Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893), Chicago, Illinois, 2017.
Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse dating from 1893.
About one-half mile beyond Navy Pier, the lighthouse stands at the north of the main entrance of the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the American Midwest and remains an active aid to nautical navigation today.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has staffed this lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock. The lock separates Lake Michigan from the mouth of the Chicago River.
The lock was built in the mid-1930’s and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lock is one of the entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
The “Chicago Light” is at that waterway system’s headwaters as it stands in the outer harbor constructed in 1880. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later, in 1918, the tower was reconstructed and the base building which contains a fog-signal room and boathouse was added. The architects are not identified.
Through its breakwaters, the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. It is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of two remaining examples in the state of Illinois.
Mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
About one mile ahead, the Chicago Harbor Lock, built in the 1930’s, provides the entrance/exit of the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
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).
Memorial Portrait of Hiroshige, 1858, Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), The Chiyogaike Pond at Meguro (Meguro Chiyogaike), July 1856.
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.
Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) opened the Edo Shōgunate in 1603 and moved from a period in Japanese history of warring states to a stable society. Detail from artwork by Kanō Tan’yū (1602-1674).
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.
Portrait of Tenkai (detail), colors on silk, 17th century.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), In the Precincts of the Tenjin Shrine at Kameido (Kameido Tenjin keidai), July 1856.
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.
Actor Nakamura Nakazō in the Role of Kan Shōjō (detail), late 18th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792). 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.
Shōgun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680). Fourth shōgun of the Tokugawa shōgunate. 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.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797 –1858), Scarlet Maple Trees at Mama by the Tekona-no yashiro shrine and the Tsugihashi Bridge, 1857.
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.
Woman Applying Make-up (detail), 1918, Goyō Hashiguchi (1880-1921). 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.
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 Kandinsky, in 1900, matriculated in his art class.5 Jawlensky’s conversation with von Stuck was not on the expression of German character in Symbolist art but the technical issue of working in tempura. In 1898 Jawlensky also received a visit from Russian portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911).
Franz von Stuck, Lucifer, 1890, oil on canvas, Bulgaria. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, critics observed that Franz von Stuck (1863–1928) was “one of the most versatile and ingenious of contemporary German artists.” Jawlensky met the renowned Symbolist painter, architect, designer, and co-founder of the Munich Secession in 1898.
Valentin Serov (1865-1911). Self portrait, c. 1888.
In 1899, with Grabar and Kardovskij, Jawlensky executed the ambitious project to open their own painting school in Munich which was short-lived. Kardovskij returned to Russia in 1900 to eventually become a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1907. Grabar returned to Russia in 1903 to became director of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Jawlensky, remaining in Munich, was painting still lifes and looking for color harmonies.
Painter Dmitri Nikolayevich Kardovsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Igor Grabar, and Jawlensky in 1900.
Alexei von Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Samowar (Still life with a samovar), 1901.
Jawlensky visited Russia in 1901 with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff. They visited the Ansbaki estate in the Vitebsk governorate (modern Belarus). When Jawlensky fell ill possibly with typhus, he recovered at the Black Sea with Marianne von Werefkin. There he met Kardovskij and his wife, Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya (1875-1952), a painter who studied at Anton Ažbe’s in Munich in 1898 and 1899.
Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, Self portrait, 1917.
The following year, in January 1902, a son, Andreas, was born to Jawlensky and Hélène Nesnakomoff. Jawlensky was continuing to paint still lifes and figural pictures, some of which were influenced by Swedish artist, Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Jawlensky’s pictures featured as models Hélène and her sister, Maria, after she arrived to Munich in November 1902 to aid the new parents. In a visit in 1902, Prussian-born artist Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) advised Jawlensky to send a painting to the Berlin Secession. Jawlensky did so and it was exhibited.
Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Self portrait, 1896.
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), Self-portrait with Skeleton, 1896, Lenbachaus, Munich. Corinth is a leading figure painter marked by draftsmanship and brushwork. Like Jawlensky, Corinth pursued his artistic training throughout Europe, including in Munich and Paris, and settled permanently in Berlin in 1902. (https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/ap-201701.)
Jawlensky, 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.
Built in 1914 by Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge was one of the oldest pony truss bascule bridges in Chicago. Connecting River North and River West, the steel bridge was, after 104 years, demolished in 2018 and replaced, in 2019, by a temporary bridge. A new, permanent immovable concrete bridge is expected to open over the Chicago River in this location in 2021.
The expanse of the Chicago Avenue Bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River near Goose Island. The bridge with its steel beam pony truss was built in 1914 and demolished in 2018. The bridge was replaced by a temporary crossing in 2019.
A pony truss bridge is a steel truss bridge that allows traffic over and through the truss, but with no cross brace across the top connecting its two sides. The truss bridge assembly of the Chicago Avenue Bridge was made of riveted steel beams—a witness to the early 20th century industrial manufacturing might of Chicago. In addition to being “Hog Butcher For The World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler” as Carl Sandberg wrote in his 1914 poem, “Chicago,” published in the then-new (1912) Poetry magazine the same year the Chicago Avenue Bridge was built, Chicago was also at that time a world leader in steel production and bridge design.
In 1914 when the Chicago Avenue Bridge was first opened, Chicago was a world leader in steel production and bridge design, among many other industries that built America and the world. Chicago Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Jr. (1860-1953) served for five terms as a Democrat from 1897 to 1905 and again from 1911 to 1915, the years when the Chicago Avenue Bridge began operation.
The basic design of any bascule bridge is similar to a medieval castle drawbridge—a leaf or span that rises and descends so to permit traffic upon it—and, in the case of the Chicago Avenue Bridge, traffic also below it on the navigable—and today mainly recreational—Chicago River.
There are more than 50 movable bridges in Chicago. Single-leaf (truss) bascule bridges were constructed where the river was not very wide and often used for train traffic (Chicago is the railroad capital of the U.S.) where a single bridge deck goes up and down between abutments.
The more common double-leaf (truss) bascule bridge, which included the Chicago Avenue Bridge, consists of two leaves or spans which meet in the middle over the river. Counterweights on each side of the bridge beneath it in a river pit (or pits) balances, stabilizes and fortifies the vertical movement of the bridge deck. If the bridge deck is one leaf, the “Chicago Style” bridge rises in a piece vertically to one side of the river; if two leaves, each rise to their side of the river and descend to close again by meeting in the middle of the bridge deck.
Bascule bridges are the most commonly found moveable bridges in the world because they operate quickly and efficiently. The Chicago Avenue Bridge was operated from a companion pitched-roof bridge house with rounded corners and rows of windows clad in decorative (today oxidized green) copper. The bridge house portion of the structure was not demolished in 2018.
Looking east, a portion of the pony truss bascule Chicago Avenue Bridge before its demolition with its partially obscured bridge house in May 2016. Photograph by author.
The Chicago Avenue Bridge’s pitched-roof bridge house with its design of rounded corners and rows of windows clad in decorative (and today green oxidized) copper.
There are numerous variations and designs of the bascule bridge which in Chicago includes the trunnion (“pivot point”) bascule (“seesaw’) bridge. The nation’s first such bridge started operation in Chicago in 1902 over the north branch of the Chicago River at Cortland Street which can still be seen in operation today. The bridge design became known as the “Chicago Style” as its leaf or leaves, suspended on axles (trunnions) with massive concrete counterweights located below the bridge in the riverbank pit, opens and lifts a single or dual bridge deck to clear the river for traffic without blocking the waterway with a central pier.
Chicago’s bascule bridges—and the Chicago Avenue Bridge was one of them—were designed to its specific location. Each was designed to take on heavy loads and the attendant vibration which also included the ice and snow pack of Chicago’s winters. The design and construction into bedrock took into account wind resistance, whether the bridge leaves were open or closed, and to wind speeds of 100 miles per hour in any and all directions.
By 1920, improvements in bascule bridge design allowed for the construction of a double deck trunnion bascule bridge where car, truck and foot traffic could be carried simultaneously on its upper and lower decks. The first such double deck trunnion bascule bridge in Chicago was near the site of the old Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue—today’s busy Michigan Avenue Bridge. In October 2010, the bridge was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Haitian-born Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (c.1750-1818), Chicago’s first permanent resident who established a trading settlement nearby.
Looking east from the Chicago Avenue Bridge to Chicago’s Downtown and Magnificent Mile along Lake Michigan.
Looking west from the old Chicago Avenue Bridge. A pony truss bridge is a steel truss bridge that allows traffic over and through the truss, but with no cross brace across the top connecting its two sides.
Solzman, David M., The Chicago River: An Illustrated History and Guide to the River and Its Waterways, Wild Onion Books, Chicago, 1998.
Temporary replacement bridge, Chicago Avenue at the Chicago River, 2019. The temporary bridge was installed after the Chicago Avenue Bridge, built in 1914, was demolished in 2018 after 104 years of service.
Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542)– whose actual name was Giovanni de Lutero–was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the School of Ferrara. Its scores of artists painted mainly in the Venetian style greatly influenced by Giorgione (c. 1477-1510). Dosso Dossi dominated the school that maintained its tradition of painterly artificiality. Melissa is Dosso Dossi’s masterpiece–a benign personage in the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516) of Ludovico Ariosto (1574-1533). The enchantress frees humans from the black arts of the wicked sorceress Alcina. The painting depicts Melissa at the moment she burns the seals and spells of Alcina and liberates two men from the tree trunks. The realistic dog is certainly a human being under Alcina’s spell who will be liberated by Melissa and take up again the suit of armor he watches earnestly. The trees are Giorgionesque–stylized, artificially-lighted elements that provide the magical setting for the poem’s characters. The figure of Melissa, draped in a fringed red-and-gold-brocaded robe and enriched by Titianesque glazes, is particularly alluring in the sparkling gold and green setting moored by meticulously and softly portrayed meadows, background figures, and distant city towers.
SOURCE: History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Third Edition, Frederick Hartt, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319).
The artistic tradition of the Sienese master, Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-c. 1319), was based on older Greek painting. Yet Duccio was no less “modern” than Giotto (1266-1377). Giotto, who was trained by Cimabue (1240-1302), directed his creative artistry towards concrete reality whose perception derived from the artist’s thoughts and feelings of it. Duccio would achieve a similar but unique synthesis through and from a different direction.
Duccio modernized the older Greek style creating the painting styles of the Sienese school as well as all of early Renaissance painting. Duccio’s artwork is distinguished by his discriminating advance of the Byzantine Post-Hellenism tradition in Tuscany—and following his own encounter with Cimabue who gave the Sienese artist his first important commission in Florence in 1285 —in a masterly delicate way. This delicacy and discrimination are seen in Duccio’s elegant, often light and airy, compositions and rich colors.
Over the next almost 25 years Duccio learned and deployed the elements of various pictorial traditions that by his constant intelligent blending enriched them. Duccio’s style used the iconographic schemata of the ancient Oriental-Byzantine tradition including its glorious color and poetic composition along with the ultra-contemporary French and Gothic linear style. Duccio’s oeuvre epitomizes the artist’s temperament and taste as well as a lifetime of artistic education and culture.
Yet beyond its representation of an event in a scene, Duccio’s painting, not unlike Giotto’s histories, is raised to another level by some of its formal elements – a figure, episode, or gesture – into the artist’s magical world. This quality of Duccio’s art provides a textually clear and comprehensibly observed episode—such as of the Gospels— within a setting that is carefully observed and delineated—and with its totality imbued in finer artistic and aesthetic sensibilities.
The imminent drama manifested in Duccio’s iconography works to transcend its representational anecdote, even as figures or episodes of the Bible are easily recognizable. His artwork’s plasticity, with figures and surroundings in serene harmony, emanates a power whose message supersedes, or at least is contiguous to, the painting’s ostensible, usually religious, subject matter.
In the display of such a unique artistic quality, Duccio’s artwork functions in a dream-like and imaginatively timeless dimension—a unique poetical language—while it conveys an historical condition in any of his intentionally-varying episodes. Duccio’s carefully delineated religious scenes, softly and carefully conveyed, would characterize emerging Sienese painting and make religious painting exceedingly popular in Europe over the next 450 years.
SOURCE: Giotto and His Contemporaries, Enzo Carli, trans. Susan Bellamy, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1958.
Duccio Di Buoninsegna (c.1255-c.1319), The Apparition of Jesus at the Closed Doors. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy.
Profile Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, attributed to Francesco Melzi, circa 1515–1517, Royal Trust Collection.
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.
Italy, c. 1500.
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.
François I, Jean Clouet, c. 1530. Louvre, Paris.
Lorenzo the Magnificent, Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Uffizi, Florence, Italy.
Ludovico Sforza (detail), Master of the Pala Sforzesca, c.1495, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.
Charles II d’Amboise, Andrea Solario, 1507.
Giuliano de’ Medici, Raphael.
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.
Louis XII of France, Workshop of Jean Perréal, c. 1514. Cousin and father-in-law of François I Louis admired and collected Leonardo and passed down this admiration to France.
Louise de Savoie, School of Jean Clouet, Toulouse, France. The mother of François I worked hard to convince Leonardo to leave Italy for France. Leonardo carried with him over the Alps to France three of his recent paintings — the Mona Lisa (1503), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503). All are in the Louvre today.
Châteaux de Cloux (Clos Lucé), Amboise, France.
Leonardo’s room, Châteaux de Cloux.
Death of Leonardo, Cesare Mussini (1804-1888).
Death of Leonardo, pencil, 11 x 8½ in. (28 x 21.8 cm.), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).
Death Of Leonardo da Vinci, 1818, oil on canvas, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Petit Palais, Paris.
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 the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast.
View of Florence (detail, Arno River, Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo), c. 1561, Giorgio Vasari.
Piero Soderini (1450-1522) by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio. The statesman of the Florentine Republic awarded Leonardo the mural commission for the Battle of Anghiari in October 1503.
Today’s Salone dei Cinquecento by Giorgio Vasari, 1563-1572. 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.
Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, 1571, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.
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.
After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), oil on canvas, 28.625 x 33.125 in. (72.8 x 84 cm).
After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari) oil on canvas, 16th century, Museo Horne, Florence.
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.
Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, 1535, Alessandro Allori (1536-1607), oil on poplar, 86 x 65 cm (34 x 25 5/8 in.), Florence. Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 -1574) ruled Florence from 1537 until his death.
Cosimo I de’ Medici (detail), c. 1564, by Giorgio Vasari, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
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.
Front (Recto) of a medal of Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, by Pisanello (1395-1455).
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
Mercenary Francesco Sforza, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.
Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito (1536-1603). 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).
Leonardo’s sketches of probably Cesare Borgia.
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.
Leonardo da Vinci, (Lucan) Self-Portrait.
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, The Tomb of Pope Julius II, completed 1545, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Rome (The Vatican).
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
Michelangelo, Battle of Cascina, 1504-6, destroyed copy by Aristotile da Sangallo, grisaille on panel, 30 x 52 in. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. 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
Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a Warrior in profile, 28.7 x 21.1 cm, silverpoint, c.1478, The British Museum.
Model-book page, 1390’s, pen and ink with wash and watercolors on parchment, workshop of Giovannino de’ Grassi (1350-1398).
Giorgio Vasari, Self-portrait, 1560’s. 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 da Vinci, Head of a Warrior in Profile, black chalk, 220 x 116 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. Leonardo anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing.
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (Recto), Red chalk on prepared paper, 22.6 × 18.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 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).
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Two Warriors’ Heads for Battle of Anghiari (c. 1504–5). Black chalk or charcoal, traces of red chalk on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 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.
Nikolaus Copernicus, The Torun portrait, Anonymous, c. 1580.
Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, 1482, oil on wood, 246 cm × 243 cm (97 in. × 96 in.), Uffizi, Florence.
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
Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.
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
Fall of Phaeton, Greek marble Roman sarcophagus, 62 x 220 cm, c. 150 AD, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Hippopotamus Hunt, 1616, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Lion Hunt, 1621, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, oil on canvas, 157.5 x 110.3 cm, The National Gallery, London.
Eugène Delacroix, The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, 1826, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Bronzino, Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1560, The National Gallery, London. 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
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Rearing Horse, light fine red chalk and hatching with traces pen and brown ink, 153 x 142 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. 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.
Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, two skirmishes between horsemen and foot soldiers, c.1503, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.) Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, Skirmish between Horsemen, Foot soldiers and Foot soldiers Wielding Long Weapons, pen and brown ink over black chalk and stylus, c.1503, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.), Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.
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
Leonardo da Vinci, Fight for the Standard at the Bridge and Two Foot Soldiers, pen and brown ink, 99 x 141 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. 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.
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of charging horses and Soldiers, red chalk on paper, 167 x 240 mm, Royal Library, Windsor. 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.
Copy of a horseman from the Battle of Anghiari, pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash, white gouache on paper, 267 x 237 mm, The British Museum.
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.
Leonardo da Vinci, Study of group of riders in the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1503, charcoal and black chalk reworked with brush and brown wash, Royal Library, Windsor. The left-handed hatching is for a drawing taken from a clay or wax model.
Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), Battle, c. 1480–85, Bronze, 17 3/4 × 39 1/8 in. (45 × 99.5 cm), Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
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.
Leonardo, Self-Portrait, c. 1512, Royal Library of Turin, Italy.
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.
The Millers, Theodore, Elizabeth Lee, Erik, John and Florence, in 1923.
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, 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 (1872-1971) 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. 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 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.
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.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances is conducted by Stéphane Denève.
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.
Eugène Atget in an anonymously-taken photograph. Atget was born in 1857 near Bordeaux (Libourne) and after his parents died in 1862, the 5-year-old boy was brought up by his grandparents in Bordeaux. Atget received a solid education and, similar to Paul Gauguin, eventually went to sea in the merchant navy and later, in 1878, settled in Paris where he aspired to be a dramatic actor. For the next decade, Atget was a traveling thespian in the Paris theaters. Even after he left Paris and the theater profession in 1888 to become a fine arts painter in the provinces, Atget always considered himself to be an actor. By 1890, his brief painting career over, Atget was back in Paris where he decided to become a documentary photographer.
There is a portrait of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) by Berenice Abbott created in 1927 that can be found here: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/eug%C3%A8ne-atget?all/all/all/all/0. The portrait was taken in Berenice Abbott’s studio after Atget had recently taken up photography again. In August 1927, he died. It was at Man Ray’s suggestion that Berenice Abbott introduced herself to Atget in 1925 and began taking photographs of him. Of her subject she observed: “[Atget] will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization.” (quoted in Paris Eugène Atget 1857-1927, Taschen, 2000, p. 22).
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.
The nineteenth century in France brought about a radical transformation of the role of the artist. In place of artwork for aristocratic patrons, artists in all media were increasingly left to their own devices and began creating works of art in their studios and looking to sell them in the open marketplace. Innovative forms, new subjects, and new styles emerged from these changing economic structures brought about by the dawning of the industrial and technological age as well as the growing importance of cities.
In Paris and elsewhere, enterprising artists sought to attract new clients increasingly composed of the urban bourgeoisie. By the mid-to-late nineteenth century the involvement of the public in artistic matters became an irrevocable fact which had been secured by the improved means of mass production. New processes in lithographic and photographic printmaking, for example, made art widely available to a popular audience. The entry of this sort of democracy into artistic production coincided with current aesthetic influences such as a Japonisme movement prevalent in France in the years before 1890. In addition, there was a new understanding of modern beauty that began around 1830 that rejected traditional forms of beauty manifested in classical and later art forms.
By the early 1890’s when Henri Toulouse Lautrec (French, 1864-1901) created his mass-produced posters in Paris a new artistic practice had appeared whose idea of beauty was contemporary, sophisticated and subtly realistic. By 1890, Lautrec’s art could react in several ways to the modern art tradition. Toulouse-Lautrec repudiated the bourgeois modernity of the Impressionists from the 1870’s and 1880’s displayed in the drawing-room paintings of Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) and, owing to cultural spaces that had shifted by the 1880’s to artistic cabarets and literary cafés, Lautrec could also claim to be a direct heir to an earlier 1830’s romantic bohemian and 1840’s flâneur.
There are several interpretations for this cultural shift and its effects on artists and artistic practice in the 1890’s including Toulouse-Lautrec’s mass-produced commercial posters. Building on a rejection of bourgeois art forms, Mary Gluck at Brown University argues that artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec—who with others was a creature of the cabarets and cafés—desired commercial mass media to be the means by which the public sphere would eclipse individual lives which modern society had fragmented. At the center of their art production, Gluck believes, is a distinct vision of modernity identified with a city’s public space as opposed to the private anonymity of bourgeois culture (see Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris, 2005). To strive to transform the public sphere by way of the legacy of the café-concert about and for which Toulouse-Lautrec created a significant amount of his mass-produced commercial art could only be an ambitious cultural task. These cabarets and café-concerts, mostly centered on and around Montmartre in Paris, were crowded, loud and often rowdy. Its performances and clientele were often unpolished and popular. Small but well-known art movements such as Les Arts incohérents and their Montmartre cabaret Les Hydropathes begin to describe the level of social parody and frivolity to be expected within these establishments. While Lionel Richard at the University of Picardy attributes these activities to social rebels (see Cabaret, Cabarets: Origines et décadence, 1991), Jerrold Seigel at New York University views it as a calculated new relationship between the popular classes and the bourgeoisie where the aspiring artist, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, could create art for potential customers (see Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930, 1986). For T. J. Clark, the cabaret’s diverse audience as a venue for some form of cultural democracy by way of a mixing of classes is illusory (see “The Bar at the Folies-Bergères,” The Wolf and the Lamb: Popular Culture in France, From the Old Régime to the Twentieth Century, 1977). Charles Rearick of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, casts an eye on those frivolous aspects of the Montmartre cabarets, dance halls, and literary cafés. His conclusion is that these activities allowed a Parisian to escape modern society’s social constraints of respectability typically found everywhere else (see Pleasures of the Belle Epoque: Entertainment & Festivity in Turn-Of-The-Century France, 1985). Phillip Dennis Cate at The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University viewed the role of cabarets in the artistic context of these bohemian antics being the genesis of what became twentieth-century avant-garde aesthetics (see The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905, 1996). It is the affirmation of the values of spontaneous experience and direct communication as an integral aspect of the modern experience and, for the fin-de-siècle bohemian, parodic performances which helped criticize the official art establishment that carried forward into artistic attitudes in the new century.
The fruit of reflection for this late-nineteenth-century artistic period in Paris is numerous and diverse. It leads to the observation—whether of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec or the variety of subjects in his mass-produced commercial art—that the stereotype of the artist, poet, or performer as bohemian, owing to their psychological nuance and stylistic antisepsis as aesthetic modernity—and possibly its inverse—becomes a source for their estrangement and alienation from modernity—that is, to emerge as an alienated human figure detached from their society and time. With Toulouse-Lautrec’s sixth poster (Divan Japonais, 1893) it is clear that his mass-produced commercial poster art in Paris was making an important impact on modern art in the 1890’s. It was a new art form for its deploying the rapidly developing technique of color printing. It utilized new approaches to composition and subject matter which were created for a mixture of new and popular commercial establishments. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they became the first regularly displayed art commodity for public mass consumption. Each of these art principles and practices found in Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of the 1890’s continue to impact contemporary art-making today.
1. Moulin Rouge-La Goulue is a lithograph done in 4 colors: yellow, blue, red, and black. The Moulin Rouge opened in 1889 and, in summer 1891, the poster was commissioned by its owners. It depicts La Goulue (“The Glutton”) who is 21-year-old Louis Weber (1870-1929) and Valentin-le-Désossé (“the Boneless”) (1843-1907). This is Toulouse-Lautrec’s first, largest, and many estimate, most complex and artistically important poster. Printed by Charles Levy, it is made up of two sheets although Toulouse-Lautrec thought the printer had made mistakes and didn’t use him again. When this poster was plastered around Paris, the artist knew that his own silhouetted profile could be found in the background of silhouetted figures. The art of the streets pioneered by Jules Chéret (1836-1932) and immediately recognized for its implications by writers such as the Goncourt brothers and J.K. Huysmans (1848-1907) Lautrec exploited in the 1890’s aided by technological advances in color printing that continued to improve throughout the decade.
2. The poster Le Pendu is a lithograph done in 2 colors: black and dark green. It was commissioned by a magazine editor to publicize a new theater play. Based on a true story of a wrongful capital death, the poster depicts the son’s suicide. Created in charcoal in late 1891, it was printed in 1895 in a limited edition for collectors only.
3. The poster Ambassadeurs Aristide Bruant is a lithograph in 5 colors yellow, blue, red, black, and olive green. Aristide Bruant (1851-1923) was a singer and this was a promotional poster for a café concert that opened in June 1892. The poster appeared all over Paris and on stage during the performance. The café owner thought the poster was a “disgusting mess” and refused to hang it until Bruant threatened to cancel his show. The subject wears a heavy dark velvet jacket, red shirt scarf, and wide brimmed hat with a riding crop. His head rises out of a dark mass which is lifted wholesale from a Japanese print by Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792).
4. The poster Eldorado Aristide Bruant is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, red, blue, and black). It includes the letters “TL” and signed monogram which will appear on other posters. The poster was created for the singer’s event on Boulevard de Strasbourg (north of Boulevard Montmartre at Sebastopol). With the same but reversed design, the customer and artist cut poster costs while increasing brand identity. In modern art the figure of the imposing heroic individual performer was new and Bruant became an overnight celebrity that year in Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec made no money on this project because the café owners were shocked by its content and refused to pay him.
5. The poster Reine de Joie is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red, and black). It includes the emblematic letters “TL” and is signed. The poster was an advertisement for a suggestive new serialized novel by Victor Joze (1861-1933) and depicted the moment in the novel when the heroine kisses a fat banker, the latter being modeled by Georges Lasserre, a Lautrec friend. The poster, also used as the novel’s cover, caused a scandal across Paris and prompted a poster tear-down campaign. Speculation ran rampant as to who might be the real-life personalities on which characters in the novel were based.
6. The poster Divan Japonais (1892-93) is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red, and black). The cabaret on rue des Martyrs came under new ownership in 1892 and was totally refurbished in a trendy Japanese style. The poster depicts 24-year-old Jane Avril (1868-1943) with critic Edouard Dujarden (1861-1949) in the cabaret. On stage are shown the long black gloves of new singer Yvette Guilbert (1865-1944). In a stylistic move, the artist cuts off Guilbert’s head and shoulders in the poster much to the consternation of the young singer just getting started in her career. (She later commissioned a poster by another artist to depict her complete figure). When this poster went up all over Paris it created a sensation and was another triumph for Lautrec. In 1894 the Divan Japonais closed to be replaced by another establishment. As with his other posters, there were several preliminary sketches the artist made for Divan Japonais. The posters used the new and improving popular mechanical technique of color printing and applied it to commercial establishments and popular entertainers, subject matter usually reserved for cruder forms of advertisement.
Divan Japonais is one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s early posters. In his poster career the artist usually used anywhere from 2 to 5 colors. It is signed by Toulouse Lautrec. This Montmartre cabaret was taken over in 1892 by a new owner and totally refurbished in the avant-garde Japanese style which was the inspiration for the cabaret’s name. By February 1893 when this sixth poster was made by Lautrec and put up all around Paris, his 5 previous posters had already made him famous.
7. The poster Jane Avril is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, orange, red, and black). The same subject who appeared in Divan Japonais, Jane Avril commissioned this poster for her performance at the Jardin de Paris, a new café-concert. The letters for the name of the establishment were added later by someone other than Lautrec. The artist first produced 20 collector prints and after, with its newly-added letters, the poster went into mass production. Known as La Mélinite—a type of explosive—Jane Avril looked to this poster to reinvigorate her career as a performer in Paris. The poster helped her to take Paris by storm as she went on to perform at the Casino de Paris, the Moulin Rouge and the Folies-Bergères. In terms of composition, the poster is noteworthy for its strong diagonals inspired by Japanese prints and the detail of a large musical instrument—including the meticulously drawn hairs of a musician’s fingers—which rounds out the design and is seen as homage to Degas who used a similar motif in his artwork.
8. The poster Aristide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, brown, red, and black). Lautrec’s third image of the singer became a Parisian icon. From the poster’s inception the singer used this image to promote his appearances—and for the next twenty years until 1912.
9. The poster Au Pied De L’Echafaud is a lithograph in 4 colors (grey, red-brown, red, and black). The poster was an advertisement for the memoirs of a prison chaplain published in 1893.
10. The poster Caudieux is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive green, yellow, red and black). Lautrec depicts Caudieux, who was a popular cabaret comedian, to be striding across the stage. Lautrec used the partial figure in the prompt box in other artwork.
11. The poster Bruant Au Miriton is a lithograph in 2 colors (olive green or black and red). Represented with his back to the viewer, the popular performer is identified simply by his costume and the way he stands. This artistic device had already been used by Degas based on a theory by an art critic that a person’s economic and social class could be revealed simply by the way he or she comports themselves. The poster was recycled by Bruant as a songbook cover.
12. The poster Babylone D’Allemagne is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, yellow, red, dark blue and black). This was Lautrec’s second poster for another Victor Joze novel following his Reine de Joie. Lautrec wrote to his mother at this time to relate how busy he was with his art projects. Because of Joze’s anti-German message in the book, the author wanted the poster suppressed but it went up all over Paris nonetheless.
13. The poster L’Artisan Moderne is a lithograph in 4 colors (dark blue, yellow, green, and brown). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. Because of the impact of the cabaret and book posters, Lautrec began to be commissioned to make posters for the trades. This poster was provided to an interior design firm.
14. The poster P. Sescau, Photographe is a lithograph in 4 colors (dark red, yellow, green, and dark blue). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. This poster was provided to Paul Sescau, a professional photographer and personal friend of the artist.
15. The poster Confetti is a lithograph in 3 colors (dark olive green, red and yellow). This is Lautrec’s poster for the English paper manufacturer Bella & de Malherbe. The model is Jeanne Granier (1852-1939). These paper manufacturers hosted poster exhibitions in 1894 and 1896 to which Lautrec was invited.
16. The poster May Belfort is a lithograph in 4 colors (olive black, red and yellow). Following his trades posters Lautrec returned to the subject of the single musical performer. May Egan (whose stage name was May Belfort) was an Irish singer who appeared at the Cabaret des Décadents where Jane Avril performed.
17. The poster La Revue Blanche is a lithograph in 4 colors (blue, red, black, and green). The subject is Misia Natanson (1872-1950) who was married to Thadée Natanson whose brother was editor of La Revue Blanche from 1891 to 1903. Misia was muse to a generation of avant-garde artists, composers, and writers as the publication itself was the remarkable meeting point for the Paris literary and artistic worlds in the 1890’s. Lautrec shows Misia wearing an ostrich feather hat, spotted dress, fur jacket and muff and ice skating which was a popular activity in Paris. Two preparatory drawings for this poster are known.
18. The poster May Milton is a lithograph in 5 colors (blue, red, black, yellow and olive green). This poster was never posted in Paris but produced as an advertisement in a magazine to promote the U.S. tour of May Milton, an English dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Picasso owned a copy of this poster and used some of its compositional elements in his own artwork. Art dealers would commission limited editions of black-and-white lithographs of performers such as May Milton because they sold quickly.
19. The poster Napoleon is a lithograph in 5 colors (blue, reddish brown, black, yellow and olive green). Toulouse-Lautrec produced this poster for a book cover competition that he lost. Failing to sell this artwork, the artist produced a limited edition of 100 copies at the artist’s expense. The artist’s fee for his poster artwork varied a good deal, although during his career Lautrec clearly made more money from the output of his graphic work than his paintings.
20. The poster Salon Des Cents is a lithograph in 6 colors (blue, dark blue, black, yellow, ochre, and red). This poster is Lautrec’s homage to a married woman he met and became infatuated with during a summer cruise in 1895. The young woman sits in a deck chair under an awning facing out to sea. He produced the poster at his rentrée to Paris that fall and used it for international poster exhibitions sponsored by the journal La Plume at the Salon des Cent during winter 1895-96 and later in 1896 at the Libre Esthétique exhibition in Brussels.
21. The poster The Chap Book is a lithograph in 5 colors (olive green, blue, yellow, pink and red). The lettering is not done by Lautrec. The artist used the setting of an Irish-American bar near Place Madeleine in Paris to promote The Chap Book, an American magazine. Along with its identifiable characters, Lautrec includes the image of a bartender preparing a cocktail which was a libation newly introduced to Paris.
22. The poster La Chatelaine, Ou ‘Le Tocsin’ is a lithograph in 2 colors (blue and blue-green). This poster was commissioned by former Republican politician and Editor-in-chief Arthur Huc (1854-1932) to advertise a novel by Jules de Gastyne (1847-1920) which appeared in his newspaper in popular serial form in 1895. Letters were added by others after copies of the poster were printed for collectors of Lautrec’s increasingly popular artwork.
23. The poster Troupe De Mlle Églantine is a lithograph in 4 colors (green-blue, red, yellow and dark brown). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was commissioned by Jane Avril for her work in London at the Palace Theatre and elsewhere. The formation dance was comprised of four identified dancers including Mlle Églantine and Jane Avril and derived from the famous French can-can.
24. The poster La Vache Enragée is a lithograph in 5 colors (dark blue, green-blue, red, yellow and black). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was an advertisement for a new monthly magazine founded by Adolphe Willette (1857-1926). Its editor, Adolphe Roedel, organized an annual parade through Montmartre called the Vachalcade to lampoon the artist’s state of life in a major urban center.
25. The poster Elles is a lithograph in 4 colors (yellow, dark green, orange and blue). Later lettering is not designed by Lautrec. Degas would visit a Paris brothel to sketch its denizens, but Lautrec moved in for weeks at a time to do his artwork. Elles is a series of lithographs of the lives of prostitutes. Although considered some of the finest of lithographs of the nineteenth century, its portfolio of prints could not find collectors and they had to be sold singly. An exhibition of the complete lithographic series was held at La Plume starting in April 1896 where Lautrec adapted Elles’ title-page lithograph as the poster to advertise the show.
26. The poster L’Aube is a lithograph in 2 colors (dark blue and blue-green). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This was another advertisement for a new journal, the leftist L’Aube, first published in 1896. After its printing, the printer and artist had a rafter of remainders of this poster which they tried to sell for next to nothing.
27. The poster Cycle Michael is a lithograph in 1 color (olive green). Bicycling had developed into a cult sport in France by the 1890’s. Lautrec’s interest in the new sport led to this poster commission of British cyclist Jimmy Michael with his trainer (left background) and a sports writer with a hand in his coat pocket. The bicycle company rejected Lautrec’s design in part because the depiction of its mechanics was inaccurate which left the artist to print a limited edition for collectors at his own expense.
28. The poster La Chaîne Simpson is a lithograph in 3 colors (red, yellow and blue). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. This is Lautrec’s second poster for the new sport of bicycling which had become immensely popular in France in the 1890’s. It depicts popular rider Constant Huret (left) and, in the background wearing hats, two British and French bicycle and chain manufacturers. Lautrec was fascinated with the cycling sport and its imagery appears in other of his artwork.
29. The poster The Ault & Wiborg Co is a zincograph in 4 colors (brown, red, yellow and black). The lettering is not designed by Lautrec. The smallest of Lautrec’s posters, it was commissioned by an American ink manufacturer whose sitters are not precisely identified. Before it became a poster advertisement, Lautrec had an edition of it printed which he titled Au Concert.
30. The poster Jane Avril is a zincograph in 4 colors (black, red, yellow and blue). After six years of intense poster production, Lautrec temporarily left its practice in 1897 and 1898. When he returned to it in 1899 he found that technology had advanced to make the printing technique for his artwork more efficient. This poster was commissioned by Jane Avril but never publicly displayed. Lautrec looked to capture her dancing style and graceful and wistful figure which the artist admired. The serpentine-themed dress Jane Avril wears was a popular motif in the Art Nouveau.
31. The poster La Gitane is a lithograph in 5 colors (black, grey, red, brown and blue). The lettering is designed by Lautrec. Lautrec’s last poster was produced for a Carmen-like play that opened in January 1900 at the Théâtre Antoine in the tenth arrondissment. The play was unpopular, the poster never published, and Lautrec’s modern art poster career had come to an end.
Select Bibliography: Ash, Russell, Toulouse-Lautrec:The Complete Posters, Pavilion Books Limited, London, 1991. Beauroy, Jacques, Bertrand, Marc, Gargan, Edward T., editors, The Wolf and the Lamb: Popular Culture in France, From the Old Régime to the Twentieth Century, Anma Libri, Saratoga, CA, 1977. Cate, Phillip Dennis, The Color Revolution: Color Lithography in France, 1890-1900, Peregrine Smith, Inc., Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1978. Cate, Phillip Dennis and Shaw, Mary, editors, The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1996. Denvir, Bernard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Thames and Hudson, London, 1991. Gluck, Mary, Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005. Foxwell, Chelsea, Leonard, Anne, et.al. Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2012. Oberthur, Mariel, Cafés and Cabarets of Montmartre, Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City, 1984. Rearick, Charles, Pleasures of the Belle Époque: Entertainment & Festivity in Turn-Of-The-Century France, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1985. Seigel, Jerrold, Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830-1930, Penguin Books, New York, 1986. Thory-Frèches, Claire, Roquebert, Anne, Thomson, Richard, Toulouse-Lautrec, South Bank Center, 1991. Weisberg, Gabriel P., Montmartre and the Making of Mass Culture, Rutgers University Press, News Brunswick, New Jersey and London. 2001.