Federico Zandomeneghi – the Italian Impressionist

Lesendes Mädchen (Girl reading) by Federico Zandomeneghi (c.1900)
Lesendes Mädchen (Girl reading) by Federico Zandomeneghi (c.1900)

When I was in Germany, just before Christmas, I bought myself a desk calendar which gave you a new painting every day.  I was fascinated by today’s picture of a young girl reading entitled Lesendes Mädchen (Girl Reading) by Federico Zandomeneghi.  I had never heard of the artist and thought it would be interesting to look at his life and his some of his beautiful works of art. He would become known for his many pastel portraits of ladies and children.

Federico Zandomeneghi
Federico Zandomeneghi

Federico Zandomeneghi was born in Venice in June 1841. He came from a family line of sculptors.  Pietro, his father, was a neoclassical sculptor as was his grandfather Luigi but unlike his father and grandfather Federico, and much to their annoyance, he favoured painting to sculpture.  In 1856, at the age of fifteen, he enrolled on a painting course at the Academia di Belle Arti in Venice and then later studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, where he studied under the neoclassical-style painter Giralamo Michelangelo Grigoletti and Pompeo Marino Molmenti.  Venice was under Austrian rule when Napoleon was defeated in 1814 and it became part of the Austrian held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.   Venice was firmly under the control of Austria and as such the Venetian citizens were conscripted into the army.  To escape conscription, Federico fled his city in 1859 and went to Pavia, where he enrolled at the university.  In 1860, when he was nineteen years of age, he joined the military forces of Guiseppe Garibaldi as one of the volunteers in The Expedition of the Thousand, part of the Risorgimento, the push for Italian unification.  As a Venetian this was looked upon as a kind of treachery. His flight from Venice in 162 to Florence to avoid conscription resulted him being charged, in absentia, with desertion.

Femme qui reve by Federico Zandomeneghi,
Femme qui reve by Federico Zandomeneghi,

As a young aspiring artist Federico wanted to mix with other artists in the Tuscan city and by doing so assimilate their views of art.  One of the favoured meeting places for the artists was the Caffè Michelangelo .  It was here that the Macchiaioli met.  The Macchiaioli, which literally means patch-  or spot-makers, was a  group of rebellious Italian artists based in Tuscany during the second half of the 19th century and was formed more than ten years before the French Impressionists came onto the scene.  They rebelled against academic artistic training and many art historians believe they brought about a breath of fresh air into Italian painting.  They ignored the type of painting which was popular at the time such as Neoclassicism and Romanticism.  They were looked upon as the founders of modern Italian painting.  The Macchiaioli believed that areas of light and shadow, or macchie were the most important parts of a painting and when Italian artists spoke of macchia they were talking about the sparkling quality of a drawing or painting.

The Poor on the Steps of Ara Coeli in Rome by Federico Zandomeneghi (1872)
The Poor on the Steps of Ara Coeli in Rome by Federico Zandomeneghi (1872)

The Poor on the Steps of Ara Coeli in Rome by Zandomeneghi is now housed at the Pinaconteca Brera in Milan.  It is a fine example of verismo the nineteenth century Italian painting style and was a style frequently used by the Macchiaioli.  It is a style of painting we would term as realism.  It features a group of poor people, men, women and children sitting on the steps of Santa Maria in Aracoeli (St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven), one the oldest basilicas in Rome.   

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There was a strong connection with French art as many of the Macchiaioli were influenced by the French artists such as Courbet and Corot who belonged to the Barbizon School as well as other nineteenth century plein air painters whose works the Macchiaioli artists were able to see when they visited the French capital.  En plein air painting was at that time a ground breaking method of painting but its proponents believed that it allowed for a new vibrancy and naturalness in the reproduction of light which would have been lost if the painting had been carried out in a studio.   Some of the members of the Macchiaioli, like Federico, had fought alongside Garibaldi in his effort to attain Italian unification.  Many of the works of the Macchiaioli featured grand battles scenes of the Risorgimento as well as landscapes and genre paintings featuring both the bourgeoisie and peasants.

Palazzo Pretorio in Florence by Federico Zandomeneghi (1865)
Palazzo Pretorio in Florence by Federico Zandomeneghi (1865)

Another painting completed by Zandomeneghi whilst he was living in Florence is one of my favourites.  It is entitled Palazzo Pretorio and was completed in 1865.  It can now be found in the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Ca’ Pesaro, Venice.   The work of art was exhibited that year in the rooms of the Società Veneta Promotrice (Venetian Promoter of Fine Arts) which was based in Palazzo Mocenigo at San Benedetto.   The depiction of light and shade we see in the painting was strongly influenced by the Macchiaioli artists of Florence.

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Diego Martelli by Federico Zandomeneghi (1879)
Diego Martelli by Federico Zandomeneghi (1879)

Whilst in Florence and through his association with the Macchiaioli artists, Federico Zandomeneghi met the Italian art critic Diego Martelli.  Martelli was a great supporter of the painters of the Macchiaioli and would often invite them up to his large Tuscan estate in Castiglioncello which was an ideal setting for their en plein air painting sessions.  Martelli wrote fervently about realism in art and favoured the works of Gustave Courbet as well as the plein air artists of the Barbizon School.    He made a number of trips to Paris and its thought that he persuaded Zandomeneghi to leave Florence and go to live in the French capital.  Through their correspondence Zandomeneghi introduced Martelli to the works of the Impressionists so much so that it is said that Martelli was one of the first and leading supporters of Impressionism in Italy.

Portrait of Diego Martelli by Edgar Degas (1879)
Portrait of Diego Martelli by Edgar Degas (1879)

Like Zandomeneghi, Martelli became good friends with Degas who painted his portrait in 1879.  The Degas portrait is unusual in as much as the sitter is viewed from above which is somewhat unflattering as it accentuates the corpulence of Martelli.  We see Martelli sitting unsteadily on a small stool.  To his left is a table, scattered on which are numerous objects belonging to the sitter.  The addition of these items was a trademark of Degas’ portraits as he felt it told viewers more about the subject of the portrait.  The painting is now housed in the Scottish National Gallery.

The Good Book by Federico Zandomeneghi (1897)
The Good Book by Federico Zandomeneghi (1897)

In 1874, Federico, now thirty-three years of age, moved to the art capital of Europe, Paris, and little did he know then, he would never return to his Italian homeland.  On his arrival in Paris, as was the case when he arrived in Florence, he wanted to immerse himself into the life of an artist and mix with the artists of Montmartre.   To be an artist in the French capital at this time was a chance to witness the birth of what would later be termed by the art critic, Louis Leroy, as Impressionism.

Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes on Place Pigalle
Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes on Place Pigalle

The year 1874 was the year of the Impressionist’s first annual exhibition in Paris.  Federico would often frequent the Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes on Place Pigalle.  It was here that he first met and befriended Edgar Degas, who was seven years his senior.    It is said that we are often drawn to people who have the same characteristics and the same looks upon life and as such Degas and Federico Zandomeneghi were well matched.  Both were recalcitrant and often boorish and this similarity of behaviour ensured they would remain life-long friends!  Although great friends with Degas, Federico was more influenced by the works of Renoir and Mary Cassatt and the way they portrayed women in their art work.  This was to lead to many of his works featuring females going about with their daily chores or being immersed in reading.  Zandomeneghi liked to portray through his artwork, and like that of the Impressionists, the elegant high society of the French capital but his paintings were not imitations of the Impressionists’ works.  He had his own inimitable style.

Place d'Anvers, Paris by Federico Zandomeneghi (1880)
Place d’Anvers, Paris by Federico Zandomeneghi (1880)

The Impressionists had by 1879 held three annual exhibitions and Degas persuaded Federico to exhibit some of his work at the fourth annual exhibition at the Avenue de l’Opéra, during the months of April and May in 1879.  Besides Federico there were three other “first appearances” exhibiting at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition, the husband and wife Impressionists Félix and Marie Braquemond  and Paul Gaugin.  Federico went on to exhibit at the fifth (1880), sixth (1881) and the eighth and final exhibition in 1886.  To sell one’s work one has to have a good dealer and through the good auspices of his Impressionist friends Federico was taken on by the gallery owner and art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel who acted as his sole agent.   It was this Parisian art dealer who changed the fortunes of Federico when he exhibited the Italian artist’s work in America.   In the 1890’s, having had to supplement his income from the sale of his paintings by providing illustrations for Paris fashion magazine, once his work was seen in America he was inundated with commissions.  It was around this time that Federico changed the medium in which he worked, now favouring in pastels.

Conversazione interessante by Federioco Zandomeneghi (1895)
Conversazione interessante by Federioco Zandomeneghi (1895)

Zandomeneghi will always be remembered for his female portraiture.  He seemed to concentrate his depictions of women who were mothers going about their everyday life.  He often liked to show in his paintings the ease in which women interacted with each other.  There was a warmth about his pictorial depiction of females and this may be because of the way he was influenced by the works of Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.  Enrico Piceni,  the Italian writer and art critic who wrote a biography about Zandomeneghi and who, in 1984, wrote a book entitled Three Italian friends of the impressionists : Boldini, De Nittis, Zandomeneghi, wrote of Zandomeneghi’s work:

“…Zandomeneghi knows how to differentiate himself from his closest colleagues, Degas and Renoir, by surpassing the glossy and even fierce chronicle style of the first thanks to adding a warm and affectionate emotional involvement in the subject, and by transferring the deification of the ideal woman typical of the second in a more bourgeois reality interwoven with truth but able to transform a simple story in a tremor of poetry…”

A good example of the way Zandomeneghi depicted a close relationship between two women is in his 1895 work entitled Conversazione interessante (Interesting Conversation).  Before us, we see two women locked in conversation.  There is a gentleness about the scene.  There is no wild animation.  We feel drawn into the scene as a friend who is being admitted into their private world.  Both women are wearing light fashionable wide-sleeved shirts which were all the fashion in the 1890’s.    This painting highlights the beautiful technique Federico was to often use.  There is a lightness of touch and the artist demonstrates an amazing insight in the way he portrays the mood of the sitters.  The two women in the painting are totally absorbed in their conversation.  Their hands touch. They only have eyes for each other in this intimate and yet non-sexual depiction.   The art critic and writer Francesca Dini in her 1989 book,   Zandomeneghi, la vita e le opera, wrote of this work:

“…Conversazione interessante (Interesting Conversation), is among the most famous works produced by the Venetian painter at the beginning of his relationship with Durand-Ruel. The brilliance and chromatic refinement of the composition are emphasized by the balance of the scene and the richness of the materials chosen for the dresses of two young women, who are wearing light shirts with wide sleeves ‘double sboffo’, very fashionable in the last decade of the century. The provenance of the painting is notable as it belonged, among others, to the greatest admirers and collectors of paintings by the artist…”

Federico Zandomeneghi died in Paris on the last day of 1917, aged seventy-six.  It was not until 1914, three years before his death, that he was given his first one-man show which was at the Venice Biennale of that year in his native country.

There were so many paintings by Zandometeghi I could have showcased but I have just chosen some of my favourites but I hope you will search out more of his works.

Cézanne, Jas de Bouffan and the peasant workers

Paul Cézanne aged 22
Paul Cézanne aged 22

Four years ago I visited the Courtauld Gallery in London to see the Cezanne exhibition which featured three of his five Card Players paintings. I was fascinated by the figures depicted in these works of art, the same fascination the artist must have had for these rustic characters as they featured in many of his paintings. From around 1887, Cézanne began to paint single figures again and, in his early works, he would used his wife and son as models, later he would get some of the peasant workers to model for him at the family’s estate, Le Jas de Bouffan, (“home of the winds” in the language of Provencal). In this blog I want to have a look at some of his paintings which featured these peasants and the estate where it all happened.

The House and Farm at Jas de bouffan by Cézanne (1887)
The House and Farm at Jas de bouffan by Cézanne (1887)

Paul Cézanne’s father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, was a banker and in September 1859, when Cézanne was twenty years old, his father acquired the Le Jas de Bouffan estate from its then present owner, Gabriel Joursin, who was heavily in debt to the bank. It was a spectacularly beautiful estate, located on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, with its long avenue, lined with chestnut trees, leading to the large manor house. The family moved into the large estate house, which was run-down, some of the rooms were in such poor condition that they could not be lived in and were permanently locked up. Initially the family just lived on the first floor with the ground floor rooms set aside for storage. Cézanne, who much to his father’s dismay, wanted to become a professional artist but had placated his father by agreeing to study law at the Law faculty at Aix. His father allowed him to paint murals on the high walls of the grand salon on the ground floor, a room which he was eventually allowed to turn it into his temporary studio.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter by Cézanne (1860-2)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter by Cézanne (1860-2)

It could have been that as the surface of the walls was in such a poor condition his father allowed his son to exercise his artistic ability on them. Cézanne decorated the walls with four large panels of the Seasons. The odd thing about his four murals was that he signed them, not with his own name, but with the name “INGRES” and added the date 1811 on the bottom left of the panel representing Winter. So, why sign the painting “Ingres” and why the date, which was almost fifty years in the past? It is thought that the young Cézanne wanted to prove to his father that he was as good an artist as the legendary Ingres and the date probably referred to Ingres’ famous work Jupiter and Thétis, which Ingres completed in 1811 and was in the collection of Cézanne’s local museum, Musée Granet, in Aix-en Provence.

The Artist's Father, Reading L'Événement by Cézanne (1866)
The Artist’s Father, Reading L’Événement by Cézanne (1866)

In all, between 1860 and 1870, Cézanne painted twelve large works of art directly on to the walls of the large salon and which remained in situ until 1912. One of these works was entitled The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” which can be seen at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Cézanne completed the work in 1866 and depicts Louis-Auguste Cézanne reading the newspaper L’Evénement. The newspaper is a reference to Cézanne’s great friend from his childhood days, the novelist Émile Zola, who was one of the people who urged Cézanne to overcome his father’s demands to have him study law and instead, go to Paris and study art. Zola had become the art critic for the L’Evénement in 1866. It was certainly not the paper Cézanne’s father would have read !

The House of the Jas de Bouffan by Cézanne (1874)
The House of the Jas de Bouffan by Cézanne (1874)

Although often working in his indoor studio, Cézanne also enjoyed painting en plein air in the vast grounds of the estate, which contained a farm, as well as a number of vineyards. He painted a number of views of the manor house, one of which was completed around 1874 and was entitled The House of the Jas de Bouffan. In this work we see the great old ochre-coloured building, with its ivy- clad walls nestled amongst a thriving mix of tall, well-established trees and greenery. It is a beautiful sunlit scene which captures the myriad of visual wonders offered up by nature. Cézanne despite moving around the country, including Paris, where he exhibited works at the first Impressionism exhibition in April 1874, often returned to Jas de Bouffan to relax and paint. The roof of the house had to be replaced in the early 1880’s and it was then that Cézanne’s father made a little studio in the attic for his son. In 1886 when his father died, Cézanne came into a large inheritance which included the family’s beloved estate. This was the same year he married his lover and artist’s model of seventeen years, Hortense. In September 1899, two years after the death of his mother, Cézanne and his two sisters sold Jas de Bouffan to Louis Granel, an agricultural engineer.

House in the Jas de Bouffan
House in the Jas de Bouffan

Much later, the house and a portion of the grounds were sold to the city of Aix. The house has been open to the public since 2006 for visits in connection with the tours organized by the Office de Tourisme with regards to the life of Cézanne.

Man in Blue Smock by Cézanne (1897)
Man in Blue Smock by Cézanne (1897)

As I wrote before, in the late 1880’s Cézanne began to concentrate once again on single portraits and used his wife Hortense and son Paul as models. Later, in the 1890’s he started to paint a number of pictures which featured some of the workers of the estate. Using actual peasant workers that he knew added that little bit extra realism to the depictions. One such work was entitled Man in a Blue Smock which he completed around 1897 which is now housed in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. The worker who sat for Cézanne in this painting was also one of the models used for the famous Card Players series. It is an interesting work which needs to be carefully studied. The man, with a large moustache, shows little expression as he sits before Cézanne, the artist and his boss! It appears that he has been asked to put on a painter’s blue smock over his ordinary working clothes, which includes a red bandanna

The painting of the peasant is awash with muted blues and browns but the red used for the bandanna, the man’s cheeks and the backs of the hands draw our eyes to these very points in the painting. The background of the work is predominately filled with pastel colours but what is most interesting is what is behind the left shoulder of the main character. One can make out a faceless lady carrying a parasol. The museum curator believes that this faceless woman perhaps suggests some mute dialogue between opposite sexes, differing social classes, or even between the artist’s earliest and most fully evolved efforts as a painter. This latter reason falls in well with the fact that the lady with the parasol is a copy of one of Cézanne’s first works which he completed in 1859, when he was twenty years of age, and which can now be found in the Musée Granet in Aix.

Seated Peasant by Cézanne (c.1896)
Seated Peasant by Cézanne (c.1896)

Another painting featuring one of his peasant workers is entitled Seated Peasant which he completed around 1896 and is part of the Annenberg Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York The peasant in the painting is young and is seated cross-legged on a cane chair. The setting for the painting is inside one of the rooms in the big house. It is “L-shaped” in design. The background is once again a simple plastered wall with its dado rail. Cézanne has restricted his palette to a small number of colours – greys, blues, browns, yellows and grey greens which are only replaced by the odd small splash of purple and red. Although there is a similarity between him and the peasants in the various Card Players works he has never been identified as being in any of those five famous paintings. The man seems lost in thought. His mouth is drawn down on each side giving his facial expression an air of melancholia. He wears a baggy dark brown coat over a grey jacket and a yellow waistcoat or vest. He wears striped trousers. Look at the way Cézanne has painted his hand which rest on his thigh. It is very large in comparison to the rest of his body and could almost be described it as being “ham-fisted”. As in some other portraits by Cézanne, he has introduced a still-life element into the work. On the floor in the bottom left of the painting he has added two green-bound books, two small boxes, a small bottle and a stick all of which have been placed on a cloth. Only the artist knows why he included these inanimate objects into this portrait! Maybe he was asserting his ability to paint still-life objects.

Peasant Standing with Arms Crossed (Paysan debout, les bras croisés) by Cézanne (1895)
Peasant Standing with Arms Crossed (Paysan debout, les bras croisés) by Cézanne (1895)

Around the same time, Cézanne painted another portrait of a peasant in a standing position. It looks very much like the setting for the portrait was in the same room as the previous work. It was entitled Paysan debout, les bras croisés, (Peasant Standing with Arms Crossed) and was completed around 1896.

Peasant by Cézanne (c.1891)
Peasant by Cézanne (c.1891)

My final work I am showcasing is a head and shoulder depiction simply entitled Le paysan (Peasant) which Cézanne completed around 1891. Again we have this peasant with a most unhappy countenance as he stares downwards. Again his mouth is turned down in an expression of sadness. One has to believe that this is the pose Cézanne wanted his sitter to exhibit. Was the artist trying, by this posed facial expression of his sitter, to get over to us that the life of a peasant was not a happy one. Maybe Cézanne want us to empathize with the man. Maybe Cézanne was determined to depict the inequalities of life in this portrait. Once again the background is plain and in no way detracts from the sitter. The work is a mass of greys and blues but the careful splashes of red on the peasant’s face make us focus on the man’s expression and by doing so poses the question to us as to what we think about is his lot in life.

Marie Bracquemond

        Self Portrait  by Marie Bracquemond             (1870)
Self Portrait
by Marie Bracquemond
(1870)

I was reading the other day about the short list for the National Portrait Gallery – 2014 BP Award.  Apparently the judges, who decide on which works should be shortlisted, are not aware of the names of the artists when they make their selections.  For the first time in the twenty-five years of the competition, two of the portraits selected for the exhibition were works by a husband and wife, Henrietta Graham and Tim Hall and it made me wonder how well husband and wife artists co-exist and whether they were supportive of each other’s artistic efforts and style or were they occasionally critical and somewhat jealous of each other’s success.  My featured artist today was one half of a husband and wife duo but it is thought that the husband became so critical of his wife’s works and her style of painting that she eventually gave up art altogether.

Marie Bracquemond        (1840-1916)
Marie Bracquemond
(1840-1916)

The lady in question was born Marie Anne Caroline Quivoron in December 1840 in the small picturesque coastal village of Argenton-en-Landunvez, on the Brittany coast. She was of the same era as her female Impressionist contemporaries, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt and Eva Gonzalez but her background was very unlike their more privileged and cultured upbringing.  Her mother’s first marriage was an arranged one to a sea captain.  It was neither a successful nor happy union.  However, it did not last long as he died shortly after the birth of his daughter, Marie Anne. Her mother was only a widow for a short period before marrying for a second time.  Her husband was a Monsieur Pasquiou.   Shortly after this second marriage, Marie, her mother and her mother’s new husband moved away from Britanny and went to live in the Jura, a mountainous region in the east of the country.  Then, soon after, they crossed over the border to take up residence in Switzerland.  Again their stay was short-lived and before long they moved back to central France and settled in Corrèze in the Auvergne, where Marie’s sister, Louise, was born.  According to what she told her son in later life, this was the happiest time of her childhood. They lived in a area surrounded by mysterious forests, fast-flowing streams and ancient ruined abbeys.  Living there was a truly magical time for her.  The family finally moved north and settled in Paris but later because of Marie’s health problems they were advised by the family physician, Doctor Hache, to move out of the polluted atmosphere of the city and settle in Étampes, a small town south-west of the capital where the air would be purer.

Woman in the Garden  (a portrait of her sister Louise)  by Marie Bracquemond
Detail from Woman in the Garden (a portrait of her sister Louise) by Marie Bracquemond
Woman in the Garden (Portrait of her sister Louise Quivoron) by Marie Bracquemond (1877)
Woman in the Garden (Portrait of her sister Louise Quivoron) by Marie Bracquemond (1877)

Now a teenager, Marie developed a love for art and it was whilst living in Étampes that she received her first artistic tuition.  Her teacher was a Monsieur Wassor, an elderly man who gave art lessons to the young women of Étampes as well as earning money as an art restorer.  He got Marie to make copies of reliefs and plaster casts which he had scattered around his studio and he also got her to make copies of paintings he had accumulated.  When the summer came and the weather improved he would take Marie and other students outside to paint en plein air.  Her progress as an accomplished artist was swift and a measure of that is the fact at the age of seventeen she submitted a family portrait, which included her mother, her sister Louise and one of her elderly teachers, for inclusion at the 1857 Salon and it was accepted.

Pierre Bracquemond as child by Marie Bracquemond (1878)
Pierre Bracquemond as child by Marie Bracquemond (1878)

Fate now took a hand in Marie’s future as the sister-in-law of the family doctor, Doctor Hache, was married to the Neoclassical painter, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and she arranged for Marie to meet her husband.  Ingres arranged for her to work with two of his students, Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin and Émile Signol and she learnt much from them.  Although grateful for Ingres’ help she was unhappy with the elderly artist’s disdain with regard female artists.  In a letter she wrote about Ingres’ contempt:

“…The severity of Monsieur Ingres frightened me.  I tell you, because he doubted the courage and perseverance of a woman in the field of painting.  He wished to impose limits.  He would assign to them only the painting of flowers, of fruits, of still lifes, portraits and genre scenes…”

For Marie, Ingres view on female artists was unacceptable.  Her determination to rail against Ingres’ criticism of female artists and his compartmentalising of the artistic genres suitable for female artists, materialised when she wrote of her split with the elderly painter:

“…There is in me a strong determination to overcome all obstacles.  I wish to work at painting, not to paint some flowers, but to express those feelings that art inspires in me…..All this will not come to pass in a year, but in any event, I do not wish to return to Monsieur Ingres…”

The Lady in White by Marie Bracquemond (1880)
The Lady in White by Marie Bracquemond (1880)

Her artistic ability must have been well known as she soon received commissions including one from the court of Empress Eugenie, the Empress of France and wife of Napoleon III, which commissioned a depiction Cervantes in prison.   Following the successful conclusion of this commission she was approached by the Director-General of French Museums, Count de Nieuwerkerke, to work at the Louvre, making copies of the most famous paintings in the collection.   It was in 1867, whilst Marie was working in the Louvre copying a painting by Rembrandt, that a young man, Félix Bracquemond, an engraver and etcher, first caught sight and fell in love with this dark-haired beauty.  Félix, through his friend, Eugène Montrosier, was introduced to Marie.  A two-year courtship followed during which time Félix introduced Marie to all his artist friends, such as Millet, Corot, Degas, Rodin and Fantin-Latour and art critics and writers such as Edmond de Goncourt and Gustave Geffroy, and through them she received more and more commissions.   Unfortunately for Marie there was a problematic downside to this relationship.  Félix was not a particularly nice man.  He had a very off-hand brusque demeanour.  He was self-opinionated and later became über-critical of Marie’s artistic talent but despite Marie’s mother’s voiced concern over the relationship between Félix and her daughter, the couple were married in August 1869 and went to live in the rue de l’Université in Paris.  Marie was well aware of her husband’s unacceptable characteristics but presumably believed that all that would change when they were married.  It didn’t!  In 1870 Marie gave birth to their only child, Pierre.  Despite his uncompromising and offhand attitude Marie learnt a great deal from her husband and she exhibited works at the 1874 and 1875 Salon.

The Artist's Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres by Marie Bracquemond (1890
The Artist’s Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres by Marie Bracquemond (1890)

Haviland China was a factory set up in Limoges, France, by the American entrepreneur David Haviland and later was aided by his sons, Charles and Theodore.  The factory produced the finest china tableware.  In 1872 David’s son Charles, opened the Auteuil Studio in Paris, which attracted many of the great artists of the day, including Manet, Monet, and the Damousse brothers, all of whom greatly influenced Haviland’s floral designs.  It became known as the “French School”.   Félix Bracquemond, who had a reputation as a great ceramics decorator, was, in 1878, employed in the studio as the artistic director and Marie also worked there designing plates for dinner services.  In an article in the 1904 magazine Women in the Fine Arts, the writer, Clara Erskine Clement who was the author of Women in the Fine Arts from the Seventh Century to the Twentieth Century AD,wrote about Marie Bracquemond’s amazing ability:

“…Madame Bracquemond had the facility of employing the faience colours so well that she produced a clearness and richness not achieved by other artists.  The progress made in the Haviland faience in the 70’s was very largely due to Madame Bracquemond, whose pieces were almost always sold from the atelier before being fired, so great was her success…”

Faience is the conventional name in English for a tin-glazed earthenware.

One of Marie’s great accomplishments was to design and produce several dishes and a wide Faience panel of ceramic tiles entitled the Muses, all of which were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878; the preliminary sketch used for the design was shown at the Impressionist Exhibition of 1879 and among its greatest admirers was Edgar Degas.

On the Terrace at Sèvres by Marie Bracquemond (1880)
On the Terrace at Sèvres by Marie Bracquemond (1880)

It was around 1880 that there was a change in Marie’s artistic style.  Gone were the small muted works of art and in their place came larger works with a greater intensity of colour and more of her paintings were carried out en plein air allowing her to catch the nuances of the daylight which constantly changed..  This was the era of the Impressionists and Marie Bracquemond had become great friends of Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Renoir and Gaugin these artists had become her artistic mentors.  She had been welcomed into the Impressionists’ fold and she exhibited works at three of their annual exhibitions, in 1879, 1880 and the final Impressionist Exhibition in 1886.  Three of her works completed in 1880 which clearly demonstrate her alteration of style to a noticeable Impressionist style, were The Lady in White, On the Terrace at Sèvres and Le Gouter (Afternoon Tea).

Le Gouter or Afternoon Tea by Marie Bracquemond (1880)
Le Gouter or Afternoon Tea by Marie Bracquemond (1880)

She was delighted with her art and its popularity but this delight was not shared by her husband, Félix, who resented her success and her close liaison with the Impressionists.   Their son Pierre, who loved his mother and was the No.1 fan of her work, later wrote about his father’s resentment.  According to Pierre, Félix was jealous of her achievement and rarely showed her works to visiting artists and friends.  He said that Félix now resented any criticisms Marie might venture about his paintings.  It appeared that the once close artistic relationship between Marie and Félix, with each offering constructive critiques regarding their works, was over.  Félix would often hide his new works from his wife but at the same time was openly critical with regards to her artistic efforts.  This uncomfortable atmosphere in the marital home and the constant friction between her and Félix finally took its toll in 1890 when Marie could not stand her husband’s attitude to her work any longer and except for a few examples completely gave up her painting.  One of her last works was the Impressionist-style work entitled The Artist’s Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres which she completed in 1890.  At the time of this painting the constant battle with her husband had made her become introverted and she became a virtual recluse, rarely leaving their Sèvres home. Her sister Louise did not like her brother-in-law finding him overbearing and boorish in the way he treated her sister.

Pierre Bracquemond painting a bouquet of flowers by Marie Bracquemond (1887)
Pierre Bracquemond painting a bouquet of flowers by Marie Bracquemond (1887)

Pierre Bracquemond who was taught by his father later became involved in works for Gobelin, a Parisian tapestry factory.  He then worked at a career as an interior decorator specialising in the designs of carpets and tapestries.  He also carried on his love of art concentrating on seascapes and nudes, chiefly employing the technique of encaustic paintiing, which was also known as hot wax painting, as it involved using heated beeswax to which colored pigments were added.   He also wrote many critiques with regards art and the teachings of his father on the subject.  There were also many manuscripts he had written about his parents Marie and Félix, some of which were never published.

Marie Bracquemond died in Paris on January 17, 1916.

The Magpie by Claude Monet

The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868)
The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868)

Being in a much milder, wetter and windy climate it is always a novelty to see snow except atop distant mountains and for those of you are knee-deep in it, you have my sympathy, as I tend to agree with those who say snow is fine when viewed on a greetings card but not when one has to trudge through it.  However there is nothing as beautiful as a painted snow scene and for My Daily Art Display featured painting today I am featuring a beautiful depiction of a snow scene by Claude Monet entitled The Magpie, which is reputed to be one of the most popular paintings in the Musée d’Orsay collection.

Monet painted this work during the winter of 1868-9 whilst he was living at Étretat with his wife Camille and his one-year old son Jean.  He had left Paris and one of the reasons for his departure from the capital was given by him in a letter to his artist friend, Frederic Bazille:

“…In Paris one is too preoccupied with what one sees and hears, however strong-minded one may be, and what I shall do here will at least have the virtue of being unlike anyone else’s work, because it will simply be the expression of my personal experiences…”

Monet had been going through a very tough and trying period in his life.  Although his painting Woman in Green was exhibited in the 1866 Salon his offering of Women in the Garden the following year was rejected by the jury of the Salon.   None of the pictures he sent in the spring to the International Maritime Exhibition at Le Havre were sold and worse still, the canvases were seized by his creditors.   His lover, Camille Doncieux, whom he had met in 1865, had become pregnant and in August 1867 gave birth to their son, Jean-Armand-Claude.   Although his father had finally and reluctantly come around to his son’s chosen profession as an artist, he was totally against his son’s liaison with Camille and told him that he would only offer him financial help if he left Camille.  Monet’s financial situation in Paris had become dire and he survived on hand-outs from his friends.  His money problems and now the impending arrival of his child, which was yet another mouth to feed, were so bad that in 1868 he had attempted suicide by throwing himself off a bridge into the River Seine.  Penniless, Monet was forced to return home alone to his father’s house in Sainte-Adresse, a small coastal town west of Le Havre, and there he lived with his aunt, abandoning Camille in Paris.  To add to all these financial and family problems he suffered partial loss of his sight in July 1867 which prevented him from painting and sketching out of doors.

His luck finally changed in 1868 when he fortuitously received some timely aid from his very first patron, a shipowner and art collector, Louis-Joachim Gaudibert, who supported him by commissioning him to paint three full-length life-sized portraits.  Two were of Guadibert himself and the third one of his wife,  (Portrait of Madame Gaudibert).  He also managed to sell his painting Camille to Arsène Houssaye, the editor of the magazine L’Artiste, for 800 francs. Now, finally, with some money in his pocket he was able to return to Paris to once again be with Camille.  Gaudibert also helped Monet rent a house in Étretat for his family in late 1868. Recovering from an episode of depression, Monet joined Camille Doncieux and Jean at the house in Étretat in October 1868.  He wrote to Bazille about his change of fortune:

“…Thanks to this gentleman of Le Havre who’s been helping me out, I’m enjoying the most perfect peace and quiet and I look forward to do some worthwhile things…”

It was whilst he lived here that Monet painted the many famous scenes of the cliffs at Étretat and it was in December 1868 that he painted today’s featured work, The Magpie.  Although en plein air painting may be a joy in the sunny warm days of summer, it becomes a challenge in the cold harsh winter days but Monet was not deterred by this and never let the elements confine him to working indoors.  In fact he often claimed that he preferred the countryside in winter.  Monet loved to experience the differing effects light had on the countryside and for him the understated difference of shadows upon the snow covered ground presented him with a different challenge from the sun on green grass and blue water.  It would mean a complete change of palette with more emphasis on the whites, greys and violets.  He wrote to Frederic Bazille extolling the virtues of his surroundings and the freedom to paint en plein air:

“…I spend my time out in the open, on the shingle beach when the weather is bad or the fishing boats go out, or I go into the countryside which is very beautiful here, that I find perhaps still more charming in winter than in summer and, naturally I work all the time, and I believe that this year I am going to do some serious things…”

Before us we have Monet’s oil on canvas winter landscape scenes of the countryside close to Étretat.  It is entitled La Pie (The Magpie).  It is a prime example of the natural effet de neige (effect of snow).   It was one of the earlier snowscapes that Monet painted.  In all he completed over hundred snowscape paintings. The snow lies upon the ground.  A solitary magpie perches on the top rung of a wooden hurdle gate.  Its black and white feathers, along with the dark bark of the trees, contrast starkly against the snowy landscape and, despite the small size of the bird, it become the focus of the work. Its inclusion in the scene in some ways breathes life into the painting. The source of light comes from the background and dramatically creates blueish gray shadows of the wattle fencing on the pristine snow in the foreground.   Monet and the Impressionists, instead of making the shadows in their paintings a conventional black, preferred  to use coloured shadows as they believed that adding colour represented the actual, changing conditions of light and shadow as one would see in nature.  However this idea did not set well with the Salon jurists and this work by Monet was rejected when he submitted it for exhibition at the 1869 Salon.    There is a beautiful luminosity about this work.  In summery paintings the sky would normally be lighter in colour and tone in comparison to the ground colour but of course in winter this all changes and as we see in this work the sky is darker than the snow-covered ground.  Look at the way Monet has depicted the snow.  It is not pure white but more a tinted white and where the shadows straddle the snow-covered ground in the foreground we have patches of gray-blue.  We can also see darker spots in the snow of the foreground indicating that the snow is not as deep here and the ground below it is showing through the whiteness.

The painting is considered by art historians as one of Monet’s best and most accomplished snowscapes.  Monet once revealed that he wanted to paint not things in themselves but the air that touched things – the enveloping air.  I will leave you with a quote from a Harper’s Magazine article entitled The Enveloping Air in which the author John Berger wrote:

“… Monet once revealed that he wanted to paint not things in themselves but the air that touched things – the enveloping air.   The enveloping air offers continuity and infinite expansion.  If Monet can paint the air, he can follow it like following a thought.  Except the air operates wordlessly and when painted, is visibly present only in colours, touches, layers, palimpsest, shades, caresses, scratches……… Like many innovative artists, Monet, I believe, was unclear about what he had achieved.  Or, to be more precise, he could not name his achievement.  He could only recognize it intuitively

Winter Harmony by John Henry Twachtman

Winter Harmony by John Twachtman (C.1890-1900)

When we hear the word Impressionism we immediately think of French painters such as Monet, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas et al, but how much do we know about American Impressionists and their works?  How did the Impressionism Movement become important for a time in America?  To find the answer, we probably have to go back to the mid-nineteenth century as it was after the Civil War ended in 1865 that America developed a healthy economy and this was never more so than in the North where many of the victors, who had made their fortunes from the war, had become extremely wealthy.  As is the case nowadays, it is often not just enough to be wealthy, one had to flaunt one’s wealth.   The newly wealthy Americans wanted not just to be recognised as rich, they also craved to be looked upon as sophisticated which didn’t automatically go hand-in-hand with wealth.  So the rich Americans sat in their large magnificent houses and realised that it wasn’t enough to just have a large building, they realised that what they filled their homes with could help in their quest for sophistication and what could be more sophisticated than having their house filled with European art and furnishings.  American artists soon realised that European style art was a saleable commodity and many crossed the Atlantic to Europe, especially Paris, to study the latest artistic techniques.

It was also around this time in Paris that French Impressionism was born.  Impressionist art was a style in which the artist captured the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. Their paintings were full of colour and, in the main, the paintings depicted outdoor scenes. There was a wonderful brightness and vibrancy about the works of the Impressionists.  The images we saw on their canvases were without detail but were painted in bold colours.   In the 1870’s there were already two American painters who had been seduced by the Impressionist style of art and were considered great exponents of this style.  They were Mary Cassatt and the Italian-born son of American ex-patriots, John Singer Sargent.

During the mid-1880s, French Impressionist art became very popular with American collectors who began to appreciate this new style, and more American artists realised that they had to take on board this new phenomenon.   Soon, exhibitions of Impressionist works were held in American cities and the paintings sold well.

Today I am going to look at a work of a less well known Impressionist, the American painter, John Henry Twachtman.  John Twachtman was born in Cincinnati in 1853.  His parents, Frederick Twachtman and his mother Sophie Dröge were German immigrants who had arrived in the country in the late 1840’s.  His father had many different jobs including being a policeman, a storekeeper and a cabinetmaker but his most lucrative work was as a window-shade decorator at the Breneman Brothers factory, and when his son, John, was fourteen years of age he joined his father in the business,  as well as attending classes at the Ohio Mechanics Institute.  John developed a love for art and persuaded his parents to allow him to enrol for a part-time course at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati and this is when he met and was mentored by an already successful American realist artist, Frank Duveneck who invited Twachtman to share his studio in Cincinnati.

In 1875, when he was twenty-four years of age, he and Duveneck, who was just five years his senior, travelled to Europe to study European art.  First stop was Munich where Twachtman studied for two years at the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Art tutored by the German genre and landscape painter, Ludwig von Löfftz.  This artistic establishment was a long-standing center of artistic excellence and was one which attracted increasing numbers of aspiring American artists.   From there he, Duveneck and another American student attending the Academy, William Merritt Chase, travelled to Venice in the spring of 1877 and spent much of their time painting en plein air.

Twachtman returned to America in 1878 and for a brief time taught at the Women’s’ Art Association in Cincinnati. He also joined the Cincinnati Etching Club where he became friendly with Martha Scudder, a Cincinnati artist and daughter of a local physician.    Martha had studied at the School of Design and also in Europe, and had, on a number of occasions, exhibited her work.   In 1880, Twachtman married, Martha Scudder.  Soon after she married she gave up her artistic career and simply devoted herself to bringing up her family.  John and Martha had two children: a son, J. Alden Twachtman, who was born in March 1882 and went on to became a painter and architect and a daughter, Marjorie, who was born in Paris in 1884.    In 1880 John and Martha left America on honeymoon and went to Europe and Bavaria where Twachtman helped out as an art teacher in Duveneck’s school.  Twachtman tired of the Munich style’s painting especially its lack of draughtsmanship and so he upped roots and moved to Paris, where in 1883 he enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he studied under Gustave Boulanger, the French figure painter who was renowned for his classical and Orientalist subjects.  Another of his tutors was the French figure painter, Jules-Joseph Lefebvre.

Twachtman returned to the United States in 1887 and remained there for the rest of his life settling in Connecticut where he established an informal art school at Holly House, a boarding house for artists at Cos Cob, a small fishing village near Greenwich.  This became a magnet for young aspiring artists, who came and were taught by Twachtman.  Ten years later in 1897, Twachtman along with Childe Hassan and J Alden Weir became founder members of a group known as the Ten American Painters generally known as The Ten.  This group was considered to be a sort of Academy of American Impressionists who had broken away from the more conservative Society of American Artists.  From 1899 onwards, although living on his farm in Greenwich, Twachtman spent most of his last summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts and it was here that he died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1902, aged 49.

The painting by John Twachtman, which I am featuring today, is one of his many winter landscapes.  This one is entitled Winter Harmony and was completed by the artist in the last decade of the nineteenth century.  It now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  The painting features a pool on the artist’s property and was to be depicted in a number of his works.

Peasant Girl Lighting a Fire. Frost, by Camille Pissarro

Peasant Girl Lighting a Fire. Frost by Camille Pissarro (1888)

My Daily Art Display’s featured painting today is entitled Peasant Girl Lighting a Fire. Frost, which was painted by Camille Pissarro in 1888 and can now be found in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  At this time Pissarro was still a leading light of the Impressionist movement, a movement he had helped to form.   However it was two years prior to this work that Pissarro began to become interested in the experimental work of young artists, who had adopted the fragmented brushstroke technique which Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were trying out, known as pointillism , a technique Pissarro used in parts of this painting.  For a more in depth look at pointillism see My Daily Art Display October 21st 2011 for a painting by Georges Seurat and November 29th 2011 for a painting by Paul Signac. Pissarro had been introduced to Seurat and Signac in 1885 and in the following years he began to work in the pointillist style which had then been adopted by the Neo-Impressionists.  By the time Pissarro was in his sixties he found that this pointillism technique too restricting and in the last ten years of his life he returned to a purer Impressionist style.
Camille Pissarro was fifty-eight years of age when he completed today’s featured work of art.  Ten years earlier his style of painting was such that he would portray nature in his landscapes by a myriad of smaller comma-like brushstrokes built up on the surface of the canvas such as his 1877 work, The Red Roofs (see My Daily Art Display of November 30th 2010).  Pissarro was concerned that these works lacked clarity and so he decided to change the way he worked.  He spent time working in collaboration with Degas, who was, of all the Impressionists, a great believer and advocate of figure painting and the primacy of the human figure at the expense of landscape background.  It was maybe the views of Degas that led to Pissarro to complete some works in which the human being(s) took pride of place in the painting, as is the case with today’s featured work.

The painting depicts two peasant girls working in a field in a cold and frosty winter morning and we see one of them tending a fire.  Pissarro often painted peasant women at work.  Two fine examples of this are his 1881 work entitled Girl with a Stick and the 1893 painting entitled Woman with a Green Shawl.  His portrayal of peasants received some criticism for copying the ideas of Jean-François Millet but Pissarro firmly contested such a notion.  However in general art critics looked upon his works as true representations of peasant life.  Look at the beautiful way in which Pissarro has depicted the landscape.  At the time of this painting Pissarro was extremely interested in the pointillism technique of Seurat and Signac and he used this method to present us with a sumptuous backdrop to the two girls.  The painting has a light and airy feel to it and there is a subtle delicate nature to the work.  The work was painted in Eragny just north-west of Paris where Pissarro and his family lived for a time.

In the far distance we can see the low hills topped by irregular spaced bushy trees.  In the middle ground, we observe grazing cows in the meadow, a line of poplar trees at the foot of the hills and possibly a hidden stream running horizontally across the mid ground.   Notwithstanding the backdrop, the focus of the painting is on the two girls in the foreground, who almost appear to stand next to us.  The scene is lit up by the sun, somewhere out of sight, to the left, which throws off long blue shadows across the field.  It is a wintry sun and still low in the sky, hence the long shadow of the girl in the foreground, which disappears off the painting to the right.    Although it emits light, the sun gives off little warmth and so our two young workers are wrapped up well.  The temperature is even colder due to the wind chill factor.  Look how the girls skirt and the smoke from her small fire are blown horizontally by the wind which comes from the left of the painting.  One can imagine how cold it is with the driving wind on a wintry day. We almost shiver as we look at this work of art.

The girls are both well wrapped up against the morning’s wintry chill.  The girl on the right, who seems no more than a child, is warming her hands by the fire.  She wears a blue dress and a thick dark brown coat.  She has a dark woolen hat on her head which is pulled down to protect her ears from the icy wind.   The older girl, who is closest to us and because of her height, is the main focus of our attention.  She has taken a branch from the pile behind her, and is about to break it up and add it to the fire.  She wears a pink skirt with a blue apron.  She too has protected her head, wearing a white scarf tied beneath her chin.  Her final layer of protection is a pink and white shawl from which emerge long black sleeves of her dress.

The colour combinations Pissarro uses to achieve the colour we see is fascinating.  The girls pink dress is made up of a combination of yellow, blue and pink.  The green grass of the meadow is achieved by using a combination green, blue, yellow, pink and white.  The only orange Pissarro used was for the flames of the fire.

Pissarro fled the traumas of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and, like Monet, went to live in London.   It was whilst in London that he saw a number of paintings by Turner.  Pissarro later commented on Turner’s works and was amazed by the way Turner succeeded in conveying the snow’s whiteness, not just by the use of white alone but by combining a host of multi-coloured strokes, dabbed in, one against the other, which when looked at from a distance, created the desired effect.  It is in this painting that Pissarro has, without the actual presence of snow, managed to give us a crystalline frost of a cold winter’s morning encapsulated in an aura of diamond blue.

Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Theatre des Italiens) by Eva Gonzalès

Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Theatre des Italiens) by Eva Gonzalès (1874)

I had intended this offering to be my previous blog but when I researched into today’s featured artist and her painting I saw there was a connection between this work of hers and a similar one completed by Renoir in that same year.  My Daily Art Display featured artist today is Eva Gonzalès and the work I want to look at is entitled Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Theatre des Italiens) which she completed in 1874.

Eva Gonzalès was born in Paris in 1849.  Her father was the novelist and playwright, Emmanuel Gonzalès, a Spaniard but naturalised French.  Her mother was a Belgian musician.  From her childhood she was immersed in the literary world as her parents house was often used as a meeting place for critics and writers.

Eva began her artistic career in 1865, at the age of sixteen, when she began to study art.  Initially she studied under Charles Joshua Chaplin, the French society portraitist, who ran art classes specifically for women in his atelier and who, the following year, would teach the American female artist Mary Cassatt.

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès by Manet

Just before her twentieth birthday in 1869 she became a pupil of Édouard Manet and also used to model for him and many of the other Impressionist artists.  It was whilst at his studio that she met Berthe Morisot who was also working with Manet and posing for some of his works.  There would seem to have been an intense  rivalry between the two females.  According to Anne Higonnet’s book Berthe Morisot, Morisot wrote to her sister about Gonzalès and Manet’s attitude towards her saying:

“… Manet preaches at me and offers me the inevitable Mlle Gonzalès as an example; she has bearing, perseverance, she knows how to carry something through, whereas I am not capable of anything.   In the meantime, he begins her portrait again for the twenty-fifth time; she poses every day, and every evening her head is washed out with black soap.  Now that’s encouraging when you ask people to model…”

Repose by Édouard Manet

One can easily detect Berthe Morisot’s jealousy of Eva Gonzalès in that passage.  The painting referred to by Berthe Morisot was entitled Portrait of Eva Gonzalès which Manet was working on and which he exhibited in the 1870 Salon.  It is now housed at the National Gallery, London.  At the same time that he was painting the portrait of Eva Gonzalès he was also painting a work entitled Repose which was a portrait of Morisot and which he also exhibited at the 1870 Salon, as almost a companion piece.  This portrait of Morisot can be seen in the Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island.  As you can see by the passage above, Morisot was annoyed by Manet’s painting of Gonzalès.   What rankled Morisot the most was probably how Manet had portrayed the two young ladies.    So what could have annoyed Morisot about Manet’s depiction of her?  Look at the two paintings.  Both young women, both wear similar clothing, both have been portrayed as young and pretty but the one big difference is that Morisot is depicted half laying back on the sofa in what one could describe as a languid and idle pose whereas Eva is portrayed as a budding artist actively at work.   What also should be kept in mind is that Morisot did not look upon herself as merely a “pupil” of Manet.  For Morisot,  her relationship with Manet was almost as equals rather than master and pupil.  In her relationship with Manet, she was also much more forceful and self-confident than Gonzalès, who was more of a willing disciple of Manet and who would put up with Manet’s abrupt manner,  whilst continually absorbing his teaching.   Of course there was another significant difference between the two young women – age!   Eva was more than eight years younger than Morisot.

Unlike Morisot, but like her mentor Manet, Eva Gonzalès decided not to exhibit any of her work at the controversial Impressionist Exhibitions but she has always been grouped with them because of her painting style.   However, she did regularly have her work shown at the annual Salon exhibitions in the 1870’s.  Her works received mixed comments.  The critics who were supporters of the Impressionist artist liked her work.

Portrait of Jeanne Gonzalès in Profile by Eva Gonzalès

In 1869 Eva married Henri Charles Guérard, an etcher, lithographer  and printmaker, who was a close friend and sometime-model for Édouard Manet and who modelled for some of his wife’s paintings along with his sister-in-law Jeanne (La femme en rose, Jeanne Gonzelès).  In 1883, a month after her 34th birthday, she gave birth to a son, John.  Sadly, her life was cut short when she died following complications of childbirth.  It was believed to have been Puerperal Fever.    Her death came just six days after the death of her one-time mentor Édourad Manet.   Two years after her death a retrospective of Gonzalès’ work was held at the Salons de La Vie Moderne in Paris where over eighty of her paintings were put on display.

Five years later, in 1888, Henri-Charles Guérard  married Eva’s younger sister, Jeanne Gonzalès, also an artist.   My featured painting by Eva Gonzalès is entitled Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Theatre des Italiens) and you can obviously see the similarity between her painting and my previous offering entitled La Loge by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  I decided to feature his first and then let you compare her painting with his.

As I discussed in my last blog, the auditorium of a  theatre and especially the theatre box were fashionable places for an exchange of society chit-chat and gave the theatregoers the opportunity to be seen at their best.  The subject of the theatre and theatre goers was a subject frequently chosen by the Impressionists, such as Cassatt and Degas but probably the most celebrated of this genre was Renoir’s La Loge (The Theatre Box) and it is interesting to compare it with this work by Eva Gonzalès which she completed in the same year, 1874.  This painting by Gonzalès was submitted to the Salon jurists for inclusion in the 1874 Salon but was refused.   Eva Gonzalès then made some changes to the painting and five years later submitted it to the 1879 Salon and this time it was accepted.  The critics loved the work.

There are some similarities to this painting of hers and that of her former tutor Édouard Manet in the way she, like him, chose to paint a modern-day subject and the way her painting, like some of his, shows a total contrast between the light colours of the clothing of the subject and the pale creamy skin of the female and the dark background.   In stark contrast to the dark velvet edge of the box , we see her white-gloved hand with its gold bracelet casually resting along it.   There is also an uncanny similarity between the bouquet of flowers that rests on the edge of the theatre box to the left of the woman in Gonzalès’ painting and the bouquet of flowers which Manet depicted in his painting, Olympia (see My Daily Art Display October 12th 2011).  The two people who were sitters for Eva’s painting were her husband, Henri Guérard and her sister Jeanne who as I said before was to become Henri’s second wife.

As was the case in Renoir’s painting we are left to our own devices as to what is going on within the theatre box. We need to make up our own minds as to what the relationship is between the man and the woman and to their social standing in society.  There is little symbolism to help us interpret the scene.  We just have to use our own imagination and sometimes that adds to the joy os looking at a work of art.

La Loge by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

La Loge by Renoir (1874)

Today’s featured work of art was not my original intended offering.  That sounds somewhat strange but actually there is logic to my decision.  I was researching a painting when I came across today’s work and there seemed, at least in my mind, a good reason to offer you today’s painting before I showcased my original work.

The French word La Loge in the context of a theatre means the theatre box and it has been the subject of a number of paintings.  Today I want to look at La Loge by Pierre-Auguste Renoir which he completed in 1874 and now hangs at The Courtauld Gallery in London.  Today this work of art by the Impressionist painter is looked upon as one of the most significant works of the Impressionist movement.  At the time of this painting it was estimated that over 200,000 theatre tickets were sold every week in Paris.  However, going to a Parisian theatre in the nineteenth century was not just about taking in the latest plays by the likes of Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas or the less formal vaudeville shows which were also very popular at the time, it was about being seen by other theatregoers.  Men would accompany and flaunt their wives or lovers.  Proud fathers would show off their daughters and “out-of-towners” would take the opportunity of dressing up and sample the Parisian lifestyle.   It was an almost indoor form of promenading, which was the leisurely walking in public places dressed in one’s finery and carried out as a social activity.  Attending  the theatre was a chance to showcase one’s most expensive clothes and accoutrements as well as parading one’s latest beau.  What could be more satisfying than to flaunt one’s wealth or one’s new lover?  It was a question of seeing and being seen and going to the theatre dominated the cultural life of the city.  As well as seeing actors on the theatre stage the theatregoers were actually quietly performing on their own  social stage.

Being seen

The way Renoir has depicted the scene in the theatre box sums up this attitude.  We see a lady and gentleman seated in their box.  Take a look at their demeanour.  Are they depicted as locked in concentration at what is happening on the stage below?  No they are not.  The lady stares out at us with her gloved hand holding her opera glasses and resting it on the lavish velvet frontage of the box whilst her other hand clasps a black fan and a white lace handkerchief in her lap.  Protocol of the day demanded that ladies must wear gloves on formal occasions.

Her face is now not hidden from view by her opera glasses.  She is revealing her face to all who may wish to gaze at her.   So how would you describe her?  Is there a delicate elegance about her or does she look rather brash.  She is without doubt beautiful and has little trepidation about letting people admire her from afar.  She wears a lavish dress, one she has probably saved for this very outing.  This is her tenue de premiere or opening-night attire.  Her costume would often be referred to as a robe à la polonaise or polonaise which was popular in the late eighteenth century and saw a was revival a hundred years later in the 1870’s.  It consisted of a fitted overdress which extended into long panels over an underskirt.  The magic of Renoir’s painting is that from a far one can see the three dimensional form of the dress with all its folds and yet up close it was just a series of brushstrokes.  It is almost magical the way the artist has painted this work.

The elegant dress oozes a sense of wealth but that is not the only thing which advertises the financial situation of the couple.   The style of the dress also oozes the ladies sensuality.  Note the position of the rose which immediately draws our eyes to the décolletage which emphasizes her cleavage. The low-cut neckline was a popular feature of evening gowns of that era.   Another rose placed in her hair once again draws our eyes to her simple but elegant coiffure.

Look at her neck and the pearl necklace she is wearing.  Also we can just make out a pair of diamond earrings dangling from her ears and if we look at the hand which holds her opera glasses we note a gold bracelet around her slender wrist.  The wealth is there for us to see but more importantly it is there for the other theatregoers to note.

This is a summation of the “seen and being seen” philosophy.  She is wanting to be seen in all her finery whilst he is concentrating on seeing.  Renoir used one of his regular models, Nini Lopez, as the model for the lady.

Seeing

The sitter for her male companion in the theatre box was Edmund Renoir, the brother of the artist.  He, like the lady, is dressed elegantly in his formal clothes.  Renoir has depicted him wearing a white shirt with a starched cravat, black trousers and gold cufflinks.  His attire, which is typical of that of the wealthy male theatregoer also exudes a sense of affluence but its plainness and subdued colour allows the more colourful female to be the centre of attention.

The aspect of this painting which we cannot be sure about and I will leave you to decide is whether we are seeing a husband and wife out for an evening at the theatre or are we looking a wealthy man accompanied by an elegantly dressed courtesan.  Can we deduce the truth from looking at the painting but beware of falling into the trap of being too judgemental !!!

Renoir exhibited this painting in the First Impressionist Exhibition which was held in the former studio of the photographer Nadar at 35 boulevard des Capucines in Paris on April 15, 1874.  This work, which gives us an insight into Parisian life in the late nineteenth century, is now hailed as a masterpiece of art and one of the most significant works of the Impressionist movement.  At the time it was exhibited it helped establish the reputation of Renoir.  The painting gives us an insight into life in the French capital during the late nineteenth century.

Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight and Eugène Manet and His Daughter in the Garden by Berthe Morisot

Although I could write numerous blogs about Berthe Morisot and her works, this is not a Berthe Morisot site and therefore after today’s offering I will drag myself away from this talented artist and head for pastures new.  However today I want to focus on Berthe Morisot, her husband and her daughter and have a look at a couple of her paintings which portray the happy family.

As I wrote in my last blog, in 1868, Berthe Morisot had been introduced to Édouard Manet by Henri Fantin-Latour whilst she was working as a copyist at the Louvre.  Over time the Morisot and the Manet family became close friends and would exchange visits to each other’s houses and during this time Berthe became acquainted with Édouard Manet’s brothers, Gusatve and Eugène.

When her sister Edma married Adolphe Pontillon in 1869 she moved to Lorient and gave up painting.   For her, and despite having exhibited at four Salons, she considered her marriage was far more important than any thoughts she may have had of an artistic career. She was determined to channel all her energy into her marriage, playing the role of a supporting wife to her naval officer husband and being a loving and devoted mother to their children.  On the other hand, Berthe on her marriage to Eugène Manet in December 1874 was adamant that the change in her marital status would not affect her art.  She continued to paint as prolifically as before and kept signing her works in her maiden name.  In many ways she was fortunate that Eugène’s attitude to her work was one of support and often when Berthe set off on painting trips he would accompany her and dabble a little in art himself by making a few sketches.  Berthe was also fortunate not to have any money worries and this allowed her to pursue her artistic career without being anxious about where the next centime was coming from.

Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight by Berthe Morisot (1875)

My Daily Art Display featured painting today, which is housed in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, is entitled Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight and is one which Berthe Morisot completed in 1875 when she and her husband spent the summer in Cowes on the Isle of Wight on their honeymoon.  This, at the time, was a favoured holiday destination for the English high society.  They visited the town of Rye several times before they moved on to London.  Whilst on the Isle of Wight Berthe spent most of her time painting.  Often she and Eugène would be seen leaving their lodgings carrying easels and paint boxes which they would position at some site of natural beauty and spend the day recording the beauty of the island.   Often Berthe would set up her easel in their hotel room and paint what they could see from their window.  Today’s work is an example of just that.  She managed to persuade Eugène, with some difficulty, to pose for her looking out of the window.   She wrote to Edma about the problems of getting her husband to pose, saying:

“…I began something in the sitting room with Eugène; poor Eugène is taking your place; but he is a much less accommodating model; he’s quickly had enough…”

The view from the window is of the port of Cowes but the painting is all about her husband Eugène Manet and the little cottage garden in front of the residence.  It is interesting to observe how Morisot has painted the window panes and the gauze curtains to convey transparency.  The flowers in the garden and the potted plants on the window sill add a dash of colour but in the main Morisot has used muted greys, blacks and blues in her work.  There is a grid-like structure to the painting with the vertical and horizontal lines of the window frame, window sill and garden fencing as well as Eugène’s boater.  Apparently Morisot found it quite difficult to paint this kind of picture and found the task both frustrating and in some ways depressing.  This again is an example of Morisot’s perfectionism and the problems inherent in that state of mind.  She wrote to Edma about the work saying:

“…The view from my window is very pretty to see, very ugly to paint; views from above are almost always incomprehensible; the upshot is that I am not doing very much, and the little I do looks frightful…”

Eugène Manet and His Daughter in the Garden by Berthe Morisot (1883)

In November 1878, almost four years after Eugène and Berthe married, Berthe gave birth to a daughter, Julie, who was to be their one and only child.  Berthe featured her daughter prominently in many of her future paintings as did her sisters and family members.  I particularly like the painting she did in 1883, entitled Eugène Manet and His Daughter in the Garden.  The setting is the garden on the Bougival estate where they were staying that summer.  Unlike some of her works which also featured her husband and daughter, this painting depicts a more private world of Eugène and Julie.  Eugène is dressed casually in an artist’s smock with a straw hat atop his head.  Julie, dressed in her light blue summer dress, sits by the pond watching her tiny red sailing boat drifting on the water.  There is no sign of their house in the painting but the natural setting enhances the loving father/daughter relationship.   Morisot had always intended the painting to be a private family work and no doubt for that very reason she never exhibited it during her lifetime.  It was not seen by the public until 1896, a year after her death.  The work was one of her daughter’s particular favourites,  as Julie commented on the scene with her father saying:

“..he gazes with a father’s eyes on the little blonde girl in a white dress who is intent on getting boats to move around the pond…”

I will now leave the life and paintings of Morisot for a little while but will undoubtedly return to showcase some of her other beautiful work at a later date.  If you are interested in Berthe Morisot and her life I suggest you read Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet, which gives a fascinating insight into Berthe Morisot’s life, her family and the people she mixes with.  It is a great read.

The Swineherd, Brittany, The Schuffenecker Family. Madame Gaugin by Paul Gaugin.

Life Story of Paul Gaugin (Part 2)

In my last blog I gave you a brief outline of Gaugin’s life up until April 1871 when Gauguin, having completed his military service, returned to his late mother’s home in St Cloud, only to find it had been destroyed during the year-long (July 1870 – May 1871) Franco-Prussian War.  He then moved back to Paris and takes an apartment close to where his former guardian Gustave Arosa lives with his family.  In 1872, through Arosa’s business connections with the owner of a stockbroker firm, Paul Bertin, Gaugin becomes a bookkeeper for the company.

The Schuffenecker Family by Paul Gaugin (1889)

It is whilst working here that Gauguin meets the part-time artist and his co-worker, Émile Schuffenecker, who joined the firm a few months earlier.  The friendship grew and they used to spend time in the Louvre studying the paintings of the Old Masters.  In December that year Gustave Arosa introduces Gauguin to a Danish woman Mette-Sophie Gad.  Mette was a judge’s daughter and formerly a governess to the children of a Danish Minister of State and she was in Paris with a friend to improve her cultural education.  Gaugin and Mette married in Paris in November 1873 and they became great friends with Emile Schuffenecker and his wife, Louise.  The Schuffeneckers who married seven years later in 1880 had two children, a daughter Jeanne born in 1882 and a son, named Paul after Gaugin, was born in 1884.   Gaugin and Mette’s first child, Emile (named after their friend Schuffenecker), was born in September 1874.  The couple at this time were experiencing a good standard of living derived from Gaugin’s earnings at the financial brokerage.

Mette Gad (Madame Gaugin) in an Evening Dress by Gaugin (1884)

Gauguin love of art blossomed, thanks mainly to two people.  Firstly from his former guardian Gustave Arosa who had, along with his brother, managed to build up an impressive collection of paintings from the likes of Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix and Jean-François Millet and it was Arosa who introduced Gaugin to Camille Pissarro who would occasionally tutor him.    The other person who encouraged Gaugin to paint was his friend and work colleague Émile Schuffenecker and the two of them would often go off on Sundays on painting trips.  The pair also spent the occasional evening at the life classes at the art school, Académie Colorossi.  To give one an idea of how quickly Gaugin learnt the art of painting, it should be noted that in 1876, within four years of starting to paint, Gaugin had a landscape Under the Tree Canopy at Viroflay accepted at that year’s Salon.  There was also a family connection with art as Mette’s sister Ingeborg had married the Norweigan painter Fritz Thaulow and when he and Gaugin got together they would discuss painting and Thaulow would offer critical advice to Gaugin about his works of art.

At the start of 1877, Gauguin decided to leave Paul Bertin’s stockbrokerage firm and move to André Bourdon’s bank. The job at the bank was better for Gaugin as it had regular business hours which meant that he could set aside regular periods for his painting.   Financially life was still good.  He received a regular salary from the bank and he had been very successful with his speculations on the Paris stock market.  Gaugin and his wife moved house and went to live to Vaugirard, a suburb in the south west of Paris, where they rented rooms in a property owned by the sculptor, Jules Bouillot and one of their neighbours was Jean-Paul Aubé.

In 1877 Gaugin’s daughter Aline was born and the following year there is an upturn in Gaugin’s financial situation as share prices rise and bank bonuses roll in.  Gaugin spends this money on buying contemporary art by the likes of Camille Pissarro and some of the other Impressionist painters.  In 1879 Gaugin is invited by Pissarro and Degas to exhibit some of his work at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition.  That same year, Gaugin’s second son, Clovis, is born.  Life is good for Gaugin and his wife. They wanted for nothing. They are happily married; he is earning good money at the bank and is exhibiting more of his paintings at the Impressionist Exhibitions.  In April 1881 his third son Jean-René is born.

However, as in life, all good things come to an end.  For Gaugin the end came in January 1882, for it was then that the Paris Bourse (French stockmarket) crashed.  It caused the worst crisis in the French economy in the nineteenth century. The crash was triggered by the collapse of l’Union Générale Bank that month.  Around a quarter of the brokerage firms on the Bourse were on the brink of collapse and Gaugin lost most of his money he had riding on the stock market.   Now it was decision time for Gaugin; should he get out of the once lucrative world of finance altogether and concentrate on his art but by taking this course of action he risked the wrath of his wife?   That was his dilemma and despite having an ever expanding family to support (his fifth child Paul, often known as Pola was born in December 1883), he decided to turn his back on finance and commerce and become a full-time artist.    In January 1884 on the advice of Pissarro, Gaugin, now with little of his savings left and very little income coming in from the sale of his paintings,  moved his family from Paris to Rouen where the cost of living was less than in the capital.  Sales of his work were slow and he has to sell off some of his much loved art collection.  This life of poverty did not go down well with his wife Mette and the couple were constantly arguing and their marriage started to unravel.

In the summer of 1884 Mette had had enough of their impoverished lifestyle and along with the children sailed off to Copenhagen to be with her parents    She does return to Gaugin in Rouen and tells him that she has secured a position teaching French to Danish children but told him there was a great opportunity for him to sell his art work in Copenhagen as the Danes are showing an interest in Impressionism art.   In November 1884, Gaugin reluctantly joined his family and his in-laws, the Gad family, in Copenhagen and works for a while as a tarpaulin salesman for Dillies & Cie. on a commission-only basis.  Whereas his wife is very happy to be back home, he is extremely unhappy.  He could not speak the language, hated the job which he found demeaning and which got in the way of his one true love – his art.  However he persisted with his painting and in January 1885 wrote a somewhat upbeat letter to Shuffenecker in which he said:

“.. Here [in Copenhagen], I am more than ever tormented by art and although I have to worry about money and look for business, nothing can deter me…”

To make things worse the exhibition of his art work at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen proved to be a failure and is shut down after just five days.  Although he managed to paint a little he could not keep down a job and bring in money for his family and his attitude did not please his in-laws.  To Gaugin, his wife and her parents were holding him back and so in June 1885, he decided that enough was enough and returns to Paris with his favourite child, his second son Clovis.   Art historians have often discussed Gaugin’s split from his wife and many would have you believe it was not so much that he abandoned his wife but more the case that she threw him out.  Whatever the situation was Gaugin when he arrives back in Paris arranges to have six year old Clovis live with his sister Marie who is now married to a Chilean businessman Juan Uribe.   Between the years of 1883 and 1886, due to the many upheavals in his life, Gaugin paints very little.  In the summer of 1886, thanks to some financial assistance from his sister, his son Clovis attends a boarding school, leaving Gaugin free to travel to Pont-Aven, a picturesque Breton village and a centre for a community of artists.  He is happy here and is soon looked up to by his fellow artists.  In a letter to his wife in July 1886, Gaugin wrote:

“… I am respected as the best painter in Pont-Aven, although that does not put any more money in my pocket…”

Gaugin fell in love with Brittany and the Breton way of life. He lived for five months in the Pension Gloanec boarding house and struck up a friendship with the artists Charles Laval and Émile Bernard before returning to Paris in the autumn of that year.

Gaugin is unhappy with life in Paris and has once again developed a wanderlust,  maybe brought on by his days in the navy, and once again the desire to get out of the capital city and travel kicks in, as he explained in a letter to his wife Mette in January 1887:

“…what I want above all is to leave Paris which is a wasteland for a poor man… I am going to Panama to live the life of a native.  I know a little island called Tabogas a league off panama; it is virtually uninhabited, free and very fertile.  I shall take my paints and brushes and reinvigorate myself far from the company of men…”

I am wondering whether Gaugin occasionally feels pangs of guilt about leaving his wife in Copenhagen as in a letter to her in February 1887, he writes to her and tries to justify his departure and tries to get her to look on the bright side of their separation:

“…You are in your house, comfortably furnished, surrounded by your children, doing a tough job but one that you enjoy, you see people, and as you like the company of women and your compatriots you must be satisfied sometimes. You enjoy the comforts of married life without being bothered by a husband. What more do you want other than more money, like many others…”

I once again break off this life story of Gaugin at a point in his life when he looks forward to leaving France and enjoying a worry-free lifestyle in the Caribbean and Central America.  Was his journey a success and did it bring him the all that he desired.  I will tell you in the next blog.

The Swineherd, Britanny by Gaugin (1888)

One of the paintings Gaugin completed during his stay in Pont Avon was entitled The Swineherd, Britanny which he completed in 1888 and now hangs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

This colourful work of art is much more realistic than his later works in the way the artists divides the various areas of the canvas.  There is a definite foreground in which we see the swineherd with his pigs.  There is a middle-ground partly separated from the foreground by a long low stone wall.  In the mid-ground there is the small village with its tall spired-church and a collection of houses and cottages with their black-tiled roofs.    There is a definite background in which we see the blue sky over rolling hills with its patchwork-quilt like fields.