Die Windsbraut by Oskar Kokoschka

die Windsbraut by Oskar Kokoschka

Today I am composing my My Daily Art Display blog from Vienna.   I have bestowed upon myself an early Christmas present – a three day holiday in the Austrian city and with it, a chance to visit three of the city’s wonderful art galleries.  As I am in Austria, I thought it only right to feature an Austrian artist in today’s blog.  One of the country’s three most illustrious painters, along with Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, was Oskar Kokoschka, who was born in 1886 in Pochlarn, a small town on the Danube.  His father was a goldsmith from Prague and Oskar was his second of four sons.

Oskar graduated from a state school and then went to Vienna where he studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1909.  During that time, he also worked at The Vienna Workshops, at which in 1908 they published his book, Die Träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Youth).  His book, which as well as comprising of a number of his colour lithographs, was accompanied by some of his own poems.  Originally the book had been planned for children but the nature of some of his writings was deemed to be more suitable for adult readers.

In 1912, Kokoschka met Alma Mahler, the widow of the great composer Gustav.  Within a year of that first meeting they became inseparable.  The affair lasted for years but eventually their relationship deteriorated and their passion for one another waned and they began to drift apart.  Alma bargained with Kokoschka challenging him to paint a masterpiece for her and in return she would marry him.   Kokoschka was consumed with this task and the “reward” at its completion. 

The painting, die Windsbraut, (The Tempest) was one of his most famous works, which now hangs in the Kunstmuseum Basle.  The picture shows the lovers side by side sheltering from a ferocious storm.  His early preliminary sketches for this work show the bodies of the lovers almost as one, hand in hand but the final picture shows space between them and their hands apart.  Maybe Kokoschka, as time went by, realised that his relationship with Alma was coming to an end.  In the picture, whilst Alma looks peaceful and contented, the face of Kokoschka is more pensive and shows signs of worry.  Was this because of the storm or was it his realisation that his beloved affair with Alma was doomed.  It is not a look of a lover’s satisfied contentment.  It is a sad look, almost one of bereavement – the death of the affair – the imminent loss of his soul mate.

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Self Portrait with Model by Christian Schad (1927)

Self Portrait with Model by Christian Schad (1927)

Today’s work for My Daily Art Display is the first twentieth century painting I have showcased.  It is a painting by the German artist, Christian Schad.  He was born in 1894 in Miesbach a small town in Upper Bavaria, thirty miles south of Munich, a city, in which at twenty years of age Schad attended at the art academy.  At the onset of the First World War, he, being a pacifist, managed to simulate a heart problem in order to avoid military service. Furnished with a medical certificate so as to avoid military duties, he fled to Switzerland settling down for a time in Zurich and later in Geneva.  Zurich was the city in which the Dada movement started in 1916.   The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature – poetry, art manifestoes, art theory – theatre and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchistic in nature.  Schad found the aims of this movement to be similar to his own personal views and soon became a Dadaist.  After the war he left Switzerland and travelled to Italy where he resided until 1925.  In 1927 he and his Italian wife Marcella and three year old son Niklaus moved to Vienna but a year later, having separated from his wife, Schad returned to his homeland, settling in Berlin.  His paintings of the late 1920’s are closely associated with the New Objectivity art movement which arose in the early 20’s but ended with the rise of Nazi power.

Self Portrait with Model, an oil on wood work, was painted by Christian Schad in 1927 and is currently to be seen at the Tate Modern, on loan from a private collector.  A narcissus, indicating vanity, leans towards the artist. The woman’s face is scarred with a freggio, inflicted on Neapolitan women by their lovers to make them unattractive to others. It is a startling emblem of the potential violence underlying male possession of the female body.

This is considered to be one of his Schad’s masterpieces.

 Schad died aged 87 in Stuttgart.

The Isenheim Altarpiece

The Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grünewald (1515)

 

Many years ago I took a driving holiday in France and drove along the Alsatian wine route from Strasbourg to Colmar, where I stayed for a few days…   At this time in my life I was more interested in experiencing the joys of good weather and good wine and the thrill of discovering of new lands.   Sadly fine art was not foremost in my mind, as if it had been; I would have been able to have discovered for myself one of the greatest altarpieces known to the world – the Isenheim Altarpiece

This magnificent work of art which was painted for the Monastery of St Anthony in Isenheim, near Colmar, can now be found displayed at the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar.  The Isenheim Altarpiece or retable is a polyptich composed of nine panels mounted on two sets of folding wings. The outer set consists of the Crucifixion with the Entombment below it and is flanked by St. Anthony and St. Sebastian. The inner set displays the Annunciation, the concert of Angels, the Nativity, and the Resurrection. The innermost panels, flanking a carved wooden shrine to St. Anthony, are St. Anthony and St. Paul in the Wilderness and the Temptation of St. Anthony. All three central panels are split in the middle to facilitate the changing of scenes.

This work of art is a collaboration of sculpture and painting.  The former was created by Niclaus of Hagenau and the latter, the actual paintings, were done by the German painter Matthias Grünewald.  The altarpiece was taken apart during the French revolution and is now shown as separate paintings.

For My Daily Art Display today I decided to show just one facet of the magnificent altarpiece – a realistic but horrific depiction of the Crucifixion scene.  Grünewald decided that the end justified the means in his attempt to gain the attention of spectators and move them by the unattractiveness and misshapenness of the body of Christ, with limbs twisted and hands distorted, racked in pain and writhing in agony.  The skin of the Christ figure has a grey-green tone to it and is covered with wounds.  It is a heart-rending scene and one that was rarely shown in works of art of the time.   

 On the left is the Virgin Mary being comforted by St John the Apostle while Mary Magdalene is seen kneeling in the foreground.  On the right is John the Baptist appearing to say: “Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui “(John 3:30) ‘He must become greater, I must become less’

Death of Marat by Jaques-Louis David

Death of Marat by Jaques-Louis David (1793)

 

Today’s featured artist is another French Neoclassical painter.  Jaques-Louis David was born in 1748 in Paris and is considered one of the foremost painters of his time.  From the age of nine, after his father was killed in a duel, he went to live with his wealthy uncles who ensured he had the best education.

He was a highly political being and actively supported the French Revolution and counted Robespierre, one of the best-known and most influential figures of the Revolution, as one of his friends.  His influence with Robespierre allowed him to almost be a dictator of the arts under the new French Republic.   However, the downside of such a close friendship was the fact that with the fall from power of Robespierre, came David’s fall from favour, which landed him in prison.  After his release his interest in politics continued and he became a supporter of Napoleon I.

My Daily Art Display features David’s Death of Marat which he painted in 1793 and can be found in the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussles.  It is considered by many as his greatest work.  The oil on canvas painting depicts the assassination of the revolutionary journalist and member of the National Assembly, Jean-Paul Marat.  In that same year, Marat was killed as he lay in his bath by the young anarchist Charlotte Corday, who had come to Marat on the pretence of giving him a list of people who should be executed as enemies of France.  The picture shows Marat dying, clutching the list on which can be seen Corday’s name.   Corday blamed Marat for his part in the September Massacres which occurred the previous year leading to the death of over a thousand people.

Jaques Louis David , on completion of the painting, handed it over to the National Convention saying:

Citizens, the people were again calling for their friend; their desolate voice was heard: David, take up your brushes.., avenge Marat… I heard the voice of the people. I obeyed.”

The painting of Marat is somewhat romanticised as it shows a flawless skin when in fact for the last three years of his life Marat suffered from a disfiguring skin condition.   In John Adolphus’s  Biographical Anecdotes of the Founders of the French Republic published in 1799 he describes Marat  as  a man “short in stature, deformed in person, and hideous in face”

Marat suffered extreme pain caused by this disease which could only be soothed slightly by immersing his body in the bath.

The Battle of Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer

The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer (1529)

Albrecht Altdorfer was a German painter, born in Amberg, Germany around 1480   He was a German painter, printmaker, draughtsman and  architect of the Renaissance era, the leader of the Danube School in southern Germany, and a near-contemporary of  Albrecht Dürer.  He is best known as a significant pioneer of landscape in art.  His early works was influenced by Lucas Cranach.  His patrons included Maximillian I and Louis X, the duke of Bavaria, who commissioned today’s painting.  

My Daily Art Display today is Altdorfer’s Battle of Issus which he painted in 1529 and now hangs in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.  This is said to be the greatest picture ever created by a German artist with its apocalyptic scene,  the whirlpool of action of the two huge armies and dazzling light effects of the sky on the over-elaborate  landscape.  This picture depicts the battle between Alexandra the Great, who is centre left in the painting riding a chariot hauled by three white horses, and the Persian Emperor Darius.  This painting formed part of a large series of famous battle pieces from classical antiquity.

The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix

The Death of Sardanapulus by Eugène Delacroix (1827)

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was born in Charenton–St-Maurice near Paris in April 1798.   Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.   As an artist he was inspired by the works of Rubens and the Venetian Renaissance painters, Mantegna, Giorgione and Titian.  Baudelaire the writer and art critic said of Delacroix “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible

My painting for today is one that hangs in the Louvre entitled Death of Sardanapalus which Delacroix painted in 1827.   This massive canvas features the defeated Assyrian ruler Sardanapalus propping himself up on a large bed on which a naked woman prostrates herself begging for mercy.   Sardanapalus, on learning that his armies had been defeated, ordered that his possessions were to be destroyed and that his sex slaves were to be murdered before immolating himself.

Landscape with Lake Geneva by Gustave Courbet

Landscape with Lake Geneva by Gustave Courbet (1874)

Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans, France in 1819.  In his early twenties he moved to Paris and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse.  He spent a lot of time studying the art of the French, Spanish and Flemish painters and often made copies of the works of Caravaggio and Velazquez.  He was to become one of the most powerful and influential painters of his time.  Although he spent most of his life in Paris he hardly ever painted urban subjects. Cezanne said of him: “His palette smells of hay”.    His many pictures of peasants and scenes of everyday life established him as the leading figure of the realist movement of the mid nineteenth century.  He was an outspoken opponent of the French government and took part in the destruction of the Vendôme Column, which resulted in imprisonment and exile from France.  In 1873, he was forced to spend his final years in Switzerland.

Courbet rejected idealisation in his paintings and concentrated on painting what was believable and this had an enormous influence on 19th century art.  American Art Historian, Lorenz Eitner, wrote of Courbet in his book An Outline of 19th Century European Paintings “ ….Courbet acted as the bull in the china shop of polite art, whether academic or preciously avant-gardist, thus enabling a new generation (including the Impressionists)to concentrate of the problem of expressing visual experience”.   Once when asked to include angels in a painting for a church, Courbet replied “ I have never seen angels.  Show me an angel and I will paint one”.

Today’s painting in My Daily Art Display is Landscape with Lake Geneva by Gustave Courbet, which he painted in 1874 whilst living in exile in Switzerland, three years before he died.  There is an air of tranquillity in this painting and this probably mirrors his quiet years in exile away from the turbulent life and politics of  his previous life in Paris.

To Pastures New by Sir James Guthrie (1882)

To Pastures New by Sir James Guthrie (1882)

Today’s work of art is by a Scottish painter, Sir James Guthrie, who was a founder member of the “Glasgow Boys”.   The Glasgow Boys identified themselves as young artists by claiming vociferously to be anti-establishment rejecting the older generation of artists, whom they called “Glue-Pots”.  This group of young artists formed in the 1880’s and were extremely popular between the 1890’s and 1910.  The Glasgow Boys consisted of several men, most of whom were trained in, or had strong ties to the city of Glasgow.  However, although enjoying being looked upon as being one of this rebellious group of artists, Guthrie exhibited his first major picture at the Royal Academy in London and within twenty years of painting, became the president of the Royal Academy which was the pinnacle of the “Establishment”.  In 1921 he was knighted.  So despite the bravado of their anti-establishment stance in their early days, many of the Glasgow Boys became very rich painting, as one art reviewer put it, “fat gentlemen in civic robes”.

Today’s painting by James Guthrie, aged 23 at the time, is an oil on canvas painting entitled To Pastures New, completed in 1882, and is of a goose girl driving her charges to pastures new.  The girl, who is about eight years of age, wearing, what look like, borrowed boots, which appear too large for her, wears a drab dress and a bright straw hat.  She, like a giant, marches into the picture shepherding her entrusted animals before her, all of whom fill the canvas with the background landscape taking only a secondary role in the composition.

Comtesse d’Haussonville by Ingres (1845)

Comtesse d'Haussonville by Ingres (1845)

Ingres, or to give him his full name, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a French Neoclassical painter was born in Montauban in 1780.   Ingres after spending some time in Italy returned to Paris in 1834.  It was at this time that he began to earn the reputation of being  a great portrait artist.  His greatest paintings were his portraits, which were both painted and drawn.  He is looked upon now as one who embodied the Romantic spirit of his time.

Today’s painting is Louis de Broglie, Countesse d’Haussonville which Ingres painted in 1845 and I was fortunate to see it when I visited the Frick Collection in New York some years ago.  Ingres had the ability of expressing the beauty of his subject, none more so than this portrait of the Comtesse d’Haussonville who, despite her reserved and somewhat prim appearance, was an outspoken liberal, author and well regarded intellectual.  Note the luxurious opulent folds of her silk dress and the lustre of her red hair ribbon.

The Red Roofs by Camille Pissarro (1877)

The Red Roofs by Camille Pissaro (1877)

Camille Pissarro, the Impressionist painter of French descent, was born in 1830 on the island of St Thomas in the Danish West Indies.  At the age of twelve he went to Europe where he attended a Paris boarding school.  During his time in Paris he studied at various academic institutions including the École des Beaux Arts and Académie Suisse and under a succession of masters such as Corot and Courbet.  In the 1860’s he, along with Monet, became involved in the Impressionist Movement and spent most of his time painting urban and rural pictures which illustrated French life of that era, particularly in the area around Pontoise.  Pissarro died in Paris in November 1903 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Painted in 1877, today’s painting is entitled The Red Roofs and is a small (55 x 85cms) oil on canvas picture which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.  The location for this painting is a group of farm buildings called La Côte des Boeufs, near Pontoise.   The painting is complicated by the fact that the artist wanted to show the buildings as seen through the trees but the screen of trees makes us look quickly beyond the trees, into the heart of the painting, and by doing so one can differentiate the many layers of colour.