The Bridge at Moret by Alfred Sisley (1893)

The Bridge at Moret by Alfred Sisley (1893)

Alfred Sisley, born in Paris to English parents in1839, was sometimes called the “Forgotten Impressionist”.  At the age of 18 his father, a silk trader, sent him to London to study business but life as a business man similar to that of his father was not for him and he soon moved back to Paris.  His family supported him in his ambition to become an artist and sent him to Gleyre’s studio where he met and worked alongside Monet and Renoir.  In 1867 he became a pupil of Corot and a number of Sisley’s works reflect that tutelage with the way in which he has a passionate interest in the sky which became a dominate facet of his paintings

He still rates as one of the greatest Impressionists who ever lived and was regarded as an exceptional en plein air (outdoor) landscape painter.  Landscape painting was his favourite genre and he rarely attempted portraits.  Similar to another great English landscape artist John Constable, Sisley liked just to concentrate on painting places he knew well such as the Seine and Thames valleys.

The painting on display to today is one of his later works, The Bridge at Moret, which he completed in 1893 and is now exhibited in the Musee d’Orsay.   Alfred Sisley died in Moret-sur-Loing at the age of 59,  just a few months after the death of his wife.   Moret-sur-Loing  is a small and charming historical town in the Seine-et-Marne department of north central France and which  was a source of inspiration for Monet, Renoir and Sisley.

A View of Delft by Carel Fabritius (1652)

On October 12th 1654, a gunpowder store exploded destroying much of the Dutch city of Delft.  More than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.   One of the casualties was a thirty-two year old local artist Carel Fabritius, who at the time was painting in his studio close to the gunpowder store.   Many of his paintings were also destroyed .  Fabritius had trained in Rembrandt’s studio in Amsterdam and was a contemporary of Vermeer.

Today’s Art Display is Carel Fabritius’s A View of Delft.  He painted this in 1652 and the view shows part of the Dutch town of Delft.  The actual view is looking north west from the corner of the Oude Langendijk and Oosteinde.  In the centre of the painting is the church, Nieuwe Kerk, behind which is the town hall.  In the foreground is the booth of a musical instrument vendor. It is thought that the painting may have been formed using a perspective box giving rise to an exaggerated perspective.  To the left of the lute one can see the painter’s name “C FABRITIVS 1652” scrawled on the wall

The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

  

Whilst walking around the National Gallery in London a short time ago I happened to enter one of the rooms in which a talk was being given by one of the curators of the gallery. His small audience and I were mesmerised by his fascinating tale regarding Caravaggio’s painting Supper at Emmaus which was hanging on the wall behind him.
The subject matter of this painting is based on one of the stories from the gospels of the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke (24:13-32) tells of an encounter whilst on the road to Emmaus, two days after the crucifixion, , between Jesus and two of his disciples, one of which was thought to be Cleopas. At the time they did not recognise him as Jesus and they persuaded the stranger to take supper with them. It is at this supper when Jesus “breaks the bread” that they recognise him.
The painting by Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio shows that moment of recognition with Cleopas, on the left, half rising from his chair in shock. Caravaggio’s innovative treatment of the subject makes this one of his most powerful works. The depiction of Christ is unusual in that he is beardless and great emphasis is given to the still life on the table. The intensity of the emotions of Christ’s disciples is conveyed by their gestures and expression. Caravaggio used many devices to create depth in the painting and brings the figures closer to the viewer. The elbow of the disciple on the left with its white patch, the basket of fruit finely balanced on the edge of the table and the outstretched left hand of the disciple on the right which almost goes off the edge of the picture all create the illusion that we are almost at the table ourselves.

Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Netherlandish Proverbs by Peter Bruegel the Elder

I have a large framed print of this painting on my dining room wall and it is often the subject of many conversations of the diners sat around the table. I saw the original painting when I visited the Staatliche Museen in Berlin many years ago and was fascinated by the amount of activity going on within the painting.   Along with the print of the painting which I bought there was a small black and white copy of the picture on which the various parts of the scene were numbered so that one could look along the corresponding number on a list of proverbs the painting was depicting. This has been a God-send when viewers of my print have tried to work out the possible meanings of the various scenes.
The painting depicts a land populated with literal renditions of Flemish proverbs some of which are not in use any more or have somewhat lost their meaning when translated into English.  More than a hundred proverbs and idiomatic expressions have been identified describing “topsy-turvy” ways of behaviour.   This explains the other name occasionally given the painting, that of The Topsy-Turvy World.