Le Corsage Rayé by Jean-Édouard Vuillard

Le Corsage Rayé by Édouard Vuillard (1895)

Today I am featuring a work by the French painter and printmaker, Jean-Édouard Vuillard.  Vuillard was born in 1868 in Cuiseaux, a commune in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France.  His father was a retired sea captain and his mother a seamstress.  When he was nine years old the family moved to Paris where his mother established a dressmaking workshop in their apartment.  In1883, when Édouard was fifteen years old his father died.  Following the death of his father Édouard received a scholarship so that he could continue with his secondary education at the Lycée Condorcet.  It was here that he met and became friends with another aspiring artist, Ker Xavier Roussel.  Vuillard left the school the following year and he and Roussel continued their artistic education at the studio of Diogène Maillart, which was formerly the studio of Eugene Delacroix.

In 1887, at the age of nineteen, Vuillard finally managed to be accepted at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  He had tried twice before but on each occasion failed to pass the entrance exam.  In 1889 he enrolled at the Académie Julian where he met Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Ranson and Paul Sérusier.  It was Vuillard along with this group of young art students that formed the artistic grouping which came to be known as Les Nabis.  The French term nabi refers to a person inspired to speak the word of God and is clearly related to the Hebrew term for prophet (nebia) and the Arabic term  for prophet (nábi) .  The actual term was first used by the poet Henri Cazalis who drew a parallel between the way these painters aimed to revitalize painting (as prophets of modern art) and the way the ancient prophets had rejuvenated Israel.

In 1898 Vuillard set off on his European travels, visiting Venice and Florence and the following year made a trip to London.  In 1890 Vuillard put forward some of his paintings for the 1890 Salon.  He was both devastated and angered by the rejection of his works by the Salon jurists and vowed never to put forward any of his future works for Salon consideration.  Until the turn of the century Vuillard worked in theatrical circles, illustrating theatre programmes for the Théâtre Libre and even helped to set up the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre , with Aurélien Lugné-Poë which presented the work of the young French Symbolist playwrights and introducing major foreign dramas.  Vuillard continued to illustrate theatre programmes and design and paint theatrical settings.  In 1901 Vuillard had some of his works exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents and two years later put forward some paintings for the Salon d’Automne, an exhibition staged as a reaction to the conservative policies of the official Paris Salon.

Vuillard continued to live with his widowed mother and did so until her death in 1928.  A large number of his paintings had domestic themes or depictions of dressmaking scenes which would be set in the rooms of their house.  Often in these works Vuillard and his fellow Nabi painter, Pierre Bonnard, used domestic interior scenes as a setting for their paintings.  They were at pains to depict these domestic interiors with all their warmth, comfort and tranquil seclusion.  This type of subject matter became known as Intimism.  These paintings were marked by a gentle humor, and were finished in the subtle variety of soft, blurred colours.  The works would capture the light and atmosphere of the occasion but unlike Impressionism they would often embellish and distort the natural colour so as to communicate mood.  Many of his portraiture also retained the sense of Intimism with its calm domesticity.  Vuillard continued to receive numerous commissions from private patrons to paint portraits and decorative works as well as frescoes for public buildings. These commissions for public paintings included the decorations in the foyer of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and murals in the Palais de Chaillot and in the League of Nations in Geneva.  In his later years Vuillard concentrated on portraiture.

Jean-Édouard Vuillard died in La Baule, in the Loire-Atlantique department in western France, in 1940, aged 71.

My Daily Art Display’s featured oil on canvas painting is entitled Le Corsage Rayé,  which Vuillard completed in 1895 and can now be seen in the Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  The work was one of a set of five paintings, known as The Album,  based on household subjects, and commissioned by the Polish-born lawyer, journalist and art collector, Thadée Natanson, the publisher and co-founder of an artistic and literary journal called La Revue Blanche.  He was also a champion of Vuillard’s art and he and his wife were close friends of the artist.   The set of oil paintings were depictions of deep-coloured and richly textured interior scenes of varying formats, representing young bourgeois women engaged in simple domestic activities.  The set were to hang in the various rooms of Natanson’s Paris apartment.  In the case of this work it shows a woman arranging flowers.  The woman who modeled for this work is almost certainly Natanson’s wife, the concert pianist, Misia Godebska.

The woman dominates the painting with her puffed sleeved vintage dress in red and white stripes. No doubt the many years Vuillard watched his mother complete dresses in her studio aided him in the depiction of the woman’s clothing. The woman we see before us is arranging flowers in a vase. It is interesting to note that Vuillard has depicted the flowers not with an explosion of colour but has portrayed them with dull earthy colours.  This reason for this one presumes is so that they do not in any way detract from the clothing of the woman which Vuillard wants to be the focus of our attention.     Behind the woman we see another woman, dressed in what looks like a red uniform and is probably one of the woman’s servants.  Although this is a simple scene of domesticity the presence of the servant in some ways heightens the status of Misia.

Le Corsage Rayé by Picasso

I end this entry by mentioning Picasso.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, Picasso made a drawing in 1949 entitled Le Corsage Rayé and his lithographer, Fernand Mourlot had the image recreated in a 300 copy edition.  I thought you would like to compare it with today’s featured work.   The second reason for mentioning Picasso as my next two entries will feature works by the artist and although I am not a fan of his later works I am fascinated by some of his earlier paintings and enthralled by the early part of his life.

The paintings were sold at auction by Thadée Natanson in 1908,  several years after he and his wife Misia were divorced.

My next blog will be about four days away as I am about to embark on my annual pilgrimage to Paris and soak up the atmosphere of the French capital and hopefully take in a gallery visit.  I am also hoping, depending on the weather, to visit La Maison Fournaise (see My Daily Art Display August 2nd 2011) and Giverny.

au revoir !

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Susanna at her Bath by Francesco Hayez

Susanna at her Bath by Francesco Hayez (1850)

For an artist to have two favourite subjects for his paintings, biblical stories and female nudity, one would have thought combining the two would be somewhat difficult, if not risky.  However my featured artist today, the leading Romantic painter and portraitist of his time, Francesco Hayez, has, on a number of occasions, achieved that very thing.

Francesco Hayez was born in Venice in 1791.    He was the youngest of five sons.  His father was a French fisherman originally from Valenciennes and his mother, Chiara Torcella came from island of Murano, situated in the Venetian lagoon.  He was born into an impoverished household but fate took a hand in his life as Francesco was brought up in the household of his mother’s sister whose husband, Giovanni Binasco was a wealthy antiquarian and an avid art dealer and art collector.  It is more than likely that his uncle’s love for art transferred to his nephew, who in his childhood days developed a love of drawing.   Hayez’s uncle further developed Francesco’s love of art by gaining him a position as an apprentice in a studio of an art restorer.  His uncle then arranged for Francesco to study art under the tutelage of the Italian historical and allegorical painter, Francesco Maggiotto where he learnt about the Neo-Classical style of painting.  From the age of eleven to fifteen he studied the use of colour in classes run by the Bergamo painter, Lattanzio Querena, a skilful portraitist and copyist of 16th century Venetian paintings.

At the age of seventeen, Francesco Hayez was able to be enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia where he studied under the historical and portrait painter, Teodoro Matteini.  It was whilst at the Academia that he won a painting competition, the prize being the chance to study for one year at one of the leading art establishments, Academia di San Luca in Rome.  Although his prize was for a one-year study period, Francesco Hayez, remained in the Italian capital for almost five years and spent much time studying the works of Raphael in the four Stanze di Raffaello (“Raphael’s rooms”) in the Vatican Palace.   He then moved on to Naples in order to fulfill a commission he had received from Joachim-Napoléon Murat, who at the time was the King of Naples, and brother-in-law to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Hayez moved to Milan in 1823 when he was thirty two years of age.   He was appointed Professor of Painting at the Accademia di Brera and soon became part of the academic and aristocratic life of the city.  It was around this time that he concentrated his art work on history paintings and portraiture and regularly exhibited his works at the annual Brera exhibitions.  In the mid 1830s he attended the famous Salon, which became known as the Salotto Maffei, as it was hosted by Clara Maffei, a leading Milan society hostess of the time.  Salon was the name given to gatherings of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.  Clara’s salon was always well attended by well-known writers, artists, scholars, musical composers such as Verdi and people who were pro-Risorgimento (the political and social movement that wanted all the different states of the Italian peninsular united into one single state of Italy).  Hayez received many commissions from the men in the forefront of the fight for Italian independence and unification, one of these was his good friend Teodoro Arese, who in Hayez’s 1828 painting, Count Francesco Teodoro Arese in Prison, he depicted Arese in chains as a reminder of Arese’s imprisonment in 1821, as a result of his struggle against the government.

The paintings of Hayez were often dominated by biblical themes but Hayez had also developed an interest in the history of his country and began to incorporate contemporary political and social figures in historical backgrounds.  The sense of patriotism which he depicted in his portraiture was always well received by his patrons.   In 1850 he was appointed the director of the Academy of Brera and it is the Pinacoteca di Brera (“Brera Art Gallery”) which now houses one of the most famous of Hayez paintings, The Kiss (see My Daily Art Display Jan 6th 2011).

As I stated at the start of this blog, besides his love of historical and  biblical paintings, one of his other favourite themes was that of the semi-clothed, or the naked female. He often incorporated these within oriental themes or scenes from harems, such as his 1867 painting, Odalisque. By doing this he and other artists were able, in some way, to counter any possible negative comments by people offended by naked flesh.

Penitent Mary Magdalene by Francesco Hayez (1825)

What was more controversial was his 1825 portrayal of a naked repenting, Mary Magdalene, entitled Penitent Mary Magdalene, which surprisingly depicted such a well-known religious figure in a full-frontal nude pose.  Hayez’s reasoning behind such a depiction, which was not the normal portrayal of Mary Magdalene recanting her sins, was that it was to remind us of Mary Magdalene’s somewhat erotic and dubious past.

My featured Hayez painting today has also religious connotations but is unlike many similar depictions.  The work, which he completed in 1850, is entitled Susanna at her Bath and is housed in the National Gallery, London.  It has allowed the artist to combine his love of biblical stories and the portrayal of a well-endowed female nude.  The story of Susanna and the Elders comes from Chapter 13 of the Old Testament Book of Daniel

The story revolves around a Hebrew wife named Susanna who was falsely accused by two lecherous voyeurs.  Whilst bathing one day in her garden and having dispensed of the services of her attendants, two lustful elders secretly observe her.  On making her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them.  She is horrified at their suggestion and refuses to be blackmailed.  The two lechers carry out their threat and inform the authorities about her affair with an illicit lover.  She is arrested and about to be put to death by stoning for promiscuity when a young man named Daniel interrupts the proceedings, shouting that the two elders should be questioned to prevent the death of an innocent. The two men are questioned separately and their stories do not agree. The court then realises that the two elders have made false accusations against Susanna.   The false accusers are put to death and virtue triumphs.

The Susanna in Hayez’s painting is the same Susanna but unlike other depictions of the event we do not see the two elders and accordingly Hayez has not included the words “the Elders” in the title of his work.  Hayez has preferred to concentrate all his artistic ability in his depiction of the nubile and beautiful young woman.  Although the two men are not seen by us we notice the accusatory expression on Susanna’s face as she looks over her shoulder and catches a glimpse of her voyeurs.  It is a truly beautiful painting and Hayez’s portrayal of the voluptuous Susanna with her pale skin and pursed lips is remarkable.  Look into her eyes.  It is as if she is looking straight through us.  We ourselves feel accused of staring at her naked flesh.  We can just imagine her unwavering stare as she browbeats the two old lechers.  The background to the right is dark and contrasts with the pale white skin of her leg and this chiaroscuro effect adds to the painting.

Susanna and the Elders by Artemisia Gentileschi (1610)

This painting depicting the biblical scene portrays Susanna’s character as being quite hard, determined and dare I say slightly brazen.  If you want to see a slightly different depiction of Susanna, in which she is shown as being vulnerable, frightened and devastated by the overtures of the two lechers then you must look at the painting Susanna and the Elders by my favourite female artist, Artemisia Gentilesschi.  She completed the work in 1610 and rather than showing Susanna as a coy or flirtatious person as often depicted by male artists, including Hayez, Artemisia looks on the event from the female perspective and deftly portrays the vulnerability of Susanna, showing her as being both scared and repulsed by the demands of the two men who menacingly loom over her.  It is one of the few Susanna paintings showing the sexual assault by the two Elders as a traumatic event. Artemisia Gentileschi at the time of her painting was having a torrid time with her boyfriend who two years later would rape her and Artemisia had then to endure the trauma and mortification of the rape trial.

Ruth in Boaz’s Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Ruth in Boaz’s Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1828)

Today I am returning to a biblical work of art and one which I saw at the National Gallery in London a fortnight ago, and like a number of paintings I have recently reviewed, it was hanging in Room 41.  There are a number of biblical events which seem to be favourites with the artistic fraternity, such as the Crucifixion, the Deposition, Susanna and the Elders, Lot and his daughters,  just to mention a few.  Today’s depiction of these two biblical characters is no different, as one or both have been seen in paintings by Michelangelo, Chagall, William Blake, William Morris, Fabritius, Nicolas Poussin and Rembrandt just to mention a few.  The biblical characters in question are Ruth and Boaz and the painting I am featuring today is entitled Ruth in Boaz’s Field by the German painter, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld was born in Leipzig in 1794.  His father, Johann Veit Schnorr was an engraver and painter and he gave his son his initial artistic training.  When Julius was seventeen years of age he attended the Vienna Academy where he studied for four years under the German portrait and historical painter, Heinrich Füger.  It was at this establishment that he made friends with fellow students, the German painter, Ferdinand Olivier and the Austrian painter Joseph Anton Koch.   A couple of years prior to enrolling at the Vienna Academy,  six of the students had formed an artistic cooperative in Vienna and  called it the Brotherhood of St. Luke or Lukasbund, a name, which followed the tradition for medieval guilds of painters.  In 1810 four of them, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Franz Pforr, Ludwig Vogel and Johann Konrad Hottinger moved to Rome, where they occupied the abandoned monastery of San Isidro.   Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld followed this group to Rome when he had completed his four-year course in 1815.

This grouping of German and Austrian Romantic painters was known as the Nazarenes and their formation was a reaction against Neoclassicism and the repetitive art education of the academy system. By setting up this group they hoped to return to art, which personified spiritual values, and this group sought stimulation from the works of artists of the late Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance periods.  The goal of the Nazarenes was to add to their works of art a purity of form and spiritual values which they saw in Renaissance art.  The group lived a semi-monastic existence, and they were given the name Nazarenes, by their detractors, as a term of derision, used against them for the quirky way they dressed, which imitated a biblical manner of clothing and hair style. They remained undeterred for the Nazarenes believed this was a way of re-creating the nature of the medieval artist’s workshop.  Most of their works were centered around religious subjects.

Julius returned to Germany in 1825 and went to live in Munich where he was employed by  King Ludwig I,  who that year had succeeded his late father, King Maximillian I, and had become King of Bavaria.  Julius and his staff then set about decorating the King’s palaces.  Julius was a follower of Lutherism and his later artistic phase featured biblical works.   His biblical works were often crowded scenes and were frequently criticised for their lack of harmony, unlike his featured painting today.  His biblical drawings and the cartoons he made for frescoes formed a natural lead up to his designs for church windows. His designs would then be made up into stained glass windows at the royal factory in Munich.  His fame as an artist soon spread and besides his commissions from German patrons he received many more from abroad, including ones for windows in both Glasgow and St Paul’s cathedrals.

Julius Schnorr died in Munich in 1872 aged 78.

Today’s oil on canvas painting entitled Ruth in Boaz’s Field Boaz is a biblical tale narrating the story of the first meeting between Ruth and Boaz and was painted by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld in 1828.   This picture was painted in Munich and based on drawings he had made a few years earlier whilst in Italy.

The subject is taken from the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Here we see the Moabite woman, Ruth, meeting with Boaz and she is gleaning (gathering up corn left after the harvest) to support her widowed mother-in-law. The landowner Boaz who talks to her has come to show his admiration for her hard work in supporting herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth was a daughter-in-law of Naomi, a woman from Bethlehem, who had left the city in order to escape the famine.  She, along with her husband Elimelech and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, travelled to the land of Moab which lay east of the Dead Sea.  However Naomi’s husband dies.  Later Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women but ten years later both of the sons die leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.  Naomi feeling there was no reason to remain in Moab any longer decides to return alone to Bethlehem telling her daughter-in-laws to stay in Moab and return to their parent’s homes. Orpah goes back to her family but Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi saying:

“…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me…”

Naomi and Ruth then travel back to Bethlehem.  It is harvest time and in order to support her mother-in-law and herself, Ruth goes to the fields to glean (to gather up corn left after the harvest).  The story (Book of Ruth: 2) continues with the story:

“…And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour. “Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”   So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz who was from the clan of Elimelech.  Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”.  “The Lord bless you!” they called back.

Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Who is that young woman”    The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi”.   She asks Boaz, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.”  She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.’

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.  As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered, Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

Her mother- in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the person who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the person I worked with today is Boaz,” she said….”

The romantic story of Ruth and Boaz has a “happy ending” and for those of you who want to know what happened after that first meeting in the cornfield on the outskirts of Bethlehem you will have to read the Old Testament Book of Ruth (1-4).

Of all the biblical depictions of the couple I have seen in works of art I believe this to be the best.  The colours and tones used by the artist are superb.

Madame Hector France (Portrait of H.F.) by Henri Edmond Cross

Madame Hector France (Portrait of H.F.) by Henri Edmond Cross (1891)

Today I want to look at the life of Delacroix and a couple of his paintings.  However I am not talking about Eugène Delacroix but the artist Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix who was born in Douai a commune in the Nord département in Northern France, in 1856, some fifty-eight years after the great French Romantic painter.

Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix was the only surviving child of a French father, Alcide Delacroix and a British mother, Fanny Woollett.  The family moved to Lille when Henri was nine years of age.  He showed an interest in drawing when he was young and his parents sent him to Carolus-Duran, the Lille painter, for private drawing and painting lessons when he was just ten years of age. He was encouraged as a youth to develop his artistic talent by his father’s widowed cousin, Dr Auguste Soins, who paid for much of Henri’s artistic training.   He spent a short time in Paris when he was nineteen, studying under the tutelage of the French realist painter, François Bonvin before returning to Lille.  In 1878 he enrolled on a three-year course at the Écoles Académiques de Dessin et d’Architecture in Lille and studied under the painter, Alphonse Colas.  Three years later he returned to Paris and studied in the atelier of Émile Dupont-Zipcy.

Henri began exhibiting his work in 1881 but so that he and his work would not be confused with the late romantic artist Henri-Eugène Delacroix he decided to change his name to “Henri Cross” which was a reduced English version of his surname (croix).  In 1886 he changed the signature on his paintings to Henri Edmond Cross so that there would be no confusion between him and the glass paste sculptor Henri Cros.  Henri Cross’ artwork changed in 1883 after travelling south to Provence and meeting up with Claude Monet.  His early works which had been mainly realist portraiture and still-life works had been predominately dark in colour but suddenly it all changed and his paintings took on the lighter colours and tones of the Impressionists.

The following year, 1884, was a milestone in French art.  Up until then any artist wanting to progress in their chosen career relied completely on having their works exhibited at the Paris Salon and for that to happen they had to submit their paintings to the Salon jurists to see if they considered their works good enough to be exhibited.  The jurists were, at this time, increasingly conservative in their views of what art was acceptable and were not receptive to the works proffered by the Impressionist artists whose works had moved away from the traditional academic style.  The Impressionists would often have their paintings rejected by the Salon jurists or if they did manage to have a paintings accepted it would be hung in such a way that it was almost hidden from view.  In 1863 the jurists rejected a surprisingly high percentage of paintings and this caused a furore amongst the “discarded” artists.

The following summer a number of these disgruntled artists, such as Seurat, Signac,  Albert Dubois-Pillet, Odilon Redon and today’s featured painter, Henri Cross, got together and formed the Société des Artistes Indépendants (Society of Independent Artists) and based the society on the premise sans jury ni récompense, (No jury nor awards).  They held their own inaugural exhibition, Salon des Indépendants, in May 1884 and Henri Cross exhibited some of his paintings.  In 1888 he visits the Cote d’Azur for the first time and paints in Eze and Nice and it is in this year that he meets Irma Clare, the subject of today’s paintings.  In 1891 he became Vice-President of the Society.  He had by this time become one of the leading figures of the Neo-Impressionism movement.

Henri Cross’ health was poor and he suffered badly from rheumatism.  He decided to move to the warmer climes of the South of France.   He initially settled in a rented house in Cabasson, near Le Lavandou, but later went to live in Saint-Clair, a small hamlet just outside of St Tropez, where he stayed for the rest of his life, except for his two visits to Italy, when he journeyed to Tuscany and Umbria in 1903 and 1908 and his trips to Paris to the annual Salon des Indépendants.  Paul Signac followed him south the next year and settled in St TropezIt was during this period that Cross was introduced to the revolutionary artist, Henri Matisse.  Henri Cross’ close working relationship with Paul Signac, led to him being introduced to the artistic technique, known as pointillism.  Pointillism is the methodical and scientific technique which juxtaposed small dots of pure colour together to maximize luminosity. The dots appear to intermingle and blend in the observer’s eye.

My Daily Art Display featured painting today was completed by Henri Cross in 1891 and is housed in the Musée d’Orsay.  It is entitled Madame Hector France (Portrait of H.F.) and is a fine example of the artist’s use of the pointillism technique with its screen of small regular dots over a densely painted ground.   Henri Cross exhibited the work at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1891 and was looked upon as his first major work which adopted the Neo-Impressionist style.

The subject of this impressive portrait is Irma Clare the wife of Hector France, a novelist who was best known for his 1886 French language collection of tales about European adventurers and veiled temptresses, under the marvellous title Musk, Hashish and Blood.  Irma appears to be on a terrace, having just escaped from a dazzling soiree which is the source of light emanating from the right.  This is almost a life-size portrait of the lady and the light of the summer’s night is suggested through the sparkling glow of the lamps which hang from the tree branches in the background.  It is a conventional society portrait.  Irma is adorned with the most sumptuous and elegant gown.  Wearing this full length gown she almost gives us the impression that she is gliding elegantly across the painting.  Her hair sparkles and its colouring almost merges with the night air which surrounds her

In the foreground we have a mottled pink and white rhododendron which, along with the way the artist has depicted the chair at an angle and the receding floor tiles, gives the painting added depth.  As we have seen in paintings I have featured by Monet and other Impressionists, the Japanese influence had taken hold in late nineteenth century France and it is more than likely that the floral display we see in this painting comes from the influence of Japanese prints which were all the rage in France as does the frieze of white Japanese fans we see in the middle-ground.

In May 1893, two years after the painting was exhibited, Mrs Hector France became Mrs Henri Edmond Cross, the wife of the artist.  For some people the coupling of the two was a coupling of opposites.  He was looked upon as a secretive man who was always serious whereas Irma was seen as more frivolous, high-spirited and somewhat shallow.  They lived in Saint-Clair and one of their neighbours was the Belgian Neo-Impressionist painter, Théo van Rysselberghe and his wife Maria.  She was unequivocally critical of Irma.  In the biography Henri-Edmond Cross: études et l’oeuvres sur papier by Françoise Baligand, Raphaël Dupouy, and Claire Maingon, she is quoted as describing Irma as “petty, base of nature and an idle gourmand”.  This was not the universal opinion of her as others such as the French artist and friend of the couple, Charles Angrand, found Irma very hospitable and during the latter part of Henri Cross’ life, a very caring person as far as her husband was concerned.

Portrait of Madame Cross by Henri Edmond Cross (1901)

Once settled and living around St Tropez, Henri Cross turned more and more to landscape painting using vivid colours but he would still complete the occasional portrait of his beloved wife as was the case in 1901 when he completed the work entitled Portrait of Madame Cross, seated in the garden, looking slightly older, bedecked in a large hat and a floral gown.  This painting is also housed at the Musée d’Orsay.

By 1907 Henri Cross’ health deteriorated.  His eyesight was being affected by the eye disease iritis and his arthritis was becoming more debilitating.  In 1909 whilst visiting Paris he was diagnosed as suffering from terminal cancer.  He returned home to Saint-Clair and died in May 1910 aged 54.  Henri Cross is buried in Le Lavandou.

Mr and Mrs Edwin Edwards by Henri Fantin-Latour

Mr and Mrs Edwards by Henri Fantin-Latour (1875)

Who should be my next featured artist and what the next featured painting should be are the decisions I have to make each day.    Often I will make my choice when I flick through one of my art books or maybe I will be inspired by an artist or painting I have seen on one of my gallery visits but often or not the decision will come from research I have made into a previous painting.  My Daily Art Display featured artist and painting today comes from a little bit of all those.  In my last blog I looked at Manet’s Music at the Tuileries Gardens and listed a number of Manet’s friends the artist had added into his work.  One of these was the floral painter Henri Fantin-Latour.  Last week when I was wandering around the National Gallery in London I stood before one of his non-floral paintings entitled Mr and Mrs Edwin Edwards and my curiosity was immediately pricked.  Who were Mr and Mrs Edwards and why should this French artist paint the portraits of this English couple?   I knew then that sooner or later I had to feature this painting in one of my blogs and do some research into the background behind the work and the sitters.  So come with me on this journey of discovery and find out more about this couple.

Edwin Edwards was born in the small market town of Framlington in the heart of the Suffolk countryside in 1823.  He was the youngest of four sons of Charles Edwards and Mary Kersey.  He was educated at Dedham in Essex and went on to study law.  He became a legal practitioner in the admiralty and prerogative courts attaining the impressive position of King’s Proctor and Examiner of the Courts of Civil Law and the High Court of Admiralty.  When he was twenty-four he published a book entitled A treatise on the jurisdiction of the High Court of Admiralty of England.   In 1852 he married Elizabeth Ruth Escombe.  The couple had no children.  Despite having a busy and lucrative legal career Edwin Edwards had a great love for art and in 1861, aged thirty-eight years of age and with support from his wife, he decided to forego his legal career and become a full time artist.

Edwin Edwards had started painting using the medium of watercolours but later moved on to oil painting.  However his real love was etching and he had been influenced by the French artist and etcher Alphonse Legros.  He installed a press at his house in Sunbury, where his wife Ruth became skilled at printing. During the 1860s and 70s their home was a meeting place for French and British painters and etchers.  It was whilst he was in Paris  to arrange for the printing of his first plates that he was introduced to Henri Fantin-Latour by the English painter Matthew White Ridley.  Edwards and Fantin-Latour soon became great friends and the French artist would visit London and stay with the Edwards family in their Sudbury home.  Edwin Edwards and his wife bought many of Henri Fantin-Latour’s flower paintings, and found other buyers among their wealthy circle of friends thus securing the French artist a regular and steady income. Between 1864 and 1896 Fantin-Latour painted over 800 floral portraits, and almost all were purchased in England.

Molesey Lock by Edwin Edwards (1861)

In 1861 Edwards made an etching trip along the River Thames with James McNeil Whistler, Fantin-Latour and Whistler’s brother-in-law, Francis Seymour Hayden, an English surgeon, who later dedicated his life to etching and printmaking and it was during this trip that Edwin Edwards completed a portrait of Whistler sketching, seated, at Molesey lock.   In all, Edwards completed over three hundred and fifty etchings consisting of scenes of the Thames at Sunbury, English cathedral cities, the wild Cornish coast, and countryside scenes in Suffolk, many of which are now housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.  He also published a three-volume work entitled ‘Old Inns of England,’ which were illustrated with a number of his etchings.

From 1861 until his death in 1879, aged 56, he was a prolific exhibitor of his work.  He exhibited fifty four works at the Royal Academy and over a hundred of his works at various other exhibitions.

My Daily Art Display featured painting is simply entitled Mr and Mrs Edwin Edwards by Henri Faintin-Latour.  The painting belongs to the Tate but is presently on loan to the National Gallery, London.  When Fantin-Latour first visited and stayed with Edwards and his wife in 1861 he began a portrait of Mrs Edwards but did not finish it until three years later when he again stayed with the couple.  It was not until the end of 1874 that Fantin-Latour embarked on the double portrait of Edwin Edwards and his wife and the couple visited his Paris studio for the formal sittings.  He wrote to Edwards and said that he intended to portray him, seated at a table in his studio, etching.  The background would have a number of canvases on the wall and that his wife would be portrayed standing behind him, overseeing his work, like a “guardian angel, the inspiring Muse”.   In reality the painting was much simpler than Fantin-Latour had originally envisaged.  The background as you see is plain and not adorned with other paintings.  Instead of being depicted etching,  Edwin Edwards is seen seated at an angle with his left arm resting on a folio of prints whilst studying an etching he holds in his right hand.  Mrs Edwards as was Fantin-Latour’s original idea stands behind her husband.  Does she look like a guardian angel?  It is hard to interpret her mood.  It seems one of aloofness and displeasure and seems somewhat unhappy with the situation.  I think she actually dominates the double portrait and would some up her appearance as “she who must be obeyed” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Henri Fantin-Latour exhibited the work in the Paris Salon of 1875 and it gained a second class medal.  This award was very beneficial to Fantin-Latour because from then on he was termed by the Paris Salon as hors concours, which meant that in future, any exhibits he put forward for inclusion at future Salon exhibitions did not have to first be passed by the Salon jury.

Music in the Tuileries Gardens by Édouard Manet

Music in the Tuileries by Édouard Manet (1862)

In my last blog I looked at the painting Afternoon at the Tuileries Garden by Adolph Menzel which he completed in 1867.  He had visited Paris that year and attended the second Exposition Universelle and it was during this stay that he completed a number of sketches of the Tuileries Gardens.  On returning to his home in Berlin he completed this  work.  When it was exhibited, he pointed out that the painting was all done from his memory of the times when he walked around the Gardens watching the weekend promenading of the bourgeois.  However,  there is a train of thought that believes his work was not just based on his memories but was very much influenced by a painting he saw, when in Paris, by Édouard Manet, which was completed in 1862 entitled Music in the Tuileries Gardens.  This is My Daily Art Display featured work today and I will let you decide whether Manet’s painting had any bearing on Menzel’s work.

Music in the Tuileries Garden,s like the Menzel work, hangs, in the National Gallery, London.  The work depicts a fashionable Parisian crowd promenading and socialising in the Gardens as they listen to music played by a band, albeit Manet has not included the musicians in the painting.  The Jardin des Tuileries lies between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, and it was the favourite place for people to idle away their leisure time.   The way in which people spent their free time in the capital became one of Manet’s favourite subjects for his paintings.  Manet’s close friend going back to his childhood,  Antonin Proust, the politician and journalist, often recalled the many times he witnessed Manet walking along the Parisian boulevards in search of interesting aspects of city life, which he could depict in his paintings. Manet and his companion, the poet, Charles Beaudelaire,  could often be seen in the afternoons, strolling through the Tuileries Gardens, a favoured gathering place for the beau monde, who wanted “to see and be seen”.  Manet completed numerous sketches of these “beautiful people” as well as the working nannies, who were spending a pleasant afternoon with their little charges.

This was Manet’s first major work on this theme.  The Tuileries Gardens were created for Catherine de Medici who, on the death of her husband King Henry II of France, decided to move her home to the Louvre Palace.  She then had built a separate new palace with gardens modelled after the gardens of her native Florence.  These were the Tuileries Gardens and were opened to the public in 1667 and became a public park following the French Revolution.  As we look at the people in the scene we can imagine the enjoyment they were having whilst they socialised and listened to the music.  Leisure time and recreational activities such as listening to music in a park on a Sunday afternoon was all part of this newly quoted term, modernity.

Manet's man
Menzel's man

Menzel’s work is far more detailed than Manet’s painting.  If we compare the two works there are some similarities but Menzel also maintained some differences.     Both depict families enjoying their leisure time.  Look at foreground and slightly right of centre of today’s painting by Manet.  There is a man with the top hat bending down in conversation with a lady.   He is almost the same character, in the same pose leaning against a tree, we saw yesterday in Menzel’s work.  The theme of both paintings is similar – bourgeois Parisians at leisure but as I have just said there are also some differences in the two works.  Menzel’s depiction of what is happening is somewhat more realistic.

Manet's children
Menzel's children

In his work we saw children in the foreground playing with a bucket and spades but they are not dressed in their “Sunday best” clothes and look somewhat dirtied by their playing on the ground. Now compare that with the children in Manet’s painting.  They too have buckets and spades but these children,  like their adult counterparts , are dressed in their best clothes and are behaving much more demurely.   Also in Menzel’s work we witnessed a small child being dragged off screeching by a woman, probably her mother.  We also saw dogs skirmishing but in Manet’s work there is no such unsavoury incidents happening, which would otherwise shatter the beautiful tranquillity of the scene.

Manet has included the portraits of many of his friends into the lively social gathering, some of whom are fellow artists.  Manet has painted himself at the far left of the painting partly hidden by the figure of Comte Albert de Balleroy, the wildlife artist, seen here holding a walking stick, who shared a studio with Manet.  Another artist also included is Henri Fantin-Latour, best known for his flower paintings.  Manet has added portraits of his brother Eugène, who was the husband of the Impressionist painter, Berthe Morissot.  Several cultural figures of the time are featured in the painting such as the French poets Baudelaire and Théopile Gautier and the travel writer Baron Taylor.  Other intellectuals who have found their way into the painting are the art critic Champfleury and the bearded sculptor Zacharie Astruc who sits at the table and behind him stands the journalist Aurélien Scholl.  Two women sit facing us in the foreground.  The younger of the two, on the left, is Madame Lejosne, the wife of the Commandant in whose house Manet met Baudelaire and the fledgling painter Frederic Bazille.  The other lady is Heminie d’Alcain, the wife of Jacques Offenbach.  Offenbach is the bespectacled man with a moustache who sits in front of a tree to the right of centre of the middle ground, between Eugène Manet and the painter, Charles Monginot who we see doffing his hat to a lady .

Menzel’s work was far more detailed and with his painting your eyes darted from place to place surveying different incidents.  In some ways this painting, by Manet, as did Cezanne’s Large Bathers ( My Daily Art Display March 13th))have an “unfinished” look about them but this is all to do with their style of painting.  So what did the critics think of this work by Manet when it was first exhibited in 1863?   It received very mixed reviews.   On one hand, many of the artists who were soon to be known as the Impressionists, like Claude Monet and Frederic Bazille, were delighted with   Manet’s depiction of the Parisian scene.  However the conservatives among the art critics were less than complimentary.   Paul Mantz, the art historian and  art critic, who would later become Director General of Fine Arts and a member of Supreme Council of Fine Arts was particularly ruthless in his condemnation stating that Manet’s composition struck him as being disorganised and formless, while the broken play of light that animates its surface with such an eloquently restless quality roused him to declare that “this is not colour, but the caricature of colour”.

I have had a number of comments added to the Large Bathers blog strongly disagreeing with my assertion that Cezanne’s work had an unfinished look to it and therefore I will not dare comment about the finish of this work.   Emile Zola explained the “unfinished” look of Manet’s painting, countering such criticism, saying:

“…You are to imagine a crowd of people, a hundred characters perhaps, moving about in the sunlight under the trees in the Tuileries; every character is simply a blot of colour, hardly given form at all, and the details are only lines and black dots. If I had been there I should have asked the amateur [observer of the painting] to move away to a respectful distance; he would then have seen that the patches of colour were alive, that the crowd was speaking, and that the picture was one of the characteristic productions of the artist, the one picture in fact in which he had most loyally obeyed his eyes and his temperament…”

As with most of the Impressionist works of art, the best view you get is if you stand back from the work to see its exquisiteness.  Close up one just sees brushstrokes but at a distance one discovers the true beauty of the work.

So which painting do you like best, the one by Adolph Menzel or the one by Édouard Manet?

Afternoon at the Tuileries Garden by Adolph Menzel

Afternoon at the Tuileries Garden by Adolph Menzel (1867)

The featured artist in My Daily Art Display today is German and is looked upon, along with the artist I featured in my previous blog, Caspar David Friedrich, as one of the most famous and most successful German artists of the nineteenth century.  His name is Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel.

Menzel was born in 1815 in Breslau, which is now the Polish city known as Wroclau.  His father Carl Erdmann Menzel was originally a school headmaster but when young Menzel was just three years of age he gave up his educational career and started up a lithographic printing works.   Adolph Menzel first exhibited a drawing in 1827 when he was only twelve years of age and two years later he exhibited eight lithographs, which were printed in his father’s workshop and which featured the history of Breslau.   To gain more business opportunities for his printing company, Menzel’s father moved his family and business to Berlin in 1830 where he knew he was likely to receive more commissions.  Adolph Menzel became an apprentice in his father’s firm and at the age of seventeen took over the running of the company when his father suddenly died.  His mother and siblings now looked upon Adolph as the family breadwinner.

Künstlers Edenwallen

In 1833, aged 18 Menzel enrolled at the Berlin Königliche Akademie der Künste where he met the wallpaper manufacturer, Carl Heinrich Arnold, who would not only become Menzel’s close friend but would furnish him with a large number of commissions.  His reputation as an artist and illustrator grew after he had completed a commission for the art dealer and publisher, Louis Sachse, to create a number of lithographs for the German writer, Goethe, for his book Künstlers Erdenwallen.  It was not until 1837 that von Menzel started to paint in oils.  His speciality subject for his paintings was the life and events surrounding Friedrich the Great and in 1839 he was commissioned to illustrate a book,  Geschichte Friedrichs des Großen  (History of Friedrich the Great) written by Franz Kugler, a Prussian cultural administrator and art historian.  In a three year period 1839 to 1842 Menzel produced over 400 drawings.

It was not until the 1850’s that von Menzel started to travel extensively, visiting Vienna, Prague and Dresden.  It was also in 1855 that he made his first visit to Paris where he attended the inaugural Exposition Universelle, the first World Fair to be held in the capital.  It was held in the specially built building, Palais de l’Industrie, which overlooked the Champs-Elysées.  Whilst there, von Menzel, was able to study not only the industrial exhibits but also the art exhibits on display by French artists such as Gustave Courbet.  Eleven years later von Menzel returned to Paris to attend the second Exposition Universelle in 1867 and it was during this stay in the French capital that he visited the Tuileries Gardens which is the subject for today’s painting.  That same year he was decorated with the “Cross of the Légion d’honneur by Napoleon III for his service to the arts.

By the 1880’s von Menzel had established his international reputation as an artist and lithographer.  In 1884 the Nationalgalerie in Berlin held the first major retrospective of von Menzel’s work to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his career as an artist.  In 1890, aged 70, he was given an honorary doctorate from Berlin University.  He was bestowed with many other honours. He was made an honorary citizen of both Breslau and Berlin and made a member of both the Royal Academy of London and a member of the Akadémie des Beaux Arts, the Paris Academy.  His greatest honour came in 1898 when he became the first artist to be admitted to the Order of the Black Eagle as a Knight, the highest order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Prussia.

Adolph von Menzel died in Berlin in 1905, aged 89.

My Daily Art Display featured painting today is entitled Afternoon at the Tuileries Garden by Adolph Menzel.  He painted it in 1867 and now hangs in the National Gallery, London.  It was following Menzel’s 1867 trip to Paris that he returned to his studio in Berlin with many sketches of the Tuileries Gardens, which lay across from the Louvre.  He had become interested in painting scenes set in areas where society people pretentiously paraded and whilst in Paris was fascinated with the bustling social goings-on within the Gardens.  The subject matter of his paintings were at this time often depicting bourgeois society and he, because of his fame as an artist, lived the lifestyle of this very grand bourgeois.  Menzel’s painting is filled with detail and exudes a great deal of realism.

Woman and child

What I like about the works is that with so much going on in the painting your eyes flick from one group to another and every time you look at it your eyes focus on something different.  I like the number of separate vignettes taking place.  Let your eye wander up the centre of the painting and observe the little chubby girl being dragged off by the woman in blue.  How often have we seen that!   Dogs abound, in some cases having territorial disputes whilst the adults try their best to ignore such distractions and have only one thing in mind – to look their best!   When the painting was first exhibited Menzel was at pains to tell everybody that it was done from his memories of his recent visit to the French capital.

Was it a work just from memory or was there something else which prompted Menzel to depict such a scene?  In my next blog I will give you another possible motivation for Menzel’s depiction of the Tuileries Garden.  Notwithstanding what inspired Menzel to paint this lively event, which is buzzing with activity, it is a fascinating work of art.  I stood before it the other day and  I was mesmerised by what I was looking at and as I said the other day, when talking about Caspar David Friedrich’s Winter Landscape, I was so pleased I had visited Room 41 of the gallery.  The next time you visit the National Gallery; don’t forget to pay that particular room a visit.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.