Zdenka Rosalina Augusta Braunerová

In my blog today I am looking at the life and works of the nineteenth century Czech painter, Zdenka Rosalina Augusta Braunerová. Her views and lifestyle influenced many painters and writers, many of whom were her friends. She became a patron of many artists, but she also supported folk art, especially in Moravian Slovakia and Horňácko. She was graceful and educated, and also extremely talented. She decided to devote her whole life to painting and graphics and never regretted it. She almost married several times and yet died unmarried. The life of this girl from a good family was unconventional, but definitely interesting.

A Bend in the Vlatava River by Zdenka Braunerová

Zdenka was born in Prague on April 9th 1858 and was baptized as Zdislava Rosalina Augusta.  She was born into a wealthy family and was the last of four children of the well-known Czech politician and prominent lawyer, František August Brauner and his wife Augusta, née Neumannová She had two older brothers, Vladamir and Bohuslav and an older sister, Anna.  Zdenka showed interest in drawing and painting since her childhood, when she spent long hours in her children’s room, where she spent hours painting. She was encouraged to paint by her mother, who was herself an amateur painter and who came from an old noble family. 

View at Brod by Amálie Mánesová,

Zdenka’s parents further encouraged their daughters interest in art and sent Zdenka to study with Amálie Mánesová, a talented landscape artist who ran a private painting school for ladies and girls from aristocratic and bourgeois families. This early art education, like the teaching of young children to play a musical instrument, was common for children in families of similar status at that time. It was part of the fashionable manner in which young girls became young ladies. Zdenka loved to paint and draw so much so that her normal schoolwork suffered and she received mediocre grades for her school work.  Notwithstanding this deterioration of her exam results, Zdenka pressed on with her art tuition at a girls’ college, where the director was the prominent Czech painter, Soběslav Hipplolyt Pinkas.

One of her tutors was Antonin Chitussi, a Czech Impressionist landscape and cityscape painter, and he was unclear as to whether painting to Zdenka was merely a hobby and not a future profession and, in truth, Zdenka was also undecided as to whether painting or her singing would become a future pathway. Antonín Chittussi was not only one of her first art teachers, he was her first love and during her time with him she devoted herself mainly to landscape painting. Chittussi introduced her to the technical secrets of drawing and painting, urging her to diligence, study nature and the right choice of motifs. Zdenka wanted to move the relationship with Chittussi to another level, that of an equal union of two independent artists who would inspire each other.  This was a step too far for Chittussi and the relationship died.

Following the the death of her father in 1880, Zdeňka began attending the Académie Colarossi in Paris.  Here her teacher was Francoise Courtoise, with whom she concentrated mainly on figurative and historical painting.

Élémir Bourges and the two Brauner sisters – 1883

After her sister Anne’s marriage to the French writer Élémir Bourges, Zdenka adapted her lifestyle to her future profession as a painter. She often travelled between Paris and Prague, still attending the Colarossi School and at the same time wanting to be close to her mother back home in Prague.

Julius Zeyer

Another of her many relationships came three years later with a young poet, Julius Zeyer, an artist seventeen years her junior, but maybe because of the age difference, this was not a long-lasting liaison. Another reason according to some historians, was that Julius Zeyer was homosexual and his relationship with the very attractive Zdenka remained only platonic.

Vilém Mrštík

In the spring of 1894 in Oslavany, the thirty-one-year-old Czech playwright and literary critic Vilém Mrštík met thirty-six-year-old Zdenka Braunerová.  She was five years older than him, which was somewhat strange as previously Vilém only had relationships with much younger women.  Mrštík actually perceived her as an old lady describing her as:

 “…An interesting person, she has enough of the world, enough of Prague, and with all the fire a lady approaching old virginity, but still strong and with the lush decoration of the former beauty…”

Brauner was equally scathing about Mrštík either, saying:

“….He is not pretty. The nose is plebeian, the eyes small, black, short-sighted with a stud, and the mouth with strong lips…”

Landscape near Tabor by Zdenka Braunerová.

Suprisingly, a relationship developed between them.  It was not an even relationship as Zdenka was cautious at first and only considered friendship. But Mrštík, fell in love with Zdenka and the “friendship” developed into a love affair.  The well-educated Brauner was probably attracted to Mrštík by his goodness, earthiness and often violent reactions. She tended to choose men who were painful, complex, and depressed.  Zdenka had a habit of wanting to protect, educate and form men in her own way.  She was manipulative and looked upon men as being people she could mould into her perfect person.  This was not the basis of a long-lasting relationship and was doomed.  However, she thought Mrštík would be different.  Mrštík was not the intellectual type and unlike her, did not discuss art passionately. He was an earthy Moravian. To Zdenka, he even seemed naïve but this trait endeared him to her but the relationship was doomed. 

St Lawrence on Petrin Hill by Zdenka Braunerova

In early 1896, Mrštík even began to talk about marriage and Zdenka agreed but they broke up in March 1897, just before the wedding, . They finally separated. Mrštík was convinced that he had fallen in love with an idea and not the woman. He became very bitter with the break-up and in an ungentlemanly way he said various unpleasant things about Zdenka – about her overripe old virginity and few talents in the intimate area.  Zdenka, in turn, stated that his writing to be inferior. It was not an edifying ending to the affair

VEČERNÍ KRAJINA by Zdenka Braunerova

Although having attended the private Collarossi Academy, she was not satisfied with the tuition and returned to her homeland. Zdenka was still extremely interested and found inspiration in French art, but still retained the patriotism for her country. The more time she spent in Paris the more she missed her homeland.  In Paris, with her sense of patriotism, she would dance in Czech costume and  sang Czech national songs, and by doing so, she would move closer to the Czech culture and art. This love of her homeland inspired many French artists and helped forge lasting friendships there.  One such artist who was swayed by Zdenka’s love of her homeland was Auguste Rodin who visited Bohemia and Moravia at her invitation in 1905. 

Brauner’s Mill in Solutions

Zdenka often spent time working in a studio in Solutions, a small town, west of Prague.  Her studio was in the so-called Brauner’s mill.

Zdenka Braunerová lived in Prague’s Lesser Town in Všehrdova Street. She died there on May 23rd 1934, aged 76, and is buried in the Vyšehrad cemetery.

Holger Drachmann

The Artist, the Poet, the Lover of Women.

Holger Drachmann

The subject of this week’s blog is the nineteenth century Danish poet, dramatist and painter Holger Drachmann. Holger Henrik Herholdt Drachmann was born on October 9th, 1846 in Copenhagen. He was the son of Andreas Drachmann and his wife Vilhelmine.  Holger was one of five children, having an older sister, Erna and three younger sisters, Mimi, Johanne and Harriet.

Andreas Drachmann

His father. Andreas, initially trained as a barber whilst studying for his medical exams. In 1831 he was an assistant to a surgeon in the Danish navy and eventually passed his exams to become a surgeon in 1836.  He left the navy in 1845 and became a physician at Langgaard’s orthopaedic institute and in  1859 he founded the first institute of medical gymnastics in Copenhagen.

Coastal party north of Årsdale, by Holger Drachmann (1869.)

In March 1857, when Holger was ten years old, his mother Vilhelmine died.  She was just thirty-six years old.  Once he completed his schooling in 1865 he went to University where he remained for three years.  He then transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Carl Frederik Sørensen, a noted marine painter and soon Holger developed a love for that painting genre.  Art was a great love of Holger but around this time he developed another love, a love of literature. 

View of the island of Maïre west of the Goudes district, Marseille by Holger Drachmann

This painting above is thought to have been painted by Holger during his voyage around the Mediterranean in 1867.

Rocky Coast by Holger Drachmann

The beauty and ferocity of the sea is captured in Drachmann’s painting entitled Rocky Coast. It depicts the unstoppable waves of the blue-green sea crashing violently against a towering rock formation in the foreground of the painting.  To the left, we see heavy grey storm clouds.  It is a depiction which is devoid of figures and one’s focus is simply concentrating on the violent force of nature.  There is nothing noted as to the location of the scene but during his lifetime he visited many places, such as the Orkney Isles, and Norway, with their rocky coasts and archipelagos or it could have been locations in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, places he visited during his long trip to North America.

Våde ovn, Bornholm. by Holger Drachmann

To further his interest in marine painting, Holger went to stay on the island of Bornholm.  This Danish island is located in the Baltic Sea, to the east of mainland Denmark, and south of Sweden.  It was here he painted a number of seascapes. One of his Bornholm paintings depicted Vade Ovn, a notable rock or group of rocks attached to the underlying bedrock. It is a grotto, part of the area known as Helligdomsklipperne.

A wreck hut on Skagen’s beach by Holger Drachmann

The Skagen artists’ colony is now as famous as the ones at Barbizon or Newlyn and Holger Drachmann was an important figure in the history of the Skagen artists’ colony, for it was he, who first arrived there in 1872 together with Norwegian Frits Thaulow, and he then persuaded many artists to go there with him during the following years. He fell in love with the area with its  breath-taking nature and the simple life it afforded people.

View from Knippelsbro with the Sugar Factory by Holger Drachmann
Fishing boats in Stormy Weather by Holger Drachmann

Besides his love of painting and fame as an artist, Holger Drachmann had two other great loves. He had the love of literature and poetry and was a renowned poet. He was part of the Scandinavian Modern Breakthrough Movement which was a movement of naturalism and which debated the literature of Scandinavia, which replaced romanticism near the end of the 19th century.

Georg Brandes

Around 1870, Drachmann became motivated by the writings of the Danish critic and scholar Georg Brandes, who had greatly influenced Scandinavian and European literature.  It was a time when art became secondary to literature in Drachmann’s life.  He had travelled quite extensively around England, Scotland, France Spain and Italy and had started a habit of sending accounts of his travels to the Danish newspapers. 

Digte (Poems)

Drachmann made his debut in 1872 as a prose writer with the collection With Coal and ChalkIn and that same year he had a book of his poems entitled Digte (Poems) published. He also joined the group of young Radical writers who were also followers of Brandes.  For Drachmann it was a time of contemplation and soul searching as to whether painting or writing would be his prime driving force. Drachmann established his position as the greatest poet of the Danish modern movement of his time with such collections as Dæmpede Melodier (1875; “Muted Melodies”), Sange ved Havet (“Songs by the Sea”) and Venezia (both 1877), and Ranker og Roser (1879; “Weeds and Roses”). The prose Derovre fra Grænsen (1877; “From Over the Border”) and the verse fairy tale Prinsessen og det Halve Kongerige (1878; “The Princess and Half the Kingdom”), demonstrated a patriotic and romantic trend that brought him into conflict with the Brandes group.   Drachmann was one of the most popular Danish poets of modern time though much of his work is now forgotten. He unites modern rebellionist attitudes and a really romantic view of women and history. 

Kristian Zahrtmann – Portrait of Vilhelmine Erichsen (1867)

Earlier I said that Drachmann had two great loves other than his art. He loved writing and poetry as I have just recorded but his other great love was women !

Whilst on the island of Bornholm in 1869, Holger Drachmann met his first wife Vilhelmine Charlotte Erichsen, She had been a good friend and muse for both Drachmann and another artist, Kristian Zahrtmann who was also living on Bornholm and who had painted her portrait when she was fourteen-years-old.   Zahrtmann was besotted with the young girl who modelled for him.  In a letter in 1868 to his friend and fellow artist August Jerndorff ,  he wrote:

“…I have had a young girl of mine of mine painting who interests me greatly. An adorable child – she is 16 years old – cannot be seen; After all, she is at an unfortunate age for most people, to which is added an extraordinary height and width, a short neck and stooped posture, but these are flaws that only all the more accentuate her beauty. A more regular face is unthinkable- – Her hair and eyes are almost black, her mouth bulging, and the pale yellow color, with its vexing and the utterly regular, narrow eyebrows, becomes so southern and melancholic dreamy that I can be so seized by it that the brush shakes in my hand. She herself does not know that she is beautiful, on the contrary, I think that she considers the yellow-laden color hideous, and at all she knows very little, both of knowledge and of what life is and gives…”

Marie Henriques (on the left) and Eva Drachmann painting, probably at the Art School for Women in Copenhagen, (c.1900)

But three years later, in 1869, when she was seventeen, Vilhelmine fell in love with twenty-three-year-old Drachmann and they got engaged.  Two years later, on November 3rd 1871 Holger and nineteen-year-old Vilhelmine married  in Gentofte Sogn, København.  To be able to marry Vilhelmine had to lie about her age, declaring that she was twenty-one.   Holger was twenty-five years old and so did not need her parents’ permission for the marriage.  On November 4th 1874 they had a daughter, Eva, but at the end of that year, they separated and finally divorced in 1878. It was a bad-tempered divorce and in a fit of rage Vilhelmine destroyed all correspondence and manuscripts from Holger that she possessed. Eva Drachmann wrote about her mother and father in her 1953 book Vilhelmine, my mother:

“…They divorced after 4 years of marriage. As the poet’s muse, Vilhelmine had entered into a cohabitation of whose seriousness and difficulties none of them had the slightest concept. Of the two, she was the largest child. She didn’t have time to grow up before it was all over. As an old woman, she reflected on how fateful the disaster came………. After all, in childhood and growing up, she had done nothing useful – nothing but dream…”

Eva Drachmann married for the first time in 1899 and the ceremony was held in a local manor house as the parish priest of the local Flade Church, refused to marry the couple in the parish church, citing Eve’s father’s godless lifestyle.

Polly Culmsee

Around 1866, three years before he met his first wife, Vilhelmine, Holger Drachmann had struck up a friendship with Valdemar Culmsee, the son of Frederick Culmsee, the owner of the Havreholm Paper Mill on the Danish island of Zealand.  It was during a visit to their home in 1866 that he met Emmy Culmsee, Valdemar’s twelve-year-old sister and her older sister Polly who was sixteen. Polly had later married Charles Thalbitzer and had two children with him but around the time Holger Drachmann and his wife had separated in 1874 she had a relationship with Holger and had his child, Agnes Gerda.  Polly eventually divorced her husband and she and Holger left Denmark for Sweden because of the social scandal they had created in Copenhagen.  They intended to be married in Paris when Drachmann was legally divorced from his wife. Now living in the Swedish town of Lund, Polly fell ill and Drachmann took her to a local doctor, Alphons Theorin, and sought his help with the care of Polly. Bizarrely, Polly transferred her affection from Holger to the doctor who in turn fell passionately in love with his patient which created yet another scandal as the doctor abandoned his wife and their three children and ran off with Polly to the central Swedish town of Sveg, where he managed to arrange a position as a provincial doctor.

Emmy Culmsee

The bizarre story of Holger Drachmann love life does not end there.  Polly’s younger sister Emmy had moved with her parents to Kristiania, where she stayed until she travelled to Hamburg in 1876 to study languages and it was in this German city that she once again met Holger.  He told her he was devastated by a relationship break-up and she was very comforting.  However he failed to impart to her that the relationship had been with her married sister, Polly. On finding out about the involvement of her sister she broke off with Holger and settled into a life as a German language teacher.  However, in 1878 whilst on holiday in Hamburg, out of the blue, she received a call from Copenhagen from Holger Drachmann’s married sister Erna Juel-Hansen. She told Emmy that Holger had suffered a breakdown when Polly left him.  Emmy went to Copenhagen and cared for Holger and nursed him back to full health.  Emmy and Holger married and they adopted his and Polly’s daughter, Agnes Gerda.  Emmy and Holger went on to have four more children of their own. 

Amanda Jensine Nielsen (Edith)

Sadly in 1887 Holger, for whatever reason, began an affair with Amanda Jensine Nielsen a cabaret artist in Copenhagen, despite the fact that he was married and twice her age.  He and Amanda became lovers and he would refer to her as Edith.  He even mentioned her in his 1890 novel Forskrevet, a depiction of Denmark in 1880 and the then political dispute between Right and Left, as well as the cultural dispute between citizen and bohemian

Holger Drachmann by Peder Severin Kroyer

Eventually Holger grew tired of his affair with Edith and moved on to another young actress.  His many scandalous affairs with his “muses” were often the fuel of his inspiration.  On his deathbed he said that his two biggest muses were Vilhelmine and Edith.

Drachmanns Hus in Skagen

Holger Drachmann died in Copenhagen on January 14th 1908, aged 61.   He is buried in the sand dunes at Grenen, near Skagen and following his death his Skagen home, Drachmanns Hus, became a museum.

Rudolph von Alt

Self-portrait (1890)

The focus of my blog today is to look at the life and work of the nineteenth century Austrian painter Rudolph Ritter von Alt.  The word “Ritter”is used as a title of nobility in German-speaking areas.  It translates approximately to the British designation “Sir”, denoting a Knight.  It is not a first or middle name of the person.  The artist was born Rudolph Alt and used the title of a Ritter after he gained nobility in 1889.

View from the Artist’s Studio in Alservorstadt toward Dornbach by Jakob Alt (1836)

Rudolph was born in Vienna on August 28th 1812.  His father, Jakob Alt, the son of a carpenter, was a German landscape painter and lithographer who was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1789 where he received his first artistic tuition and later moved to Vienna where he enrolled at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts.  Jakob Alt travelled through Austria and Italy, hiking through the Austrian Alps, all the while painting scenes of beauty. He also depicted many scenes of the neighbourhood along the River Danube and in the city of Vienna.

Room of Archduke Ludwig Victor in the Hofburg, Vienna by Franz Alt (1861)

Rudolph Alt had a younger brother, Franz, who was nine years his junior and who also became a famed Austrian landscape painter. His work can be seen in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Museum (Smithsonian), the Albertina Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest and other international collections.

The Dachstein Mountain from Lower Lake Gosau by Rudolphe von Alt (1838)

Rudolphe, like his father before him, went on many hiking-trips through the Austrian Alps and northern Italy and fell in love with the spectacular landscapes he witnessed.

View of the Strada Nuova against the Giardini Pubblici in Venice by Rudolph von Alt (1834)

 In 1833, he travelled to Venice where he pictorially recorded his visit. He was inspired by the city of Venice and took the opportunity to visit neighbouring areas as well as the Italian capital, where he completed a number of architectural paintings

The Capitol in Rome by Rudolphe von Alt (1835)

Rudolphe von Alt was a talented watercolourist and during his journeys around Italy he completed many watercolours featuring various Italian cities.

Port of Santa Lucia, Naples by Rudolphe von Alt (1935)

In 1830, five years before he took the throne, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria started to develop a plan which entailed the commissioning of paintings depicting the most beautiful views of the Austrian Empire. Jakob Alt, and his eldest son, Rudolf were two of the commissioned artists and between them they painted about one hundred and seventy of the three hundred completed works.  The project came to an end in 1849 a year after Ferdinand abdicated.

The Josef square in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1831)
The St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1831)
View of Salzburg by Rudolpe von Alt (1831)

Der Hohe Markt in Wien  by Rudolphe von Alt (1836)

Rudolphe’s watercolour depictions of interiors of wealthy patrons’ residences brought him more recognition from the Austrian public

Interior at Palais Windischgrätz in Renngasse in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1848)

Salon in the Apartment of Count Lanckoroński in Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1881)

The library in the Palais Dumba by Rudolphe von Alt (1877)
The Blue Drawing Room at the Valtice Palace by Rudolphe von Alt (1845)

The grandeur of the interior of many palaces was captured by Rudolphe in his magnificent watercolour paintings. Originally the Gothic Valtice palace was founded in the 12th century by the bishops of Passau and in 1530 Valtice became the place of residence of the princely family of Liechtenstein, one of the wealthiest families in Europe. 

Drawing Room at the Rasumofsky Palace by Rudolphe von Alt (1836)

A less formal room was captured by Rudolphe von Alt in his 1836 watercolour entitled Drawing Room at the Rasumofsky Palace. The palace was commissioned by Prince Andrey Razumovsky  as a Neoclassic embassy which would be worthy of the representative of the Russian Tsar, Alexander I. It was built at the prince’s own expense on Landstraße, close to the centre of Vienna. Razumovsky then filled the rooms of the palace with antiquities and modern works of art.

The Staircase of the State Opera Thatre, Budapest by Rudolphe von Alt (1873)

A large number of Rudolphe von Alt’s paintings are held in the Princely House of Liechtenstein collections in Vaduz, Liechtenstein and Vienna.  The Princely House of Liechtenstein is one of the oldest noble lineages in Europe being first mentioned in the twelfth century.  The Princely House of Liechtenstein is one of the oldest still extant noble lineages in Europe. The first documented bearer of this name was a Hugo von Liechtenstein, mentioned in archival sources dating to between 1120 and 1143.

View from the Klausen Valley to Modling Castle by Rudolphe von Alt (1827)

The family’s art collection had its beginnings in the sixteenth century and has been influenced over time by the varying interests of individual princes.  The collection has been assembled over several centuries, and now the Collections of the Prince von und zu Liechtenstein are one of the most important private art collections in the world, containing around 1,600 paintings with masterpieces ranging from the early Renaissance to the second half of the nineteenth century, including works by Lukas Cranach the Elder, Quentin Massys, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Friedrich von Amerling and Hans Makart and today’s artist, Rudolphe von Alt,

Organ Base by Master Anton Pilgram in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna by Rudolphe von Alt (1876)

Alt demonstrated a remarkable talent for expressing certain peculiarities in nature. He managed to paint nature authentically by focusing on the different hues of sky, the colour-tone of the air and the vegetation.

Ansicht von Jägerndorf mit ländlicher Staffage by Rudolphe von Alt

His later works were more Impressionistic in style but maybe above all von Alt will be remembered for his exquisite architectural and indoor scenes, genres that made him famous in Vienna.

Alservorstadt, Vienna

Rudolphe Ritter von Alt died in Vienna on March 12th 1905, aged 92. Most of his paintings are held by various museums in Vienna.

Carl and Karin Larsson. Part 1.

My blog today focuses on the lives and works of a very talented nineteenth century Swedish couple, Carl and Karin Larsson, a couple whose upbringing was so different.

Self Portrait by Carl Larsson (1895)

Carl Olof Larsson was born on May 28th 1853 in the Stockholm town of  Gamla stan, which literally translates to “old town” but is now known as Staden mellan broarna (“The Town between the Bridges”) as its geographical position is an island, Stadtsholman, which is dissected by two bridges, the Centralbron and, the  Skeppsbron. Carl was brought up in an impoverished household and by all accounts, he led a wretched childhood.  More can be gleaned of Carl’s terrible early existence when you read Renate Puvogel’s 1994 biography of Larsson in which she talks about his and his mother’s terrible existence at the hands of Carl’s father:

“…His mother was thrown out of the house, together with Carl and his brother Johan; after enduring a series of temporary dwellings, the family moved into Grev Magnigränd No. 7 (later No. 5) in what was then Ladugårdsplan, present-day Östermalm…”.

November by Carl Larsson (1882)

Carl Larsson’s father had changed jobs many times. He worked as a casual labourer, sailed as a stoker on a ship, and during this time he also managed to lose the lease to a nearby mill. Ironically, years later, he was employed at that same mill as a lowly grain carrier. Carl Larsson, in his autobiography. Jag, portrayed his father as a loveless man lacking self-control; he said that he drank, ranted and raved, and incurred the lifelong hatred of his son after once declaring to Carl that he cursed the day that his son was born. In contrast, Carl’s mother worked long hours as a laundress to provide for her family.

Car Larsson’s autobiography, Jag

In his autobiography, Jag, Larsson wrote about his childhood home in Stockholm’s Old Town . Misery was his overwhelming memory of those early years. He talked about dirt and rats swarming the spaces between mattresses thrown to the floor. Such conditions were conducive to the outbreak of cholera, which broke out in Stockholm in 1866. In his world as a child, the word ‘home’ did not have positive connotations, it meant something rather like a camp where one could not dream of privacy or comfort. Carl related how he often went hungry, and how he was physically drained by having to help with heavy chores such as carrying water, chopping wood and shoveling snow. 

Old Sundborn Church by Carl Larsson (1895)

His salvation came when he was thirteen-years-old and his teacher at the school for the poor was impressed by Carl’s drawing skills, and advised his mother to have their son apply to the preparatory school of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts.  He was accepted but the first years there were a trial for the young boy who was both withdrawn, shy and suffered from an inferiority complex. In 1869, at the age of sixteen, he moved up to the lowest department of the Art Academy itself.   There Larsson personality changed.  He became more confident and more outgoing and even became a central figure in student life.

The Old Man and New Trees by Carl Larsson (1883)

In his early days at the Academy Carl earned his first medal in nude drawing. He also worked as a caricaturist for the humorous paper Kasper and as a graphic artist for the newspaper Ny Illustrerad Tidning and from the earnings he made from this work he was able to help his parents financially for many years. Once he had graduated from the Academy, Carl travelled to Paris for he believed it was there that he could improve his academic painting. Carl went back and forth between Paris and Sweden for many years. 

Garden in Grez by Carl Larsson (1883)

He remained in Paris for many years working hard but with little success.  Larsson was reluctant to align himself with the Impressionist movement and like many of his Swedish compatriots, who were living in the French capital, he shunned this radical artistic movement of change which was all the rage in Paris.  As well as receiving some commissions Larsson illustrated books, among which were Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and August Strindberg’s, Svenska folket and helg och söcken [The Swedish People]). It was never enough to make him financially sound. Carl continued to work tirelessly whilst in Paris but to no great avail and he was often short of money.

Wilhelmina Holmgren by Carl Larsson (1876)

Carl had many romantic trysts during this period and for a time he lived with Wilhelmina Holmgren whose portrait he painted in 1876.  Sadly she died giving birth to their second child, and soon after, both their children had passed.  The situation at the time had a traumatic effect on Larsson who sank into deep depression and for a time he contemplated suicide.

Portrait of Carl Skånberg by Carl Larsson (1878)

In 1878 Carl Larsson completed a portrait of Carl Skånberg, a fellow Academy student who had also moved to Paris.  Carl submitted the portrait to the Salon that year but unfortunately it was hung so high up on the wall of the Salon that it was hard to see ! During his period in Paris he spent two summers in Barbizon with the en plein air painters but in 1882 he moved to another artist colony, Grez-sur-Loing.

Karin Larsson (née Bergöö) aged 23.

On October 3rd 1859, when Carl was just a six year-old child, a hundred miles to the west of Stockholm, the birthplace of Carl Larsson, a girl, Karin, was born, the daughter of Adolf Bergöö, who was a successful businessman and his wife, Hilda Sahlqvist. Although born in Örebro Karin grew up in Hallsberg, a town to the south, where her father ran a trading house and he soon became one of the leading citizens of the town. Unlike Carl’s upbringing Karin was brought up in a family which had no financial problems and she had a happy childhood. At the age of twelve, Karin was sent to Stockholm where she divided her time between the French School and courses at slöjdskolan (a craft school). Following a few years of study, she transferred to the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1877. The Academy had only been open to female students since 1864.

Still Life with Fruit and Tankard, 1877 painting by Karin Bergöö

Karin Larsson started at the Fruntimmers (womens) department, where the teaching was completely separate from that of her male students.  Although a woman training to be an artist was possible, females wanting to paint were looked upon as just wanting to have a skill that would help in their search for a husband. 

Grez-sur-Loing

In 1882, twenty-three-year-old Karin Larsson, along with some of her fellow artist students, including the talented Impressionist, Julia Beck, travelled to Paris and enrolled in the Académie Colarossi. During the summer break, like many other Swedish painters and writers, they travelled to the artist colony Grez-sur-Loing, seventy kilometres south of Paris.  The first overseas artists to arrive at the small village were the Americans, English, Scots and Irish. Then, during the 1880s most of the artists were Scandinavians and just before the turn of the century the Japanese arrived to found the Japanese impressionist movement at Grez. The central part of the village is criss-crossed by meandering streets and much of the town looks the same as it did over 100 years ago. The village is off the beaten track, built on the river that runs leisurely underneath the imposing leafy trees. Grez-sur-Loing is no longer just a farming community, it is a small village which has the unmistakable charm of the late 18th and early 19th century French countryside. It was here that she met Carl Larsson, who was something of a “leader” of the artistic fraternity. Life that summer in Grez for Karin was an artistic highlight and she and Carl Larsson worked side by side, often depicting similar motifs. 

Mère Mort by Karin Bergöö (1882)

One of Karen’s best paintings at the time was a watercolour entitled Mère Morot which she completed in 1882.

October (The Pumpkins) by Carl Larsson (1882)

One of the works Carl Larsson produced that year whilst at the Colony was entitled The Pumpkins, some time referred to as October.

Carl and Karin Larsson

Whilst living at Gez-sur-Loing, Carl and Karin’s friendship intensified and the couple fell in love.  It was noted that Carl became a much happier man and that his paintings became more colourful.  Carl never held himself to be a great catch for Karin in fact on asking her father for her hand in marriage, he wrote to him saying that he was not somebody special but that given time he would prove himself to be a good husband.  Karin’s father was impressed with Carl saying that he was a man in the fullest sense of the word and would be pleased to have him as his son-in-law.  It is an insight into the couple’s future when Karin wrote to Carl saying that she looked forward to marrying him and giving up painting.  This sounds like she had given in to possible future emancipation but it is believed that she was signalling a different artistic route she intended to take once married.  She was going to concentrate on interior design and using her creative spirit.  A talent which we will see in the next part of the blog, came to fruition.  In the autumn of 1882 Carl and Karin married.

Jag by Carl Larsson

To end this first part of Carl and Karin’s story I wanted to go back to his autobiography entitled Jag which translates simply to “I”. He completed it two days before he died but it was never published in full until 1969 ! Why ???

After his death, Carl’s autobiography was read by his wife Karin and the book publisher and friend of the family, Karl Otto Bonnier.  The words they read shocked them and they were stunned by what Carl had revealed about his life. In the book he had written quite unabashed about his pre-marital love affairs and that he had lived together and had two children with Wilhelmina Holmgren.  He also recounted the tale with regards his favoured model, Gabrielle, and her beauty and the time she had screamed in rage and accused him of being a seducer when he had told her that he had found the right one (Karin).  Karin and the publisher decided that the autobiography should not be made available to the public.  However, in late 1931, twelve years after Carl’s death and four years after Karin’s passing the publishing house, Bonniers, decided to publish a redacted (sanitised?) version of Carl’s autobiography and it was not until 1969, fifty years after his death, that the full unabridged version was released.

In the next part of the story of Carl and Kari Larsson I will look at Carl’s later more colourful works of art and the couples life back in Sweden in their beautiful home which Karin added so much beauty to.

Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov and the Peredvizhniki.

In past blogs about Russian artists I talked about an artistic group known as the Peredvizhniki, often referred to as The Wanderers or The Itinerants and the artist I am looking at today was also a member of this group.  The Wanderers gave a voice to Russian art for the first time in the country’s history. Their art answered the people’s search for solutions to their country’s problems. Many of these artists completed works which were parodies of Russian life and were, through their depictions, critical political statements about the Russian ruling class.   Russian art critics had voiced their concern with regards the state of Russian art stating that it was devoid of any originality.  They wanted artists to focus more on native themes rather than concentrating on what they termed “cosmopolitan garb”. 

In 1863 a group of fourteen students, led by Ivan Kramskoi, who were studying at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg found the rules of the Academy too limiting.  They also believed their tutors were too conservative and so decided to take a stand.  They believed art should be available to all people and, as many could not visit the grand city galleries, they would take their art to the people. They formed Артель художников, the Petersburg Cooperative of Artists (Artel of Artists).  The society resolutely maintained independence from Russian state support and took their art, which depicted the contemporary life of the people from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to the provinces.  In 1870, this organization was succeeded by the Peredvizhniki.   The Wanderers established a new social artistry that depicted the lower classes and highlighted the issues surrounding social injustices. Of the aims of the Group, Kramskoi believed that their paintings should, as well as being beautiful, be both wise and educational.  Among the movements leading members were Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Makovsky, Vasily Perov and Vasily Polenov.

Abram Arkhipov; Portrait by Ilya Repin

Today’s artist under the spotlight is Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov who was also a member of the group.  Abram was born Abram Efimov[ich] Pyrikov on August 15th 1862, the son of Efim Nikitich and Arina Fedorovna Pyrikovs.  He was raised in an impoverished household in the small and remote village of Yegorovo, in the Ryazan province, two hundred kilometres south-east of Moscow.  He would later adopt the surname “Arkhipov” in honour of his great-grandfather, Arkhip Rodionovich.

Winter by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Abram showed an interest in art when he was a young boy at the village school.  However, the only artistic tuition Abram received whilst at home was from traveling icon painters, one of whom, Zaykov, who had connections with the Moscow School of Painting, which was formed by the 1865 merger of a private art college, established in Moscow in 1832 and the Palace School of Architecture, which had been established in 1749.  It was one of the largest educational institutions in Russia. Zaykov was impressed by the Abram’s artistic talent and encouraged him to enter the School. His parents were proud of him and offered him great encouragement to continue with his love art.  In 1877, despite being impoverished peasants they managed to collect enough money to send him to study at the School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow.

 

Sunset over a Winter Landscape by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Abram was accepted at the School in 1877 and he studied there for five years. Here he studied alongside future greats in Russian art such as Ryabushkin, Kasatkin and Nesterov and he was tutored by the leading painters of the time, Vasily Perov, Makovsky, Polenov and Savrasov.  Arkhipov left the Moscow School and in 1884 transferred to the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. Here he was academically successful and some of his paintings were selected for permanent storage at the Academy’s Museum. 

Village Iconographer by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

Something, however, was not right and Abram broke off his studies at the St Petersburg Academy and in 1887 returned to study at the Moscow School of Art, Sculpture and Architecture . The reason for his sudden departure from St Petersburg is not fully known but it is thought that he was discouraged by the Academy’s strict way of teaching art.  However, the reason could have been more mundane, and he simply had no financial means to continue his studies in St Petersburg.

Sick Woman by Abram Arkhipov (1885)

Arkhipov had completed a painting entitled Sick Woman in 1885 and two years later at the Moscow School’s student’s exhibition he exhibited it.  It depicts two women in a dark and dank interior.  The artist’s mother sits with her head dejectedly inclined, her eyes fixed at one point,  Next to her sitting on a straw-filled bed is her neighbour who had come to pay the sick woman a visit. She too has the same dimmed sorrowful look in her eyes The postures of the two women, with their tired, unhappy faces is a depiction of their humility, despondency and misery. The only uplifting aspect to this painting is the sunlight, emanating through the open door.  Maybe Arkhipov wanted to remind us that happiness and beauty do exist somewhere. It is a work that gives out both quiet sadness and an air of deep compassion for human suffering.  The painting proved to be a major breakthrough in Archipov’s life as the work was bought directly from the student exhibition by Pavel Tretyakov, the art collector and owner of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

On The River Volga by Abram Arkhipov (1889)

Once Abram had completed his studies, he decided to embark on a painting trip with some of his former students, along the River Volga.  From this journey he completed a number of paintings like his 1889 work, On the Volga. It proved to be a successful fusion of a genre scene and lyrical landscape.

Along the River Oka by Abram Arkhipov

A similar river scene which Arkhipov painted at that time was Along the River Oka. It depicts a barge floating along the river filled with weary peasants, who seem lost in thought. It should not just be taken on face value as a river scene as it is a story about impoverished people who are capable of enduring a great deal without losing their strength and resoluteness. It is both a declaration of the beauty of Russian nature, with its blue horizons, the spring flooding of its rivers, and its streams of sunlight. Arkhipov has used a subdued colour scheme which is in accord with the general mood of the painting. His artistic style has changed. Compared to the careful detail of his early works, his style has become more free, expansive and passionate.  Of the painting, the Russian art critic Vladamir Stasov wrote:

“…The whole picture is painted in sunlight and this can be felt in every patch of light and shade, and in the overall wonderful impressions among the people on the barge, the four women—idle, tired, despondent, sitting in silence on their bundles—are portrayed with magnificent realism…”

In the Evening by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov

The work earned Arkhipov membership of the Society for Traveling Art Exhibitions in 1890.  He was now one of the Peredvizhniki.  It was the largest art association of the second half of the nineteenth century and their exhibitions were held in Russian cities such as Riga, Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa. Its objectives was three-fold:

Delivery to the inhabitants of the provinces the possibility of contacts with Russian art

Development and love of the arts in society

Making it easier for artists to sell their works.

Radonitsa (Before the Church Service) by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1892)

Many of Arkhipov’s paintings were juxtapositions of landscape and genre works such as his 1892 painting entitled Radonitsa or Waiting for Church in which we see a large group of peasants sitting on the floor outside a church waiting for the doors to open and the service begin, but this is not just any service, this is Radonitsa.  Radonitsa is a universal church day when relatives and friends of the deceased celebrate the commemoration of those who have died.  In the Russian Orthodox Church it is this commemoration of the departed which is observed on the second Tuesday of Easter.  The word derives from the Slavic word radost meaning joy and so it is not looked upon a s a mournful day but one of joyful remembrance.  It is the Christian belief that lies behind this joy, is the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus and the joy and hope it brings to all.

The Ice is Gone by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1895)

Another of Arkhipov’s paintings which is a mixture of genre and landscape is his 1895 work entitled The Ice is Gone.  The painting depicts the connection between nature and the peasants. In a way, it is like the previous work.  It is a celebration.  The celebration is because the Spring has finally arrived and the ice on the rivers has melted and once more the peasants can use the flowing rivers to their advantage.

Women Labourers at the Iron Foundry by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1896)

Many of Arkhipov’s paintings depicted the harsh plight of female peasant workers and their brutal working environment.  One such work was his 1896 painting entitled Women Labourers at the Iron Foundry in which we see two women sitting outside the foundry in the relentless hot sun, trying to relax from their physical labour.  Black smoke rises against a backdrop of low, wooden workshops.

The plight of the female worker was again highlighted in two paintings by Akhipov entitled Washer Women which he completed 1899.  One hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and one in the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. They were based on a series of studies Abram made of life in the wash-house and are depicted in the muted colours associated with Realism paintings.  We see the bent backs of prematurely aged women, toiling amid the steam and heat of their workplace.

Washer Women by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1899)

Washer Women by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1899)

In one work he depicts many peasant women working to clean the village’s laundry. For an accurate portrayal, Abram visited many washhouses making sketches always keen to find figures which would enhance his final work.  Eventually he found his “perfect” model and rearranged the depiction around her.  She was an elderly woman whom we see on the left of the second work, sitting hunched over, totally exhausted. All the women look defeated and overcome by their physical efforts.  These two works by Arkhipov’s highlight the plight of woman who had to work in such harsh, almost inhuman conditions just to earn some money to feed their families.  Again, like his other Reailist paintings he has used muted colours, the works only lit up by the light coming in from the small window at the rear, which shows up the steam coming up from under their hands as they wash the clothing. Many of the details stay the same in both works, for example, their hair being tightly tied back and the same women appearing in the background of both paintings. The women are all hard at work in the upper painting, whereas the lower work focuses on the elderly woman talking a break.

Arkhipov’s paintings are brutally realistic and are important pieces in history revealing much about the conditions in the USSR during this time by showing the truth behind the closed doors of the washhouses. The opportunity for women to get better and less arduous jobs was just not available to them.

Northern Village by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1902)
In the North by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov !903)

In 1902 Arkhipov took the first of a number of trips to the White Sea and from the sketches he made during these journeys he produced two memorable landscape works. A Northern Village in 1902 and In the North in 1903.  They signalled a move away from Realism works and a move towards the landscape genre of paintings.

Around 1903 came the formation of the Union of Russian Artists which was the coming together of former Peredvizhniki members and those who had been part of the World of Art, an artistic movement inspired by an art magazine which served as its manifesto de facto, which was a major influence on the Russians who helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century.  Arkhipov became one of its founding member in 1903.

Around 1903 came the formation of the Union of Russian Artists which was the coming together of former Peredvizhniki members and those who had been part of the World of Art. The Union of Russian Artists lasted until their exhibition in 1910 when due to a split between St. Petersburg and Moscow artists due to harsh words and denouncements of the paintings by various factions.  Arkhipov decided that he had had enough of the constant bickering and resigned.

The Visit (also known as On a Visit; A Festive Spring Day) by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1915)

Following his resignation from the group he reverted to his favoured painting style, that of genre painting and the depiction of peasants. However, the muted coloured realist paintings soon gave way to a more colourful Impressionist style as seen by his 1915 work entitled The Visit (also known as On a Visit; A Festive Spring Day)

The Tea Party by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1919)

Another highly colourful painting was his 1919 work entitled The Tea Party.

Around 1920, Arkhipov became interested in the genre of psychological portraiture.  Psychological portraiture is when an artist tries for something more than a simple physical representation of the sitter but tries to reflectand depice the character of the portrayed person. In essence the painter is endeavouring to capture a range of the sitter’s emotions in fractions of a second or for the finished work to tell us more about the personality of the person in a single image.

A Girl with a Jug by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1927)

Arkhipov painted an unusual series of portraits of peasant women and girls from the Ryazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. They are all dressed in bright national costumes. with embroidered  scarves and beads. Painted with broad lively strokes, the paintings are marked by their decorative nature and buoyant colours, with rich reds and pinks predominating. The most famous of his portraits is his 1927 painting entitled Girl with a Jug. It depicts a Russian woman dressed in an orange top, a bright red bottom, an apron with a bright pattern.  In her hands she holds a bright blue cup and a jug of milk.  The dark background, painted by the artist, sets off the girl.  Her figure is hidden from us by the wide sleeves and a skirt.  She smiles confidently as she looks out at us with an affectionate countenance.  The painting is a mass of colour and yet Arkhipov seems to also focus on the inner beauty of the woman which he believes is a window into the Russian soul, strong and yet truthful, open-minded, and generous.  In this colourful cycle of painting female peasants, Arkhipov has loosened the shackles of his gloomy realist depictions and his shown us a different side to his art.

Young Girl by Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov (1920)

In 1924 Arkhipov joined the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, and in 1927, to mark his fortieth year as an artist, he was among the first artist who was awarded the title of *People’s Artist of the Russian Republic*.

Abram Yefimovich Arkhipov died in Moscow on September 25th, 1930 aged 68.

ArtCatto Gallery

Often when you visit small galleries which are staging a joint exhibition of paintings done by a small number of artists, you like some and are disappointed with others.  I was in Portugal last week and my visit coincided with an opening of a joint exhibition at a local gallery and I was fortunate to have received an invite which coincided with my short break away.

ArtCatto Gallery, Loulé, Algarve, Portugal

The exhibition was at the ArtCatto gallery in the heart of the Algarve town of Loulé.  ArtCatto was the brainchild of Gillian Catto, who after 30 years as the owner of an internationally recognised and respected gallery in London, decided to settle in the Algarve and she opened ArtCatto in 2011.  Gillian Catto developed a reputation, which is second to none. She was responsible for launching the careers of artists who have subsequently become household names, such as Jack Vettriano. His solo exhibition at her Gallery helped to create a global demand for his work, which skyrocketed in value virtually overnight.

The Girls by Shen Ming Chun

The gallery is divided into a number of small rooms, each featuring the work of one artist.    In one of these rooms there were six exquisite works of portraiture by the Chinese artist, Shen Ming Cun.  Shen was born in 1956 and graduated from the University Art College of Guangxi in China, where he is now a professor of European Art. He is highly respected as an official artist for the Chinese Government, and has exhibited in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, New Zealand, and Britain.

Beautiful Headdress by Shan Ming Cun

Shen Ming draws his inspiration from the ancient traditions, crafts and culture of the tribes of the Miao, Yao and Dong of the remote GuangXi region of China. There are large changes in China which is causing a massive strain on the ancient way of life in these small village communities and as the young people leave the villages to seek work in the large cities one has to wonder how long these cultures can survive.

Looking at You by Shen Ming Cun

Each tribe has a quite unique tradition in dress and adornment from the other. The young girls sew everything entirely by hand and their jewellery is crafted in the village.

Silver Necklace by Shen Ming Cun

Shen’s paintings have come to focus on capturing, distilling and representing the inimitable customs, dress and heritage of these minority tribes of Southern China. His empathy and admiration of these tribal people is well-defined in his paintings, which possess a lyrical beauty, dignity and grace. In fact, his paintings have been likened to a kind of visual poetry in their way they communicate to the viewer a variety of emotions and to entice the spectator into their worlds.

Pink Roses by Shen Ming Cun

Shen’s paintings capture the chromatic vibrancy of the costumes and ornate silver jewellery with a lightness and confidence that has undoubtedly led to his success. Their adornments are genuine symbols of the wealth, religion, ritual and national consciousness that shape their lives. It is truly remarkable to witness the intimate moments that he often portrays which provide an atmosphere of invitation and intrigue for the viewer.  Shen explains his inspirational art:

“…I have spent a long time researching the richly colourful cultural heritage of the Yao and Miao nationalities and the Dong minority of Southern China. Over the years I have lived amongst them and become friends with these beautiful people who radiate pure goodness and a simple love of life. Cultivating their ancestor’s achievements, they turn life into immortal art…”

Pedro Guimares

On entering another room I came across some fascinating works of art by Pedro Guimares.  Pedro Guimarães, born 1974 in Guimarães, Portugal. From an early age, Pedro was fascinated by art and design, resulting in an exhibition at the age of sixteen at the Youth Centre in Braga. The success and impact of that show confirmed his career as a professional artist and as a result he set up his studio in Guimarães to continue his practice.

All I Want by Pedro Guimares

In 2011 he moved to Cantabria, Spain, having the opportunity to exhibit his work there. Back in Portugal it was in Guimarães that he set up his atelier. There he devoted an increasingly greater amount of time to plastic arts until it finnaly became his exclusive activity. Since then, Pedro Guimarães participated in several individual and collective exhibitions in Portugal and abroad with an intense and always innovative artistic production.

Sky Dreamer by Pedro Guimares

Pedro Guimarães’s work is based on a conceptual language created by him, which he defines as:

“…the true transparent reaction of our consciousness with the synapses that make us unique and influence the direction of our concepts, associating colours and shapes…”

Untouchable. In loving memory of Queen Elizabeth II by Pedro Guimares

Enjoying a wide creative freedom, Pedro Guimarães uses various resources and materials. One of the strangest and probably the most time-consuming work was a portrait entitled Untouchable. In loving memory of Queen Elizabeth II.  For this work, Guimares used a technique which he terms “Untouchable” which gives the work a unique content, curious, and some might say disarming. Standing before the portrait you see nothing unusual but……….

Side-on view of Queen Elizabeth II portrait

………..stand to the side of the portrait and when you look again you realise the artwork comprises of numerous pins (180,000 pins) that forms the figure into a three-dimensional shape.  You only notice the pins when you view the work side-on.

The Three of Us by Pedro Guimares

The painting of his, maybe I should say the three paintings of his, which fascinated me was entitled The Three of Us.  I suppose the portrait(s) fall into the category of being a  Trompe L’oeil depiction. As I stood in front of this strange slatted painting I saw a depiction of Princess Diana. At first I could not fathom out the reason for the vertical slats.

The Three of us by Pedro Guimares

However when I moved to the left and viewed the painting at a 45 degree angle the image of Diane disappeared and as if by magic, the depiction of her son Harry came clearly into view………

The Three of Us by Pedro Guimares

……and when I moved to the right of the painting an image of William gradually appeared. Yes, I know it was just a work of trickery but it was very cleverly done.

Richard Gower

On entering the gallery, you were greeted by a wash of bright colours which extended along the walls of the passageways.  The paintings reminded me of some of the colourful seascapes I saw at the Joaquín Sorolla Museum in Madrid.  These artworks at the ArtCatto gallery were by the English artist Richard Gower.

Finding the Perfect Spot by Richard Gower

Richard Gower was born in West Yorkshire in 1962 and is a fine artist who is known for his contemporary oil paintings rendered in his characteristic impressionistic style.  At the age of seventeen, he studied at Batley College of Art and specialised in fine art and sculpture.  He is influenced by the great artists of the nineteenth and twentieth century such as Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Sickert, Francis Bacon. Richard’s determination to paint and learn everything he needed to learn motivated him to study the great impressionists. Richard’s fascination with the great painters pushed his own creativity and observations to develop and fine-tune his personal ‘Reflections’ style over the years. As a young man he travelled throughout Europe on his motorbike stopping of at various cities and towns always visiting galleries and exhibitions, whilst all the time honing his artistic skills and developing his passion for painting.

The Splash by Richard Gower

The semi-abstracted, figurative compositions we see in his beach scenes have both a real sense of joie de vie but also intrigue. As observers, we are asked to conjure up narratives about these anonymous characters who are enjoying a day at the seaside and who are immortalised on his canvases.

Day at the Beach by Richard Gower
The Promenade by Richard Gower

These seaside scenes by Gower would light up any room and bring with them the hankering to leave rainy and windswept climates and visit beautiful beaches and soak up the sun.

Mario Henrique with his portrait of Marilyn Munroe

Another room at the ArtCatto exhibition was dedicated to the artwork of Mario Henrique.   Mario Henrique is an artist based in Cascais, Portugal, who graduated in Design from Lisbon’s University of Fine Arts and started his career in online marketing and web development agencies.  Later on, as a creative director he recruited and led teams in Portugal, Spain and Brazil.

Somnium No. 1, Series X by Mario Henrique

Of his painting style Mario explains:

“…I try to be fast and spontaneous when I’m painting – that process should be reflected in the final piece. The observer should be able to infer the physicality of the painting process, when looking at the brush strokes and paint drippings…”

Mario Henrique at work in his studio

“…When I throw paint, I can do it with some premeditation – but I can never really predict where the paint will actually fall on the canvas. So, my approach to painting is – in part – based on chance, on small random accidents – it doesn’t rely exclusively on my persistence or my technique.

That’s why I don’t feel completely responsible for my paintings – in the sense that, although I can answer for my initial intentions, the final…”

Mariana by Mario Henrique

Mario Henrique is passionate about his work and has exhibited his work in Portugal, Brazil, Germany and the US. He says that he is forever intrigued by the subtleties and double meanings of people’s body language, expressions and looks, and he composes works centred around people. Mario uses his portraits to represent the impermanence of facial expressions and unpredictability of human movements, and paints abruptly and spontaneously in drippings and splashings.

Nebula No. 5, Series IV by Mario Henrique

Listed in various private collections across Europe, America and Asia, he has exhibited in galleries both locally and abroad, and was awarded an Honourable Mention for his participation in the Brasília Biennial of Contemporary Arts 2016. He was also featured in Saatchi Art’s Inside The Studio.

At the ArtCatto’s exhibition, there was also a selection of sculptures both with a modern style and a classical one.

Sculpture Flow by Paul Sibuet

Golden Flow by Paul Sibuet

Paul Sibuet, a French visual artist, was born in 1986.  He was trained in Design and Art and his work has been submitted at numerous competitions, in Tokyo and Paris. He has now broken free from the techniques he was taught by exploring his own perceptions of the object and volumes, and in so doing so he has created his own signature. He lives today in Lyon and exhibits in particular in Geneva, New York and Venice.

Spring by Anneke Bester
Emanate by Anneke Bester

At the rear of the gallery there is a narrow outdoor passage way which was lined by statuettes by Anneke Bester. Anneke Bester is a South African born artist who now considers New Zealand her home country. She not only exhibits in New Zealand but also regularly in Portugal and Dubai. Her body of work is a combination of one-off, delicately cast, bronze sculptures as well as editioned works. Anneke’s work focuses on celebrating Femininity in all its aspects. She sculpts gorgeous female forms in sensual poses. She develops the female energy of nature and depicts the female forms as daughters of mother earth in her most recent work.poses. She sees the female in its internal beauty and its core driving force that only a female sculptor can explore to its full extent.

If you are ever in the Algarve you should try and visit the ArtCatto gallery which lies on the town’s main street, across from the large Municipal Market Hall,

Dutch and Flemish Golden Age painters.

Like many others, I am a lover of the artwork of the Dutch Golden Age painters.  The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, which spanned the era from 1588 and the birth of the Dutch Republic to 1672, Rampjaar (Disaster Year) which was the year of the outbreak of the Franco-Dutch War.  During this period, it was considered that Dutch trade, science, and art and the Dutch military were among the most acclaimed in Europe.  We all know about the lives and works of the famous artists of that era, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals and Judith Leyster to name but a few.  In my blog today I want to look at the lives and works of the lesser-known painters of that era.

Izaak van Oosten was a Flemish Baroque landscape and cabinet painter who worked out of Antwerp.  Izaak was born in Antwerp in December 1613 and was the son of an art dealer with the same name.  His father had become a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1617. Very little is known about his upbringing or his early artistic training as there is no record of which master or masters he studied under.  Izaak became a master in the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke in 1652.

Landscape with a Wagon and Travellers passing through a Village by Izaak van Oosten

There is something joyful about paintings depicting skaters on frozen rivers and lakes.  It is all before global warming and I am sure that now, many of the rivers and lakes retain their fluidity even in the depths of winter.  The painting I am showcasing is entitled Skaters on a Frozen Lake at the Edge of Town and it was painted by the Dutch Golden Age landscape painter Cornelis Beelt.  Cornelis Beelt was a Dutch Golden Age landscape painter who was  one of the chief figures in the Haarlem school of landscape painting, but was also well-known for his genre paintings of towns, markets and villages.  Beelt was born in Haarlem during the first decade of the seventeenth century.

Skaters on a Frozen Lake at the Edge of Town by Cornelis Beelt (c.1652)

The setting is a clear winter’s day and crowds of locals gather besides a country inn keen to enjoy the sport on the ice. Young and old, rich and poor are attracted to this pastime. In the foreground a group of well-dressed men and women stands on the ice and chat. An old lady with her hands in a fur muff sits in a splendid arreslee (sleigh which is drawn by a horse and which is decorated with a fine plumed harness. Close by young children propel themselves across the ice on small prikslees (sledges).

Beach of Shevingen by Cornelis Beelt

There is a strange thing about this painting which unfortunately is not visible from the attached picture. Beelt signed his painting in an unusual manner, one which he had also done on his painting Beach of Shevingen. He signed his name on the plank of wood in the foreground. However , at a later time, his signature was scrubbed out and replaced by the inscription J.V.Ostade f.1653 and this was judged to be an attempt by a less than honest art dealer to ascribe the work to a more famous name, Isaac van Ostade, so as to have a better chance of selling the painting, even though Ostade had died in 1649 !

The phrase ‘cabinet d’amateur’, in French, is an ancient term which referred to a room or part of a room in an art collector’s house where he or she displayed the paintings they had purchased.  These display areas were before the rise of public galleries.  Some where simple cabinets which contained their owner’s beloved works and some where floor to ceiling displays of their paintings.  The phrase cabinet d’amateur should not be viewed as that of an “amateur collector” but that of an “art lover”.  A German term for such a place is often referred to as a kunstkammer. In Italian it might be called a Gabinetto, Studiolo or Camerino.

Two collectors dining in a gallery surrounded by paintings and works of art, with two parrots in the foreground. by Frans Fancken the Younger

The painting connected with this term is one by the Flemish painter, Frans Francken the Younger and described as Two collectors dining in a gallery surrounded by paintings and works of art, with two parrots in the foreground. Frans Francken the Younger was the most famous of an Antwerp dynasty of painters; he trained with his father, Frans the Elder, and joined the Antwerp guild in 1605. He was a painter of religious and historical subjects as well as being the inventor of the genre – the cabinet painting.

On the right-hand side of the painting we see two men deep in discussion about a painting one of them is holding up but we do not know who is the owner of this kunstkammer.  The presence of a kunstkammer in one’s house was a sign of wealth, intelligence and social status.  In the main part of the painting, we see an ornate sideboard supported by classical caryatids.  A caryatid is the name given to a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head.  A light-pink fringed cloth covers the top shelf of the sideboard on which two large shells are placed either side of the painting, The Adoration of the Magi.   Richly decorated goblets and covered urns are displayed on two of the sideboard shelves. On the floor we see two parrots depicted sitting on a perch.  The import of exotic foreign birds testified to the owner’s wealth.   We see a large red velvet curtain falls from the ceiling which when released would act as a separator of the two rooms.  Everything in the room exudes the wealth of the owner which would have been the raison d’être for the owner of the cabinet d’amateur commissioning the work.

The Cabinet of the Collector by Frans Francken the Younger (c.1617)

A similar painting by Frans Francken the Younger is in the Royal Collection entitled The Cabinet of the Collector which he completed around 1617. Amongst the paintings on view in the kunstkammer is a landscape by Joos de Momper,  a still life of an everyday table set for a meal; and a small, nocturnal Flight into Egypt. Other religious painting depicted are one featuring St Augustine who is trying to comprehend the idea of the Trinity and sees a baby struggling to pour the entire sea into a pool in the sand with a shell – both tasks being equally beyond the scope of man. The drawings, one framed and one in an open book are two studies for Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and a preparatory drawing for Raphael’s Madonna della Perla which emphasise the intellectual side of painting.. There are also letters on the table, no doubt signifying an intelligent characteristic of the painting’s owner.  Also displayed are exotic weaponry which is a reminder of the importance of travel and trade and a handful of Roman coins and a bowl of modern ones, which were not anything to do with wealth but more likely a celebration of the achievements of great men.

For me, the most interesting part of the work is seen beneath the arch to the right.  In the background a church is demolished and nearby donkey-headed men with cudgels destroy a pile of objects associated with learning, science, the arts and sport. According to Karel van Mander, the sixteenth century Flemish poet, painter and art historian, a man with a donkey head is a symbol of Ignorance. The episodes depicted here recall two historical events: the Beeldenstorm, an outbreak of iconoclasm carried out by Protestants in 1566; and the ‘Spanish Fury’, the sack of Antwerp in 1576.

A Rhineland Landscape with a Hermit and Soldiers by Jan Griffier the Elder

Jan Griffier the Elder, who was born in Amsterdam around 1645, was a painter and printmaker, who produced views of Rhineland landscapes as well as spending time, around 1660, in England where he produced many landscape works featuring the English countryside.  One of his most beautiful landscapes is referred to as A Rhineland Landscape with a Hermit and Soldiers. The painting dramatically depicts a steep mountain landscape with a meandering river below which slowly flows through wooded crags which are surmounted by castles.  If we look to the left foreground, we can see a men loading barrels of wine onto a small boat.  The main figures in this painting are on the right-hand side.  We see a group of soldiers lying down, concealed among the ferns and flowers.  One of the group points down to the boat which is being loaded.  Are they planning to raid the operation?  Above them, sitting on a rock by a large oak tree in peaceful isolation, is a hermit, who is meditating.  It is an interesting painting with plenty to focus on, but what is it all about ?

Floral Still life Floral by Gaspar van den Hoecke

There is something that fascinates me about floral still life paintings.  I think it is just the effort and patience the artists must have put in to produce such beautiful works.  My next featured painting is a small (70 x 50cms) floral still life attributed to the Flemish Baroque painter, Gaspar van Hoecke, who was born in Antwerp around 1580.

Gaspar van den Hoecke was best known for his small religious cabinet pieces but during his early period around 1610 his work focused on still life floral paintings.  The vase of flowers sits on a wooden tabletop.  This dense grouping of flowers fills almost two thirds of the painting.  The profusion of flowers doesn’t allow the artist to depict twigs and leaves between individual flowers.  On the table we see a caterpillar of the swallow-tailed butterfly which is next to it.  Also on the table there is a silver medal with the head of Pope Pius V which had been created in 1571.   Just above it is a gold coin which is a rare example of a byzantine solidus made during the era of Anastasius, the Eastern Roman Emperor. 

Winter Landscape with a peasant walking through snow by Gysbrecht Leytens

The Flemish painter Gijsbrecht Leytens was born in Antwerp in 1586. As a teenager, he began his apprenticeship with Jacob Vrolijck.  In 1611 he joinied the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke as a master. In 1615 he became a member of the Olijftak, a chamber of rhetoric that dates back to the early 16th century in Antwerp, when it was a social drama society which drew its membership primarily from merchants and tradesmen and provided public entertainment at prestigious events.  Gijsbrecht was a captain in Antwerp’s Civic Guard between 1624 and 1628.  His work followed the style of 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch great landscape paintings, which had brought recognition to such masters as Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hendrick Avercamp, Gillis Van Coninxloo, Joost de Momper and Denijs Van Alsloot.

Winter landscape with a woodsman and travelers by Gysbrecht Leytens

However, it was Gijsbrecht Leytens’ determined personal style that brought him to the public’s attention.   Many of his paintings were simply attributed to “The Master of the Winter Landscape” and only in the 1940’s attributed to him.  Leytens has an easily recognisable style not just because he focuses on snowy winter scenes but because of the way he depicts intricate and curious intertwining designs created by the bare branches and twigs which form a large part of his depictions.   He was described as a poet of the frost in the way he conveys the cold nakedness of the sun on a countryside caught in the ice. No-one before him, nor after him, either in Flanders or elsewhere, expressed this with such intensity. The fundamental and unique quality of his art also resides in the extreme refinement of the subtle colour harmonies apparent in his paintings at all times.

Old Man Reading a Letter by Willem van Mieris (1729)

The depiction of the reading of a letter has featured in many paintings over the years.  Such attention to what is written in the letter adds to the back-story of the artwork and often our imagination runs riot as we try to fathom out the sentiment expressed in the pages of the letter.  My next painting is one by the Dutch artist Willem van Mieris who was born in Leiden in the Northern Netherlands in June 1662.  His artistic tuition came from his father Frans van Mieris who was a genre painter.  Throughout his career Willem was successful and had the support of a number of patrons who constantly supplied him with commissions.  He was equally at home painting genre scenes and portraiture as well as being a skilled landscape painter, etcher, and draughtsman.  He was the active leader of, and once became dean of, the Leiden Guild of St. Luke in 1693. A year later, in 1694, he established a drawing academy in Leiden along with the painter Jacob Toorenvliet.

In this work we see an elderly gentleman seated  at a table in a darkened interior deep in concentration as he reads a handwritten document.  He wears an opulent-looking gown which is made of richly embroidered material and which is evocative of the fashion for Japanese dress at the time.  Upon his head is a hat made of rich blue velvet and lined with a extravagant swathe of fur.  In the dark background we can just make out shelves filled with books.  Couple that with the paraphernalia on the table, such as an inkwell, sealing wax and quill pen tells us that this a gentleman of great learning, maybe a lawyer.  Lawyers were often depicted in paintings reading documents and letters.

I hope this blog will encourage you to delve into the world of Dutch and Flemish painters where you will find so many talented artists.

John Downton

Self portrait by John Downton (c.1928)

My featured artist today is the lesser-known British painter John Downton who was born on March 27th, 1906 in the Kent town of Erith, some twenty kilometres south-east of London.  He was the youngest of three children of Albert Victor and Flora Edith Downton (née Mitchell).  John had two older sisters, Hilda and Mary both of whom had intended to study medicine but their plans were thwarted by family circumstances and health reasons.

At the age of four John attended the Erith Convent where he was a pupil for the next four years.  In 1914 he transferred to the Erith Grammar School.  It was around this time that John developed a love for music.  His father played the flute and the piano and was a prominent member of the local church choir.  John’s uncle, Hedley, gave John a violin and during the following years John became an important member of the school orchestra.  The other great love of the teenager was his desire to read, particularly books by ancient philosophers and other “serious” works of English literature.

Portrait of a Young Woman by John Downton (1929)

Apart from his music and books, John had an overriding passion for art and even built a summer house/studio in the family garden where he did his painting.  When he was seventeen the school entered his pencil sketch, Biplanes: A Study, into the Royal Drawing Society at the Guildhall, London and he was awarded a Silver Medal.  As a teenager he was fascinated by all things military and penned many sketches of war machines and yet, later in life he became a pacifist.

Woman at the Window by John Downton (1934)

In 1922, when he was sixteen years old, his mother noticed an advert in The Times which stated that a Professor Gaugot, who was a lecturer at the Sorbonne, was willing to teach an English boy to speak French and so young John Downton headed to Paris where he stayed with the Gaugot family.

Child with Roses by John Downton (1936)

A year later in 1923 John accompanied his two sisters to Italy where they visited Venice and the Northern Italian Lakes as well as the Swiss towns of Lucerne and Lugano.  This was the start of John’s love affair with travel.  His favourite destinations were Northern Italy and Switzerland.

Having completed his schooling John was accepted into Queen’s College, Cambridge.  Initially he took Part 1 of the English Tripos and in 1927 was placed into the Second Class but the following year he decided to abandon English and instead enrolled in the History of Art course and once completed, he received a First Class degree.  During his three years at the university John immersed himself in their musical activities.

Hilda Downton by John Downton (1929)

In the Autumn of 1928, having completed his three-year degree course, John Downton enrolled at the Slade School of Art which at the time was presided over by Henry Tonks, a British surgeon and later draughtsman and painter of figure subjects, chiefly interiors, and a caricaturist who was Slade Professor of Fine Art from 1918 to 1930.  John, like many of the Old Masters of the past, preferred the medium of tempera but the Slade tutors wanted him to change his favoured painting medium and embrace a more modern style of painting.  There was to be no common ground and so on May 21st 1929, John resigned.  In a forward to John Downton’s 1937 book, The Death of Art, an art critic and author wrote about Downton’s falling out of love with the Slade and the Academy’s thoughts on art.  He wrote:

“…A certain kind of rather drably coloured, sober urban realism was the style in favour.  Not for Downton though: he had pretty certainly made up his mind what he wanted to do and what sort of painter he wanted to be well before he arrived at the Slade and it has much more to do with the legacy of Piero della Francesca than that of Sickert and Cezanne…”

Downton’s art was a return to the art of the early Renaissance.

In 1930 John Downton and his sister set off on an European trip.  They based themselves in the Côte d’Azur town of Menton and from there they took day trips out to the Italian Riviera towns of Ventimiglia and Genoa.  Much longer trips were taken by the pair when they visited Milan and Lugano as well as his beloved Italian Lakes.

Portrait of a Young Lady by John Downton (1929)

Around 1930, John bought Park Cottage in the Kent village of Sundridge, some twenty miles, south-east of London.  He spent much of his time renovating the property and buying antique furniture at auction to furnish the rooms.  After two years living there, he realised it was too small for him and his artwork and so he moved out and rented the cottage to a fellow artist, Vincent New.

In April 1932 John Downton was awarded his M.A. and, as if to celebrate the successful completion of his studies, he took a trip to Tunis and returned via Naples, where he remained for a few months.  On arriving back to England John searched for a new home and eventually purchased a property with a north-facing conservatory in which he could paint.  The property was in Observatory Gardens, in the London borough of Kensington.

Frances Witts by John Downton (1935)

Around 1935, John Downton completed a poignant in memoriam portrait of his cousin Frances Witts.  She had died of pneumonia aged just twenty-six.  He used a family photograph for this work.

Portrait of a Lady in Yellow by Alesso Baldovinetti (1465)

Downton was influenced by profile portraits executed by Florentine painters such as Baldovinetti’s 1465 work entitled Portrait of a Lady in Yellow but art historians believe this portrait of his cousin was influenced by the Milanese painter, Ambrogio’ de Predis and his c.1490 work, Beatrice d’Este, which was once attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. 

Portrait of a Lady (Beatrice d’Este) by Ambrogio’ de Predis

Downton’s memorial portrait has a dark and rich tonal quality and he has based it on a conservative portrait of the past and has accomplished an image that is both solemn and inspiring.  The woman in Downton’s portrait, like the Italian females in the portraits mentioned earlier, includes a necklace with diminishing size of beads whilst her hair is similarly geometric but in Frances Witts’ case it is gathered at the sides rather than at the back of the head.

Nora Russell by John Downton (1936)

Between 1936 and 1940 John Downton exhibited work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  His two submissions in 1936, which were considered to be his masterpieces, were The Battle and and Nora Russell.  The latter painting was executed in egg tempera and, despite it being a simple depiction of a young schoolgirl, it is evocative in the way it reminds us of the spirit of Quattrocento female portraiture, that is to say, female portraiture in fifteenth-century Italy, which portrayed womanly perfection as established in Catholic doctrine, illustrating the special social roles that upper-class women fulfilled at the time.

The Battle by John Downton (1935)

The title, The Battle, the second of his submitted painting to the 1936 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, is to do with conflict but not a battlefield scene, as you may have expected.  It is all about the battle between modern industrialisation and the ideal of Renaissance humanism, which was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, a cultural legacy, literary legacy, and moral philosophy of classical antiquity.

Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger (1523)

The figure and its stance in the painting is based upon Holbein’s 1523 work, Erasmus of Rotterdam.  Erasmus was the leading humanist at the time.  Both works accentuate the hands of the sitter.  In the Louvre collection there are studies of hands made by Holbein as preliminaries for his painting.  In Downton’s painting we see through the window an abstract depiction of a modern factory.

Joan Harris by John Downton (1937)

John Downton was always on the move and made many more house relocations and in August 1937 he took up residence in Cambridge.  That year he submitted his work entitled Joan Harris to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition where it was subsequently chosen to be shown in The Prominent Living Artists Exhibition which was staged at the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth.  Joan Harris was the daughter of John Downton’s Cambridge neighbour.  From a letter she wrote him during the sittings for the portrait we can gather that Downton completed more than just this one portrait of her.  She wrote:

“…I hope you will finish the picture soon; but if you ever want me to come and sit for you again, just let me know and I will come any time that I am able.

When you have finished the picture I hope I will be able to see it and if you get the first picture back in Cambridge I would like to see it, and I know Mummy and Daddy would love to see it as they never saw it when it was completed…”

Portrait of a Girl by John Downton (1938)

Downton’s 1938 submission to the RA Summer Show was Portrait of a Girl which unusually for Downton depicted the model against a landscape background giving the impression that it was a plein air portrait.  There is a definite resemblance to the style of one of my favourite portrait artists, Gerald Brockhurst.

Portrait of a Woman by John Downton (1955)

A strange looking portrait going under the title Portrait of a Woman was completed by John Downton in 1955. 

Edith Sitwell by Pavel Tchelitchew (1935)

It is thought that the depiction was loosely based on the Polish painter, Pavel Tchelitchew’s portrait of his good friend Edith Sitwell in 1935.

Girl Conducting by John Downton (1940)

In 1938, now living in Cambridge, Downton was having to cope with the rejection by Faber & Faber of his manuscript, The Death of Art, but which was published years later. In 1940 Downton submitted three paintings to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Eve, A Girl Conducting, and A Child. His painting entitled Girl Conducting is all about his depiction of the girl’s hands and it is such a facet in many of his works. The finished product did not come easily for Downton, who made numerous sketches of hands until he had perfected them. Many of the depictions were influenced by Renaissance paintings. The three paintings Downton submitted to the RA that year were to be the last of his offerings to that establishment.

Woman in Flemish Head Dress by John Downton

So why did Downton stop exhibiting his work at the RA ? In the foreword to Downton’s book The Death of Art, which his sister, Hilda, finally had published in 1995, the writer and critic John Russell Taylor explained:

“…He seems to have felt himself marginalised in a world increasingly unsympathetic to everything he stood for. In 1939 he moved to Florence in an attempt to escape the materialist twentieth century, but then almost immediately had to return to Britain at the outbreak of war. The war itself was even more of an alienating factor, a total outrage to his dearly held pacifist principles. And a general feeling that the mainstream of British Art was moving further and further away from his own ideals, first into luxuriant Romanticism and then into freeform abstraction, caused him to withdraw altogether from exhibiting his own art after 1940…”

Bearded Profit by John Downton (1975)

Now back home in England with the war waging in Europe, John Downton received his conscript papers.  Downton had always been a pacifist and went before the Review Board to argue his case for not fighting.  The Board accepted that he was a genuine conscientious objector and so, in September 1940, he was put to work on a farm near Ludlow.  That same year his two sisters moved north to Pitlochry in Scotland and later Downton moved north to be with them and work on the land of the local farmer.

Portrait of a Woman by John Downton (1940)

When the war ended Downton moved south and took up residence in the Kent town of Sevenoaks.  He remained there for two years but then returned to Cambridge where he stayed until 1964 but when his lease ran out on the property he was renting in 1971 he moved back to Sevenoaks and rented a large ground floor flat with a cellar, close to where his sisters, Hilda and Mary were then living.  Mary became very ill with asthma in 1986 and died.   In December 1990 a water pipe burst in the cellar and caused a flood which partly destroyed some of his books and manuscripts he had stored in the room.  He struggled to save and move the heavy boxes of books and this exertion damaged his heart.  He was confined to hospital for two weeks and on discharge went to live with his sister, Hilda, who looked after him during his final days.  John Downton died on July 31st 1991, aged 85.

John never married but was in no way a recluse as his time was taken up with his painting and his love of music.  He had many friends who valued his company.  His sister, Hilda died in 2006, aged 104.

British Victorian Art and the Maas Gallery, London. Part 2.

My second blog continues to look at some of the Victorian paintings which were on show at the Maas Gallery in London.

The Last Song of the Girondins by Claude Andrew Calthrop (1868)

The first painting I am displaying in Part 2 is one by the English artist Claude Andrew Calthrop.  Calthrop was born in Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding, Lincolnshire, on December 20th 1844, the youngest son of James Thompson Calthrop, a farmer and grazier, and his wife, Edna (née Knowles).  Calthrop attended the Merchant Taylors’ School, in the City of London, but, by 1861, had transferred to King’s College School. From there, he then studied art at Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, where in December 1864, he was awarded a silver medal for the best drawing from life and a gold medal and a scholarship for £50 for the best historical painting, a biblical one, depicting a subject from the Book of Job. He went on to exhibit at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Academy.  At first, Claude Calthrop concentrated on history paintings depicting episodes of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Later he changed to depictions of contemporary life, portraiture and genre scenes.

Today’s painting, Last Song of the Girondins, was completed and submitted by Calthrop to the Royal Academy exhibition in 1868.  It depicts a scene from the French Revolution and the Jacobins, an anti-Royalist grouping formed mainly of two prominent parliamentary factions, the Montagnards, lead by Robespierre and the Girondins lead by Jacques-Pierre Brissot.  The Montagnards referred to those who occupied the higher benches in both the Jacobin club and the national legislature. Those who sat on these high benches were generally more radical in their ideology and their policies, while those who sat further down were usually more moderate. The conflict between the Girondins and Montagnards came to a head in the spring of 1793. The catalyst for this was the trial of Louis XVI

Detail from The Last Song of the Girondins by Claude Andrew Calthrop

The two factions fell out and in 1793, the Girondins were charged with conspiring against the Republic by the Montagnards.  They were all immediately found guilty in a show trial, and just before midnight on the October 30th 1793, they were sentenced to death. The following morning, the twenty-one convicted men were taken by cart from the dungeons of the Conciergerie to the guillotine. Defiant to the end, the prisoners, led by Brissot, started to sing the Marseillaise and as each was beheaded, the sound of the song dwindled to silence, until the very last Girondin was executed.  The twenty-one died in a space of thirty-six minutes and this heralded in the Reign of Terror.

Of Calthrop’s painting, the art critic for Bell’s Weekly Messenger, described it as:

“…a more difficult scene to portray could scarcely have been chosen; but he has given individuality to each character, whilst he has managed the processional grouping with an ease which says much for his appropriate idea of detail. The manner, too, in which the general scheme is worked out by means of a happy blending of colour, is also appropriate. The handling is minute, without being laboured; and the tone, kept down, to represent the vault from which the prisoners are about to emerge, is as sober as the scene is sad. We shall expect, after such a specimen as this, to note Mr C Calthrop’s rise in his profession…”

Ruskin in his Turret Brantwood by William Collingwood

William Gershom Collingwood, a writer and artist, was born in Liverpool in 1854. He had always liked the Lake District and had accompanied his father there on sketching tours.   He received his early education at Liverpool College and at the age of eighteen went to University College, Oxford, where he first met John Ruskin. During the summer of 1873 Collingwood visited Ruskin at his Lake District house, Brantwood.  Ruskin had bought the somewhat dilapidated house in Coniston in August 1871.  Brantwood was Ruskin’s main home from 1872 until his death in 1900.  Ruskin oversaw many renovations to Brantwood including adding a turret to his bedroom which gave him a panoramic view of the lake

Brantwood as it looks today.

Later Collingwood was working at Brantwood with Ruskin and his associates. Ruskin was impressed with Collingwood’s draughtsmanship, and so he influenced Collingwood to study at the Slade School of Art between 1876 and 1878. Collingwood exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880.  For many years Collingwood dedicated his life to helping Ruskin and lived at Branston, taking on the role as Ruskin’s personal assistant.   In 1883 Collingwood married Edith Mary Isaac and the couple lived close to Ruskin in the Lake District. Collingwood went on to edit many of Ruskin’s texts and published a biography of Ruskin in 1893.

Michelangelo Nursing his Dying Servant by Frederic, Lord Leighton (c.1862)

In this 1857 watercolour painting by Frederic, Lord Leighton, we have a depiction a young man supporting and comforting an older man.  It is a tender and compassionate scene.  The old man, a servant, is Urbino and the benevolent person with his arm around the old man’s shoulder is his master, Michelangelo.  Leighton has fashioned the depiction similar to many religious depictions of The Deposition, the cradling of the dead Christ after being brought down from the cross.  A number of years later Leighton completed a copy of the work in oils.

Kathleen by James Tissot

This is an unfinished watercolour portrait of Kathleen Newton by the French painter James Tissot.  She was his favourite model who also became his lover.  The story of artist and model is fascinating and I covered it in my blog, James Tissot and Kathleen Newton ten years ago.

Quiet by James Tissot

This watercolour is thought to be a preliminary sketch which Tissot used when he worked on his painting entitled Quiet. This was one of Tissot’s most famous pictures of Kathleen and it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881.  Kathleen is depicted sitting on a bench in the garden at Tissot’s house in Grove End Road with one of her children and a pet dog.  The depiction of Kathleen in Quiet shows her in a similar pose as in the unfinished watercolour sketch. 

My next offerings were paintings by the prolific English Victorian painter William Lionel Wylie, an artist of maritime themes which he painted in both oils and watercolours.

W L Wylie

William Lionel Wyllie, better known as W.L.Wylie, who was born on July 5th 1851 at 67 Albany Street, Camden Town, London.  He was the elder of two sons of a prosperous minor-genre painter, French-born English William Morrison Wyllie, who at the time of the birth of his son, was living in London.  His younger brother Charles William Wylie was also a talented painter.  William Jnr. received a first-class artistic education, studying firstly at the Heatherley School of Fine Art, and then in 1866, when he was aged fifteen, at the Royal Academy Schools, where he studied under some of the great artists of the time like Edwin Landseer, John Everett Millais and Frederic Leighton.

Dawn After a Storm by W.L.Wylie (1869)

His artistic talent showed through with his 1869 painting entitled Dawn After a Storm which won him the Turner Gold Medal. He was just eighteen years old.

Landing the Catch, Portel Sands by W.L. Wylie (1875)

William Wylie submitted his painting Landing the Catch, Portel Sands, in 1875.  Wylie who had success at submitting his work to the Royal Academy’s Exhibitions the previous years was horrified and disillusioned  to have his work rejected by the Exhibition jurists.  It was the first time this had happened to him in seven years.  He swore that he would give up painting and go off to sea.

  His parents once had a summer home at Wimereux, a coastal town just north of Boulogne and just to the south was Portel Sands which is depicted in his painting.  This painting depicts fishermen landing their catch on the beach at low tide.  The scene is lit up by the blazing sun overhead.

Shrimpers Hauling to Windward by W.L. Wylie

Wylie’s painting entitled Shrimpers Hauling to Windward is a small work (58 x 71 cms) and is looked upon as one of Wylie’s masterpieces of maritime art.  It appeared at the Royal Academy in 1905.  It is a work full of movement, air, and light. It depicts a sea reach, which is the last bit of river before it meets the sea.  To the right we see the submerged mud bank. The last of the shrimper fleet heads towards land, hard on the starboard tack in the channel, battling against both wind and the current, whilst the leading boats have already made it to the inner harbour and protection against the elements. 

The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805 by W.L. Wylie

Wylie’s small painting featuring the Shrimpers which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1905, was overshadowed by another of Wyllie’s works, the monumental (148 x 272 cms) painting of Trafalgar on the centenary of the battle. The art press and critics alike stated that this large maritime depiction ‘stole the show’.

A Walk in the Country by John Ritchie (1863)

Little is known about the artist who created the painting above, simply entitled A Day in the Country.  The artist is John Ritchie and we know he is Scottish and was born around 1821.  The difficulty in unearthing facts about his life is strange as he did exhibit his work at such hallowed establishments as the Scottish Academy, Liverpool Academy and the Royal Academy in London.  He began to exhibit his work in 1840 when he was nineteen years old.  One of the artists who influenced Ritchie was John Brett (see earlier painting in Part 1).  His painting, A Day in the Country, was exhibited at the Liverpool Academy in 1863 and depicts a farmer taking a stroll on his land and checking on the forestry management with, in the middle-ground, some of his workers hauling away a felled tree. In the foreground we see the exposed roots of a large old oak tree.  Rabbits have nibbled at the roots and the bark and have burrowed under the sandy bank beneath the tree.  Besides checking on the tree-felling he is carrying a shotgun and is also hunting the rabbits that are damaging his trees.  To the left we see one of his men collecting the body of a rabbit his boss has killed.

Pensive by Sir George Clausen (1895)

The painting above is by George Clausen, an artist I have dedicated two blogs to back in 2015. This work is his beautiful and sensitive portrait of a young woman which he completed in 1895 and originally it was entitled Pensive but later was given the name Cinderella on the behest of David Croal Thomson, an Edinburgh-born art dealer and critic, who was based mainly in London, managing the London branch of the prestigious Goupil Gallery. Thomson advised Clausen that such a change of name would add a touch of romanticism to the work.  The painting was shown at the New Gallery in 1896 and the critic for the Pall Mall Gazette praised the work saying that Clausen had captured a creature exquisitely tender in nature.  The girl who modelled for the painting was Lizzie Deller a girl from Widdington, Essex.

Although the exhibition at the Maas Gallery has finished by the time you read these two blogs, I just wanted to remind you of the benefits one gets when you call in and look around these private “selling” galleries.

The Allure of Dieppe for the Great Artists

Dieppe

Dieppe is a coastal town in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of northern France.  It is a seaport on the English Channel at the mouth of the river Arques, which is famous for its scallops, and has a regular ferry service to Newhaven in England, Dieppe has a popular pebbled beach, a fifteenth century castle and the churches of Saint-Jacques and Saint-Remi.  In my blog today I am looking at the French town and its association with French and British artists who made the coastal town a favoured meeting place.  The cross-Channel connection between the artists of the two countries came about with the British contingent arriving in Dieppe from London by way of Brighton or Newhaven.  One of the earliest travellers on this route was the English marine and landscape painter, etcher, illustrator, author and a leading member of the Norwich School of painters, John Sell Cotman, who arrived in the French town in 1817. The crossing from Brighton had taken him forty-two hours.

Dieppe from the Heights to the East of the Port by John Sell Cotman (1923)

Cotman was born in Norwich, the son of a silk merchant and lace dealer.  He was educated at the Norwich Grammar School where he displayed an early talent for art. Although it was intended that he followed his father into the family business John was determined to achieve a career in art and moved to London in 1798, where he met artists such as J. M. W. Turner, Peter de Wint and Thomas Girtin, whose sketching club he joined.

The-Chateau of Dieppe and the Prison, Normandy, seen from the Beach by John Sell Cotman (1817)

Cotman travelled to Dieppe in 1817 and 1818. On his initial trip he arrived at the French port on June 20th and stayed five days at the Hotel de Londres.  On his second visit the following June, he just remained long enough to pass customs formalities, renew friendships and then set off inland.

East End of the Church of St Jacques at Dieppe, by John Sell Cotman (1819)

One interesting painting featuring a building in Dieppe by Cotman is his 1819 painting entitled East End of the Church of St Jacques at Dieppe.  The church was built in the late twelfth century to become a stage for the pilgrims of the way to Saint Jacques de Compostela.  The church is seen from a close angle.  Cotman’s viewpoint is in a confined street at the rear of the building and must have been challenging to try to sketch it.  Because of this difficulty, Cotman reduced the height of the structure in his depiction.   To the left we see the buttresses with an open square to the right, and a ramshackle lean-to building against the walls in front.  In the foreground two women are seen driving a donkey loaded with panniers of laundry.

East end of the Church of St Jacques at Dieppe today

Another English artist who visited Dieppe was Turner.

Dieppe Harbour by J.L.Turner (1826)

Joseph Mallord William Turner visited the French fishing port of Dieppe, in Normandy, on two occasions making preliminary sketches, before he completed his painting, The Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile​, at his London studio.  Although modernisation had come to Dieppe in the form of steamboats, Turner chose to exclude them from the depiction and instead focused on the vibrancy brought about by the  arrival of hundreds of people parading along the quayside which is glowing in the sunlight.  This bright golden tones of the depiction was criticised by journalists of the time considering them more appropriate to a southern climate. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition and is now part of the Frick Collection in New York.

Changement de Domicile

The French subtitle Turner assigned the painting, Changement de Domicile meaning change of home address may refer to the couple in the right foreground, who we see loading or maybe, unloading household objects from a boat. Turner completed the painting in 1826, a year after exhibiting it in the Royal Academy, along with its companion piece Cologne: The Arrival of a Packet Boat: Evening, one set at dawn, the other at dusk. As with most of Turner’s paintings, the composition was drawn from sketches made in situ, dating back to his 1821 trip to France.

Chateau d’Arques by Turner
Chateau d’Arques by Turner

Turner completed a number of watercolour paintings featuring the Chateau d’Arques, which is situated seven kilometres south-east of Dieppe. It is a 12th-century castle in the commune of Arques-la-Bataille in the Seine-Maritime département of France.

L’Hotel Royal, Dieppe by Walter Sickert (1894)

Another artist who depicted the French coastal town in his paintings was the German-born English painter, Walter Sickert.  Sickert was fascinated with this popular Normandy resort and was a regular visitor for over forty years.  He was so much in love with the town that he lived there between 1898 and 1905.

Dieppe Harbour by Walter Sickert

Sickert’s first trip to the French coastal was shortly after he married Ellen Cobden and was with his new wife during their honeymoon in 1885.  His first depictions of Dieppe were of the harbour and beach scenes.

Le Pollet, Dieppe by Walter Sickert

For Sickert, the town of Dieppe became too popular with visitors during the summer months and so he steered clear of the bustling tourist streets and spent time amid the local fishing community which lay east of the harbour, which was known as known as Le Pollet, a district of Dieppe located in the valley, on the right bank of the mouth of the coastal river Arques which flows into the English Channel.

In Sickert’s House, Neuville by Harold Gilman (1907)

In 1899, soon after his separation from his first wife Ellen Cobden, Sickert settled with a local fisherwoman named Augustine Villain and her family in Neuville, a suburb just beyond Le Pollet. An artist friend of Sickert, Harold Gilman, and his family stayed in Sickert’s house at Neuville, outside Dieppe, from the summer of 1907 and whilst there, he took the opportunity to depict the interior of the house.

The Blind Sea Captain by Walter Sickert (1914)

The friendships Sickert developed whilst living in Neuville and Le Pollet were very different to the circle of friends he had made in the more up-market area west of the town. He even learnt to speak in the ancient dialect of the fishing community and many of his works depicted the local people of the area.

Pays de Caux by Richard Parkes Bonington (1823)

Cauchois is a prominent dialect of the Norman language. The Pays de Caux is one of the remaining strongholds of the Norman language.  One of the main towns of this large area is Dieppe.  The English Romantic landscape painter, Richard Parkes Bonington, had moved to France at the age of 14 and so, is often considered to be a French artist.  His landscapes were mostly of coastal scenes, with a low horizon and large sky, which highlighted the brilliant way he handled light and atmosphere.   In his painting, Pays de Caux: Twilight, we see before us a wide empty seascape at twilight, with some cliffs to the left, and with it being low tide we are able to see the flat beach which stretches into the distance.  The horizon is low, and the pale, cloudy sky almost overwhelms the painting.  In the central foreground there is a dark group of figures on the shore.

The Fish Market, Dieppe by Louis-Gabriel-Eugene Isabey (1845)

It was not just the works of English painters who featured life in Dieppe. The French painters also selected the town for their depictions. Louis-Gabriele-Eugène Isabey was among the first of the nineteenth-century French painters to be stimulated by Dieppe and the Normandy coast.  Although the title of this work suggests a fish market in Dieppe it is thought that Isabey was influenced more by the Dutch and Flemish still life paintings.  The painting illustrates Isabey’s competent use of shadows and darker tones, which results in a contrast with the more brightly lit areas, such as the fish stall.  It also creates an effect of distant space, framing the clifftop chateau which we can just about see in the background.

The Harbour of Dieppe by Charles-François Daubigny (1877)
The Port of Dieppe by Daubigny (1866)
Fishing Harbour Dieppe by Daubigny

The French painter, Charles-François Daubigny, also completed many depictions of Dieppe Harbour.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the city of Dieppe was a magnet for artists who wanted to depict its pebbled beaches, colourful harbour, and the many Renaissance château around and about. The great artists such as Turner, Delacroix, Daubigny, Pissarro, and Whistler all stayed for a time in the northern French town, which was a centre of transportation between Paris and London with it being positioned on the English Channel in Normandy.

Henry Clay Frick

The wealthy industrialist, financier and avid art collector, Henry Clay Frick, had bought paintings depicting views of Dieppe by Daubigny and Turner in 1904 and 1914, respectively which were then put on show in his New York Gallery. 

The Frick Collection, New York.

The Frick Gallery has now added a third, View of Dieppe Harbour, an 1873 watercolour and graphite drawing of the French city by the French painter, Antoine Vollon.  The Frick Collection received the work from the pre-eminent Vollon scholar, Dr. Carol Forman Tabler, in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander A. Forman III.

View of Dieppe Harbour by Antoine Vollon (1873)

This watercolour by Vollon depicts a panoramic view of the city from the southern side of the port’s inner harbour, looking north. At the centre, we see the Gothic church of St. Jacques. To the left we catch a glimpse of Dieppe’s white cliffs and the château rises in the distance.  This vantage point used by Vollon afforded him a view not of the usual scenic beaches and magnificent ships but instead we see rough-hewn buildings and small fishing boats. We see the masts of the tiny figures of the fishermen on the shore. The two women in the foreground wear the headdresses, billowing skirts, and clogs which were typical of female attire of the residents of Le Pollet.

Harbour Scene, Dieppe (Le Port de Dieppe) by Gaugin (1885)

Paul Gaugin completed his painting entitled Le Port de Dieppe in 1885.  It depicts choppy sea in the foreground, which he painted in pale greens, blues and yellows. Through the middle-ground we see a number of small sailing boats moored in the harbour.  There are buildings on the quayside, some of which are coloured pale yellow, blue or white.  In the background to the left is the church of Notre Dame des Greves.

L’Eglise de Varengeville à Contre-Jour by Monet (1882)

Monet completed his painting The Church at Varengeville, Grey Weather, (L’Eglise de Varengeville à Contre Jour) in 1882. Monet loved painting depictions of the sea and the cliffs and he knew that this subject matter was guaranteed to appeal to Parisian collectors. He often travelled to the Normandy coast in the north of France during the 1880s, painting rocky shorelines and breathtaking vistas in the popular tourist towns of Dieppe, Étretat, and Pourville. In nearby Varengeville-sur-Mer, five miles west of Dieppe, Monet came across this mariners’ church perched atop a steep cliff overlooking the English Channel. He set up his easel on a hillside opposite the church and painted three versions of this scene at various times of day and under different atmospheric conditions.  He was to use this system later with his depictions of his haystacks and Rouen Cathedral series of the 1890s.

The Shore, Pourville by James McNeil Whistler (1899)

Lying just west of Dieppe is a former fishing village, which became Pourville-sur-Mer in the early nineteenth century.  It was a popular resort in Normandy. The village attracted many talented artists, one of which was Claude Monet, who completed several landscapes paintings of the area. 

In the summer of 1899, James McNeil Whistler stayed with his ward, Rosalind Birnie-Philip, and her mother at the Pavillon Madeleine, Pourville-sur-Mer, whilst he was convalescing from a recurrent illness. Apart from brief excursions elsewhere, he remained from the end of July until 26th October. While he was there, he painted a series of nine small seascapes on panel, thinly brushed, and subdued but refined in colour.

View of Dieppe by Spencer Gore (1906)

Spencer Frederick Gore was a British painter of landscapes, music-hall scenes and interiors, usually with single figures. He was the first president of the Camden Town Group and was influenced by the Post-Impressionists.  He seems to have first visited Dieppe in 1904 whilst on a trip to the Normandy coast with Albert Rutherston and Walter Russell. Rutherston, who knew Walter Sickert through his elder brother, suggested that they visit him there, and thus two of the key figures of the Camden Town circle met for the first time. In 1906, the year of the painting, Walter Sickert lent Gore his house in Dieppe for the summer, and during this trip Gore produced a number of studies of the town. In his 1906 work entitled View of Dieppe which depicts a view overlooking the town, it can be seen that Gore was gradually exploring the broken brushstrokes and concentrated colour that he so much admired in the paintings of his friend Lucien Pissarro.

Beach Scene, Dieppe by Charles Conder (1895)

Charles Edward Conder, an English-born painter, lithographer and designer, was born in Tottenham, Middlesex in 1868. He emigrated to Australia and was a key figure in the Heidelberg School, arguably the beginning of a distinctively Australian tradition in Western art.

Dieppe by Charles Conder

He spent several years as a young child in India until the death of his mother in Bombay, when Charles was four/ He was then sent back to England and attended a number of schools including a boarding school at Eastbourne, which he attended from 1877.  He left school in 1883, at the age of fifteen and his father decided that his son should follow in his footsteps as a civil engineer.  The following year Charles Conder was sent to Sydney, Australia, where he worked for his uncle, a land surveyor for the New South Wales government. Charles hated the work although he enjoyed painting and sketching landscapes. In 1886, he left the job and became an artist for the “Illustrated Sydney News”.

Dieppe by Charles Conder

In 1890, he moved to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian, where he befriended several avant-garde artists. He spent the rest of his life in Europe, mainly Britain, but visiting France on many occasions.  In 1895, Conder came to Dieppe, attempting to socialise among the artistic.

I could go on and on but decided to stop here. It is places like Dieppe that inspire painters and I hope one day you too will find the perfect place to take out your easel and brushes and bring the place to life with your depictions.