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Antokolsky, Mark Matveevich (1843—1902), born in the city of Vilna, present-day Vilnius, Lithuania, died in Frankfurt on Main, Germany. He was a Russian sculptor who was admired for psychological complexity of his historical images and criticized for occasional lapses into sentimentalism.
Antokolsky studied in the Imperial Academy of Arts (1862—1868). He first began with Jewish themes, statues: Jewish Tailor, Nathan The Wise, Inquisition’s Attack Against Jews, Argument over the Talmud.
From 1868 to 1870 Mark Antokolsky lived in Berlin. His statue of Ivan the Terrible (1870) was purchased for the Hermitage by Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Russian Tsar approved his work and awarded the sculptor the title of academic. Mark Antokolsky believed that sculpture was a social and humane ideal. In order to improve his failing health, he moved to the Italian resorts in 1871 and settled in Paris 6 years later.
In Rome Antokolsky completed the statue of Peter the Great for Peterhof in 1872, with its copies for Taganrog and Archangelsk. In 1878 Antokolsky exhibited most of his works at the Paris Universal exposition, and received the Grand Prize. In 1880 the personal exhibition of the artist was held in Saint Petersburg, and he was given the rank of professor. Mark Antokolsky left for Paris the same year, and stayed in the French capital until the end of his life. He realized here the following works: Spinoza (1881), Mephistopheles (1884), Yaroslav the Wise (1889), Nestor the Chronicler (1889) and Yermak Timofeevich (1891).
As disease of the artist progressed, he had to spend part of his time in Italy, but he worked most of the time in Paris. Mark Antokolsky died in Frankfurt on Main in 1902.
Benois, Alexandre Nikolayevich (1870—1960) was a prominent member of the artistic intellectual Benois family, an influential early 20th-century art critic, and founding member of Mir iskusstva. His influence on the modern ballet and stage design is considered great.
Alexandre’s father Nicholas Benois and brother Leon Benois were noted Russian architects. Alexandre didn’t plan to devote his life to art and graduated from the Faculty of Law, St Petersburg University in 1894. Three years later, while in Versailles, he painted a series of watercolours depicting Last Promenades of Louis XIV. When exhibited by Pavel Tretyakov in 1897, they brought him to attention of Sergei Diaghilev and Leon Bakst. Together they founded the art magazine and movement Mir iskusstva which aimed at promoting the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau in Russia.
During the first decade of the new century, Benois continued to edit Mir iskusstva but also pursued his scholarly interests. He prepared and printed several monographs on the 19th-century Russian art and Tsar- skoye Selo. From 1918 to 1926 he ran the gallery of Old Masters in the Hermitage Museum, to which he secured his brother’s heirloom — Leonardo’s Madonna Benois. In 1903 he printed his illustrations to Pushkin’s Bronze Horseman which have since been recognized as one of the landmarks in the genre.
In 1901 Benois was appointed scenic director of the Mariinsky Theatre. Since then, he devoted most of his time to stage design and decor. Les Sylphides (1909), Giselle (1910) and Petrushka (1911) are counted among his greatest triumphs. Although he worked primarily with Diaghi- lev for the Ballets Russes, he simultaneously collaborated with the Moscow Art Theatre and other notable theatres of Europe. His Memoirs were published in two volumes in 1955. The Russian artists Eugene Lanceray and Zinaida Serebryakova were his nephew and niece, and the British actor Sir Peter Ustinov was his grandnephew.
Botticelli, Sandro (c. 1445—1510), Florentine painter of the Renaissance, whose real name was Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi. He was one of the greatest colourists in Florence and a master of the rhythmic line. His delicate colouring can be seen in such early works as the Adoration of the Kings (National Gallery, London) and Chigi Madonna (Gardner Museum, Boston). Elements of the more vigorous style soon entered his paintings, e.g. Fortitude (Uffizi, Florence), St Augustine (Ognissanti, Florence), and Portrait of a Young Man (Uffizi, Florence). He became a favourite painter of the Medici, whose portraits he included, in addition to a self-portrait, among the splendid figures in the Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi, Florence). In 1481 Pope Sixtus IV asked him to help decorate the Sistine Chapel. After painting three biblical frescoes he returned to Florence, where he reached the height of his popularity. Through the Medici he came into contact with the Neoplatonic circle and was influenced by the ideas of Ficino and Poliziano. His mythological allegories, Spring, Birth of Venus, Mars and Venus and Pallas Subduing a Centaur, allude, in general, to the triumph of love and reason over brutal instinct. Probably in the 1490s he drew the visionary illustrations for the Divine Comedy. He painted a set of frescoes for the Villa Tornabuoni (Louvre, Paris) and created a series of radiant Madonnas. From Alberti’s description, he recreated the famous lost work of antiquity, The Calumny of Apelles. Religious passion is evident in the Nativity (National Gallery, London), Last Communion of St Jerome (Metropolitan Museum, New York) and Pieta (Fogg Museum, Cambridge). In the 19th century the Pre-Raphaelites rediscovered him. Supported by Ruskin, they admired what they considered to be the extreme refinement and poignancy of his conceptions.
Constable, John (1776—1837), English painter, born in Suffolk. Constable and Turner were the leading figures in English landscape painting of the 19th century. Constable became famous for his landscapes of Suffolk, Hampstead, Salisbury and Brighton. The son of a prosperous miller, he showed artistic talent while very young but did not devote himself to art until he was 23, when he went to London to study at the Royal Academy. Influenced by the 17th-century landscape painters Ruisdael and Claude Lorrain, his poetic approach to nature paralleled in spirit that of his contemporary, the poet Wordsworth. Constable’s direct observations of nature and his free use of broken colour were extraordinary in his day. He received but modest recognition in England, being tardily admitted to the Royal Academy in 1829. His work was more popular in France. In 1824 his View on the Stour (1819) and The Hay Wain (1821; National Gallery, London) were exhibited at the Salon in Paris, winning gold medals. His work made a profound impression on French romantics. In the United States he is represented in the Metropolitan Museum. Splendid examples of his work are contained in the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Dali, Salvador (1904—1989) was born in 1904 in Spain. He spent his boyhood in the small agricultural town of Figueres. His parents built him his first studio there. As an adult, he made his home with his wife Gala in nearby Port Lligat. Many of his paintings reflect his love of this area of Spain.
The young Dali attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dali’s talent came to him in 1925. He became internationally known when three of his paintings, including The Basket of Bread were shown in the International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
Dali soon became a leader of the Surrealist Movement. His painting, The Persistence of Memory, is still one of the best-known surrealist works. But as the war approached, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists and was “expelled” from the surrealist group.
During World War II Dali and Gala escaped from Europe, spending 1940—1948 in the United States. These were very important years for the artist. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Dali his first major retrospective exhibit in 1941.
As Dali moved away from Surrealism and into his classic period, he began his series of 19 large canvases, many concerning scientific, historical or religious themes.
In 1974 Dali opened the Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade. After the death of his wife Gala in 1982, Dali lived in his home in Pubol. His health began to fail. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclusion. Salvador Dali died on January 23, 1989, in Figueres from heart failure.
As an artist, Salvador Dali was not limited to a particular style or media. The body of his work, from early impressionist paintings through his transitional surrealist works, and into his classical period, reveals a constantly growing and evolving artist. Dali worked in all media, leaving behind a wealth of oils, watercolours, drawings, graphics and sculptures, films, photographs, performance pieces, jewels and objects of all descriptions. As important, he left for posterity the permission to explore all aspects of one’s own life and to give them artistic expression.
Degas, Edgar (Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas) (1834—1917), French painter and sculptor, son of a banker. Although prepared for the law, he abandoned it for painting, studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and in Italy, copying 15th- and 16th-century masters. He was precociously gifted as a draftsman and a brilliantly subtle and penetrating portraitist. He exhibited for 6 years in the Salon (1865—1870), but later ceased showing there and exhibited with the impressionists, whose works he admired although his approach often differed from theirs. An unflagging perfectionist, Degas strove to unite the discipline of classical art with the immediacy of impressionism. Degas shared with the impressionists their directness of expression and the interest in portrayal of contemporary life. His favourite subjects were ballet dancers, women at their toilette, cafe life, and race-track scenes. He made notes and sketches from living models in motion to preserve informality of action and position. From these he organized his finished work in the studio, not directly from nature as his contemporaries did. Moreover, he created many daring compositional innovations. Influenced by Japanese prints and especially by photography, Degas diverged from the traditional ideas of balanced arrangements. He introduced what appeared to be accidental cutoff views, off-centre subjects and unusual angles, all quite carefully planned. Sometimes he effected a remarkable balance by giving special weight to the focus of interest, as in Woman with Chrysanthemums (1865; Metropolitan Museum, New York) and Foyer of the Dance (1872; Louvre, Paris). Gradually, Degas turned away from the medium of oil painting, perhaps because of his failing eyesight. He produced more freely executed, glowing pastels and charcoal drawings. His works in sculpture include many notable studies of dancers and horses. A number of his paintings and sculptures may be seen in the Metropolitan Museum. Many of his most celebrated works, including Absinthe, The Rehearsal and Two Laundresses (1882) are in the Louvre. Ranked among the greatest of French artists, Degas profoundly influenced such later artists as Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso.
De La Roche, Hippolyte, commonly known as Paul Delaroche (1797— 1856) was a French painter born in Paris.
His father was an expert who had made a fortune by negotiating and cataloguing, buying and selling. He was proud of his son’s talent and able to forward his artistic education. Delaroche’s first picture Josabeth Saving Joas (1822) led to his acquaintance with Gericault and Delacroix, with whom he remained on the most friendly terms, the three forming the central group of a numerous body of historical painters, such as perhaps never before lived in one locality and at one time.
From 1822 the record of his life is to be found in the successive works coming from his hand. He visited Italy in 1838 and 1843.
His studio in Paris was in the rue Mazarine, where he never spent a day without some good result, his hand being sure and his knowledge great. His subjects, definitely expressed and popular in their manner of treatment, illustrating certain views of history dear to partisans, yet romantic in their general interest, were painted with a firm, solid, smooth surface, which gave an appearance of the highest finish.
We may add that his point of view on the historical characters which he treated is not always just, yet we forget the inaccuracy in admiration of the treatment which represents his models (“Queen Elizabeth Dying in the Ground”, “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey”).
Delaroche was not troubled by ideals and had no affectation of them. His sound but hard execution allowed no mystery to intervene between him and his motif, which was always intelligible to the million, so that he escaped all the waste of energy that painters who try to be poets on canvas suffer. Thus it is that essentially the same treatment was applied by him to the characters of distant historical times, the founders of the Christian religion, and the real people of his own day, such as Napoleon at Fontainebleau, or Napoleon at St Helena, or Marie Antoinette leaving the Convention after her sentence.
Gainsborough, Thomas (1727—1788), English portrait and landscape painter, born in Sudbury. In 1740 he went to London and became the assistant and pupil of the French engraver Hubert Gravelot. He was also influenced in his youth by the painter Francis Hayman and studied the landscapes of the great 17th-century Dutch artists. In 1745 he returned to Sudbury, later moving to Ipswich and finally to Bath, where he gradually acquired a large portrait practice. Gainsborough is celebrated for the elegance, vivacity and refinement of his portraits, which were greatly influenced in style by the work of Van Dyck. Some of these portray old-money aristocrats, but more are from the newly wealthy and highly cultured middle-class elite. Gainsborough had little taste for the society of his sitters, however, and spent much spare time painting his favourite subject, landscape, entirely for his own pleasure. These works were among the first great landscapes painted in England.
In his last years Gainsborough excelled in fancy pictures, a pastoral genre that featured idealized subjects (e.g. The Mall, 1783; Frick Collection, New York). He painted all parts of his pictures himself, an unusual practice for his day. He left a large collection of landscape drawings, which influenced the development of 19th-century landscape art. He is well represented in the national galleries of London, Ireland and Scotland; in the Wallace Collection, London; and in many private collections. Examples of Gainsborough’s work may be seen in the Metropolitan Museum and the museums of Cincinnati, Boston, Philadelphia and St Louis. Outstanding among his well-known works are Perdita (Wallace Collection, London), The Blue Boy (Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, CA), and Lady Innes (Frick Collection, New York).
Gauguin, Paul (1848—1903), French painter and woodcut artist, born in Paris; son of a journalist and a French-Peruvian mother. Gauguin was first a sailor, then a successful stockbroker in Paris. In 1874 he began to paint at weekends. By the age of 35, with the encouragement of Camille Pissarro, he devoted himself completely to his art, having given up his position and separated (1885) from his wife and five children. Allying himself with the Impressionists, he exhibited with them from 1879 to 1886. The next year he sailed for Panama and Martinique. In protest against the “disease” of civilization, he determined to live primitively, but illness forced him to return to France. The next years were spent in Paris and Brittany, with a brief but tragic stay with Van Gogh at Arles.
In 1888 Gauguin and Emile Bernard proposed a synthetist theory of art, emphasizing the use of flat planes and bright, non-naturalistic colour in conjunction with symbolic or primitive subjects. The Yellow Christ (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo) is characteristic of this period. In 1891 Gauguin sold 30 canvases and with the proceeds went to Tahiti. There he spent two years living poorly, painting some of his finest pictures, and writing Noa Noa, an autobiographical novel set in Tahiti. In 1893 he returned to France, collected a legacy, and exhibited his work, rousing some interest but making very little money. Disheartened and sick, he again set out for the South Seas in 1895. There his last years were spent in poverty, despair and physical suffering. In 1897 he attempted suicide and failed, living to paint for five more years. He died on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands.
Today Gauguin is recognised as a highly influential founding father of modern art. He rejected the tradition of western naturalism, using nature as a starting point from which to abstract figures and symbols. He stressed linear patterns and remarkable colour harmonies, imbuing his paintings with a profound sense of mystery. He revived the art of woodcutting with his free and daring knife work and his expressive, irregular shapes and strong contrasts. He produced some fine lithographs and a number of pottery pieces.
There are major examples of Gauguin’s work in the United States, including The Day of the God (Art Institute, Chicago), Ia Or ana Maria (1891; Metropolitan Museum, New York), By the Sea (1892; National Gallery, Washington, D.C.), and his masterpiece Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). W. Somerset Maugham’s Moon and Sixpence (1919), based loosely on the life of Gauguin, did much to promote the Gauguin legend that arose shortly after his death.
Greco, El (c. 1541—1614), Greek painter in Spain, born in Candia (Iraklion), Crete. His real name was Domenicos Theotocopoulos, of which several Italian and Spanish versions are current.
Trained first in the Byzantine school of icon painting, in 1567 he went to Venice, where he is known to have studied under Titian; thereafter (1570—1577) he painted in Rome. By late 1577 El Greco was established in Toledo and at work on the altar of the Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The centre painting of this group, the Assumption, now in the Art Institute of Chicago, shows marked Italian influence. His next great works, El Expolio (Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary, Toledo) and San Mauricio (Escorial, Madrid) indicate a rapid development. The second was commissioned by Philip II, but he rejected it.
El Greco remained in Toledo, then an abandoned and rapidly dwindling capital whose proud and recalcitrant nobility were driven wholesale into the church as their only remaining vocation. He has left superb portraits of their ascetic faces, and in the foreground of his famous Burial of the Count Orgaz (Church of San Tome, Toledo) it is they who are assembled at the funeral of the count, whose soul is seen ascending to Christ in the upper part of the painting. This masterpiece, painted in 1586, was followed by many others in which the artist, then mature, brought into play every resource of his dynamic art to express religious ecstasy. Flamelike lines, accentuated by vivid highlights, elongated and distorted figures, and full vibrant colour contrasted with subtle grays all combine to produce a unique art.
Among his many great works of this period are the Baptism, Crucifixion, and Resurrection (Prado, Madrid); a portrait of the inquisitor Cardinal Don Fernando Nino de Guevara (Metropolitan Museum, New York); two similar versions of St Jerome (one in the National Gallery, London; one in the Frick Collection, New York); and a long series of paintings of St Francis. Indeed, many of El Greco’s paintings exist in multiple interpretations of the same subject, each with variations that range from the profound to the subtle. To his last period, a time of deepening mysticism, belong such works as the Assumption (Museum of San Vicente Anejo, Toledo); Adoration and View of Toledo (Metropolitan Museum, New York); the Pentecost (Prado, Madrid); a portrait of Hortensio Felix Paravicino (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); and the Laocoon (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
Hogarth, William (1697—1764), English painter, satirist, engraver, and art theorist, born in London. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a silver-plate engraver. He soon made engravings on copper for bookplates and illustrations. He studied drawing with Thornhill, whose daughter he married in 1729. Hogarth tried to earn a living with small portraits and portrait groups, but his first real success came in 1732 with a series of six morality pictures, The Harlot’s Progress. He first painted, then engraved them, selling subscriptions for the prints, which had great popularity. The Rake’s Progress, a similar series, appeared in 1735. The series Marriage a la Mode (1745) is often considered his masterpiece. With a wealth of detail and brilliant characterization he depicts the tragedy of a fashionable young couple. His portraits The Shrimp Girl (National Gallery, London) and Captain Coram (1740) are two of the masterpieces of British painting. Hogarth’s major works are in England. In New York City the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection possess examples of his work.
Kandinsky, Wassily Wassilyevich (1866—1944), Russian abstract painter and theorist. Kandinsky gave up a legal career for painting at 30 when he moved to Munich. He then developed his ideas concerning the power of pure colour and non-representational painting. His first work in this mode was completed in 1910, the year in which he wrote an important theoretical study, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912). In this work he examines the psychological effects of colour with analogies between music and art.
In 1915 he returned to Moscow, where he taught and directed artistic activities. During the early 1920s his style evolved from riotous bursts of colour in his “Improvisations” to more precise, geometrically arranged compositions. In 1921 he returned to Germany and the next year joined the Bauhaus faculty. In 1926 he wrote Point and Line to Plane, which includes an analysis of geometric forms in art. At the outset of World War II, he went to France, where he spent the rest of his life. Kandinsky is particularly well represented in the Guggenheim Museum, New York City, and California’s Pasadena Art Museum.
Kelly, Ellsworth (born 1923), American painter, born in Newburgh, N.Y. He moved to New York City in 1941, studying at Pratt Institute, and later attended the Boston Museum Arts School. In Paris during the late 1940s, he studied at the Academie des Beaux-Arts and met many giants of modern art. He began to create relief sculptures and multipanel paintings, formats that remained features of his work. Returning (1954) to the United States, he became known in the 1950s and 60s for his hard-edge paintings, formal, impersonal compositions painted in flat areas of colour, usually with sharp contours and geometric shapes. Increasingly large, some were conventional rectangular canvases, some made up of several single-colour panels joined to make triangles, trapezoids and other shape; Atlantic (1956) and Green Blue Red (1964) are in the Whitney Museum, New York, and Blue Red Green (1962) in the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Kelly has also made large geometric sheet-metal sculptures, and is a collagist and printmaker.
Kiprensky, Orest Adamovich (1782—1836) was a leading Russian portraitist in the Age of Romanticism. His most familiar work is probably Alexander Pushkin’s portrait (1827), which prompted the poet to remark that “the mirror flatters me”.
Orest was born in the village of Koporye near St Petersburg on 24 March 1782. He was an illegitimate son of a landowner Alexey Dyakonov, hence his surname, derived from Kypris, one of Greek names for the goddess of love. He was raised in the family of Adam Shvalber, a serf. Although Kiprensky was born a serf, he was released from the serfdom upon his birth and later his father helped him to enter a boarding school at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg in 1788 (when Orest was only six years old).
He studied at the boarding school and the Academy itself until 1803. He lived at the Academy for three more years as a pensioner to fulfil requirements necessary to win the Major Gold Medal. Winning the first prize for his work Prince Dmitri Donskoi after the Battle of Kulikovo (1805) enabled the young artist to go abroad to study art in Europe.
A year before his graduation, in 1804, he painted the portrait of Adam Shvalber, his foster father, which was a great success. The portrait so impressed his contemporaries, that later members of the Naples Academy of Arts took it for the painting by some Old Master — Rubens or Van Dyke. Kiprensky had to ask the members of the Imperial Academy of Arts for letters supporting his authorship.
After that, Kiprensky lived in Moscow (1809), Tver (1811), St Petersburg (1812), in 1816—1822 he lived in Rome and Napoli. In Italy he met a local girl Anne Maria Falcucci (Mariucci), to whom he became attached. He bought her from her dissolute family and employed as his ward. On leaving Italy, he sent her to a Roman Catholic convent.
In 1828 Kiprensky came back to Italy, as he got a letter from his friend Samuel Halberg, informing him that they had lost track of Mariucci. Kiprensky found Mariucci, who had been transferred to another convent. In 1836 he eventually married her. He had to convert into Roman Catholicism for this marriage to happen. He died from pneumonia in Rome later that year.
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452—1519) was an Italian polymath: scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, musician and writer.
He was born and raised in Vinci, Italy, the illegitimate son of a notary, Messer Piero, and a peasant woman, Caterina. He had no surname in the modern sense; da Vinci simply means of Vinci. His full birth name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, meaning Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.
Leonardo has been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man”, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time, and the man with the most diversely prodigious talent ever to have lived.
It is primarily for his painted works that Leonardo has been held in renown, even during his own lifetime. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, occupying unique positions as the most famous, the most illustrated and most imitated portrait and religious painting of all time, only approached in fame by Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic.
Levitan, Isaac Ilyich (1860—1900) was a classical Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of the mood landscape.
Isaac Levitan was born in a shtetl of Kibarti, Kaunas region, Lithuania, into a poor but educated Jewish family. At the beginning of 1870 the Levitan family moved to Moscow.
In September 1873 Isaac Levitan entered the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture where his older brother Avel had already studied for two years. After a year in the copying class Isaac transferred into a naturalistic class, and soon thereafter into a landscape class. Levitan’s teachers were the famous A. K. Savrasov, V. G. Perov and V. D. Polenov. For his successes at school, Levitan was awarded a box of paints and two dozen brushes.
In 1875 his mother died, and his father fell seriously ill and became unable to support four children; he died in 1879. The family slipped into abject poverty. As patronage for Levitan’s talent and achievements and to keep him in the school, he was given a scholarship.
In 1877 Isaac Levitan’s works were first publicly exhibited and earned favorable recognition from the press. After Alexander Soloviev’s assassination attempt on Alexander II, in May 1879, mass deportations of Jews from big cities of the Russian Empire forced the family to move to the suburb of Saltykovka, but in the autumn officials responded to pressure from art devotees, and Levitan was allowed to return. In 1880 his painting Autumn day. Sokolniki was bought by famous philanthropist and art collector Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov.
In the spring of 1884 Levitan participated in the mobile art exhibition by the group known as the Peredvizhniki and in 1891 became a member of the Peredvizhniki partnership. During his study in the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture, Levitan befriended Konstantin Korovin, Mikhail Nesterov, architect Fyodor Shekhtel and the painter Nikolay Chekhov, whose famous brother Anton Chekhov became the artist’s closest friend. Levitan often visited Chekhov and some think Levitan was in love with his sister, Maria Pavlovna Chekhova.
In the early 1880s Levitan collaborated with the Chekhov brothers on the illustrated magazine Moscow and illustrated the M. Fabritsius edition Kremlin. Together with Korovin in 1885—1886 he painted scenery for performances of the Private Russian opera of S. I. Mamontov.
In the 1880s he participated in the drawing and watercolour gatherings at Polenov’s house.
Levitan’s work was a profound response to the lyrical charm of the Russian landscape. Levitan did not paint urban landscapes; with the exception of the View of Simonov monastery (whereabouts unknown), mentioned by Nesterov, the city of Moscow appears only in the painting Illumination of the Kremlin. During the late 1870s, he often worked in the vicinity of Moscow and created the special variant of the “landscape of mood”, in which the shape and condition of nature are spiritualized and become carriers of conditions of the human soul (Autumn day. Sokolniki, 1879). During work in Ostankino, he painted fragments of the mansion’s house and park, but he was most fond of poetic places in the forest or modest countryside. Characteristic of his work is a hushed and nearly melancholic reverie amidst pastoral landscapes largely devoid of human presence. Fine examples of these qualities include The Vladimirka Road, 1892, Evening Bells, 1892 and Eternal Rest, 1894, all in the Tretyakov Gallery. Though his late work displayed familiarity with Impressionism, his palette was generally muted, and his tendencies were more naturalistic and poetic than optical or scientific.
In the summer of 1890 Levitan went to Yuryevets and among numerous landscapes and sketches he painted The View of Krivoozerski monastery. So the plan of one of his best pictures, The Silent Monastery was born. The image of a silent monastery and planked bridges over the river, connecting it with the outside world, expressed the artist’s spiritual reflections. It is known that this picture made a strong impression on Chekhov.
In 1897, already world-famous, he was elected to the Imperial Academy of Arts and in 1898 he was named the head of the Landscape Studio at his alma mater.
Levitan spent the last year of his life at Chekhov’s home in Crimea. In spite of the effects of a terminal illness, his last works are increasingly filled with light. They reflect tranquility and the eternal beauty of Russian nature.
He was buried in Dorogomilov Jewish cemetery. In April 1941 Levitan’s remains were moved to the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to Chekhov’s necropolis. Levitan did not have a family or children. Isaac Levitan’s hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolours, pastels, graphics and illustrations.
Lorrain, Claude whose original name was Claude Gelee or Gellee (1600—1682), French painter, born in Lorraine. Claude was the foremost landscape painter of his time. In Rome, at about 12 years of age, he was employed as a pastry cook for the landscape painter Augustino Tassi, whose apprentice he soon became. He travelled in Italy and France, and returned to settle permanently in Rome by 1627. Under the patronage of Pope Urban VIII he rapidly rose to fame. His poetic treatment of landscape raised this subject matter to eminence alongside the more esteemed religious and historical genres. Claude’s paintings became so popular and widely imitated that, in order to avoid forgeries, he began to record his compositions in a notebook of drawings (Duke of Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth).
Although he began by using the traditional device of compartmentalized stages — foreground, middleground and background — in his later landscapes he opened up unlimited vistas, introducing lyrical variations of light and atmosphere. In his later works light was the primary subject. It dissolved forms, drawing the eye into vast panoramas of land and sea. Claude’s harbor scenes and views of the Roman countryside exercised a lasting influence on the art of landscape painting. Poussin was indebted to him, as was Richard Wilson, and he was consciously emulated two centuries later by J. M. W. Turner. Claude’s work is best represented in England. It can be seen in the National Gallery, London; the Doria Palace, Rome; the Louvre; the Prado; and in many American collections, including the museums of New York City, Boston, Kansas City, St Louis and San Francisco.
Magritte, René Francois Ghislain (1898—1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He is well-known for a number of witty and amusing images.
Magritte was born in Belgium in 1898. He began drawing lessons in 1910. In 1912 his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the River Sambre. Magritte was present when her body was retrieved from the water, and the image of his mother floating, her dress obscuring her face, was to be prominent in his amant series. He studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels for two years until 1918. In 1922 he married Georgette Berger, whom he had met in 1913.
Magritte worked in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926 when a contract with Galerie la Centaure in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time.
In 1926 Magritte produced his first surrealist painting, The Lost Jockey, and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became involved in the surrealist group.
When Galerie la Centaure closed and the contract income ended, he returned to Brussels and worked in advertising. Then, with his brother, he formed an agency, which earned him a living wage.
During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II he remained in Brussels. At the time he renounced the violence and pessimism of his earlier work, though he returned to the themes later.
His work showed in the United States in New York in 1936 and again in that city in two retrospective exhibitions, one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, and the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1992.
Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967.
Popular interest in Magritte’s work rose considerably in the 1960s.
A consummate technician, his work frequently displays a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. The representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, The Treachery of Images, which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe, This is not a pipe, which seems a contradiction, but is actually true: the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. (In his book, This Is Not a Pipe, French critic Michel Foucault discusses the painting and its paradox.)
Magritte pulled the same stunt in a painting of an apple: he painted the fruit realistically and then used an internal caption or framing device to deny that the item was an apple. In these works, Magritte seems to suggest that no matter how closely, through realism art, we come to depicting an item accurately, we never do catch the item itself, but capture only an image on the canvas.
His art shows a more representational style of surrealism compared to the “automatic” style seen in works by artists like Joan Miro. In addition to fantastic elements, his work is often witty and amusing. He also created a number of surrealist versions of other famous paintings.
René Magritte described his paintings by saying:
“My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, “What does that mean?”. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable”.
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475—1564), Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. Michelangelo drew extensively as a child, and his father placed him under the tutelage of Ghirlandaio, a respected artist of the day. After one unproductive year, Michelangelo became the student of Bertoldo di Giovanni, a sculptor employed by the Medici family. From 1490 to 1492 Michelangelo lived with the Medici family; during this time he learned a lot. Although Michelangelo claimed that he was self-taught, one might perceive in his work the influence of such artists as Leonardo, Giotto and Poliziano. He learned to paint and sculpt more by observation than by tutelage. Michelangelo was known to be extremely sensitive, and he combined an excess of energy with an excess of talent.
Michelangelo’s earliest sculpture was made in the Medici garden near the church of San Lorenzo; his Bacchus and Sleeping Cupid both show the results of careful observation of the classical sculptures located in the garden. His later work, Madonna of the Stairs, reflects his growing interest in his contemporaries. Throughout Michelangelo’s sculpted work one finds both a sensitivity to mass and a command of unmanageable chunks of marble. His Pieta places the body of Jesus in the lap of the Virgin Mother; the artist’s force and majestic style are balanced by the sadness and humility in Mary’s gaze.
In 1504 he sculpted David in a classical style, giving him a perfectly proportioned body and musculature. Michelangelo’s approach to the figure has been contrasted to that of Donatello, who gave David a more youthful and less muscular frame. In 1505 Michelangelo was offered a commission for the design and sculpting of the tomb of Pope Julius II.
Michelangelo made only one figure for the tomb, Moses, his last major sculpture. The artist made the statue from a block of marble; his final product conveys his own skill for demonstration of mass within stone and a sense of Moses’ anguish.
In his architectural works Michelangelo defied the conventions of his time. He designed Laurentian Library which demonstrates Michelangelo’s free approach to structural form. The Capitoline Square, designed by Michelangelo during the same period, was located on Rome’s Capitoline Hill. Its shape, more a rhomboid than a square, was intended to counteract the effects of perspective. At its centre was a statue of Marcus Aurelius. From 1540 to 1550 Michelangelo redesigned St Peter’s Church in Rome, completing only the dome and four columns for its base before his death.
Millais, Sir John Everett (1829—1896), English painter. A prodigy, he began studying at the Royal Academy at the age of 11. In 1848, together with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, he initiated the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His early work shows a painstaking rendering of minute detail and great clarity. His Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop (1850; Tate Gallery, London) was attacked because of its realism, but his reputation was soon established. He was created a baronet in 1885, and in 1896 he became president of the Royal Academy. John Ruskin, the famous writer, was a close friend and champion of his work until 1855 when Millais married Mrs Ruskin, after the nullification of her marriage. His work is well represented in many British galleries. His Portia is in the Metropolitan Museum.
Monet, Claude (1840—1926), French landscape painter, born in Paris. Monet was a founder of Impressionism. He was true to its principles throughout his long career and is considered the most consistently representative painter of the school as well as one of the foremost painters of landscape in the history of art.
As a youth in Le Havre, Monet was encouraged by the marine painter Boudin to paint in the open air. After two years (1860—1862) with the army in Algeria, he went to Paris, in spite of his parents’ objections, to study painting. In Paris Monet formed lasting friendships with the artists who would become the major impressionists, including Pissarro, Cezanne, Renoir, Sisley and Bazille. Monet learned from his friends, from the landscape itself and from the works of his older contemporaries Manet, Corot and Courbet. Monet’s representation of light was based on his knowledge of the laws of optics as well as his own observations of his subjects. He often showed natural colour by breaking it down into its different components as a prism does.
In his later works Monet allowed his vision of light to dissolve the real structures of his subjects. To do this he chose simple matter, making several series of studies of the same object at different times of day or year: haystacks, morning views of the Seine, the Gare Saint-Lazare (1876—1878), poplars (begun 1890), the Thames, the celebrated group of Rouen Cathedral (1892—1894) and the last great lyrical series of water lilies (1899, and 1904—1925), painted in his own garden at Giverny (one version, a vast triptych c. 1920; Museum of Modern Art, New York).
In 1874 Sisley, Morisot and Monet organized the first impressionist group show, which was ferociously maligned by the critics, who coined the term impressionism after Monet’s Impression: Sunrise (1872; Museum Marmottan, Paris). The show failed financially. However, by 1883 Monet had prospered, and he retired from Paris to his home in Giverny. In the last decade of his life Monet, nearly blind, painted a group of large water lily murals (Nympheas) for the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.
Monet’s work is particularly well represented in the Louvre, the Marmottan (Paris), the National Gallery (London), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Art Institute of Chicago. It is also included in many famous private collections.
Moreau, Gustave (1826—1898), French painter. He was known for his pictures of the weird and mystical. The recipient of many honours, he refused to sell his paintings except to friends. Moreau was professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where his pupils included Matisse and Rouault. After his death, his house in Paris (now the Musee Moreau), with his fine art collection, was bequeathed to the nation. Orpheus (Louvre, Paris) and Oedipus and the Sphinx (Metropolitan Museum, New York) are characteristic works.
Munch, Edvard (1863—1944), Norwegian painter and graphic artist. He studied in Oslo and under Bonnat in Paris and travelled in Europe. He abandoned impressionism and in the 1890s, from a profound personal sense of isolation, visually examined such primal themes as birth, death, thwarted love, sex, fear and anxiety. Stricken by tragedy (his mother and favourite sister died young, another sister was psychotic, and he feared for his own sanity), Munch transformed his own trauma into an exploration of universal themes, creating figurative images that are sometimes violent, sometimes tranquil and sorrowful. He also executed a masterful series of self-portraits. Munch’s emotionally charged style is recognised as being of primary importance to the birth of German expressionism. Also during the 1890s, Munch’s most productive period, he made a number of powerful and often shocking woodcuts, developing a new technique of direct and forceful cutting that served to revive creative activity in this medium.
Among Munch’s strongest and best-known works are The Scream (1893), Vampire (1894) and The Kiss (1895). Reaction to his stark and sometimes fearsome images caused the closing of his first major exhibition held in Berlin in 1892. In 1909, after a severe mental illness, he returned from Germany to Norway, where he painted murals for the University of Oslo and for an Oslo chocolate factory. His painting became brighter of palette and less introverted until the 1920s, when he again was moved to portray his dreadful anguish. All but a few of Munch’s paintings, e.g. Summer Night’s Dream (The Voice) (1893; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), are in Norwegian collections.
Picasso, Pablo (Pablo Ruiz y Picasso) (1881—1973), Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist and ceramist, who worked in France. He is generally considered in his technical virtuosity, enormous versatility and incredible originality and prolificity to have been the foremost figure in the 20th-century art.
A precocious draftsman, Picasso was admitted to the advanced classes at the Royal Academy of Art in Barcelona at 15. After 1900 he spent much time in Paris, remaining there from 1904 to 1947, when he moved to the south of France. His power is revealed in his very early works, some of which were influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec (such as Old Woman, 1901; Philadelphia Museum of Art).
Picasso’s artistic production is usually described in terms of a series of overlapping periods. In his “blue period” (1901—1904) he depicted the world of the poor. Predominantly in tones of blue, these melancholy paintings (such as The Old Guitarist, 1903; Art Institute of Chicago) are among the most popular art works of the century. Canvases from Picasso’s “rose period” (1905—1906) are characterized by a lighter palette and greater lyricism, with subject matter often drawn from circus life. Picasso’s Parisian studio attracted the major figures of the avant-garde at this time, including Matisse, Braque, Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein. He had already produced numerous engravings of great power and began his work in sculpture during these years.
In 1907 Picasso painted Mademoiselles d’Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York), a radical departure from the artistic ideas of the preceding ages and now considered the most significant work in the development toward cubism and modern abstraction. The influence of Cezanne and of African sculpture is apparent in its fragmented forms and unprecedented distortions. The painting heralded the first phase of cubism, called analytic cubism. This severe, intellectual style was conceived and developed by Picasso, Braque and Gris c. 1909—1912. Picasso’s Female Nude (1910—1911; Philadelphia Museum of Art) is a representative painting and his Woman’s Head (1909; Museum of Modern Art, New York) is a representative sculpture of this style.
In the synthetic phase of cubism (after 1912) his forms became larger and more representational, and flat, bright decorative patterns replaced the earlier, more austere compositions. The Three Musicians (1921; Museum of Modern Art, New York) exemplifies this style. Picasso’s cubist works established firmly that the work of art may exist as a significant object beyond any attempt to represent reality. During both periods of cubism experiments by Picasso and others resulted in several new techniques, including collage and papier colle.
In his later years Picasso turned to creations of fantasy and comic invention. He worked consistently in sculpture, ceramics and in the graphic arts, producing thousands of superb drawings, illustrations and stage designs. With unabated vigor he painted brilliant variations on the works of other masters, including Delacroix and Velasquez, and continued to explore new aspects of his personal vision until his death. His notable later works include Rape of the Sabines (1963; Picasso Museum, Paris) and Young Bather with Sand Shovel (1971; private collection, France). By virtue of his vast energies and overwhelming power of invention Picasso remains outstanding among the masters of the ages.
Rembrandt Harmensz (Harmenszoon) van Rijn (or Ryn) (1606—1669), Dutch painter, etcher and draftsman, born in Leiden. Rembrandt is acknowledged as the greatest master of the Dutch school. A miller’s son, Rembrandt attended a Latin school and spent part of one year at the University of Leiden, leaving in 1621 to study painting with a local artist, Jacob van Swanenburgh. His most valuable training was received during the six months of 1624 that he spent in the studio of Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam. Lastman’s work affected Rembrandt’s in his sense of composition and his frequent choice of religious and historical themes.
In 1625 Rembrandt returned to Leiden, where he developed his own distinct style, using the many possibilities of the oil medium, heavily layering the paint and experimenting with diverse techniques. He showed an unusual preference for the faces of the old and the poor from his earliest works to his latest (e.g. Two Philosophers, Melbourne). Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1632, where he became established as a portrait painter with his group portrait Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp (1632), a traditional subject to which he gave radical treatment. His commissioned portraits include those of Minister Johannes Elison and his wife (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Nicolas Ruts (Frick Collection, New York). His position in Amsterdam was further solidified by the dowry and social connections gained by his joyous marriage to Saskia van Ulyenburgh, a burgomaster’s daughter. During the 1640s Rembrandt developed an enduring interest in landscape. He made numerous etchings, including Three Trees and Christ Healing the Sick, executed with exceptional spontaneity and vigor, and created many works solely for his own pleasure, an unusual practice for his time. This, together with his art collecting, eventually caused financial ruin. In the last two decades of his life Rembrandt, withdrawn from society and no longer fashionable, created many of his masterpieces. These works were more concerned with human character than with outward appearance and are the foundation of his unequaled reputation. Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (1653; Metropolitan Museum, New York) reveals his power to elicit a mood of profound mystery and meditation. Among the other remarkable paintings of this period is Bathsheba (Louvre, Paris); two of the notable etchings are Three Crosses (1653) and Christ Presented to the People (1655).
The powerful night scene The Conspiracy of the Batavians (1661; Stockholm) is the remaining fragment of his most monumental historical work. To the 1660s belong The Family Group (Brunswick), The Jewish Bride (Rijks Museum) and The Syndics of the Cloth Guild (1662; Rijks Museum), all of which are loosely structured, flamelike in colour and psychologically penetrating.
Renoir, Pierre-Auguste (1841—1919), French impressionist painter and sculptor, born in Limoges. Renoir went to work at the age of 13 in Paris as a decorator of factory-made porcelain, copying the works of Boucher. In 1862 he entered M. C. Gleyre’s studio, where he formed lasting friendships with Bazille, Monet and Sisley. His early work reflected myriad influences including those of Courbet, Manet, Corot, Ingres and Delacroix. He began to earn his living with portraiture in the 1870s; an important work of this period was Madame Charpentier and Her Children (1876; Metropolitan Museum, New York). Simultaneously he developed the ability to paint joyous, shimmering colour and flickering light in outdoor scenes such as The Swing and the festive Moulin de la Galette (both 1876; Louvre, Paris).
Renoir travelled in Algeria and in Italy (1881—1882), returning to Paris where a successful exhibition (1883) established him financially. He had gone beyond impressionism. His ecstatic sensuality, particularly in his opulent, generalized images of women, and his admiration of the Italian masters removed him from the primary impressionist concern: to imitate the effects of natural light. After a brief period, often termed “harsh” or “tight”, in which his forms were closely defined in outline (e.g. The Bathers, 1884—1887; private collection), his style of the 1890s changed, diffusing both light and outline, and with dazzling, opalescent colours describing voluptuous nudes, radiant children and lush summer landscapes. From 1903, Renoir fought the encroaching paralysis of arthritis at the same time that his work attained its greatest sensual power and monumentality. Despite illness and personal tragedy he began to produce major works of sculpture (e.g. Victorious Venus, Renoir Museum, Cagnes-sur-Mer). Among his most celebrated paintings are: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881); Dance at Bougival (1883); Lady Sewing and Bather (1917—1918). Renoir’s work is represented in most of the important galleries in the world. His son, the film director Jean Renoir, wrote a biography (1962).
Rerikh (Roerich), Nikolay Konstantinovich (1874—1947), Russian painter and spiritual teacher. He was the father of Tibetologist George Rerikh (aka Yuri Rerikh) and artist Svyatoslav Rerikh. Nikolay and his wife Helena Rerikh were cofounders of the theosophical Agni Yoga Society.
Born in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg, Russia, into a family of a well-to-do public, he lived around the world until his death in Punjab, India. Trained as an artist and a lawyer, his interests lay in literature, philosophy, archaeology and especially art.
In his early life Nikolay Rerikh had close ties to Ukraine and Ukrainian culture. Influenced by such prominent Ukrainian symphatics of his time as Taras Shevchenko, Gogol, Kostomarov, he had recognized “Kobzar” as one of his favourite books. His first painting classes N. Rerikh got in the same memorial class where Shevchenko did. In-between 1903—1906 Rerikh’s drafts Pokrova was implemented in Kiev region, in 1910 mosaic for Troitsky cathedral in famous Pechersk Lavra.
Rerikh’s stage designs for the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, given in Paris in 1913, and based on ancient Russian motifs, were highly innovative and influential. They were an important element in the success and the scandal of this epochal musical event.
He first visited New York City in 1920. After touring the United States, he and his wife settled in the city, founding the Master Institute of the United Arts. They also joined various theosophical societies and their activities in these groups dominated their lives.
After leaving New York, the Rerikhs — together with their son George and six friends — went on the five-year long ‘Rerikh American Expedition’ that, in Rerikh’s own words: “started from Sikkim through Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, Karakorem Mountains, Khotan, Kashgar, Qara Shar, Urumchi, Irtysh, Altai Mountains, Oryot region of Mongolia, Central Gobi, Kansu, Tsaidam, Tibet” with a detour through Siberia to Moscow in 1926. Between summer 1927 and June 1928 the expedition was thought to be lost, since all contact from them ceased for a year. They had been attacked in Tibet and only the “Superiority of our firearms prevented bloodshed. ... In spite of Tibet passports, expedition was forcibly stopped by Tibetan authorities”. The expedition was detained by the government for five months, and forced to live in tents in subzero conditions and on meagre rations. Five men of the expedition died at this time. In March of 1928 they were allowed to leave Tibet, and trekked south to settle in India, where they founded a research centre, the Himalayan Research Institute.
In 1929 Nikolay Rerikh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the University of Paris. (He received a second nomination in 1935.) His concern for peace led to his creation of the Pax Cultura, the “Red Cross” of art and culture. His work in this area also led the United States and the twenty other members of the Pan-American Union to sign the Rerikh Pact on April 15, 1935 at the White House. The Rerikh Pact is an early international instrument protecting cultural property.
Reynolds, Sir Joshua (1723—1792) was the most important and influential of the 18th-century English painters, specializing in portraits and promoting the “Grand Style” in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. Reynolds was born in Plympton St Maurice, Devon, on 16 July 1723. From 1749 to 1752, he spent over two years in Italy, mainly in Rome, where he studied the Old Masters and acquired a taste for the “Grand Style”. From 1753 on, he lived and worked in London. Reynolds was an accomplished academic. His lectures (Discourses) on art, delivered at the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1790, are remembered for their sensitivity and perception. In 1789 he lost the sight of his left eye, and on 23 February 1792 he died in his house in Leicester Fields, London. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Rokotov, Fyodor Stepanovich (1736—1809) was a distinguished Russian painter who specialized in portraits.
Fyodor Rokotov was born into a family of peasant serfs, belonging to the Repnins. Much in his biography is obscure. He studied art in Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts. After buying back his freedom at the end of 1750s he became established as a fashionable painter.
In 1765 Rokotov was elected an academician, but he did not work as a professor in the Academy long, because it interfered with his painting. He returned to Moscow in 1765, where he lived for the rest of his life. He had a lot of commissions there, becoming one of the best portrait painters of his time.
Among his best-known portraits are Portrait of Alexandra Struyskaya (1772), sometimes called the “Russian Mona Lisa” and admittedly the most celebrated piece of the 18th-century Russian painting; Portrait of Countess Elisabeth Santi (1785) and Lady in a Pink Dress (1770s).
Rokotov avoided painting formal portraits with lots of adornments and decorations. Instead he was one of the first Russian painters advancing a psychological portrait with attention to optical and atmospheric effects.
Sargent, John Singer (1856—1925), American painter, born in Florence, Italy, of American parents, educated in Italy, France and Germany. In 1874 he went to Paris, where he studied under Carolus-Duran. He remained there for 10 years except for visits to the United States, Spain and Africa. From his first exhibit in the Salon of 1878 he received early recognition, and by 1884, when he moved to London, he already enjoyed a high reputation as a portrait painter. He spent most of the remainder of his life there, painting the dashing portraits of American and English social celebrities for which he is famous. For a considerable period of time, Sargent was the world’s best-known and most highly paid portrait painter. In 1890 he was commissioned by the architect Charles McKim to paint a series of murals, The History of Religion, for the Boston Public Library. He completed them in 1916.
An untiring and prolific painter of great facility, Sargent was particularly brilliant in his treatment of textures. In his portraiture he showed great virtuosity in his handling of the brushstrokes, quickly capturing the likeness and vitality of his subject. His portraits nearly always flattered his sitters.
During his youth, and again after 1910, he deserted portrait painting long enough to produce a large number of brilliant impressionistic landscapes in watercolour, many of them painted in Venice and the Tyrol. Of these, fine collections are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Brooklyn Museum. His portraits and figure pieces are housed in many private and public collections in England and the United States. Well-known examples are the portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner and El Jaleo (Gardner Museum, Boston); the portraits of Madame X, the Wyndham sisters, Henry Marquand and William Merritt Chase (Metropolitan Museum, New York); The Fountain (Art Institute, Chicago); and Children of E. D. Boit (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). During the late 1990s and early 2000s Sargent was subject to wide-ranging critical reappraisal, provoking a renewed appreciation for his work.
Savrasov, Alexei Kondratyevich (1830—1897) was a Russian landscape painter and creator of the lyrical landscape style.
Savrasov was born into the family of a merchant. He began to draw early and in 1838 he enrolled as a student of professor Rabus at the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture (graduated in 1850) and immediately began to specialize in landscape painting.
In 1852 he travelled to Ukraine. Then, in 1854 by the invitation of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, President of the Imperial Academy of Arts, he moved to the neighbourhood of St Petersburg. In 1857 Savra- sov became a teacher at the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture. His best disciples, Isaac Levitan and Konstantin Korovin, remembered their teacher with admiration and gratitude.
In 1857 he married Sophia Karlovna Hertz, sister of art historian K. Hertz. In their home they entertained artistic people and collectors including Pavel Tretyakov. Savrasov became especially close with Vasily Perov. Perov helped him paint the figures of the boat trackers in Savrasov’s Volga near Yuryevets, Savrasov painted landscapes for Perov’s Bird Catcher and Hunters on Bivouac.
In the 1860s he travelled to England to see the International Exhibition and to Switzerland. In one of his letters he wrote that no academies in the world could so advance an artist as the present world exhibition. The painters who influenced him most were British painter John Constable and Swiss painter Alexandre Calame.
The Rooks Have Come Back (1871) is considered by many critics to be the high point in Savrasov’s artistic career. Using a common, even trivial, episode of birds returning home and an extremely simple landscape, Savrasov emotionally showed the transition of nature from winter to spring. It was a new type of lyrical landscape painting, called later by critics the mood landscape. The painting brought him fame.
In 1870 he became a member of the Peredvizhniki group breaking with government-sponsored academic art.
In 1871, after the death of his daughter, there was a crisis in his art. The misfortunes in his personal life and, possibly, dissatisfaction with his artistic career were the reasons of his tragedy — he became an alcoholic. All attempts of his relatives and friends to help him were in vain.
The last years of his life Savrasov led the life of a pauper, wandering from shelter to shelter. Only the doorkeeper of the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture and Pavel Tretyakov, founder of the Tretyakov Gallery, were present at his funeral in 1897.
Serebryakova, Zinaida Yevgenyevna (nee Lanceray) (1884—1967) was the first female Russian painter of distinction.
Zinaida Serebryakova was born on the estate of Neskuchnoye near Kharkov (now Ukraine) into one of the most refined and artistic families of Russia.
She belonged to the artistic family both of Benois and Lanceray. Her grandfather Nikolay Leontyevich Benois was a famous architect, chairman of architect’s society and member of Russian Academy of Science. Her uncle Alexandre Benois was a famous painter, founder of the Mir iskusstva art group. Her father, Yevgeny Nikolayevich Lanceray, was a well-known sculptor, and her mother, who was Alexandre Benois’s sister, was good at drawing. One of Zinaida’s brothers, Nikolay Yevgenyevich Lanceray, was a talented architect, and her other brother, Yevgeny Yevgenyevich Lanceray, had an important place in Russian and Soviet art as a master of monumental painting and graphic art. Russian-English actor and writer Peter Ustinov was also her relative.
In 1900 she graduated from women’s gymnasium and entered the art school founded by princess Tenisheva. She learned from Repin (since 1901) and from portrait artist Braz (1903—1905).
In 1902—1903 she travelled to Italy. In 1905—1906 she studied at Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris.
In 1905 Zinaida Lanceray married her first cousin, son of Yevgeny’s sister, student (later railway engineer) Boris Serebryakov and took his surname.
Ever since her youth Zinaida Serebryakova strove to express her love of the world and to show its beauty. Her earliest works — Country Girl (1906; Russian Museum, St Petersburg) and Orchard in Bloom (1908; private collection) — speak eloquently of this search and of her acute awareness of the beauty of the Russian land and its people. These works are sketches done from nature, and though she was young at the time, her extraordinary talent, confidence and boldness were apparent.
Broad public recognition came with Serebryakova’s self-portrait At the Dressing Table (1909; Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) first shown at a large exhibition mounted by the Union of Russian Artists in 1910. The self-portrait was followed by Girl Bathing (1911; Russian Museum, St Petersburg), a portrait of Ye.K.Lanceray (1911; private collection), and a portrait of the artist’s mother Yekaterina Lanceray (1912; Russian Museum, St Petersburg) — mature works, strict in composition.
She joined the Mir iskusstva movement in 1911, but stood out from the other members of the group because of her preference for popular themes and because of the harmony, plasticity and generalized nature of her paintings.
In 1914—1917 Zinaida Serebryakova was in her prime. During these years she produced a series of pictures on the theme of Russian rural life, the work of the peasants and the Russian countryside which was so dear to her heart: Peasants (1914—1915; Russian Museum, St Petersburg), Sleeping Peasant Girl (private collection).
The most important of these works was Bleaching Cloth (1917; Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) which revealed Zinaida Serebryakova’s striking talent as a monumental artist. The figures of the peasant women, portrayed against the background of the sky, gain majesty and power by virtue of the low horizon.
When in 1916 Alexandre Benois was commissioned to decorate the Kazan Railway Station in Moscow, he invited Yevgeny Lanceray, Boris Kustodiev, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Zinaida Serebryakova to help him. Serebryakova took on the theme of the Orient: India, Japan, Turkey and Siam are represented allegorically in the form of beautiful women. At the same time she began compositions on subjects from classical mythology, but these remained unfinished.
Zinaida met the October Revolution at her family estate of Neskuchnoye. Suddenly her whole life changed. In 1919 her husband Boris died of typhus, contracted in Bolshevik jails. She was left with her four children and sick mother without any income. The family starved. All reserves of Neskuchnoye were marauded. She had to stop oil painting for the less expensive techniques of coal and pencil. This was the time of her most tragic painting House of Cards showing all her four orphaned children.
She did not want to switch to the futurist style popular in earlier Soviet art, nor paint portraits of commissars, but she found some work at the Kharkov Archaeological Museum, where she made pencil drawings of exhibits. In December 1920 she moved to Petrograd to her grandfather’s apartment. After the October Revolution inhabitants of private apartments were forced to share them with new inhabitants sent for podseleniye. Her daughter Tatiana entered the Academy of ballet. She made then a series of pastels on the Mariinsky theatre.
In the autumn of 1924 Serebryakova went to Paris, having received a commission for a large decorative mural. On finishing this work she intended to return to Russia, where her mother and the four children remained. The youngest boy Alexandre and the youngest daughter Catherine came in Paris respectively in 1926 and 1928. She wanted to have the other ones, but her life resulted differently, and she was not able to return to Russia. As a result, she became separated from two of her beloved children, Yevgeny and Tatiana.
Zinaida Serebryakova travelled a great deal. In 1928 and 1930 she travels to Africa, visiting Morocco. Landscapes of Africa’s north astonished her, she paints Atlas Mountains, Arab women, Africans in ethnic clothes. She also paints a cycle devoted to Britanny’s fishermen. The salient feature of her later landscapes and portraits is the artist’s own personality — her love of beauty, whether in nature or in man. And yet, the most important thing was missing — the connection with what was near and dear to her. In 1947 she took French citizenship.
During Khrushchev’s Thaw, the Soviet Government allowed contact with her. In 1960, after 36 years of forced separation, she was visited by her daughter Tatiana (Tata), who became an artist painting decors for the Moscow Art Theatre. In 1966 a large exhibition of Zinaida Serebryakova’s works was mounted in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. She instantly became very popular in Russia, her albums were selling by the millions and she was compared to Botticelli and Renoir.
On September 19, 1967, at age 82, Zinaida Serebryakova died in Paris. Most of her works are still in France, but she sent about 200 to Russia for the exhibition.
Seurat, Georges (1859—1891), French neoimpressionist painter. He devised the pointillist technique of painting in tiny dots of pure colour. His method, called divisionism, was a systematic refinement of the broken colour of the impressionists. His major achievements are his Baignade (Tate Gallery, London), shown in the Salon des Independants in 1884, and his masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte (Art Institute, Chicago), completed two years later. He died of pneumonia at 31. Seurat is recognised as one of the most intellectual artists of his time and was a great influence in restoring harmonious and deliberate design and a thorough understanding of colour combination to painting at a time when sketching from nature had become the mode. Other examples of Seurat’s work are in the Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA, and in the Louvre.
Shishkin, Ivan Ivanovich (1832—1898) was a Russian landscape painter. He studied at the Moscow School of painting, sculpturing and architecture for 4 years, then attended the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts from 1856 to 1860, graduating with the highest honours and a gold medal. Five years later Shishkin became a member of the Academy and later a professor. At the same time Shishkin headed the landscape painting class at the Higher Art School.
For some time Shishkin lived and worked in Switzerland and Germany. On his return to St Petersburg, he became a member of the Circle of the Peredvizhniki and of the Society of Russian Watercolourists. He also took part in exhibitions at the Academy of Arts, the All Russian Exhibition in Moscow (1882), the Nizhniy Novgorod (1896) and the World Fairs (Paris, 1867 and 1878, and Vienna, 1873). Shishkin’s painting method was based on analytical studies of nature. He became famous for his forest landscapes, but was also an outstanding draftsman and a printmaker.
Spencer, Sir Stanley (1891—1959), English painter. Spencer was born and lived in the Thames-side village of Cookham in Berkshire, where the Methodist Chapel he attended is now the Stanley Spencer Gallery, a gallery dedicated to his art. His father was William Spencer, a music teacher.
He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL London, from 1908 to 1912 under Henry Tonks and others; such was his attachment to his home that he commuted from Cookham to the Slade, earning thereby from other students the nickname “Cookham”.
In his landscapes and his often highly erotic portraits and religious- allegorical scenes, Spencer’s paintings express a highly personal magic realism. His series of war murals in All Souls, Burghclere, Hampshire reflect the impact of his experiences in World War I. Other well-known paintings include the Resurrection (Tate Gallery, London), Jubilee Tree (Art Gallery, Toronto) and Christmas Stockings (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Stieglitz, Alfred (1864—1946), American photographer, editor and art exhibitor, born in Hoboken, N.J. The first art photographer in the United States, Stieglitz more than any other American compelled the recognition of photography as a fine art. In 1881 he went to Berlin to study engineering but soon devoted himself to photography. In 1890 he returned to the United States and for three years helped to direct the Heliochrome Engraving Company. He then edited a series of photography magazines, the American Amateur Photographer (1892—1896), Camera Notes (1897—1902) and Camera Work (1902—1917), the organ of the photo-secessionists, a group he led that was dedicated to the promotion of photography as a legitimate art form.
In 1905 he established the famous gallery “291” at 291 Fifth Avenue, New York City, for the exhibition of photography as a fine art. Soon the gallery broadened its scope to include the works of the modern French art movement and introduced to the United States the work of Cezanne, Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, and many others. It also made known the work of such American artists as John Marin, Charles Demuth, Max Weber and Georgia O’Keeffe whom Stieglitz married in 1924.
From 1917 to 1925 Stieglitz produced his major works: the extraordinary portraits of O’Keeffe, studies of New York and the great cloud series through which he developed his concept of photographic “equivalents”. This concept greatly influenced photographic aesthetics. He then opened the Intimate Gallery (1925—1930) and An American Place (1930—1946), which continued the work of “291”. Through his own superb photographic work and his generous championship of others, he promoted the symbolic and spiritually significant in American art, as opposed to the merely technically proficient.
Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775—1851), English landscape painter, born in London. Turner was the foremost English romantic painter and the most original of English landscape artists; in watercolour he is unsurpassed. The son of a barber, he received almost no general education but at 14 was already a student at the Royal Academy of Arts and three years later was making topographical drawings for magazines. In 1791 for the first time he exhibited two watercolours at the Royal Academy. In the following 10 years he exhibited there regularly, was elected a member (1802), and was made professor of perspective (1807). By 1799 the sale of his work had freed him from drudgery and he devoted himself to the visionary interpretations of landscape for which he became famous.
In 1802 Turner made a trip to the Continent, where he painted his famous Calais Pier (National Gallery, London). From then on he travelled constantly in England or abroad. Turner showed a remarkable ability to take the best from the tradition of landscape painting and he helped to further elevate landscape (and seascape) as important artistic subject matter. Despite his early and continued success Turner lived the life of a recluse. As his fame grew he maintained a large gallery in London for exhibition of his work, but continued to live quietly with his elderly father.
Turner’s painting became increasingly abstract as he strove to portray light, space and the elemental forces of nature. Characteristic of his later period are such paintings as The Fighting Temeraire and Rain, Steam and Speed (both: National Gallery, London). His late Venetian works, which describe atmospheric effects with brighter colours, include The Grand Canal (Metropolitan Museum, New York) and Approach to Venice (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.). Visionary, revolutionary and extremely influential, these late paintings laid the groundwork for impressionism, post-impressionism, abstract expressionism, colour-field painting and a myriad of other art movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Turner’s will, which was under litigation for many years, left more than 19,000 watercolours, drawings and oils to the British nation. Most of these works are in the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery in London. Many of Turner’s oils have deteriorated badly.
Van Eyck, Jan or Johannes de Eyck (1385—1441) was a 15th-century Flemish painter and is considered one of the great painters of the late Middle Ages. People believe that Jan van Eyck created oil painting, which is doubtful, but it is true that he achieved, or perfected, new and remarkable effects using this technique.
The date of van Eyck’s birth is not known. But according to some historic records he had to have been born no later than 1395, and indeed probably earlier.
In 1425 van Eyck entered the service of the powerful and influential Valois prince, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. Van Eyck resided in Lille for a year and then moved to Bruges, where he lived until his death in 1441. A number of documents published in the twentieth century record his activities in Philip’s service. He was sent on several missions on behalf of the Duke, and worked on several projects which likely entailed more than painting. With the exception of two portraits of Isabella of Portugal, which van Eyck painted, the precise nature of these works is obscure. None of them survived.
As a painter and “valet de chambre” to the Duke Jan van Eyck was exceptionally well paid. His annual salary was quite high when he was first engaged, but it doubled twice in the first few years, and was often supplemented by special bonuses. An indication that his art and person were held in extraordinarily high regard is a document from 1435 in which the Duke scolded his treasurers for not paying Jan van Eyck his salary, arguing that van Eyck would leave and that he would nowhere be able to find his equal in his “art and science”. The Duke also served as godfather to one of van Eyck’s children, supported his widow upon the painter’s death, and years later helped one of his daughters with the funds required to enter a convent.
Jan van Eyck produced paintings for private clients in addition to his work at the court.
Exceptionally for his time, van Eyck often signed and dated his paintings on their frames, then considered an integral part of the work (the two were often painted together). However, in the celebrated Arnolfini Portrait (National Gallery, London), van Eyck inscribed on the (pictorial) back wall above the convex mirror “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” (Jan van Eyck was here, 1434). The painting is one of the most frequently analyzed by art historians.
Other works include two remarkable commemorative panels, The Virgin with Chancellor Rolin (Louvre, Paris), and The Virgin with Canon van der Paele (Groeninge Museum, Bruges), some other religious paintings, notably the Annunciation (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and a number of exceptionally haunting portraits, including that of his wife, Margaret, and what is believed to be his self-portrait, often called Portrait of a Man in a Turban though in fact he wears a chaperon (National Gallery, London). Many more works are disputed, or believed to be by his assistants or followers.
In the most substantial early source on him, a 1454 biography, Jan van Eyck was named “the leading painter” of his day. This text also sheds light on aspects of his production now lost. It is also recorded that van Eyck was a learned man, and that he was versed in the classics, particularly the writings of Pliny the Elder about painting. Jan van Eyck likely had some knowledge of Latin for his many missions abroad on behalf of the Duke.
Jan van Eyck died in Bruges in 1441 and was buried there in the St Donation church (destroyed during the French Revolution).
Van Gogh, Vincent (1853—1890), a post-impressionist painter, born in the Netherlands. Van Gogh’s works are perhaps better-known generally than those of any other painter. His brief, turbulent and tragic life is thought to epitomize the mad genius legend.
During his lifetime, Van Gogh’s work was represented in two very small exhibitions and two larger ones. Only one of Van Gogh’s paintings was sold while he lived. The great majority of the works by which he is remembered were produced in 29 months of frenzied activity and periods of profound despair that finally ended in suicide. In his grim struggle Vincent had one constant ally and support, his younger brother Theo, to whom he wrote revealing and extraordinarily beautiful letters detailing his conflicts and aspirations. As a youth Van Gogh worked for a picture dealer, antagonizing customers until he was dismissed.
Compulsively humanitarian, he tried to preach to oppressed mining families and was jeered at. His difficult, contradictory personality was rejected by the women he fell in love with, and his few friendships usually ended in bitter arguments.
Ten years before his death Van Gogh decided to be a painter, fully conscious of the sacrifices this decision would require of him. His early work, the Dutch period of 1880—1885, consists of dark greenish-brown, heavily painted studies of peasants and miners, e.g. The Potato Eaters (1885). He copied the work of Millet, whose idealization of the rural poor he admired.
In 1886 he joined Theo in Paris, where he met the foremost French painters of the post-impressionist period. The kindly Pissarro convinced him to adopt a colourful palette and thereby made a tremendously significant contribution to Van Gogh’s art. His painting Pere Tanguy (1887) was the first complete and successful work in his new colours. Impressed by the theories of Seurat and Signac, Van Gogh briefly adopted a pointillist style.
In 1888, in ill health and longing for release from Paris and what he felt was his imposition upon Theo’s life, he took a house at Arles. At Arles he was joined by Gauguin for a brief period fraught with tension, during which he mutilated his left ear in the course of his first attack of his disease. His paintings from this period include the incomparable series of sunflowers (1888); The Night Cafe and The Public Gardens in Arles (Washington, D.C.). During his illness he was confined first to the Arles Hospital, then to the asylum at Saint-Remy, where, in 1889, he painted the swirling, climactic Starry Night (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Van Gogh’s last three months were spent in Auvers near Pissarro, painting the postman Roulin and the sympathetic, eccentric Dr Gachet, a physician and collector who watched over him. Vincent’s consciousness of his burden upon Theo, by then married and a father, increased. His work tempo was pushed to the limit; one of his last paintings, Wheat Field With Crows (Van Gogh Foundation, Amsterdam), projected ominous overtones of distress. He despaired and shot himself, dying two days later in the arms of his brother. Theo died shortly thereafter.
Vrubel, Mikhail Aleksandrovich (1856—1910) is usually regarded as the greatest Russian painter of the Art Nouveau movement. In reality, he deliberately stood aloof from contemporary art trends, so that the origin of his unusual manner should be sought in the Late Byzantine and Early Renaissance painting.
Vrubel was born in Omsk (Siberia), in a military lawyer’s family and graduated from the Law Faculty of St Petersburg University in 1880. Next year he entered the Imperial Academy of Arts, where he studied under direction of Pavel Tchistyakov. Even in his earliest works, he exhibited striking talent for drawing and highly idiosyncratic outlook. Although he still relished academic monumentality, he would later develop a love of fragmentary composition and “unfinished touch”.
In 1884 he was summoned to replace the lost 12th-century murals and mosaics in the St Cyril’s Church of Kiev with the new ones. In order to execute this commission, he went to Venice to study the medieval Christian art. It was here that, in the words of an art historian, “his palette acquired new strong saturated tones resembling the play of precious stones”. Most of his works painted in Venice have been lost, because the artist was more interested in creative process than in promoting his artwork.
In 1886 he returned to Kiev, where he submitted some monumental designs to the newly-built St Volodymyr’s (Vladimir’s) Cathedral. The jury, however, failed to appreciate the striking novelty of his works, and they were rejected. At that period, he executed some delightful illustrations for Hamlet and Anna Karenina which had little in common with his later dark meditations on the Demon and Prophet themes.
While in Kiev, Vrubel started painting sketches and watercolours illustrating the Demon, a long Romantic poem by Mikhail Lermontov. In 1890 Vrubel moved to Moscow where he could best follow innovative trends in art. Like other artists associated with the Art Nouveau, he excelled not only in painting but also in applied arts, such as ceramics, maiolica and stained glass. He also produced architectural masks, stage sets and costumes. In 1901 Vrubel returned to the demonic themes in the large canvas Demon Downcast. In order to astound the public with underlying spiritual message, he repeatedly repainted the demon’s ominous face, even after the painting had been exhibited to the overwhelmed audience. At the end he had a severe nervous breakdown, and had to be hospitalized to a mental clinic. While there, he painted a mystical Pearl Oyster (1904) and striking variations on the themes of Pushkin’s poem The Prophet.
In 1905 he created the mosaics on the hotel “Metropol” in Moscow, the centre piece of the facade overlooking Teatralnaya Ploschad is taken by the mosaic panel, Princess Gryoza (Princess of Dream).
In 1906 overpowered by mental disease and approaching blindness, he had to give up painting.
Warhol, Andy (1928—1987), an American artist and filmmaker, born in Pittsburgh as Andrew Warhola. The leading exponent of the pop art movement and one of the most influential artists of the late 20th century, Warhol concentrated on the surface of things, choosing his imagery from the world of commonplace objects such as dollar bills, soup cans, soft- drink bottles, and soap pad boxes. He is variously credited with ridiculing and celebrating American middle-class values by erasing the distinction between popular and high culture. Monotony and repetition became the hallmarks of his multi-image, mass-produced silk-screen paintings: for many of these, such as the portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy, he employed newspaper photographs. He and his assistants worked out of a large New York studio dubbed the “Factory”.
In the mid-1960s Warhol began making films, suppressing the personal element in marathon essays on boredom. In The Chelsea Girls (1966), a seven-hour voyeuristic look into hotel rooms, he used projection techniques that constituted a startling divergence from established methods. Among his later films are Trash (1971) and L’Amour (1973). With Paul Morrissey, Warhol also made the films Frankenstein and Dracula (both 1974). In 1973 Warhol launched the magazine Interview, a publication centred upon his fascination with the cult of the celebrity. He died from complications following surgery. The Andy Warhol Museum, which exhibits many of his works, opened in Pittsburgh in 1994.
Whistler, James Abbott McNeill (1834—1903), American painter, etcher, wit and eccentric, born in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Whistler was dismissed from West Point for insufficient knowledge of chemistry and from the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, where he had learned etching and map engraving, for erratic attendance. In 1855 he went to Paris, where he acquired a lifelong appreciation for the works of Velasquez and for Asian art, particularly the Japanese print. From these sources he developed a delicate sense of colour and design evident in most of his mature works. His early work was largely inspired by the realism of Courbet. Settling in London in 1859, Whistler became known as an etcher, a wit and a dandy. The Little White Girl (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.) brought him his first major success in the Salon des Refuses (1863).
To advertise and defend his credo of art for art’s sake, Whistler resorted to elaborate exhibits, lectures, polemics and more than one lawsuit. In connection with his Falling Rocket: Nocturne in Black and Gold (Institute of Arts, Detroit) he sued Ruskin in 1878 for writing that Whistler asked “two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face”. Whistler explained that the harmonious arrangement of light, form and colour was the most significant element of his paintings. To deemphasise their subjective content, he called them by fanciful, abstract titles such as Nocturne in Black and Gold, and Arrangement in Gray and Black (the famed portrait of the artist’s mother, 1872; Louvre, Paris). Whistler won the argument in court but payment of the court costs left him bankrupt.
Toward the end of his life Whistler won wide recognition for his admirable draughtsmanship, exquisite colour and extreme technical proficiency both as painter and etcher. As an etcher he achieved a high reputation. More than 400 superb plates remain. He also excelled in lithography, watercolour and pastel.
Fine examples of Whistler’s painting are in the galleries of London, Paris, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City.
In Greek mythology, the Argonauts were a band of heroes who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest for the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo which in turn was named after its builder Argus. Thus, “Argonauts” literally means “Argo sailors”. They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of the area.
Jason was brought up by Centaur Chiron. The wise Chiron taught Jason the learning and arts of the age, and sent him to claim his throne as he was the rightful heir to it in Iolkos.
As the handsome young man crossed the river Anaurus, he lost one of his sandals; when he arrived in Iolkos wearing only one, King Pelias, the king of Iolkos, who had usurped the throne from Jason’s father, was greatly alarmed. Years before, he had heard from an oracle that one day a man with only one sandal would come down from the mountains, take his throne and kill him. So when Jason, his nephew, demanded the throne that was his by right, the crafty Pelias said that he had had a dream in which Phrixos begged him to do something to bring his spirit home, along with the golden fleece from the place called Colchis. And so he asked young Jason to build a ship and set out. Pelias promised and swore in the name of the gods that as soon as Jason returned with the golden fleece to Iolkos he would surrender the throne to him.
The fleece now hung from a tree in the grove of the Colchian Ares, guarded night and day by a dragon that never slept. Pelias swore before Zeus that he would give up the throne at Jason’s return, while expecting that Jason’s attempt to steal the Golden Fleece would be a fatal enterprise. Hera, however, would act on Jason’s favour during this dangerous journey.
Jason was accompanied by some of the principal heroes of ancient Greece. The number of Argonauts varies, but usually totals between 40 and 55; traditional versions of the story place their number at 50. The Argonauts were all heroes or even the sons of gods. One of them was Orpheus the musician. After a long and eventful journey the company arrived in Colchis and Jason presented himself before king Aeetes and told him about his mission. Aeetes promised to give him the fleece on condition that without any assistance Jason joked two bulls given to him by Hephaestus. The bulls had bronze hooves and breathed fire. Jason was to use them to plough a field and sow it with dragon’s teeth. Medea, the daughter of Aeetes and a sorceress, fell in love with him and, after making him promise to marry her, offered to help him. She gave him a magic ointment to put on his body and his shield. The ointment would make him protected from metal and fire. She also told him that the dragon’s teeth would sprout at once and armed warriors would spring out of the ground to kill him. She advised him to stand at a distance and throw a stone among them, in which case they would kill each other in a quarrel over who had cast the stone.
With the help of Medea, Jason managed to accomplish the feat. But Aeetes did not keep his word, and even tried to kill the Argonauts. So Jason — once again with the help of Medea — put the dragon watching the fleece asleep, stole the Golden Fleece, and set sail with all possible speed. On their way back the brave Argonauts encountered more adventures and eventually came home to Iolkos. King Pelias refused to give up the throne to the rightful heir. Jason had to resort to the magical powers of Medea, who managed to make Pelias’ daughters kill him.
Some have hypothesised that the legend of the Golden Fleece was based on a practice of the Black Sea tribes of placing a lamb’s fleece at the bottom of a stream to entrap particles of gold being washed down from upstream. This practice was still in use in recent times, particularly in the Svaneti region of Georgia.
Icarus and Daedalus
In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, famous for his death by falling into the sea when he flew too close to the sun, melting the wax holding his artificial wings together.
The Fall of Icarus as told by Thomas Bulfinch: Icarus was imprisoned, with his father, in a tower on Crete, by the king Minos. Daedalus decided to make his escape from the prison he was in, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched. “Minos may control the land and sea,” said Daedalus, “but not the regions of the air. I will try that way.” So he set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He wrought feathers together beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and he made them look like the wings of a bird. Icarus played and handled the wax with his fingers while his father laboured and thus impeded his work. At last Daedalus’ work was completed. He beat his wings and suspended himself in the air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight, he said, “Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will make your wings too heavy, and if too high the heat will melt the beeswax. Keep near me and you will be safe.” While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last time. Then rising on his wings he flew off, encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his wings. As they were flying, the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, and the shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air.
They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, then the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father, it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea, which thenceforth was called by his name. His father cried, “Icarus, Icarus, where are you?” At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.
Myths of Heracles
A major factor in the well-known tragedies surrounding Heracles is the hatred that the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, had for him. A full account of Heracles must render it clear why Heracles was so tormented by Hera, when there are many illegitimate offspring sired by Zeus. Heracles was the fruit of the affair Zeus had with the mortal woman Alcmene. Thus, Heracles’ very existence proved at least one of Zeus’ many illicit affairs, and Hera often conspired against Zeus’ mortal offspring, as revenge for her husband’s infidelities.
On the night Heracles and his twin brother were to be born, Hera, knowing of her husband Zeus’ adultery, persuaded Zeus to swear an oath that the child born that night to a member of the House of Perseus would be High King. Once the oath was sworn, Hera hurried to Alcmene’s dwelling and slowed the birth. At the same time, she caused another boy Eurystheus to be born prematurely, making him High King in place of Heracles.
The demigod child was originally given the name Alcides by his parents; it was only later on that he became known as Heracles. He was renamed Heracles in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify Hera. A few months after he was born, Hera sent two serpents to kill him as he lay in his cot. Heracles throttled a snake in each hand and was found by his nurse playing with their limp bodies as if they were child’s toys.
When a young man, Heracles was sent to tend cattle on a mountain by his foster father Amphitryon. Here, he was visited by two nymphs — Pleasure and Virtue — who offered him a choice between a pleasant and easy life or a severe but glorious life. He chose the latter.
Heracles married King Creon’s daughter, Megara. However, Hera drove Heracles into a fit of madness during which he killed their children. Upon realizing what he had done, he fled to the Oracle of Delphi. Heracles didn’t know that the Oracle was guided by Hera. He was directed to serve King Eurystheus for 12 years and perform any task which he required, resulting in the Twelve Labours of Heracles.
To pay for the crime, Heracles was required to carry out ten labours set by his arch-enemy, Eurystheus, who had become king in Heracles’ place. Heracles accomplished these tasks, but Hera ordered Eurystheus to give two more tasks to Heracles, which he then carried out.
Not all writers gave the labours in the same order. Apollodorus gives the following order:
1. The Nemean Lion
2. The Lernaean Hydra
3. The Ceryneian Hind
4. The Erymanthian Boar
5. The Augean Stables
6. The Stymphalian Birds
7. The Cretan Bull
8. The Mares of Diomedes
9. The Girdle of Hippolyte
10. The Cattle of Geryon
11. The Apples of the Hesperides
12. The Capture of Cerberus, the guardian dog of Hades
After completing these tasks, Heracles joined the Argonauts in the search of the Golden Fleece. They rescued heroines, conquered Troy, and helped the gods fight against the Gigantes. He also fell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. Heracles’ advances were spurned by the king and his sons, except for one — Iole’s brother Iphitus. Iphitus became Heracles’ best friend. But once again, Hera drove Heracles mad and he threw Iphitus over the city wall to his death. Once again, Heracles purified himself through servitude — this time to Queen Omphale of Lydia.
Jesus was buried in a garden close by Calvary in a tomb cut in a rock with a great stone rolled across the entrance. Saturday came and went, then early before dawn on Sunday Mary Magdalene, one of his friends, came alone from the city. She had come to grieve by the tomb of her friend and teacher. But when she came to the tomb she found that the great stone was rolled away from the entrance. Mary looked inside and saw the grave-clothes lying on the shelf but Jesus was gone. Not knowing what to think, Mary went away from the grave and walked through the garden. Under the trees a man was standing. Mary thought he was a gardener. “Sir,” she said. “Sir. If you’ve taken him — tell me where you’ve laid him.” “Mary,” said the man and there was so much love in his voice that Mary recognised him. “Jesus! Master!” she cried and fell to her knees. “Do not touch me,” he said. “I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go and tell the others that I will meet them in Galilee.”
Later the same day two of Jesus’ disciples were walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. As they walked, they talked about Mary’s story of the man in the garden and the empty tomb. As they walked, they were joined by a stranger. “Why are you so sad?” he asked. When they told him the whole story, the stranger smiled and reminded them what the scriptures wrote about the Messiah and his sufferings and said that the Messiah was Jesus. They came to the village, and the disciples invited the stranger into their cottage. There the stranger took bread and broke it, as Jesus had done on the night before his death. At that moment the disciples knew that the stranger was Jesus himself, and at the same moment he vanished out of their sight. The disciples forgot their tiredness and hurried back to Jerusalem through the night. In a room behind locked doors they found the other disciples, and they were greeted with great excitement. “It’s true,” they were told. “The Lord has risen. Simon has seen him.” “So have we,” they answered. And even as they explained, suddenly there was Jesus among them. “Peace,” he said, as they all drew back from him in terror. “It is I. I’m not a ghost.” And he took food from the table and ate it in front of them. “I told you,” he said, “that the scriptures must be fulfilled. The Messiah had to die and rise.” Jesus told his disciples to go to all the parts of the world to proclaim his teaching. He promised that they would be armed with the power from heaven and he would always be with them, to the world’s end. Then he took them out on to a hillside and blessed them, his arms uplifted. In the act of blessing he was parted from them, and none knew how he disappeared.