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  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Entries in Modernism (13)


Marsden Hartley: An American Expressionist

Marsden Hartley - Mount Katahdin, Autumn No. 1 - 1939-40 - Oil on canvas - Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (click photo for larger image)Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) was one of a circle of American modernist painters that included Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, Arthur Dove and Charles Demuth.  

Hartley had his first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery in New York. Extensive travels acquainted him with a variety of modern movements. He was first moved by Cézanne, and the Cubism of Picasso and Braque, then later by his contact with the German Expressionists. All of what Hartley absorbed contributed to a distinctive, personal style, seen best in his bold paintings of the harsh landscape of Maine. 

Maine held some very painful childhood memories for the artist, and yet it became his primary and most profound resource later in life. In his last ten years, Hartley alternated between New York City and Maine. When he was sixty-two years old, he made a pilgrimage to Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in the state. This painting commemorates that accomplishment and captures a view of the mountain beloved by decades of American writers and painters. This work “embraces the modernist potential of the famous mountain while capturing a vivid sense of Hartley’s intimate relationship to his native countryside.”

Hartley was also a poet and essayist, and his writings continue to move people.

I’ll be offering an art history class on Marsden Hartley next Fall at LMCCE. Keep your eyes open for that one.


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.


An Impressionist Fascination

Claude Monet - The Rocks of Belle Ile (Rough Sea) - 1886 - Oil on canvas, 65 x 82 cm - Musée d'Orsay, Paris (click photo for larger image)French painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the founder and leader of the Impressionist movement in France. The movement's name, Impressionism, is derived from his work entitled “Impression, Sunrise” of 1873. Monet adhered to the principles of Impressionism throughout his long career and is considered the most consistently representative painter of that school, as well as one of the foremost painters of landscape in the history of art. At Etretat in Normandy, Monet was fascinated by the sheer cliffs and the bizarre shape of the Manneporte, an arch of rock. He returned to the subject over several years, and to the jagged crags and stormy Atlantic at Belle-Ile-en-Mer in Brittany. Using Impressionist dabs to establish an irregular pattern was almost as important in such a work as recording a striking view.


From Impressionism to Modernism

Claude Monet - Blue Water Lilies - Between 1916 and 1919 - Oil on canvas - H. 200; W. 200 cm - Paris, Musée d’Orsay (click photo for larger image)French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) grew white water lilies in the water garden he had installed in his property at Giverny in 1893. From the 1910s until his death, the garden and its pond were the artist's sole source of inspiration. He said: "I have come back to things that are impossible to do: water with weeds waving in the depths. Apart from painting and gardening, I am good for nothing. My greatest masterpiece is my garden.” Monet was not the greatest artistic technician nor was he particularly intellectual. However, he had a vision—to paint what he saw as he saw it—and he remained dedicated to this obsession throughout his life. It was once believed that the very loose, free brushwork of his later years was a sign of old age. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Monet’s work was becoming more abstract. This great artist contributed for more to modernism than is generally believed. 



Paul Gauguin - The Beautiful Angèle, 1889, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay, Paris (click photo for larger image)Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was a French Post-Impressionist painter whose lush color, flat two-dimensional forms, and subject matter helped form the basis of modernism. His bold experiments in coloring led directly to the 20th-century Fauvist style in Modern Art. His strong modeling influenced the Norwegian Symbolist artist Edvard Munch and the later Expressionist and other avant garde movements.