The Maas at Dordrecht by Aelbert Cuyp

The Maas at Dordrecht by Aelbert Cuyp (1650)

I have been fortunate that wherever I have lived has been close to either the sea or a river and I have always been fascinated by the ships and boats that move on these waters.  I have spent many a memorable holiday staying in accommodation on both the Rhine and the Mosel Rivers and spent many happy hours relaxing, watching the laden barges as they travelled slowly up and down the busy waterways.  So today I decided to offer you a riverscape painting which encompasses all that I love about water and on which the barges that ply their trade,

My Daily Art Display artist today is the Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp who was born in the Dutch town of Dordrecht which is on an island bordered by a number of rivers, one of which is the Oude Maas, an off-shoot of the Rhine.  Aelbert Cuyp was born in 1620 and came from a large family of painters but was by far the most famous.  He was the son of the portraitist Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, who looked after his early training. He, in turn, assisted his father by supplying landscape backgrounds for his father’s portrait commissions.  Aelbert soon tired of portraiture and concentrated on landscapes and riverscapes.  He was a religious man and had an active involvement in the Dutch Reformed Church.

From his paintings of landscapes and townscapes it is apparent that at some time in his twenties he had travelled extensively within the Netherlands and along the upper Rhine in Germany.  Because of the Italianate lighting effects seen in his later works, it is thought he may have spent time in Italy and also mixed with other Dutch Italianate landscape painters.

In 1658, at the age of thirty eight, he married Cornelia Bosman, the wealthy widow of Johan van de Corput, a naval officer and member of a very wealthy Dordrecht family.  After his marriage Aelbert appeared to have spent less time painting and more time involved with church activities.  His new found wealth meant that he did not have to earn a living by selling his paintings.

Aelbert Cuyp died in Rotterdam in 1691, aged seventy one.

Today’s painting is entitled The Maas at Dordrecht which Cuyp painted in 1650 and is housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.   In this picture it is not the town of Dordrecht which has centre stage but the River Maas itself and the craft on it which are plying their trade on its waters.  This vast, sunny composition specifically accents one figure.   In the foreground we see a small boat which has come alongside a sailing barge.  In the boat we can see a dignitary dressed in a black jacket with an orange sash.  He could be the festival’s master of ceremonies and could also be the patron who commissioned Cuyp to document the historic event.  He is greeted by a distinguished looking gentleman who stands among numerous other figures, including a man beating a drum. On the left a second rowboat approaches, carrying other dignitaries and a trumpeter who signals their impending arrival. Most of the ships of the large fleet anchored near the city have their sails raised and flags flying as though they are about to embark on a voyage. The early morning light, which floods the tower of the great church and creates striking patterns on the clouds and sails, adds to the dramatic character of the scene.

It is almost certain that Cuyp was commissioned to mark this event in a painting.  The event, a two-week festival, is believed to have happened in 1646 when an enormous fleet of ships carrying thirty thousand soldiers was anchored off Dordrecht.  Crowds jam the docks, bugles and drums sound fanfares and cannons fire salutes.  One can see that the sunlight in the painting rakes across the panel and by doing so accentuates small bits of detail in the golden light.

The “Merry Company” paintings by Willem Buytewech

My Daily Art Display yesterday featured the Dutch Italianate landscape painter Herman van Swanevelt and in the early part of his life I mentioned that is was thought that he learnt some of his art techniques from another Dutch painter, Willem Buytewech, so today I thought I would showcase this man and look at his style of painting, which was completely different to that of his pupil van Swanevelt.

Merry Company by Willem Buytewech c 1622-1624

Willem Pieterszoon Buytewech was born in Rotterdam around 1591.  His father Pieter was a cobbler and candlemaker.  He started his artistic studies in the Dutch town of Haarlem where at the age of twenty one, he eventually became a member of the local artist’s guild Haarlem Guild of St Lukes , along with two other young local artists Hercules Segers and Essias van de Velde,Here at this prestigious workshop he worked alongside many great Dutch painters including the master himself, Frans Hals, who proved a great influence on Buytewech’s works.  The Guild was named after their patron saint: St Luke. Craftsmen had to be members of the guild to practice their trade. They were expected to adhere to certain requirements relating to quality and price, but the guilds also had funds to protect their members against hardship, economic or social. An extensive system of apprenticeship was maintained by the guilds. Only a fully-trained master could become a member of a guild. House painters and fine-art painters alike belonged to the St Luke’s guild. In the 17th century, however, the artists became increasingly hostile towards the craftsmen, or ‘coarse painters’.

Merry Company by Willem Buytewech (c.1617-20)

Willem Buytewech, who was known as the inventor of Dutch genre paintings, was nicknamed by his contemporaries “Geestige Willem” meaning “Spirited or Jolly” Willem for his penchant of irony and that he was one of the first Dutch painters to use a group of people carousing as a subject for a painting.   In 1613 Willem married Aeltje van Amerongen who came from a well-to-do family and they returned to Rotterdam.

Unfortunately there are only a small number of Buytewech’s paintings in existence but he will be remembered as one of the most interesting artists during the first years of the great period of Dutch painting.  His pictures of dandies, fashionable ladies, drinkers and lusty wenches are amongst the most spirited of the Dutch genre scene and instituted the category known as “Merry Company” which is the title Buytewech gave to his three paintings in today’s My Daily Art Display.

Willem Buytewech died prematurely in Rotterdam in September 1624 at the young age of thirty three and never saw his son, Willem the Younger who was born the following year and who was to follow his father’s footsteps and become a painter.

Merry Company by Willem Buytewech circa 1620-1622

Another interesting note concerning the bottom and middle painting is the framed map on the wall behind the revellers.   Buytewech was the first artist to use wall maps as a major motif in interior scenes. He was a leading pioneer of genre interiors.    Of the ten paintings by Buytewech, four include wall maps. The two paintings I have featured today, one painted around 1617-1620  and the other around 1620-1622, both  feature wall maps with the legible title HOLANDIA. These cartographic backgrounds serve to associate both scenes specifically with the province where the pictures were painted.
One of the strange things about these early Dutch maps is that one may not recognize the geographical contents of Buytewech’s two maps of Holland, for both are oriented with south at the top.   At this time, the designing of maps with north at the top was not yet a standardized practice; a map could be arranged with north at the left, right, or bottom, according to the preference of the cartographer.

Italian Landscape with bridge by Herman van Swanevelt

Italian Landscape with bridge by Herman van Swanevelt (c.1645-50)

The other day I came across a beautiful landscape painting by an artist that was unknown to me.  His name was Herman van Swanevelt and the painting was entitled Italian Landscape with bridge which he painted circa 1645-50 and which hangs in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

The artist was born in Woerden which was one of the smaller towns of the province of Holland in the newly independent Dutch Republic.  His early history is somewhat sketchy other than knowing he came from a family of craftspeople and some way back in his lineage was the celebrated artist Lucas van Leyden.  As there were no well known artists identified as having lived in Woerden at that time it is just conjecture as to how van Swanevelt learnt his artistic trade.  Some art historians believed he spent time in Rotterdam under the tutelage of Willem Buytewech the Dutch painter, draughtsman and etcher, who was considered to be the “inventor” of Dutch genre painting.

Herman van Swanevelt was recorded as having been in Paris in 1623 and later lived in Rome between 1629 and 1641.  It was during his time in Italy that Herman concentrated his works of art on the first generation of the Dutch Italianates and the whole Italianate landscape genre with his paintings focusing on beautiful landscapes sparkling in sunny conditions and a classic example of this is in My Art Display’s painting.  His paintings of  sumptuous Italian landscapes and the views of Roman ruins soon gained favour with the wealthy art collectors of Rome and the Vatican.  One of his large scale paintings was commissioned by King Philip IV which he installed in Buen Retiro, his country palace near Madrid.

In 1642 van Swanevelt  returned to Paris, where he became a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1651    His landscape works now began to take on a more Northern appearance and to his pleasure found that French art collectors were equally impressed with his works of art and were only too keen to purchase all that he could produce.  For his artistic work he received the prestigious appointment of “peintre ordinaire du roi”.   In the later years of his life van Swanevelt returned occasionally to his home town of Woerden as can be seen by the name of the town being added to his signature on some of his paintings he completed in the 1640’s.

His popularity as a Dutch painter continued unabated and as a genre, Dutch Italianate landscape paintings were highly prized in the northern Netherlands during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 17th century they fetched higher prices than native Dutch landscapes paintings.  Then, at the end of the nineteenth century Dutch Italianate landscape paintings in general suddenly fell out of favour.  The reason for this fall from grace of van Swanevelt’s  paintings was that many prominent art critics of the time believed that he and other Dutch 17th century Italianate landscape painters had been unpatriotic in the way they had chosen Italian landscapes as the subject for their paintings.  The art critics of the time also believed that the settings seen in their landscapes lacked a sense of realism and as such their landscape paintings were of a hybrid style that was neither Dutch nor Italian.  Such harsh criticism from the art critics caused art galleries, which had once scrambled to be the first to hang their paintings,  now took them down from their walls and caste them to their basement storerooms.

Have a look at today’s painting and decide whether you like the sunny pituresque nature of the subject or would you prefer a touch more realism.

Ty Ucha, Nant Gwrtheyrn and Golgyfan by Malcolm Edwards

Many years ago I stayed in the house of a German couple who lived in Upper Bavaria.  I was mesmerised by the awesome nature of their surroundings.  Their house was in the foothills of the German Alps and the snow-capped mountains seemed to be within touching distance.  The meadow and pasturelands were lush green in colour and were ideal for feeding the large, almost-purple coloured cows.  There was something very soothing about the tranquillity of the area.  Walking along the small country roads bordering the verdant fields, breathing in the mountain air which was so clean and fresh was such a delight.  One could always hear the deep chiming of the large cow bells as the lumbering animals moved slowly around their lush territory.

So why do I bring this up in My Daily Art Display ?  The reason is that throughout my stay with this young German couple all they could talk about was having a holiday in the Highlands of Scotland.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here they were situated in the middle of what I believed was Shangri-la and all they wanted was to go and see some beautiful Scottish scenery.  Although I have to agree that the Scottish Highlands are beautiful, I just wondered why this young German husband and wife could not recognise that they were living in an equally beautiful place and there was no need to search out foreign splendour when they had their own natural grandeur on their doorstep

Ty Ucha, Nant Gwrtheyrn by Malcolm Edwards

I suppose it is a case of never fully appreciating what you have.  I marvel at the splendour of foreign landscape paintings and have featured some, as was the case yesterday in My Daily Art Display, and I thought that maybe I should be looking closer to home.  Today, I have done just that and looked at pictures of places which are just a few miles from where I live.    My Daily Art Display today features a couple of paintings of the wild mountainous areas of Snowdonia by the local artist Malcolm Edwards.  There is a brutality about the harsh landscapes with its precipitous rock strewn slopes, jagged summits and dark threatening skies.  There is an air of foreboding and even claustrophobia as one looks upwards towards the towering peaks.

A number of the artist’s pictures take in the disused slate and granite quarries which have been hewn out of mountain sides with unforgiving savagery, often with fruitless results.  It is as if God and his elements have stacked the terrain and the inclement weather against the prospectors who have in most cases given up their search for financial glory.

Golygfan by Malcolm Edwards

The first watercolour is of Ty Ucha, Nant Gwrtheyrn  a former homestead of generations of farmers and granite quarrymen.  The large cities of Liverpool and Manchester in the mid nineteenth century were expanding rapidly and needed the raw building materials such as granite for road building.    Nant Gwrtheyrn was once a busy little quarry village on the Llyn Peninsula’s northern coast which supplied such material but sadly the granite boom was short lived with the advent of tarmac and when the mines ceased operating the village died and the residents, the quarrymen and their families moved on.  The other work is entitled Golgyfan which really shows the brutal and desolate landscape with its dark greys and black colours,  which add an ominous and threatening element to the picture.  Note the man with the shepherd’s crook and his sheepdog, which were trademarks in a number of Malcolm Edwards’s pictures.

American Lake Scene by Thomas Cole

American Lake Scene by Thomas Cole (1844)

In the mid nineteenth century a group of American landscape painters got together to form a group whose inspiration was the pride they had in the beauty of their homeland.  They were influenced by the Romanticism Movement that flourished at that time in Europe and many of this newly formed group had studied there and were familiar with the plein-air Barbizon School painters who had become very popular with both American patrons and collectors.  The early leaders of this Hudson River Movement were Thomas Doughty, Asher Durand and the artist which is featured in today’s My Daily Art Display, Thomas Cole.   This group of painters concentrated their art work on the Catskill, Adirondack and White Mountains areas and all along the Hudson River valley.  These were often untouched areas of great natural beauty.  There were three main themes reflected in the Hudson River School artists.  They wanted to depict in their works of art,  the discovery, exploration and the settlement of this area of America.  For most of these artists there was a devout belief that nature in the form of the American Landscape was an indescribable expression of God.  These artists would travel extensively through the sometimes inhospitable areas surrounding the Hudson Valley with its extreme environment just to be able to sketch and memorise the wild and rugged beauty of nature and then return to the safer surroundings of home where they would transfer their memories on to canvas.  Often their works of art, although painted with realism, would be made up of a combination of the many scenes they had witnessed during their wanderings in the wilderness.

Today’s artist Thomas Cole, although now looked upon as an American artist, was actually born in 1801 in Bolton in Lancashire, England.   He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School.  His family emigrated to America when he was seventeen and settled down in Steubenville, Ohio.  Cole started his artistic career, studying portraiture but achieved little success with his finished works.  It was then that he turned to landscape painting.  In his early twenties he moved around a great deal, living in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before rejoining his parents in New York.  Whilst in New York he made an artistic breakthrough when he sold some of his landscape paintings to George Bruen, a prominent figure in the business and financial circles of New York.  So impressed was he by Cole’s work he funded the artist,  so that he could travel to the Hudson Valley and carry out some more paintings of that area.  On his return Cole displayed some of his art work, which he had completed, in a bookstore window.  The artist John Trumbull saw the paintings, bought one and put Cole in contact with some of his wealthy friends who became his most important patrons. 

The Thomas Cole House in Catskill

After this Thomas Cole never looked back and his reputation as a landscape artist grew.  He had a studio on the Cedar Grove farmstead in the town of Catskill, New York at which he completed most of his works of art.  In 1836, aged thirty five, he married Maria Bartow, who was the niece of the farmstead owner and they had five children.  Thomas Cole died in 1848, aged forty seven, at Catskill and the fourth highest peak in the Catskill Range mountain range was named Thomas Cole Mountain in his honour and his studio at the Cedar Grove farm became known as the Thomas Cole House and was declared a National Historic Site in 1999 which has been opened up to the public.

My Daily Art Display offering today is Thomas Cole’s oil on canvas painting entitled American Lake Scene which he completed in 1844, four years before his premature death, and which can be seen in the Detroit Institute of Arts.  If you look closely you will be able to make out a lone Native American sitting under the tree contemplating the tranquillity of the lake.  In this painting the clever use of colour and the natural setting adds to the atmospheric calmness and beauty of the scene.  Of this painting one art critic of the time said that the painting “looks like the earth before God breathed on it

This painting and many of his others was how Thomas Cole would have liked those pioneering days to have been as he was a great opponent of the railroad’s push into the heart of America destroying God’s beautiful landscape.  I believe, like Thomas Cole, we should try and appreciate and preserve more of the natural beauty of our countryside and fervently hope that the march to industrialism does not destroy all that we love.

La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose by Renoir

La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose by Renoir (1918)

My Daily Art Display for today is a painting by the French Impressionist painter Pierre- August Renoir.  He was born in Limoges, France in 1841.  He came from a working class family.  His father Léonard was a tailor and his mother Marguerite was a dressmaker.  At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a M. Levy a porcelain-painter and he worked in the local porcelain factory.  His ability to draw was soon noted and he was soon working in the department which painted designs on the finished fine china.   At the age of twenty one he began studying art in Paris where he met Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet.  He led a very frugal existence at this time and often could not afford to buy the paints he needed for his art work.  Renoir was twenty three years of age when he exhibited his first paintings at the Paris Salon.  His works were greeted with much acclaim at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874

In 1881 Renoir set off on his travels visiting Algeria, Spain and Italy.  In Italy he visited Florence and Rome and saw the works of the great Masters, such as Titian and Raphael.  In the summer of 1883 Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, with all its varied landscapes with its beeches, cliffs, bays, forests and mountains.  Whilst there, he created fifteen paintings of the island.  From there he moved back to mainland France and for a time settled down in the Montmartre district of Paris and it was whilst here that he met Suzanne Valadon who modeled for some of his paintings including The Bathers and Dance at Bougival.  Valadon also was a model for Toulouse-Lautrec before becoming a noted painter herself.

In 1890 Renoir married his lover, Aline Victorine Charigot, a model he had used in his painting Luncheon of the Boating Party and with whom he had already had a son, Pierre five years earlier.  His wife and children featured in many of his paintings as did their nursemaid Gabrielle Renard who as well as carrying out her domestic duties, often modeled for Renoir.

In 1907 due to the fact that he suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis and to try and alleviate the symptoms he moved to the Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France.  Despite his arthritis he continued to paint until his death in 1919 at the age of 78, five years after the death of his wife Aline.

My Daily Art Display today is Renoir’s painting La Lecture, Deux Femmes aux Corsages Rouge et Rose which he completed in 1918 a year before he died.  This was by far his most successful of his large scale works.  It is a tender and harmonious portrait of two women as they sit serenely, completely absorbed in the words of a book they are reading.  They seem totally oblivious to what is happening around them, even unmindful of the artist himself.  The dark haired lady on the right is thought to be the erstwhile long serving maid Gabrielle Renard who had left the family five years earlier after looking after them for nineteen years.   The woman on the left maybe Andrée Heuschling, who was introduced to Renoir by Matisse, and who later married Renoir’s son, the film maker, Jean.

Finally, I will leave you with the words Théodore Duret, the French journalist, author and art critic,  who wrote of Renoir in his book,  Histoire des peintres impressionnistes:

“Renoir excels at portraits.  Not only does he catch the external features, but through them he pinpoints the model’s character and inner self.  I doubt whether any painter has ever interpreted women in a more seductive manner.  The deft and lively touches of Renoir’s brush are charming, supple and unrestrained, making flesh transparent and tinting the cheeks and lips with a perfect living hue.  Renoir’s women are enchantresses”

La Lecture by Pablo Picasso

La Lecture by Pablo Picasso (1932)

Check your finances.  Have you a little spare money to buy yourself a painting ?  I know of a bargain to be had on February 8th.  It was only painted seventy nine years ago.  It is highly colourful.  Lots of yellows and greens and I am sure it would blend nicely with the colour of your lounge carpet or the fabric of your settee.  So how much spare cash have you got ?  Is that all ?  Sadly you will need a little more than that as you will probably have to come up with at least £18 million and some reckon the final figure could triple that.

My Daily Art Display offering today and the painting in question, which is due to come up at the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in London this coming Saturday, is Pablo Picasso’s La Lecture.   The thing that fascinates me the most about this painting is the background story.  It was completed by Picasso in January 1932 in time for his exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich,  entitled Picasso by Picasso: His first Museum Exhibition 1932, and is a portrait of his muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who it is said transformed the life of this great Modernist artist. This painting was among a series from the beginning of 1932, which introduced this young woman as an extraordinary presence in Picasso’s life and his art.

The story goes that the then forty five year old artist introduced himself to the seventeen year old girl outside a Paris Metro station.  On recounting the tale of the meeting, Marie-Thérèse said she remembered Picasso’s words as they came face to face:

“…I knew nothing – either of life or of Picasso… I had gone to do some shopping at the Galeries Lafayette, and Picasso saw me leaving the Metro. He simply took me by the arm and said, ‘I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together’…”

Today, I am sure we would think this bold introduction of the Spanish artist was simply a very cheesy chat-up line and would nowadays probably get a middle-aged man a slap in the face!   However for that forty-five year old man standing outside the Metro station in 1927 those words and his possible charm won over the young girl.  For in that year Marie Thérèse Walter became the secret lover of Pablo Ruiz Picasso and their relationship lasted eight years despite the artist still living with and still married, if unhappily, to his wife Olga Khokhlova, a Russian-Ukrainian dancer whom he  met whilst she was on tour with Diaghilev.

Their liaison was a closely guarded secret for many years for two main reasons.  Firstly, because of Picasso’s marriage to Olga and secondly, because of Marie-Thérèse’s age.  Their secret liaisons took place in a chateau  he had bought at Boisgeloupe, near Gisors.  His studio here was much larger than the one he had in Paris and it enabled him to create monumental plaster busts of Marie-Thérèse that were later depicted in several paintings.

La Lecture belonged to a group of paintings, painted by Picasso in January 1932 in anticipation of the major retrospective he was planning that June.  Today’s painting is Picasso’s depiction of Marie-Therese and it was the first time that she had appeared in one of his works.  Earlier paintings of his showed her features implanted discreetly in the background and it was this unconcealed portrayal of his mistress which led his wife to realise that there was another woman in her husband’s life.

Picasso’s lover and muse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and at the same time her sexual naivety had an intoxicating effect on him and his rapturous desire for her brought about a number of compositions that are amongst the most sought after of his long career.  In 1935, Marie Thérèse Walter had a daughter with Picasso, Maria de la Concepión, called Maya.  Sadly for Maria-Thérèse, a year later in 1936, Picasso switched his affections to a new love, Dora Maar a woman he met when he was painting Guernica.  Marie-Thérèse left Picasso and took their daughter to live in Paris. 

Picasso died in April 1973 and four years later in October 1977, Marie-Thérèse committed suicide by hanging herself.  For the young seventeen year old who first met the Spanish painter life with him was almost certainly exciting and fulfilling but alas, like Picasso’s wife Olga, she was to suffer the humiliation and sadness caused by her lover’s unfaithfulness but for Marie-Thérèse life was just never the same again and life was not worth living without her elderly lover.

Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife by John Singer Sargent

Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife by John Singer Sargent (1894)

My Daily Art Display today is a tale of two artists who were very close friends.  One is the great American Impressionist John Singer Sargent, the other is the French painter Paul César Helleu.  Today’s work of art is a picture by the American artist Sargent of the French painter Paul César Helleu and his wife Alice Guérin.

John Singer Sargent was to become a leading portrait painter of his era.  His family were extremely wealthy, his father, Fitz William, being an eye surgeon in Philadelphia.  Sadly Sargent’s mother, Mary (née Singer) suffered a nervous breakdown after the death of her daughter and to aid her recovery her husband decided that his wife and their family should go to Europe to allow Mary to convalesce. 

Whilst in Europe, they travelled extensively.  John Singer Sargent was born in 1856 whilst his parents lived in Florence and his sister Mary was born there a year later.  After much discussion and to please his wife John’s father reluctantly relinquished his post at the Philadelphia hospital and remained in Italy were they led an unassuming lifestyle relying on a small inheritance and what savings they had managed to accrue. 

John Singer Sargent proved to be a rebellious child who would not take to formal schooling and so was taught by his parents.  His mother was a good amateur artist and she soon got John interested in that subject.  His parents must have provided him with a good education as by his late teens he was fluent in French, Italian and German and accomplished in art, music and literature.  No doubt the extensive travelling of European countries by the family improved his education.

In 1876, at the age of eighteen, Sargent passed the entrance exam to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  Here he studied anatomy and perspective and spent time in the Paris museums copying the works of art of the masters.  It was whilst studying at the Art Academy that he met and became close friends with a young French artist, four years his junior, Paul César Helleu.  Whereas Sargent was having success with the sale of his paintings and was having no trouble in securing commissions, Helleu was becoming very despondent and disheartened, finding sales of his works difficult to come by and he was struggling to make needs meet.  Sargent, on hearing that Helleu was at the point of giving up his career as an artist, visited his friend on the pretext of looking at the young Frenchman’s work.  He congratulated his friend on the standard of his work and asked to buy one.  Helleu was delighted but told Sargent he must have the painting of his choice as a gift as it was not right to charge his friend.  Sargent replied to this offer saying:

 “I shall gladly accept, Helleu, but not as a gift. I sell my own pictures, and I know what they cost me by the time they are out of my hand. I should never enjoy this pastel if I hadn’t paid you a fair and honest price for it.”

He gave his friend a thousand-franc note for the painting.  Can you imagine how Helleu felt on receiving such a large sum of money for one of his paintings ?

In 1884 Sargent painted the portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau, entitled Madame X, wearing a very risqué off the shoulder gown.  It was also shockingly low-cut.  Her mother asked him to withdraw the painting but he refused.  Although, now it is acclaimed as his best work of art, it scandalised Paris society and he was widely criticised in Paris art circles for being improper.  Sargent found the criticism unjustified and at the age of 28 he left Paris disillusioned by the incident and the fall off of sales of his paintings and moved to London where he remained for the rest of his life England.  He died there in 1925, aged 71.

My Daily Art Display painting today is entitled Paul Helleu Sketching with his Wife which he completed in 1889 and is in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.  It is difficult to put a name on Sargent’s genre of painting.   He was a prolific painter, painting over 2000 watercolours.  He was a very successful portraitist but labelled portraiture as “a pimp’s profession” and in 1907 he announced that he would paint “no more mugs” and with a few exceptions kept to his word.   He loved to paint landscape watercolours.  Today’s painting of his is very much in the characteristic style of Impressionism.

Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla

Sad Inheritance by Joaquín Sorolla (1900)

 My Daily Art Display artist of the day is the Spanish prolific painter and illustrator, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida who was born in Valencia in 1863.  Both his father, also named Joaquin and his mother Concepción died of cholera when he was only two years of age, leaving him and his younger sister Concha orphaned and brought up by their maternal aunt and uncle.  From an early age Joaquín acquired a great love for art and developed into a fine young artist, winning major prizes for his works at the Academy of Valencia.  At the age of 18 he travelled to Madrid and spent time studying the works of art of the Masters at the Museo del Prado.   Military service temporarily put an end to his art studies but on its completion, he applied for, and was granted a four year scholarship to study painting in Rome

In 1888 he returned to his home town, Valencia and married Clotilde García del Castillo a girl he had met almost nine years earlier when he was working at her father’s studio.  At this time Joaquín had established himself as an artist in Spain and by the age of 30 his paintings had been exhibited in Madrid, Paris, Venice, Munich, Berlin and Chicago.  He won  numerous gold medals in major international art exhibitions and by the time the twentieth century had arrived, he was recognized as one of the world’s greatest living artist

My Daily Art Display today was Joaquín Sorolla’s painting Sad Inheritance which he completed in 1899.  This was a very large oil on canvas painting measuring 284cms wide and 208cms high.  The painting was in tune with Sorolla’s desire of capturing the immediacy of everyday life, warts and all.  This is often termed Social Realism.  Social Realist artists try to illustrate people and their lives in a realistic way and because of this it is often the case that people in their paintings are not continually shown as beautiful, attractive and happy.  It is often the case that these Social Realism artists will focus on the elderly and the sick, the sad and the insane or those people who have to endure a disability.

The subject matter of the painting Sad Inheritance is a party of crippled children bathing at the sea in Valencia under the watchful eye of a monk.  It was in the late nineteenth century that a polio epidemic struck the Valencia area and in the painting one can see two of the boys affected by this affliction.  When Sorolla exhibited this painting in the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 he was awarded the Grand Prix and a medal of honour.  A year later he received the medal of honour at the National Exhibition in Madrid.  Award after award followed for Sorolla and in 1906 following a special exhibition of over five hundred of his paintings in Paris, he was appointed Officer of the Legion of Honour.  From then on Sorolla was inundated with commissions.

Sorolla suffered a paralysing stroke in 1920 and he died three years later in 1923 aged 60.  His former home in Madrid is now a museum dedicated to his work.