Neoclassicism/enlightenment (1660-1770)

Baroque

1599-1602 "The Calling of St. Mathew" Caravaggio

1599-1602 "The Calling of St. Mathew" Caravaggio, Michel (1571-1610)--Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1573-1610: Caravaggio (ca-ra-VOD-jo) was, perhaps, the first artist to deliberately shock not only the public but also his fellow artists The most important Italian painter of the seventeenth centuly, Caravaggio was militantly opposed to such classical concepts as balance and restraint, claiming that nature would be his only teacher. Using chiaroscuro and nonrealistic dramatic lighting, his paintings had an intense psychological impact that profoundly influenced most Baroque artists, including Rembrandt and Velasquez. Caravaggio was vividly explicit about his rejection of tradition, especially Renaissance idealism, which would hardly sulprise anyone viewing his paintings.

In the Calling of St. Matthew highlight and shadow create a dynamic portrayal of the moment when the future apostle is touched by divine grace. However, we find here a religious subject depicted in contemporary terms. Realistic imagery turns away from idealized and rhetorical form, and presents itself, rather, in a mundane form. Never have we seen a sacred subject depicted so entirely in terrns of contemporary lowlife. Matthew, the tax gatherer, sits with some arrned men (evidently his agents) in what is a common Roman tavern as two figures approach from the right. The arrivals are poor people, their bare feet and simple garments contrasting strongly with the colorful costumes of Matthew and his companions. For Caravaggio, however, naturalism is not an end in itself but a means of conveying profoundly religious content. Why do we sense a religious quality in this scene and do not mistake it for an everyday event? It is because Caravaggio's North Italian realism is wedded to elements derived from his study of Renaissance art in Rome, which lend the scene its surprising dignity. His stvle, in other words, is classical, without being classicizing. The composition, for example, is disposed across thc picture surface and its forms sharply highlighted, much as in a relief. What identifies one of the figures as Christ? It is surely not the Saviour's halo, the only supernatural feature in the plcture, which is an inconspicuous gold band that we might well overlook. Our eyes fasten instead upon his commanding gesture, borrowed from Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, which "bridges" the gap between the two groups and is echoed by Matthew, who points questioningly at himself.

The call from Christ streams, with dramatic chiaroscuro, across the two groups of figures via the powerful gesture of Christ to Matthew. The decisive, strong beam of sunlight above Christ that illuminates his face and hand in the gloomy interior carries his call across to Matthew. Without this light, so natural yet so charged with symbolic meaning, the picture would lose its magic, its power to make us aware of the divine presence. Caravaggio here gives moving, direct form to an attitude prefered by certain great saints of the Counter-Reformation: that mysreries of faith are revealed not by intellectual speculation, but spontaneously, through an inward experience open to all people.

Caravaggio's life was as dramatic as his art. A man of violent passions, he killed another man in a fight and, badly wounded, fled Rome for Naples. Later thrown into prison, heviolated his oath of obedience and escaped to Sici]y, but subsquently returned to Naples where he was nearly fatally wounded in another fight. Destitute and ill with malaria, he died during a violent rage over a misunderstanding on the very day that his papal pardon was announced.

Counter-Reformation Baroque Sculpture: The splendor of the baroque was particularly noticeable in sculpture. Form and space were charged with energy, which carried beyond the limits of actual physical confines in the same sense as did Bologna's work. As did painting, sculpture appealed to the emotions through an inward-directed vision that invited participation rather than neutral observation. Feeling was the focus. Baroque sculpture also treated space pictorially, almost like a painting, to describe action scenes rather than single sculptural forms. The best examples we can draw upon are those of the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini ( I 598-1 680).

1623 "David"--Bernini, Gianlorenzo (1598-1680)

In his life and his art, Bernini (bear NEE-nee) was the Counter-Reformation personified. A superbly gifted sculptor and architect, with a virtuosity comparahle to that of Micheangelo, Bernini was regarded in his own century as not only its best artist but also its greatest man. He himself saw that his renown would decline with the waning of Counter-Reformation energy, but his emotional art has now regained some of its luster. His David is a young warrior tensely poised over his discarded armor and harp; every muscle strains to hurl the fatal stone at an unseen Goliath, who seems to be approaching from hehind and above the level of the viewer. Compared with Michelangelo's David, Bernini's sculpture has the intense energy of the Baroque, so much so that there is an impulse to leap out of the way of the stone missile. The bit lip is Bernini's own expression as copied from a mirror, and realism is further heightened by the grip of David'.s foot on the actual base of the statue. Completed just nine years before the Inquisition condemned Galileo (in 1632), David epitomizes Counter-Reformation fervor.

Bernini's David exudes dynamic power; action, and emotion as he curls to unleash his stone at a Goliath standing somewhere outside the statue's frame. Our eyes sweep upward along a diagonally curved line and are propelled outward by the concentrated emotion of David's expression. A wealth of detail occupies the composition. Detail is part of the work, elegant in nature, but ornamental in character. Repetition of the curvilinear theme carries throughout the work in deep, rich, and fully contoured form. Again the viewer participates emotionally, feels the drama, and responds to the sensuous contours of dramatically articulated muscles. Bernini's David flexes and contracts in action, rather than repressing pent-up energy as did Michelangelo's giant-slayer.

 

Aristocratic Baroque: Aristocratic baroque was art in the general baroque style which reflected the visions and purposes of the aristocracy. At this time, the power of the aristocracy had become increasingly threatened by the growing bourgeoisie or middle class.

1632-34 "The Garden of Love" Rubens, Sir Peter Paul (1577-1640)

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RUBENS. Although Rome was its birthplace, the Baroque style soon became international. The great Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) holds a place of unique importance in this process. It might be said that he finished what Durer had started a hundred years earlier: the breakdown of the artistic barriers between north and south. Rubens' father was a prominent Antwerp Protestant who fled to Germany to escape Spanish persecution during the war of independence. The family returned to Antwerp after his death, when Peter Paul was ten years old, and the boy grew up a devout Catholic. Trained by local painters, Rubens became a master in 1598, but developed a personal style only when, two years later, he went to Italy.

During his eight years in the south, he absorbed the Italian tradition far more thoroughly than had any Northerner before him. He eagerly studied ancient sculpture, the masterpieces of the High Renaissance, and the work of Caravag-gio. Rubens competed, in fact, with the best Italians of his day on even terms, and could well have made his career in Italy. When his mother's illness in 1608 brought him back to Flanders, he meant the visit to be brief, but he received a special appointment as court painter to the Spanish regent, which permitted him to establish a workshop in Antwerp, exempt from local taxes and guild regulations. Rubens had the best of both worlds. Like Jan van Eyck before him, he was valued at court not only as an artist, but as a confidential adviser and emissary. Diplomatic errands gave him entree to the royal households of the major powers, where he procured sales and commissions. Aided by a growing number of assistants, he was also free to carry out a huge volume of work for the city of Antwerp, for the Church, and for private patrons.

In his life, Rubens epitomized the extroverted Baroque ideal of the virtuoso for whom the entire universe is a stage. He was, on the one hand, a devoutly religious person and, on the other a person of the world who succeeded in every arena by virtue of his character and ability. Rubens resolved the contradictions of the era through humanism, that union of faith and learning attacked by Ihe Refomration and Counter-Reformation alike. In his paintings as well, Rubens reconciled seemingly incompatible opposites. His enormous intellect and vitality enabled him to synthesize his sources into a unique style that unites the natural and supernatural, reality and fantasy, learning and spirituality. Thus, his epic canvases defined the scope and the style of High Baroque painting. They possess a seemingly boundless energy and inventiveness, which, like his heroic nudes, express life at its fullest. The presentation of this heightened existence required the expanded arena that only Baroque theatricality, in the best sense of the term, could provide, and Rubens' sense of drama was no less highly developed than Bernini's.

In the decade of the 1620s. Rubens' dynamic style reached its climax in his huge decorative schemes for churches and palaces. The most famous is the cycle in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris glorifying the career of Marie le' Medici, the widow of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII.

Around 1630, the turbulent drama of Rubens' preceding work changes to a late style of Iyrical tenderness inspired by Titian, whose work Rubens discovered anew in the royal palace while he visited Madrid. The Garden of Love, one result of this encounter, is as glowing a tribute to life's pleasures as Titian's Bacchanal. But these celebrants belong to the present, not to a golden age of the past, though they are playfully assaulted by swarms of cupids. To understand the artist's purpose, we must first realize that this subject, the Garden of Love, had been a feature of Northern painting ever since the courtly style of the International Gothic. The early versions, however, were genre scenes showing groups of fashionable young lovers in a garden. By combining this tradition with Titian's classical mythologies, Rubens has created an enchanted realm where myth and reality become one.

The picture must have had special meaning for him, since he had just married a beautiful girl of 16. (His first wife died in 1626.) He also bought a country house, Chateau Steen, and led the leisurely life of a squire. This change induced a renewed interest in landscape painting, which hw had practiced only intermittently before.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) painted in the baroque style with vast, overwhelming canvases and fleshy female nudes. His work also illustrates the use of art as religious propaganda, such as in the Assumption of the Virgin.

 

 

Rubens presents a swirling and complex composition full of lively action, color, and curvilinear repetition. Typical of Rubens are corpulent cupids and women whose flesh has a sense of softness and warmth we find in few other artists. Rubens' colors here are warm and predominantly limited to the red end of the spectrum.

(L 192,93) Rubens lived during an age marked by extremes. Galileo, Kepler, and Descartes were helping shape a new view of the world, but there was also the dark and bloody side of misogynistic witchcraft trials, the Inquisition, and the savage Thirty Years' War. Throughout his entire lifetime Rubens' own country, the Netherlands, was struggling lo free itself from ruthless Spanish power with its pitiless Spanish Inquisition, and yet Rubens painted works that jubi]antly praised the human spilit and celebrated the beauty of the natural world. He was not indifferent to human suffering--far from it--but his temperament was wholly sunny and positive. He possessed a rare combination of robust health, good looks, common sense, a talent for business, phenomenal artistic ability, and a remarkable intellect. He was fluent in six modern languages and classical Latin and was reputed to be capable of listening to a learned lecture while painting, conversing, and dictating letters. One of the most gifted and accomplished painters who ever lived, Rubens amassed a fortune and enjoyed it all.

In only eight years of study in Italy Rubens mastered the classical style of ancient Rome plus the styles of the High and Late Renaissance. On completing a series of paintings for Marie de Medici, the Dowager Queen of France, he established his reputation as the preeminent painter for kings, nobles, and princes of the church. The Assumption of the Virgin, though considerably smaller than his many giant paintings, is charged with the boundless energy that characterizes all his work In diametric opposition to Caravaggio's stark realism, his figures are richly and colorfully garbed, with pink and chubby cherubs and solicitous angels effortlessly wafting the Virgin into heaven. The rich sensual quality of Rubens' work was prized by aristocratic patrons and by the church; glamor, grandeur, and glory provided favorable answers to any doubts of the faithful, assuring them that heaven and earth alike were equally splendid.

 

1636-37 "The Rape of the Sabine Women" Poussin, Nicolas (1594-1665)

(L 194) Throughout his mature career Poussin (poo-sa) painted the grand manner, but in a style entirely different from of van Dyck and especially Rubens. Emphasizing lucidity and control, Poussin chose only lofty subject matter drawn from ancient history, mythology, and biblical stories. He was an elitist, an aristocrat of paint and canvas, a French classicist in an age of

Baroque exuberance. Religious subjects were treated, he thought, in a base and vulgar manner in most of the works by Caravaggio and his followers. Poussin's Baroque classical style attracted followers just as did the quite different Baroque style of Rubens, touched off a controversy between "Rubenists" and "Poussinists" that may never be resolved.

(J 590, 92) After the 1640s, classicism was supreme in France. The artist who did the most to bring the rise of classicism about was Nicolas Poussin. The greatest French painter of the ccntury and the first French painter in history to win international fame, Poussin nevertheless spent almost his entire career in Rome. There, under the influence of Raphael, he formulated the style that was to become the ideal model for French painters of the second half of the century.

Poussin was initially inspired by Titian's warm, rich colors and by his approach to classical mythology. The Rape of the Sabine Women shows his profound allegiance to antiquity, but it also epitomizes the severe discipline of Poussin's intellectual style, which developed in response to what he regarded as the excesses of the High Baroque. The strongly modeled figures are "frozen in action" like statues; many are, in fact, derived from Hellenistic sculpture. Poussin has placed them before reconstructions of Roman architecture that he believed to be archaeologically correct. The composition has an air of theatricality, and with good reason. It was worked out by moving clay figurines around a miniature stagelike setting until it looked right to the artist. Emotion is abundantly displayed, but it is so lacking in spontaneity that it fails to touch us. The attitude reflected here is clearly Raphael's. More precisely, it is Raphael as filtered through Annibale Carracci and his school. The Venetian qualities that asserted themselves early in his career have been consciously suppressed.

Poussin now strikes us as an artist who knew his own mind only too well, an impression confirmed by the numerous letters in which he expounded his views to friends and patrons. The highest aim of painting, he believed, is to represent noble and serious human actions. This is true even in The Rape of the Sabine Women, which, ironically was admired as an act of patriotism that insured the future of Rome. (According to the accounts of Livy and Plutarch, the Sabines otherwise escaped unharmed, and the young women abducted as wives by the Romans later became peacemakers between the two sides.) Be that as it may, such actions must be shown in a logical and orderly way--not as they really happened, but as they would have happened if nature were perfect. To this end, art must strive for the general and typical. In appealing to the mind rather than the senses, the painter should suppress such incidentals as color, and stress form and composition. In a good picture, the beholder must be able to "read" the exact emotions of each figure and relate them to the story. [Paraphrased from an undated manuscript--Poussin's ideas on art were central to the formation of the French Academy in 1648 and, because of the pre-eminence of that academy, therefore to the entire European academic movement of the seventeenth through nineteenth centurey.] These ideas were not new. We recall Horace's dictum ut pictura poesis and Leonardo's statement that the highest aim of painting is to depict "the intention of man s soul." Before Poussin however noone made the analogy between painting and literatuIe so close nor put it into practice so single-mindedly. His method accounts for the cold and over-explicit rhetoric in In the Rape of the Sabine Women, which makes the picture seem so remote, much as we may admire its rigor.

Bourgeois Baroque

Bourgeois baroque was art in the baroque style which reflected the visions and objectives of the new and wealthy middle class, the bourgeoisie. The wealth and opulence of this class in some cases was greater than the aristocracy, and, as a result, a power struggle was at hand.

1642 "The Night Watch (Company of Captain Banning Cocq)" Rembrandt, van Rijn (1606-69)

Rembrandt: Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69). in contrast to Rubens, could be called a middle-class artist. Born in Leiden, he trained under local artists and then moved to Amsterdam. His early and rapid success gained him many commissions and students, more, in fact, than he could handle. Rembrandt became what can only be called the first capitalist artist. He believed that the quality of art was represented not only in itself but also in its value on the open market. He reportedly spent huge sums of money in buying his own works to increase their value.

Rembrandt's genius lay in dramatically delivering the depths of human emotion and psychology. In contrast to Rubens. for exarnple, Rembrandt suggests rather than depicts great detail. After all, the human spirit is intangible—it cannot be detailed, only alluded to. In Rembrandt we find atmosphere and shadow, inipilcation and emotion.

MASTERWORK: Rembrandt—The Night Watch

The huge canvas now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is only a portion of the original group portrait Night Watch, which was cut down in the eighteenth century to fit into a space in the Town Hall of Arnsterdam and no longer shows the bridge over which the members of the watch were about to cross. Group portraits, especially of military units, were popular at the time. They usually showed the company in a social setting such as a gathering around a banquet table. Rembrandt chose to break with the norm and portrayed the company, led by Captain Cocq, as if on duty. The result was a scene of greater vigour and dramatic intensity. true to the baroque spirit, but displeased his patrons.

As a dramatic scene, the painting avoids mechanical regularity in its composition and creates a virtuoso performance of baroque lighting and movement. The result angered the members of Captain Cocq's company who, having paid equally, expected to be treated equally in the portrait, which they are not. Some of the figures in this life-size group fade into the shadows and others are hidden by the gestures of those placed in front of them. A recent cleaning has revealed the vivid color of the original however, its dramatic highlights and shadows reflect no natural light whatsoever. Although the painting is now a good deal brighter than in its previous state, no analysis of light can solve the problenn of how these figures are illuminated. Another problem lies in the very title of the work: it has been suggested that this is, in fact, a Day Watch; so that the intense light at the center of the work is explained as morning sunlight. However, an examination of the highlights and shadows in the painting shows that Rembrandt has based his choice of light for dramatic purposes only. While the figures are rendered with a fair degree of verisimilitude, no such claim can be made for the light sources.

Rembrandt's genius lay in depicting human emotions and characters rather than glamorous and extravagant propaganda pieces. He suggests rather than depicts great detail, a characteristic we can find in The Night Watch. He concentrates here on atmosphere and shadow. implication and emotion. As in most baroque art, the viewer is invited to share in an emotion, to enter into an experience rather than to observe as an impartial witness.

 

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606-69

Some Dutch artists such as Hals specialized in portrats, Leyster painted genre scenes, and others concentrated on history or landscapes. Rembrandt, however, worked with consummate ease in all areas. Sometimes called the Shakespeare of seventeenth-century painters, he is one of handful of supreme masters of the entire European tradition. Calvinism frowned on religious images, which may explain why sculpture was not popular, but, on the other hand, the Reformed Church rejected all authority excep individual conscience. This meant, in effect, that artists could study the Bible and create sacred images as they personally envisioned them, which is precisely what Rembrandt did. He could not accept the stern God of the Calvinists and he never painted a Last Judgment. He was concerned instead with the human drama of the Old Testament, the loving and rorgiving God of the New Testament, and the life and passion of Christ.

 

1656 "The Maids of Honor" Velazques, Diego (1599-1660)

Diego Velasquez, 1599-1660: Unlike his Spanish contemporaries, Velasquez (ve-LASS-kis) was not interested in religious subjects. Allegorical figures, swirling clouds, and rhapsodic faces were never part of a unique style that was concerned with nature and the optical effects of light. During his studies in Italy he became fascinated with the paintings of Titian and Tintoretto, but he cared not at all for the style of Raphael, nor was he influenced by Rubens even though they were friends. A court painter to King Philip IV for thirty years, Velasquez worked with the effects of light on objects and colors, producing candid portraits that never descended to the level of common courtly pictures. His Maids of Honor is his acknowledged triumph and one of the most celebrated works of the century. The painting is a symphony of deep pictorial space, light, and images of reality, including what we actually see in the room and also the implied presence of the king and queen, whose images are reflected in the mirror. The artist apparently adapted the mirror idea from van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait , which was then in the Spanish Royal Collection.

At the front of the picture plane light falls on the dog with the child's foot placed on its back, on the court dwarf, and in the near foreground, on the Infanta Margarita, who has just posed for hirn, among her playmates and maids of honor. Standing behind a lady-in-waiting and wearing the cross of the Order of Santiago, the artist pauses with paintbrush poised. He looks back at us as he works on a painting that is probably the one at which we are looking. Slightly deeper in the middle ground we see a couple engaged in conversation. The mirror on the back wall marks the next step in receding space. In it the faces of the couple-- her parents, the king and queen--appear. Have they just stepped into the room, to see the scene exactly as we do, or does the mirror reflect part of the canvas (presumably a full-length portrait of the royal family) on which the artist has been working? Behind the courtier in the open doorway, space recedes to infinity. What at first looks like a genre scene in the artist's studio is actually a stunning spatial composition of five or six receding planes. This ambiguity shows Velazquez' fascination with light. The varieties of direct and reflected light in The Maids of Honor are almost limitless. The artist challenges us to match the mirror image against the paintings on the sarne wall and against the "picture" of the man in the open doorway.

As it is usually displayed in the Prado Museum, the painting faces a mirror on the opposite wall in which the spectator sees an electrifying image of receding space, an illusion that further confuses reality because the mirror includes the viewer as part of the painting. Space was a major preoccupation of the Baroque, from the large interiors of Baroque churches to the great piazza fronting St. Peter's, and the fascinating illusion of deep space in the Maids of Honor. Like most of the paintings of the period, the title was added in the nineteenth century when it was viewed by people other than the royal couple for whom it was originally painted. Maids of Honor so fascinated Pablo Picasso that he painted, in 1957, no less than forty-five different studies of all or part of this monumental creation.

Although the side lighting and strong contrasts of light and dark still suggest the influence of Caravaggio, Velazquez' technique is far more varied and subtle.

 

1666 "The Letter" Vermeer, Jan (1632-75)

Jan Vermeer, 1632-75 (ver-MEER) VERMEER's genre scenes contain hardly any narrative. Single figures, usually women, are seemingly engaged in simple, everyday tasks. They exist in a timeless "still life" world, as if calmed by some magi spell. When there are two, as in The Letter, they do no more than exchange glances. The painting nonetheless, does tell a story, but with unmatched subtlety. The carefully "staged" entrance serves to establish our relation to the scene. We are more than a privileged bystander: we become the bearer of the letter that has been delivered to the young woman. Dressed in sumptuous clothing, she has been playing the lute, as if awaiting our visit. This instrument, laden with erotic meaning, traditionally signifies the harmony between lovers, who play each other's heart strings. Are we, then, her lover? The amused expression of the maid suggests just such an anecdotal interest. Moreover, the lover in Dutch art and literature is often compared to a ship at sea, whose calm waters depicted in the painting here indicate smooth sailing. As usual with Vermeer, though, the picture refuses to yield a final answer, since the artist has concentrated on the moment before the letter is opened. .

Vermeer's real interest centers on the role of light in creating the visible world. The cool, clear daylight that filters in from the left is the only active element, working its miracles upon all the objects in its path. As we look at The Letter, we feel as if a veil had been pulled from our eyes, for the everyday world shines with jewellike freshness, beautiful as we have never seen it before. No painter since Jan van Eyck saw as intensely as this. But Verrneer, unlike his predecessors, perceives reality as a mosaic of colored surfaces—or perhaps more accurately, he translates reality into a mosaic as he puts it on canvas. We see The Letter not only as a perspective "window," but as a plane, a "field" composed of smaller fields. Rectangles predominate, carefully aligned with the picture surface, and there are no "holes," no undefined empty spaces.

The interlocking shapes give to Vermeer's work a uniquely modern quality within seventeenth-century art. How did he acquire it? Despite the discovery of considerable documentary evidence relating to his life, we still know very little about his training. Some of his works show the influence of Carel Fabritius, the most brilliant of Rembrandt's pupils-other pictures suggest his contact with the Utrecht School. But none of these sources really explains the genesis of his style, so daringly original that his genius was nor recognized until about

a century ago.

**

Vermeer did not paint monumental subjects with the passion of Rembrandt, but he did possess a special magic that transmuted everyday reality into eternal symbols. Fewer than than forty of his paintings survive, and all but three are of sparsely furnished interiors of modest size. Vermeer, in fact, did for ordinary rooms what High Renaissance artists did for ordinary human bodies: elevated them to the level of universals. With an eye for detail comparable to van Dyck's, Vermeer specialized in light—natural light streaming into the interior, usually from the left, and filling a space punctuated by objects. His figures are seemingly suspended in light.

After Vermeer's premature death, his paintings were used to satisfy creditors who undoubtedly had no more appreciation of his worth than the rest of a society that had ignored him. Not rediscovered until the 186Os, his paintings, with their use of color and light, were a revelation to the Impressionists; who thought themselves the first to discover that shadows evere not black but also had color.

 

Rococo

FRANCE

THE RISE OF THE ROCOCO. After the death of Louis XIV, the centralized administrative machine that Colbert had created ground to a stop. The nobility, formerly attached to the court at Versailles, were now freer of royal surveillance. Many of rhem chose not to return to their ancestral chateaux in the provinces, but to live in Paris, where they built elegant town houses, known as hotels. As state-sponsored building activity was declining, the field of "design for private living" took on new importance. These city sites were usually cramped and irregular, so that they offered scant opportunity for impressive exteriors. Hence, the layout and decor of the rooms became the architects' main concem. The hotels demanded a style of interior decoration less grandiloquent and cumbersome than Lebrun's. They required instead an intimate, flexible style that would give greater scope to individual fancy uninhibited by classicistic dogma. French designers created the Rococo ("The Style of Louis XV," as it is often called in France) from Italian gardens and interiors to fulfill this need. The name fits well: it was coined as a caricature of coquillagege and rocaille (echoing the Italian barocco), which meant the playful decoration of grottoes with irregular shells and stones.

"POUSSINISTES" VS. "RUBENISTES." It is hardly surprising that the straitjacket system of the French Academy produced no significant artists. Toward the end of the century, the members of the Academy formed two warring factions over the issue of drawing versus color: the "Poussinistes" (or conservatives) against the Rubenistes. The conservatives defended Poussin's view that drawing, which appealed to the mind, was superior to color, which appealed to the senses. The Rubenistes advocated color, rather than drawing, as being more true to nature. They also pointed out that drawing, admittedly based on reason, appeals only to the expert few, whereas color appeals to everyone. This argument had revolutionary implications, for it proclaimed the lay person to be the ultimate judge of artistic values and challenged the Renaissance notion that painting, as a liberal art, could be appreciated only by the educated mind.

The basic disagreement was between color and line. Line and drawing were absolute values in representing things according to the Poussinists, color was merely accidental because it depended on light. Color was, of course, what fascinated Rubens and his followers. Rubenists painted the multicolored world as perceived they it, whereas the Poussinists constructed idealized forms of the world as it should be. Actually, the conflict was not just Rubenists versus Poussinists but the eternally opposing views of artists who were, in general, inclined toward romanticism as opposed to artists who were classically oriented. Romanticism in the nineteenth century is a stylistic period and is not to be confused with romantic or classical tendencies of artists in any period. When considered in very broad terms, the Renaissance was classically oriented, whereas the Baroque was inclined toward Romanticism except, of course, for Poussin. Classicists emphasize objectivity, rationality, balance, and control; romanticists stress subjectivity, nonrationality, and the restless expression of emotion. Leonardo, Raphael, Poussin, Haydn, and Mozart are classicists; Tintoretto, the later Michelangelo, El Greco, Rubens, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, and Delacroix are romanticists.

 

1717 "A Pilgimage to Cytheria" Watteau, Antoine, 1684-1721

Watteau (vah-toe), the first and greatest French Rococo artist, was born of Flemish parents in Valenciennes, a city that had been French for only six years. Yet he transformed French art from the classicism of Poussin into a new style of gaiety and tenderness, casual but elegant, that even today is recognized as Parisian in the sophisticated tradition later-reinforced by artists such as Renoir and Degas. Watteau's Embarkation for Cythera , an early Rococo work completed only two years after the death of Louis XIV, is also the most important. Cythera was the legendary island of Venus, whose statue at the right presides over the amorous festivities. Grouped couple by couple, the elegantly garbed party is preparing to board a fanciful boat attended by cherubs, anticipating the pleasures to be enjoyed on the isle of love. Characteristic of Rococo design is the reverse C which can be traced from the heads at the lower left, curving past the couple on the hillock, and then turning back to the left along the delicate tips of the tree branches. Though it is a large painting, the scene is remarkably intimate. Each couple is totally preoccupied with itself and forrns a distinct unit as they talk, smile, whisper, or touch. Beneath the frivolity and charm is a warm feeling of agreeable people and pleasant times. Watteau has transformed the amorous dalliances of an idle and privileged class into Iyric poetry.

(S 345) The transitionai quandary of the aristocracy can be seen in the rococo paintings of Antoine Watteau. Although largely sentimental, much of Watteau's work refrains from gaiety or frivolousness. Embarkation for Cythera illustrates idealized concepts of aristocratic social graces. Cythera is a mythological land of enchantment, the island of Venus, and Watteau portrays aristocrats as they await departure for that faraway place idling away their time in amorous pursuits. Fantasy qualities in the landscape are created by fuzzy color areas and hazy atmosphere. A soft, undulating line underscores the human figures, all posed in slightly affected attitudes. Watteau's fussy details and decorative treatment of clothing stand in contrast to the diffused quality of the background. Each grouping of couples engages in graceful conversation and love games of the age. Delicacy pervades the scene, over which an arm bust of Venus presides. Underlying this dream-like fantasy there is a deep, poetic melancholy. These doll-like figurines, which are only symbols, engage in sophisticated and elegant pleasure, but the softness and affectation of the work counterbalance gaiety with languid sorrow.

(J 604-05)

By the time Louis XIV died in 1715, the dictatorial powers of the Academy had already been overcome, and the influence of Rubens and the great Venetians was everywhere. Two vears later the Rubenistes scored their ultimate triumph when the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was admittcd to the Academy on the basis of A Pilgrimage to Cythera. This picture violated all academic canons, and its subject did not conform to any established category. To accommodate Watteau, the Academy invented the new category of fetes galantes (elegant fetes or entertainments). The term refers less to this one canvas than to the artist's work in general, which mainly shows scenes of elegant society or comedy actors in parklike settings. He characteristically interweaves theater and real life so that no clear distinction can be made between the two. A Pilgrimage to Cythera includes yet another element: classical mythology. Accompanied by swarms of cupids, these young couples have come to Cythera, the island of love, to pay homage to Venus, whose garlanded image appears on the far right. The action unfolds in the foreground, like a continuous narrative, from right to left, which informs us that they are about to board the boat: two lovers are still engaged in their amorous tryst; behind them, another couple rlses to follow a third pair down the hill as the reluctant young woman casts a wistful look back at the goddess' sacred grove

The scene at once recalls Rubens' Garden of Love but Watteau has added a touch of poignancy, lending it a poetic subtlety reminiscent of Giorgione and Titian. His figures, too, lack the robust vitality of Rubens'. Slim and graceful, they rnove with the studied assurance of actors who play their roles so superbly that they touch us more than reality ever could. They recapture an earlier ideal of "mannered" elegance.

 

1739 "Back from the Market" Chardin, Baptiste (1699-1779)

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (shar-da), 1699-1779 Chardin celebrated the sober virtues of the middle class and sought the underlying nobility that could be found in scenes of daily life. The natural dignity of his subjects was in sharp contrast to the artificiality of the courtly Rococo style. Chardin painted what he saw, which was, essentially, light falling on pleasing shapes.

(J 607) Chardin's style can be called Rococo only with reservations. The Rubenistes had cleared the way for a renewed interest in still-life and genre paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters. This revival was facilitated by the presence of numerous artists from the Netherlands, especially Flanders, who settled in France in growing numbers after about 1550 while maintaining artistic ties to their native lands. Chardin is the finest French painter in this vein. He is nevertheless far removed in spirit and style, if not in subject matter, from any Dutch or Flemish painter. His paintings act as moral exemplars, not by conveying symbolic messages as Baroque still lifes often do, but by affirming the rightness of the existing social order and its values. To the rising middle class who were the artist's patrons, his genre scenes and kitchen still lifes proclaimed the virtues of hard work, frugality, honesty, and devotion to family.

Back from the Market shows life in a Parisian middle-class household with feeling for the beauty hidden in the commonplace, and a clear sense of spatial order. But his remarkable technique is quite unlike any Dutch artist's. Devoid of bravura, his brushwork renders the light on colored surfaces with a creamy touch that is both analytical and subtly lyrical. To reveal the inner nature of things, he summarizes forms, subtly altering their appearance and texture, rather than describing them in detail. Chardin's genius discovered a hidden poetry in even the most humble objects and endowed them with timeless dignity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romanticism (1770-1850)

1793 "Death of Marat" David, Jacques Louis (1748-1825)

1814 "Odalisque" Ingres, Jean-Auguste (1780-1867)

1814-15 "The Third of May, 1808" Goya, Francisco de (1746-1828)

1839 "The Slave Ship" Turner, J.M.W. (1775-1851)

1845 "Fur Traders on the Missouri" Bingham, George Caleb (1811-79)

1849 "The Stone Breakers" Courbet, Gustave ((1819-77)

1852-55 "The Last of England" Brown, Ford Maddux (1821-93)

Realism, Naturism, Symbolist Poetry (1850-1910)

1866 "The Fifer" Manet, Edouard (1832-83)

1868 "The River" Monet, Claude (1840-1926)

1879 "Self Portrait" Cezanne, Paul (1839-1906)

1884-85 "Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte" Seurat, Georges

"Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)" Gaugin, Paul (1848-1903)

1879-89 "The Thinker" Rodin, Auguste (1840-1917)

1889 "Wheat Fields and Cypress Trees" Gogh, Vincent van (1853-90)

1910 "The Dream" Rousseau, Henri (1844-1910)

Modernism (1910-45)

1906-07 "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973).

1911 "Red Studio" Matisse, Henri (1869-1954).

1912 "Nude Descending a Staircase" Duchamp, Marcel (1887-1960).

1913 "Sketch I for Composition VIII" Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944).

1913 "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space" Boccioni, Umberto (1882-1916)

1919 "Bird in Space" Brancusi, Constantin (1876-1957)

1922 "Twittering Machine" Klee, Paul (1879-1940) watercolor, pen, ink. (25 1/2 x 19")

1925 "Three Dancers" Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973).

1930 "Composition w/Red, Blue, & Yellow" Mondrian, Piet (1872-1944). .

1930 "Early Sunday" Hopper, Edward (1882-1967)

1932-35 "Departure" Beckman, Max (1884-1950)

1943 "Bull's Head." Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973). Bronze cast bicycle parts.

Contemporary (1945-Present)

? "Autumn rhythm" Pollack, Jackson (1912-56)

? "Empress of India" Stella, Frank (b. 1936)

1956 "What Is It that Makes Today's Home So Different, So Appealing?" Hamilton, Richard (b. 1922)

1966 "The State Hospital" Kienholz, Edward (b. 1927)

1970 "Spiral Jelly" Smithson, Robert (1938-73) [L-1500'; W-15']

1975-76 "Queen" Flack, Audrey (b. 1931)

1983 "More than You Know" Murray, Elizabeth (b. 1940)