ARTIST GLOSSARY

20th Century

 

RICHARD ANUSZKIEWICZ

With a name synonymous with the Op Art movement, Richard Anuskiewicz first achieved international fame when he was included in a 1965 survey of “optical art” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Today he is recognized as one of the foremost colorists in American art, creating huge large-scale canvases.

He was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and trained at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1948 to 1953 and then with Josef Albers at Yale University where he earned an M.F.A. degree in 1955.  Albers stirred his interest in the effects of color on perception but Anuszkiewicz did not actively pursue this matter until the 1960s when he worked in repeated geometric patterns, emanating in wave-like shapes from the center of the canvas.

In the 1970s, much of his work looked like computer printouts and were intended to investigate the effects of juxtaposed full intensity colors.  Unlike many Op-Art artists, his paintings are pleasing to the eye with smooth surfaces, and they give the impression that the design will continue beyond the framed edges.

In January 1999, a retrospective of his work was held at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida.

MARC CHAGALL

Marc Chagall was a Russian-born French painter and designer, distinguished for his surrealistic inventiveness. He is recognized as one of the most significant painters and graphic artists of the 20th century. His work treats subjects in a vein of humor and fantasy that draws deeply on the resources of the unconscious. Chagall’s personal and unique imagery is often suffused with exquisite poetic inspiration.

Chagall was born July 7, 1887, in Vitsyebsk, Russia (now in Belarus), and was educated in art in Saint Petersburg and, from 1910, in Paris, where he remained until 1914. Between 1915 and 1917 he lived in Saint Petersburg; after the Russian Revolution he was director of the Art Academy in Vitsyebsk from 1918 to 1919 and was art director of the Moscow Jewish State Theater from 1919 to 1922. Chagall painted several murals in the theater lobby and executed the settings for numerous productions. In 1923, he moved to France, where he spent the rest of his life, except for a period of residence in the United States from 1941 to 1948. He died in St. Paul de Vence, France, on March 28, 1985.

Chagall’s distinctive use of color and form is derived partly from Russian expressionism and was influenced decisively by French cubism. Crystallizing his style early, as in Candles in the Dark (1908, artist’s collection), he later developed subtle variations. His numerous works represent characteristically vivid recollections of Russian-Jewish village scenes, as in I and the Village (1911, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), and incidents in his private life, as in the print series Mein Leben (German for “My Life,”1922), in addition to treatments of Jewish subjects, of which The Praying Jew (1914, Art Institute of Chicago) is one.His works combine recollection with folklore and fantasy. Biblical themes characterize a series of etchings executed between 1925 and 1939, illustrating the Old Testament, and the 12 stained-glass windows in the Hadassah Hospital of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem (1962).

In 1973 Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall (National Museum of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message) was opened in Nice, France, to house hundreds of his biblical works. Chagall executed many prints illustrating literary classics. A canvas completed in 1964 covers the ceiling of the Opéra in Paris, and two large murals (1966) hang in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. 

SALVADOR DALI

Dalí, Salvador (1904-89): Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and designer. After passing through phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting, he joined the Surrealists in 1929 and his talent for self-publicity rapidly made him the most famous representative of the movement. Throughout his life he cultivated eccentricity and exhibitionism (one of his most famous acts was appearing in a diving suit at the opening of the London Surrealist exhibition in 1936), claiming that this was the source of his creative energy. He took over the Surrealist theory of automatism but transformed it into a more positive method which he named `critical paranoia’.

According to this theory one should cultivate genuine delusion as in clinical paranoia while remaining residually aware at the back of one’s mind that the control of the reason and will has been deliberately suspended. He claimed that this method should be used not only in artistic and poetical creation but also in the affairs of daily life. His paintings employed a meticulous academic technique that was contradicted by the unreal `dream’ space he depicted and by the strangely hallucinatory characters of his imagery. He described his pictures as `hand-painted dream photographs’ and had certain favorite and recurring images, such as the human figure with half-open drawers protruding from it, burning giraffes, and watches bent and flowing as if made from melting wax (The Persistence of Memory, MOMA, New York; 1931).

In 1937 Dalí visited Italy and adopted a more traditional style; this together with his political views (he was a supporter of General Franco) led Breton to expel him from the Surrealist ranks. He moved to the USA in 1940 and remained there until 1955. During this time he devoted himself largely to self-publicity; his paintings were often on religious themes (The Crucifixion of St John of the Cross, Glasgow Art Gallery, 1951), although sexual subjects and pictures centering on his wife Gala were also continuing preoccupations. In 1955 he returned to Spain and in old age became a recluse.

Apart from painting, Dalí’s output included sculpture, book illustration, jewellery design, and work for the theatre. In collaboration with the director Luis Buñuel he also made the first Surrealist films—Un chien andalou (1929) and L’Age d’or (1930)—and he contributed a dream sequence to Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945). He also wrote a novel, Hidden Faces (1944) and several volumes of flamboyant autobiography. Although he is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, his status is controversial; many critics consider that he did little if anything of consequence after his classic Surrealist works of the 1930s. There are museums devoted to Dalí’s work in Figueras, his home town in Spain, and in St Petersburg in Florida.

WILLEM DE KOONING

Willem de Kooning moved to the United States, from the Netherlands, in 1927 to pursue his goal of being a career artist.  After a short stint working with the Works Project Administration, de Kooning was working in New York along with many other artists which came to be known as the New York School.  This like-minded group of artists worked to create the American style of art, and attempted to legitimize American art.  The New York School was comprised of several notable modern artists including Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollack, to name a few.

De Kooning was involved with the New York-based Abstract Expressionists, who stressed the importance of spontaneity of ‘gestural’ painting where colors is splashed or dribbled onto the canvas. Unlike many members of this group, however, de Kooning did not restrict himself to pure abstraction; his overriding subject has been human (particularly female) figure.  De Kooning strongly opposed the restrictions imposed by naming movements and, while generally considered to be an Abstract Expressionist, he never fully abandoned the depiction of the human figure.  Heavily influenced by the Cubism of Picasso, de Kooning became a master at ambiguously blending figure and ground in his pictures while dismembering, re-assembling and distorting his figures in the process.

In 1963, de Kooning moved from New York City to Springs, in East Hampton, Long Island.  The light and landscape of East Hampton reminded him of his native Holland, and the change in environment was reflected in his work.  His colors softened and figures became loosely painted and fleshy.  In the early 1970’s he explored both sculpture and lithography, producing a sizable body of work while continuing to paint and draw.  In this period, more graphic elements appear in his paintings, some with flat applications of paint as opposed to a more painterly approach.  His lithographs seem to reflect the influence of Japanese ink drawing and calligraphy as many exhibit a newly gained sense of open space, which in turn is also reflected in some of the paintings.  

His works have been included in thousands of exhibitions and are in the permanent collections of many of the finest art institutions including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

JIM DINE

Dine is inspired by the power of simple images to be both familiar and symbolic. His repetitions of tools, bathrobes, or hearts are easily understood by the viewer, while also suggesting deeper layers of meaning. He often works with subjects and images from his childhood, giving his work both a sense of innocence and shared nostalgia.  Jim Dine has created a vocabulary out of subjects that have a child-like appeal, such as tools, birds, and hearts. These personally nostalgic symbols are also commonplace and universal, creating work that is both autobiographical and open to interpretation. Dine was also instrumental in the first “Happenings,” a progenitor of Performance art. These Happenings challenged the seriousness and elitism of Abstract Expressionism, de-emphasizing the art object in favor of a performative, interactive, process. Over his career, Dine has both questioned the status of the artwork and continued a tradition of making work full of symbolism and allegory.

 

Jim Dine studied at the University of Cincinnati and the Boston Museum School, and received his B.F.A. from Ohio University, Athens, where he was also enrolled in the graduate program. Dine moved to New York City in 1958, where he had his first group (1959) and solo (1960) exhibitions. He instantly became an active figure in the New York art world, creating and staging many of the first “Happenings” along with artists Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman. Since his first solo exhibition in 1960, Dine’s paintings, sculptures, photography, and prints have been the subject of nearly 300 solo exhibitions worldwide. In 2008, Dine became the first contemporary artist invited to exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

 

Dine’s work is held in more than 70 important public collections worldwide, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Cleveland Museum of Art; Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Japan; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum; Amsterdam; Tate Gallery; London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 

SAM FRANCIS

His experiments with borders and the containment of washes of color would inform his work for decades, as he became increasingly concerned with the differences between solids and voids, boundaries and fields.

 

Native Californian painter and printmaker, Sam Francis is most noted for his use of dynamic forms saturated with intense color amidst spaces of white.  He studied medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkley, but joined the Air Force in 1943.  Francis began painting during a prolonged hospitalization due to spinal tuberculosis.  Upon his return to the United States, he pursued his art education at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and again at U.C. Berkley.  Abstract Expressionism and French Impressionism influenced his early paintings, and most likely compelled him to move to Paris in 1950 where he remained for ten years.  While there, he quickly exhibited his work in solo and group shows, earning him a reputation as a “tachiste” painter (meaning “stain” or “splash”), a group of painters that preferred to accentuate brilliant color through painterly strokes.  After a highly successful stint in Paris, including shows at the Museum of Modern Art (1956) and the 1959 Bienal de Sao Paolo, Francis again returned to California in 1961 where he lived for the remainder of his life.  In addition to his contemporary Western influences, the interplay of negative space and bursts of color can be attributed to his study of Japanese calligraphy art during his frequent visits to his vacation home in Japan.

 

Francis’ works have been exhibited in multitudes of international galleries and museums, including the New Tate Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, Japan, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

HELEN FRANKENTHALER

Throughout her long career, Helen Frankenthaler experimented tirelessly, and, in addition to unique paintings on canvas and paper, she worked in a wide range of media, including ceramics, sculpture, tapestry, and especially printmaking. Hers was a significant voice in the mid-century “print renaissance” among American abstract painters, and she is particularly renowned for her woodcuts.  In 1987, Frankenthaler accepted an invitation to come to Barcelona and work with master printer Joan de Muga at Ediciones Poligrafa.  During a 10-day period Frankenthaler began 4 mixed-media works combining lithography (4 aluminum plates) and etching and drypoint (one copper plate).  Joan de Muga made 6 visits to Frankenthaler’s studios in New York and Connecticut in the following months brining proofs; Frankenthaler made corrections and gave precise instructions on the way she wanted them printed.  The edition was printed after she was finally satisfied with her changes.  The result is a large, rich, complex and beautiful work.  The signed impressions were sold by Galeria Joan Prats; the artist’s proofs were Frankenthaler’s. 

 

Frankenthaler, whose career spanned six decades, has long been recognized as one of the great American artists of the twentieth century. Heir of first-generation Abstract Expressionism, she brought together in her work a conception of the canvas as both a formalized field and an arena for gestural drawing. She was eminent among the postwar American abstract painters and is widely credited for playing a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. One of the foremost colorists of our time, she produced a body of work whose impact on contemporary art has been profound.  During the 1950s, Frankenthaler defined her personal style, moving away from abstract expressionism to develop a new technique: pouring thinned pigment onto unprimed canvas.  This pouring technique created abstract fields, or shapes, of color, simplifications of scenes in nature, and achieved a dynamic lyricism that claims the picture space.  Frankenthaler’s stained paintings, based on real or imaginary landscapes, epitomize her art.

 

In addition to teaching at New York, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities, Frankenthaler has had numerous one-person exhibitions, including retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and tour, in 1993 (prints); the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, in 2003 (works on paper).

ROBERT INDIANA

Robert Indiana is one of the most recognized names in Contemporary and Pop Art, his LOVE sculptures, paintings, and prints are by far his most iconic pieces.  It all began in the summer of 1965, when The Museum of Modern Art commissioned Indiana to design its Christmas card.  He submits LOVE in four color possibilities; the museum selects the red, blue, and green version.  In 1967 he produces three serigraphs of LOVE, and two serigraphs of LOVE Wall. During the next two years, produces other serigraph variations on LOVE, with more following in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1982, and 1991.  Indiana’s LOVE motif has since been translated into a US postage stamp as well as numerous large-scale steel sculptures across the world. In September 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosted the artist’s first retrospective in New York, “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE.”

Robert “Indiana” was born Robert Earl Clark in New Castle, Indiana, September 13, 1928.  Soon thereafter, he is taken to Richmond, Indiana, to live with caretakers until his adoption by Earl Clark and Carmen Watters Clark, who resided in Indianapolis. The Clark family moved and travelled extensively in Robert’s youth, “Indiana” recalls moving 21 times in the first 19 years of his life.  He was a relatively sickly child but was able to thrive, throughout his school-years, Robert has several small successes in his artistic and scholastic endeavors.  He received a Scholastic Art and Writing Award to attend the John Herron Art Institute; he chooses instead to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps, his years in the military is when Robert adopted his name Robert “Indiana”.  After being discharged from the Army, Indiana enters the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 1954.  That same year, with the encouragement of his friend Ellsworth Kelly, Indiana moves to New York City, living in close proximity to other notable artists of the time: Agnes Martin, Jack Youngerman, and James Rosenquist to name a few.  Over the following decades, the artist’s combination of hard-edge painting and Pop Art became increasingly important to the trajectory of contemporary art.  The artist currently lives and works in Vinalhaven, ME. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., among others.

ALEX KATZ

In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. In 1965, he also embarked on a prolific career in printmaking. Katz would go on to produce many editions in lithography, etching, silkscreen, woodcut and linoleum cut. After 1964, Katz increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s, portraying the social world of painters, poets, critics, and other colleagues that surrounded him. He began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor in the early 1960s, and he has painted many images of dancers throughout the years. In the 1980s, Katz took on a new subject in his work: fashion models in designer clothing.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Katz focused much of his attention on large landscape paintings, which he characterizes as “environmental.” Rather than observing a scene from afar, the viewer feels enveloped by nearby nature. Katz began each of these canvases with “an idea of the landscape, a conception,” trying to find the image in nature afterwards. In his landscape paintings, Katz loosened the edges of the forms, executing the works with greater painterliness than before in these allover canvases. In 1986, Katz began painting a series of night pictures—a sharp departure from the sunlit landscapes he had previously painted, forcing him to explore a new type of light. Variations on the theme of light falling through branches appear in Katz’s work throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. At the beginning of the new millennium, Katz also began painting flowers in profusion, covering canvases in blossoms similar to those he had first explored in the late 1960s, when he painted large close-ups of flowers in solitude or in small clusters. More recently Katz began painting a series of dancers and one of nudes.  Katz’s work continues to grow and evolve today.

Alex Katz’s work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951. His works can be found in over 100 public collections worldwide, including The Whitney Museum, MoMA, NYC, the Smithsonian, Washington DC, the Tate Gallery, London, the Art Institute of Chicago among others. 

SOL LEWITT

In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. In 1965, he also embarked on a prolific career in printmaking. Katz would go on to produce many editions in lithography, etching, silkscreen, woodcut and linoleum cut. After 1964, Katz increasingly portrayed groups of figures. He would continue painting these complex groups into the 1970s, portraying the social world of painters, poets, critics, and other colleagues that surrounded him. He began designing sets and costumes for choreographer Paul Taylor in the early 1960s, and he has painted many images of dancers throughout the years. In the 1980s, Katz took on a new subject in his work: fashion models in designer clothing.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Katz focused much of his attention on large landscape paintings, which he characterizes as “environmental.” Rather than observing a scene from afar, the viewer feels enveloped by nearby nature. Katz began each of these canvases with “an idea of the landscape, a conception,” trying to find the image in nature afterwards. In his landscape paintings, Katz loosened the edges of the forms, executing the works with greater painterliness than before in these allover canvases. In 1986, Katz began painting a series of night pictures—a sharp departure from the sunlit landscapes he had previously painted, forcing him to explore a new type of light. Variations on the theme of light falling through branches appear in Katz’s work throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. At the beginning of the new millennium, Katz also began painting flowers in profusion, covering canvases in blossoms similar to those he had first explored in the late 1960s, when he painted large close-ups of flowers in solitude or in small clusters. More recently Katz began painting a series of dancers and one of nudes.  Katz’s work continues to grow and evolve today.

Alex Katz’s work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951. His works can be found in over 100 public collections worldwide, including The Whitney Museum, MoMA, NYC, the Smithsonian, Washington DC, the Tate Gallery, London, the Art Institute of Chicago among others. 

HENRI MATISSE

Matisse considered his drawing to be a very intimate means of expression. The method of artistic execution — whether it was charcoal, pencil, crayon, etcher’s burin, lithographic tusche or paper cut — varied according to the subject and personal circumstance. His favorite subjects were evocative or erotic — the female form, the nude figure or a beautiful head of a favorite model.  Other themes relate to the real or imagined world of both Oceania and the Caribbean — the lagoons, the coral and the faces of beautiful women from these far-off lands. Matisse worked in various mediums simultaneously—sometimes setting one aside for years, taking it up again when a particular technique offered the possibility of a desired result.

Matisse’s etchings and drypoints were executed on a small scale with linear fluidity, giving them a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, like pages in a sketchbook.  Alternately, his lithographs were on a larger scale and made grander statements.  These lithographs exploited the tonal possibilities of the medium that allowed Matisse to achieve effects of volume and depth.

Matisse is highly regarded as a painter, of course, but he was also a dedicated draftsman and print maker.  In the graphic arts, he produced over 800 prints in a range of techniques, from woodcuts to lithography and etching. ‘He believed an artist should pursue multiple, creative approaches,’ says Adam McCoy, Vice President of the Prints department at Christie’s in New York.

‘People, understandably, praise Matisse as a master of color, but what his prints prove is that he could work just as expressively — and with just as much versatility — in black and white.’

Henri Matisse is widely regarded as the greatest colorist of the 20th century and as a rival to Pablo Picasso in the importance of his innovations. He emerged as a Post-Impressionist, and first achieved prominence as the leader of the French movement Fauvism. Although interested in Cubism, he rejected it, and instead sought to use color as the foundation for expressive, decorative, and often monumental paintings. As he once controversially wrote, he sought to create an art that would be “a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair.” Still life and the nude remained favorite subjects throughout his career; North Africa was also an important inspiration, and, towards the end of his life, he made an important contribution to collage with a series of works using cut-out shapes of color. He is also highly regarded as a sculptor.

JOAN MIRO

Joan Miró was one of the most critically acclaimed artists of the 20th century. He pioneered the transformation of the two-dimensional picture plane into a receptacle of personal dreams and imagery, characterized by the suppression of descriptive detail. As a painter, sculptor, ceramicist, muralist, and printmaker, he created a visual vocabulary unique in the 20th century and had an enormous impact on the course of modern art. Miró was a brilliantly innovative artist who absorbed and then went beyond all the major art movements of his formative years: Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism, and Surrealism.

Miró was strongly influenced by his Catalan heritage from the primary colors of local Romanesque frescoes to the curving, undulating lines and organic forms of Gaudi’s architecture. After moving to Paris in the 1920 he was strongly influenced by the Surrealists, in particular the concepts of automatism (allowing the subconscious to dictate forms) and the exploitation of accidents. His work of the 1920s and 1930s thrust him to the forefront of the Surrealist movement. He revered the Surrealist poets becoming close friends with many and later collaborating with them on many artists’ books, for which he contributed the illustrations to their poetry.

His interest in printmaking went beyond the books and he worked extensively in etching, aquatint, and lithography on small and large-scale works throughout his career. His vision of vast conceptual spaces populated by strange, playful organisms is a world that exists only in the dreams and desires of the imagination. It evolves out of an atmosphere of spontaneity in which the artist’s conception of reality is inseparable from his inner experience. His masterful use of color, his creation of a pictorial language which functioned as both symbol and design, and ultimately his achievement of an art in which emotion and form had become identical, are unique amongst the 20th century masters.

ROBERT MOTHERWELL

American painter, Robert Motherwell, was one of the founders and principal exponents of Abstract Expressionism, who was among the first American artists to cultivate accidental elements in his work.  A precocious youth, Motherwell received a scholarship to study art when he was 11 years old.  He preferred academic studies, however, and eventually took degrees in aesthetics from Stanford and Harvard universities.

Motherwell decided to become a serious artist only in 1941.  Although he was especially influenced by the Surrealist artists; Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and André Masson; he remained largely self-taught.  He received his first one-man show in 1944 at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York City.  In the mid-1940s, Motherwell painted abstract figurative works that showed the influence of Surrealism.  But in 1949 he painted the first in a series of works collectively entitled “Elegy to the Spanish Republic.”  He painted almost 150 versions of these “Elegies” in the next three decades.  These Abstract Expressionist paintings show his continuous development of a limited repertory of simple, serene, and massive forms that are applied in black paint to the picture plane in such a way that they generate a sense of slow, solemnly suggestive movement.

During the 1960s he painted in several different styles, so that such paintings as Africa (1964, 65; Baltimore Museum of Art) look like enlarged details of elegant calligraphy, while Indian Summer, #2 (1962, 64) combines the bravura brush-work typical of Abstract Expressionism with the broad areas of evenly applied color characteristic of the then-emerging Color Field* Painting style.  By the end of the decade, paintings in his Open series (1967, 69), he had abandoned Abstract Expressionism in favor of the new style. From 1958 to 1971 Motherwell was married to the American painter Helen Frankenthaler.  He taught art at Hunter College (1951, 58, 1971, 72), directed the publication of the series “The Documents of Modern Art” (1944, 52), and wrote numerous essays on art and aesthetics.  He was generally regarded as the most articulate spokesman for Abstract Expressionism. 

LOUISE NEVELSON

Louise Nevelson is one of America’s foremost artists, Nevelson’s sculpted wood assemblages transcended space and transformed the viewer’s perception of art. During the 1950s, she began to create unique arrangements contained in wooden frames amassed from a range of found objects—usually woodcuts or bits of furniture—that were then painted a uniform black, white, or gold, as seen in her seminal work Royal Tide I (1960). Louise Nevelson emerged in the art world amidst the dominance of the Abstract Expressionist movement. In her most iconic works, she utilized wooden objects that she gathered from urban debris piles to create her monumental installations – a process clearly influenced by the precedent of Marcel Duchamp’s found object sculptures and “ready-mades.”

Nevelson’s prints share with her sculpture an interest in silhouetted forms and the layering of elements, but distinguish themselves by their vivid color, depth and movement. Louise Nevelson experimented in several different print mediums. A 1963 Ford Foundation grant enabled June Wayne of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles, to extend an invitation to Nevelson. This initial collaboration led to twenty-six lithographs, mostly black with dark blue or red, which combined hand-drawn elements with printed lace. Nevelson returned to Tamarind in 1967 to complete sixteen large scale lithographs know as Double Imagery. In these lithographs, Nevelson played with landscapes of shadows and reflections using irregular shaped papers and a limited palette of black, red, grey and blue. 

For her brilliant compositions in varied mediums critics hailed her as the leading sculptor of the twentieth century.  A pioneering grand dame of the art works, Nevelson’s iconic persona was characterized by her skilled mixing and matching of ethnic clothing, mink eyelashes and especially her charismatic presence. Born Leah Berliawsky on September 23, 1899 in Pereyaslav, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Her family emigrated to the United States a few years after her birth, Nevelson moved to New York in 1920, and enrolled in the Art Students League in 1929. She went on to study with Hans Hofmann and worked as an assistant for Diego Rivera before her first solo at Nierendorf Gallery in 1941.  Today, her works are held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others.

PABLO PICASSO

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881. By the age of 15 he was already technically skilled in drawing and painting. Picasso’s highly original style continuously evolved throughout his long career, expanding the definition of what art could be. In addition to painting, he would explore sculpture, ceramics and other art forms, and become one of the most influential artists of the 1900s.

Paintings from Picasso’s blue period (1901-1904) depict forlorn people painted in shades of blue, evoking feelings of sadness and alienation. After his move to Paris in 1904, Picasso’s rose period paintings took on a warmer more optimistic mood. In 1907 he and French painter George Braque pioneered cubism.  By 1912 Picasso was incorporating newspaper print, postage stamps and other materials into his paintings. This style is called collage. By the late 1920s he turned toward a flat, cubist-related style. During the 1930s his paintings became militant and political. Guernica (1937), a masterpiece from this period depicts the terror of the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war.

Following World War II, Picasso’s work became less political and gentler. He spent the remaining years of his life in an exploration various historical styles of art, making several reproductions of the work of earlier artists.  Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at his home, Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougin, France. He was buried on April 10 at his castle Vauvenagues, 170 kilometers from Mougin.

JAMES ROSENQUIST

James Rosenquist, born in 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, is one of the most important American artists of our time. In 1955 Rosenquist left the Midwest for New York City, where he received his artistic training at the Art Students League amidst the popularity of Abstract Expressionism and artists such as Willem de Kooning. His artistic education led to a brief, but significant, career as a billboard painter, where he spent his days perched on scaffolding high above Times Square.

In the 1960’s Rosenquist transformed the visual language of commercial painting onto his canvases, filling his large-scale pictures with fragmented advertising imagery in bright Day-Glo colors. Rosenquist’s paintings of this era, such as the iconic F-111 (1965) in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, are pictorial critiques of contemporary American culture and he is considered a pioneer of the Pop Art movement along with fellow artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Rosenquist’s paintings since the 1970’s have retained his trademark aesthetic and focus primarily on geo-political, existential and environmental themes.

The work of James Rosenquist is represented in major private and public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tate Modern in London. Aside from his many gallery and museum exhibitions, James Rosenquist has had more than fifteen retrospectives, with two at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2003-2004 the Guggenheim Museum organized a retrospective that traveled to Houston, New York, Bilbao and Wolfsburg. His 2009 autobiography Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art is a best-seller.

DONALD SULTAN

Often Sultan’s works are very architectural and bold, but the imagery is very accessible, soft, and even fragile.  Using tar black as strong statement, and in many of his works it acts a contrast of positive and negative space, highlighting the subjects of the paintings.  Sultan’s works are often classified as still life’s because of his use of flowers, lemons, buttons etc., but he maintains that his work is abstract.  The New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith wrote, “Mr. Sultan is nothing if not a master of physical density, of the well-built image and the well-carpentered painting.  He seems particularly to love the way an implacable slab of material can be made to flip-flop into classically perfect, illusionistic form…” 

Donald Sultan grew up in Ashville, North Carolina, where in his youth he often worked in his father’s tire shop, where his comfort with the use of tar and other more industrial materials began.  After finishing his MFA degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, Donald Sultan moved to New York in 1975 to begin his career as an artist.  At first he was supporting himself by helping other artists construct lofts during the day and painting at night.  Sultan rose to prominence in the electrified atmosphere of New York’s downtown renaissance in the late 1970s as part of the “New Image” movement. 

As Sultan’s work started to attract media attention and receive critical acclaim, prominent galleries and museums around the world, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New York Museum of Modern Art, and the Houston Museum of Contemporary Art, began to include his paintings in their exhibitions.  Solo exhibitions were mounted at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Blum Helman Gallery in New York. In 1988, Sultan accepted a commission for an Absolut Vodka iconic art ad campaign, which began in the early 1980s when Andy Warhol created Absolut’s first commissioned artwork. In 1999, Sultan was invited to have a permanent exhibition of his works in various media at the trendy new hotel in Budapest, Hungary.  Aptly named Art’otel Budapest Donald Sultan, in was practically turned over to Sultan with a carte blanche to design everything from the fountains to the carpeting.

MARK TOBEY

Mark Tobey was an American, painter whose dense, calligraphic paintings in the “all over” style—later championed by Jackson Pollock—secured his reputation as a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism.  He was born on December 11, 1890 in Centerville, WI and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1906 to 1908.  Tobey moved to Seattle in 1922 and joined the faculty at the Cornish School of the Arts. He befriended Teng Baiye, who taught him Chinese calligraphy, and began his long relationship with the Seattle Art Museum and its director, Richard Fuller.  In 1931, Tobey began teaching at the experimental school Dartington Hall, in Devon, England.  Between terms, he traveled abroad, visiting Baha’i shrines in Haifa, a Japanese Zen monastery in Kyoto, and his friend Teng Baiye in Shanghai. Throughout his travels, he dedicated himself to studying Arabic calligraphy, Chinese brushwork, and Zen painting, calligraphy, and poetry. Tobey first employed the technique of calligraphic-style white line painting in 1935. He surprised himself, he wrote to the Callahans at the time, having created “a feeling of Hell under a lacy design—delicate as a Watteau in spirit but madness.”   Tobey returned to Seattle in early 1939 and began working with the local office of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, the time when Tobey became known as a member of the Northwest School. 

Working in practice that was more contemplative than most of his peers, he once observed, “I believe that painting should come through the avenues of meditation rather than the canals of action.”  His abstractions were never without references to humanity, to Baha’i teachings, and to nature; the painting titles reveal that they could be, variously, visualizations of the world in flux, of the human spirit transcendent, or of the cosmos.  And always, Tobey claimed, they were meant to convey “the stepped-up rhythms of America.”  In 1951, the artist had a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York, with the show then travelling on to San Francisco, Seattle, and Santa Barbara, securing Tobey’s international renowned style. Tobey has also been the subject of retrospectives at the Smithsonian Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum Folkwang in Essen, and the Foundation Beyeler in Basel. He died on April 24, 1976 in Basel, Switzerland.

VICTOR VASARELY

Victor Vasarely was a French-Hungarian artist credited as the father of the Op Art movement.  Utilizing geometric shapes and colorful graphics, the artist created compelling illusions of spatial depth, as seen in his work Vega-Nor (1969).  Vasarely’s method of painting borrowed from a range of influences, including Bauhaus design principles.  Wassily Kandinsky, and Constructivism.  Born Vasarhelvi Gyozo on April 9, 1906 in Pecs, Hungary, he briefly studied medicine at university, but at the Muhly Academy in Budapest, where the syllabus was largely based on Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus school in Germany.  After settling in Paris in 1930, Vasarely worked as a graphic artist while creating many proto-Op Art works including Zebra (1937).  The artist experimented in a style based in Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism during the 1940’s before arriving at his hallmark checkerboard works.  Op Art went on to have a number of practitioners including Bridget Riley and Yaacov Agam.  Vasarely died at the age of 90 in Paris, France.

Victor Vasarely is internationally recognized as one of the most important artists of the 20th century.  Vasarely is the acknowledged leader of the Op Art movement, and his innovations in color and optical illusion have had a strong influence on many modern artists.  In 1947, Vasarely discovered his plavve in the abstract art.  Influenced by his experiences at Breton Beach of Belle Isle, he concluded that “internal geometry” could be seen below the surface of the entire world.  He conceived that form and color are inseparable.  “Every form is a base for color, every color is the attribute of a form.”  Forms from nature were thus transposed into purely abstract elements in his paintings.  Recognizing the inner geometry of nature, Vasarely wrote, “the ellipsoid form… will slowly, but tenaciously, take hold of the surface, and become its raison d’etre.  Henceforth, this ovoid form will signify in all my works of this period, the ‘oceanic feeling’…. I can no longer admit an inner world and another, an outer world, apart.  The within and the without communicate by osmosis, or, one might rather say: the spatial-material universe, energetic-living, feeling-thinking, form a whole, indivisible…. The language of the spirit are but the supervibrations of the great physical nature.”  Vasarely’s works are presently held in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Gallery in London and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

ZAO WOU-KI

Zao Wou-Ki was a Chinese-French artist known for his non-representational paintings that blended Eastern and Western modes of art making. “Everybody is bound by a tradition. I am bound by two,” the artist once reflected. Born on February 1, 1920 in Peking, China, he studied at the Hangzhou Fine Arts School for six years were he was influenced by the work of traditional Chinese and Japanese art as well as Western painters like Paul Klee and Franz Kline. In 1947, the artist moved to Paris where he became the neighbor of Alberto Giacometti and friends with Sam FrancisJean-Paul Riopelle, and Pierre Soulages. During the following decades, Zao’s work became very popular with Chinese collectors and by the 2000s his paintings were selling in the millions.

Zao Wou-Ki was lauded throughout his career for his ability to unite multiple artistic traditions within a single work, marrying Eastern and Western approaches to art-making through his abstract compositions that retained hints of his training as a landscape painter.  In 1948, the artist moved to Paris, where he would live for the rest of his life, and soon began to exhibit internationally.  Zao worked predominantly in oils, watercolor, and ink, but also experimented with engraving and lithography. While formally trained in traditional Chinese techniques, Zao’s early encounters with the work of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Cézanne, as well as his friendship with Henri Michaux, greatly influenced and expanded his creative endeavors. 

Best known for his large-scale canvases, the Chinese-born French artist was also a committed printmaker whose styles and themes evolved across a five-decade practice “I can’t think of any other artist whose prints so completely intertwined Asian and Western traditions,” says Alexandra Gill, Senior Specialist in Prints & Multiples at Christie’s in London, of Chinese-born French artist Zao Wou-Ki.  In 1949, Zao made his first lithographs at the Paris workshop of Edmond Desjobert. He would later describe this initial foray into printmaking: ‘The idea of throwing color on a large white porous stone, like on China paper, pleased me. I used a lot of water, which is not at all to be recommended. Edmond Desjobert, a remarkably skillful lithographer, criticized me for it and told me the outcome would be poor, because one could not mix so much water with the lithographic ink. Even so I tried, and while the proofs were being printed he became enthusiastic.’

Zao was a member of the esteemed Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 2006, French President Jacques Chirac bestowed the artist with France’s highest civil rank, the Legion of Honor. The artist died on April 9, 2013 in Nyon, Switzerland at the age of 93. In 2016, he was the subject of his first retrospective held in the United States titled “No Limits Zao Wou-Ki” at the Asia Society in New York. During his lifetime, Zao was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at institutions in North America and Europe, including the Musée d’art contemporain in Montréal in 1969, the Grand Palais in Paris in 1981, the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1996, and the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2003. Since his death in 2013, the artist’s oeuvre has been celebrated with retrospectives at the Asia Society, New York (2016–17), and the Musée d’art moderne de las Ville de Paris (2018–19). Zao’s work may be found in museum collections worldwide, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among others.

19th Century

MARY CASSATT

Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania on May 22, 1844.  During Post-Civil War America, a graceless Victorian period, Europe attracted droves of artists in search of more romantic sensibilities.  Of these exiles, none found herself more at home in France, while remaining essentially American, than Mary Cassatt.  As her palette brightened, she became the only U.S. expatriate accepted by the French impressionists, and was invited to show in four of their five independent salons.  She even won the admiration of the notorious misogynist Edgar Degas: “There is someone who sees as I do.”

Mary Cassatt’s father, a Pittsburgh banker, had said that he would almost rather see her dead than become an artist.  But she proved to have an equally strong will.  During the Civil War she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, then, at the age of twenty-three, traveled extensively in Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1874.  Where the other impressionists made a cult of painting out-of-doors, Mary Cassatt rarely left the drawing room.  From the new fads for photography and Japanese prints, she introduced cropped images and flattened perspectives into her interiors.  She spent the rest of her long life abroad, in unremitting labor at the easel and made herself the best female painter America has produced.  Her favorite theme was that of mother and child.  Without sentimentalizing the mother-child relationship, she pictured it clearly, and each time new, in its innumerable facets.

In 1893 she was commissioned to paint part of the decorations at the World’s Fair in Chicago; it was one of the first awards of such importance to a woman.  Her oils and pastels regularly fetched six and occasionally, seven figure prices.  When a portrait of the artist’s mother was offered at Christie’s in May, 1983, it sold for $1.1 million, establishing a salesroom record for an American Impressionist.  Experts long debated Cassatt’s status as an American Impressionist on the grounds that she was an expatriate who did most of her work in France.

Edgar Degas, the women-hating perfectionist, was Cassatt’s closest male friend.  He admired her talents, and proceeded to teach her a good deal of his own almost cruelly precise draftsmanship, which has never been surpassed for subtlety.  From the Impressionists who became her friends she got the habit of subordinating form, space and texture to the pure play of light, and of giving her pictures a modest, if contrived, sketchiness. Cassatt’s most telling device was her own: she painted plain and sometimes charmless people in classically noble poses, and with the same care that earlier artists lavished on saints and goddesses.

Cassatt was an assertive woman with a penchant for high fashion and high teas.  She wasn’t pretty, with a ruddy complexion, snub nose, brown hair and big hands.  She was a connoisseur of fashion magazines.  At 5 feet, 6 inches, she appeared statuesque, even elegant in high-collared dresses, scarves, feathered hats and parasols.  She traveled extensively, braving disease, bed bugs and cold.

Cassatt herself was truly modern for her time.  An automobile enthusiast, she bought a Renault in 1906.  She was a vegetarian for a while.  She attended séances and, while not a particularly religous woman in the conventional sense, she was interested in Spiritualism.  The movement was a perfect fit:  It preached equality of the sexes and placed high value on children.  Cassatt never married, but she lived a full family life until her death in 1926.  Her parents, sisters, nephews and nieces were always visiting her villa on the Riviera, her Paris flat or chateau near Beauvais.  Even in her old age, she had a prim, acerbic wit, she found Monet too unintelligent, criticized Renoir’s lusty art as too “animal”, scorned the generation of the cubists as “cafe loafers.”

She could also be generous.  As she never lacked for money (her brother became president of the Pennsylvania Railroad), she quietly lent much of it to Paris Dealer Durand-Ruel to help back the Impressionists and sold Pissaro (of whom she said “he could have taught stones to draw correctly”) at her tea parties.  She was largely responsible for the Havemeyer collection, which stocked New York’s Metropolitan Museum with many of its great El Greco’s, Manets, Courbets and Corots.

“Woman’s vocation in life,” she once said,”is to bear children.”  She produced hundreds of children, but they were all on canvas.  Around 1910 she began to go blind and had to curtail her work.  She died on June 14, 1926 at Chateau de Beaufresne, near Paris.

EDGAR DEGAS

Edgar Degas was born on July 10, 1834 in Paris and died there on September 27, 1917.  He was the only 19th century French painter to have direct family ties with America.  His mother, the former Marie-Celestine Musson, was born in New Orleans and his brothers Rene and Achille worked for a time in New Orleans with their uncle, Michel Musson.  Edgar was the oldest of five children; they were raised in the comfort of a well-to-do family.  His father was a banker (The original spelling of their name was de Gas).  Young Degas had the usual scholastic training but he was exposed to art early by his father, who often took him to museums, etc.  When he graduated from the Lycee Louis le Grand in 1852, winning first prize in drawing, he already had a deep interest in art. A friend of his father’s took him to the studio of Ingres, who was seventy-five at the time.  The meeting was a high point in the life of young Degas.   

He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1855; from 1856 through 1857 he made a study of Quattrocento painting while in Rome, Naples and Florence.  His early work comprised history paintings and primarily portraits, influenced by Ingres.  In 1864 he executed several portraits of his friend Manet.  Degas soon lost interest in historical subjects and his avid curiosity swiftly led him to explore the world of theatre and the dance. These, together with scenes of the racecourse, were to become his favorite subjects.   

Degas accompanied his brother to the United States in 1872 and returned the following year.  The artist suddenly acquired an intense feeling for the modern, a taste for unconventional composition, and for themes, forms and rhythms taken from everyday life.  He took an active role in the first Impressionist show of 1874 and several others in the following years, He also tried his hand at engraving, as did Mary Cassatt and Pissaro. In 1881 he showed his first sculpture, a small wax figure of a dancer, for he was now beginning to compensate for his weakening sight by his sense of touch.  Actually, that thesis, on second thought, is nonsense. Easily disproved by the chronology.  What is true is that Degas seems to have had serious eye problems as early as in his thirties, including a hypersensitivity to light that compelled him to wear dark glasses.  His vision later deteriorated (he apparently lost the sight in one eye and was understandably frightened of becoming blind), but he continued to work until his late seventies.   

The special talent of Edgar Degas lay in his ability to find unfamiliar beauty in the passing scene.  He isolated, with a sharp eye, the significant gestures and movements of people at work, and presented them with dramatic force.  What we now regard as Degas’ unique sense of composition – the subtle placement of his figures within the frame of his canvas stems from several sources: the drawings of Giovanni Bellini which he had seen and studied in Italy, the Japanese woodcuts which he enjoyed and collected, and the new art of photography.  

A curious contradiction existed in Degas between the penetrating warmth of his observation, as revealed in his painting, and the ill-tempered disposition by which he made enemies as naturally as others make friends. He never married, nor had a mistress, but he did have a circle of female friends and confidants.  Stubborn, aristocratic, solitary and bitter; he was feared for his biting sarcasm.  He was a famous mimic with a rapier wit, terrorizing and fascinating the crowd at the Cafe Guerbois with lethal insight.  To Monet he commented “I remained only a second at your exhibition.  Your pictures gave me vertigo.”  He seemed to use the protective armor of suspicion and hostility in his social contacts to guard against any possible interference with his work, which he pursued during his long life with tireless devotion.  Though he was associated for a short period with the Impressionist painters, his own views were so inflexible that he found it impossible to follow anyone.

HENRI-JOSEPH HARPIGNIES

Active in late-19th, early 20th-century France, Henri-Joseph Harpignies did landscape painting that combined Realism with influences of the Barbizon School and Tonalism, especially the composition and coloration of Cámille Corot (1796-1875). 

Harpignies began his career in 1846, when he was 27 years old.  He was born in Valenciennes to a family that ran a sugar beet factory.  As a child he had only a few art lessons, and did not turn to any serious focus on painting until he had worked for several years in business.

He began his formal art education in the studio of J.A. Achard, and on his teacher’s recommendation went to Italy, Germany and the Netherlands to paint scenes from those countries and to study their ‘Old Masters’.  In 1853, he had his first work accepted at the Paris Salon, and in 1859, he submitted one of his most major works, Return from the War, which received positive reviews and did much to establish his reputation as a major national landscape painter.  Done in a period when landscape painting had dubious worth among academic judges, Harpignies put in narrative details that ‘spoke’ of much more than just landscape.  The canvas was a large-scale scene with a troop of French solidiers cheered by a happy group of village children, interacting near prosperous looking farms beneath a glowing sky.  By depicitng “long, commodious barns and big walled homesteads”, he suggested a specific region, which was on the French border with Belgium, and the soldiers, of course, reflected the war of the 1850s.

In 1863, the Salon Jury refused three out of four of his paintings.  Angered he spent two years in Italy, but in 1865, had revenge because the Emperior bought one of his entries.   The next year, representatives of the State purchased two more paintings for the government’s collecton, and also awarded him a gold medal.  From that time, his reputation grew internationally as well as in his own country, and in 1900, he received a major honor, which was the Grand Prix award at the Exposition Universelle.

From the time he began exhibiting regularly at the Salon, he painted for nearly fifty years, exhibiting both watercolors and oil paintings in most of the Salons and in exhibitions in other countries as well.  Harpignies took particular interest in the Barbizon artists, who were doing plein-air painting at the village of Barbizon.  He also traveled widely, both to other countries and within France, especially to Marly near the Forest of Fontainebleau and to Hérisson in the Allier area of the Auvergne.  In 1879, he began spending most of his summers in St.-Prive in Burgundy, where he purchased property.  He spent his winters along the Riviera including at Nice and Antibes. 

Henri-Joseph Harpignies died in St.-Privé in 1916.  The well-known critic, Anatole France, said that Harpignies was “the Michelangelo of trees.”

PAUL CESAR HELLEU

No other artist epitomizes the whole atmosphere of elegance and hedonistic pleasure which pervaded Paris society at the first decade of the century as does Helleu.  A cost friend of Proust and the inspiration for one of the century as does Helleu.  A cost friend of Proust and the inspiration for one of the principle characters in La Recherche du Temps Perdu.  Helleu’s whole life style echoed the incomparable elegance and flow of his drawing, the sheer style of his art, and his eye for the poses of the beautiful women who were his friends and his patrons.

During the 1870’s, Helleu had come to know the painters of Impressionism and also artists Sargent and Whistler who became his special friends and inspiration.  By the early 1880’s, he had already developed the quality of expressive sweeping line, which is the essence of his drawing, but in 1885he was encouraged by Tissot to try working on prints in drypoint.  At this time, Tissot had decided, after the death of his lower and model Kathleen Newton, to travel to the Holy Land on an artistic pilgrimage.  Having decided he would no longer engrave, he have Helleu his diamond stylus… a literal and figurative “passing of the baton”.  It was in the incision and texture of drypoint that his art was to reach one of its greatest peaks.  He had an innate feel for the balance between a light curving stroke and the deeply cut highly tonal burr of the strongest drypoint.  Around the ten of the century he started to combine drypoint with multi-inking in colors, the areas of color restricted to such touches as the bows on the hats, the hair color or the red of the lips.  The plate was drawn at a single sitting, and then the color inks were brushed onto it. 

The results are some of the most splendid and decorative of all Belle Epoque prints.

French painter and engraver, Paul-Cesar Helleu was born in Vannes on December 17, 1859.  After working with ceramics and engraving, Helleu decided to study painting. He began his training with Jean-Leon Gerome at the National School of Fine Arts.

Helleu’s first subjects were old churches, gothic naves, and stained glass windows. He later painted landscapes and scenes of Versailles. Yet it was his early 20th Century views of Parisian society that established Helleu’s reputation.

His worldly effigies, female silhouettes, and sportive scenes of the elegant class, are among the most precise images of the “belle époque.” His refined style is evident in his etchings and drypoints, as well as his canvases.

Helleu was a member of the National Society of Fine Arts beginning in 1893. He was also an honorary member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters, and Engravers in London; and after 1904, he was decorated for the Legion of Honor.

Helleu’s works are part of collections of the Boston Museum, the Louvre, and the Luxembourg Museum.

Paul-Cesar Helleu died in Paris on March 23, 1927. 

IMPRESSIONSISTS

Radicals in their time, early Impressionists violated the rules of academic painting. They constructed their pictures from freely brushed colours that took precedence over lines and contours, following the example of painters such as Eugène Delacroix and J. M. W. Turner. They also painted realistic scenes of modern life, and often painted outdoors. Previously, still lifes and portraits as well as landscapes were usually painted in a studio.[1] The Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting outdoors or en plein air. They portrayed overall visual effects instead of details, and used short “broken” brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed colour—not blended smoothly or shaded, as was customary—to achieve an effect of intense colour vibration.

Impressionism emerged in France at the same time that a number of other painters, including the Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli, and Winslow Homer in the United States, were also exploring plein-air painting. The Impressionists, however, developed new techniques specific to the style. Encompassing what its adherents argued was a different way of seeing, it is an art of immediacy and movement, of candid poses and compositions, of the play of light expressed in a bright and varied use of colour.

The public, at first hostile, gradually came to believe that the Impressionists had captured a fresh and original vision, even if the art critics and art establishment disapproved of the new style. By recreating the sensation in the eye that views the subject, rather than delineating the details of the subject, and by creating a welter of techniques and forms, Impressionism is a precursor of various painting styles, including Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism.

CREDIT: WIKIPEDIA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism)

LES MAITRES DE L’AFFICHE

Les Maîtres de l’Affiche (The Masters of the Poster) refers to one of the most influential art publications in history. The 256 color plates that make up this suite represent a wide-ranging selection of outstanding original prints from the turn of the twentieth century, when this popular art form first reached its peak.

By the 1890’s the streets of French cities were enlivened by large, colorful posters. The poster had not only caught the fancy of the public, but its best examples were already being regarded as true works of art (specifically, as fine prints) to be exhibited, reviewed in journals, collected and reproduced in a more manageable form. In the last five years of the 19th century, Imprimerie Chaix was to play a great part in codifying, hallowing and perpetuating the ebullient spirit of the Belle Epoque. It was in those years that Chéret’s print shop published smaller chromolithographic versions (in authentic colors) of over 200 highly regarded posters of the times. These prints were created by more than 90 great artists, each bringing this fabulous period to life for us today. The renowned set of 256 prints were created by Imprimerie Chaix, forever to be known as a set as Les Maîtres de l’Affiche. Each print was rendered as a separate sheet measuring 11 x 15 inches. The set was compiled in a unique way. Every month for 60 months – from December 1895 through November 1900 – subscribers received a wrapper containing four consecutively numbered prints. On 16 occasions (each of the five Decembers, each of the Junes, and the March and September of the final three years) the monthly wrapper also contained a bonus plate, not a poster reproduction but a specially created lithograph. The compilation of this set of original prints makes up the complete suite known as Les Maîtres de l’Affiche.

A month’s offerings (four Maitres) could be had at the same price as an original poster by Toulouse-Lautrec, Cheret or the other greats of the poster era, being sold through print dealers at the time.  This is not at all surprising since the larger posters were printed in quantity on ordinary paper and, to boot, the one-time art and plate costs were assumed by the company whose product it advertised; the dealers paid printers only for the overrun they wished to acquire. Hence, we must consider it normal that “Les Maitres de l’Affiche,” specially produced by means of lithography on quality paper, was offered for sale at the price of an original poster. The people did not perceive these two types of products as being in competition. They were infatuated with small prints and with this kind of compilation.

EDOUARD MANET

Edouard Manet was born in Paris, France on January 29, 1832.  His mother, Eugenie-Desiree Fournier, was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden.  His father was a magistrate in the Ministry of Justice.  Manet was assumed to be destined for a similar career, but failed several times in his entrance requirements for Normal College.  Finally, in 1850, he entered the school of the fashionable painter, Couture, which he attended more or less sporadically until 1856.  He and Couture did not get along particularly well.

The school of Impressionism based itself chiefly on the work of Manet.  But his work was such a radical change from the popular work of the time that his entries to the Salon for the years 1859, 1863 and 1865, were subjects for a storm of abuse.  Manet did not begin painting out-of-doors until about 1870.  His most ardent defender, Emile Zola, was obliged to resign from his post on “Figaro” because of his editorial support of the painter.  By 1881 Manet finally achieved public recognition and, among other awards, received the Legion of Honor.

Manet was witty, kind and handsome, a gentleman who would only be vulgar intentionally.  He was a student of the surface of life, a lover of women, both clothed and unclothed, an advocate of light, an innovator of the use of form and color.  He was a little older than most of the other artists in the Impressionist group, he belonged to the upper bourgeoisie, and he had more financial independence than any other artist associated with that group except Degas.  About 1862, Manet had
encountered by chance a lively and attractive young woman who was to be his favorite model until 1875.  Her name was Victorine Meurent, and she appears to have had a remarkable ability to adapt her appearance to any costumes or poses that the artist suggested.  He was often ridiculed for the changes in painting he brought about, but he couldn’t paint studio nudes in various shades of tobacco juice, as was the custom of the day.

Suzanne Leenhoff, a young, attractive Dutch girl from whom he had taken piano lessons, and Manet were married in October 1863, although their liaison had begun some thirteen years earlier.  How they met was a matter of speculation; it is generally accepted that Leon Leenhoff, born to Suzanne in 1852, was Manet’s son, although in polite society he was known as her brother.

Berthe Morisot, among the artists who became known as impressionists, was also a good friend and loyal follower of Manet.  She often posed for him.  Later she married Manet’s brother Eugene.  Between 1860 and 1874 Manet painted eleven portraits of Morisot; she was adorned with veils, ribbons and fans which scholars attributed to his fondness for Spanish costume.  Another theory is that Manet harbored a personal infatuation for Morisot as well as a deep professional jealousy.  He ceased to paint her after she married.

As he began to age, Manet began to devote more and more time to working in pastels, a medium that required less sustained effort than oil painting.  He became increasingly racked with pain and it was thought that his problem was severe rheumatism.  Manet left Paris in the summer of 1880 for the neighboring suburb of Bellevue, renowned for its agreeable villas and for its waters.  He painted the last of eleven paintings of his wife during this period.  After his death on April 30, 1883, the first comprehensive exhibition of his paintings was held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

ALPHONSE MUCHA

A painter, illustrator and muralist whose name is prominently associated with Art Nouveau*, Alphonse Mucha created work with strong composition and color and sensuous curves derived from nature.  Using this style, he began earning widespread attention in the 1890s for his illustration work including posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Although his name is linked to Art Nouveau, a style meaning ‘new art’ in French, he avoided that discussion by saying he was merely painting in a way that was unique and natural to him.

Alphonse Mucha was born in 1860 in Ivancice, Moravia, which is near the city of Brno in the modern Czech Republic.  When he finished high school, he became determined to become a painter, despite his father’s efforts in securing him “respectable” employment as a clerk in the local court.

Mucha went to Paris in 1887, thanks to a patron in Moravia who paid for his studies. After two years in Munich and some time devoted to painting murals for his patron, he went to Paris where he studied at the Academie Julian*. After two years the patron stopped supporting him, and Alphonse Mucha was a 27 year old with no money and seemingly little future in Paris.

For five years he lived the ‘Bohemian’ lifestyle of a struggling artist.  He borrowed money, got a few low-paying commissions for artwork, and became deathly ill from an unhealthy diet.  For a period he shared a studio with Paul Gaughin and traveled to the South Seas.  He also gave a few art lessons and strove to find his own unique style in an era dominated by the new styles of Impressionism* and Symbolism*.

Beginning 1895, he presented his revolutionary approach to poster stylistic design, which was flowing lines and soft colors as opposed to traditional bright colors and sharp, geometric delineation.  Commissioned in December 1895 to create a poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s play, Gismonda, he did a near life-size image of her that was a design sensation.  Pleased with Mucha’s work, Bernhardt signed him to a six-year contract to design her promotional posters.

From that time, his reputation and financial success were insured.  By 1898, he had a new studio, had his first one-man show and had numerous illustration commissions. He worked with a printmaker, who enthusiastically promoted his postcards, posters, etc.

In 1900, Mucha designed the Bosnia-Hercegovina Pavilion for the Paris World’s Fair and also partnered with goldsmith Georges Fouquet in jewelry design.  He published writing with accompanying illustrations about his art theories, and many took advantage of these visuals by copying his style.

His popularity and increasing name association with Art Nouveau led to international travel including several extended trips to the United States where he did magazine illustration work, portrait commissions and teaching.  In the spring of 1904, he made his first trip to America, visiting New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, and the next year he had one-man exhibition tours of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston.  In 1907, he married Maruska Chytilová in Prague, and he and his wife went to America where he gave art lessons in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, and in 1908 filled a decoration commission for the new German Theatre in New York.  In 1909, the couple’s daughter, Jaroslava, was born in New York City.

However, Alphonse Mucha ever remained the committed citizen of his homeland of Czechoslovakia, and did a series of murals for the Lord Mayor’s Hall in Prague and also a series of paintings of the country’s history, The Slav Epic, financed by Charles Crane, a wealthy man from Chicago whom he had met in 1904 through introduction by Baroness Rothchild.  This project, a gift to the city of Prague, took eighteen years to complete and was composed of twenty paintings on canvas, each about 24 x 30 feet.  In 1919, the paintings were also exhibited in America, where it was said they were more warmly received than in their homeland.  Before returning to Prague, that year, Mucha spent time as a teacher at the New York School of Applied Design for Women* and was included in the American Art Annual, the predecessor to Who’s Who in American Art.

The life of Alphonse Mucha, like so many Europeans and Americans of his era, was greatly affected by the World Wars.  When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, he was one of the first citizens arrested because of his strong nationalistic expressions.  He died on July 14, 1939, shortly after being released. 

PIERRE AUGUSTE RENOIR

Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841, the sixth of Leonard Renoir and Marguerite Merlet’s seven children.  His father was a tailor and his mother was a dressmaker.  His family moved to Paris in 1844. Showing a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice in a porcelain factory where he painted designs on fine china.  Later, after the factory had closed, he worked for his older brother, decorating fans, blinds and signs.  Throughout these early years Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre where he studied and developed a deep respect for the art of 18th Century French Rococo Masters.

In 1862 Renoir began to study painting seriously and entered the studio of the painter Charles Gleyre, where he met other artists such as Claude Monet.  The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir.  At times he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the national Salons of 1866 and 1867 rejected his artworks.  The following year the Salon accepted his portrait of his girlfriend, Lise Trehot. Renoir continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of other artists of the day such as Manet and Courbet.

A revolution was beginning in French painting during the 1860s.  A group of young painters began to rebel against the traditions of Western painting which was steeped in Realism.  These artists began to paint outdoors, using nature as their inspiration, in an attempt to capture the nuances of light and atmosphere with quick bold strokes of color.  As a result, their works revealed a look of freshness that rapidly departed from the style of the Old Masters.  These new works were initially shunned by the public and art critics who considered them unfinished, underdeveloped and mere ‘impressions’ of subjects.  The critic’s insult stuck and Impressionism was born.  The group, which included Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Cassatt, Degas and others, were unable to gain acceptance into the official Salons and eventually created their own series of exhibitions called the Salon des Refuses.

Although the Impressionist exhibitions were the targets of much public scorn, Renoir’s popularity gradually increased and in time, he was backed by loyal art dealers and devoted collectors.  His works depicted men and women together in casual social settings, vibrant intimate portraits, voluptuous nudes and lush landscapes full of emotion.  In 1890, at the age of 49, Renoir made his first etching La Danse a la Compagne, based on his 1883 painting, which featured his brother Edmond and painter Suzanne Valadon.  Renoir would eventually create approximately 55 different etchings and lithographs in his recognizable style.

In 1890 Renoir married Aline Charigot, his companion of almost ten years.  They would have three sons in all.  The artist quickly incorporated his family and relatives into his later works.  It was during these later years that Renoir further developed his unique style—a blend of Classicism and Impressionism which featured radiant nude bathers and tender familial scenes.

Renoir’s health declined severely in his later years.  In 1903 he suffered his first attack of arthritis and settled for the warmer climes at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the South of France.  The arthritis made painting painful, yet he continued to work, at times with a brush inserted between his crippled fingers.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 3, 1919, but not before experiencing a major artistic triumph: the State had purchased his 1877 portrait Madame Georges Charpentier and he traveled to Paris in August to see it hanging in the Louvre.

THEOPHILE ALEXANDRE STEINLEN

Born in Lausanne, Switzerland on November 10, 1859, he moved permanently to Paris at age 23 and became a French citizen.  Steinlen studied art at Lausanne and later became active as a textile designer in Mulhause.   In 1882 he arrived in Paris where he worked as an illustrator for the journals Mirliton, Assiette au Beurre, Chat Noir, and Gil Blas, for which he produced over four hundred lithographs.  In the early 1890s, Steinlen’s paintings of rural landscapes, flowers, and nudes were being shown at the Salon des Indépendants.

Besides illustrating advertisements for a variety of products, Steinlen was famous for his posters of cabaret and music hall performers.  His later work for the journals, like that of Toulouse Lautrec, became increasingly satirical and critical of society.  His permanent home, Montmartre and its environs was a favorite subject throughout Steinlen’s life and he often painted genre scenes of the working class, capturing day-to-day life in Paris with a simple, endearing style.  He was very fond of animals, especially cats, and often included them in his posters.  He never ceased to draw them in all their activities and moods.  Cats figure prominently in some of his most famous works, such as his great poster Pure sterilized milk from the Vingeanne.

Steinlen’s works can be found at many important museums around the world including at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States.

Théophile Steinlen died in 1923 in Paris and was laid to rest in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre.

JAMES JACQUES JOSEPH TISSOT

James Tissot is famous for his exquisite paintings of beautiful English women and most people think he was English.  In fact Jacques-Joseph Tissot was born in Nantes, then a thriving port on the Loire estuary in western France.  He adopted the name James as an Anglicised form when living in England.

His friends were Manet and Degas, with whom he shared a teacher in the painting school in Paris.  Not a lot is known of his personal life except that around 1876 a mysterious attractive lady begins to appear in his pictures.  Her identity remained a mystery until well into this century.  Her name was Kathleen Newton, née Kelly.  Her father, an Irish army officer, arranged the marriage of his convent-educated daughter when she was only 17, sending her off to India to marry a certain Isaac Newton, a surgeon in the Indian Civil Service.  On the ship, however, she fell in love with a Captain Palliser, but only confessed this to Newton after their wedding on 3rd of January 1871.  Newton’s response was to divorce her immediately.

Decree nisi was granted on the 20th December the same year.  Kathleen had returned to England by then and on the same day gave birth to her daughter by Captain Palliser.  We do not know exactly when or where Tissot met and fell in love with her, but we do know that in March 1871 she gave birth to another child, believed to be Tissot’s son.  This of course was regarded as scandalous behavior in those days and was kept secret by Kathleen’s family until quite recently.

In 1876 Kathleen Newton and her two children moved into Tissot’s house and remained there until her death from consumption in 1882.  She was only 28.  For Tissot, the time spent with Kathleen was the happiest period in his life, and one which he was to look back on longingly for the rest of his days.

Finding the thought of life in London intolerable without her, he decided to leave at once.  Within only five days of her death, he abandoned the house, leaving his paints, brushes and some unfinished canvases behind him, and returned to Paris.  Later he sold the house to his friend Alma-Tadema.

He carried on painting the fashionable society for three years after arriving in Paris, but from 1885 until his death in 1902, he became very religious and spent the last 17 years living as a recluse painting religious pictures.

During his eleven years in London, Tissot enjoyed great artistic and financial success and produced most of his finest work.  Unlike some of the artists whose talents are only appreciated after their death, Tissot’s pictures were loved and bought by his contemporaries and sold for very high prices.

Despite his success in England, however, the French persisted in regarding him as a minor artist and dismissed his work as being “too English”!  And curiously, he is one of the few painters who has not “gone out of fashion”.  He appeals to us today as much as he did to the people who saw his pictures at his first exhibitions.

HENRI TOULOUSE-LAUTREC

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec became one of France’s most prominent Post-Impressionist painters and capturing the night life of part of the city, was described as “the soul of Montmartre.”  He also did a number of illustrations for the magazine Le Rire during the 1890s’s.

Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, France, in the mid-Pyrenees region.  He was the first child of a Count and Countess whose aristocratic lineage dated back over a thousand years but whose fortune had collapsed before he was born.  At birth, they gave him the full name of Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa.  The parents were first cousins, and credited to inbreeding were the many birth defects that Henri suffered including an osteoporosis condition that left him with weak bones that did not heal properly when his legs were fractured when he was ages 13 and 14.   In adulthood, he was only four feet and six inches in height, although his torso was fully developed.   Growing up, he was unable to participate in normal activities, so he turned to art expression.

Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris in 1882 in order to learn from artists by working with them in their studios.  He was especially impressed with Impressionist painter and sculptor Edgar Degas.  Lautrec’s subjects were primarily the bohemian world of Montmartre, the city’s quarter where he lived and the area that had a mix that  included starving’ artists, actors, actresses, singers and dancers such as La Goulue who created the Can Can and performed at the Moulin Rouge.  It was also the location of racetracks, dancehalls and many bars and brothels, likely the places where he, a frequent visitor, got the syphilis that along with excessive alcohol consumption added to his health problems and caused his death.  He partied and sketched the nightlife, and in the daytime, converted his sketches into paintings and lithographs.  

Shortly before he died on September 9, 1901at the age of 36, he was put in a sanatorium after his highly protective mother was unable to keep him at home.  He is buried in Malromé at his family’s estate, and he is buried in Verdelais, Gironde, close to his death place.  The Comtesse Adéle Toulouse-Lautrec, his mother, and his dealer, Maurice Joyant, worked hard after his death to keep his name alive and promote his artwork.  Because of their efforts, a museum in Albi was built in his honor.  Two movies titled Moulin Rouge are about his life.

CONSTANT TROYON

Constant Troyon (August 28, 1810 – February 21, 1865) was a French painter of the Barbizon school. In the early part of his career he painted mostly landscapes. It was only comparatively late in life that Troyon found his métier as a painter of animals, and achieved international recognition.

He was born in Sèvres, near Paris, where his father was connected with the famous manufactory of porcelain. Troyon entered the ateliers very young as a decorator, and until he was twenty he labored assiduously at the minute details of porcelain ornamentation; and this kind of work he mastered so thoroughly that it was many years before he overcame its limitations. By the time he reached twenty-one he was travelling the country as an artist, and painting landscapes so long as his finances lasted. Then when pressed for money he made friends with the first china manufacturer he met and worked steadily at his old business of decorator until he had accumulated enough funds to permit him to start again on his wanderings.

 

CREDIT: WIKIPEDIA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constant_Troyon)

VINTAGE POSTERS

Vintage Posters, as collectibles, carry a certain cachet, as rescued fragments of a lost past. Original authentic vintage European poster advertising has come to be recognized as a highly collectible form of art, whether for pleasure or for investment purposes. World-renowned museums exhibit vintage posters and many have permanent collections. Magnificent examples of such vintage poster collections can be found at the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern, in New York, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Advertising agencies of that era would commission, or accept from free-lance artists, an original painting, referred to as a “maquette.” This original piece was usually delivered in the form of a “gouache” or watercolor. If the “maquette” was accepted by the agency, the artwork would be recreated on a soft Bavarian limestone surface. This lithographic printing process involved as many as 17 individual color applications, which had to be applied to each individual paper one color at a time. Each new color application required that the limestone surface be washed repeatedly during the application of that individual color. When a new color was introduced, likewise a new stone was introduced, which was designed to accept the placement of the new color. Cross like markings, usually found at the top and bottom of the poster are the printer’s registration marks, placed there for the purpose of keeping the color applications in their appropriate places when a new stone was introduced. A press was used to adhere the colored ink on the limestone, onto the paper. Over 65 yrs. of use of this lithographic process have been documented for vintage posters.

When the printing was complete the finished posters were glued or tacked to walls and kiosks across their country of origin. These colorful advertisements created a festival-like atmosphere on the otherwise drab and dreary streets of Europe. 

JAMES A. MCNEILL WHISTLER

James Abbott McNeill Whistler; July 11, 1834 – July 17, 1903) was an American artist active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom. He eschewed sentimentality and moral allusion in painting and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake”. His signature for his paintings took the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol combined both aspects of his personality: his art is marked by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. He found a parallel between painting and music, and entitled many of his paintings “arrangements”, “harmonies”, and “nocturnes”, emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony.[2] His most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), commonly known as Whistler’s Mother, is a revered and often parodied portrait of motherhood. Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his theories and his friendships with other leading artists and writers.