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Entries in 19th Century Art (3)


Pierre Bonnard: The Spirit of the Moment

Pierre Bonnard - The Checkered Blouse - 1892 - Oil on canvas - Height: 61 cm (24.02 in.), Width: 33 cm (12.99 in.) - Musée d’Orsay - Paris (click photo for larger image)French painter and printmaker, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) member of the group of artists called Les Nabis, and afterward a leader of the Intimists. Bonnard is generally regarded as one of the greatest colorists of modern art. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts, but, failing to win the Prix de Rome (a prize to study at the French Academy in Rome), he transferred to the Académie Julian, where he came into contact with some of the major figures of the new artistic generation. 

During the 1890s Bonnard became one of the leading members of the Nabis, a group of artists who specialized in painting intimate domestic scenes as well as decorative curvilinear compositions akin to those produced by painters of the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. Bonnard painted many of his scenes from memory, capturing the spirit of the moment rather than the exact person or place. Bonnard did not paint from life but rather drew his subjects - sometimes photographing them as well - and made notes on the colors. He then painted - and especially, colored - the canvas in his studio from his notes.


Whistler: Elegance and Harmony

James McNeill Whistler - Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Cremorne Lights - 1872 - Oil on canvas - 50.2 x 74.3 cm (19 3/4 x 29 1/4 in.) - Tate Gallery, LondonTonalism is a style of painting in which landscapes are depicted in soft light and shadows, often as if through a colored or misty veil. Imported to the U.S. by American painters inspired by the Barbizon School landscapes of the mid-19th century, it was a forerunner to the many schools and colonies of American Impressionism that arose in the first part of the 20th century—and which was the most popular art among members of America’s general public.

One of tonalism’s most influential practitioners was American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) “whose approach was primarily aesthetic, aiming for elegance and harmony in the colors of a painting”. The artist was noted for his nocturnal painting, for his striking and stylistically advanced full-length portraits, and for his brilliant etchings and lithographs. He was one of the chief proponents of the ideas underlying the concept of “art for art’s sake”. 

Later in his life, Whistler felt somewhat out of step with the more modern approaches emerging. Nevertheless, in the early 1900s, many excellent judges of art considered Whistler to be one of the leading painters of the day. Within a relatively short time, however, the reputation of this versatile artist suffered a decline, and only in the last decades of the 20th century did his reputation begin to recover.

One of the downsides of the earlier Modern era—in all respects—is that it tended to disregard many of the achievements of prior errors. Consequently, there’s been (and remains) a great deal of catching up to do. In art, all achievements of the past and present need to be examined and acknowledged—and all artists should be encouraged and appreciated for whatever styles, subjects and techniques they choose to pursue.


A Sad Story‚Ķ

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) French Sculptor and Graphic Artist - Young Girl with a Sheaf - before 1887 - lifesize - Musée Rodin - Paris (click photo for larger image)(Left) Camille Claudel - Young Girl with a Sheaf - before 1887 - lifesize - Musee Rodin ; (Right); (Right) Auguste Rodin - Galatea, 1889 - lifesize - Musee Rodin - Paris (click photo for larger image)Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was Francois-Auguste Rodin’s (1840-1917) much younger student, muse and then mistress.  When he left her, she eventually destroyed many of her works and years later died alone in a psychiatric hospital.  A tragic story underlies the great tenderness in the pose. Claudel met Rodin as a studio assistant in 1884 and soon became his lover. During this time—through to 1898—she was both the inspiration and the model for the sculptor’s vision of the female body. Some authors have suggested that Henrik Ibsen based his last play, 1899's “When We Dead Awaken”, on Rodin's relationship with Claudel. If one compares Rodin’s work with Claudel—it’s easy to see that whatever influenced existed was most definitely reciprocal. Note that Claudel’s work was created first.