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FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: SIMON VOUET (1590-1649).

FEATURE Image: Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627, Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon. https://www.mba-lyon.fr/fr/article/simon-vouet In Simon Vouet’s self portrait painted in his final years in Rome he displays his signature rapid brushwork and desire for movement in the picture.

Simon Vouet was born into modest circumstances in Paris on January 9, 1590. After stays in England in 1604, Constantinople in 1611 and Venice in 1613 of which little is known, the French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649) spent nearly 15 years in Rome starting around 1614. In 1624 Vouet was elected to lead the Accademia di San Luca, an artists’ association founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609).

Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome which influenced art in France in the 17th century. Vouet was in Italy, primarily in Rome, between around 1613 until 1627 and received a special privilege from the French crown in 1617. It was this traffic of young French, Flemish and other international artists between Italy and their home countries in the first third of the 17th century that, for France, helped revolutionize French art. This was achieved by way of the contemporary application of ideas and styles influenced by late Renaissance Italian realist artists such as the aesthetic of Caravaggio (1571-1610) and the history painting method of Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), among many others, to which French artists were exposed while in Italy. In Rome Vouet, like other French artists such as Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), was patronized by Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) and Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), among others. In 1624 Vouet was commissioned to paint the fresco to accompany Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s and while greatly admired it was destroyed in the 18th century.

In addition to Rome, Vouet traveled to Naples, Genoa in 1620 and 1621, and, in 1627, Modena, Florence, Parma, Milan, Piancenza, Bologna and again Venice where he copied Titian (1488-1576), Tintoretto (1518-1594) and Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). During these visits Vouet studied the chief art collections that informed Vouet’s own style which amounted to a free form of temperate, classicized Baroque. This is the style, along with the latest Venetian-influenced brighter colors, vivid light, and painterly execution that Vouet returned and introduced to France in the 1630s. In France, Vouet had taken to himself as a painter his particular appreciation for the classicized compositions of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) and the cool colors of Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674).

In 1627, King Louis XIII (1601-1643) called Vouet back to Paris to be his court painter. Vouet refined Caravaggio’s innovations into a style that would become the French school of painting starting in the 1630s and extending into the middle of the 18th century. Until about 1630 it was Late Mannerism which dominated in  French painting and included unnatural physiognomy, strained poses, and untenable draperies. This changed with Vouet’s return who brought back from Italy a style with classical, realist, and Baroque painting components that was unknown in France until then and which Vouet stamped with his own style.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Portrait of a Young Man, c. 1616/1618, 55 x .41 m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061288

This painting entered the Louvre as a work of the Neapolitan school. It was recent scholarship that attributed it to Vouet which would make it one of his earliest portraits in Rome. Building on the premise, scholars have proposed Francesco Maria Maringhi (1593-1653), a Florentine patrician and lover and protector of Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), as the model.

Vouet married twice. His first wife was a young Italian woman he met in 1625 – Virginia da Vezzo  (1600–1638). In France Vouet’s wife, who bore him 4 children, was well received by the French court. After Virginia died in 1638, Vouet married Radegonde Béranger (b. 1615), a young beauty from Paris, in July 1640. Radegonde bore Vouet another 3 children (one died in infancy), and survived him.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Virginia da Vezzo, the Artist’s Wife, as the Magdalen, oil on canvas, 40 × 31 in. (101.6 × 78.7 cm), oil on canvas,  c. 1627, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. https://collections.lacma.org/node/247903
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Judith with the head of Holofernes, 1620/1625, 97 x 73,5 cm, oil on canvas, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/jWLpZea4KY/simon-vouet/judith-mit-dem-haupt-des-holofernes
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Birth of the Virgin c. 1620 Rome S. Francesco a Ripa.
Detail: The Birth of the Virgin.

The Birth of the Virgin was one of many paintings in a somber palette that Vouet produced in Rome influenced by Caravaggio though its mood is more vibrant. The composition is broad, low and somewhat setback from the picture plane. Amidst the swirling movement and vitality of the drawing and figures, including sumptuous draperies, it is observed that the head of the maid servant in the middle of the composition is modeled on one by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). These early qualities that Vouet had  taken from Italian painting were, when he returned to France, taken over by a heightened decorative style in the 1630s and 1640s.

Ottavio Leoni (1578–1630), Simon Vouet in Italy, engraving, sheet 9 3/8 × 7 1/16 in. (23.34 × 17.94 cm), Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Temptation of Saint Francis, c. 1620 Rome Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Lucina.

In Rome Simon Vouet adopted a Caravaggesque style coupled with elements from Michelangelo such as in this painting for an ancient church in Rome. While Vouet worked directly from the model and used closely observed poses from reality, the head of St. Francis of Assisi seems to be taken from one by Michelangelo.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Circumcision, oil on canvas, Church of Sant’ Angelo a Segno Naples.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Crucifixion with Mary and John, oil on canvas, Church of Jesus and Saints Ambrogio and Andrea Genoa
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Appearance of the Virgin to St Bruno, c. 1624, Naples, S. Martino.

As Vouet stayed in Italy he increasingly turned to a Baroque style of which The Crucifixion with Mary and John in Genoa is an early example. The Appearance of the Virgin to St. Bruno in the Carthusian monastery of San Martino in Naples is a later and more fully realized Baroque style example. The atmosphere of each showing saints in ecstasy is a clear element in Baroque’s intensified and elaborated religious representation. In Italy Vouet’s paintings are more restrained than the full contemporary Baroque art of Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669) and his followers such that the French painter’s figure of the Virgin in his Naples’ picture tends towards a classical Renaissance tradition that would be an important part of the expression of French taste in the 1630s and 1640s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Modelli for Altarpiece St-Peters Rome, 1625, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The ill-matched couple (Vanitas), c. 1621.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), David with the Head of Goliath, c. 1621,Palazzo Bianco, Genoa.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), St. Catherine, c. 1621.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Young Man wearing armor, c. 1625/271,165 m x .91 m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061299

The painting by Vouet towards the end of his Roman period, the identity of the young man above is unknown though speculation by modern scholars is impressive (i.e., St. Thomas Aquinas, among others). The painting’s copies are numerous which points to the composition’s success. These copies can be found in major museums throughout Europe.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Saint Jerome and the Angel, c. 1622/1625, 144.8 x 179.8 cm (57 x 70 13/16 in.), oil on canvas, The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46151.html

In 1627 Vouet painted Saint Jerome and the Angel featuring an elderly bearded saint and a winged curly-haired angel holding a trumpet that signifies the Last Judgment. While the composition is Caravaggesque in its naturalistic depiction of half figures, stark lighting, and dark-brown palette, Vouet’s painting features brighter colors in the robes and clothes which was a departure from the Caravaggesque tradition and, among some contemporary artists in Rome in the late 1620s, an aesthetic innovation. The painting demonstrates Vouet’s superb fluid handling of paint which he brought back to and deployed in France starting in the 1630s.

Nicolas Mignard (1606-1666), Portrait de Simon Vouet, Louvre.

Vouet was a leading French artist in Rome when asked to return to France by the king in 1627. At his arrival, though embraced by King Louis XIII and his mother, Marie de’ Medici, Vouet was kept at a distance by Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) who viewed the ambitious artist as a social climber. Though modest compared to the great collections in London and Madrid, Cardinal Richelieu collected about 272 pictures, the canvasses listed in an inventory compiled by Vouet and his student, Laurent de la Hyre. Though Richelieu succeeded in getting Poussin to return to France from Rome in 1641and as “First Painter,” this direct competition to Vouet was short-lived. Richelieu died in 1642 and Poussin left for Italy the same year.

The king set Vouet to the task of painting portraits of the court nobility though just one survives today – that of Richelieu’s secretary. In 1648, when the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture was established – an organization that held monopoly power over the arts in France for the next 150 years – Vouet was not invited to join. Vouet understood that the academy, which included his pupils Le Brun and Le Sueur, was established in part as a generational shift that challenged his influence and authority. Vouet countered by modernizing the old painter’s guild but did not live to see the battle joined. He died of exhaustion in June 1649. The Academy went on to school artists, provide access to prestigious commissions, and hosted the Salon to exhibit their work. After Vouet’s death, the Académie soon rose to prominence with Jean-Baptiste Colbert, First Minister of State from 1661 until his death in 1683 under Louis XIV, as its protector and Charles Le Brun as First Painter and the Académie’s director.

Atelier of Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Michel le Masle (1573-1662), 1628,, oil on canvas, musée Carnavalet, Paris.

Upon Vouet’s return to France in late November 1627, his French style set to work mainly on religious subjects which were admired by the public, particularly in diocesan and religious orders’ churches of Paris. As late as 1630, the eye of the Paris art consumer was used to prevailing late 16th century mannerism. It took time for the French to better accept Vouet’s new Caravaggesque naturalism. Further, while France was a so-called eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, Parisians did not share the intense religious enthusiasm that was the art expression in the papal states. Parisians did not fully accept the swirling heavenly masses found in Italian Baroque. In France Vouet had to temper his stylistic synthesis of classicism, naturalism and baroque as the French expression of and contribution to a great international style.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Madonna and Child, 1633 oil on canvas, overall: 110.3 × 89.4 cm (43 7/16 × 35 3/16 in.) The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.206070.html

Vouet’s new and tempered French style is exquisitely represented in Madonna and Child (1633). During the religious reformation period in the 16th century one of the Catholic Church’s responses was the renewal of devotion to the Virgin Mary. This cult of the Virgin, once blossomed in the 12th century, was in renewed full maturity in the 1630s and even inspired the French king to dedicate his North American empire to her in 1638. Vouet painted more than a dozen compositions of the Virgin and her son at half-length. While the blank background and figurative monumentality remain from his Roman days, Vouet’s mastery of light and use of bright colors signal the realization of the new French style. The monumental figure of the seated Virgin depicted in a Mannerist and Classical synthesis holds her son on her lap and looks at him with drooping eyes.Her arm supported by the foundation of a classical column, Mary’s dark hair is held back by a fabric band as her neck and shoulder are exposed. The Christ child reaches up to kiss his mother, his body in a Baroque twist as he caresses her face. The brilliantly executed moment expresses intimacy and tenderness while maintaining religious seriousness.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Lot and his Daughters, 1633, 160 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-arts, Strasbourg. https://www.musees.strasbourg.eu/oeuvre-musee-des-beaux-arts/-/entity/id/220480?_eu_strasbourg_portlet_entity_detail_EntityDetailPortlet_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.musees.strasbourg.eu%2Frechercher-oeuvre-musee-beaux-arts%3Fp_p_id%3Deu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_checkboxNames%3DclassName%252CclassName%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_keywords%3Dsimon%2Bvouet%26p_p_lifecycle%3D1%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_formDate%3D1669662298707%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_vocabulariesCount%3D0%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_className%3Deu.strasbourg.service.artwork.model.Artwork%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_className%3Deu.strasbourg.service.artwork.model.ArtworkCollection

The Bible story of depravity that Vouet depicts is that of Lot and his daughters found in Genesis 19. The angels have warned Lot who is an upright man that Sodom and Gomorrah are to be destroyed for its sins. As Lot’s family escapes, they are warned not to look back on the Divine destruction. Lot’s wife disobeys and is turned into a pillar of salt. Despairing of finding husbands where they are going and so carry on their own people, Lot’s daughters devise to get their father drunk and lie with him. Both daughters become pregnant in this way.

Vouet depicts Lot of the Old Testament story as they break the taboo of incest to carry on the race in desperate times using Renaissance artistic language of a god from pagan mythology. In place of moralizing, Vouet composes a sensual scene showing Lot, a male figure of late middle age, tasting the company of two nymph-like young women in a canvas filled with the attraction of the flesh and drunken debauchery. The lines and forms of Vouet’s new painting give priority to its narrative power which will be the manner of his artwork following his return to France. It is noted that Vouet used a contemporary engraving of an ancient relief to model the figure of the seated daughter.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Gaucher de Châtillon (1250–1328), Constable of France, c. 1632/35,2.18m x 1.37m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010065607

Commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu for his Palais Royal’s Gallery of Illustrious Men the painting of Gaucher de Châtillon was set into one of its bays. The portrait was greatly admired in that generation for the figure’s resolute pose as well as the execution of Vouet’s drawing and painting. Critics assessed that since the pose and head were so artistically beautiful Vouet’s subject was not modeled from life but inspired by Carracci. Seeing the subject turned and from behind was in the Mannerist tradition that Vouet loved and adopted for this historical figure of Gaucher de Châtillon (1250-1328), a constable of France and advisor to Capet kings, Philip IV the Fair (1268-1314), and then to his sons, Louis X the Quarreler (1289-1316), Philip V the Tall (1293-1322) and Charles IV the Bald (1294-1328). The Louvre’s picture has been restored.

Back in France Vouet had a successful career as the painter of large decorations and religious and allegorical paintings. His studio was the largest international workshop and school in Paris. Vouet was a most sought-after and beloved teacher and his art collaborators were numerous (Le Brun, Le Sueur, Mignard, Du Fresnoy, Le Nostre, among others). Per usual practice among professional artists in Europe, those with talent were encouraged to marry into the master’s family so to keep the training, skill and social connections “in house.”

The 1630’s began an age of cultural realignment and reorientation in France that would remain until about the French Revolution. In 1634 the Académie Française was founded under Cardinal Richelieu. In 1637 René Descartes published in French his Discourse on Method (“Je pense, donc je suis” “I think, therefore I am”) ushering in radical subjectivity in philosophical thought. That same year Peter Corneille’s Le Cid was produced, the first great stage play. In 1640 the Imprimerie Royale was founded to publish scholarly books and improve societal erudition. The decade’s innovations continued to transform culture over the next 30 years. By the 1660s French artists, writers and others in France viewed their language, thought, and artistic culture as the world’s most refined and unparalleled in history. Vouet’s return in 1627 was well situated for him to contribute to this prolonged period of interest in artistic matters in France.

In the mid17th century, wealthy French patrons began to collect Italian and Italian-inspired art. This included Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière (1599-1681) who collected 240 major paintings for his house in Paris. Critics have observed about Vouet that as he played the role of art functionary by  importing and translating Italian art tradition into France, he remained less of a truly profound original artist.

Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière, secrétaire d’Etat de la religion prétendue réformée. He built the Hôtel de la Vrillière in 1st arrondissement in Paris designed  by François Mansart (1598-1666) between 1635 and 1650.

In the 1630s, classical understanding of Carraci from Domenichino (1581-1641) was giving way to a different understanding of history painting from Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647). Lanfranco viewed Caracci’s legacy as decoration in search of vitality more than a spatial or formal articulation which extended to include figures in action. Vouet worked rapidly to populate the churches, monasteries and abbeys, royal palaces and private mansions, many newly built, of Paris, with his artwork. Vouet also produced large public commissions, all of which expressed a prevailing Baroque potpourri.

Vouet’s most significant contribution to French painting is his innovations in decorative painting whose influence was felt in France into the mid18th century. Vouet’s influence may be out sized to his intellectual quality and artistic originality but he made a tremendous impression on his contemporaries and was the artist, in a city of intense competition, who was the leading figure of the new Italian art manner for the French public and in many different projects for over 20 years. Vouet’s position as painter is on par with architects Jacques Lemercier (c.1585-1654) and Louis Le Vau (1612-1660) as part of that same generation in France who formed the classicizing French Baroque. They used French art practice since King Francis I (1494-1547) and solid current Roman practice forged into a French synthesis associated with Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII. Vouet’s pupils, Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), Nicolas Mignard (1606-1668). Le Sueur (1617-1655), and François Perrier (1590–1650) carried on the tradition of Vouet’s artwork.

Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), Jacques Lemercier with dome of Sorbonne.
Louis le Vau.
Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), Cardinal Richelieu, 1642, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strabourg.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Young Louis XIII.

For his decorative work Vouet collaborated with artists in other media such as sculptor Jacques Sarrazin (1592-1660). Vouet painted large-scale decorations for royal patrons such as Anne of Austria (1601-1666), wife and mother of French Kings, at Fontainebleau in 1644  and at the Palais Royal between 1643 and 1647. Vouet did a decorative series at the Arsenal. At Hôtel Séguier (no. 16 rue Séguier) in Paris for the chancellor of France, Pierre Séguier (1588-1572), Vouet painted the chapel, library, and lower gallery. In these projects, Vouet reintroduced forgotten French painting traditions of illusionism practiced by Italian artists at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Vouet synthesized it with the new Italian style in the 1630s, including imitating the use of gold mosaic and big oval designs derived from Venice. Today these decorations survive only by others’ engravings of them.

Pierre Séguier.

Some of Vouet’s decorative schemes survive at the Château de Wideville west of Paris. The castle was originally built in the late 16th century and sold to King Louis XIII’s minister of finances, Claude de Bullion (1569-1640), in 1630. Starting in 1632, the new owner set about building and expanding the castle in the Louis XIII style, with red bricks, white quoins and a pair of chimneys. Bullion involved the best decorators including Vouet for painting as well as Jacques Sarrazin (1591-1660) and Philippe de Buyster (1595-1653) for sculpture. Château de Wideville later became base for Louise de La Vallière (1644-1710), maitresse d’amour of King Louis XIV.

Claude de Bullion, oil on panel, 33 x 23,5 cm.

Vouet completed a later decorative panel, Muses Urania and Calliope in or around 1640, with the help of his studio. Likely commissioned as an altarpiece for the private chapel of a wealthy Parisian, the painting depicts porcelain skin women, bejeweled drapery, and putti in a classical architecture setting.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Armida carrying the sleeping Rinaldo, 63 x 47 in, n.d., private collection.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Muses Urania and Calliope, c. 1634, oil on wood, The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46160.html
Simon Vouet, The Toilet of Venus, c. 1640, 64 15/16 × 45 1/16 in164.94 × 114.46 cm, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh https://collection.cmoa.org/objects/7093a02e-4ea1-4892-9ace-6538065ebdab

With his patrons Vouet was an amenable creator and he was a facile painter. His wealthy and powerful patrons wanted showy decorative artwork painted in the modern Italian manner without very serious religious or political messages for their often newly-acquired or built residences. The Toilet of Venus is exuberant and intriguing though based on the latest Italian art of the day – the theme is inspired by a treatment of Francesco Albani (1578-1660) while the figure of Venus is derived from Annibale Carracci. Though the figures remain weighty in the mode of Italian Naturalism, Vouet transforms the group into curvaceous polished and floating interlocking forms.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Presentation at the Temple, 1641, oil on canvas, 3.93 m x 2.5 m, Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062002

As many of Vouet’s large-scale decorative and other works were virtually systematically destroyed in the Revolution so that the connoisseur must assess Vouet’s artistic merit by way of surviving decorative schemes more than individual canvases or fragments, The Presentation in the Temple is an important extant painting by the hand of Vouet that allows qualitative comparisons to other 17th century French artists such as Laurent de La Hyre (1606-1656), Eustache Le Sueur, Charles Le Brun, and Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644-1717). Commissioned for the Jesuits by Richelieu in 1641 for what is today’s Saint-Paul-Saint Louis in Paris’s Marais it was part of a rich ensemble of artifacts  whose overall artistic scheme was dedicated to Christ and the French monarchy. Vouet’s presentation theme evokes the birth of Louis XIV and the painting was flanked by sculptures of Jesuit saints and French political figures.

There remains some similarity to what Vouet had produced in Italy in the mid1620s, particularly in The Appearance of the Virgin to St Bruno in Naples, such as his use of diagonals. Yet 15 years later in France Vouet’s composition is more classical in orientation including a rational not emotional or supernatural treatment of the subject more in the style of Nicolas Poussin who was called back to France from Italy the year before.

To give the illusion of grandeur, Vouet provides a very low position at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by gigantic religious architecture of which he paints a fragmentary synecdoche. For depth, Vouet interposes firmly-modeled foreground figures that partly mask more distant such figures in statuesque draping. Vouet’s cool colors reflect the influence of Philippe de Champaigne and the Baroque turning movement extends into the entablature of the architecture of the temple of Jerusalem, as well as the inclined position of the two angels painted in the upper portion.

By 1762, 20 years after Vouet painted The Presentation, politics changed unpleasantly for the Jesuits as they were suppressed by the Pope and their Paris flagship church’s high altar ensemble was dismantled. The painting was housed in the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and later transferred to the Louvre during the French Revolution.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Adoration of the Holy Name by Four Saints, oil on canvas,265 x176 cm, Église Saint Merri, Paris.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Altar piece, Église Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, Paris.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Virgin with oak branch, known as Madonna Hesselin, c. 1640/1645, Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010067259

In 1651, two years after the death of Vouet, the painting above was inscribed in Latin to state that Vouet had painted the artwork and in the house of “very noble lord” Louis de Hesselin, one of the king’s advisors. The inscription also gives the meaning of the palm branch the Virgin holds – it is a sign of the means of her effectual assistance to the afflicted. Sieur Hesselin was a confident to the artist who was both godfather to Vouet’s eldest son in 1638 and witness to the marriage of Vouet’s daughter 10 years later. Two other known versions of the painting are found in the United States and in England. X-rays revealed that Vouet fully completed the neckline of the virgin before he added the painted golden robe upon it.

Simon Vouet (workshop), Christ at the Column, c. 1635/40, 1.28 m x .66m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.

Louis XIV owned this painting of Christ being scourged by Roman soldiers at the pillar during his Passion. In the 18th century the painting was attributed to Eustache Le Sueur which still has its defenders today. Attribution to Simon Vouet began in the 20th century among scholars. In the 21st century scholars have proposed Charles le Brun (1619-1690) and the “Workshop of Simon Vouet” which the Louvre has settled upon. Preparatory drawings for the painting exist at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Besançon. The artwork may have come from a chapel of the Château in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The painting was restored twice in the 18th century and in the 1960s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Standing Angel, hands joined, 0.212 m ; L. 0.137 m Louvre.https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020227558
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Head of a man with disheveled hair, three quarters view. 0,155 m ; L. 0,148 m Louvre https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020227444

Preparation drawing for a Last Supper picture.

At the same time that Vouet was painting religious subjects for churches in Paris he was painting allegorical and poetical artwork. For these paintings Vouet’s designs are freer, modeling looser and, in the Venetian style, the composition determined more by color and light.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Charity, c. 1635, 1.92 m x 1.32m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062000

Vouet painted this artwork and two other allegorical paintings for the decoration of the châteauneuf of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In the 17th century the painting was known as “Seated Victory.” The female figure holds a flaming heart in her right hand and palm leaf in her left hand as a Cupid-like figure of love places a laurel wreath on her head. Later, the allegorical figure was called “Faith.” The painting was heavily restored in the mid1960s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Allegory of Faith and Contempt for Riches, c. 1638/1640, 1.7 m x 1.24m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061999

The painting was made for the decoration of the Château Neuf de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In the 18th century the female figure wearing a laurel was described as “Victory” and holding Louis XIV in her arms. In the 19th century the female figure was viewed as an allegory for “Wealth” though other attributes such as the main figure’s foot resting on a cornerstone and strewn open books point to a figure representing “Christian Faith.” The standing cherub who offers her sparkling necklaces and the child on her lap have been interpreted as figures representing earthly and heavenly love, respectively.

Vouet depicts a scene on the standing silver vase of the nymph Daphne being pursued by Apollo, god of the arts. It is a classical mythological story which, despite aid from Cupid, the god of love, relates the vanity of earthly goods and pleasures. The scholarly theory of what is depicted in Vouet’s painting adds up to “Christian Faith” holding onto the figure of heavenly love as she is being tempted by baubles and pleasures of earthly love. The painting was restored in the 1950s and 1980s.

Beyond the thoughtful allegorical presentation, Vouet’s innovative style and reliance on lyrical emotion and sentiment more than ordered arrangement is in evidence as he presents a sensual winged goddess with healthy, chubby children in a fantasia of rich draperies and elegant linear architecture amid a metallic treasure hoard, all of which together enlivens the picture. Its languorous elegance derives from the Italian Baroque. Though a dictatorial teacher, unrivaled ambitious artist, and living in Paris during the grim era of the Thirty Years’ War, in Vouet’s painting for the French nobility there is no sense of unease and any subject’s forthrightness is tempered by superficiality.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649),The Three Marys at the Tomb, n.d., 52.25 x 66.5” Église de Davron Seine -et-Oise.

A chasm of space between the two angels holding up the shroud and the three women at the tomb before dawn on the third day delineates the heavenly from the earthly although these figures are linked by vibrant colors and a reflective animation of spirals. Detailed drawing is forgone for conventional pose and vague, mannered forms. Vouet seems not to be interested in the Biblical story or its meaning per se but the vivacity of the narrative by way of its stylistic elements. In contrast to Poussin’s statuesque figures or Le Valentin’s introspective art, Vouet introduced Baroque lyricism and fancy into French art.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Time Defeated by Love, Beauty and Hope, oil on canvas, 107x 142 cm, Prado, Madrid.  https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/time-defeated-by-hope-and-beauty/ebaeb191-f3ff-43b1-9207-fb36a3e5ad5a

Saturn who represents Time in Roman mythology has tumbled next to a scythe and hourglass, his attributes. Holding him by the hair the bare breasted figure has been identified as Beauty but also Truth and is likely a portrait of Vouet’s Italian wife. Virginia da Vezzo. She holds a lance over him. To the left is Hope who holds out a hook, her symbol, as a trio of cupids pluck feathers from Time’s wings. The allegorical message may be that Love defies Time.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Saturn Conquered by Love, Venus and Hope, 1643/45, , Musée de Berry, Bourges.

In another allegorical painting of the same theme, Saturn is Father Time. The old man is overcome by Love (Cupid), Beauty or Truth (a bare breasted figure, perhaps Venus), and Hope (holding an anchor, her traditional symbol). Above these in colorful robes is Fama, the figure of fame, who announces herself blowing her trumpet. Fama embraces Occasio, her hair traditionally blowing forward, holding an emblem of wealth, and signifying the fortunate occasion. In Vouet’s picture which synthesizes classical elements such as statuesque figures in the style of Poussin and swirling masses and vibrant colors of the international Baroque style, Time is the victim of what he usually despoils. The large painting originally hung in the Hôtel de Bretonvilliers in Paris.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Allegory of Good Government, 1644/45, oil on canvas, 2.37 m x 2.71 m, Musée du Louvre.

In the collection of Louis-Philippe d’Orléans (1725-1785) in the Palais-Royal in Paris before 1785, it entered the collection of Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans (1747-1793), known as Philippe Égalité afterwards, and was sold in 1800. In 1961 Friends of the Louvre acquired it in New York City and donated it to the Louvre that same year.

The young woman seated on an elevated throne wearing armor is, according to the influential Iconologia of 1593 by Cesare Ripa (1555-1622), the allegory for Reason. The pair of young women, one offering an olive branch and the other a palm branch, are allegories for Peace and Prosperity. The golden vase is decorated with a bacchanalia. Above the main scene are two cherubs bringing a palm frond and laurel with a twisted column wrapped with a vine that symbolizes Friendship.

Vouet painted this allegory of good government about Anne of Austria as she cooperated with Cardinal Mazarin’s peace policies. The painting was probably commissioned for the decoration of Anne of Austria’s apartment at the Palais-Royal around 1645. It was kept in the collection of the Dukes of Orleans at the Palais-Royal in the 18th century. and moved to London after the death of Philippe Égalité. It was purchased in New York by the Société des Amis du Louvre in 1961. The work was re-oiled with glue by Jacques Joyerot and restored in a pictorial layer by Jeanine Roussel-Nazat between 1979 and 1981.

Simon Vouet died in Paris on June 30, 1649 at 59 years old. His burial details are unknown.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Painting in the Golden Age, Christopher Allen, Thames & Hudson, London, 2003.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Ier_Ph%C3%A9lypeaux_de_La_Vrilli%C3%A8re

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Mansart

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Ier_Ph%C3%A9lypeaux_de_La_Vrilli%C3%A8re

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, Philip Conisbee, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009.

Baroque, Hermann Bauer, Andreas Prater, Ingo F. Walther, Köln: Taschen, 2006.

The Painting of Simon Vouet, William Crelly, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700 (Pelican History of Art), Anthony Blunt, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://gw.geneanet.org/garric?n=beranger&oc=0&p=radegonde

17th and 18th Century Art Baroque Painting Sculpture Architecture, Julius S. Held, Donald Posner, H.W. Janson, editor, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. and New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1972.

French Painting in the Seventeenth Century, Alain Mérot, trans. by Caroline Beamish, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

Kings & Connoisseurs Collecting Art in Seventeenth-Century Europe, Jonathan Brown, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pierre Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/194104613/simon-vouet

FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE (1591-1632).

FEATURE IMAGE: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante (Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation). Villa Lante in Rome is an example of the work of the 16th century Raphael school in the reign of the Medici popes. The Renaissance villa, which was a residence for Roman aristocracy, was purchased in 1950 by the Finnish state. The Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation started operating there in April 1954.

Ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, Circle of Willem van Nieuwlandt, II, c. 1600,  Pen and brown ink, with brush and brown and gray wash, on pieced cream laid paper,  35.3 × 61.3 cm (13 15/16 × 24 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago.
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/95904/ruins-of-the-coliseum-in-rome

INTRODUCTION.

Le Valentin de Boulogne (c.1591/1594-1632), sometimes called Jean Valentin, Jean de Boulogne Valentin, or simply Le Valentin, was a French painter. Born in Coulommiers-en-Brie about 35 miles east of Paris, Le Valentin may have been at least half Italian. His artwork was certainly influenced by Italian painting more than any other though he was familiar with Northern or Flemish painting. Le Valentin may have been in Rome as early as 1612 – German painter and art-historian Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) remarked in 1675 that Valentin reached Rome before Simon Vouet (1590-1649) who had arrived around 1614. Whether in 1612 or definitely by 1620 (Le Valentin appears in the census), Le Valentin spent the rest of his life In Rome. In the Eternal City Le Valentin  was greatly influenced by Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649) and Bartolomeo  Manfredi (Italian, 1581-1622), a leading Caravaggiste or follower of Carravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610).

Joachim von Sandrart, Self Portrait, 1641.
Bartolomeo Manfredi, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (detail).
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627 Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon.

Le Valentin’s oeuvre is today around 55-60 paintings, most of them identified by modern scholarship (i.e., Jacques Bousquet; Roberto Longhi). Le Valentin’s major commissions date from the last seven years of his life. Opportunities to acquire his artwork was  rare, though avid collectors such as Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) and Louis XIV collected them.

Cardinal Mazarin by Pierre Mignard, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun, Château de Versailles.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome. “Piazza del Popolo.. Rome” by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Rome Le Valentin forged close ties with other French artists and lived with many of them in and around the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza di Spagna. Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome  – and influenced art in France in the 17th century. Reasons young painters fled to Italy in the early 17th century included depletion of opportunity in Paris due to the professionalization of artistic practice in and outside the capital although establishment French art was no longer flourishing. Conversely, Roman art – and not only the schools of Michelangelo and Raphael but new horizons afforded  by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Caravaggio (1571-1610) -was at an apex. The Eternal City was drawing international artists from Paris and elsewhere and, between 1610 and 1630, the Roman style became internationalized. The dialogue among artists in Rome in this period was exciting – and its outcomes often unpredictable. The culture of Rome (and the papacy) could actually be liberating for foreign, usually destitute, often libertine talented young artists who had great ambitions for a prominent commission as they were exposed to Rome’s virtue and vice almost equally. Many of these young artists, even ones whose artworks survive, exist today virtually anonymously. Le Valentin de Boulogne is one of the better-known artists of the period, although his precise name is uncertain and his artwork requires connoisseurship based on modern scholarship.

Annibile Carracci, Self-portrait, 1604, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, included a self portrait of the artist, 1610, oil on canvas, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

In 1626 Valentin, in Rome several years, was invited by Vouet to organize with Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) the festival of the Accademia di San Luca ‘s patron saint. Around the same age, Vouet led the academy whose artists’ association was founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609). This appointment signaled that Valentin was an active and respected rising French artist in Rome in these years. Though Caravaggio died in 1610 his influence was still felt very strongly in Rome in the 1620s.

Two of Caravaggio’s masterpieces—The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul—hung in the neighboring church of Santa Maria del Popolo which Le Valentin certainly had opportunity to study. In Italy, Valentin took swift, direct, and enduring inspiration from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and realistic depiction of characters drawn from Roman street life, including extensive use of half figures. As one of the young Caravaggisti, Valentin applies these elements to his artwork, whether genre or, later, Biblical subjects.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Group of figures seen mid-body, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020210527

None of the works from Le Valentin’s earliest Roman years is documented, but it is believed he produced his Card Sharps (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), The Fortune Teller (Toledo Museum of Art), and Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats) (NGA) – and probably in this order – between 1615 and 1620.

In Le Valentin’s compositions which often contain several actors in a scene, the French artist’s realism and Caravaggio-inspired technique is often imbued with energetic rhythm in which diagonals and geometric concurrences play a role. This schematic suggests animation in the subject matter while retaining the human figures’ inner reserve and mystery. This creates a psychological quality in his artwork that is unique whichever drama is unfolding in the picture. Louis XIV who was an admirer of le Valentin acquired and hung several of his paintings in his bedroom at Versailles. Cardinal Mazarin, another art collector with a keen eye, acquired works by Valentin, some of which today are in the Louvre.

Andrea Sacci, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany, oil on canvas, c. 1631-1633 (detail).

By way of Le Valentin’s important young patron, Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) – made a cardinal in 1624 by his uncle, Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) – Valentin became a competitor to his artist friend Nicholas Poussin. Le Valentin’s first documented work commissioned in May 1629 and completed in the spring of 1630 called Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian is a compendium to a slightly earlier work by Poussin–both  in the Vatican (Poussin’s was a different stylistic statement called Martyrdom of S. Erasmus). Valentin had further won the patronage of Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), the secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini and one of Rome’s leading art patrons. Paid the handsome sum of 350 crowns for Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian , after 1630 Valentin’s artwork continued to command high prices and prestige.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City/
Jan van den Hoecke (Flemish, 1611-1651), Portrait of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Pozzo’s portrait was painted by Le Valentin though it is lost.

Though SS. Processus and Martinian is Le Valentin’s most important public work, he also produced many pictures for private commissions. There are several pictures by, or today attributed to, Le Valentin in many of the world’s leading art museums. Le Valentin produced artwork especially for the ruling Barberini family and their circle.

How Le Valentin died in 1632 is not certain though it was sudden and of natural causes. The professional artist who is admired in today’s major art institutions reportedly left no money to pay for a funeral. Identified as a “Pictor famosus” on his death certificate, Le Valentin was buried at Santa Maria de Popolo on August 20, 1632 paid for by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657).

Façade – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo –Rome. Valentin lived in Rome on or near Via Margutta which is steps from the 15th century church.
File:Roma – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo – Facade.jpg” by M0tty is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

SELECTION OF PAINTINGS BY LE VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Solomon, 1627/29, Louvre. 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, oil on canvas.  https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061974

One of the most moving and beautiful stories in the Bible is the judgment of King Solomon in the case involving two disputing harlots over who was the mother of a living child (I Kings).

Both had had a child, though one died and the other lived. To have an offspring was considered a blessing. One harlot claimed that her living child had been taken from her bosom at night by the other harlot. She replaced the child with her dead child after “she had smothered him by lying on him” (I Kings 3:19).

Since this was a case of one harlot’s word against another’s Solomon had no simple and fair resolution at hand. King Solomon said: “Cut the child in two and give half to one woman and half to the other” (I Kings 3:25). Le Valentin shows the viewer what is at stake – a real flesh and blood child. The import of Solomon’s judgment could not be missed. Le Valentin’s women are modeled on those mothers and others the artist observed along Via Margutta.

Detail. Judgment of Solomon. Le Valentin.

When one harlot said, “Divide it! it shall be neither mine nor yours!” and  the other harlot said, “Please, my lord, give her the living child. Please do not kill it!”, the king’s judgement changed.

Solomon spoke again and said, “Give her the child alive, and let no one kill him, for she is his mother” (1 Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon knew a woman privileged to be a mother would seek to see the child live most of all.

It is this final pronouncement that Solomon appears to give in Le Valentin’s painting, as the complete biblical episode can be readily seen in the gestures and expressions of its characters.

Acquired by Louis XIV at Cardinal Mazarin’s death in 1661, The Judgment of Solomon has long been presented as a counterpart to The Judgment of Daniel. These canvases, which may actually be pendants, share the same format and show examples of just judgment in the Bible. The Judgment of Solomon is dated later than The Judgment of Daniel. There is a variant of it by Le Valentin in Rome at the Barberini Gallery in the same format and oil medium. The Louvre painting was restored in 1966.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Daniel, 1621/22, oil on canvas, 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061975

The subject is taken from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, the book’s addendum. In Babylon, a pair of wicked elders covet Suzanne, “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” who was the wife of the “very rich” and “most respected” Joachim. After these wicked elders surprised Suzanne in her bath, she refuses their advances and they denounce her for adultery with the intent to put her to death.

Daniel condemns these wicked elders for “growing evil with age” including their past sins of “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty.” Daniel interrogates them and, by their own words, shows the assembly they are lying. The painting depicts that moment of judgment.

Detail. Judgment of Daniel. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin depicts Daniel in the painting instead of Suzanne in her bath which was a more popular subject. Suzanne is at right, her hands across her chest, “As she wept, she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly” (Daniel 13:35). A guard seizes one of the wicked elders as the other shows surprise and incredulity. Young Daniel, at left, is seated on a throne under a red canopy and stretches out his hand in judgment over the scene for their sin. For each judgment by Le Valentin the artist was inspired in some of its details by Raphael’s artwork in Rome. Louis XIV acquired the painting in 1662.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Within iconography that is cyclonic, two Roman soldiers are placed on the rack to be tortured after they refused their commander’s orders to sacrifice to an idol. The soldiers had been converted to Christianity by Saints Peter and Paul when they guarded them in prison. The altar to Jupiter is on the upper left while, at right, the commander clutches his eye with his left hand after God blinded him in retribution for the idolatry. The foreground figures build on 16th century Franco Italian Mannerist style. One has his back to the viewer; another grinds the wheel of the rack; and, a third bends down with his arm outstretched. All are advanced expressions of realistic figural development and rendered in spatial perspective correctly.

Le Valentin’s powerful painting is an artwork with a psychological dimension. To the left, a hooded figure, Lucina, is a Christian woman who encourages the martyrs to be steadfast as an angel out of heaven extends a palm of martyrdom. To the right, realistically portrayed, is a Roman soldier indifferent to another brutal slaying by the authoritarian government in the face of nascent, meddling, heroic, and expanding Christians in their pagan global empire.

With his attention to detail, Le Valentin’s picture accomplishes an exciting imagined drama based on Renaissance-inspired natural world observation and by way of colorful contemporary 17th century formulations that give a viewer visionary immersion into a complex and significant Bible scene.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 A Musical Party, 1623/26, oil on canvas, 44 × 57 3/4 in. (111.76 × 146.69 cm),Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
https://collections.lacma.org/node/186803
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Concert in an Interior, 1628/30, oil on canvas, 1.75m x 2.16m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061973

Some of Le Valentin’s great ambition as an artist is demonstrated by this large format canvas whose composition includes eight realistically delineated  figures including 5 musicians and 3 singing youths. The five instruments are depicted accurately as well as the demeanors of the musicians and singers. Instruments have been identified by others as a polyphonic spinet, an alto, a chitarrone, a bass viol and a cornetto.

Detail. Concert in an Interior. Le Valentin.

The painting had been dated at around 1626, though more recent connoisseurship dates it to around 1628 or 1630. It was restored in 1940. It was owned by that avid art collector, Cardinal Mazarin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Concert in bas-relief, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 1.73 m x 2.14m, Louvre.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin painted seven figures gathered around a classical bas-relief. There are a pair of drinkers, one in the foreground, the other in the background; two singers; and three musicians – a violinist, guitarist and lutenist.

The painting, filled with mystery and gravity, is Caravaggesque and not merely telling a story or depicting a genre scene of performance. The painting has been dated to as early as 1622 by some connoisseurs. It was owned by Cardinal Mazarin and restored in 1959. It entered the collection of the Louvre in 1742.

Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings as attested by Concert with Eight Figures and Fortune Teller (both Musée du Louvre, c. 1628), and what is thought to be his very last painting, the Gathering with a Fortune Teller (Vienna, Liechtenstein Collection) in 1632.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Musicians and Soldiers, c. 1626, oil in canvas, 155 x 200 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.

This is a tavern scene with impromptu music-making among transitory musicians. They are playing for a pair of drinking soldiers. Le Valentin’s painting is Caravaggesque with its interplay of shadows and light, dark palette, and depiction of realistic figures, and a psychological vivacity that is imbued by Le Valentin. It is by his passion and energy for Caravaggio that Le Valentin helped  revolutionize art in 17th century Europe.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Jesus and Caesar’s Coin, around 1624, oil on canvas, 1.11 m x 1.54m, Louvre.

In Matthew’s Gospel the Pharisees were plotting to entrap Jesus by his own words. They sent some of their followers along with local government types (“Herodians”) to flatter Jesus as a truthful and humble man. They asked him to reply to a question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:17).

Jesus, knowing their motivation, responded hardly very nicely, by calling them “hypocrites.” He asked them to show the coin that paid Caesar’s tax.

Le Valentin’s painting depicts the moment when the Pharisee’s henchmen show Jesus the coin with Caesar’s image and inscription on it. Jesus tells them: ”Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22: 21).

Owned by Louis XIV it was put in his dressing room at Versailles in 1680. The Louvre acquired it during the French Revolution in 1793.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats), c. 1618/1620, oil on canvas, 121 x 152 cm (47 5/8 x 59 13/16 in.), The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.107315.html

This painting is inspired by Caravaggio’s The Cheats in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Le Valentin’s painting, only discovered in 1989, shows a group of soldiers idling in Rome and identifiable by their piecemeal armor and other livery. The crowding of the figures into the picture space adds to the scene’s tension.

In this early painting in Rome, Le Valentin presents a scene of its contemporary street life. These figures are seriously gaming at a table where two players (center and right) roll dice and two others (left and center) play cards. A fifth figure in the background signals to his accomplice what is in the hand of the card player in a feathered hat. It is an early artwork that Le Valentin gives a psychological dimension.

As had been Caravaggio’s practice, the artwork is painted alla prima, that is, directly onto the prepared canvas without under-drawing or any preliminary work which works to give it greater spontaneity. The painting is indebted to Caravaggio not only for its subject, but for its vivid sense of actuality with which Le Valentin invested his protagonists as well as for the chiaroscuro, and a thinly and rapidly-applied brushed execution.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, Coulommiers-en-Brie 1591–1632 Rome). Cardsharps. c. 1614-15. Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
https://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/Details/Index/415366

This painting is one of the first genre pictures Le Valentin painted in Rome. It is a pair of figures to which Le Valentin would soon numerically expand in his pictures. The composition is simple and sturdy.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Herminia among the Shepherds, c. 1630, oil on canvas, 134.6 x 185.6 cm (53 1/8 x 61 5/8”) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/RQ4XPr8410 

Erminia, the king’s daughter, escapes her persecutors and asks a peaceful shepherd family for shelter. The scene is based on a contemporary (1576) epic poem The Liberated Jerusalem by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The picture was a private commission whose patron was likely a Roman art collector and cognoscente. Valentin’s painting combines Caravaggesque chiaroscuro with exquisite coloring. In this realistic depiction of a human encounter between characters who represent contrasting social experiences, the subject matter is rendered psychologically sensitively.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning of thorns of Christ, around 1616/17, oil on canvas, 173 x 241 cm Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich
https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/bwx0jkJGm8

One of the great artworks of Le Valentin’s early phase in Rome, biblical subjects painted before 1620 such as The Crowning of Thorns of Christ were interpreted in the street-life idiom, with expressive protagonists and bystanders resembling the cast of characters in his genre paintings. Although the painting was earlier believed to be by Caravaggio, it may have been a pendant to Le Valentin’s much-later Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (c. 1629) in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This is Le Valentin’s most ambitious of 3 such “crowning with thorns” pictures. The artist in horizontal-format depicts Jesus before his going to Calvary. Christ is mocked and tormented; a crown of thorns is pressed onto his head (Matthew 27: 27-31; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:11; John 19: 1-3). With its dramatic lighting and shadows, the naturalistic depiction of Christ’s body and soldiers in contemporary costume is Caravaggesque.

Le Valentin’s scene adheres to the Bible episode: a whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Jesus, stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak on  him. Henchmen have weaved a crown out of thorns and are placing it on Jesus’s head. Another puts a reed as a faux scepter into Jesus’s right hand. To mock him they kneel before him and say: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The soldiers spit on Jesus and then take the reed away and strike him repeatedly with it. When they were done with these violent actions, the soldiers stripped Jesus of the military cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him out to be crucified.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning with Thorns, around 1627/28, oil on canvas, 51 15/16 × 37 15/16 in. (132 × 96.3 cm) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Dn4ZR224aK/valentin-de-boulogne/dornenkroenung-und-verspottung-christi

Le Valentin’s Passion theme is a later vertical-format picture of a subject he had painted masterly before. In these last years the subject matter had gained in classical beauty as well as psychological involvement compared to Le Valentin’s earlier artwork. The painting covers over a discarded portrait of Cardinal Barberini which suggests Valentin’s close relationship with the ecclesial prince, very likely being in his employ. What caused the artist to revisit the subject of a brutalized Christ is unclear though it may have been based on the artist’s own struggles or that of his employer whose portrait he painted over.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Noli me tangere  c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Christ and the Samaritan Woman c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, 1622/24, oil on canvas, 195 x 261 cm, Prado, Madrid. Spain.

St. Laurence (d. 258) became a popular early Roman martyr. Laurence has been continually honored by the church since the 4th century and is a patron of Rome.

In the mid 3rd century, Laurence was a deacon to a new pope, Sixtus II (257-258). Sixtus II was martyred along with his seven deacons, including Laurence, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Valerian (199-264).

Following the pope’s martyrdom, Laurence was arrested and ordered to collect and hand over church treasures to the secular authority. Instead, Laurence distributed any goods to Rome’s poor which infuriated the emperor against him. These paupers appeared in Le Valentin’s painting to the left.

The emperor ordered the Catholic deacon to sacrifice to Rome’s gods which Laurence refused to do (in prison Laurence converted his guard). Laurence was martyred after being tortured and then roasted alive over a fire on a spit. The saint is famously quoted as telling his executioners: “One side is roasted, so you can turn me over and roast the other side.”

In the Prado Le Valentin gives orderly arrangement to a complex scene of 15 figures and a horse. It shows the saint during his martyrdom isolated in the center of the composition. As with Caravaggio’s figures, the soldiers are in modern costume, use of chiaroscuro is evident, and further drama is added by the use of diagonals whose construction suggest movement that add to the tension of the naturally rendered figures. However, Le Valentin uses these derived elements unconventionally.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), St Luke, Evangelist, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 120 x 146 cm, Palace of Versailles, Versailles.
Detail. St. Luke Evangelist. Le Valentin.

Dating from the years 1624-1626, le Valentin painted all four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the same religious order in Rome whose name is unknown. They entered the collections of the Sun King in 1670.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Last Supper, c. 1625, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

For his The Last Supper, Le Valentin was, at least through engravings, aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (c. 1495–1498) in Milan and Raphael’s Last Supper (1518-1519) in Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. Le Valentin explores the 12 apostles’ reactions. Commissioned by Asdrubale Mattei (d. 1638), one of Rome’s nobili, to decorate a gallery in his family’s palace, the picture depicts a central event presented in the gospels. The moment that is depicted in these Last Supper paintings is when Christ announces that one of his disciples will betray him. Judas, in the foreground left, was treasurer for Jesus’s disciples and betrayed Jesus for a bribe payment of 30 pieces of silver. The picture, with its simple and monumental composition, so impressed Jacques-Louis David  (1748-1825) in 1779 that he copied it and sent it from Rome to Paris.

Portrait of Asdrubale Mattei di Giove, 17th century, attributed to Caravaggio, Condé Museum, Chantilly, France.
https://www.musee-conde.fr/fr/notice/pe-61-portrait-d-asdrubale-mattei-di-giove-1318fe15-3a5f-48ef-9486-e6920ed8d0b8
Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631, Oil on canvas, 135.6 x 102.8 cm (53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in.), The Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1972.50

An Old Testament Judge, Samson was born in a miraculous fashion and with an angel telling his mother and father, “No razor shall touch his head” (Judges 13:5). Samson is often depicted with his locks unshorn. As a youth Samson displayed an incredible physical strength attributed to “the spirit of the Lord rushing upon him” (Judges 14:6).

Le Valentin’s picture presents Samson’s legendary strength by showing the solid demeanor of his physical body as well as objects which hold symbolic value of his strength. These include that he killed a lion with his bare hands and liberated the Israelites by slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15: 15-16). The strength of his arm is displayed as his fingers curl under his jaw as his wandering gaze looks off with intense interiority. One contemporary allusion in the painting is Samson’s breastplate which is joined at the shoulder by a clasp in the form of a bee which was the emblem of the Barberini family who commissioned the painting. It is speculated that the facial features of Samson in a picture before his fateful meeting with Delilah (Judges 16), may be a self-portrait of Le Valentin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), Judith with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1626-27. Oil on canvas. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

The story of Judith in the Old Testament relates of a woman of great beauty and reverence to the God of Israel who is highly respected by her people and its leaders. The nation, desperate for survival, turns to Judith who is given the opportunity to kill their enemy’s military leader which she believes she can and must do and that all believed impossible as Israel’s military defeat by their enemies was a foregone conclusion.

The story has a femme fatale aspect as Holofernes was captivated by Judith’s physical appearance, but the Biblical episode of the execution, while a climax of her mission, pales in comparison with the relating of Judith’s overall dedication to her people and her God, a femme forte, which carries on into her long life of blessedness to her natural death. Le Valentin chooses that sacred element of the Bible book when he shows an iconic Judith, triumphant woman of Israel, holding in her hands the decapitated head of one of Israel’s once-formidable mortal enemies. Judith is shown as a heroic woman with her hand raised as she admonishes: “But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.”

For Le Valentin’s artwork, Judith is an icon of God’s justice to his obedient people. Purchased for French King Louis XIV from German banker Everhard Jabach, the picture was installed in the king’s bedroom at Versailles to be especially admired.

The picture belongs to Le Valentin’s period of maturity for it displays the artist’s full interpretation of the realism of Caravaggio and Manfredi though, as expressed here, with a new appreciation for colors. The pretext of a Judith who, according to the Bible, had adorned herself in her best finery so not to dissuade Holofernes’s gaze (Judith, 13, 14), allows le Valentin to illuminate the dress’s rich fabrics with monochrome refractions, while the jewels and hair are bathed in ethereal light.

Detail. Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), David with the head of Goliath, c. 1615/16, oil on canvas, 99 x 134 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid,
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Four Ages of Man, c. 1627/30, oil on canvas,. London, National Gallery.
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/valentin-de-boulogne-the-four-ages-of-man

The Four Ages of Man is a painting commissioned by Cardinal Barberini. It is an allegorical work whose human figures are painted by Le Valentin in natural poses. Groups of figures around a table were common in the work of Caravaggio and his northern followers. The allegory of the ages of man was a common subject for paintings during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, though its quantity of ages varied.

The allegory presents humanity in four categories of age – childhood (holding an empty bird trap); youth (playing a lute); adulthood (with a book and victor’s laurel); old age (with coins of wealth and delicate glassware).

The theme had its origin in classical literature: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Inferno acknowledged the stages of human life according to physical growth and decline. Contemporary poems were written on the subject that Le Valentin may have known.

In the 17th century, the painting was owned by Michel Particelli, seigneur d’Emery (1596–1650) in Paris. In the 18th century it was in the Orléans collection at the Palais Royal. During the French Revolution and the dispersal of the collection in 1791, the painting was brought to England where it is today.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ Expelling the Merchants from the Temple c. 1626. 192 x 266.5 cm, oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/8276ab63-4bcc-40e9-83ab-91aa57903031/WOA_IMAGE_1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&1677c4b2-bad6-47ed-b628-27cda4f71809

Le Valentin painted many half- or three-quarter-length figures of saints, prophets and narrative scenes including this painting. The scene of Christ expelling the moneychangers from the Temple of Jerusalem is told in all four gospels of the New Testament. Le Valentin adapted the method of half-length, full size street figures depicted in dark, precisely lighted spaces and emerging in relief from the shadows from the Caravaggistes.

Gospel readers would recognize that the cleansing of the temple was prophesied in the Old Testament as a  sign of the ushering in of the Messianic Age (Zechariah 14:21). In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the episode appears at the close of Jesus’s public ministry and in John’s gospel at the start (2:13-17). The chronology of the episode in Jesus‘ ministry is generally not considered its most important element.

Le Valentin shows the “whip of cords” held by Christ, a detail mentioned only in John (Jn 2:15). There are overturned tables, a bench, and scattered coins. Le Valentin depicts the gestures, movements and emotions of the characters involved, focused on a wrathful Christ and fear of the unrighteous.

While in Synoptics the point of the episode appears to be the dishonesty of the Temple money changers, in John’s gospel Jesus’s wrath is directed to the Temple institution itself. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares the Temple is to be “My Father’s house.” Though not a term unique to John, he uses it more than any other Gospel writer (27 times).

Derived from Caravaggio are the types of ordinary people, distinct contrasts of light and shade and the natural plasticity of the figures involved in the composition.

The painting entered the Hermitage collection in 1772.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple. Oil on canvas, 195 x 260 cm (76 ¾ x 103 1/8 in.). Palazzo Corsini, Rome.

The painting’s structural asymmetry lends energy to the scene. With Christ’s raised arm, he is a menace to the money changers. Le Valentin, taking inspiration from Caravaggio, unabashedly renders a scene in grand format of violence in the gospels. The painting was rediscovered in Rome in the mid19th century.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante – Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation. https://irfrome.org/en/villa-lante-4/architecture/salone-en/

The oil painting called Allegoria d’Italia by Le Valentin was originally called Historia d’Italia. Its massive volumes imbued with inner life are rendered using a brown palette and highlights that retained the Caravaggiste tradition. Le Valentin’s redoubling his commitment to Caravaggio in the late 1620s was on display in this painting as other leading painters, such as Vouet, Poussin, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) and Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669), were deploying brighter “modern” colors.

In March 1628 Cardinal Barberini gave Le Valentin the commission for the Extraordinary Jubilee of 1628 and paid 113 crowns for it. This major painting which renewed Caravaggio-inspired technique in the late 1620s attracted greater attention to Le Valentin’s artwork not only by Caravaggeschi but the broader Roman art circles.

A young Roman girl wears an emperor’s cuirass, holds a spear and shield, as the personification of Italy. At her feet are the fruit and nuts of the land’s bounty. Below her image are two male figures, naked and bearded, who represent the Tiber and the Arno, Italy’s great rivers. The figure of the Tiber is joined by Romulus and Remus and the suckling wolf who founded Rome and the later Papal States. The Arno that runs through Florence is joined by its symbol of the lion. In the top left corner, a tree stump with a bee swarm symbolizes the Barberini.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ and the Adulteress,, 1618-22, oil on canvas, 167 x 221.3 cm, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  https://museum-essays.getty.edu/paintings/ebeeny-valentin/

The gospel story that Le Valentin depicts using the typical Caravaggiste method (half-length, full size street figures in shadow and light) is from John 8. The story had been painted by the Flemish and the Venetians. The plump young woman in a torn garment exposing her shoulders and full-formed breasts is taken into custody by soldiers in armor to Jesus. According to the law the woman should be publicly stoned for adultery. The Pharisees lay verbal and other traps repeatedly in the gospels for Jesus to say or do something that is expungable. Jesus’s response moves past their premise. Whereas Jesus will soon be arrested, tried, and condemned by the authorities for his “transgressions,” the focus of le Valentin’s artwork is Jesus showing mercy to the sinful woman. From a theological viewpoint, Jesus’s innovative teaching is again based on the appeal to an extant biblical tradition of God’s anger towards, and forgiveness of, harlotry or unfaithfulness when such sin is repented (Hosea 5:4). Jesus tells her: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). While the woman’s disheveled look suggests the nature of her sin, she represents humankind and points to Christ, the God-Man and prophesied suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Christ  takes the harlot’s place as the arrested agitator and manhandled by soldiers along the Via Dolorosa. In that episode, Christ goes to the cross to shed his blood in the new covenant whose outcome for “adulterous” humankind is  eternal forgiveness of sins and rising to new life.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Lute Player, c. 1625/26, 128.3 x 99.1 cm The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/439933

The image of a young soldier singing in armor breastplate a love madrigal is unique in Valentin’s oeuvre. The painting was part of the collection of Cardinal Mazarin, minister to Louis XIV.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1615–16, oil on canvas, 59 1/16 × 70 1/16 in. (150 × 178 cm), Museo della Venerabile Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, Florence.

One of Jesus’s most famous parables, The Prodigal Son tells the story of a young man who demanded his “full share of [his father’s] estate that should come to [him],” and departed to waste it “on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15). When the lost son falls on hard times, he seeks his father’s house though “only as a hired servant.” The forgiving father who has been on the look-out for his lost son (dressed in rags) since the day of his departure welcomes him back as a son “who was dead and has come back to life.” Which of the other figures may be the older brother who is unhappy about his dissolute brother’s return is not clear. Le Valentin treats the parable as a human story of repentance, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Fortune-Teller with Soldiers, 58 7/8 x 93 7/8 in. (149.5 x 238.4 cm), Toledo Museum of Art.
http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54884/fortuneteller-with-soldiers?ctx=99a0dbca-6a24-444e-a66b-95c576c7395c&idx=1

The attribution to Le Valentin and its dating for this artwork is the result of modern scholarship. Art historians can thereby draw conclusions and make conjectures about the development of Le Valentin’s early artwork in Rome -he uses a larger format, growing complexity of compositional qualities and its subject matter, and the retention of low-life characters and stylistic indebtedness to Caravaggio as he moves beyond him.

A dark tavern filled with low-life characters provides the setting for a scene of fortune and deceit. As a gypsy fortuneteller reads the palm of a young soldier he is looking pensively as she speaks his fate, there are carousers and thieves in the scene.  The picture is emblematic of Le Valentin – the techniques of a somber palette and dramatic lighting and tabletop groupings but also a mysterious mood and psychological depth to the complex interplay among its characters.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Portrait of Roman Prelate, 128 x 94 cm, private collection.

The prelate is dressed in the robes of a papal chamberlain. Modern scholarship has proposed various individuals as the sitter from cardinals to lawyers.

Denial of St. Peter, c. 1623/25, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 119 x 172 cm.
https://collection.pushkinmuseum.art/entity/PERSON/273?query=valentin%20de%20boulogne&index=0
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, 1629/32, 149.2 x 186.1 cm The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/works/8394/
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Moses, 1625/27. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 131 x 103.5 cm. https://www.khm.at/en/objectdb/detail/2012/

Moses led the Israelites out the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land during the Exodus. The event is told and retold in the Old Testament and Moses as Liberator and Law Giver is its most significant figure. Le Valentin shows him holding a miraculous rod that he used  to open the Red Sea (Exodus 14), struck the rock to produce water (Numbers 20) and, after its transformation into an iron snake, healed the ill (Numbers 21). Moses points to the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments of God (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). This late work by Valentin is characteristic in its dark and pensive tone that is reminiscent of Caravaggio.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632),Cheerful company with Fortune Teller, 190 × 267cm, oil on canvas, 1631 Vienna Liechtenstein.
https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/collections-online/cheerful-company-with-fortune-teller
Detail. Cheerful Company with Fortune Teller. Le Valentin.

The picture is one of Valentin’s last paintings before his death in 1632. Prince Hans Adam Il von und zu Liechtenstein (b. 1945) acquired the work in 2004.  Throughout his painting career, Le Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collection of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Philip Conisbee and Frances Gage, Washington, D.C., 2009 pp, 413-414.

Art for the Nation, text by Philip Conisbee, National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, 2000.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663663

https://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/valentin-de-boulogne

https://arthistorians.info/bousquet

https://arthistorians.info/hoogewerffg

https://arthistorians.info/longhir

https://www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de/documents/obj/05011488/rba_d054126_01

The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Corp, New York, 1993.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

The Liberation of Jerusalem, Torquato Tasso, trans by Max Wicker, Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pieere Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/hauts-de-france/somme/amiens/six-tableaux-de-la-chambre-du-roi-du-chateau-de-versailles-exceptionnellement-exposes-au-musee-de-picardie-2620412.html

https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/

Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J,  and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm.,The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1968.

Lehmbeck, Leah, editor. Gifts of European Art from The Ahmanson Foundation. Vol. 2, French Painting and Sculpture. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019.

Marandel, J. Patrice and Gianni Papi. 2012. Caravaggio and his Legacy. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Fried, Michael. After Caravaggio. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Schmid, Vanessa I., with Julia Armstrong-Totten. The Orléans Collection. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art; Lewes: In association with D. Giles, 2018.

Merle Du Bourg, Alexis. “L’omniprésence de la musique.” Dossier de L’Art no.246 (2017): 64-67.

EUGÈNE BOUDIN (1824-1898): French Impressionist artist who was “King of The Skies!”

FEATURE image: Eugène Boudin, The Beach at Villerville, 1864, Oil on canvas, 18 × 30 1/16 in. (45.7 × 76.4 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In 1893, in the last years of his long and successful art career, 69-year-old Eugène Boudin returned to the Normandy coast for which this French painter of skies and beaches is rightly associated. It was at this time that he painted Sunset on the Beach (below) in a private collection. After Boudin began to be widely collected in the 1870’s and 1880’s he traveled and lived and worked far away from the region where he was born and grew up and had embarked on a career as an artist. Yet, as soon as the mid-to-late 1850’s, important artists and writers were already appreciating the sensitivity to which Boudin painted artwork in nature. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) believed he could identify with precision the season and hour of Boudin’s subject matter. Realist painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who once said “show me an angel and I will paint him” called Boudin a “seraph.” Remarkably, Barbizon painter Camille Corot (1796-1875) exclaimed: “Boudin, you are king of the skies!”

Eugène Boudin (1824-1898), Sunset on the Beach, oil on canvas, 1893, private collection. 

Throughout the mid-to-late nineteenth century, Boudin’s subject matter was timeless land, sea and skyscapes which he sometimes populated with contemporary human figures in modern bourgeois costume and dress. Often, the landscapes are devoid of human presence excepting the artist’s gaze.

Eugène Boudin, White Clouds over the Estuary, c.1857.
Eugène Boudin, Crinolines on the Beach, 1863.
Eugène Boudin, Douarnenez, Fishing Boats at Dockside, 1855.
Eugène Boudin, Deauville, Low Tide, c.1863.
Eugène Boudin, The Beach at Villerville, 1864, Oil on canvas, 18 × 30 1/16 in. (45.7 × 76.4 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Boudin was a friend of the Impressionists and exhibited in their first exhibition in Paris in 1874. Claude Monet (1840-1926), born in Paris, also grew up in Normandy. Boudin and Monet painted together en plein aire as each sought, discovered, and honed their artistic styles.

Eugène Boudin ,Seascape with Large Sky, 1860.

Boudin did not think of himself primarily as an avant-garde artist and did not exhibit in the Impressionist exhibitions after 1874. Yet, with these Impressionists, Boudin’s artwork depicted light and its reflections, especially its darker filaments, in preference to volumes and forms.

In addition to beach scenes, skies, sea, and countryside, Boudin painted still life, animals, and a few portraits. In the 1870s Boudin painted harbors and ships. In his subject matter his pictures presented a complete and even-handed depiction, evocative of eighteenth-century genre paintings.

Eugène Boudin, Spray of Flowers – Hollyhocks, 1858.
Eugène Boudin, study of cows, c. 1860.
Eugène Boudin, Vue de Trouville, 1873.
Eugène Boudin, Entrance to the Harbor, Le Havre, 1883, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Slightly older Dutch painter Johan Jongkind (1819-1891) had encouraged Boudin to paint outdoors. Boudin, now surrounded by nature, became increasingly spontaneous in his artwork and used brighter colors.1

Eugène Boudin, Trouville, Shore and Rocks, c.1862.

In 1859, 35-year-old Eugène Boudin, the painter of seascapes and beaches, made his debut at the Salon. The annual Salon began in the late 17th century (1667). It was sponsored by the monarchy and highlighted artwork of members of the Academie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The all-important Salon operated in this basic form for almost 200 years. It was held  irregularly at first (frequently there would be no exhibition held for years) though between 1774 to 1792 the Salon was held biennially.

This elite Salon was a competitive platform for artists to display their work where the goal was to gain public and private commissions. The Salon was the sole venue in France for contemporary fine art and was popular to visit by a cross-section of society where many purchased the livret, the Salon’s official catalogue. In 1795 during the French Revolution the historically royal venue was opened to all artists. This more inclusive Salon experience led to the extension of official French art’s influence throughout Europe. In the Salon of 1800, American artists exhibited for the first time.2

Between 1864 and 1879 Boudin exhibited in the Salon every year.However, important critics, such as the influential Albert Wolff (1835-1891), ignored Boudin for much of this time. It was in 1881, 22 years after Boudin’s Salon debut, that M. Wolff published an article in Le Figaro that led to Boudin’s greater official recognition.4 

In the last decades of the 19th century, Boudin exhibited yearly from 1880 to 1889 at the Salon des Société des Artistes Françaisand, with a single exception, from 1890 to 1897 at the Société National des Beaux-Arts.6  Some of Boudin’s works were bought by the State in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s.7 Ernest Chesneau (1833-1890) had written on Boudin in Paris-Journal that while the painter was ignored by official art world critics he was a “real talent” among the Salon’s “latest banalties.”

In 1881 control of the Salon was ceded to the Société des Artistes Français. In the 1880’s and 1890’s there were several groups outside the Salon who mounted exhibitions. These included the one-time Salon des Refusés in 1863, the Société des Artistes Indépendants or Salon des Indépendants, beginning in summer 1884, and the salons of the Société nationale des beaux-arts, from 1890. These types of independent, unofficial exhibitions, continued into the 20th century with the Salon d’automne in 1903.8

In 1859 Boudin met Gustave Courbet who introduced Boudin to the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire. Courbet, painting at Boudin’s side, exclaimed: “Mon Dieu, you are a seraph, Boudin! You are the only one of us who really knows the sky!” In 1861 Boudin met Camille Corot who called Boudin the “king of the skies.”

Eugène Boudin, Elegant Women on the Beach, 1863.

Charles Baudelaire noted in 1859 that  he had seen in Boudin’s studio “hundreds of pastel studies improvised before the sea and the sky.” Baudelaire described these artworks as “the prodigious magic of air and water.”9 The economy of Boudin’s artwork with its summary figures of modern life attracted Baudelaire’s praise during the 1859 Salon. Baudelaire became convinced, when looking at a Boudin painting, that he could identify the season, hour and wind direction of the subject matter depicted in pastel or paint.10

Eugène Boudin, Near Honfluer, c.1856.

At the Impressionist Exhibition of 1874, the critic Castagnary (1830-1888), author of “The Triumph of Naturalism” in 1868, wrote on Boudin in Le Siècle. He cited “the very high prices” that Boudin was experiencing as collectors “fought over” his beach scenes and seascapes. Castagnary concluded in 1874 that the 50-year-old Boudin had “commanded respect for years.”11 In 1868 Boudin’s auction of 40 paintings and 100 watercolors and pastels at the Hôtel Drouot had been quite successful. That same year Boudin won a silver medal at the Exposition maritime international exhibiting with Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), Monet and Édouard Manet (1832-1883).

In 1874, Marc de Montifaud (Marie Amélie Chartroule, 1850-c.1912), art critic for L’Artiste and soon to found L’Art modern magazine in 1875 (and which merged with Les Beaux-Arts in 1877) cited the titles of a few paintings by Boudin out of the 13 works he exhibited which included watercolors and pastels. Yet De Montifaud’s placement of Boudin’s work under the category of “marine paintings,” did little to elucidate exact canvasses when the time came later to identify such.12

In the 1860’s Paris dealers such as Martin, Hagerman and Gauchez were regularly buying his work. Boudin’s growing reputation and financial security enabled him to travel extensively in the 1870s and 1880s. Boudin, who married Marie-Ane Guédès in 1863, painted in Belgium, the Netherlands and southern France in that period. From 1892 to 1895 he regularly visited Italy, traveling to Venice. In addition to being awarded medals at the Salon, the Exposition Universelle in 1889, and other exhibitions, Boudin, in 1881, became represented by Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).

Eugène Boudin, Place Ary Scheffer, Dordrecht, 1884, oil on panel 27×21.5 cm Dordrecht Museum, Netherlands.

In the late 1870s Boudin, then without dealer representation, held several auctions of his artwork which produced varying sales results. In 1881, Durand-Ruel bought all of Boudin’s studio inventory. In 1883 Boudin had a solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s that featured 150 paintings, and pastels and watercolors and in 1886 an exhibition of 23 works at Durand-Ruel’s in New York City. From July 8 to August 14, 1889 – the year Boudin’s wife died – the artist staged a one-man exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s featuring 98 pictures.13 In 1890 Boudin held an exhibition at Durand Ruel’s in Boston featuring 13 paintings and a solo exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s with 34 paintings, and as many pastels and several drawings in 1891.

Eugène Boudin, Le port d’Antibes, 1893, Musée d’ Orsay.

As a refuge for his ill-health, Boudin lived in the south of France for many years but finally returned to Deauville. In 1898 Boudin died at 74 years old under the skies of La Manche which he had been inspired to paint often.

In 1892 Eugène Boudin was made a knight of the Légion d’honneur which recognized the artist’s talent and influence on the art of his contemporaries. Today, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts gives the Eugène Boudin Prize.

Eugène Boudin, Étretat 1891,Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

After Boudin’s death, his artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1899, The École des Beaux Arts held a major retrospective with 457 works (including 364 paintings, 73 pastels, and 20 watercolors). Boudin was praised by art critics Roger Marx (1859-1913), Arsène Alexandre (1859-1937), and Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), among others,

Despite the artist’s modest consideration for his art, Boudin was viewed in retrospect by 20th century’s critics as an initiator of the avant-garde, though he did not quite ascend to the turbulent aesthetic heights of Manet and Monet.14. 

In 1872, art critic Louis Duranty (1833 -1880) published a short story that included fictional and historical characters including artists such as Boudin, Manet, Corot, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Courbet. Of Boudin, Duranty wrote: “Here is a simple, sagacious, conscientious mind who puts forward (the artwork’s) feeling in gray, fine, fair notes.” 

Eugène Boudin by Pierre Petit.

NOTES:

1. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986, p. 25.

2. https://www.artic.edu/library/discover-our-collections/research-guides/paris-salons-1673present – retrieved 12.18.21

https://libguides.northwestern.edu/Paris_Salons.

https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865

3. https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865.

4. http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/node/1004  – retrieved 12.18.21

5. https://aic-web-cms-uploads.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/a5e4dc98-98fb-4a3a-a905-bc210551e9b6/ParisSalonGuide.pdf

6. J. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986; https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865.

7. J. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986.

8. https://libguides.northwestern.edu/Paris_Salons – retrieved 12.18.21

9. Corot- Rewald, John, The History of Impressionism, v.1, MoMA, 1973, p.61; http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/collections/artworks-in-context/eugene-boudin/boudin-study-sky – retrieved 12.18.21.

10. https://www.impressionism.nl/boudin-eugene/ – retrieved 12.18.21.

11. Charles S. Moffett, The New Painting, 1986, p.125.

12. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG203075

13. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k3260963/f21.item

14. (http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/node/1004 – retrieved 12.18.21

FRENCH ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm).

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait Louis XII, c. 1514, Windsor collections de S.M. la Reine d’Angleterre.

Jean Perréal’s most important attribution is this portrait of Louis XII who was King of France from 1498 to 1515. Louis XII was married three times – the first annulled; the second leaving the king a widower, and, in his last three months of life, to Mary Tudor (1496-1533), the favorite sister of King Henry VIII of England. Despite these wives, the king had no living sons. The Salic Law prohibited his line to continue on the French throne through his daughters. When Louis died in 1515, his throne eventually passed to his cousin, Francis I.

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait of a woman, c. 1500, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010059108
Detail of above.

Jean Perréal (c.1455-1530) was Court painter to the Bourbons and later worked for the kings of France starting with Charles VII. Perréal journeyed to Italy several times. In 1514 he went to London to paint Mary Tudor’s portrait and supervise her new dresses as Mary, aged 18 years, sister of the English king, married the 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.

Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles protects a wounded deer for Charles Martel, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak, 63.4 × 48.4 cm.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510),Virgin with Child, c. 1500, Louvre.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles’ Mass, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak.

The Master of Saint Giles was a Flemish or Flemish-trained painter who was active in France. He is named after artworks in London attributed to the artist called Scenes from the Legend of St. Giles. As the artist’s identity is obscure, the saint depicted in his artwork is shrouded in legend.

St. Giles is possibly an 8th century hermit in France who became the patron saint of beggars, the handicapped, and blacksmiths which was an important trade in the Middle Ages. In one work, the artist depicts a famous story about St. Giles. Before King Flavius’s hunting party, he protected a deer from their bows and arrows. The king was apologetic and Giles persuaded him to establish a Provençal monastery in which St. Giles served as its first abbot.

Le Rosso (1494-1540), La Fontaine de Jouvence, c 1535, fresco, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Galerie Francois I.

France conducted wars in Italy starting in 1494 that continued into the 16th century. By this pugilistic means, many of the Italian Renaissance’s ideas and practices were brought back to France. It had been just the opposite in the 12th century when French ideas, particularly that of troubadours and chivalry, were brought back to Italy following trade expeditions by merchants.

After fighting ceased, King Francis I invited Italian artists into France, most famously Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 1516. Following more war in Spain, Francis I began in earnest a revolution in art in France in 1526. The king made the Château de Fontainebleau one of the most active artistic centers in Europe, attracting many Italian artists such as Le Rosso (1495-1540) and Primaticcio or Primatice (c. 1504-1570). The French Renaissance, under the influence of these Italian masters, synthesized French and Italian art whose style was later described as the School of Fontainebleau.

Le Rosso or Rosso Fiorentino was a friend of Pontormo (1494-1557) and worked under Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530), a founder of Italian Mannerism. He first worked in Florence (1513-1523) and then in Rome (1524-1527). With the sack of Rome in 1527 by German troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), Rosso wandered about Italy for a while. In 1530 he was in Venice and, in that same year, went to France.

Rosso arrived to Fontainebleau and, with Primaticcio, became one of the founders of the Fontainebleau style which had a tremendous influence on French painting. Reputedly a neurotic person, Rosso’s death was accounted a suicide by Vasari though that is unconfirmed. The classic style found in Rosso’s The Fountain of Youth was increasingly replaced by his later emotionally charged style.

https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/en/espace-groupe/visites-scolaires-chateau-de-fontainebleau/les-dossiers-pedagogiques/la-renaissance/

Le Rosso (1494-1540), Pietà, c. 1540, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061332

Primaticcio (c.1504-1570) was a founder of the Fontainebleau School in France with his fellow Italian artist Le Rosso in the 1530s. Primaticcio was a talented artist of universal range – from painting and interior decoration to sculpture and architecture.

From the mid1520s to 1532 Primiticcio trained in Mantua under Giulio Romano (c. 1499-1546). He was called to France by King Francis I in 1532 where he worked at Fontainebleau with Le Rosso. Between 1540 and 1542 the artist represented the king in Italy on an art buying expedition. In that time when he was away Rosso died, and Primiticcio, upon his return to France, began working with Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571) at Fontainebleau. It was in this period that he produced decorations in the galerie d’Ulysses that have been lost. In 1546, and again in 1563, Primaticcio went to Italy where on one trip he made casts of Michelangelo’s sculpture and in the other met Vasari.

Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm). http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54742/ulysses-and-penelope?ctx=2f264d6c-812c-4e21-83c3-07cd963ab760&idx=0

The style of the painting is Mannerist which predominated in the 16th century. Mannerists went beyond the depiction of nature to flights of imagination and invention. For a stylistic statement, forms were twisting and elongated giving them greater pliability. Mannerists rejected the High Renaissance’s reliance on strict perspective and symmetry and preferred to construct compressed spaces with shaded tones, harsh colors, and the overall feeling of dreaming while awake.

After battling the Trojans and other subsequent troubled adventures, Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) has returned home to his wife, the faithful Penelope. Into the night, the reunited lovers recount their lives apart from one another. While Penelope counts the number of suitors on her hands who she held at bay, Ulysses cradles her chin in a gesture of tenderness and compassion. The composition is based on one of 58 wall frescos of scenes from Homer’s Odyssey at the palace of Fontainebleau near Paris. Unfortunately, the Gallery of Ulysses, Primaticcio’s masterpiece, was destroyed in 1738 after it had been allowed to decay over 200 years.

A kneeling woman, gathering wheat in sheaves, attributed to Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl020005673
Mascarade de Persépolis, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020005563

A preparatory drawing by Primaticcio in the Louvre for a lost composition of the cycle of L’Histoire d’Alexandre painted in the Room of the Duchess of Etampes in Fontainebleau. It was the masquerade that brought about the fire in Persepolis, an historic event that took place in 330 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Persian Empire following the battle of Guagamela the year before.

It is not disputed in history that after Alexander arrived to the Persian capital city of Persepolis it was looted and burned to the ground, destroying many great cultural treasures. Though recorded by several historians, accounts vary. The first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that while drunk during a large celebration with his companions, attendants and  courtesans, Alexander himself started the fire as the rest joined in. (see – https://www.worldhistory.org/article/214/alexander-the-great–the-burning-of-persepolis/

Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571), The Death of Eurydice, c. 1550s-1560s, oil on canvas, 189.2 × 237.5 cm, National Gallery London.

Niccolò dell’Abbate was from Modena in Italy. He was influenced by the sculptural and optical illusion achieved in the artwork of Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). He was also influenced by Correggio (1489-1534), a master of chiaroscuro. By 1552 dell’ Abbate was in France helping Primaticcio at Fontainebleau with the royal chateau’s interior decorations though most of his artwork has disappeared. The Death of Eurydice is a fine example of the Mannerist landscape which the artist is responsible for having introduced into France.

Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), Le triomphe de Flore (The Triumph of Flora), private collection (Vicenza).

Le Maître de Flore is a  French painter of the mid16th century Fontainebleau School. The use of the moniker Maître de Flore derives from this and another artwork.

Le Maître de Flore, The Birth of Cupid, after 1550, Oil on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437006?ft=master+of+flore&offset=0&rpp=40&pos=7

The painting above by the Master of Flore in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is seen as depicting the birth of Cupid, with attendants in the birthing room assisting Venus. The composition, which is animated and decorative, is an example of the School of Fontainebleau, the high art style developed in 16th century France by Italian artists under the sponsorship of the French king.

Attributed to Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), La Charité, c. 1552. Louvre.
https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065400.
School of Fontainebleau, Diana the Hunter, c. 1550, 75 5/8 x52 3/8 in. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010064749https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

Perhaps the most famous artwork to come out of the School of Fontainebleau is an anonymous work in the Louvre entitled Diana the Hunter. With influences of both Le Rosso and dell’ Abbate, Italian masters of the school, it is believed to depict Diana de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II.

School of Fontainebleau, Woman in her Toilet, c, 1550,  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon.

A recurring theme of the Italian masters and French artists in the 16th century is that of the naked woman, shown half-figure in her bath, or dressing. Some have an allegorical significance, others are combined with a portrait. This particular work which depicts some beauty of the day was so admired that there are known 16th century copies of it in Basel and in Massachusetts.

Jean Cousin the Elder (1490-1560), Saint Mammès coming to surrender to the court of the governor of Cappadocia, around 1541, tapestry, 440 × 450cm, Paris, Louvre Museum.

Jean Cousin was born in Sens and died in Paris. He was a French painter, engraver and sculptor.

St. Mammès was martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia around 275. In Asia Minor he was highly revered by early Christians. In the 8th century his relics were taken to France and into Langres cathedral. Around 1540, eight tapestries were produced for the cathedral chancel depicting scenes from the saint’s life. Three of the tapestries survive: two in Langres and one in the Louvre.

In the Louvre tapestry, St. Mammès is accompanied by a lion to visit Aurelian who condemned him to death. In the background building the saint’s execution is already taking place. The tapestry’s elements point to the wave of influence that was the Italian Renaissance: its expansive landscape; its compositional use of perspective; and its classicizing architecture and buildings’ decoration, all of which came together in Francis I’s School of Fontainebleau. The tapestry’s varied and nuanced use of color lend a painterly appearance to the woven artwork.

Pseudo Félix Chrétien (active 1535-37), Three men lower barrels into the cave, Städel Museum Frankfort.

The picture displays a scene at one of the likely nearby hôtels that housed merchants, diplomats and others so to be close by the king. It is evident by Félix Chrétien ‘s artwork that creative activity went far beyond the confines of the royal chateaux. Many painters whose names and works are unknown flourished in 16th century France. Italian Renaissance techniques are used in the painting such as its correctly rendered spatial perspective, realistic figural development, and the typical gestures found in the latest Franco-Italian Mannerist style.

Jean Clouet (1485-1540), François Ier, 1524, Louvre.

Jean Clouet was the Court Painter to King Francis I. While Clouet was an influential artist in the establishment of Renaissance portraiture in France, his only documented painted portrait is that of Francis I’s librarian, Guillaume Budé (1467–1540).

A leading humanist of the sixteenth century, Budé’s fingers hold his page and a quill in the midst of writing. The words on the page in Greek presents an epigram: “While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need.”

Jean Clouet, Guillaume Budé, c. 1536, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, oil on wood, 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm).

Jean Clouet, also called Jean Clouet II and Janet, was probably the son of a Flemish painter who was the Court Painter to the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Clouet II made a number of portrait drawings of the Court that survive, most in Chantilly.

Jean Clouet, Portrait of Admiral Bonnivet, c. 1516. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
French Anonymous, Head of a bearded man, capped with a hat, three-quarters to the right. End of 16th century. Louvre.
Francois Clouet (before 1520-1572), Portrait of Pierre Quthe, 1562, Louvre.

François Clouet was the son of Jean Clouet II and succeeded him as Court Painter to the king in 1541. Like his father, he was also called Janet and specialized in portrait drawings, most of which are housed in Chantilly. Francois Clouet’s first signed painting was the 1562 portrait of Pierre Quthe in the Louvre. Its style was influenced by the Florentine artists, particularly Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572).

François Clouet, A Lady in Her Bath, c. 1571, oil on oak, 92.3 × 81.2 cm (36 5/16 × 31 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The identity of Clouet’s model has long been debated. She may have been Marie Touchet, the mistress of Charles IX, or possibly Diane de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II. The painting is boldly composed as it evokes poses of Venus, the love goddess, found in Italian art but also in its presentation of fecundity such as the nurse suckling a child and a bowl of ripe fruit of the season. The raised curtain is a device used in royal portraiture though here it may be just decorative.

François Clouet, La reine Marguerite enfant, c. 1560, Chantilly.
Workshop of François Clouet, Marie de Gaignon, marquise de Boissy (1524-1565), c. 1550-1565, Louvre.
Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait de Marot, c. 1540, Louvre.

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574) was born in The Hague and worked in Lyons, France for over 30 years starting around 1540. A contemporary and rival of François Clouet (c. 1520-1574), Corneille de Lyon is well documented as a popular leading painter in the French style. As the artist did not sign or date his works, it is virtually impossible to positively identify his artwork. It was only in 1962 that his first work –and nearly all of them are miniature in scale – was positively identified. The nature of his work was described by contemporaries. In 1551 the Venetian ambassador who visited the artist’s studio observed: “We paid a call to an excellent painter who…showed us the whole Court of France, both gentleman and ladies, depicted with the utmost likeness on a great many small panels.”

Working in oil on wood panel, Corneille de Lyon was Peintre et Valet de Chambre du Roi to Henry II (1519-1559) and Charles IX (1550-1574). Corneille likely did paint the entire court. Portraits usually show half-length figures dressed in dark colors against a neutral, somewhat iridescent and greenish background. Groups of such portraits are of uneven quality marking studio artists supervised by the master. The precise drawing of facial features with its smooth planes and enamel-like techniques conveys sitters of placid expression whether their gaze is distant or engaged. Costumes are portrayed with detailed realism yet in a rich, modulated and less definite form.

Painter to the king since 1551, Corneille became a landowner by gift of the king in 1564. In June 1564 one of the artist’s high-born visitors to his home was Catherine de‘ Medici (1519-1589), then regent. Before his death in 1574, the Netherlandish-born Corneille, with his family and household, became Roman Catholics after working in the French Court for nearly 35 years.

https://en.wahooart.com/@@/8Y352R-Corneille-De-Lyon-Portrait-of-Gabrielle-de-Rochechouart
https://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/corneill/rochecho.html

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart, c. 1574, Oil on wood, 16.5 x 14 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Pierre Dumonstier “the Uncle” (c.1545-c.1610), Portrait of an Unknown Man, chalk drawing with watercolor, c. 1580, Musée Jacquemart-André.

Towards the close of the 16th century, there were two families of French artists who were active – namely, the Dumonstiers and the Quesnels.

The Dumonstiers were descendants of one of Le Rosso’s fellow workers at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Pierre Dumonstier (c.1545-c.1610) was one of three brothers, all of whom were portrait painters. The brothers had close links to the royal house, particularly to Catherine de’ Medici. Pierre produced several drawings, many in color giving them a somewhat painted appearance. Portrait of an Unknown Man is a chalk drawing with watercolor.

In terms of style, what in the beginning of the 16th century produced precise drawing of facial features in portraiture gave way by the end of the century to greater modeling fluency so to achieve intense expression. Portraiture’s overall format, however, remained constant: a face isolated on a neutral background rendered with close analytic attention.

The Quesnel artistic dynasty began with a court painter to James V of Scotland (1513-1542). One of that painter’s sons, François Quesnel (1543-1619), produced many drawings. His painted portrait of Mary Ann Waltham is signed and dated by the artist. Quesnel concentrates on rendering the face with the rest of the body and costume handled perfunctorily. This dichotomy of attention to form was the case in the drawings as well. It may be that the master produced the face in these portraits and left the body and costume to studio assistants.

François Quesnel (1543-1619), Mary Ann Waltham, 1572. 22 x17.5 in., Private, UK.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

FRENCH ART in the 15th Century.

FEATURE image: DETAIL, Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178

Anonymous master. Portrait of John le Bon (1319-1364) c. 1360. Musée de Louvre, Paris (“Louvre”).
Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178

Retable de Saint Denis, (above), was completed in 1416 for the church of the Charterhouse of Champmol that is adjacent to Dijon. The artwork’s attribution has long been debated between Bellechose and Jean Malouel (1370-1415). Written evidence points to Bellechose possibly only completing the painting started by Malouel who was Bellechose’s predecessor at the head of the ducal workshop. However, recent connoisseurship does not see two different styles that would indicate two painters and the artwork in the Louvre is not the same size as the artwork mentioned in the early 15th century document that supports the dual attribution.

DETAIL, Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178
Anonymous, École de Île-de-France? Bourgogne? Studio Henri Bellechose? Dead Christ Placed in the Tomb,
1400-1425. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065413
Anonymous master, The Annunciation, France, possibly Netherlands, late 14th century (1380s), tempera and oil with gold on wood, 15 7/8 x 12 3/8 x 1 7/8 in. Cleveland Museum of Art.

The angel Gabriel’s wings resemble peacock feathers. The panel painting was once joined to another panel to form a diptych. Its opulent ornate style and small size allowing for easy mobility points to its use as a devotional artwork for an aristocratic patron around 1400.

Anonymous, The Crowning of the Virgin, c. 1400-1410, Paris, oak on wood. 20.5 cm. Staatliche Museum, Berlin.

In Christian Biblical tradition, the Virgin Mary was the only human person to be received into heaven after her death as a physical body prior to the Last Judgment. By the Middle Ages, the event’s narrative was elaborated so that the Virgin in Heaven came to be understood as a royal court where angels acted as court pages. In Heaven’s throne room, Mary is crowned as Queen by her son, Jesus Christ.

In the French tondo, Christ wears a red cloak symbolizing his Resurrection and a violet robe symbolizing his Passion. He sits on a stone throne and sets the crown on his mother Mary’s head as she kneels on a splendid cushion.

Strewn on the green-tiled floor of the celestial throne room are a variety of cut flowers which point to Mary’s purity and love for humanity. One angel carries her dress’s train and is himself dressed in a liturgical-type costume.

The tiny panel is remarkable for its delicate execution, lovely colors, and precise articulation of details such as the angels’ multi-colored wings. Its overall imagery was 14th century Italian in origin and arrived into Paris in the 15th century. Like the Annunciation panel in the Cleveland Museum of Art (above), this panel was likely produced as a private devotional image for a patron of high rank who dwelt among the milieu of the Parisian court.

Les Frères de Limbourg, Meeting of the Three Wise Men c. 1416 from Les Très riches heures du duc de Berry folio 51 verso. Chantilly, Musée Condé.
Entourage des Frères de Limbourg. Adoration de L’Enfant, c. 1415, Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.
Maître des heures de Rohan (active 1410-1435), The Last Judgment c. 1420, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale.
Maître des heures de Rohan, Annunciation Angel and donor, c. 1420/30, Musée de Laon.
 Maître des heures de Rohan, Portrait de Louis II d’Anjou, c 1420. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale.

Not much more is known of the Maître des heures de Rohan than if he were anonymous. The artist had ties to Troyes, a Burgundian market town, and settled in Paris between 1415 and 1420. He was a commercial illuminator and is found in the service of the Dukes of Anjou around 1420. In addition to the Grandes Heures de Rohan, c.1430-1435, he produced other exceptional books, including the Hours of René d’Anjou (Bibliothèque nationale de France), the Hours of Isabelle Stuart (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK) and the Hours for the Use of Angers (former Martin Le Roy collection).

Artwork by Maître des heures de Rohan reflects a highly personal vision. The artist was completely unconcerned with his contemporaries’ preoccupation to introduce Renaissance realism into painting. The artist ignored perspective and chiaroscuro through concrete depictions and continued to develop his artistic meditations on faith and death using highly original invention of forms. In this way, the Maître des heures de Rohan is an enduring artist from early 15th century France as some of his more fashionably progressive contemporaries are not as he stayed true to his vision to create some of the most expressive pages of medieval Christian mysticism.

Maître of the Aix Annunciation, Annunciation, before 1445, Église de la Madeleine d’Aix-en-Provence.

The precise identification of the artist called the Maître of the Aix Annunciation is unknown. The artist is believed to be male and French, and could be Jean Chapus who lived in Aix and was working for King Réne of Anjou in the 1430s and 1440s. The Annunciation which was placed in the church in 1445 and has been there since, was part of a triptych. The other wings have been split off and are in Brussels, Amsterdam, and a private Dutch collection (one wing was also split). The style shows influence from Italy (Naples) and Flemish art.

DETAIL. Maître of the Aix Annunciation, before 1445, Église de la Madeleine d’Aix-en-Provence.
Anonymous. Annunciation, c. 1447-1450, Stained glass, Bourges cathedral, Chapel of Jacques Coeur.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Diptych de Melun, c. 1450, right panel: The Virgin and Child Jesus. Antwerp, Museum of Fine Arts.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Diptych de Melun, c. 1450, left panel: Chevalier Stephan presented by Saint Stephan. Staatliche Museum Berlin.

Jean Fouquet was a major French painter of the 15th century. He was in Rome in the mid-1440s and is presumed to have painted portraits. Under what circumstances the twenty-something Fouquet traveled to Rome is unknown. In any event Fouquet returned to Tours in 1448 and was working in the court of Charles VII. Louis XI appointed him official painter to the king in 1475. A handful of miniatures are documented artworks by Fouquet though other pictures, such as the Melun diptych and others, are attributed to him.

Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Medallion, self-portrait, 1452/1455. Louvre.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Charles VII, 1440/1460. Louvre.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), The Visitation, c. 1450. The Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Announcement of the Death of Saul to David, c. 1470. Les Antiquités Judaïques, Ms. fr. 247, folio 135 verso. Paris Bibliothèque Nationale.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Pietà, c. 1470-1480. Parish church, Nouans (Indre-et-Loire).
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Pietà (detail), c. 1470-1480. Parish church, Nouans (Indre-et-Loire).
Philippe de Mazerolles (active 1454-1479), retable du Parlement de Paris, c.1455. Louvre.

Philippe de Mazerolles was a French painter and illuminator who was active in Paris and in Bruges. The artist is identified in several contemporary documents. Trained in Paris, his style was directly inspired by the Maître de Bedford, an anonymous illuminator active in Paris in the first third of the 15th century.

Philippe de Mazerolles (active 1454-1479), retable du Parlement de Paris (detail), c.1455. Louvre.
Maître du Coeur l’amour épris, Rencontre de Coeur et d’Humble requête, c. 1479, Vienna, National Library.
Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin, 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Also known as Charonton, the French painter worked in Avignon in southern France. His large Coronation of the Virgin is a documented artwork that was completed in 1454. It is one of the most important surviving 15th century French paintings.

Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin (detail), 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
DETAIL. Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin, 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), attributed, Pietà de Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. École de Provence, c. 1455. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063345
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483), Mary in the Burning Bush, 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (center panel).
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483), Mary in the Burning Bush (detail), 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (center panel).
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483) The Burning Bush, 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (right and left panels).

Nicolas Froment worked in the south of France and was painter to Réne d’Anjou. The triptych is a documented artwork by the artist.

Josse Lieferinxe, called Maître de Saint-Sébastien, Part of an altarpiece shutter. The marriage of the Virgin. Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, triptych de Moulins, center panel: The Virgin and the Child in Glory, c. 1498. Cathedral de Moulins.

The Master of Moulins is one of the great French painters of the 15th century. He was influenced by Hugo van der Goes (died 1482) and takes his name from the triptych painting of the Madonna and Child with angels and Donors (above) in Moulins Cathedral dated from 1498/99. Other works attributed to the Master of Moulins are in Autun, Paris, Chicago, Brussels, London, Munich, and Glasgow.

Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate with Charlemagne, oil on oak, about 1491-1494. 72.6 x 60.2 cm, National Gallery, London.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, The Virgin with Child surrounded by angels, c. 1490, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, François de Chateaubriand presented by St. Maurice or St. Victor with Donor, c. 1485, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow.
Jean Bourdichon (1457-1521), King David and Bathsheba, Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII, 1498–1499, Tempera and gold, Leaf: 24.3 × 17 cm (9 9/16 × 6 11/16 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 79, 2003.105.

Jean Bourdichon served as official court painter to four successive French kings: Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. Bourdichon was almost certainly a pupil of Jean Fouquet, the previous court painter.

Simon Marmion (active 1449-1489), The miracle of the True Cross in Jerusalem in the presence of Saint Helena Empress, 2nd half of 15th century (1450/1500). Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061655

Simon Marmion (died 1489) who worked in Amiens and Valenciennes and temporarily in Tournai was a painter and illuminator where his miniatures were admired for their rich decoration and landscape details. In the mid1440s the artist moved from Amiens to Valenciennes where he became a leading painter. His most important painting is the Saint Bertin Altarpiece in Berlin and London.

Simon Marmion, The Soul of Saint Bertin carried up to God. Fragment of Shutters from the St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. National Gallery London.

The Soul of Saint Bertin carried up to God was the upper section of a wing for an altarpiece for the high altar of the abbey church of St Bertin at Saint-Omer in northern France. It was commissioned by the influential Guillaume Fillastre, Abbot of St Bertin (1450-73), Bishop of Verdun (1437-49), Bishop of Toul (1449-60), Bishop of Tournai (1460–73), Chancellor of the Order of the Golden Fleece and a close confidant of the powerful Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good. The artwork, whose main parts are in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, was consecrated in 1459. The altarpiece was intact in the abbey until 1791 when, as with many church goods, it fell victim to the French Revolution. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/simon-marmion-the-soul-of-saint-bertin-carried-up-to-god

Simon Marmion, A Choir of Angels. Fragment of Shutters from the St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. National Gallery London.
Simon Marmion, St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightboxView/result.t1.collection_lightbox.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbox_3x4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=4
Simon Marmion, St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightboxView/result.t1.collection_lightbox.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbox_3x4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=5

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

Art Treasures from the ALTE PINAKOTHEK, MUNICH, Germany. (16 images).

FEATURE image: The Satyr at the Farmer’s (“Der Satyr beim Bauern”), Jacob Jordaens (Flemish, 1593-1678), c.1620.

Housing much of the city’s most famous artwork, this museum’s collection includes renowned international works from the 14th through the 18th centuries.

Self-Portrait (“Selbstbildnis”), Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), c. 1520.
The Land of Cockaigne, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1525/1530-1569), 1567.
Head of an Old Woman, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Flemish, 1525/1530-1569), 1563.
Robbery and Melon Eaters (“Trauben- und Melonenesser”), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Spain, 1617-1682), c.1645.
History Cycle: Battle of Alexander (Battle of Issus) (“Historienzyklus: Alexanderschlacht [Schlacht bei Issus]”), Albrecht Altdorfer (German, c.1480-1538), 1529.
Four Apostles (“Vier Apostel”), Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), c. 1526.

The painting is impressively large. The captivating faces express concern, joy, hope, even confusion. “The Four Holy Men” – Dürer depicts John, Peter (keys), Mark, and Paul (sword) – was a gift to Nuremburg. It was sold under pressure to Bavarian elector Maximillian and given to Munich in 1922.

Detail. Dürer, Vier apostel. Mark and Paul.
Adoration of the Magi, Columba Altarpiece, central panel (“Columba-Altar: Anbetung der Könige”). Rogier van der Weyden (Nederlandish, c. 1399-1464), 1455.
Danae, Jan Gossaert (Brabant, 1478-1532), c. 1527.

Jan Gossaert was probably from Maubeuge in France though the artist’s whereabouts are first documented in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1503. His early style is an amalgam of then-popular contemporary French, German, and Netherlandish influences – Hugo van de Goes, Albrecht Dürer, and Gerard David. After a trip to Italy in 1508, Gossaert displayed new flamboyance in his style and detail, particularly using architectual settings as the Alte Pinakothek’s later Danae shows. The northern European Hainault artist never successfully incorporated Italian Renaissance ideas into his artwork and many of his figures’ poses are actually derivative. Yet this level of stylistic incorporation led Gossaert to become an important Romanist. Gossaert was the first northern European artist to introduce nude classical figures into Flanders’ art world.

The Oracle of Delphi prophesied that King Acrisius of Argos would die at the hand of his grandson. To prevent this, the king imprisoned his daughter, Danaë, in an essentially golden cage. However, the King of the gods, Zeus, desired Danaë and came to her by way of a stream of golden rain into her cage where she conceived Perseus. It was Perseus who later, after his own adventures, killed his grandfather by accident during some athletic games.

By the Middle Ages this ancient Greek literary material was used as a pagan reference for the New Testament Annunciation. Gossaert was one of the first artists in the Renaissance period to reintroduce the original subject’s erotic content on its own terms.

Madonna with Child, St. Mary Magdalene and Donor (“Maria mit Kind, hl. Maria Magdalena und Stifter”), Lucas van Leyden (Dutch, 1494-1533), 1522.
“Pearl of Brabant”: Adoration of the Kings (“”Perle von Brabant”: Anbetung der Könige”), Dieric Bouts (Nederlandish, 1400?-1475), c.1465.
Matthias Grünewald (c. 1470-1528), Meeting of Sts. Erasmus and Maurice, Martyrs, c 1520-24, 226 x 176 cm, basswood.

Matthias Grünewald was a German painter of the Renaissance. Born Mathias Neithar(d)t-Gothar(d)t around 1470-75, Grünewald shared virtually the exact birth and death dates of fellow German artist, Albrecht Dürer, though the two artists were exact opposites.

Little is known about the life of Grünewald. He first enters the historical record in 1501 in Seligenstadt. It is believed the artist was also early on in Aschaffenburg and as far off as Würzburg. From 1508 to 1514 Grünewald was court painter to Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490–1545), the archbishop of Magdeburg, administrator of Halberstadt, and the archbishop and elector of Mainz (later Cardinal) who commissioned the Alte Pinakothek panel for the Neue Stift in Halle. By the mid1520s Grünewald was in Frankfurt and, apparently increasingly sympathetic to Lutheran doctrine, north to Halle where he died.

Grünewald’s first datable work is from 1503 though Grünewald is best known for his Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, France, produced in the mid1510s. Unlike his contemporary, Dürer, Matthias Grünewald apparently attempted no woodcuts, engravings or even many drawings. Like Dürer, he was familiar with Italian Renaissance ideas, though Grünewald did not pursue its techniques for its own ends. Rather, Grünewald was interested in using these new Italian techniques to heighten his own art’s emotional impact as well as make a religious statement. In this sense Grünewald possessed an essentially Late Gothic outlook and style. Yet, besides the passionate, well-drawn, and colorful Isenheim Altarpiece, few paintings of Grünewald survive.

St. Erasmus (or Elmo) was a late Third Century bishop who was martyred under Diocletian around 303 CE. St. Maurice was martyred around 287 CE. Maurice wears the armor signaling his being an officer in a Roman legion which was composed almost entirely of Christians. Along with other officers and rank-and-file soldiers Maurice was slaughtered for refusing to worship the State’s pagan gods.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning of thorns of Christ, around 1616/17, oil on canvas, 173 x 241 cm Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

One of the great artworks of Le Valentin’s early phase in Rome, biblical subjects painted before 1620 such as The Crowning of Thorns of Christ were interpreted in the street-life idiom, with expressive protagonists and bystanders resembling the cast of characters in his genre paintings. Although the painting was earlier believed to be by Caravaggio, it may have been a pendant to Le Valentin’s much-later Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (c. 1629) in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This is Le Valentin’s most ambitious of 3 such “crowning with thorns” pictures. The artist in horizontal-format depicts Jesus before his going to Calvary. Christ is mocked and tormented; a crown of thorns is pressed onto his head (Matthew 27: 27-31; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:11; John 19: 1-3). With its dramatic lighting and shadows, the naturalistic depiction of Christ’s body and soldiers in contemporary costume is Caravaggesque.

Le Valentin’s scene adheres to the Bible episode: a whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Jesus, stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak on  him. Henchmen have weaved a crown out of thorns and are placing it on Jesus’s head. Another puts a reed as a faux scepter into Jesus’s right hand. To mock him they kneel before him and say: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The soldiers spit on Jesus and then take the reed away and strike him repeatedly with it. When they were done with these violent actions, the soldiers stripped Jesus of the military cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him out to be crucified.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning with Thorns, around 1627/28, oil on canvas, 51 15/16 × 37 15/16 in. (132 × 96.3 cm) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Dn4ZR224aK/valentin-de-boulogne/dornenkroenung-und-verspottung-christi

Le Valentin’s Passion theme is a later vertical-format picture of a subject he had painted masterly before. In these last years the subject matter had gained in classical beauty as well as psychological involvement compared to Le Valentin’s earlier artwork. The painting covers over a discarded portrait of Cardinal Barberini which suggests Valentin’s close relationship with the ecclesial prince, very likely being in his employ. What caused the artist to revisit the subject of a brutalized Christ is unclear though it may have been based on the artist’s own struggles or that of his employer whose portrait he painted over.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Herminia among the Shepherds, c. 1630, oil on canvas, 134.6 x 185.6 cm (53 1/8 x 61 5/8”) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/RQ4XPr8410 

Erminia, the king’s daughter, escapes her persecutors and asks a peaceful shepherd family for shelter. The scene is based on a contemporary (1576) epic poem The Liberated Jerusalem by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The picture was a private commission whose patron was likely a Roman art collector and cognoscente. Valentin’s painting combines Caravaggesque chiaroscuro with exquisite coloring. In this realistic depiction of a human encounter between characters who represent contrasting social experiences, the subject matter is rendered psychologically sensitively.

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), Seaport at Sunrise, oil on canvas, 72 x 97.5 cm, 1674, Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Y0GR58rLRX/claude-lorrain-claude-gellee/ein-seehafen-bei-aufgehender-sonne

The French artist Claude Lorrain arrived in Rome in 1615 and, except for interludes in Naples (1619-1624) and in France (1625-1627), the artist lived and worked in Rome during his life. Lorrain trained under Agostino Tassi (1578-1644), an Italian landscape painter. Lorrain’s compositions were painted in muted tones whose work displayed an ethereal mood. Using fragments from antiquity and a pleasant atmosphere, Lorrain’s mode of landscape painting set a template for such artworks into the 19th century. In Seaport at Sunrise, Lorrain’s depiction of the sunrise itself was bold and original, a haze dissolving within a scene of cities, sea and mountains and which contains contemporary figures yet harkens backwards in time or to the timeless.

In Seaport at Sunrise, the sun begins to bathe a seaport in early light, similar to the way the sun rises over the Gulf of Naples today. A working port, a boat is being loaded while travelers sit waiting on the shore. The place is imaginary – not purely contemporary, historical, mythological, or literary. Lorrain’s landscape transposes figures of everyday life contributing to the development of genre painting as its imaginary effects bend into the weight of medieval and ancient history.

There are fortified castles along the shore and a building to the right which appears very much like the triumphal Arch of Titus (80 A.D.) in Rome. Claude Lorrain’s painting is based on a composition he made from 1634 in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Seaport at Sunrise is one of three landscape paintings commissioned by Bavarian Privy Councillor Franz von Mayer. The others in that trio are in the Alte Pinakothek (Idyllic Landscape in the Setting Sun – see below) and in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), Idyllic Landscape in the Setting Sun, oil on canvas, 72 x 96 cm, 1670, Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/en/artwork/ZKGPJP2xgA

Before 1640, Claude Lorrain was considered the premier landscape painter in Rome. Most of his paintings are imaginary imitating a stage set for rich landscape narratives.

This painting is the first of the series of three landscape pictures commissioned by Bavarian Privy Councillor Franz von Mayer and that included Seaport at Sunrise (above). In the picture, a herd of cows crosses a ford in the Mediterranean as the sun sets behind mountains. The painting is based on one of Lorrain’s compositions from 1636.

Italian realist painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) remained very influential in contemporary art following his death. His use of targeted light and shadow as well as a muted, mainly brown palette, was key in the depiction of his figural scene. Painters in the 17th century followed this Caravaggesque practice throughout the rest of the century experimenting with using light and increasingly brighter colors as dramatic and aesthetic tools for their painting.

SOURCE: Baroque, Hermann Bauer, Andreas Prater, Ingo F. Walther, Köln: Taschen, 2006.

Paintings and Graphic Art of EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944), Norway’s Symbolist Artist who made “The Scream” and First Expressed in Art the Individual’s Anguish in Modern Society.

FEATURE image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on cardboard, private collection.

By John P. Walsh


Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1886.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Symbolist and Expressionist artist from Norway.

In the 1890s, anti-naturalism mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. This movement informed the art of Edvard Munch throughout that decade and into the twentieth century. Inspiration from literature, however, was not illustration. By the 1890s the younger generation of modern artists saw that by giving the artist an example of constructing an irrational logic, the artist’s dream, or more specific to Munch, psychology, had been freed not only from the restrictions of nature in terms of form, line, color and subject but also its potentially literary or ideological sources. It manifests as a style of drawing that the imagination has liberated from the concern of natural details in order that it might freely serve only as the representation of conceived things.

For Edvard Munch, this resulted in the creation of several fantastic scenarios which are designed and constructed as the artist deems them necessary to be. The distinction between Impressionism and Symbolism is the difference emanating from the tradition of naturalism and the expression of ideas by means of its symbol that is searching beyond naturalism.


Edvard Munch, The Scream, crayon, 1893.

Edvard Munch is a precursor and practitioner of Expressionism. Although the major portion of Munch’s artwork lies outside this classification, his expressionist paintings are some of his best-known works.

The Scream is Munch’s most famous work, and is widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. It is one of modern art’s most iconic paintings along with Whistler’s mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black, Number One, D’Orsay), Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Louvre), and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago).

Expressionism was a movement that was a combination of Symbolism, ideals of the human spirit, often confined in solitude, and poetical lyricism laced with emotion.1

1870’s, 1880’s KRISTIANIA (OSLO): MUNCH’S FIRST ARTWORK AND “THE SEEDS OF MADNESS”

In an artistic career that spanned from the early 1880s until his death in 1944 at 80 years old, Edvard Munch experimented within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photography and film.

Growing up in Kristiania (today’s Oslo) Munch decided at 17 years old that he was going to be a painter. Munch’s family encouraged his artistic pursuits so that in 1880 Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania where he expanded his drawing repertoire to include live models and en pleine aire (out of doors).

Often ill as a child, Munch believed that in his experiences growing up, “…I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”

In his career, Munch painted mania in several pictures, including Melancholy (1901). It depicted his younger sister Laura who suffered from schizophrenia, and was hospitalized regularly for what was diagnosed as “hysteria” and “melancholia.”2


Edvard Munch, Melancholy, Laura, 1901.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1882, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Interior Pilestredet, oil on canvas, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Still Life with Jar, Apple, Walnut and Coconut, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, From Saxegårdsgate, c. 1882, oil on canvas, Lillehammer Art Museum.

Edvard Munch, Laura, both 1882, oil on paper (top) and oil on cardboard (below), Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Andreas Studying Anatomy, 1883, Oil on Cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.

SOUL PAINTING: MUNCH’S FIRST ARTISTIC BREAKTHROUGH

Between 1884 and 1889 young Munch made a range of drawing and paintings that was extensive and meaningful. His portfolio included landscapes, domestic environments, portraits, self-portrait, still life, and fictional motifs. Munch’s drawings included industrial sites along the Akerselva River, and promenading denizens and local farmers at work.

In Munch’s early work there is a hint of his wrestling with eros and the nature of woman that became a lifelong obsession.

In Kristiania Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of anti-establishment writer Hans Jaeger (1854-1910). Jaeger urged Munch to paint his own emotional and psychological state called “soul painting.”

Munch’s first “soul painting” was The Sick Child (1886). The artist produced five versions over decades. Munch’s freedom of treatment and color – also found in the painting Tête-à-Tête in 1885 – is largely owed to Impressionism. In 1886, Munch participated in the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania and exhibited The Sick Child. It met with very negative reaction. The motif of the sick was popular but Munch’s hasty Impressionistic treatment was seen as insensitive. It was the first breakthrough for Munch’s art.


Edvard Munch, Tête-à-tête, oil on canvas, 1885, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child (original version), 1885-86, National Gallery, Oslo. Other versions are in the Konstmuseet Gothenberg (1896), Tate London (1907), Thiel Gallery (1907) and Munch Museum (1925).

Munch later painted Hans Jaeger’s portrait in Oslo in 1889 after Jaeger lost his job and had to flee Norway one step ahead of the law. This was after Jaeger published a novel about local Bohemian life that the authorities considered inflammatory. Young Munch began to explore in his art personal situations, emotions, and states of mind. He wrote in his “soul” diary: ” I attempt In my art to explain life and its meaning to myself.”3


Edvard Munch, Hans Jæger, 1889, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Night on the Beach, 1889, Bergen Art Museum. Known also as Inger on the Beach, it was painted in the summer of 1889 at Åsgårdstrand. The sitter is Munch’s youngest sister Inger. The artwork created a storm of confusion and controversy. Its simplified forms, thick outlines, contrasting colors and shades, and subtle emotional content signaled the direction of Munch’s developing style.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait, c. 1888, Munch Museum, Oslo.

PARIS AND ÅSGÅRDSTRAND IN 1885: MUNCH ENCOUNTERS OLD MASTERS, MODERNIST ÉDOUARD MANET—AND HAS HIS FIRST LOVE AFFAIR

With friends, Munch rented a studio in Kristiania. His mentor, established artist Christian Krohg (1852-1925), encouraged Munch to conform to his own artistic vision.

In 1885, 22-year-old Munch traveled to Paris for the first time to explore the world’s art capital. During his three-week stay in Paris Munch visited the Louvre and the Salon and was particularly impressed by French Modernist painter, Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Munch began to incorporate those ideas and techniques of French Modernism into his artistic vision. In the same year Munch produced his full-length Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell to the derision of critics in Kristiania. The penchant for Manet’s artwork continued for Munch into the new century with a full-length portrait called The Frenchman (Monsieur Archimard) in 1901.

In summer of 1885 Munch had his first love affair which affected him deeply. It occurred in the coastal resort town of Åsgårdstrand when Munch met Milly Thaulow (1860-1937), a fashion model and singer.

Milly had been married since 1881 when she met Munch and they had a passionate affair. The short, secret relationship filled Munch with mixed feelings of love and shame. Its inevitable ending produced melancholy that affected Munch’s artmaking.

Milly Thaulow remained active in the arts, translating Maurice Maeterlinck’s French play, Pelléas et Mélisande, into Norwegian in 1906. She went on to divorce her husband in 1891 and remarry that same year. Her second marriage ended in divorce. In the end, Munch justified his experience with Milly as part of radical bohemian artist culture which Hans Jaeger preached where love is free and self-expression is paramount.


Edvard Munch, Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell, 1885, National Gallery, Oslo.

PARIS IN 1889-91: MUNCH’S MODERNIST VISION AND TECHNIQUE

In 1889 Munch rented exhibition space in Kristiania to display 110 of his artworks. His entrepreneurship resulted in receiving state grant funds that led to a second, yet back and forth, stay to Paris whose time amounted overall to about two years.

In Paris, Munch took drawing lessons, explored art galleries, and networked with expatriate artists, especially at the venerable 17th-century Café de la Régence near the Palais-Royal.

In his study, Munch became inspired by the rhythmical and decorative art of Paul Gauguin (1847-1903), several of the Nabis, Japonisme, and the Symbolist drawing of Odilon Redon (1840-1916).

Though Munch rejected Realism in art, he embraced Impressionism, particularly the technique of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Munch was particularly impressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and their unnatural use of color to express sensory perception and emotion. In this milieu Munch painted Rue Lafayette (1891).

The 26-year-old Munch had just arrived into Paris when his father died, an event which devastated the artist. Running low on money, Munch left the city and, with Danish poet Goldstein, rented a small apartment in the suburb of St. Cloud.

Munch’s experiences of relative poverty and the death of a loved one offered new insights and impetus for his art in terms of seeking to understand and express the memory of his human existence.

He painted Night In St. Cloud (1890) and Evening on the Karl Johan (1889) in this time period. Munch also conceived the idea of The Frieze of Life, a series of paintings exploring human existence from a range of pathos, terror, desire, dread, nightmare, and anxiety, to other fascinations, so to include The Dance of Life, The Scream, The Vampire, Madonna, and Death and the Maiden.

In 1891 Munch had exhibitions in Kristiania, Berlin, and Munich. He returned to Paris several times in the next decade for short term visits as in 1899 which included a trip to Italy.4


Edvard Munch, Night In St. Cloud, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Evening on the Karl Johan, 1889, oil, Bergen Art Museum.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy, 1891, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Rue Lafayette, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Rue de Rivoli, 1891, oil on canvas, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Edvard Munch, Inger in a White Blouse, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Pleine-aire, 1891, oil on canvas, 60 x 120 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

BERLIN 1892-1895: MUNCH’S ARTISTIC POWER REACH MATURITY

In 1892, Munch’s pictures were again exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in Oslo (it was his final time)–and led to the 29-year-old artist being invited to exhibit at the Verein der Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists) in Germany in November 1892 for a one-man exhibition.

Munch’s exhibition of Melancholy (1891) in Oslo was called Norway’s “first Symbolist painting.” His exhibition of 55 pictures in Berlin proved another breakthrough for Munch’s reputation in Europe: it made him infamous. The critical reaction to his artwork was divided. Critics described Munch’s art as “repugnant, ugly and mean.” As it shocked the Berlin public, German artists Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and Ludwig von Hofmann (1861-1945) setting up a dissident “Group of XI” that led to the establishment of the Berlin Secession later on May 2, 1898.

The government of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) set the mood for the public reaction in that art which “presumes to overstep the limits and rules” which Wilhelm had set, “is no longer art.” In the eyes of German society, Munch’s artwork “misused the word ‘freedom’ and (with) a total loss of restraint and excess of self-esteem.”

Later, by around 1910, that same Emperor in his constant pursuit of cultural influence, mostly supported the Berlin Secession. Yet the Secession’s public and financial success which Wilhelm II eventually helped to build, came at the price of a benevolent autocrat’s constant interference, particularly in the modern art group’s jury process.

Munch stayed in Berlin until 1895. In the Berlin exhibitions of 1893 and 1895 Munch presented a sequence of pictures he called Man’s Life, From the Modern Life of the Soul and, simply, Love. These all contained artwork that contributed to The Frieze which Munch intended to be a symbolic expression of reality and not a mere symbol of or for reality.

Munch’s bohemian circle in Berlin included editors of the magazine Pan, the German arts publication analogous to France’s La Revue Blanche. It also included Swedish avant-garde writer, August Strindberg (1849-1912) who would soon provide Munch with influential introductions to the Berlin and Paris art worlds. In 1890 Strindberg broke with naturalism and was in his own artistic and personal crisis as he sought new art forms within an emerging Symbolism. Munch met German art critic Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935) and socialized with Polish decadent naturalist and Symbolist novelist, dramatist, and poet Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927) along with Przybyszewski’s paramour and later short-term wife, Dagny Juel (1867-1901). Munch painted both of these friends’ portraits.

Munch’s Berlin friends understood what Munch was doing with symbolism though the German critics did not. Przybyszewski wrote: “The old kind of art and psychology was an art and psychology of the conscious personality, whereas the new art is the art of the individual. Men dream and their dreams open up vistas of a new world to them.”

In addition to exhibiting in Berlin in both 1893 and 1894, Munch exhibited in Copenhagen, Dresden and Munich in 1893 and in Stockholm in 1894.

Working on the Frieze of Life, Munch created painting with turbulent, ambiguous and morose themes with titles such as Despair (1892), The Girl and Death (1893), Stormy Night (1893), The Voice (1893), Anxiety (1894), The Three Stages of Woman (1894), Ashes (1894), Death Struggle (1895), and Jealousy (1895). Aspects of Symbolism extended to romantic aspects of nature in paintings such as Coastal Mysticism (1892), Evening (Melancholy) (1893), Moonlight (1893), Starlit Night (1893), Sunrise at Åsgårdstrand (1893) and The Evening Star (1894). He painted many portraits in this period, in addition to those in his Berlin Bohemian circle, including Sister Inger (1892). Other iconic, overtly anecdotal Munch paintings were created such as Self Portrait in Hell (1895), Self Portrait under a female mask (1892), and Self portrait with Burning Cigarette (1895).

Other paintings, including casino scenes, showed Munch’s simplification of form and detail. The artist favored shallow pictorial space and a minimal backdrop for his foreground figures. Poses, forms, colors, lines and subjects were carefully constructed images that expressed psychological and emotional states, and often appear monumental as if they were playing a role on the stage of life.5


Edvard Munch, Melancholy, 1893, oil, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Melancholy (The Yellow Boat), 1891, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the window, 1892, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1892, oil, Private Collection.

Edvard Munch, The Girl by the Window, 1893, oil, Art Institute of Chicago.

Edvard Munch, Separation, 1893-94, Gouache, watercolor and crayon on paper, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Parting, 1894, oil on canvas, 67 x 128 cm, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Three Stages of Women (Sphinx), c. 1894, Bergan. Munch painted woman as dreaming, hungry for life, and as a nun.

Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894–1895, oil on canvas, 151.5 x 110 cm, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1894, Munch Museum. Art critics see the painting as closely related to The Scream (1893). The faces show despair and the colors impress a depressed state showing emotions of heartbreak and sorrow.

Edvard Munch, Despair, 1893, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Inger in Black and Violet, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Storm, oil on canvas, 1893, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Edvard Munch, Summer Night’s Dream The Voice, 1893, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

Edvard Munch, Coastal Mysticism, 1892.
Edvard Munch, Sketch of the Model Posing, 1893, pastel on cardboard, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Edvard Munch, The Hands, 1893, oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892, oil, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Under the Mask of the Woman, 1893, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895, oil,  Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait in Hell, c. 1895, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski,1895, pastel, 62x55cm, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, National Museum, Oslo.

PARIS IN 1895 TO 1897: MUNCH ADOPTS “IDEA” PAINTING. THE SCREAM

Until 1870, young artists from Norway went to Dűsseldorf to study and pursue an art career though sometimes to Berlin, Paris, Munich and Karlesruhe. By 1880, Paris was the center of the art world and Munch returned to Paris in 1895, 1896, and 1897 for extended visits (he also visited Nice in 1897).

Thadée Nathanson’s La Revue Blanche published Munch’s lithograph The Scream in December 1895. The Scream exists in four versions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are several lithographs of The Scream from 1895 and later.

With The Scream, Munch met his stated goal in his diary of his art expressing “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self.” Philippe Jullian argues that it had been the combination of influences of Strindberg, Redon, and Gauguin that explained Munch’s conversion from Naturalism and Impressionism to “Idea” painting expressed in Symbolism. Munch was the first to express the individual’s anguish in modern society and facing death. He was an inventor of the ectoplasm line (“ectoplasm” is a spiritualism term first used in 1894). Munch’s figures, including The Scream, emerges from pastel, oil, or ink like an apparition, yet to be identified with the “souls” of ordinary persons.

Anxiety, jealousy, loneliness; Munch illustrates people who pictorially express Symbolism’s darkest visions and themes.


Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895. Ink.

In Paris Munch exhibitions were organized at the Salon des Indépendents and Siegfried Bing’s Salon de L‘Art Nouveau. Young avant-garde art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) included Munch in his first Album des Peintres Graveurs. Munch was commissioned by the Cent Bibliophiles to illustrate Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil. Like young Nabis Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Munch designed programs for Symbolist theatre (Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre). He did portraits of Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and August Strindberg. Munch created some of his most iconic motifs, including The Scream (pastel version), Vampire (a woman seductive and destructive), Puberty (an anxious girl seated naked on a bed), and Madonna (a synthesis of the mystical and erotic).

MUNCH MASTERS MODERN EXPERIMENTAL PRINTMAKING

In Berlin in 1894 Munch had produced his first dry point etchings. In Paris in 1896, following the explosion of color printing in the 1890’s, Munch produced his first color lithographs and woodcuts (Vampire was his first woodcut). Influenced by Gauguin and Max Klinger (1857-1920), printmaking allowed Munch to be highly experimental in the creation of an image. Particular to Munch as an artist, the subject of the artwork determined which of the various styles to be deployed. At his death Munch retained over 15,000 prints in his Oslo studios. During his lifetime, inspired importantly by his work in mid-1890’s Paris, Munch became a master of all graphic techniques, such as color, volume, and line. Munch’s production of an immense portfolio of graphic art sought to create images which are subordinated to the experiences of the self’s impulses and drives.

Munch’s attempts to market his new artwork in Paris as he did in Berlin to acceptance and fame resulted in relative failure in the world’s art capital. His parting milestone in Paris in this period was in the 1897 Salon des Artistes Indépendants where Munch displayed in the main hall his ever-augmenting Frieze of Life. The cycle was characterized by continuous reworkings as new paintings; versions that replaced paintings which had sold; and, new compositions added to the series.

In terms of public acclaim, the effort appeared for naught. French resistance to Munch’s “repugnant, ugly and mean” art endured. French critics decried Munch’s art as “violent and brutal” and, when they weren’t chastising him, they ignored him—and this attitude lasted deep into the 20th century. However, another exhibition in Munch’s native Oslo of 85 paintings was well received.6

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on cardboard, private collection.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, Dry-point and aquatint, 34.8 x 28 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, woodcut, n.d., 44.7 x 44.7. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.


Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1896, Lithograph, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.


Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894, Dry-point, 30.2 x 22 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.  


Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening),1896, woodcut, 37.6 x 45.5.  cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Attraction, 1896, Lithograph, 47.2 x 35.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.


Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Lithograph, 42.1 x 56.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.



Edvard Munch, Evening, Melancholy I, woodcut, 1896.


Edvard Munch, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, lithograph.


Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, 1896, lithograph.


Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1895, Lithograph, 45.5×31.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Munch was 31 years when he produced this self-portrait. It is a memento mori – a reminder of death. The bones at the bottom of the image are paired with the artist’s name and the date of the lithograph’s creation at the top. The floating head in a sea of darkness was a familiar motif in art in the 1890’s expressing in part the cosmic and ontological realities of humanity.

Edvard Munch, Lady From the Sea (detail), 1896, oil on canvas. 100 cm × 320 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Voice Summer Night, 1896, 90 cm × 119 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo

Edvard Munch, Paris Boulevard, 1896, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 130 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

MUNCH’S AMBIVALENCE IN LOVE AND OBSESSION WITH DEATH

In 1898 Munch met Tulla (Mathilde Larsen) and they became lovers. Munch continued a productive period of art-making as he continually refused to marry Tulla. Munch portrayed many artworks displaying his view of life and death and the destructive force of love where both man and woman suffer– Madonna (1893), Salome, The Maiden and the Heart (1896), Under the Yoke (1896), Cruelty, The Woman and the Urn (1896), and, later, his Alpha and Omega lithograph series (1909). Munch remained fascinated by women as expressed in The Kiss (1892), The Three Stages of Women (1894), and The Dance of Life (1900).

One explanation of the ambivalent relationship of Munch the artist and Woman as artistic subject may be understood through the Symbolist art aesthetic. Symbolism connoted the idea of a desirable union of the human being with a philosophic ideal. In its view, Woman, though called real is a false appearance, and thereby not ideal. Further, Woman acts mainly as a temptress, the then-popular notion of a femme fatale, as she reveals man’s animal nature which obscures and prevents the desirable union to the ideal. Woman must be avoided and, if engaged by man, done so with peril.

Munch was an idealist before he became a Symbolist, and, as Christian Krohg ominously wrote about him in 1892: “dares to subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood.“

In 1899 Munch exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in Dresden. The Berlin Secession held its first exhibition in 1899 on its own premises but did not invite Edvard Munch. Though the Berlin group invited no foreigners that year, Munch’s art continued to be viewed by status quo cognoscenti as “undesirable.” Yet, at the same time, Munch’s art was beginning to influence young Expressionist artists in Germany. In artworks such as The Voice and Summer’s Night, Munch appealed to these younger avant-garde artists for his illustrating the upsurge and resonance of raw emotion.


Edvard Munch, The Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas, 141 x 121 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Two people, 1899, oil on canvas, 175 x 143 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo


Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907, oil on canvas, 118 x 99 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Marat’s death, 1907, oil on canvas, 151 x148 cm, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, The Murderess, 1906, Munch museum.


Edvard Munch, Death of Marat I, 1907, 150 x 199 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1897, oil on canvas, 99 x 80.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893, oil on canvas, 128 x 86 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Man and Woman, 1898, oil on canvas, Bergen.

Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski (The Vampire), Oil and/or tempera on unprimed cardboard, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Weeping Nude, 1913–1914, 110 cm × 135 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

MUNCH IN THE NEW CENTURY; THE FRIEZE OF LIFE

Little is known about Munch’s personal relationships with individual women that would greatly enlighten the artist’s overall character and how these relationships’ impacted his artwork in his adult years. Fantastic stories are told. How, in his room at Åsgårdstrand with an unknown woman (likely Tulla), did a gunshot go off in Fall 1902 from a revolver that injured Munch’s hand? Munch successfully chased Tulla out of his life, though after she married another man, the artist felt betrayed by Love and brooded over it. Even as Munch had numerous short-lived affairs with beautiful women who wanted to marry him, he fled them all and verbally expressed no known regrets. Throughout his life, Edvard Munch never married.

Munch started the year 1900 in Gudbrandsdalen and moved on to Berlin. In 1901 he painted in Nordstrand and in 1902 returned to Berlin. Along with artwork of Édouard Manet, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Claude Monet, Munch exhibited at the Berlin Secession in 1902. He had continually worked at the Frieze of Life, the group of images representing human existence, a subject that fascinated the artist. He exhibited 22 paintings from the completed Frieze at that year’s Berlin Secession. Though the Berlin critics began to appreciate Munch’s art, the public continued to view him as warped and weird. In 1902 he met ophthalmologist Dr. Max Linde (1862-1940), an art collector and author of a Munch study while Hamburg judge and art collector Gustav Schiefler (1857-1935) started a catalogue of Munch’s voluminous graphic art that year.


Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Against a Green Background and Caricature Portrait of Tulla Larsen, 1905.

Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1893,

Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900.

Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Gustav Schiefler, 1906/06, Ketterer Kunst, Munich. A judge and avid print collector, Gustav Schiefler compiled a catalog on the prints of Edvard Munch as well as Emile Nolde (18967-1956), Max Liebermann, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938).

In 1903 Munch visited Dr. Max Linde in Lübeck and painted a frieze for his house though Dr. Linde ended up rejecting Munch’s work. Munch exhibited in Berlin at Paul Cassirer modern art gallery.

EVA MUDOCCI’S PREGNANCY AND MUNCH’S NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

In 1903 Munch met British violinist Eva Mudocci (1872-1953) in Paris where Munch had an exhibition. Fully aware of his commitment only to art, Eva Mudocci reportedly became Munch’s mistress and Munch soon immortalized her in The Woman with the Brooch.

In this period, Munch received several commissions for portraits and prints. In 1904 the German rights to his graphic art and paintings was sold to two prominent galleries. Munch exhibited in Vienna and Paris and became a member of the Berlin Secession. In 1905 Munch exhibited 75 paintings in Prague at the Manés Gallery and in 1906 was invited to exhibit with the Fauves in Paris. In Berlin, Munch painted stage sets for Henrik Ibsen plays (Ghosts and Hedda Gabler) at the Max Reinhardt Theatre. A frieze that was commissioned for the Reinhardt Theatre was sold by its director before the frieze was unveiled to the public.

In 1907 Munch summered in Warnemünde as he turned his attention to human figures and situations. He exhibited with Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne at Cassirer Gallery, the purchaser of the German rights to Munch’s graphic art. In November 1907 Eva Mudocci went on a concert tour in Norway for three weeks where She and Munch spent time together in Åsgårdstrand and Oslo. In early 1908 Eva Mudocci was pregnant and gave birth to twins in Denmark at the end of the year. Friends insisted that Munch must have been the father but Mudocci never said who the father was.

Almost simultaneous with Mudocci’s pregnancy, 45-year-old Edvard Munch had a nervous breakdown. In December 1908 he checked himself into a clinic in Copenhagen for several month’s treatment for alcoholism and exhaustion. Munch later wrote: “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.”

In 1909, Mudocci and Munch parted ways though they stayed in touch for the next 18 years, until 1927. At the clinic, Munch painted portraits of his doctor (Dr. Daniel Jacobsen, 1909) and a nurse as well as close friends and a self-portrait using short, thick, and forceful brushstrokes—it was a watershed moment in Munch’s life and art.7

Edvard Munch, The Brooch, 1903, lithograph, 60×46 cm.

Edvard Munch, Salome, 1903, lithograph.

Edvard Munch, Fertility, 1898, woodcut, 42 x 51.7 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Women on the Beach, 1898, woodcut, 45.5 x 50.8 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Red and White, 1899–1900, 93 cm × 129 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.


Edvard Munch, Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906, Thiel Gallery, Stockholm.

Edvard Munch, Red Virginia Creeper, 1900, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.

Edvard Munch, Young People on the Beach, 1902, oil on canvas, 90 x 174 cm.

Edvard Munch, On the beach, 1905, oil on canvas, 81x 121 cm.

Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 194 x 294 cm.


Edvard Munch, Shore with Red House, 1904, oil on canvas, 69 × 109 cm, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Train Smoke,1900, 84 cm × 109  cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At The Sign of the Sweet Girl, 1907, oil on canvas, 85 x 130 cm.

Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm


Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c.1907, oil on canvas 120×121 cm

Edvard Munch, Four Girls Åsgårdstrand, 1905, oil on canvas, 87x111cm


Edvard Munch, Avenue in the snow, 1906, oil on canvas, 80 x100 cm,

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904, 197×91 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, 1906, 110 cm × 120, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1907, oil on canvas, 75 x 98 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Deathbed, 1900, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm.

Edvard Munch, Village Street, 1905, oil on canvas, 100×100 cm.

Edvard Munch, Prayer, 1902, woodcut, 45.8 x32.5 cm.

Edvard Munch, Dr. Daniel Jacobson, 1909, oil on canvas, 204 x 112 cm.

Edvard Munch, Nurse, 1909, dry point, 20.5×15.2  cm.

NORWAY 1909: MUNCH COMES HOME

Following his recuperation at the clinic, Munch was sober for the first time in years. In 1907 and 1908 he created Bathing Men, a scene of cleansing by immersion reminiscent of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Suddenly the totality of Munch’s art of the 1890’s and early 1900’s, where he explored his dark and tormented feelings, thoughts, and experiences, became passé for the artist. With the same vigorous brushwork and unnatural, expressionistic colors, Munch turned to painting everyday subjects.

Renting a house in Kragerø, a fishing village in Norway, Munch permanently settled in his homeland. In 1912 he exhibited in Cologne at the Sonderbund exhibition where he was ranked with Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. That year Munch had his first American exhibition In New York City. In 1913, the 50-year-old artist traveled extensively, had tributes paid to him, and rented larger quarters at Jeløya.

Munch turned to landscapes and large-scale art projects as he continued the murals for Oslo University which were, after lengthy controversy, finally accepted in 1914. Already a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olaf since 1909, the Oslo National Gallery began buying some of Munch’s most important works – The Day After, Ashes, Puberty, Two Girls at the Verandah, and The Frenchman. The State museum received gifts from collectors as well. Olaf Schou (1861-1925) gave them Madonna, The Sick Child, Mother and Daughter, Girls on the Bridge and, later, The Scream, Death in the Sick Chamber, The Dance of Life, Girl at her Toilet, Betsy, Moonlight in Nice, and others.

Meanwhile, Munch decided to turn for inspiration to some of the outward obsessions of a new 20th century: its advancing technologies, mass media, high-speed transportation and urban life. 8

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Bergen, 1916, oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm.

Edvard Munch, Bathing Men, 1907–1908, oil on canvas, 206 x 227.5 cm, Atheneum, Helsinki.

Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894/5, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Moonlight in Nice, 1895, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom, 1893, pastel on canvas, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge,1899-1901, National Gallery, Oslo.
 
Edvard Munch, Mother and Daughter, 1897, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude, 1919, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Artist and his Model, 1919-1921, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.

GLOBAL FAME, LAST EXHIBITIONS, OLD AGE AND DEATH

From 1914 until his death in January 1944, Munch sold nearly nothing but pictures bought by museums and new, commissioned work. Until then Munch had to sell pictures to live though he was reluctant and made replicas for himself. He did not sell works closely aligned to his emotional life. In 1916, Munch, now a famous artist, had finished the murals in the assembly Hall of Oslo University and purchased Ekely at Skøyen just outside the city. The artist constructed fences, let hedges and weeds grow tall, and closed off his residence to onlookers. Not strictly a misanthrope, Munch chose to live in glorious isolation. He hardly stayed in contact with family or relatives and permitted few friends to visit.

At Ekely Munch constructed interior and exterior studio spaces where, situated among works, Munch stored The Frieze of Life. At his death in January 1944 at Ekely, Munch bestowed all works in his possession to the city of Oslo– more than 1000 paintings, 15,000 prints, and about 500 watercolors and drawings. There was also some sculpture. These artworks comprise most of today’s Munch Museum – see https://www.munchmuseet.no/

In 1922 Munch painted 12 murals for a chocolate factory in Oslo. In the 1920’s and 1930’s he exhibited his art frequently— in Zurich, Basel, Berne, Berlin, Mannheim, Dresden. In 1936 and 1937, he exhibited in London, Amsterdam and Stockholm. There were major shows and retrospectives.

LAST PAINTINGS RETURN TO EARLIER DARKER SUBJECTS AND THEMES

Besides monumental work for public projects, Munch late paintings included almost genre-type scenes such as horses and workers in the field, fishermen, an elm forest, fruit trees and a garden. While the main mural for Festival Hall at Oslo University is mostly decorative, The Sun (1909-11) recalls aspects of Symbolism that Munch depicted in his darker pictures of the 1890s. Some late pictures stirred with the memory of past, darker experiences such as The Death of the Bohemian (1926) and The Bohemian’s Wedding (1926). In 1915 he painted a new version of the Death Struggle from 1895.

After contracting Spanish Flu in 1919, Munch painted his self-portrait as a convalescent from sickness and death. Twenty years later the artist painted a self portrait as an insomniac in The Night Wanderer (1939). Munch produced paintings and graphic work in great number. There are self-portraits; portraits; beach motifs; motifs from life of workers, fishermen, and farmers; garden scenes; nudes; landscapes; the theme of Faust, etc.

When Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1940 during World War II, Munch’s exhibitions outside Norway ceased by 1942. In 1937 the Nazis had labeled 37 of Munch’s paintings as “degenerate art” and they were removed and sold. After the invasion of Norway, Munch refused to have anything to do with the German occupiers. Munch stayed in Norway where he died at Ekely on January 23. 1944, at 80 years old.9

Edvard Munch, Uninvited Guests, 1932-1935, oil on canvas, 75 x 101 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

FOOTNOTES

1. Odilon Redon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986, p. 23.

Quoted in Martha Kapos, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993, pp. 175-180.

Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 6 and 24

2. Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 2.

https://munch.emuseum.com/objects/5801/laura-munch – retrieved September 4, 2021.

3. Fra Kristiania-Bohêmen is a novel from 1885 by Norwegian writer Hans Jaeger.

J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p 41.

Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 35.

Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 12

4. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p 45 and p.50-52.

Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, p.61 and p. 305.

Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 93.

Robert L. Delevoy, Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982, p. 100.

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/worldwidemovements/hansjaeger.html  -retrieved September 4, 2021.

5. Wolf-Dieter Dube, Expressionism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, p.157.

J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p .55; p. 61; p. 70. Pp. 51, 61, 70

Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, p.47 and p. 75.

Nancy Mowll Mathews, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 207.

Robert L. Delevoy, Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982, p. 98.

Robert Goldwater, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998, p.227.

Peter Paret, The Berlin Secession, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980, pp.79-80.

6. Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, p.10 and p. 152.

J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p 169.

https://theibtaurisblog.com/2012/08/06/the-graphic-works-and-prints-of-edvard-munch/ – retrieved September 4, 2021.

Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, pp. 18, 37, 45.

Philippe Jullian, Dreams of Decadence: Symbolist painters of the 1890s, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971. Pp 88-91

Michael Gibson, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p.144.

Robert L. Delevoy, Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982, p. 97.

Rodolphe Rapetti, Symbolism, Paris: Flammarion, 2005.p. TBA

7. Robert Goldwater, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998, p.216. and 279.

J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 81; 88-89; 103; 123. .

https://www.nrk.no/urix/korrespondentbrevet-30.-mars-1.10964285 – retrieved September 3, 2021.

Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, pp. 196, 203, 228, 236.

Edward Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 189.

8. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, pp. 127-128.

Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 373.
9. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 167.

Michael Gibson, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p.149.

Munch, Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, New York: Universe Books, 1964,  p. i-ii; 1.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bischoff, Ulrich, Edvard Munch 1863-1944, Cologne: Taschen, 2000.
Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982.
Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Eggum, Arne, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, New York: C.N. Potter, 1984.
Gibson, Michael, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999.
Goldwater, Robert, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998.
Hodin, J.P., Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972.
Jullian, Philippe, Dreams of Decadence: Symbolist Painters of the 1890s, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
Kapos, Martha, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993.
Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, Munch, New York: Universe Books, 1964.
Lucie-Smith, Edward, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972.
Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 207.
Paret, Peter, The Berlin Secession, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.
Prideaux, Sue, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.
Rapetti, Rodolphe, Symbolism, Paris: Flammarion, 2005.
Redon, Odilon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986.
Selz, Jean, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974.

LIST OF WORKS BY EDVARD MUNCH

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1886.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, crayon, 1893.

Edvard Munch, Melancholy, Laura.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1882, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Interior Pilestredet, oil on canvas, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Still Life with Jar, Apple, Walnut and Coconut, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, From Saxegårdsgate, c. 1882, oil on canvas, Lillehammer Art Museum.

Edvard Munch, Laura, 1882, oil on paper (top) and oil on cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Andreas Studying Anatomy, 1883, Oil on Cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Tête-à-tête, oil on canvas, 1885, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child (original version), 1885-86, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Hans Jæger, 1889, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Night on the Beach, 1889, Bergen Art Museum.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait, c. 1888,  Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell, 1885, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Night In St. Cloud, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Evening on the Karl Johan, 1889, oil, Bergen Art Museum.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy, 1891, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Rue Lafayette, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Rue de Rivoli, 1891, oil on canvas, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Edvard Munch, Melancholy, 1893, oil, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Melancholy (The Yellow Boat), 1891, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the window, 1892, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1892, oil, Private Collection.

Edvard Munch, The Girl by the Window, 1893, oil, Art Institute of Chicago.

Edvard Munch, Separation, 1893-94, Gouache, watercolor and crayon on paper, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Parting, 1894, oil on canvas, 67 x 128 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Three Stages of Women (Sphinx), c. 1894, Bergan.

Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894–1895, oil on canvas, 151.5 x 110 cm, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Despair, 1893, oil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Inger in Black and Violet, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The storm, oil on canvas, 1893, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Edvard Munch, Summer Night’s Dream The Voice, 1893, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

Edvard Munch, Coastal Mysticism, 1892.

Edvard Munch, Sketch of the Model Posing, 1893, pastel on cardboard, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Edvard Munch, The Hands, 1893, oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Under the Mask of the Woman, 1893, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895, oil,  Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait in Hell, c. 1895, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski,1895, pastel, 62x55cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, National Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895. Ink.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, Dry-point and aquatint, 34.8 x 28 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Kiss, woodcut, n.d., 44.7 x 44.7. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1896, Lithograph, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894, Dry-point, 30.2 x 22 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.  

Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening),1896, woodcut, 37.6 x 45.5.  cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Attraction, 1896, Lithograph, 47.2 x 35.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Lithograph, 42.1 x 56.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Evening, Melancholy I, woodcut, 1896.

Edvard Munch, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, lithograph.

Edvard Munch, Auguste Strindberg, 1896, lithograph.

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1895, Lithograph, 45.5×31.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Edvard Munch, Lady From the Sea (detail), 1896, oil on canvas. 100 cm × 320 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Voice Summer Night, 1896, 90 cm × 119 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo

Edvard Munch, Paris Boulevard, 1896, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 130 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas, 141 x 121 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Two people, 1899, oil on canvas, 175 x 143 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907, oil on canvas, 118 x 99 cm

Edvard Munch, Marat’s death, 1907, oil on canvas, 151 x148 cm, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, The Murderess, 1906, Munch museum.

Edvard Munch, Death of Marat I, 1907, 150 x 199 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1897, oil on canvas, 99 x 80.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893, oil on canvas, 128 x 86 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Man and Woman, 1898, oil on canvas, Bergen.

Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski (The Vampire), Oil and/or tempera on unprimed cardboard, 1893.

Edvard Munch, Weeping Nude, 1913–1914, 110 cm × 135 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Against a Green Background and Caricature Portrait of Tulla Larsen, 1905.

Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1893,

Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900.

Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, The Brooch, 1903, lithograph, 60×46 cm.

Edvard Munch, Salome, 1903, lithograph.

Edvard Munch, Fertility, 1898, woodcut, 42 x 51.7 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Women on the Beach, 1898, woodcut, 45.5 x 50.8 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Red and White, 1899–1900, 93 cm × 129 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906, Thiel Gallery, Stockholm.

Edvard Munch, Red Virginia Creeper, 1900, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.

Edvard Munch, Young People on the Beach, 1902, oil on canvas, 90 x 174 cm.

Edvard Munch, On the beach, 1905, oil on canvas, 81x 121 cm.

Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 194 x 294 cm.

Edvard Munch, Shore with Red House, 1904, oil on canvas, 69 × 109 cm, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Train Smoke,1900, 84 cm × 109  cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, At The Sign of the Sweet Girl, 1907, oil on canvas, 85 x 130 cm.

Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.

Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.

Edvard Munch, Four Girls Åsgårdstrand, 1905, oil on canvas, 87x111cm.

Edvard Munch, Avenue in the snow, 1906, oil on canvas, 80 x100 cm.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904, 197×91 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, 1906, 110 cm × 120, The Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Deathbed, 1900, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm.

Edvard Munch, Village Street, 1905, oil on canvas, 100×100 cm.

Edvard Munch, Prayer, 1902, woodcut, 45.8 x32.5 cm.

Edvard Munch, Dr. Daniel Jacobson, 1909, oil on canvas, 204 x 112 cm.

Edvard Munch, Nurse, 1909, dry point, 20.5×15.2  cm.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Bergen, 1916, oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm.

Edvard Munch, Bathing Men, 1907–1908, oil on canvas, 206 x 227.5 cm, Atheneum, Helsinki.

Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894/5, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Moonlight in Nice, 1895, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom, 1893, pastel on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge,1899-1901, National Gallery, Oslo.

Edvard Munch, Mother and Daughter, 1897, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.

Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude, 1919, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.

Edvard Munch, Artist and his Model, 1919-1921, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.

UTAGAWA HIROSHIGE (1797-1858). Ukiyo-e Master.

FEATURE image: Memorial Portrait of Hiroshige, 1858, Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Hiroshige is best known for his horizontal-format landscape series The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō and his vertical format landscape series One Hundred Views of Edo.

His subjects are an expansion of the ukiyo-e genre, adding to its usual focus on beautiful women, popular actors, and scenes of urban pleasure districts during Japan’s Edo dynasty (1603–1868). 

In 1603, the city of Edo (the earlier name for today’s Tokyo) became the urban center of the ruling Tokugawa shōgunate.

One Hundred Views of Edo is a series of ukiyo-e prints by the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797–1858) that were published in serialized form between 1856 and 1859. Following Hiroshige’s death, the series was completed by his apprentice and posthumous son-in-law, Hiroshige II (1826-1869). 

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).

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.

Origins of German Expressionist Painting: Early Modern Art of ALEXEI VON JAWLENSKY (1864-1941), Russian-Émigré Painter, from 1889 to the Blue Rider in Munich in 1911.

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

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

SUMMARY:

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

Alexei von Jawlensky, Self Portrait, 1912.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne von Werefkin.

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

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

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

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

Anton Ažbe, Self portrait, 1886.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jawlensky, Cottage in the Woods, 1903.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Weinflasche, 1904.

Jawlensky, Marianne von Werfekin, 1905, Switzerland.

Jawlensky, Portrait de Madame Sid, 1905.

Jawlensky, The Hunchback, 1905.

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

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

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

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

Jawlensky, Bretonische Bäuerin, 1905.

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

Ferdinand Hodler, Self Portrait, 1900.

Jawlensky, Self portrait, 1905.

Jawlensky spent the fall of 1906, as evidenced in correspondence, in Wasserburg am Inn outside of Munich. He painted landscapes and portraits.

The next year, in 1907, he returned to Wasserburg for a shorter stay with his 5-year-old son, Andreas. 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, Kiefer (Pine Tree), summer 1909, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ida Gerhadi, Portrait of Karl Ernst Osthaus, 1903.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jawlensky, Turandot I, 1912, Privatsammlung.

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

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

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

Alexander Kanoldt, Nikolaiplatz, 1910-13.

Jawlensky, Yellow Houses, 1909.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.

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

15. ibid., p 186 and 191.

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

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

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

19. Barnett, p. 90.

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

21. Selz, p. 196.

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

23. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 169.

24. Hoberg, not paginated.

25. Elgar, Expressionism, p.177.

26. Selz, p. 197.

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ITALIAN ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Dosso Dossi (c. 1489–1542), Melissa, 1520s. 69.25 x 68.5 inches, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Dosso Dossi (c. 1489–1542), Melissa, 1520s. 69.25 x 68.5 inches, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542)– whose actual name was Giovanni de Lutero–was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the School of Ferrara. Among scores of artists who painted mainly in the Venetian style 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 stylized, artificially-lighted elements – that is, Giorgionesque – that provide a magical setting for the poem’s characters.

The figure of Melissa is draped in a fringed red-and-gold-brocaded robe and enriched by Titianesque glazes. She is particularly alluring in a sparkling gold and green setting moored by meticulously and softly portrayed meadows, background figures, and distant city towers.

Titian (c.1511-1576), The Death of Actaeon. c. 1559-75, oil on canvas, 178.8 × 197.8 cm. National Gallery London.

SOURCE: History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Third Edition, Frederick Hartt, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987.
A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.
Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, Allan Braham, The National Gallery, London (William Collins), 1985.