Eugène Delacroix Biography

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born April 26, 1798 , Charenton-Saint-Maurice , France
died August 13, 1863 , Paris

in full Ferdinand-Eugène-Victor Delacroix the greatest French Romantic painter, whose use of colour was influential in the development of both Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. His inspiration came chiefly from historical or contemporary events or literature, and a visit to Morocco in 1832 provided him with further exotic subjects.

Early life

Delacroix was the fourth child of Victoire Oeben, a descendant of the Oeben-Riesener family, which had created furniture for the French king and court in the 17th and 18th centuries, and of Charles Delacroix, a government official, who was ambassador to Holland in 1798 and who died in 1805 while prefect of Bordeaux. One theory attributes Eugène’s true paternity to the statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. This belief is strengthened both by Delacroix’s strong physical resemblance to Talleyrand and by the fact that the future painter would consistently receive important patronage from the French government despite the nonconformist character of his art.

Whatever the truth of his parentage, Delacroix’s childhood was untroubled, and he would always maintain great affection and admiration for his father. Up to age 17 he pursued classical studies. Within his distinguished and artistic family, he formed a passion for music and the theatre. In 1815 he became the pupil of a renowned academic painter, Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. He knew the historical painter Antoine-Jean Gros, and as a young man he visited the salon of the royalist and painter Baron François Gérard. As early as 1822 he received the backing of Adolphe Thiers, the statesman and historian, who, as interior minister in the 1830s, put Delacroix in charge of architectural decorations.

A child of his century, Delacroix was affected by the Romanticism of the painter Théodore Géricault and of friends such as the English painter Richard Parkes Bonington, the Polish-born composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin, and the French writer George Sand. He did not, however, take part in the battles of the Romantic movement waged by Victor Hugo, Hector Berlioz, and others.

Development of mature style

Delacroix’s debut at the Paris Salon of 1822, in which he exhibited his first masterpiece, Dante and Virgil in Hell, is one of the landmarks in the development of French 19th-century Romantic painting. Dante and Virgil in Hell was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, but its tragic feeling and the powerful modeling of its figures are reminiscent of Michelangelo, and its rich colour shows the influence of Peter Paul Rubens. Among Delacroix’s contemporaries, Géricault, who was the young painter’s best friend until his sudden death in 1824, was also important.

In his subsequent choice of subjects, Delacroix showed an affinity with Lord Byron and other Romantic poets of his time, and he also drew subjects from Dante, William Shakespeare, and medieval history. In 1824, however, he exhibited at the Salon the Massacre at Chios , a large canvas depicting the dramatic contemporary massacre of Greeks by Turks on the island of Chios . The nature of his talent is evident in the unity he achieved in his expression of the haughty pride of the conquerors, the horror as well as despair of the innocent Greeks, and the splendour of a vast sky.

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Delacroix had already become interested in the delicate technique of his English painter friends Richard Parkes Bonington and the Fielding brothers (Thales, Copley, Theodore, and Newton ), and he also admired the English landscapes of John Constable, which were exhibited in Paris in 1824. Indeed, the luminous tonalities evident in the Massacre at Chios are said to have been inspired by Constable’s style. To round out his technical and cultural education, Delacroix left for London in 1825. There his technique, developed by contact with J.M.W. Turner, Constable, and Sir Thomas Lawrence, acquired the freedom and suppleness that until then he had been admiring in Rubens and striving to achieve for himself.

Between 1827 and 1832, Delacroix produced masterpieces in quick succession. Chief among them is The Death of Sardanapalus (1827), a violent and voluptuous Byronic subject in which women, slaves, animals, jewels, and rich fabrics are combined in a sensuous but somewhat incoherent scene. One of his finest paintings on historical subjects, The Execution of the Doge Marino Faliero (1826-27), dates from this period as do two works on medieval history, The Battle ofNancy (1831) and The Battle of Poitiers (1830). He also painted the typically Byronic subject of Combat Between the Giaour and the Pasha (1827). Like Géricault, Delacroix explored the newly invented medium of lithography and made a set of 17 lithographs (1827) illustrating a French edition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust.

In 1830 Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People to commemorate the July Revolution that had just brought Louis-Philippe to the French throne. This large canvas mixes allegory with contemporary realism in a highly successful and monumental manner and is still perhaps the most popular of all Delacroix’s paintings. The relatively subdued manner of Liberty Leading the People also reflects a change in Delacroix’s style, which became somewhat more quiet while still retaining elements of animation and grandeur.

From January to July 1832, Delacroix toured in Algeria , Spain , and Morocco with the comte de Mornay, King Louis-Philippe’s diplomatic representative to the sultan. Morocco proved to be a revelation to Delacroix, who found in its people and way of life the Homeric nobility and beauty that he had never seen in French academic Neoclassicism itself. The sights of exuberant nature and the beauty of the horses, the Arabs and their flowing costumes, would henceforth inspire his visual memory, even in his last works. Delacroix made copious sketches and notes during the trip and used them to good effect upon his return to Paris . After Morocco his drawing and paint handling became freer and his use of colour even more sumptuous. The first fruits of his Moroccan impressions are collected in Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1834), in which three sumptuously costumed Arab women and their surroundings are portrayed in a blaze of exquisitely warm colour harmonies. Delacroix’s other recapitulations of his North African experiences include Fanatics of Tangier (1838) and Jewish Wedding (1839). He continued to paint Arab subjects almost to the end of his life.

Building decoration

In the latter part of his career, Delacroix was favoured with a string of important commissions to decorate government buildings. His first commission, in 1833-36, was to paint a group of murals for the Salon du Roi at the Palais-Bourbon. He was subsequently commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the Library of the Palais-Bourbon (1838-47), the Library of the Palais du Luxembourg (1840-47), the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon at the Louvre (1850), the Salon de la Paix at the Hotel de Ville (1849-53; burned in 1871), and the Chapel of the Holy Angels in the Church of Saint-Sulpice (1849-61). His murals represent the last great effort of this kind in the tradition of the Baroque ceiling painters.

During this period Delacroix also painted several canvases on the largest scale of his career, notably two for the museum of history at Versailles : The Battle of Taillebourg (1837) and Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople (1840). Among his later easel paintings are ones on Arab, religious, and classical subjects and several superb scenes of wild animals and hunts, among them the Lion Hunt of 1858 and the Lion Hunt of1861. Delacroix painted several notable self-portraits during the course of his long career and occasionally produced portraits of such friends as Chopin and Sand (both in 1838).

Delacroix died in 1863, leaving more than 6,000 drawings, watercolours, and prints to be sold. His Journals are among the most penetrating of artists’ notebooks since those kept by Leonardo da Vinci. A selective edition of them in English by Hubert Wellington was published in 1951 as The Journal of Eugène Delacroix.

With Turner, Delacroix was the forerunner of the bold technical innovations that strongly influenced the development of Impressionism and subsequent modernist movements. The uninhibited expression of energy and movement in his works, his fascination with violence, destruction, and the more tragic aspects of life, and the sensuous virtuosity of his colouring have helped make him one of the most fascinating and complex artistic figures of the 19th century.

Thomas Gainsborough Biography

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baptized May 14, 1727 , Sudbury , Suffolk , England
died August 2, 1788 , London

Portrait and landscape painter, the most versatile English painter of the 18th century. Some of his early portraits show the sitters grouped in a landscape (“Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” c. 1750). As he became famous and his sitters fashionable, he adopted a more formal manner that owed something to Anthony Van Dyck (“The Blue Boy,” c. 1770). His landscapes are of idyllic scenes. During his last years he also painted seascapes and idealized full-size pictures of rustics and country children.

Early life and Suffolk period

Gainsborough was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a maker of woollen goods. When he was 13, he persuaded his father to send him to London to study on the strength of his promise at landscape. He worked as an assistant to Hubert Gravelot, a French painter and engraver and an important figure in London art circles at the time. From him Gainsborough learned something of the French Rococo idiom, which had a considerable influence on the development of his style. In 1746 in London he married Margaret Burr, the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. Soon afterward he returned to Suffolk and settled in Ipswich in 1752; his daughters Mary and Margaret were born in 1748 and 1752, respectively. In Ipswich Gainsborough met his first biographer, Philip Thicknesse. He early acquired some reputation as a portrait and landscape painter and made an adequate living.

Gainsborough declared that his first love was landscape and began to learn the language of this art from the Dutch 17th-century landscapists, who by 1740 were becoming popular with English collectors; his first landscapes were influenced by Jan Wynants. The earliest dated picture with a landscape background is a study of a bull terrier-“Bumper-A Bull Terrier” (1745; Sir Edward Bacon Collection, Raveningham, Norfolk ), in which many of the details are taken straight from Wynants. But by 1748, when he painted “Cornard Wood,” Jacob van Ruisdael had become the predominant influence; although it is full of naturalistic detail, Gainsborough probably never painted directly from nature. “The Charterhouse,” one of his few topographical views, dates from the same year as “Cornard Wood” and in the subtle effect of light on various surfaces proclaims Dutch influence. In the background to “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” he anticipates the realism of the great English landscapist of the next century, John Constable, but for the most part fancy held sway. In many of the early landscapes the influence of Rococo design learned from Gravelot is evident, together with a feeling for the French pastoral tradition. “The Woodcutter Courting a Milkmaid” is an Anglicized version of a French theme, which recalls compositions by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Although Gainsborough preferred landscape, he knew he must paint portraits for economic reasons. The small heads painted in Suffolk , although sometimes rather stiff, are penetrating character studies delicately and freely pencilled, particularly the jaunty self-portrait in a cocked hat at Houghton. Gainsborough painted few full-length portraits in Suffolk . “Mr. William Woollaston,” although an ambitious composition, is intimate and informal. The “Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly,” composed in the last years at Ipswich , is, in its easy naturalism and sympathetic understanding, one of the best English portraits of children.

As well as straight portraits, he painted in Suffolk a number of delightful spontaneous groups of small figures in landscapes closely related to conversation pieces. “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,” which has been described as the most English of English pictures, is set in a typical Suffolk landscape. “Lady and Gentleman in Landscape” is a more French style, with its vivacious Rococo rhythms, but “Heneage Lloyd and His Sister” is more stylized, the charming little figures being posed against a conventional background of steps and decorative urns.

Bath period

To obtain a wider public, Gainsborough moved in 1759 to Bath , where his studio was soon thronged with fashionable sitters. He moved in musical and theatrical circles, and among his friends were members of the Linley family, whose portraits he painted. At Bath he also met the actor David Garrick, for whom he had a profound admiration and whom he painted on many occasions. His passion for music and the stage continued throughout his life. In the west country he visited many of the great houses and at Wilton fell under the spell of Anthony Van Dyck, the predominating influence in his later work. In spite of the demand for portraits, he continued to paint landscapes.

In 1761 he sent a portrait of Earl Nugent to the Society of Artists, and in the following year the first notice of his work appeared in the London press. Throughout the 1760s he exhibited regularly in London and in 1768 was elected a foundation member of the Royal Academy . Characteristically he never took much part in the deliberations.

After he moved to Bath, Gainsborough had less time for landscape and worked a good deal from memory, often drawing by candlelight from little model landscapes set up in his studio. About 1760 Peter Paul Rubens supplanted the Dutch painters as Gainsborough’s chief love. This is particularly noticeable in “Peasants Returning from Market,” with its rich colour and beautiful creamy pastel shades. The influence of Rubens is also apparent in “The Harvest Wagon” in the fluency of the drawing and the scale of the great beech trees so different from the stubby oaks of Suffolk . The idyllic scene is a perfect blend of the real and the ideal. The group in the cart is based on Rubens’ “Descent from the Cross” (1611-14) in Antwerp cathedral, which Gainsborough copied.

In Bath , Gainsborough had to satisfy a more sophisticated clientele and adopted a more formal and elegant portrait style based largely on a study of Van Dyck at Wilton , where he made a free copy of Van Dyck’s painting of the Pembroke family. By 1769, when he painted “Isabella Countess of Sefton,” it is easy to see the refining influence of Van Dyck in the dignified simplicity of the design and the subtle muted colouring. One of Gainsborough’s most famous pictures, “The Blue Boy,” was probably painted in 1770. In painting this subject in Van Dyck dress, he was following an18th-century fashion in painting, as well as doing homage to his hero. The influence of Van Dyck is most clearly seen in the more official portraits. “John, 4th Duke of Argyll” in his splendid robes is composed in the grand manner, and “Augustus John, Third Earl of Bristol” rivals Reynolds’ portraits of the kind. Gainsborough preferred to paint his friends rather than public figures, and a group of portraits of the 1760s-Uvedale Price, Sir William St. Quinton, and Thomas Coward, all oldish men of strong character-illustrate Gainsborough’s sense of humour and his individual approach to sympathetic sitters.

London period

In 1774 he moved to London and settled in part of Schomberg House in Pall Mall . Fairly soon he began to be noticed by the royal family and partly because of his informality and Tory politics was preferred by George III above the official court painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1781 he was commissioned to paint the King and Queen.

Gainsborough continued his landscape work. “The Watering Place” was described by Horace Walpole, the English man of letters, as in the style of Rubens, but it also has much of the classic calm of Claude Lorrain, whose etchings Gainsborough owned. In 1783 he made an expedition to the Lake District to see for himself the “wild” scenery extolled by the devotees of the picturesque. On his return he painted a number of mountain scenes that have analogies with the work of Gaspard Dughet, whose works were widely distributed in English country houses. Some sea pieces dating from the 1780s show a new kind of realism, harking back to the Dutch seascape tradition. During his last years Gainsborough was haunted by his nostalgia for Arcadia in the English countryside and painted a series of pictures of peasant life more ideal than real, for example, “The Cottage Door.” But one of the latest landscapes, “The Market Cart,” is less idealized and more true to nature and looks forward to Constable in its treatment of the light breaking through the massive foliage.

Gainsborough was the only important English portrait painter to devote much time to landscape drawing. He composed a great many drawings in a variety of mediums including chalk, pen and wash, and watercolour, some of them varnished. He was always eager to find new papers and new techniques. He produced a magic lantern to give striking lighting effects; the box is still in the Victoria and Albert Museum , together with some of the slides. In addition Gainsborough made a series of soft-ground etchings and aquatints. He never sold his drawings and, although many of them are closely related to pictures, they are not studies in the ordinary sense but works of art in their own right.

Gainsborough was not methodical in keeping sitter books, and comparatively few of the portraits in the early years in London are dated. In 1777 he exhibited at the Royal Academy the well-known “Mrs. Graham,” “C.F. Abel,” “William Henry, Duke of Gloucester,” and “Maria, Duchess of Gloucester,” all deliberately glamorous and painted in richly heightened colour. “Queen Charlotte” is more restrained; the painting of the flounced white dress decorated with ribbons and laces makes her look every inch a queen. It is significant that Gainsborough, unlike most of his contemporaries, did not generally use drapery painters. In 1784 he quarrelled with the Academy because they insisted on hanging the “Three Eldest Princesses” at the normal height from the floor, which Gainsborough maintained was too high to appreciate his lightness of touch and delicate pencilling. In protest he withdrew the pictures he had intended for the exhibition and never showed again at the Academy.

In some of Gainsborough’s later portraits of women, he dispensed with precise finish, and, without sacrificing the likeness, he concentrated on the general effect. “Mrs. Sheridan” melts into the landscape, while “Lady Bate Dudley,” a symphony in blue and green, is an insubstantial form, almost an abstract. “Mrs. Siddons,” on the other hand, shows that Gainsborough could still paint a splendid objective study. Few of the later male portraits are of a pronounced character, but exceptions are two particularly good pictures of musicians, “Johann Christian Fischer” and the unfinished “Lord Abingdon” (private collection).

A new venture in 1783 was “The Mall in St. James’ Park,” a park scene described by Horace Walpole as “all a flutter like a lady’s fan.” “The Morning Walk,” with romanticized figures strolling in a landscape, is painted in the same spirit (see photograph). The “fancy pictures” painted in the 1780s gave Gainsborough particular pleasure. They are full-sized, idealized portraits of country children and peasants painted from models-for example, “The Cottage Girl with a Bowl of Milk.” The idea appeared in immature form in the little rustic Suffolk figures, and he may have been fired to exploit it further by seeing the 17th-century Spanish painter Bartolomé Murillo’s ” St. John ,” which he copied.

He died in 1788 and was buried in Kew churchyard.

Assessment

Of all the 18th-century English painters, Thomas Gainsborough was the most inventive and original, always prepared to experiment with new ideas and techniques, and yet he complained of his contemporary Sir Joshua Reynolds, “Damn him, how various he is.” Gainsborough alone among the great portrait painters of the era also devoted serious attention to landscapes. Unlike Reynolds, he was no great believer in an academic tradition and laughed at the fashion for history painting; an instinctive painter, he delighted in the poetry of paint. In his racy letters Gainsborough shows a warm-hearted and generous character and an independent mind. His comments on his own work and methods, as well as on some of the old masters, are very revealing and throw considerable light on contemporary views of art.

Paul Gauguin Biography

born June 7, 1848 , Paris , France
died May 8, 1903 , Atuona, Hiva Oa , Marquesas Islands , French Polynesia

In full Eugène-Henri-Paul Gauguin French painter, printmaker, and sculptor who sought to achieve a “primitive” expression of spiritual and emotional states in his work. The artist, whose work has been categorized as Post-Impressionist, Synthetist, and Symbolist, is particularly well known for his creative relationship with Vincent van Gogh, as well as for his self-imposed exile in Tahiti , French Polynesia . His artistic experiments influenced many avant-garde developments in the early 20th century.

Beginnings

Gauguin was the son of a journalist from Orléans and a mother of Peruvian descent. After Napoleon III’s coup d’état, Gauguin and his family moved in 1851 to Lima , Peru ; four years later, after the death of his father, the family returned to France . At age 17 Gauguin enlisted in the merchant marine, and for six years he sailed around the world. His mother died in 1867, leaving legal guardianship of the family with the businessman Gustave Arosa, who, upon Gauguin’s release from the merchant marine, secured a position for him as a stockbroker and introduced him to the Danish woman Mette Sophie Gad, whom Gauguin married in 1873. Gauguin’s artistic leanings were first aroused by Arosa, who had a collection that included the work of Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean-François Millet, and by a fellow stockbroker, Émile Schuffenecker, with whom he started painting. Gauguin soon began to receive artistic instruction and to frequent a studio where he could draw from a model. In 1876 his Landscape at Viroflay was accepted for the official annual exhibition in France , the Salon. He developed a taste for the contemporary avant-garde movement of Impressionism, and between 1876 and 1881 he assembled a personal collection of paintings bysuch figures as Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and Johan Barthold Jongkind.

Gauguin met Pissarro in about 1875 and began to study under the supportive older artist, at first struggling to master the techniques of painting and drawing. In 1880 he was included in the fifth Impressionist exhibition, an invitation that was repeated in 1881 and 1882. He spent holidays painting with Pissarro and Cézanne and began to make visible progress. During this period he also entered a social circle of avant-garde artists that included Manet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-AugusteRenoir.

Gauguin lost his job when the French stock market crashed in 1882, an occurrence he saw as a positive development, because it would allow him to “paint every day.” In an attempt to support his family, he unsuccessfully sought employment with art dealers, while continuing to travel to the countryside to paint with Pissarro. In 1884 he moved his family to Rouen , France , and took odd jobs, but by the end of the year, the family moved to Denmark , seeking the support of Mette’s family. Without employment, Gauguin was free to pursue his art, but he faced the disapproval of his wife’s family; late in 1885 he returned with his eldest son to Paris .

Gauguin participated in the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, showing 19 paintings and a carved wood relief. His own works won little attention, however, overshadowed by Georges Seurat’s enormous A Sunday Afternoon on La Grand Jatte-1884 (1884-86). Frustrated and destitute, Gauguin began to make ceramic vessels for sale, and that summer he made a trip to Pont-Aven in the Brittany region of France , seeking a simpler and more frugal life. After a harsh winter there, Gauguin sailed to the French Caribbean island of Martinique with the painter Charles Laval in April 1887, intending to “live like a savage.” His works painted on Martinique, such as Tropical Vegetation (1887) and By the Sea (1887), reveal his increasing departure from Impressionist technique during this period, as he was now working with blocks of colour in large, unmodulated planes. Upon his return to France late in 1887, Gauguin affected an exotic identity, pointing to his Peruvian ancestry as a element of “primitivism” in his own nature and artistic vision.

Early maturity

In the summer of 1888 Gauguin returned to Pont-Aven, searching for what he called “a reasoned and frank return to the beginning, that is to say, to primitive art.” He was joined there by young painters, including Émile Bernard and Paul Sérusier, who also were seeking a more direct expression in their painting. Gauguin achieved a step towards this ideal in the seminal Vision After the Sermon (1888), a painting in which he used broad planes of colour, clear outlines, and simplified forms. Gauguin coined the term “Synthetism” to describe his style during this period, referring to the synthesis of his paintings’ formal elements with the idea or emotion they conveyed.

Gauguin acted as a mentor to many of the artists who assembled in Pont-Aven, urging them to rely more upon feeling than upon the direct observation associated with Impressionism. Indeed, he advised: “Don’t copy too much after nature. Art is an abstraction: extract from nature while dreaming before it and concentrate more on creating than on the final result.” Gauguin and the artists around him, who became known as the Pont-Aven school, began to be decorative in the overall compositions and harmonies of their paintings. Gauguin no longer used line and colour to replicate an actual scene, as he had as an Impressionist, but rather explored the capacity of those pictorial means to induce a particular feeling in the viewer.

Late in October 1888 Gauguin travelled to Arles , in the south of France , to stay with Vincent van Gogh (partly as a favour to van Gogh’s brother, Theo, an art dealer who had agreed to represent him). Early that year, van Gogh had moved to Arles , hoping to found the “Studio of the South,” where like-minded painters would gather to create a new, personally expressive art. However, as soon as Gauguin arrived, the two volatile artists often engaged in heated exchanges about art’s purpose. The style of the two men’s work from this period has been classified as Post-Impressionist because it shows an individual, personal development of Impressionism’s use of colour, brushstroke, and non-traditional subject matter. For example, Gauguin’s Old Women of Arles (1888) portrays a group of women moving through a flattened, arbitrarily conceived landscape in a solemn procession. As in much of his work from this period, Gauguin applied thick paint in a heavy manner to raw canvas; in his rough technique and in the subject matter of religious peasants, the artist found something approaching his burgeoning “primitive” ideal. Gauguin had planned to remain in Arles through the spring, but his relationship with van Gogh grew even more tumultuous. After what Gauguin claimed was an attempt to attack him with a razor, van Gogh mutilated his own left ear. Gauguin then left for Paris after a stay of only two months.

For the next several years, Gauguin alternated between living in Paris and Brittany . In Paris he became acquainted with the avant-garde literary circles of Symbolist poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine. These poets, who advocated abandoning traditional forms in order to embody inner emotional and spiritual life, saw their equivalent in the visual arts in the work of Gauguin. In a famous essay in the Mercure de France in 1891, the critic Albert Aurier declared Gauguin to be the leader of a group of Symbolist artists, and he defined his work as “ideational, symbolic, synthetic, subjective, and decorative.”

After finding Pont-Aven spoiled by tourists, Gauguin relocated to the remote village of Le Pouldu . There, in a heightened pursuit of raw expression, he began to focus upon the ancient monuments of medieval religion, crosses, and cal varies, incorporating their simple, rigid forms into his compositions, as seen in The Yellow Christ (1889). While such works built upon the lessons of colour and brushstroke he learned from French Impressionism, they rejected the lessons of perspective space that had been developed in Western art since the Renaissance. He expressed his distaste for the corruption he saw in contemporary Western civilization in the carved and painted wood relief Be in Love and You Will Be Happy (1889), in which a figure in the upper left, crouching to hide her body, was meant to represent Paris as, in his words, a “rotten Babylon .” As such works suggest, Gauguin began to long for a more removed environment in which to work. After considering and rejecting northern Vietnam and Madagascar , he applied for a grant from the French government to travel to Tahiti .

Tahiti

Gauguin arrived in Papeete in June 1891. He came with a romantic image of Tahiti as an untouched paradise, derived in part from PierreLoti’s novel Le Mariage de Loti (1880). Disappointed by the extent to which French colonization had actually corrupted Tahiti , he attempted to immerse himself in what he believed were the authentic aspects of the culture. He employed Tahitian titles, such as Fatata te miti (1892; “Near the Sea”) and Manao tupapau (1892; “The Spirit of the Dead Watching”), used Oceanic iconography, and portrayed idyllic landscapes and suggestive spiritual settings. In an attempt to further remove himself from inherited Western conventions, Gauguin emulated Oceanic traditions in his sculptures and woodcuts from this period, which he gave a deliberately rough-hewn look.

Gauguin returned to France in July 1893, believing that his new work would bring him the success that had so long eluded him. More so than ever, the outspoken artist affected the persona of an exotic outsider, carrying on a famous affair with a woman known as “Anna the Javanese.” In 1894 he conceived a plan to publish a book of his impressions of Tahiti , illustrated with his own woodcuts, titled Noa Noa. This project and a one-man exhibit at the gallery of Paul Durand-Ruel met with little acceptance, however, and in July 1895 he left France for Tahiti for the final time.

Before the 1890s Gauguin flattened his imagery with sometimes unsuccessful results, but throughout that decade his “primitivism” became less forced. The influences of J.-A.-D. Ingres and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes led him to create increasingly rounded and modelled forms and a more sinuous line; as a result, Gauguin’s images became more luxuriant and more naturally poetic as he developed marvellously orchestrated tonal harmonies. He achieved the consummate expression of his developing vision in 1897 in his chief Tahitian work, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897). An enormous contemplation of life and death told through a series of figures, beginning with a baby and ending with a shrivelled old woman, the work is surrounded by a dreamlike, poetic aura that is extraordinarily powerful.

Increasingly disgusted with the rising Western influence in the French colony, Gauguin again sought a more remote environment, this time on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, where he moved in September 1901. He purchased land there and, with the help of his neighbours, he built a home that he called “the house of pleasure.” Conceived as a total work of art decorated with elaborately carved friezes, the house was possibly inspired by Maori works he had seen in Auckland , New Zealand . By 1902 an advanced case of syphilis restricted his mobility, and he concentrated his remaining energy on drawing and writing, especially his memoir, Avant et après. After a quarrel with French authorities, he considered moving again, this time to Spain , but his declining health and a pending lawsuit prohibited any change. He died alone in his “house of pleasure.”

Assessment

Gauguin’s influence was immense and varied. His legacy rests partly in his dramatic decision to reject the materialism of contemporary culture in favour of a more spiritual, unfettered lifestyle. It also rests in his tireless experimentation. Scholars have long identified him with a range of stylistic movements, and the challenge of defining his oeuvre, particularly the late work, attests to the uniqueness of his vision. Along with the work of his great contemporaries, Cézanne and van Gogh, Gauguin’s innovations inspired a whole generation of artists. In 1889-90 many of the young followers who had gathered around him at Pont-Aven utilized Gauguin’s ideas to form the Nabis group. The Norwegian painter Edvard Munch owed much to Gauguin’s use of line, and the painters of the Fauve group- Henri Matisse in particular-profited from his use of colour in their own daring compositions. In Germany , too, Gauguin’s influence was strong in the work of German Expressionists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Gauguin’s use of Oceanic iconography and his stylistic simplifications greatly affected the young Pablo Picasso, inspiring his own appreciation of African art and hence the evolution of Cubism. In this way, through both his stylistic advances and his rejection of empirical representation in favour of conceptual representation, Gauguin helped open the door to the development of 20th-century art.

Théodore Géricault Biography

born September 26, 1791 , Rouen , France
died January 26, 1824 , Paris

in full Jean-Louis-André-Théodore Géricault painter who exerted a seminal influence on the development of Romantic art in France . Géricault was a dandy and an avid horseman whose dramatic paintings reflect his flamboyant and passionate personality.

As a student Géricault learned the traditions of English sporting art from the French painter Carle Vernet, and he developed a remarkable facility for capturing animal movement. He also mastered classicist figure construction and composition under the academician Pierre Guérin. Another student of Guérin, Eugène Delacroix, was profoundly influenced by Géricault, finding in his example a major point of departure for his own art.

As demonstrated by his earliest major work, The Charging Chasseur (1812), which depicts an officer astride a rearing horse on a smoky battlefield, Géricault was drawn to the colourist style of the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and to the use of contemporary subject matter in the manner of an older colleague, the painter Antoine-Jean Gros. At the Salon of 1814, Géricault’s Wounded Cuirassier shocked critics with its mournful subject and sombre colours. While in Florence and Rome (1816-17), he became fascinated with Michelangelo and Baroque art. His chief project at this time was Race of the Riderless Horse, a heroic frieze composition (never completed) depicting a dangerous race that was an annual event.

After returning to France , Géricault drew a group of lithographs on military subjects that are considered among the earliest masterworks in that medium. Géricault’s masterpiece is the large painting entitled The Raft of the Medusa (c. 1819). This work depicts the aftermath of a contemporary French shipwreck, whose survivors embarked on a raft and were decimated by starvation before being rescued at sea. The shipwreck had scandalous political implications at home-the incompetent captain, who had gained the position because of connections to the Bourbon Restoration government, fought to save himself and senior officers while leaving the lower ranks to die-and so Géricault’s picture of the raft and its inhabitants was greeted with hostility by the government. The work’s macabre realism, its treatment of the raft incident as epic-heroic tragedy, and the virtuosity of its drawing and tonalities combine to give the painting great dignity and carry it far beyond mere contemporary reportage. The portrayal of the dead and dying, developed within a dramatic, carefully constructed composition, addressed a contemporary subject with remarkable and unprecedented passion.

Disappointed by the reception of The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault took the painting to England in 1820, where it was received as a sensational success. He remained there for two years, enjoying the equine culture and producing a body of lithographs, watercolours, and oils of jockeys and horses. Upon his return to France , his friendship with Étienne Georget, a pioneer in psychiatric studies, inspired his series of portraits of victims of insanity, each of whom was seen as a “type” of affliction, including Kleptomania and Delusion of Military Command. Repeated riding accidents and chronic tubercular infections ruined his health, and he died after a long period of suffering.

Jean-Léon Gérôme Biography

Painter, sculptor, and teacher, one of the most prominent late 19th-century academic artists in France.

Gérome, whose father was a goldsmith, studied with J.-H. Delaroche. His historical and mythological compositions, such as “Pygmalion and Galatea” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City), were anecdotal, painstaking, often melodramatic, and frequently erotic. The surfaces of his paintings were highly finished, and he was fascinated with technical virtuosity. He was a good draftsman in the tight linear style of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and an inventive illustrator in the manner of Delaroche. A trip to Egypt in 1856 introduced an exotic element into his painting—e.g., “Prayer in the Mosque of Amr, Old Cairo” (c. 1860; Metropolitan Museum of Art). During the last 25 years of his life he concentrated on sculpture. As a teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, he counted among his many pupils Odilon Redon and the American artists Thomas Eakins and J. Alden Weir. A highly successful artist, Gérome exerted great influence in the Paris art world. He was exceedingly hostile to the Impressionists and, as late as 1893, urged the government to refuse a bequest of 65 of their works.

Hans Holbein The Younger Biography

born 1497/98, Augsburg , Bishopric of Augsburg [ Germany ]
died 1543, London , England

German painter, draftsman, and designer renowned for the precise rendering of his drawings and the compelling realism of his portraits, particularly those recording the court of King Henry VIII of England .

Holbein was a member of a family of important artists. His father, Hans Holbein the Elder, and his uncle Sigmund were renowned for their somewhat conservative examples of late Gothic painting in Germany . One of Holbein’s brothers, Ambrosius, became a painter as well, but he apparently died about 1519 before reaching maturity as an artist. The Holbein brothers no doubt first studied with their father in Augsburg ; they both also began independent work about 1515 in Basel , Switz. It should be noted that this chronology places Holbein firmly in the second generation of 16th-century German artists. Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, and Lucas Cranach all were born between 1470 and 1480 and were producing their mature masterpieces by the time Holbein was just beginning his career. Holbein is, in fact, the only truly outstanding German artist of his generation.

Holbein’s work in Basel during the decade of 1515-25 was extremely varied, if also sometimes derivative. Trips to northern Italy (c. 1517) and France (1524) certainly affected the development of his religious subjects and portraiture, respectively. Holbein entered the painters’ corporation in1519, married a tanner’s widow, and became a burgher of Basel in 1520. By 1521 he was executing important mural decorations in the Great Council Chamber of Basel’s town hall.

Holbein was associated early on with the Basel publishers and their humanist circle of acquaintances. There he found portrait commissions such as that of the humanist scholar Bonifacius Amerbach (1519; Kunstmuseum, Basel ). In this and other early portraits Holbein showed himself a master of the current German portrait idiom, using robust characterization and accessories, strong gaze, and dramatic silhouette. In Basel , Holbein was also active in designing woodcuts for title pages and book illustrations. The artist’s most famous work in this area, a series of 41 scenes illustrating the medieval allegorical concept of the “Dance of Death,” was designed by him and cut by another artist as early as about 1523 to 1526 but was not published until 1538.Its scenes display an immaculate sense of order, packing much information about the lifestyles and habits of Death’s victims into a very small format. In portraiture, too, Holbein’s minute sense of observation was soon evident. His first major portrait of Desiderius Erasmus (1523; Louvre, Paris) portrays the Dutch humanist scholar as physically withdrawn from the world, sitting at his desk engaged in his voluminous European correspondence; his hands are as sensitively rendered as his carefully controlled profile.

Protestantism, which had been introduced into Basel as early as 1522, grew considerably in strength and importance there during the ensuing four years. By 1526 severe iconoclastic riots and strict censorship of the press swept over the city. In the face of what, for the moment at least, amounted to a freezing of the arts, Holbein left Basel late in 1526, with a letter of introduction from Erasmus, to travel by way of the Netherlands to England . Though only about 28 years old, he would achieve remarkable success in England . His most impressive works of this time were executed for the statesman and author Sir Thomas More and included a magnificent single portrait of the humanist (1527; Frick Collection, New York City). In this image, the painter’s close observation extends to the tiny stubble of More’s beard, the iridescent glow of his velvet sleeves, and the abstract decorative effects of the gold chain that he wears. Holbein also completed a life-size group portrait of More’s family; this work is now lost, though its appearance is preserved in copies and in preparatory drawing in the Kunstmuseum, Basel . This painting was the first example in northern European art of a large group portrait in which the figures are not shown kneeling-the effect of which is to suggest the individuality of the sitters rather than impiety.

Before Holbein journeyed to England in 1526, he had apparently designed works that were both pro- and anti-Lutheran in character. On returning to Basel in 1528, he was admitted, after some hesitation, to the new-and now official-faith. It would be difficult to interpret this as a very decisive change, for Holbein’s most impressive religious works, like his portraits, are brilliant observations of physical reality but seem never to have been inspired by Christian spirituality. This is evident in both the claustrophobic, rotting body of the “Dead Christ in the Tomb” (1521; Kunstmuseum, Basel ) and in the beautifully composed “Family of Burgomaster Meyer Adoring the Virgin” (1526; Schlossmuseum, Darmstadt ). In this latter painting Holbein skill fully combined a late medieval German compositional format with precise Flemish realism and a monumental Italian treatment of form. Holbein apparently quite voluntarily gave up almost all religious painting after about 1530.

In Basel , from 1528 to 1532, Holbein continued his important work for the town council. He also painted what is perhaps his only psychologically penetrating portrait, that of his wife and two sons (c. 1528; Kunstmuseum, Basel ). This picture no doubt conveys some of the unhappiness of that abandoned family. In spite of generous offers from Basel , Holbein left his wife and children in that city for a second time, to spend the last 11 years of his life primarily in England .

By 1533 Holbein was already painting court personalities, and four years after that he officially entered the service of King Henry VIII of England . It is estimated that during the last 10 years of his life Holbein executed approximately 150 portraits, life-size and miniature, of royalty and nobility alike. These portraits ranged from a magnificent series depicting German merchants who were working in London to a double portrait of the French ambassadors to Henry VIII’s court (1533; National Gallery, London ) to portraits of the king himself (1536; Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Castagnola, Switz.) and his different wives, Jane Seymour (1536; Kunsthistorisches Museum , Vienna ) and Anne of Cleves (Louvre, Paris). In these and other examples, the artist revealed his fascination with plant, animal, and decorative accessories. Holbein’s preliminary drawings of his sitters contain detailed notations concerning jewellery and other costume decorations as well. Sometimes such objects point to specific events or concerns in the sitter’s life, or act as attributes referring to a sitter’s occupation or character. The relation between accessories and face is a charged and stimulating one, avoiding simple correspondence.

In an analogous fashion, Holbein’s mature portraits present an intriguing play between surface and depth. The sitter’s outlines and position within the frame are carefully calculated, while inscriptions applied on the surface in gold leaf lock the sitter’s head into place. Juxtaposed with this finely tuned two-dimensional design are illusionistic miracles of velvet, fur, feathers, needle works, and leather. Holbein acted not only as a portraitist but also as a fashion designer for the court. The artist made designs for all the state robes of the king; he left, in addition, more than 250 delicate drawings for everything from buttons and buckles to pageant weapons, horse out fittings, and book bindings for the royal household. This choice of work indicates Holbein’s Mannerist concentration on surface texture and detail of design, a concern that in some ways precluded the incorporation of great psychological depth in his portraits. Holbein died in a London plague epidemic in 1543.

Holbein was one of the greatest portraitists and most exquisite draftsmen of all time. It is the artist’s record of the court of King Henry VIII of England , as well as the taste that he virtually imposed upon that court, that was his most remarkable achievement.

The fact that Holbein’s portraits do not reveal the character or spiritual inclinations of his sitters is perfectly paralleled by knowledge of the artist’s life. His biography is basically a recounting of disparate facts; about his personality practically nothing is known. Not one note or letter from his own hand survives. Other men’s opinions of him are often equally inscrutable. Erasmus, one of Holbein’s most renowned sitters, praised and recommended him on one occasion but scorned the artist as opportunistic at another time. Indeed, Henry VIII, who sent Holbein to the European continent to help select a bride by providing a dependable portrait for his scrutiny, was perhaps the only person who had absolute confidence in Holbein.

The artist’s detachment and his refusal to submit to an authority that might inhibit his own creative (but very worldly) powers enabled him to produce paintings whose beauty and brilliance have never been questioned. Had he been a more devout Christian or more subject to the turmoil of his times, his artistic achievement might have been quite different. In recent times, the lack of spiritual involvement in his work has been consistently noted, especially inasmuch as the 16th century was a time when few artists managed to remain above the religious conflict sweeping Europe . Thus, the effect of Holbein’s art has often been felt to be more artistic and external than expressionistic or emotional. Only in that sense, however, is his achievement finally limited.

Winslow Homer Biography

born Feb. 24, 1836 , Boston , Mass. , U.S.
died Sept. 29, 1910 , Prouts Neck , Maine

American painter whose works, particularly those on marine subjects, are among the most powerful and expressive of late 19th-century American art. His mastery of sketching and watercolour lends to his oil paintings the invigorating spontaneity of direct observation from nature (e.g., in “The Gulf Stream,” 1899). His subjects, often deceptively simple on the surface, dealt in their most serious moments with the theme of man’s efforts to establish his humanness in the face of an indifferent universe.

Homer was born into an old New England family. When he was six, the family moved to Cambridge , then a rural village, where he enjoyed a happy country childhood. His artistic inclinations were encouraged by his mother, an amateur painter. When he was 19, he was apprenticed to the lithographic firm of John Bufford in Boston . At first, most of his work involved copying the designs of other artists, but within a few years he was submitting his own drawings for publication in such periodicals as Ballou’s Pictorial and Harper’s Weekly. In 1859 Homer moved from Boston to New York City to begin a career as a free-lance illustrator. The following year he exhibited his first paintings at the National Academy of Design.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Homer made drawings at the front for Harper’s, but unlike most artist-correspondents he dealt more often with views of everyday camp life than with scenes of battle. As the war dragged on, he concentrated increasingly on painting. In 1865 he was elected to the National Academy of Design. Admirably capturing the dominant national mood of reconciliation, his “Prisoners from the Front” (1866) was warmly received when exhibited at the academy shortly after the war ended.

Although Homer’s studio was in New York City , the city was rarely his theme. During the warm months he travelled to Pennsylvania , the Hudson River valley, and New England , camping, hunting, fishing, and sketching. In 1866 he went to France for about a year. Although influenced by French naturalism, Japanese prints, and contemporary fashion illustration, his work after his return to America did not change markedly, except that the pictures were generally somewhat brighter. Such early pictures as ” Long Branch , New Jersey ” (1869) and “Snap the Whip” (1872) depict happy scenes, the former of fashionable ladies promenading along the seashore and the latter of children frolicking in a meadow after school. In a few early pictures a disquieting note of human isolation is struck, premonitory of Homer’s later, more powerful work.

In 1873 Homer began to work in watercolour, which allowed him to make rapid, fresh observations of nature. In this demanding medium he explored and resolved new artistic problems, and paintings of the next few years, such as “Breezing Up,” or “A Fair Wind” (1876), reflect the invigorating effect of the watercolours.

Homer matured slowly as an artist, but his development was constant. With the passage of years his oil paintings became larger, his figures more solitary, his concern for naturalistic detail greater. He painted many women, increasingly as single figures, intimate, withdrawn, feminine. From the late 1870s Homer began to devote his summers exclusively to direct painting from nature in watercolour. Greater concern for atmospheric effects and reflected light added complexity to the images but at the same time enabled him to achieve greater pictorial unity.

Although Homer received some recognition during his early years, he had not had any real success by mid career. By 1880 he began to show signs of increasing antisocialism, deliberately shunning the company of other people. In 1881 he unexpectedly went to England , where he spent about two years sketching and painting in Tynemouth , a remote fishing port on the North Sea . Here, at the age of 45, his period of greatest artistic growth began. He was intrigued by the life of the hardy fisher folk of Tynemouth , who struggled against the sea to earn their livelihood, but he did not paint that struggle directly. He depicted instead the robust and courageous women of Tynemouth , who mended the nets, kept house, and waited for their men to return from the sea. The English coastal atmosphere posed a new and difficult artistic challenge, but Homer mastered the diffused light, limited in colour but infinitely varied in tone, in a series of subtle watercolours.

After Homer’s return to America in 1883, the sea became the dominant theme in his work. He moved to Prouts Neck, a fishing village on the bleak, desolate coast of Maine . He travelled extensively but always returned to his Prouts Neck studio to convert his sketches into major paintings. Solitude became for Homer not simply a preference but an absolute necessity, as he turned his mind and his art to subjects dealing with man’s fate in confronting the elemental forces of nature.

In the summer of 1883 Homer saw a demonstration in Atlantic City of the use of a breeches buoy for rescue from the sea. The following year he painted his large, impressive, and immediately popular painting “The Life Line” (1884), one of several he did at this time on the rescue theme, depicting the dramatic transfer of an unconscious female from a wrecked ship to shore.

During the next few years, Homer’s interest shifted from the edge of the sea to the sea itself. Perhaps inspired by a putative trip to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Can. , with a fishing fleet, he painted heroic men in the act of pitting their strength, intelligence, and experience against the mighty sea. In the most impressive of these works, “Fog Warning” (1885), night is falling, fog is rolling in, and a lone fisherman in a dory calculates the distance and the time remaining for him to get back to his home ship in safety. Although the monumental narrative paintings Homer produced in his studio in the mid-1880s lack the freshness of his earlier works, Homer simultaneously painted innumerable brilliantly coloured watercolours during his travels north to Canada and south to the Caribbean .

While Homer’s fishermen and their women are heroic in their confrontations with the physical world, the artist occasionally took a more jaundiced view of his fellowman. In “Huntsman and Dogs” of 1891, set in a cheerless autumnal landscape, a sullen-faced young hunter, pausing on a hillside levelled by timbering and blackened by fire, epitomizes man as a despoiler of nature, killing for trophies rather than food.

Homer abandoned the human subject entirely in “The Fox Hunt” of 1893. A fox ventures forth to forage for berries on the snow-covered land, and a sinister line of starved black crows converges to attack him. The ensuing life-and-death struggle will be over quickly, but the pulse of nature that drives the winter ocean against the cliffs in the distance will go on forever. “Northeaster” (1895) distils this theme, and only the viewer witnesses the endless struggle between the irresistible sea and the immovable rocky shore. In “Northeaster,” Homer successfully wedded the freshness of his watercolours to the power of his oils to achieve an impressive pictorial effect that, as in many of his later works, transcends the subject matter.

“The Gulf Stream ” (1899) stands at the apex of Homer’s career. A black man lies inert on the deck of a small sailboat. A hurricane has shredded the sails, snapped off the mast, and snatched away the rudder. Unlike the boys in “Breezing Up” or the fisherman in “Fog Warning,” this man is powerless to control his vessel. He is at the mercy of the elements. Sharks circle the boat, a waterspout hovers in the distance, and a boat on the distant horizon passes by unseeing and unseen. As in Stephen Crane’s comparable short story, The Open Boat, nature is seen as not caring whether a man lives or dies.

Homer, ever more crusty and isolated in his old age, continued to paint vigorously and adventurously through the first decade of the 20th century. Similar in subject matter to his earlier work, although with more emphasis on pure seascape, his late paintings, in their unconventional composition and brilliant colour, reflect increasing concern with the abstract and expressive possibilities of art. Homer died in his Prouts Neck studio in 1910. Although by the 1890s he had become generally recognized as one of the leading American painters, and his work brought top prices, his passing was but briefly noted, and appreciation of his artistic achievement came only in the years following his death.

Paul Klee Biography

born Dec. 18, 1879 , Münchenbuchsee, near Bern , Switz.
died June 29, 1940 , Muralto, near Locarno

Swiss painter who was one of the foremost artists of the 20th century.

Early life and education

Klee’s mother, née Ida Maria Frick of Basel , and his German-born father, Hans Klee, were both trained as musicians. By Swiss law, Paul Klee held his father’s nationality, and though late in life he applied for Swiss citizenship, he died before it could be granted. A gifted violinist, he briefly considered music as a career, and between 1903 and 1906 he played occasionally in the Bern symphony orchestra. Klee was educated in the classical Literarschule (a literary secondary school) in Bern . As a youth he wrote poetry and even tried his hand at writing plays. The diaries he kept from 1897 to 1918 are valuable documents rich with detailed accounts of his experiences and his observations on art and literature.

As a boy Klee did delicate landscape drawings, in which he and his parents saw the promise of a career, and he filled his school notebooks with comic sketches. Upon graduating from the Literarschule in 1898 he left for Munich , which was then the artistic capital of Germany , and enrolled in the private art school of Heinrich Knirr . In 1899 he was admitted to the Munich Academy , which was then under the direction of Franz von Stuck, the foremost painter of Munich . Stuck was a rather strict academic painter of allegorical pictures, but his emphasis on imagination proved invaluable to the young Klee.

Klee completed his artistic education with a six-month visit to Italy before returning to Bern . The beauty of the art of ancient Rome and of the Renaissance led him to question the imitative styles of his teachers and of his own previous work. Giving vent to his generally sardonic attitude toward people and institutions, Klee fell back on his undisputed talent for caricature, making it one of the cornerstones of his art. His first important works, a series of etched “Inventions” undertaken in 1903-05 after his return from Italy and drawn in a tight technique inspired by Renaissance prints, are grotesque allegories of social pretension, artistic triumph and failure, and the nature and perils of woman.

In 1906 Klee married Lily Stumpf, a pianist whom he had met while an art student, and that year he settled in Munich to pursue his career. His public debut that year-an exhibition of his “Inventions” in Frankfurt am Main and Munich -was largely ignored. He tried to earn a living by writing reviews of art exhibits and concerts, teaching life-drawing classes, and providing illustrations for journals and books. He had one small success as an illustrator: the drawings he did in 1911-12 for Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide . Among his most accomplished early works, these drawings attempt to capture the humour and universality of Voltaire’s satire by reducing characters, settings, and details to comic flurries of lines. As for Klee’s caricatures, they were rejected as too idiosyncratic, and for many years Klee’s small family-increased to three in 1907 by the birth of their only child, Felix-was supported largely by Lily’s piano lessons.

Over the next several years Klee began to address his relative ignorance of modern French art. In 1905 he visited Paris , where he took special note of the Impressionists, and between 1906 and 1909 he became successively acquainted with the work of the Postimpressionists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne and of the Belgian artist James Ensor. He also began to explore the expressive possibilities of children’s drawings. These varied influences imparted to his work a freedom of expression and a willfulness of style equaled by few other artists of the time.

Klee caught up with the avant-garde in 1911, when he entered the circle of Der Blaue Reiter, an artists’ organization founded in Munich that year by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and the German painter Franz Marc. Kandinsky was then in the process of formulating his influential theory of abstract art as spiritual expression, and while Klee had only limited tolerance for his mysticism, the Russian artist, together with Marc, showed him how far abstraction and a visionary approach to content could be taken. Klee also came to know a wide variety of French Cubist painting from Der Blaue Reiter exhibitions of 1911-12 and from a visit he made to Paris in April 1912. He was especially impressed with the Orphic Cubism of the French artist Robert Delaunay.

Klee’s own adoption of the abstracted geometric style of the Cubists is seen in a number of drawings he did in 1912-13 that range from comic images of lust and mayhem to symbolic representations of fate. They are not as complex as Cubist compositions-that would come later, after Klee had assimilated his new discovery-but instead resemble, and were largely inspired by, the simple patterns of children’s drawings. Klee joined Cubism to children’s art because both, he believed, returned art to its fundamentals: children’s art by its direct and naive renderings, and Cubism by its timeless geometry. Together with Klee’s taste for caricature, these elements result ina characteristic union of the farcical and the sublime, two seemingly contradictory qualities held in suspension by Klee’s rigorous compositions and later by the beauty of his colour. From Cubism Klee also derived the frequent use of letters and other signs in his works; in Cubism these are usually simple indicators of the objects represented, but with Klee they become objects in their own right, imbuing his scenes with portents and enigmatic significance.

Artistic maturity

Until 1914 Klee found it difficult to paint; he felt a lack of confidence in his abilities as a colourist, and most of his work to that time had been in black and white. But in April of that year he took a two-week trip to Tunisia with his boyhood friend Louis Moilliet and fellow painter August Macke of Der Blaue Reiter. Klee’s intense response to the North African landscape and the example of Macke’s more advanced use of Delaunay’s colourful Cubism brought him new assurance as a painter. His lyrical watercolours of Tunisia , in which the landscape is simplified into transparent coloured planes, are his first sustained body of work in colour. They would be the basis, in subject and style, for much of his painting in subsequent years.

As a German citizen, Klee was called up for service in the German army in 1916 during World War I. As a Swiss he felt little of the patriotic zeal and martial enthusiasm shown by many German artists and intellectuals, and he was spared front-line duty by recently enacted legislation exempting artists from combat. He remained in Bavaria , where he was able to continue his art. Many of the paintings Klee did during the war years are romantic, childlike landscapes, where war makes its appearance indirectly in images of demons or conflicts with fate. Their charm proved popular with the public, and his work began to sell.

With the end of the war in 1918 and the ensuing abortive November Revolution, Klee, like many other German artists, saw the hope of a new society. His political optimism may explain the exuberance of his work at this time. He continued to paint evocative landscapes, but he returned as well to the farcical imagery he had drawn before the war. He visited the Dadaists in Zürich, and his work approaches theirs in its humour and spirit of absurdity. Among Klee’s most striking pictures of the postwar period are his oil transfer paintings, created with a distinctive technique he devised in 1919. Essentially coloured drawings, they were made by tracing a drawing-usually onto watercolour paper-through a transfer paper coated with sticky black ink or paint, and colouring the result. Their characteristically fuzzy, spreading lines are unlike anything else in the period and lend a rich patina to Klee’s droll or whimsical images. Among them are such well-known works as “Room Perspective with Inhabitants” (1921), whose inhabitants dwell not in the room but within the perspective lines that create it; and “Twittering Machine” (1922), which depicts a comic apparatus for making birds sing.

In 1920 Klee received an appointment to teach at the Bauhaus, the school of modern design founded in 1919 in Weimar , Ger. , by the architect Walter Gropius. Klee’s principal duty, like that of his fellow Bauhaus artists Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy, was to lecture in the basic design program on the mechanics of art. His lectures at the Bauhaus, recorded in more than 3,300 pages of notes and drawings, were a remarkable attempt to show how the formal elements of art-simple linear constructions and geometric motifs-could be used to build complex symbolic compositions. Klee expounded his own methods in the Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch (1925; Pedagogical Sketchbook).

The prevalent geometric aesthetic of the 1920s and Klee’s attempts to teach a methodology of art led him to rationalize his own practice as well. His work of the Bauhaus decade is more geometric than before, and the number of forms employed in a given composition is sharply reduced. Among the many types of compositions resulting from this practice are pictures made entirely of coloured squares, horizontal striations, or patterns resembling basket weave and, among his most evocative, a number of paintings in which puzzlingly disparate objects-faces, animals, goblets, heavenly bodies-coexist in a black, undifferentiated space.

By the mid-1920s Klee’s reputation had spread far beyond Germany , and in 1925 he received his first one-man show in Paris , the capital of European art. As the decade progressed, his biweekly lectures and administrative duties, and the almost constant tension in the Bauhaus over policy and politics, became increasingly onerous, and in 1931 he resigned for a less demanding position at the Dusseldorf Academy . He continued to work with geometric forms, most notably in his richly but painstakingly rendered “pointillist” paintings of 1930-32, with their mosaic-like surfaces of coloured dots-among them his largest single painting to date, “Ad Parnassum” (1932). But most of his pictures of the early and mid-1930s show varying attempts at loosening his style, with freer compositions and brushwork.

Klee remained at the Dusseldorf Academy until 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power; from then on, it was no longer possible to work in Germany . As a modern artist, Klee was dismissed from his position, and his house and studio were searched by the Gestapo on account of his known left-wing sympathies. Despite these difficulties, Klee continued to work without restraint. The drawings he did at this time are mostly representational and even narrative; many directly reflect the political disturbances of the day, dealing in ironic fashion with demagogy, militarism, political violence, and emigration.

But Klee’s creative activity was not to continue uninterrupted. At the end of 1933 he returned to the relative artistic isolation of Switzerland , where the disruptions caused by his move, along with his sudden financial uncertainty, took a toll on both the quality and quantity of his work. His difficulties were compounded in the summer of 1935 by the onset of an incurable illness. At first misdiagnosed as a variety of lesser ailments, it was eventually recognized as scleroderma, an affliction in which the body’s connective tissues become fibrous. Its severe initial symptoms, which ranged from a rash to glandular disturbances and respiratory and digestive difficulties, left Klee incapable of working for over a year. But in 1937 the temporary remission of his illness led to a remarkable outpouring of creative energy that was sustained until only a few months before his death in 1940.

Klee’s late paintings and drawings are strongly influenced by the harsh distortions of Pablo Picasso’s work of the 1920s and ’30s. What the Spanish master gave to Klee in these final years was a means of expressing the urgency Klee felt as his health declined. The small details and delicate shadings and tints that had given his previous work its characteristic refinement are replaced by bold, simple strokes and a new intensity of colour. The sense of humour in these last works is now muted by the gravity of Klee’s style and above all by images of dying and death. Among such works are wry drawings of angels (1939-40), who are still half-attached by memories and desires to their former selves, and “Death and Fire” (1940), Klee’s evocation of the underworld, in which a rueful face of death is placed in an infernal setting of fiery red. These late images are among the most memorable of all Klee’s works and are some of the most significant depictions of death in the history of art.

Assessment

Though Klee belonged to no movement, he assimilated, and even anticipated, most of the major artistic tendencies of his time in his work. Using both representational and abstract approaches, he produced an immense oeuvre of some 9,000 paintings, drawings, and watercolours in a great variety of styles. His works tend to be small in scale and are remarkable for their delicate nuances of line, colour, and tonality. In Klee’s highly sophisticated art, irony and a sense of the absurd are joined to an intense evocation of the mystery and beauty of nature. Claiming art to be a parable of the Creation, Klee represented everything from human figures and foibles to landscapes and microcosms of the plant and animal kingdoms, all with an eye that mocked as much as it praised; he was one of the great humorists of 20th-century art and its supreme ironist. Music figures prominently in his work-in his many images of opera and musicians, and to some extent as a model for his compositions. But literature had the greater pull on him; his art is steeped in poetic and mythic allusion, and the titles he gave to his pictures tend to charge them with additional meanings. Klee’s work was too personal to found a school or style, but it has had wide and profound influence.

Gustav Klimt Biography

born July 14, 1862 , Vienna , Austria
died Feb. 6, 1918 , Vienna

Austrian painter and founder of the school of painting known as the Vienna Sezession.

After studying at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts, Klimt in 1883 opened an independent studio specializing in the execution of mural paintings. His early work was typical of late 19th-century academic painting, as can be seen in his murals for the Vienna Burgtheater (1888) and on the staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

In 1897 Klimt’s mature style emerged, and he founded the Vienna Sezession, a group of painters who revolted against academic art in favour of a highly decorative style similar to Art Nouveau (q.v.). Soon thereafter he painted three allegorical murals for the ceiling of the University of Vienna auditorium that were violently criticized; the erotic symbolism and pessimism of these works created such a scandal that the murals were rejected. His later murals, the “Beethoven Frieze” (1902; Österreichische Gallery, Vienna) and the murals (1909-11) in the dining room of the Stoclet House, Brussels, are characterized by precisely linear drawing and the bold and arbitrary use of flat, decorative patterns of colour and gold leaf. Klimt’s most successful works include “The Kiss” (1908; Österreichische Gallery) and a series of portraits he did of fashionable Viennese matrons, such as “Frau Fritza Riedler” (1906; Österreichische Gallery) and “Frau Adele Bloch-Bauer” (1907; Österreichische Gallery). In these works he treats the human figure without shadow and heightens the lush sensuality of skin by surrounding it with areas of flat, highly ornamental, and brilliantly composed areas of decoration.

Baron Frederic Leighton Biography

born Dec. 3, 1830 , Scarborough , Yorkshire , Eng.
died Jan. 25, 1896 , London

Also called (1886-96) Sir Frederic Leighton, Baronet academic painter of immense prestige in his own time. After an education in many European cities, he went to Rome in 1852, where his social talents won him the friendship of (among others) the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, the French novelist George Sand, and the English poet Robert Browning.

Leighton’s painting “Cimabue’s Madonna,” shown at the Royal Academy ‘s exhibition in 1855, was bought by Queen Victoria . It marked the entry into England of a new cosmopolitan academic manner in which grandeur of scale and forms of classical Greek and High Renaissance extraction were used to embody subject matter ofan anecdotal and superficial nature. Leighton came to London in 1858 to enjoy this triumph but did not settle there until 1860.

In 1869 he was made a member of the Royal Academy and in 1878 its president. In 1878 he was knighted, in 1886 he was made a baronet, and, on the day before he died, he became a baron, being the first English painter to be so honoured. (He did not marry, and the titles became extinct upon his death).