Everything you can imagine is real

Exhibition: Guernica

Date: 27 March – 29 July 2018

Venue: Canal de Isabel II Foundation, Madrid. Musée national Picasso | Paris, France

BREAD AND FRUIT DISH ON A TABLE, 1908-1909
 Oil on canvas, 163.7 x 132.1 cm Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel

Although, as Picasso himself put it, he “led the life of a painter” from very early childhood, and although he expressed himself through the plastic arts for eighty uninterrupted years, the essence of Picasso’s creative genius differs from that usually associated with the notion of the artiste-peintre. It might be more correct to consider him an ‘artist-poet’ because his lyricism, his psyche, unfettered by mundane reality, and his gift for the metaphoric transformation of reality are no less inherent in his visual art than they are in the mental imagery of a poet.

The Old Jew, 1903 Oil on canvas, 125 x 92 cm. Pushkin Museum, Moscow

According to Pierre Daix, “Picasso always considered himself a poet who was more prone to express himself through drawings, paintings, and sculptures.”1 Always? That calls for clarification. It certainly applies to the 1930s, when he wrote poetry, and to the 1940s and 1950s, when he turned to writing plays. There is, however, no doubt that from the outset Picasso was always “a painter among poets, a poet among painters”.

La Coiffure, 1906 Oil on canvas, 174.9 x 99.7 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Picasso had a craving for poetry and attracted poets like a magnet. When they first met, Guillaume Apollinaire was struck by the young Spaniard’s unerring ability “to straddle the lexical barrier” and grasp the fine points of recited poetry. One may say without fear of exaggeration that whilst Picasso’s close friendship with the poets Jacob, Apollinaire, Salmon, Cocteau, Reverdy, and Éluard left an imprint on each of the major periods of his work, it is no less true that his own innovative work had a strong influence on French (and not only French) 20th-century poetry.

LES DEMOISELLES DÊAVIGNON, 1906 Oil on canvas, 243.9 x 233.7 cm The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Picasso, however, was born a Spaniard and, so they say, began to draw before he could speak. As an infant he was instinctively attracted to the artist’s tools. In early childhood he could spend hours in happy concentration drawing spirals with a sense and meaning known only to himself; or, shunning children’s games, he would trace his first pictures in the sand. This early self-expression held out promise of a rare gift.

TWO WOMEN RUNNING ON THE BEACH, 1922
Gouache on plywood, 32.5 x 41.1 cm Musée Picasso Paris, Paris

The first phase of life, preverbal, preconscious, knows neither dates nor facts. It is a dream-like state dominated by the body’s rhythms and external sensations. The rhythms of the heart and lungs, the caresses of warm hands, the rocking of the cradle, the intonation of voices, that is what it consists of. Now the memory awakens, and two black eyes follow the movements of things in space, master desired objects, express emotions.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the Picasso, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: Pablo Picasso,  Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon AustraliaAmazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), CiandoTolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  Weltbild Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , Scribd , Douban , Dangdang.

 

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When German soldiers used to come to my studio and look at my pictures of Guernica, they’d ask ‘Did you do this?’. And I’d say, ‘No, you did.’

Exhibition: Guernica

Date: March 27 – July 29, 2018

Venue: Musée national Picasso | Paris, France

When German soldiers used to come to my studio and look at my pictures of Guernica, they’d ask ‘Did you do this?’. And I’d say, ‘No, you did.’ – Pablo Picaaso

GUERNICA, 1937. Oil on canvas, 349.3 x 776.6 cm
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

The bloody historical event that moved Picasso to create this masterpiece in one month took place shortly before its first exhibition at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris, where it was shown after it was commissioned by the government of the Spanish Republic. The images and feelings of the three-hour bombing and destruction of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi planes were still fresh in the public consciousness. The brutally stark, monochrome work was controversial both as a reactive political statement and as art. The black and white must have been inspired by photographs taken of the war, such as those of Robert Capa. Despite the symbolism given to the different elements since the very creation of the painting, Picasso remained very secretive on the meanings of Guernica’s hidden themes and images.

Guernica state 1, 1937. Photograph by Dora Maar
Guernica state 3, 1937. Photograph by Dora Maar

Rarely do we get the chance to see a masterpiece in the making. Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover at the time, documented the frantic activity of Picasso during the month he spent working on what was to become Guernica. The photographs of these two states demonstrate that Picasso invented some of the painting as he went along. Note, in state 1, how a clenched fist takes up the space that would later be occupied by the head of the horse. Even when Picasso began applying paint to the canvas, we see elements that would be modified in the finished version.

Bull’s head. Study for ‘Guernica’, 1937. Graphite and gouache on tracing cloth, 23 x 29 cm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

One of the most recognisable figures in Guernica – and in Picasso’s whole oeuvre – is the bull. Many writers understand this to be a symbol of Spain, although Picasso is als noted to have said that in Guernica, it assumed the role of the brutality of fascism.

Mother and Dead Child (IV), 1937. Graphite, gouache, collage, and colour stick on tracing cloth, 23.1 x 29.2 cm. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid

Although one of Guernica’s most distinctive and powerful elements is its reduced chromatic scale, Picasso achieves great dramatism in many of his coloured studies. Such is the case with this Mother and Dead Child, where Picasso even added real hair to the figure of the woman. The tight composition and the nervous, hard lines define its dramatic immediacy.

Head of a Weeping Woman (Study for ‘Guernica’), 1937.
Graphite, gouache, and colour stick on tracing cloth, 23.2 x 29.3 cm
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid

Of all the iconic images that make up Guernica, perhaps the most dramatic is the woman who screams in distress whilst holding her dead child in her arms. Picasso made many drawings and paintings depicting weeping women such as these. Although the present study of this screaming head is not like the one on the final painting, it gives us an insight into the many different possibilities that Picasso considered before making the final work. It also speaks of the artist’s original intentions of including colour in the painting.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of Picasso, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: Picasso, Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon Australia Amazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), CiandoTolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  Weltbild , Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Nubico , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , ScribdDouban , Dangdang

William Morris: A Pattern is either right or wrong…It is no stronger than its weakest point

Exhibition: William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement in Great Britain

Date: February 22 – May 20, 2018

Venue: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya | Barcelona Spain

Edward Burne-Jones (for the design) and Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (for the production), The God of Love and Alceste, 1861-1864. Stained glass window from Chaucer’s Goode Wimmen, 46.8 x 50.7 cm. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

From the middle of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, we have passed through a period of aesthetic discontent which continues and which is distinct from the many kinds of discontent by which men have been troubled in former ages. No doubt aesthetic discontent has existed before; men have often complained that the art of their own time was inferior to the art of the past; but they have never before been so conscious of this inferiority or felt that it was a reproach to their civilisation and a symptom of some disease affecting the whole of their society.

William Morris and William Frend De Morgan (for the design) and Architectural Pottery Co. (for the production), Panel of tiles, 1876. Slip-covered tiles, hand-painted in various colours, glazed on earthenware blanks, 160 x 91.5 cm. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

We, powerful in many things beyond any past generation of men, feel that in this one respect we are more impotent than many tribes of savages. We can make things such as men have never made before; but we cannot express any feelings of our own in the making of them, and the vast new world of cities which we have made and are making so rapidly, seems to us, compared with the little slow-built cities of the past, either blankly inexpressive or pompously expressive of something which we would rather not have expressed. That is what we mean when we complain of the ugliness of most modern things made by men. They say nothing to us or they say what we do not want to hear, and therefore we should prefer a world without them.

Rose (detail), 1883. Pencil, pen, ink and watercolour on paper, 90.6 x 66.3 cm. Victoria & Albert Museum , London.

For us there is a violent contrast between the beauty of nature and the ugliness of man’s work which most past ages have felt little or not at all. We think of a town as spoiling the country, and even of a single modern house as a blot on the face of the earth. But in the past, until the eighteenth century, men thought that their own handiwork heightened the beauty of nature or was, at least, in perfect harmony with it. We are aware of this harmony in a village church or an old manor house or a thatched cottage, however plain these may be; and wonder at it as a secret that we have lost.

Indeed, it is a secret definitely lost in a period of about forty years, between 1790 and 1830. In the middle of the eighteenth century, foolish furniture, not meant for use, was made for the rich, both in France and in England; furniture meant to be used was simple, well made, and well proportioned. Palaces might have been pompous and irrational, but plain houses still possessed the merits of plain furniture. Indeed, whatever men made, without trying to be artistic, they made well; and their work had a quiet unconscious beauty, which passed unnoticed until the secret of it was lost.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (for the design) and Morris & Co. (for the production), The Rossetti Armchair, 1870-1890. Ebonized beech, with red painted decoration and rush seat, 88.8 x 49.5 x 53 cm. Victoria & Albert Museum , London.

When the catastrophe came, it affected less those arts such as painting, which are supported by the conscious patronage of the rich, than those more universal and necessary arts which are maintained by a general and unconscious liking for good workmanship and rational design. There were still painters like Turner and Constable, but soon neither rich nor poor could buy new furniture or any kind of domestic implement that was not hideous. Every new building was vulgar or mean, or both. Everywhere the ugliness of irrelevant ornament was combined with the meanness of grudged material and bad workmanship.

Tulip and Trellis, 1870. Hand-painted in blue and green on tin-glazed earthenware tile, 15.3 x 15.3 cm. Victoria & Albert Museum , London.

At the time no one seems to have noticed this change. None of the great poets of the Romantic Movement, except perhaps Blake, gives a hint of it. They turned with an unconscious disgust from the works of man to nature; and if they speak of art at all it is the art of the Middle Ages, which they enjoyed because it belonged to the past. Indeed the Romantic Movement, so far as it affected the arts at all, only afflicted them with a new disease. The Gothic revival, which was a part of the Romantic movement, expressed nothing but a vague dislike of the present with all its associations and a vague desire to conjure up the associations of the past as they were conjured up in Romantic poetry. Pinnacles, pointed arches and stained glass windows were symbols, like that blessed word Mesopotamia; and they were used without propriety or understanding. In fact, the revival meant nothing except that the public was sick of the native ugliness of its own time and wished to make an excursion into the past, as if for change of air and scene.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the William Morris, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: William Morris, Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon AustraliaAmazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), CiandoTolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  WeltbildeBook.de , Hugendubel.de , Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Nubico , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , ScribdDouban , Dangdang

Pre-Raphaelites: The Revolutionary Brotherhood: Return to the Middle Age

Exhibition: Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites

Date: Until April 2, 2018

Venue: National Gallery London

Chaucer at the Court of Edward III. Ford Madox Brown , 1847-1851
Oil on canvas, 372 x 296 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales , Sydney

English Art in 1844

Until 1848, one could admire art in England, but would not be surprised by it. Reynolds and Gainsborough were great masters, but they were 18th-century painters rather than 18th-century English painters. It was their models, their ladies and young girls, rather than their brushwork, which gave an English character to their creations. Their aesthetic was similar to that of the rest of Europe at that time. Walking through the halls of London museums, one could see different paintings, but no difference in manner of the painting and drawing, or even in the conception or composition of a subject.

The Eve of St Agnes. William Holman Hunt , 1848. Oil on canvas, 77.4 x 113 cm
Guildhall Art Gallery , Corporation of London, London

Only the landscape painters, led by Turner and Constable, sounded a new and powerful note at the beginning of the century. But one of them remained the only individual of his species, imitated as infrequently in his own country as elsewhere, while the work of the other was so rapidly imitated and developed by the French that he had the glory of creating a new movement in Europe rather than the good chance of providing his native country with a national art.

As for the others, they painted, with more or less skill, in the same way as artists of other nationalities. Their dogs, horses, village politicians, which formed little kitchen, interior, and genre scenes were only interesting for a minute, and even then the artists did not handle them as well as the Dutch. Weak, muddy colours layered over bitumen, false and lacking in vitality, with shadows too dark and highlights too intense. Soft, hesitating outlines that were vague and generalising. And as the date of 1850 approached, Constable’s words of 1821 resonated, “In thirty years English art will have ceased to exist.”

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. Dante Gabriel Rossetti , 1848-1849
Oil on canvas, 83.2 x 65.4 cm. Tate Britain , London

And yet, if we look closely, two characteristics were there, lying dormant. First, the intellectuality of the subject. The English had always chosen scenes that were interesting, even a bit complicated, where the mind had as much to experience as the eye, where curiosity was stimulated, the memory put into play, and laughter or tears provoked by a silent story. It was rapidly becoming an established idea (visible in Hogarth) that the paintbrush was made for writing, storytelling, and teaching, not simply for showing.

However, prior to 1850 it merely spoke of the pettiness of daily life; it expressed faults, errors or rigid conventional feelings; it sought to portray a code of good behaviour. It played the same role as the books of images that were given to children to show them the outcomes of laziness, lying, and greed. The other quality was intensity of expression. Anyone who has seen Landseer’s dogs, or even a few of those animal studies in Englishillustrated newspapers where the habitus corporis is followed so closely, the expression so wellstudied, can easily understand what is meant by “intensity of expression”.

The Renunciation of St Elizabeth of Hungary. James Collinson , c. 1848-1850
Oil on canvas, 120 x 182 cm. Johannesburg Art Gallery , Johannesburg

But in the same way that intellectuality was only present before 1850 in subjects that were not worth the effort, intensity of expression was only persistently sought and successfully attained in the representation of animal figures. Most human figures had a banal attitude, showing neither expressiveness nor accuracy, nor picturesque precision, and were placed on backgrounds imagined in the studio. They were prepared using academic formulas, according to general principles that were excellent in themselves, but poorly understood and lazily applied.

Rienzi vowing to obtain justice for the death of his young brother, slain in a skirmish between the Colonna and the Orsini factions. William Holman Hunt , 1849. Private collection

Such was English art until Ford Madox Brown came back from Antwerp and Paris, bringing an aesthetic revolution along with him. That is not to say that all the trends that have emerged and all the individuality that has developed since that time originated from this one artist, or that at the moment of his arrival, none of his compatriots were feeling or dreaming the same things that he was. But one must consider that in 1844, when William the Conqueror was exhibited for the first time, no trace of these new things had yet appeared. Rossetti was sixteen years old, Hunt seventeen, Millais fifteen, Watts twenty-six, Leighton fourteen, and Burne-Jones eleven, and consequently not one of these future masters had finished his training.

Christ in the House of his Parents (“The Carpenter’s Shop”). John Everett Millais , 1849-1850. Oil on canvas, 86.4 x 139.7 cm. Tate Britain , London

If one considers that the style of composition, outline, and painting ushered in by Madox Brown can be found fifty years after his first works in the paintings of Burne-Jones, having also appeared in those of Burne-Jones’ master Rossetti, one must acknowledge that the exhibitor of 1844 played the decisive role of sower, whereas others only tilled the soil in preparation or harvested once the crop had arrived.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: Pre-Raphaelites, Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon AustraliaAmazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), Ciando Tolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  WeltbildeBook.de , Hugendubel.de , Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Nubico , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , ScribdDouban , Dangdang

Pre-Raphaelites: The Revolutionary Brotherhood: Return to the Middle Age

Exhibition: Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites

Date: Until April 2, 2018

Venue: National Gallery London

Chaucer at the Court of Edward III. Ford Madox Brown , 1847-1851
Oil on canvas, 372 x 296 cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales , Sydney

English Art in 1844

Until 1848, one could admire art in England, but would not be surprised by it. Reynolds and Gainsborough were great masters, but they were 18th-century painters rather than 18th-century English painters. It was their models, their ladies and young girls, rather than their brushwork, which gave an English character to their creations. Their aesthetic was similar to that of the rest of Europe at that time. Walking through the halls of London museums, one could see different paintings, but no difference in manner of the painting and drawing, or even in the conception or composition of a subject.

The Eve of St Agnes. William Holman Hunt , 1848. Oil on canvas, 77.4 x 113 cm
Guildhall Art Gallery , Corporation of London, London

Only the landscape painters, led by Turner and Constable, sounded a new and powerful note at the beginning of the century. But one of them remained the only individual of his species, imitated as infrequently in his own country as elsewhere, while the work of the other was so rapidly imitated and developed by the French that he had the glory of creating a new movement in Europe rather than the good chance of providing his native country with a national art.

As for the others, they painted, with more or less skill, in the same way as artists of other nationalities. Their dogs, horses, village politicians, which formed little kitchen, interior, and genre scenes were only interesting for a minute, and even then the artists did not handle them as well as the Dutch. Weak, muddy colours layered over bitumen, false and lacking in vitality, with shadows too dark and highlights too intense. Soft, hesitating outlines that were vague and generalising. And as the date of 1850 approached, Constable’s words of 1821 resonated, “In thirty years English art will have ceased to exist.”

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. Dante Gabriel Rossetti , 1848-1849
Oil on canvas, 83.2 x 65.4 cm. Tate Britain , London

And yet, if we look closely, two characteristics were there, lying dormant. First, the intellectuality of the subject. The English had always chosen scenes that were interesting, even a bit complicated, where the mind had as much to experience as the eye, where curiosity was stimulated, the memory put into play, and laughter or tears provoked by a silent story. It was rapidly becoming an established idea (visible in Hogarth) that the paintbrush was made for writing, storytelling, and teaching, not simply for showing.

However, prior to 1850 it merely spoke of the pettiness of daily life; it expressed faults, errors or rigid conventional feelings; it sought to portray a code of good behaviour. It played the same role as the books of images that were given to children to show them the outcomes of laziness, lying, and greed. The other quality was intensity of expression. Anyone who has seen Landseer’s dogs, or even a few of those animal studies in Englishillustrated newspapers where the habitus corporis is followed so closely, the expression so wellstudied, can easily understand what is meant by “intensity of expression”.

The Renunciation of St Elizabeth of Hungary. James Collinson , c. 1848-1850
Oil on canvas, 120 x 182 cm. Johannesburg Art Gallery , Johannesburg

But in the same way that intellectuality was only present before 1850 in subjects that were not worth the effort, intensity of expression was only persistently sought and successfully attained in the representation of animal figures. Most human figures had a banal attitude, showing neither expressiveness nor accuracy, nor picturesque precision, and were placed on backgrounds imagined in the studio. They were prepared using academic formulas, according to general principles that were excellent in themselves, but poorly understood and lazily applied.

Rienzi vowing to obtain justice for the death of his young brother, slain in a skirmish between the Colonna and the Orsini factions. William Holman Hunt , 1849. Private collection

Such was English art until Ford Madox Brown came back from Antwerp and Paris, bringing an aesthetic revolution along with him. That is not to say that all the trends that have emerged and all the individuality that has developed since that time originated from this one artist, or that at the moment of his arrival, none of his compatriots were feeling or dreaming the same things that he was. But one must consider that in 1844, when William the Conqueror was exhibited for the first time, no trace of these new things had yet appeared. Rossetti was sixteen years old, Hunt seventeen, Millais fifteen, Watts twenty-six, Leighton fourteen, and Burne-Jones eleven, and consequently not one of these future masters had finished his training.

Christ in the House of his Parents (“The Carpenter’s Shop”). John Everett Millais , 1849-1850. Oil on canvas, 86.4 x 139.7 cm. Tate Britain , London

If one considers that the style of composition, outline, and painting ushered in by Madox Brown can be found fifty years after his first works in the paintings of Burne-Jones, having also appeared in those of Burne-Jones’ master Rossetti, one must acknowledge that the exhibitor of 1844 played the decisive role of sower, whereas others only tilled the soil in preparation or harvested once the crop had arrived.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: Pre-Raphaelites, Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon AustraliaAmazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), Ciando Tolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  WeltbildeBook.de , Hugendubel.de , Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Nubico , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , ScribdDouban , Dangdang

Toulouse-Lautrec and the French can-can

Exhibition: Toulouse-Lautrec and the Pleasures of the Belle Époque

Date: February, 8 – May, 6 , 2018

Venue: Canal de Isabel II Foundation , Madrid.

Bal du Moulin Rouge, 1889. Poster, 130 x 90 cm
Plakatsammlung, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich , Zurich

Frustrated and unsuccessful, an artist laments in an illustration in the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus issued in 1910: “You know, if one were a Frenchman, or dead, or a pervert – best of all, a dead French pervert – it might be possible to enjoy life!”. He is endeavouring to paint while his domestic life crowds in on him from every direction:children run about screaming, toys lie scattered on the floor, and his wife is hanging up washing on a line stretched across his studio.

Man’s Head with a Hat, 1880. Oil and camaieu on wood, 23.9 x 16.6 cm. Musée Toulouse-Lautrec , Albi

The idea that genius and domesticity are incompatible with one another was hardly new, but the artist’s comment shows how quickly the turbulent lives and premature deaths of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin had entered popular mythology. Lautrec, who died aged thirty-seven in 1901, Gauguin, who died aged fifty-five in 1903, and the Dutch-born but French-by-adoption Vincent van Gogh did more than any others to colour popular ideas about the ‘artist’ in the twentieth century.

Countess Adèle de Toulouse-Lauttrec (the artist’s mother while having breakfast
at Malromé Castle), 1881-1883. Oil on canvas, 93.5 x 81 cm. Musée Toulouse-Lautrec , Albi

Although the notion of the artist as a self-destructive outsider reached its peak at the end of the nineteenth century with Lautrec, Gauguin and van Gogh, its origin can be traced back to the late eighteenth century when political, cultural and economic revolutions transformed the way artists saw themselves and their relations with the world around them. In 1765, under the ancien régime, the pastel artist Maurice Quentin de La Tour depicted himself as an aspiring courtier, with powdered wig, velvet jacket and an ingratiating smile.

Still Life, Pool Table, 1882. Oil on canvas, 27 x 22 cm. Musée Toulouse-Lautrec , Albi

Somewhat less pretentiously and dressed a good deal more practically, his contemporary Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin also showed himself as a well-adjusted and contented member of society on a lower social rung. Two or three decades later, the smiles and benign expressions no longer appear on the faces of a new generation of young artists including Jacques-Louis David, Henry Fuseli and Joseph Turner. These are young men in complex and even tormented states of mind, whose self-portraits challenge the viewer with their ferocious stares.

A link between the angry young men of Romanticism and the peintres maudits of the late nineteenth century is provided by Gustave Courbet who, in the 1840s and 50s, developed the myth of the artist in a series of self-portraits culminating famous Bonjour M. Courbet.

Gustave Courbet . Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854. Oil on canvas, 132 x 151 cm. Musee Fabre

In this painting, Courbet flouts social conventions with his bohemian appearance and his lordly body language as he greets his wealthy bourgeois patron. Lautrec, too, relished in the role of bohemian outsider, and celebrated it in a series of elaboratelyposed group photographs of himself and his friends in outrageous fancy-dress costumes. Most hilariously, in 1884 he painted a parody of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’ noble masterpiece The Sacred Grove Cherished by the Arts and Muses in which he shows himself and his drunken friends bursting precipitately into the sacred grove. He emphasises his own grotesque and dwarflike appearance. Seen from behind, he seems to be urinating in front of Puvis’ solemn ladies.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the Toulouse-Lautrec, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on: Toulouse-Lautrec, Amazon UK , Amazon US , Ebook Gallery , iTunes , Google , Amazon AustraliaAmazon CanadaRenaud-BrayArchambaultLes Libraires , Amazon Germany , Ceebo (Media Control), CiandoTolino Media , Open Publishing , Thalia ,  Weltbild , eBook.de , Hugendubel.de , Barnes&NobleBaker and Taylor , Amazon Italy , Amazon Japan , Amazon China , Amazon India , Amazon Mexico , Amazon SpainAmabook , Odilo , Casa del libro , 24symbols , Arnoia , Nubico , Overdrive , Amazon France , numilog , youbooxDecitreChapitre , Fnac France , Fnac Switzerlandibrairiecharlemagne.com , BookeenCyberlibris , Kobo , Scribd , Douban , Dangdang

Degas: Light as a Tutu of a Ballet Student of the Paris Opers

Exhibition: The Art of Pastel From Degas to Redon

Date: 15 September 2017 – 8 April 2018

Venue: Le Petit Palais 

The Dancing Class (detail), c. 1870. Oil on wood, 19.7 x 27 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Edgar Degas was closest to Pierre-Auguste Renoir in the Impressionist’s circle, for both favoured the animated Parisian life of their day as a motif in their paintings. Degas did not attend Charles Gleyre’s studio; most likely he first met the future Impressionists at the Café Guerbois. It is not known exactly where he met Édouard Manet. Perhaps they were introduced to one another by a mutual friend, the engraver Félix Bracquemond, or perhaps Manet, struck by Degas’ audacity, first spoke to him at the Louvre in 1862. Two months after meeting the Impressionists, Degas exhibited his canvases with Claude Monet’s group, and became one of the most loyal of the Impressionists: not only did he contribute works to each of their exhibitions except the seventh, he also participated very actively in organising them. All of which is curious, because he was rather distinct from the other Impressionists.

The Dance Foyer at the Opera on the rue Le Petelier, 1872. Oil on canvas, 32.7 x 46.3 cm.
Musée d’Orsay , Paris.

Degas came from a completely different milieu than that of Monet, Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. His grandfather René-Hilaire de Gas, a grain merchant, had been forced to flee from France to Italy in 1793 during the French Revolution. Business prospered for him there. After establishing a bank in Naples, de Gas wed a young girl from a rich Genoan family. Edgar preferred to write his name simply as Degas, although he happily maintained relations with his numerous de Gas relatives in Italy.

Orchestra Musicians, 1872. Oil on canvas, 69 x 49 cm. Städel-Museum , Frankfurt.

Enviably stable by nature, Degas spent his entire life in the neighbourhood where he was born. He scorned and disliked the Left Bank, perhaps because that was where his mother had died. In 1850, Edgar Degas completed his studies at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, and, in 1852, received his degree in law. Because his family was rich, his life as a painter unfolded far more smoothly than for the other Impressionists.

After the Bath, c. 1896. Pastel, 89.5 x 116.8 cm.
The Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts , Philadelphia.

Degas started his apprenticeship in 1853 at the studio of Louis-Ernest Barrias and, beginning in 1854, studied under Louis Lamothe, who revered Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres above all others and transmitted his adoration for this master to Edgar Degas. Degas’ father was not opposed to his son’s choice. On the contrary: when, after the death of his wife, he moved to Rue Mondovi, he set up a studio for Edgar on the fourth floor, from which the Place de la Concorde could be seen over the rooftops. Edgar’s father himself was an amateaur painter and connoisseur; he introduced his son to his many friends. Among them were Achille Deveria, curator of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Bibliothèque Nationale, who permitted Edgar to copy from the drawings of the Old Masters: Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya, Holbein.

Two Dancers Entering the Stage, 1877-1878. Pastel on monotype, 38.1 x 35 cm. Fogg Art Museum , Cambridge

His father also introduced him to his friends in the Valpinçon family of art collectors, at whose home the future painter met the great Ingres. All his life Degas would remember Ingres’ advice as one would remember a prayer: “Draw lines … Lots of lines, whether from memory or from life” (Paul Valéry, Écrits sur l’Art [Writings on Art], Paris, 1962). Starting in 1854, Degas travelled frequently to Italy: first to Naples, where he made the acquaintance of his numerous cousins, and then to Rome and Florence where he copied tirelessly from the Old Masters. His drawings and sketches already revealed very clear preferences: Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Andrea Mantegna, but also Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandaio, Titian, Fra Angelico, Uccello, and Botticelli. He went to Orvieto Cathedral specifically to copy from the frescoes of Luca Signorelli, and visited Perugia and Assisi. The pyrotechnics of Italian painting dazzled him. Degas was lucky like no other.

The Morning Bath, c. 1887-1890. Pastel on off-white laid paper mounted on board, 70.6 x 43.3 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago , Chicago.

One can only marvel at the sensitivity Edgar’s father demonstrated with respect to his son’s vocation, at his insight into his son’s goals, and at the way he was able to encourage the young painter. “You’ve taken a giant step forwards in your art, your drawing is strong, your colour tone is precise,” he wrote his son. “You no longer have anything to worry about, my dear Edgar, you are progressing beautifully. Calm your mind and, with tranquil and sustained effort, stick to the furrow that lies before you without straying. It’s your own – it is no one else’s. Go on working calmly, and keep to this path” (J. Bouret, Degas, Paris, 1987).

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