and Clark Streets at Washington Street.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza looking to the northeast. Author’s photo (May 2021).
The sculpture’s rods have been compared to the strings of a guitar (Bach, pp.75-76). Always in the public domain, it is a popular icon for Chicago.
The Picasso bestows international and modernist value to the “City of the (19th) Century” which in 1911 – the year City Hall was erected – poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) called “hog butcher for the world” in his poem, Chicago. Though Sandburg wrote these literary images in and of another era, the famous poet was just 3 years older than Picasso and died in July 1967, only weeks before the official unveiling of the Picasso that ushed in a new age for the city.
In May 1963, Picasso was a vigorous 81 years old and living in Mougins, France. By way of literary and artistic contacts in Chicago and Europe, William Hartmann was helped on his mission to visit Picasso as the young American architect headed to the south of France to await the outcome of his request to meet the aging Basque artist.
Picasso was 81 years old and living in the south of France when Chicago architect William Hartmann tracked the artist down to ask him to consider creating a sculpture on a monumental scale for Chicago’s new modernist Civic Center development project. Photo credit: “PABLO PICASSO” by marsupilami92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
William Hartmann, 47 years old in 1963, was born in New Jersey and started his architectural career in Boston after attending MIT. He joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York City following World War II and was working in its Chicago office since 1947. Hartmann, elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1963, is credited for personally enticing Picasso to design a sculpture for Daley Center Plaza in Chicago. In 1968, the year after the installation of the Picasso sculpture in Chicago, Hartmann was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lake Forest College. (For Hartmann biographical information and interviews, see the Ryerson & Burnham art and architecture archive – https://digital-libraries.artic.edu/digital/collection/caohp/id/26834/rec/1– retrieved June 9, 2021).
At their meeting Hartmann looked to familiarize the artist with the downtown Chicago project: he brought photographs of Chicago, the building site, and its people. Hartmann included photographs of the many Picasso works owned by Chicagoans and its institutions to show him this city’s longstanding regard and love for him.
Picasso told Hartmann he would think about it.
Hartmann continued to visit over the next months and years bringing various Americana and Chicago-related items as gifts, such as major sports team paraphernalia. Hartmann also updated the artist on the modernist Civic Center construction project.
Picasso produced a draft.
Before starting his maquette, Picasso asked Chicago leaders to keep the art project “relatively confidential” and out of the public eye
Hartmann told him, “We want to commission you so that I end up with a study I can take back.” Maintaining his flexibility, Picasso told Hartmann, “I may not produce anything—or produce something that you don’t like. It’s best that we keep this low-key from start to finish, calm, and relatively confidential.”
Thus, out of “relative confidentiality” was born much of the mystery and intriguing quality of the “Picasso” at its unveiling in Chicago in August 1967.
In 1963 Mayor Daley looked to persuade Picasso to do a monument. In 1965, Picasso looked to persuade Mayor Daley to accept his foremost Cubist original work that would be seen and interpreted each day by thousands in the heart of Chicago’s downtown government, business and shopping district.
Chicago’s collection of public art was initiated on August 15, 1967, when Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated an untitled sculpture commonly known as “The Picasso” in Chicago’s new Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center). Four years earlier, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill had approached Pablo Picasso with the commission. The artist accepted and crafted two steel maquettes: one he kept in his studio at Mougins and gave the other to the architect to use in planning the potential fabrication of the sculpture. With the Picasso sculpture’s unveiling in 1967, its presence inspired private and public investment in many more artworks throughout the cityscape, including Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) completed in 2006 at Millennium Park.
Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), Anish Kapoor, 2006, Millennium Park, Chicago. Chicago’s Picasso in 1967 inspired private and public investment in art works throughout the cityscape well into the future. Author’s photo (May 2021).
When Picasso produced a 42-inch maquette of the sculpture, the board of the Public Building Commission of Chicago was given a private viewing of it. Afterwards, they passed a resolution authorizing the payment of $100,000 to Picasso (about $850,000 today) with the sum to include the purchase price for the right, title and interest in and to the maquette as well as copyright and copyright renewals. When Hartmann offered the $100,000 check to Picasso, he asked the artist to sign the “Formal Acknowledgment and Receipt.”
Picasso refused to accept the money or to sign the document.
In the chalk drawing (above) the importance of the sculpture’s forms, both empty of steel and fabricated thereof, carry greater significance to the outcome of the piece. In the drawing Picasso does not include the rods of which much representational conjecture has been made (i.e., guitar strings) as the artist himself admits adds value for structural stability of the modernist monument.
Based on Picasso’s design and the 42-inch maquette he made, the monumental statue was built by U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. Anatol Rychalski was the engineer in charge of the design and construction.
Rods of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza, Author’s photo (July 2015).
“My job was to make an exact but giant likeness of Picasso’s 42-inch original. Being a follower of Picasso’s works, I knew that no snap judgement of this one would suffice. But those of us who built it accepted the challenge of its interpretation with as much enthusiasm as the challenge of its construction” (Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1967). Rychalski, a Polish immigrant to the U.S. in 1950 and, in 1967, senior designer in the American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel corporation, observed, “We had to roll steel to sizes which never have been rolled which means that the whole technology had to be to some extent improvised at the time.” Nearly 50 years later, in 2016, the 91-year-old Rychalski, said about the sculpture, “It defines the city as ‘spirit in flight.’ You look at the wings and the profile of an overwhelmingly powerful lady…the value of it is enormous.” (quoted in https://www.shawlocal.com/2016/07/28/shorewood-man-expresses-the-profound-through-his-acrylic-paintings/askc2p1/-retrieved June 9, 2021.)
Pablo Picasso and William E. Hartmann with the maquette in the artist’s Mougins studio in August 1966. This image appeared in the 1967 program pamphlet. Picasso made two maquettes – one he kept in his studio and the other he gave to The Art Institute of Chicago for the behalf of the people of Chicago.
Daley pulled the cord on the multi-color fabric that hid Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago. Chicago poet Gweldolyn Brooks (1917-2000) read remarks and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played music.
Collective gasp from the crowd followed by jeers at unveiling
With the veil removed, the crowd let out a collective gasp and began to shout negative comments about the art work. In its first public appearance, the crowd of potential Picasso admirers turned into a Picasso peanut gallery – an unintended, unwanted but not wholly unforeseen consequence by city authorities. Bemused criticisms of the Picasso were also part of what became – in the mayor’s words at the sculpture’s unveiling – “a permanent part of the Chicago scene.”
The Chicago Picasso at the dedication ceremony before the unveiling on August 15, 1967. Photo credit: case 69C353: The Letter Edged in Black Press, Inc. vs. Public Building Commission of Chicago in records of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, RG 21.
Controversial reaction better than “no reaction at all”
For William Hartmann and others responsible for bringing the Picasso to Chicago the local crowd’s visceral and negative reaction to the monumental public art work in the downtown location was better than no reaction at all.
“Picasso’s work, frequently, if not always has been the center of controversy,” Hartmann philosophically observed, “So it all fit into that pattern beautifully.”
A few days after the unveiling, Mayor Daley offers his thoughts at a press conference about the Picasso
A couple of days after the unveiling ceremony, Mayor Daley at a press conference offered what he thought about the Picasso sculpture. Though it was “wonderful,” Daley admitted like the rest of Chicago that he did not know what the sculpture really represents.
One idea the mayor floated was that it was a woman as some believed and that it was very appropriate that she stood in front of the courthouse.
“We’ve always looked at justice as a woman and it is outside a hall of justice,“ the 65-year-old Big-City Irish Democratic mayor said. He speculated further: “But it could also be a Phoenix. It would symbolize the rise of Chicago as a city of vitality out of the ashes caused by [the Great Chicago Fire]” (Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1967).
Considering the many conversations that were held over four years with city planners and the Basque artist through William Hartmann about Chicago’s Picasso it is fair to say that the mayor – the city’s biggest booster – would state his interpretation on the art work based on what he believed he saw after talking to the experts.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza, made from a 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France into a 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana, is an engineering marvel. Author’s photo (July 2015).
From 42-inch maquette in Mougins, France, to 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Cor-Ten steel sculpture in Gary, Indiana
In those same days, Anatol Rychalski (b. 1925) was open-minded about the Picasso’s precise artistic representation. “It doesn’t really matter how you personally interpret the sculpture,“ he told the Chicago Tribune on August 20, 1967, “as long as you not ridicule for the sake of ridicule.” He then shared his interpretation: “To me it represents the winged spirit of justice, with the serenity and compassion of a woman. It is a benevolent but stern and powerful justice.”
LOOK magazine interviews Pablo and Jacqueline Picasso and they talk about Chicago’s Picasso
In November 1967, LOOK magazine interviewed Picasso and Jacqueline and the Chicago sculpture came up. They were both amused by the baffled reaction of Chicagoans to the art work. Jacqueline offered that it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Picasso observed that the “cage” of steel rods was more an aesthetic than a representation. In the LOOK interview Picasso observed: “I am touched that the [Chicago] public could mysteriously share my joy over the results of many years work in sculpture. In a way, my sculptures are more my children than my paintings. I am caught up in shaping my vision of the world. In sculpture, I cut through appearances to the marrow, and rebuild the essentials from there. I cannot invent a detail that has not been carefully planned and my wish is that the public, through thinking and meditation, may retrace my intentions” (LOOK, November 28, 1967). The Basque artist’s challenge to the viewer to discover an objective answer to his artistic intentions makes the sculpture’s meaning more intriguing.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. In a November 1967 LOOK magazine interview, Picasso and Jacqueline expressed amusement at Chicagoans’ reaction to the art work. Jacqueline said it was obviously “a woman’s head” and shoulders but “no more.” Author’s photo (July 2015).
“Eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean…”
Probing the artist’s intentions was met soon with succinct anecdotal insight from Chicago’s newspaperman, Mike Royko (1932-1997). Royko wrote creatively and personally about the significance of the art work for Chicago in 1967. The columnist’s cynical eye on the possible relationship of the modernist steel art work and the city he loved was published in the afternoon newspaper, the Chicago Daily News:
“That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting design, I’m sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.
But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.
Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.
ITS EYES ARE LIKE the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.
It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.
Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city’s rebuilding possible and profitable.
It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for – and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.
IT IS ALL THERE in that Picasso thing – the I will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.
Picasso has never been here, they say. You’d think he’s been riding the L all his life.”
Soft Version of Maquette for a Monument Donated to the City of Chicago by Pablo Picasso, Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929), 1969. Canvas and rope, painted with synthetic polymer, dimensions variable (38 x 28¾ x 21 inches, full height), Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
What could be seen as an early parody of the Picasso sculpture by Claes Oldenburg is, in fact, the artist’s homage to the art work as well as conversation with it on aesthetics.
In Oldenburg’s version Picasso’s steel becomes soft cloth; straight rods become limp ropes. More malleable than the original, Oldenburg dubbed his work “Super-Cubism” in that where a Cubist work offers the viewer multiple viewpoints, Oldenburg’s piece offers viewpoints that are unlimited (Picasso and American Art, Michael FitzGerald, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2006, p. 259).
Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso, 1905–6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Met writes about this work: “[Picasso] reduces her body to simple masses—a foreshadowing of his adoption of Cubism—and portrays her face like a mask with heavy lidded eyes, reflecting his recent encounter with Iberian sculpture.” see- https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488221 – retrieved June 4, 2021.
Reaching farther back in Picasso’s career at the start of the 20th century, American writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) knew Picasso in Paris and later wrote about him. Stein observed that Picasso was “the only one in painting who saw the twentieth century with his eyes and saw its reality and consequently his struggle was terrifying …for himself and for the others, because he had nothing to help him…he had to do it all alone and, as in spite of much strength he is often very weak…” (Stein, Picasso, p. 22).
In 1906 when Picasso was 25 years old, he painted Gertrude Stein’s portrait. According to Stein, she posed for him in Paris “eighty times” but, finally, he “painted out the head” and, following a break in Spain, painted in a new head without seeing her again beforehand (see G. Stein, Picasso, 1938, p. 8). Though Stein was “satisfied” with the portrait and remained so over 30 years later, Picasso was criticized in 1906 for the depiction. The artist responded with a remark now considered famous and certainly, as Stein and the world discovered, prescient: “Everybody says that she does not look like it but that does not make any difference, she will.” (See G. Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas).
The bold creative vision of the Cubist artist is very much in evidence in Picasso’s gift to the people of Chicago that stands in Daley Plaza. It may be that Picasso’s intentions for the iconic untitled sculpture may only be known in future days. For, at first, they said it did not look like Chicago, but it didn’t make any difference – because it will.
Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza from the back looking to the southwest. Author’s photo (October 2015).
Chicago’s Picasso (June 2022).
Bach, Ira J. and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture, University of Chicago Press, 1983.
FitzGerald, Michael, Picasso and American Art, Exh. Cat. Whitney Museum of American Art/Yale University press, New York, 2006.
Rubin, William, Picasso in the Collection of the Modern of Modern Art, , MoMA, New York, 1972.
“The Chicago Picasso,” Progressive Architecture (November 1966), p. 66 (ill.).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report (1966–1967), pp. 26–27 (ill.).
Chicago Picasso Dedication program (August 15, 1967) (ill.).
Lael Wertenbaker, The World of Picasso (New York: Time-Life Books, 1967), p. 153 (ill.).
“A Picasso Statue for Chicago,” The Burlington Magazine 109:766 (January 1967), pp. 34–36, figs. 68 and 70.
Burton Wasserman, “Picasso: The Touch of Magic,” Art Education 21:4 (April 1968), p. 29 (ill.).
Clarence Page, “Giant Iron Sculpture: Picasso Leaves His Mark on the City,” Chicago Tribune (April 9, 1973), section 1, p. 6.
Roberto Otero, Forever Picasso: An Intimate Look at his Last Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974), pp. 46, 50, 52–55 (ill.).
Roberto Otero, “It’s more charming this way: How the master made us a gift,” Chicago Guide, vol. 23, no. 10 (October 1974), pp. 86–87.
Marilyn McCully, A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1981), pp. 266–267 (ill.).
Sally Fairweather, Picasso’s Concrete Sculptures (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1982), p. 85.
The Picasso Project, Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, and Sculpture: A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885–1973, The Sixties II 1964–1967 (San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 2002), p. 133, no. 64–373 (ill.).
Gary Tinterow, Master Drawings by Picasso, exh. cat. (Cambridge, Mass., 1981), p. 255, no. 27.
Stephanie d’Alessandro, “Picasso and Chicago,” (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013), p.26, cat 245 (ill.)
FEATURE image: Memorial Portrait of Hiroshige, 1858, Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Hiroshige is best known for his horizontal-format landscape series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō and his vertical format landscape series One Hundred Views of Edo.
His subjects are an expansion of the ukiyo-e genre, adding to its usual focus on beautiful women, popular actors, and scenes of urban pleasure districts during Japan’s Edo dynasty (1603–1868).
In 1603, the city of Edo (the earlier name for today’s Tokyo) became the urban center of the ruling Tokugawa shōgunate.
One Hundred Views of Edo is a series of ukiyo-e prints by the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797–1858) that were published in serialized form between 1856 and 1859. Following Hiroshige’s death, the series was completed by his apprentice and posthumous son-in-law, Hiroshige II (1826-1869).
Meguro was a quiet outskirts of forest and fields at Edo. Megudo was named after Fudo-Myoo, an awesome guardian diety established during the reign of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616).
Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shōgunate of Japan. His great adviser was Tenkai (1536-1643), a Tendai Buddhist monk. The Tokugawa shōguns ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Shōguns sometimes practiced falconry at this spot depicted in Hiroshige’s print. Each spring peasants gathered its bamboo shoots to sell. The old waterfall, which existed until the 1930’s, spilled into the O-Chiyo pond.
Hiroshige, in his depiction of springtime, included the shadows of trees in the pond which was an artistic device from European painting which the old artist mastered though rarely used.
The foreground of the color print depicts flowering wisteria (fuji)—a symbol of summer.
The shrine was dedicated in the 17th century. It is associated with Sugawara no Michizane, known as Kan Shōjō or Kanke (845-903), an excellent poet and politician in the Heian period (794-1185). He is the patron of scholars and students—and was deified as a thunder-god known as Tenman Tenjin.
In a popular Kabuki play, poet, scholar, and statesman Kan Shōjō is deified as Tenjin, the thunder god, so that his spirit may take proper vengeance for Kan Shōjō’s death in exile.
The shrine itself was built under Shōgun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680). It started as a small prayer house to protect against the kingdom of demons to the north-east.
Tokugawa Ietsuna was the eldest son of the third shōgun Iemitsu and great-grandson of the first shōgun Ieyasu. A detail from a drawing attributable to Kanō Yasunobu (1614-1685).
In time, the shrine developed into a picturesque garden with a pond that was kokoro (heart or soul)-shaped. The pond had a pair of high-arched “drum” bridges (taikobashi). One of the bridges, made of wood, is impressively depicted in the Hiroshige print above.
This was a relatively level country of groves and ponds. The large maple depicted in the print and whose leaves fall in front of the viewer’s eyes was one of this area’s major attractions. The trunk was so big around that two people with their arms stretched out could not embrace the tree’s entire trunk.
Japan’s most beautiful autumn foliage– and a tragic love story.
The tree grew on the grounds of the ancient and revered Guhoji monastery. One of this place’s admired features was that it offered some of the finest autumnal foliage in Japan.
Hiroshige does not depict the monastery but the Tekona-no yashiro Shinto shrine.
The shrine is associated with Japan’s most ancient poetry of the Eighth Century.
Tekona was a beautiful village girl from Mama. She was courted by many wealthy and high ranking suitors who began to fight over her. Tekona was so upset by their fighting that she drowned herself in a nearby river to end the discord.
Her story passed on into the ancient poetry which led to building the shrine in her honor in the sixteenth century.
Tekona was a beautiful village girl who drowned herself after becoming upset by the disgraceful actions of her suitors.
The same poetry also mentions the “Linking Bridge” (Tsugihashi), a small bridge painted red which is depicted in Hiroshige’s mid-19th century print.
Mount Tsukuba, one of Japan’s most famous mountains, is depicted on the horizon. These mountains would be known to be covered by an abundance of trees and other flora as well as filled by animals. It is mentioned in the same ancient poetry as Tekona’s tale.
FEATURE Image: Jawlensky, Hügel (Hills), 1912, oil on hardboard, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.
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 where, in 1900, Kandinsky 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, 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. In fall 1907 he went to Paris with Hélène Nesnakomoff and Andreas to view the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne. He also visited at Matisse’s studio. Near Marseilles to paint landscapes alone afterwards, 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 Mittelmeerkűste (Mediterranean Coast) (below) became the result of these searches and 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 and others in this period express 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.
Following these travels to Wasserburg am Inn, Paris and Marseilles in 1907, Jawlensky was back in Munich at Christmas and met Dutch Symbolist artist Jan Verkade (1868-1946) in January 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 priest 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, 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.
1. German Unification – Confronting Identities in German Art: Myth, Reactions, Reflections, Smart Museum, Chicago, 2002, pamphlet.
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).
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.
FEATURE image: Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.
On May 2, 2019,
the world remembered the day 500 years ago when Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519),
Italian Renaissance artist and polymath, died. The 67-year-old applied the
spheres of the human brain to its many branches of knowledge and voraciously
fused his interests and studies into one lifetime that inspired universal
learning in Europe.
Leonardo da Vinci made original contributions as an inventor, draftsman, painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist, astronomer, botanist, paleontologist and cartographer.1Leonardo was involved in military science, hydraulics, aerodynamics, and optics. Used by princes and admired by kings, charming and handsome Leonardo da Vinci could show in his notebooks that he was often misanthropic.2 A significant part of his important visionary achievements is that Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most reproduced artistic masterpieces of all time: the Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre. Paris) and The Last Supper (1490s, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan). Leonardo, after a lifetime of adventure, curiosity, and solid achievement died in Amboise, France, following a short illness.
In 1516 Leonardo left Italy for the first time to live in France under the protection of its most cultured young French king, François I (1494-1547). As a dedicated artist, Leonardo experienced a lifetime of disappointment from most of his would-be patrons starting with his father through to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent (1449-1492), hapless Milanese duke Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), Milanese governor Charles II d’Amboise (1473-1511), and Lorenzo’s son and a papal brother, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1479-1516), among others. As Leonardo was ahead of his times it can be said that only at the end of the artist’s life—in 1516, under the wing of François I—that the bulk of his times, that is, the temporarily powerful men in them, had failed him and mankind’s enduring greatness. François I was Leonardo’s first unconditional patron3—while the rest, relatively speaking, are history’s minor players.
death his reputation as an artist and man rested, as Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)
relates, on his physical strength, generosity, and artistic innovations which
brought art and society out of its reliance on the past and its well-intentioned
model books into a future of science and art which characterized the best of
the Renaissance period. Because of Leonardo’s lifetime of study and work, mostly
in isolation from a majority of his fellow artists’ and other practitioners’
careers, he bore the fruit of innovation, including new and creative forms and
motifs for art. These emanated out of the imagination of the individual artist who
closely observed the workings of nature. Leonardo’s artistic innovations
included the subtle skill of sfumato
(shadowing) and, as a draughtsman, progressive chalk and cross-hatching
techniques. These inspired other great artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti
(1475-1564), and only begins to account for the knowledge Leonardo gained from
the physical sciences, particularly anatomy.
Leonardo spent his final three years in Italy in the Vatican (1513-1516), effectively a refuge from petty Italian tyrants. He departed for France in 1516 under the protection of its warrior and cultured 21-year-old new king, François I, whom 64-year-old Leonardo first met in late 15154. Like his cousin and father-in-law predecessor King Louis XII of France (1462-1515) and his cultured mother Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), François I worked hard to recruit the Italian High Renaissance’s most inventive artist for the Gallic Kingdom. When Leonardo finally crossed the Alps he carried with him his recent paintings of the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne—all works in the Louvre in Paris today.5 In the second edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists6 he described Leonardo in his last months of life in France. In 1519, after a happy period in France at the Château de Cloux, Leonardo was a sick and bedridden man. At the very end, Vasari writes, Leonardo “could not stand [and had to be] supported by his friends and servants.”7. The King paid Leonardo “affectionate visits” in these last days. Vasari intimates that the dying artist consciously felt himself honored to be ministered to by François I Vasari and that Leonardo realized the distinct privilege to “[breathe] his last in [the king’s] arms.”8 This death bed scene, particularly Vasari’s tender detail, has been subsequently imagined in the artwork of artists, including Ingres’ famous painting dated 1818 in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.
The mother of François I, Louise de Savoie (above), worked hard to convince Leonardo to leave Italy for France.
Leonardo carried with him over the Alps to France three of his recent paintings (above) – Mona Lisa (1503), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503). All are in the Louvre today.
Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast. The Bible-like exhibition catalog for Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman from the 2003 show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a 786-page testament. That tome presents and discusses about 100 drawings by the master. This article focuses on one image – Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, particularly its central section called the Battle of The Standard.
In October 1503 Leonardo’s commission by the Florentine Republic was to commemorate the military victory of the Florentines over the Milanese in 1440. It would be one of the major artworks in the newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) by IL Cronaca (“The Chronicler”) to the rear of the Palazzo della Signoria, also known as the Palazzo Vecchio.9 The commission was given to Leonardo by Republican standard-bearer Piero Soderini (1450-1522) with one of Leonardo’s contracts signed by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)—and so entered into the annals of what became a fabled art competition (“concorrenza”).
Ink consecrated to Leonardo da Vinci’s art is vast.
Statesman Piero Soderini of the Florentine Republic awarded Leonardo the mural commission for the Battle of Anghiari in October 1503.
In the process of re-decorating this room with its coffered ceiling and walls with paintings of battle scenes dedicated to the exaltation of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative fresco of the Battle of Anghiari was lost or destroyed.
Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of 1603 of the lost Battle for the Standard, the central section of the Battle of Anghiari fresco by Leonardo, 1503-06, in Palazzo della Signoria (also, Palazzo Vecchio) in Florence. While Rubens’ copy is the best known, there are copies of Leonardo’s work by other 16th century artists.
In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci was at the height of his artistic powers. The
of Anghiari was a commission for a large scale, complex and dramatic fresco mural
on one wall of the Sala de Gran Consiglio in Florence during
the short-lived restored Republic (c.1492-1512). Leonardo looked to paint the fresco
in dazzling oils and glazes but his complicated experimental techniques to
adhere the pigment to the wall largely failed.10 With the fresco’s ultimate destruction in the early 1560’s
under Vasari who redecorated the Great Council Hall with six of his own massive
battle scenes, he and his Medici rulers were faced with another of Leonardo’s
deteriorating frescos similar to the disastrous flaking of The Last Supper in Milan. The Battle of
Anghiari was not in an obscure
monastery refectory but the central hall of changing political power in
Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco in Milan started flaking almost as soon as it was painted in the 1490’s. Leonardo’s experimental painting techniques for that project had largely failed.
Fragmentary remains by Leonardo of his Florentine project are his preparatory
drawings whose subjects include horses, riders, and combatants on the
battlefield in various stages of creative development. Some of these drawings
were made by Leonardo immediately upon receiving his commission in late 1503.12
Several copies and copies of copies made by other artists also survive. While
the preparatory drawings do not complete the full composition— though
contemporary written sources lend credence to books of sketches that are lost13—Leonardo
possibly did not even complete a cartoon before he started painting on the
wall.14 While copies by others
intrigue, they are problematic to envision Leonardo’s final fresco of the Battle
of Anghiari—yet each of these sources provide insights.
The Battle of Anghiari is arguably Leonardo’s most important
public commission.15 It manifested itself in the context of
impactful local history, civic pride, city government, and the artist’s own
vision and skills in its employ. Florence was Leonardo’s native city and he
wanted to make a strong impression. Sixty years after Leonardo left his
brilliant fresco on the west wall.16 Vasari,
whose redecoration of the Palazzo Vecchio included a fresco cycle of his own almost
certainly covered over all or part of Leonardo’s unfinished fresco. A desire
for new artwork to showcase the Medici restoration under Cosimo I de’ Medici
(1519-1574) naturally extended to the Grand Council Hall. The late-fifteenth-century
Republic had commissioned Leonard’s battle fresco—and that form of government
had ended in Florence in 1512.
Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 -1574) ruled Florence from 1537 until his death.
relates in his Lives of the Artists, Leonardo depicted a scene from the
life of Niccolò Piccinino (1386-1444), an Italian mercenary officer or “condottiere”
in the service of the politically brilliant and physically repulsive duke of
Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447). Fighting for Milan, Piccinino—aided
by two score of cavalry squadron, many foot soldiers17and
treacherous Florentine exiles—was defeated by a force led by the Republic of
Florence under Francesco I Sforza
(1401-1466). The victory at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440 handed the
Florentines domination of central Italy. At the turn of the sixteenth century
the new republic of Florence continued to face warring tyrants as neighbors
including Cesare Borgia (1475-1507). At the start of a new century and Republic
the timing was ripe to depict in its government hall valorous Florentine
warriors defeating political enemies. In 1503, Florentine officials gave
Leonardo an in-depth orientation of the 1440 battle using historical texts but
the artist brushed these aside as he conceived the scene to be depicted, a
virtually cinematic induction of the battle’s climax —the mortal contest by the
Florentines to capture the standard from the Milanese. Leonardo’s first sketches
for it are of a condensed melée full of the swirling movement and
stirring sensations of battle.18 The actual standards taken during
the battle had been kept in the Grand Council Hall as a trophy.19
Niccolò Piccinino. Defeated at the Battle of Anghiari, the Italian mercenary becomes the central protagonist of Leonardo’s fresco.
Local battles such as the Battle of Anghiari were usually
part of larger campaigns— in this instance, The Lombardy Wars of 1423-1454— and
fought by hired warriors. Mercenaries usually provided terms to competing foes
that protected the mercenary’s best interest. Following the Battle of Anghiari,
Piccinino, who had been captured, was soon after released. In the next battle
at Martinengo, he defeated and captured Sforza. Because of these endless war
games, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)
advised in The Prince that
a ruler should not be tempted to use these swords for hire – and cited Francesco
Sforza by example.20
Machiavelli, author of The Prince, signed an order to commission Leonardo to create the fresco commemorating the Battle of Anghiari for Florence’s newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall).
Cosimo I de’ Medici who ruled Florence starting in 1547 was interested in that which supports power— including art. Vasari’s new paintings of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wartime exploits was partly a political act. By ridding the hall of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari — a Republican military victory from long ago — Vasari worked his political masters’ desires. The ultimate reasons and fate of Leonardo’s artwork is not known but if Vasari destroyed the mural he would not be the first Italian artist to destroy a competitor’s artwork as shall be seen.
In late 1503 Leonardo, installed in a temporary workshop at Santa Maria Novella, about a fifteen-minute walk to the Palazzo, was given a deadline for the mural’s completion of February 1505. Like the fabled competition between Leonardo and Michelangelo that was intentionally arranged by Florence’s political operatives, the deadline for completion was also a demand for Leonardo’s art outside the artist’s concerns. The first late winter deadline passed as did those in spring and summer. Setbacks included Leonardo’s meticulously slow work, other projects he took up that kept him away from the fresco, and even bad weather.21
Leonardo’s designated workshop for the mural commission was the Dominican church built in 1420, Santa Maria Novella.
In early 1504
the wall painting of the Battle of Anghiari and its 51-year-old artist
was joined by Michelangelo Buonarroti who would paint his Battle of Cascina
in the same room and possibly on the same wall. Michelangelo, recently turned
28 years old, would depict the Florentine military victory over Pisa in 1364.
Neither this imposed rivalry or proximity encouraged their friendship.22
Michelangelo was intense, pious, and unwashed contrasting to Leonardo’s genial,
independent, and stylish manner.23 However, their professional
relationship temporarily influenced each other’s artmaking.
In 1504 and
1505, Michelangelo learned to use Leonardo’s innovative stylus cross-hatching
technique along with the chalk technique that Leonardo was continuing to exploit
in the Battle of Anghiari. Inspired by Michelangelo, Leonardo did
masterful drawings of nude figures though he did not use them. In
Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings for the Battle of Cascina—that and
copies by others are what survive of the project– the younger artist used
Leonardo’s cross hatching technique for the pull of the skin. He experimented
with Leonardo’s chalk technique to display types and degrees of muscular
tension on figures.24 Yet, according
to Vasari, the two clashed at almost every turn. Michelangelo’s use of
Leonardo’s advanced techniques was restricted to the short period of their
common commission and Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male
nude bathers as coldly analytical.25
Two Michelangelo chalk studies. Above: Life Study for a bathing soldier in the lost cartoon for theBattle of Cascina, black chalk, 404 x 258 cm, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands. Below: Male back with a flag.
Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies of the Nude, connected with the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1504, Royal Library, Windsor. Though influenced by Michelangelo’s nude drawings in this time, Leonardo’s design and imagery for his battle scene looked to invention and unexpected drama rather than the nude.
In spring 1505
Michelangelo’s cartoon was finished but his painting barely started—and the
younger artist left Florence for Rome. Michelangelo accepted the commission to
build the tomb of Pope Julius II (1443-1513) although it would not be completed
until 1545 and on a much-reduced scale. He returned to Florence the following
spring but was soon back in Rome to paint, between 1508 and 1512, the Sistine
Chapel ceiling. In 1506 Leonardo’s gradual departure for Milan, complete by
1508, began. Leonardo stayed in Milan until 1513 when he was invited by the
pope to the Vatican. Leonardo and Michelangelo had in Florence shared a common
commission from the Republic. Their two battle scenes presented, each in their
own way, a tangle of intertwined figures. Otherwise, each artist created compositions of varying subject matter and
style which proved seminal for art-making schools of the future. Leonardo’s
swirling horsemen in the Battle of
Anghiari inspired the Baroque
style and Michelangelo’s bathers in the Battle of Cascina
displayed a perfect template for Classicism. These two great artists also
shared, despite their age difference or varying temperaments, the fact that
neither of them completed their commissioned work.
Michelangelo’s David had just been placed Florence’s central square when the painting competition (“concorrenza“) between himself and Leonardo da Vinci began. Leonardo had served on his native city’s committee which decided where to place Michelangelo’s 17-foot tall marble sculpture. Today a copy stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio.
At the time of the public commission in Florence, Leonardo had just finished his Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre, Paris) and Michelangelo had just installed, in the city square, his David (1501-1504, Accademia Gallery Museum, Florence). Leonardo had been part of the city committee to recommend where Michelangelo’s David should be placed.26 Over the next decade, until 1512, Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s unfinished wall paintings—that they both had abandoned (a worthy reason for a later Medici to paint it over)—adorned the same room possibly side by side. Michelangelo’s work was mutilated first with the fall of the Republic. Young artists had flocked to study and copy these unfinished artworks, including a young Raphael.27 In 1512 one of these artists, a 24-year-old named Bartolommeo Bandinelli (1488-1560)—he had been obsessive in studying Michelangelo’s cartoon to the point of sneaking in to the Council Hall at night—in one moment grabbed the cartoon and cut it into pieces. The motivation for Bandinelli’s destruction is unclear. The center section of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari – namely, Battle of the Standard– remained intact on the wall and for decades saw copies and written descriptions made of it. After 1508, neither Michelangelo nor Leonardo were anywhere near Florence as both moved on to larger opportunities.28
Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical. Younger artists preferred the noble and expressive form of Michelangelo’s nudes to Leonardo’s messier constructions.
Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, and, particularly, the Battle of the
Standard, its central panel, one is impressed by Leonardo’s revolutionary
approach to drawing. Leonardo shattered
tradition, specifically in drawing. First, Leonardo was not tidy in his
drawing. Medieval tradition was fundamentally concerned with conserving the
controlled line. A draftsman’s artistic ability was judged by patrons and cultural
tastemakers by the accurate lines he created directly out of an existing
model-book. Leonardo’s early silverpoint
drawing of a Bust of a Warrior in the
British Museum demonstrates his ability to masterfully fulfill this Renaissance
expectation.29 As Leonardo the artist developed, by the end of the
fifteenth century he was attacking this long-held linear tradition in his
notebooks as a failed technique.30 The fiery scribbling of
Leonardo’s drawing style expresses his process of creative exploration but
equally his rebellion towards the old technique. In its place, Leonardo shows
himself in his drawings to be actively pushing outside the linear restraint of quattrocento drawing and formulating a
new artistic standard derived from orientation to the model. As an avant-garde
artist in this mode Leonardo practiced it alone for 25 years.31 The
profligacy of his drawings – often multiple images on the same page of paper
expressing his changing primo pensiero
(“first thoughts”) – indicates the brilliancy of Leonardo’s creativity. His
drawing technique points to the artist seeking to free the immaginativa to emphasize dramatic invention that included
individual details (such as heads) and unto an entire scene. Leonardo’s artistic practice worked to
overturn, or revolutionize, the tradition-bound formulas imposed on art. He replaced
it with a new and radical conception of nature ever-changing as the drawing
Vasari goes into admirable detail on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari in his Lives of the Artists in editions of 1550 and 1568. That Vasari destroyed or painted over this same work by Leonardo around the same time during a re-decoration of Florence’s Grand Council Hall is difficult to reconcile with his writings.
Quattrocento cultural taste-makers and practitioners found danger in
Leonardo’s new artistic direction. Art producers and patrons could not
understand why a single artist for his own personal exploration would forsake
generations of practiced skill and systematics. The challenge for Leonardo after
he discarded the model-book was difficult and clear– to invent figures and
forms to replace it. This monumental task helps explain some of the artist’s
motivation for working in many areas such as anatomy, mechanics, botany, and
geophysics. Wide study was certainly owing to Leonardo’s “unquenchable curiosity”32
but its practical application worked to fulfill his ambition to locate source
material to replace the model-book’s groupings, movements, and forms that he
had audaciously sacked. The culmination of his approach is manifest in the Battle of Anghiari. To discover some of Leonardo’s unfolding
revolutionary creative process makes this artwork exciting to consider as Vasari
describes it in detail in his Lives:
“The great achievements of this inspired artist so increased his prestige that everyone who loved art, or rather every single person in Florence, was anxious for him to leave the city some memorial; and it was being proposed everywhere that Leonardo should be commissioned to do some great and notable work which would enable the state to be honored and adorned by his discerning talent, grace, and judgement. As it happened the great hall of the council was being constructed under the architectural direction of Giuliano Sangallo, Simone Pollaiuolo (known as Cronaca), Michelangelo Buonarroti and Baccio d’ Agnolo, as I shall relate at greater length in the right place. It was finished in a hurry, after the head of the government and the chief citizens had conferred together, it was publicly announced that a splendid painting would be commissioned from Leonardo. And then he was asked by Piero Soderini, the Gonfalonier of Justice, to do a decorative painting for the council hall. As a start, therefore, Leonardo began work in the Hall of the Pope, in Santa Maria Novella, on a cartoon illustrating an incident in the life of Niccolò Piccinino, a commander of Duke Filippo of Milan. He showed a group of horsemen fighting for a standard, in a drawing which was regarded as very fine and successful because of the wonderful ideas he expressed in his interpretation of the battle. In the drawing, rage, fury, and vindictiveness are displayed both by the men and by the horses, two of which with their forelegs interlocked are battling with their teeth no less fiercely than their riders are struggling for the standard, the staff of which has been grasped by a soldier who, as he turns and spurs his horse to flight, is trying by the strength of his shoulders to wrest it by force from the hands of four others. Two of them are struggling for it with one hand and attempting with the other to cut the staff with their raised swords; and an old soldier in a red cap roars out as he grips the staff with one hand and with the other raises a scimitar and aims a furious blow to cut off both the hands of those who are gnashing their teeth and ferociously defending their standard. Besides this, on the ground between the legs of the horses there are two figures, foreshortened, shown fighting together; the one on the ground has over him a soldier who has raised his arm as high as possible to plunge his dagger with greater force into the throat of his enemy, who struggles frantically with his arms and legs to escape death.
It is impossible to convey the fine draughtsmanship with which Leonardo depicted the soldiers’ costumes, with their distinctive variations, or the helmet-crests and the other ornaments, not to speak of the incredible mastery that he displayed in the forms and lineaments of the horses which with their bold spirit and muscles and shapely beauty, Leonardo portrayed better than any other artist. It is said that to draw the cartoon Leonardo constructed an ingenious scaffolding that he could raise or lower by drawing it together or extending it. He also conceived the wish to paint the picture in oils, but to do this he mixed such a thick composition for laying on the wall that, as he continued his painting in the hall, it started to run and spoil what had been done, So shortly afterwards he abandoned the work.”33
It seems nearly
inconceivable that Vasari could write so appreciably of Leonardo’s fresco and
then destroy it. Yet its removal, whether wholly destroyed, or lost by being
painted over or misplaced, is a fact. Leonardo who no longer relied on the
model-book as his authority the artist answered with his own creative immaginativa and all of the facets of nature.
In this revolutionary creative process, Leonardo further anticipated the modern
era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing. The
psychological element that Leonardo introduced extended to the figures Leonardo
depicted in drawings but it benefited the individual artist’s ability to think
and dream creatively. To this end Leonardo consciously devised mental exercises
to produce psychological effects in himself.34
Leonardo anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing.
It is half life size from a live model. Over the years some scholars have doubted its authenticity as a Leonardo drawing.
Verso of Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (above drawing).
This is one of the most famous drawing studies by Leonardo da Vinci for the Battle of Anghiari fresco mural project.
study in the physical sciences, Leonardo attempted everything̱– and did not
always finish. It was the immensity of his study and his loathing of the
finished quality of the model-book that allowed Leonardo to abandon projects and
pick up new and creative directions and methods. Leonardo’s world view as an
artist for his art was universal—indeed, he personified the popular definition
of “Renaissance Man.” In his artistic boldness and innovation, Leonardo’s
methods and objectives found him its sole practitioner for years—even decades.
Yet Leonardo was a man of his times. The era of the mid-to-late fifteenth
century was one of social awakening to the globe and its conquest by nations
and kingdoms. The historical period saw great changes in cultural perceptions
based on European cities achieving charters of economic and political freedom as
well as new scientific and other discoveries. These included the heliocentric
model of the solar system by astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus
(1473-1543) and the international voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus
(1451-1506). It was an age of revolutionary ideas and technology and Leonardo
da Vinci had no doubt it included art.
In Leonardo’s drawings there is the
untidy immaginativa quality in its hasty,
scribbled animations. Studies for the Battle
of Anghiari present a cacophony of images—drapery studies; grotesque heads;
armory; horses. For each area, Leonardo’s drawing between 1503 and 1506 had
reached mature stylistic development.35 Not since Leonardo’s The Adoration of the Magi in 1482 had he
created a composition achieving the cohesion of gestures and
inter-relationships among figures.
speculatively three panels or sections completed for the Battle of Anghiari. The
most recognizable is the large central panel or section known as the Battle for the Standard. It is known by its copies by other
artists. Leonardo’s central panel depicts four men, one partially hidden,
riding war horses. They are engaged in the heat of combat, frozen in a frame of
animated movement, for the capture of a standard during the battle. Other
sections of the Battle of Anghiari—derived
from Leonardo’s small preparatory sketches—depict a wild, galloping horse and a
pair of belligerents on horseback. These are briefly discussed below. The most
well-known copy of the central section of Leonardo’s fresco (the only section
he apparently painted) is by the great artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). In
the collection of the Louvre, Rubens’ copy dates from 1603 and is, in fact, a copy
of a copy. Rubens copies Lorenzo Zacchia’s (1524-c.1587) copy dating from 1553
which he possibly took directly from the fresco or a lost cartoon. There are
three extant copies by other artists of Ruben’s copy of a copy of the possibly
original artwork.36 These copies at various removes provide insight
into the impact for art through the centuries. The rest of Leonardo’s composition
is conjectured based on drawings.37 The left panel or section Leonardo
could have intended to be horsemen charging into battle while the right panel
or section could be the taking of the bridge over the Tiber on horseback which
was a key action for victory. The preparatory drawing sheets have images on top
and below and may be related as part of a narrative sequence that Leonardo
worked to clarify and simplify as a design until he started painting the
composition.38 Throughout the project
Leonardo had detail and atmospherics in mind though in its piece meal condition
today, a full aspect of his creative process is irretrievably lost.39
Horses are one
of Leonardo’s favorite subjects. The Battle for the Standard portrays three
soldiers on three horses with swords brandished in the smoke and flame of
hand-to-hand combat. A fourth soldier on horseback is partially hidden. Two more
soldiers have fallen beneath the hooves of their reeling horses and attempt to
cover themselves with their shields. The weight of the horses is depicted in
their meaty haunches. The horses’ heads are ancient and noble. They crush,
bite, and plow into the heat of battle. The screaming head of Niccolò Piccinino
–the protagonist of the Battle for the Standard — and from whose hands
the standard is wrested away by Florentine soldiers (the profile on his
immediate right) wore a large red cap as described by Vasari.40
configuration of the scene is Leonardo’s Renaissance construction of the type
of dense figures discovered on ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagi. The
stylistic effect of Rubens’ copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard
is, by virtue of its similarity, carried forward into the seventeenth century
as witnessed by Rubens’ The Hippopotamus Hunt (1616) and The Lion Hunt (1621) both in the Alte
Pinakoteck in Munich. The question can be posed: to what degree is Rubens’
stylistic effect, by virtue of his 1603 copy of a 1553 copy of Leonardo’s 1503
image, inferred into Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard? Yet Leonardo’s
battle, seen by thousands over decades before its demise, can be said to have
directly influenced battle scene depictions whose style continued into the
Romantic Period in mid19th century France.41
The screaming head in the background on the left side of the painting is speculatively based on the head of Leonardo’s protagonist in the Battle of the Standard.
these artistic innovations and achievements by Leonardo in a long, lonely
process of exploration the hallmark achievement of the Battle of Anghiari
is its reckless artistic inspiration.
While historical construction of Leonardo’s drawing method requires speculation,
existing studies for the work, including those specific to the Battle of
Anghiari, provide insights. For instance, Leonardo deployed the pen as well
as chalk in preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari. This
practice continued the spontaneous and dynamic plasticity of his drawing
technique from the 1490s42 and
contained psychophysical and temporal effects.43 Up to Leonardo, the
general practice for using a pen or stylus was by way of short parallel lines.
In the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo is the first Italian artist to
systematically use curvilinear hatching.44 A complementary contrast
to Leonardo’s inventiveness is that he valued and paid attention to his work
experiences. After the early 1480s he retained his sense of form and design and
continued to work through particular problems that interested him within a
general trend of development.45
The horse drawn from life shows a tense rider pivoting.
drawings, including his preparatory studies, convey a sensational appearance of
continuous movement. Formed into a triangle the figures of combatants in the
central section of the Battle of Anghiari and elsewhere move in a
swirling motion similar to the apocalyptic liquid cascades Leonardo would later
draw. Facial expressions, gnarled and strained on both man and beast, add their
distinctive vitality to the animated whole. The Battle of the Standard
works similarly to Leonardo’s mechanical drawings in their careful
construction. The “machine” operates as an expression of the physicality and
emotional and psychological intensity of men fighting to the death. Leonardo,
as discussed, based this key scene for the city-state commission on an episode
described in historical written texts.46
Leonardo in his
first draft of a drawing worked to establish this general sense of movement. In
first drafts he attempts the pictorial pitch that he will develop. In the
second stage (“per ripruova”) Leonardo begins to create major motifs.47
The two most important primi pensieri for the Battle of Anghiari
are pen and ink drawings from the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice, Italy.
Scholarship’s quest to reconstruct Leonardo’s creation of the Battle of
Anghiari has been identified as “quixotic,”48 yet these drawings while no larger than the size of a
clenched fist give out significant clues.
In one of the
preparatory drawings the horseman on the left is looking back over the horse’s
haunches, a dramatic image among the handful of fighters in close combat that
Leonardo will condense into a dominant motif in the Battle of the Standard.
The artist’s steady progression belies his reputation as a slow worker though
this inventive stage of drawing appealed to him most. For each stage,
Leonardo’s drawing is a fully animated artistic expression of his subject
matter. While the creative process of Leonardo’s drawing brings the image, as
Heinrich Wöfflin observed, to the “verge of the unclear,”49 it also
begins to reveal some of the inner workings of Leonardo’s brilliance. In exchange
for the free and kinetic character of drawing studies taken to the brink, the
later and final work becomes increasingly plastic and compact.50
It is speculated that this preparatory drawing was for the right panel (or section) of the fresco. It depicted the taking of the bridge over the Tiber River that was a key historical action to military victory for the Florentines over the Milanese at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440.
Anticipating Degas’s racehorses 350 years in the future, this drawing of horsemen charging to battle may represent the left panel (or section) of the Battle of Anghiari that Leonardo envisioned as a three-part narrative sequence.
In the drawings
for the Battle of Anghiari he communicates in lively action and
engrossing drama the close physical contact of the horses and their riders
encircling and falling upon one another in the passion and violence of war.51
The fresco in the Florentine council chambers would remind leaders of war’s
brutality and, though a glorification of civic heroism and pride, the
wall-sized image served to show the fury of slaughter that military battles
cost. The Battle of the Standard was an image that conveyed the phrase
that typified the meaning of war for Leonardo: pazzia bestialissima (“beastly
Bertoldo’s battle scene that originally decorated the Florentine palazzo of
Lorenzo de’ Medici (“the Magnificent’) and based on an ancient Roman
sarcophagus, proffered to the viewer no identifiable sides. War is not a
glorious narrative, but combatants falling into one another. In addition to its
classical and Renaissance allusions, its plastic form appealed to Leonardo’s
beliefs and attitudes about the intrinsic nature of combat that he then looked
to dramatize in the Battle of Anghiari.
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of horses for the Battle of Anghiari. Leonardo depicts horses displaying emotion.
The left-handed hatching is for a drawing taken from a clay or wax model.
The artistic drawings that survive which reveal Leonardo’s artistic process are an invaluable piece of a final enterprise that ultimately failed to materialize on several levels despite Leonardo believing the high-level commission was vital to his reputation as an artist.53 In the end, Leonardo was viewed by the oligarchs as not only procrastinating but having not fulfilled his contract and they sued Leonardo for breach. Yet more enduring than a legal concern was the art project involving Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The work accomplished by these two giants of art reverberates through the centuries to today. Theirs is a legacy of the individual artist still being sought out—though by chairmen and presidents rather than popes and princes. A legacy that says artists are no longer craftsmen or tradesmen but artistic personalities in their own right with a unique and appealing style who are thus engaged for their singular brilliance.54 In the face of what was an incomplete, sometimes failed, and ultimately abandoned project—its competitive nature notwithstanding—all the variations of Leonardo’s creative activity funnels into a tremendous example for the mission of the artist –that is, to serve first neither patron nor purse nor artistic reputation —but the glory of making one’s art.
Acidini Luchinat, Christina, Butters, Suzanne B., Chiarini,
Marco, Cox-Rearick, Janet, Darr, Alan P., Feinberg, Larry J., Giusti,
Annamaria, Goldthwaite, Richard A. , Meoni, Lucia, Piacenti, Kirsten
Aschengreen, Pizzorusso, Claudio, Testaverde, Anna Maria, The Medici,
Michelangelo, And The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, Yale University
Press in association with The Detroit Institute of Arts, New Haven and London,
Ames-Lewis, Francis, Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy,
Revised Edition, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, Second Edition,
2000 (originally published 1981).
Ames-Lewis, Francis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance
Artist, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2000.
Bambach, Carmen C., editor, Leonardo da Vinci, Master
Draftsman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Yale University
Press, New Haven and London, 2003.
Berenson, Bernard, The Italian Painters of the
Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1959.
Braham, Allan, Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century,
The National Gallery, London in association with William Collins Sons & Co.
Ltd, London, 1985.
Braudel, Fernand, Out of Italy: 1450-1650, trans. Siân
Reynolds, Flammarion, Paris, 1991.
FEATURE image: The Millers in 1920. Lee, Erik, Theodore, Florence and John.
The Millers, Theodore, Elizabeth Lee, Erik, John and Florence, in 1923.
By John P. Walsh
In the first decades of the twentieth century it became increasingly common practice for established American families to reflect and display their personal lives as well as social status in the timely gathering of photographic portraits. Progressively, the American family unit grew more compact in tandem with its greater personal affluence in an economy increasingly dominated by mechanization and the manufacture of consumer goods, all of which worked relentlessly to replace farming as the engine of American enterprise.
The Millers of Poughkeepsie, New York – a seventeenth century town eighty miles north of New York City which in the eighteenth century had progressed to an early state capital and, by 1910, a significant stop on the railroad line1 – shared that prototypical family form as they gathered for their family portraits between 1914 and 1932.
After 1900, camera availability and quality had markedly improved. Moving into the popular culture, photography allowed the display of a family image that is relaxed and natural as well as a time capsule of its members. In the instance of the Millers their formal and informal photographic portraits capture what appears to be a cohesive family unit expressive of their times. They are within a thoughtfully creative pose and posture likely managed by the head of the household, Theodore Miller (1872-1971), an energetic lifelong amateur photographer.
These portraits are ambitious for an aesthetic which manifests as a controlled vibrancy in the sitters as well as overall composition. The outcome for these portraits which all include Lee Miller as a child and teenager are photographs that combine the qualities of the fine arts with the more delicate workings of a machine.
Lee Miller at about eight months old, c. December 1907. Taken by her father Theodore Miller, the amateur photographer would photograph his daughter near incessantly from her childhood into adulthood. Part chronicle, part creative project, their photographer-model relationship could be unusual as he photographed his daughter nude at times over the same time period.
Lee Miller at 8 years in a photograph by her father, Theodore Miller, in 1915.
The Millers, headed by highly credentialed mechanical engineer and amateur photographer Theodore Miller and his wife Florence (1881-1954), saw the couple produce a handsome family: brothers John MacDonald (December 15, 1905-2008) and Erik Theodore (born May 22, 1910-?) and middle daughter, Elizabeth Lee, later Lee Miller, Lady Penrose (April 23, 1907-1977).
In childhood, Lee was curious, had her special interests and likes, especially the newly invented movies, and was encouraged by her parents to be free and active. Rambunctious in youth, Li-Li (Elizabeth Lee’s nickname) expressed herself as a sort of tomboy and later a definite teenage rebel. In school she was often undisciplined and, as the ringleader, provocative.2
When she was ten years old in 1917, her father gave Li-Li an inexpensive and popular Kodak Brownie to take photographs. Kodak used the box camera to sell more products and popularize photography. Almost more like a toy, the Brownie series was first introduced in 1900 and extensively marketed to children,3 although they were taken by soldiers into World War I.
Kodak Brownie similar to the first camera Lee Miller had when she was 10 years old that was given to her by her father.
In the age of American invention, teenage Li-Li Miller, intelligent and creative, was fascinated by her father’s enduring experimentation with new camera gadgets including stereoscopy. That photographic application produced two-dimensional images which, when combined in the brain, gave the perception of three-dimensional depth.4
The Millers in 1914. Florence, Erik, Lee, John, Theodore.
Lee Miller and her mother in 1914.
In an almost desperate search for an academic program to constructively engage their daughter’s interest, the Millers placed Li-Li in and out of several schools around Poughkeepsie. Lee traipsed through Governor Clinton school to Oakwood Quaker to St. Mary’s Catholic to Eastman Business College to Putnam Hall known as the prep school for local Vassar College.
Even with extra-curricular dance and theater activities as well as sojourns into creative writing – along with extended trips to New York City and, accompanying her father on business trips, such as to Puerto Rico on a cruise – by 1920 Li-Li seemed only most uniquely prepared to embrace the intrepid nonchalance of the flapper whose age had arrived thanks to the appearance of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“The Flapper” as conceived by American illustrator Frank Xavier Leyendecker (1876-1924) for Life magazine in 1922. It seemed by the start of the 1920’s, the teenage rebel and provacateur Lee Miller was ready to embrace the Flapper’s nonchalant image.
The Millers in 1920. Lee, Erik, Theodore, Florence and John. The teenager bobbed and later permed her golden hair to match a new decade’s fashionable style as she looked for the next exit out of Poughkeepsie.
At the end of a record-cold spring of 1925, Li-Li, called spoiled and well-to-do by many of her neighborhood classmates, took a ship for Paris, France, on May 29 of that year. The Millers’ intention was not to internationalize the shortcomings of their daughter’s educational career, but to assist in the rebellious 18-year-old’s discovery and development of a talent and skill to match her artistic temperament.5
No one could predict in 1925 that after spending this short period of time in Europe as a teenager, Li-Li Miller of Poughkeepsie, New York, will, as Lee Miller, finally return to Europe to spend most of the rest of her life, over 50 years. In those adult years, Miller became a celebrated artist’s and cinema’s muse as well as an important World War II photographer.
In the cold spring of 1925, Lee Miller is joined by her father as the 18-year-old Lee boards the ship that will take her to Paris to study. The family’s hopes include that in Paris Lee will find and develop some talented skill to express her artistic temperament.
FEATURE image: Nadar, Rosine Stolz (1815-1903), Paris, c.1857. Rosine Stoltz was a French mezzo-soprano.
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 LeJournal, 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.
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 PaulNadar, 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. 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, 1855.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nadar, Baudelaire, c. 1856.
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.
Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), c. 1862.
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!
Nadar, Théodore de Banville, 1854.
Nadar, Henri Murger (1822-1861), Paris, c. 1855.
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 (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.
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.
Nadar, Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), Paris, c. 1855. Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.
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 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 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.
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, 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.
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 Satan), 1840s, Chambéry; Musée des Beaux-Arts.
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 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.
François-Louis Lesueur (1820-1876), Paris, c. 1855. Lesueur was a French actor.
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.
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, 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, 1848, Musée de la Révolution française, Vizelle.
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.
Nadar, Mimi, c. 1857.
Nadar, Draped Standing Nude, c. 1858.
Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, 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.
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).
Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon?), Musette (also Mariette), c. 1855.
Young woman in profile, c. 1859.
Marie Laurent (1826-1904), Paris, c. 1856.
Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, c. 1858.
Young Model, Paris, c. 1858.
Juliette Adam (1835-1936), Paris, c. 1858.
Carlotta Grisi ( 1819-1899), Paris, 1865.
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 (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.
Le Théâtre des Variétés, sur le boulevard Montmartre, à Paris (IIe).
Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Émile Blavier, 1854. A young sculptor who gained recognition at the Salon of 1852.
Blavier, Buste de fillette au chignon.
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.
Paul Chenavard (1807-1895), Paris, c. 1857.
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, Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 38 Rue de Montpensier, (1e).
Théâtre de la Montansier/Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 1er, Paris.
Rosine Stolz (1815-1903), Paris, c.1857.
Pierre Cicéri (1782-1868), Paris, c.1857.
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Paris, c. 1857.
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.
Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857.
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.
Daumier, Caricature de Photographie-A Collection of Ten Lithographs, lithograph, 36 x 24 cm. (14.2 x 9.4 in.), c. 1840–1867
Daumier, Le passé, le présent, l’avenir, lithographie, 19.6 x 21 cm, Coll. privée, “La Caricature.”
Gustave Doré (1832-1883), Paris, c. 1857.
Nadar, Gustave Doré, Paris, 1867.
Gustave Doré, Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, 1866. Printmaker and engraver, Doré’s illustrations for the Bible in 1866 were a huge success. This print depicts a vision in Ezekiel 37 when God transported Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones. God directed Ezekiel to speak to the bones saying that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life. This would be just as God did at creation for Adam and Eve as told in Genesis’s first chapters. In Doré’s print, Ezekiel spoke, and God’s breath enters the bones so that they begin to come together, develop flesh and skin, and stand up and form a vast army.
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).
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 (1795-1857), Paris, c. 1857. A cartoonist and satirist known as Maurice Gottlieb.
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.
Delacroix, Two Bearded Heads, after Veronese (detail from “The Marriage at Cana”), 1820, oil on canvas. Photo by author.
Delacroix, Lion Hunt (detail), 1861, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by author.
Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880), Paris, c. 1858.
Isadore Severin, Baron Taylor (1789-1879), Paris, c. 1858.
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 (1842-1863), Paris, c. 1859.
Nadar, Self Portrait, c. 1858.
Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1859.
Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1860.
Nadar, Self Portrait in artificial light, c.1859-1860.
Manet, Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago.
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. 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 (1804-1876), Paris, 1864.
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), Paris, c. 1864.
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.”
Théâtre de la Renaissance, Paris (10e).
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.
Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar.
Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in the title role of Théodora in 1884.
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.
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.
Part of a program for a production of La Vierge d’Avila in 1907-1907 at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt.
Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in a production of La Tosca in 1887.
Jules Champfleury (1821-1889), Paris, c. 1865. French writer and modern art critic. Champfleury was a prominent supporter of the Realistmovement in painting and fiction and a champion of Gustave Courbet.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Paris, c. 1866.
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.
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, 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, 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, Oil on canvas, 55.5 x 66 cm, Musée d’Orsay.
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), Paris, 1875.
The famous can-can from Orphée aux Enfers (“Orpheus in the Underworld”) composed in 1858.
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.
Paris Opera exterior and interior. Stock photos.
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.
FEATURE image: Eugène Atget, Place Saint-Médard, 1889-99.
Eugène Atget, Photographer’s Studio, c. 1910.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Eugène Atget, Place Saint-Médard, 1889-99.
Eugène Atget, Hôtel de Brinvilliers, Rue Charles V, 1900.
Eugène Atget, Au Bon Puits, rue Michel-Le-Comte, 1901.
Eugène Atget, Lampshade Seller, rue Lepic, 1901.
Eugène Atget, Ragpicker, avenue des Gobelins, 1901.
Eugène Atget, Fountains at Juvisy, 1902.
Eugène Atget, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.
Eugène Atget, detail, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.
Eugène Atget, The Temple of Love, the Petit Trianon, 1902.
Eugène Atget, Paris Antique Store, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 1902.
Eugène Atget, Façade du no 2 , Place du Caire, 1903.
Eugène Atget, Courtyard of Farewells, Fontainebleau, 1903.
Eugène Atget, Ancienne Barrière (tollgate) du Trône, Paris, 1903-04.
Eugène Atget, France Triumphant, Versailles, 1904.
Eugène Atget, Palais-Royal, Paris, 1904-05.
Eugène Atget, Tree Roots, Saint Cloud Park, 1906.
Eugène Atget, Rue Sainte Opportune, Paris, 1908 (or 1912).
Eugène Atget, Water Lilies, before 1911.
Eugène Atget, Old Courtyard, rue Quincampoix, 1908 or 1912.
Eugène Atget, Entrée du passage de la Réunion, 1 et 3 Rue du Maure, 3° arrondissement, 1911.
Eugène Atget, Tinsmith’s Shop, rue de la Reynie, 1912.
Eugène Atget, Dress shop, rue de la Corderie, 1920.
Eugène Atget, Hairdresser’s shop, boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912.
Eugène Atget, Ragpicker’s Hut, 1912.
Eugène Atget, Old Mill, Charenton, 1915.
Eugène Atget, Reflecting Pool, Saint-Cloud, 1915-19.