ART “4” “2”-DAY 24 February v.7.20
DEATH: 1911 LEFEBVRE
Born on 24 February 1815: Jules Achille
Noël, in Nancy, French painter who died on 26 March
1881 in Algeria.
— A student of Cherioux in Brest, Noël came to Paris to open his own atelier. He exhibited at the Salon regularly from 1840 through 1879. The shores of Normandy and Brittany were his life-long inspiration. He painted their fishing ports and beaches at low-tide, fishing boats in stormy seas and even their shipwrecks. His bold line, vigorous painting, and true to life palette recall tho works of Eugène Isabey.
Baudelaire, in Ch. XV - Du Paysage of Le Salon de 1846, commented:
M. Jules Noël a fait une fort belle marine, d’une belle et claire couleur, rayonnante et gaie. Une grande felouque, aux couleurs et aux formes singulières, se repose dans un grand port, où circule et nage toute la lumière de l’Orient. – Peut-être un peu trop de coloriage et pas assez d’unité. – Mais M. Jules Noël a certainement trop de talent pour n’en pas avoir davantage, et il est sans doute de ceux qui s’imposent le progrès journalier. – Du reste, le succès qu’obtient cette toile prouve que, dans tous les genres, le public aujourd’hui est prêt à faire un aimable accueil à tous les noms nouveaux.
— Napoléon III Receiving Queen Victoria at Cherbourg, 5 August 1858 (1859, 165x229cm, 503x700pix, 86kb) _ Between 04 and 08 August 1858, the Emperor Napoléon III and the Empress Eugenie visited Cherbourg. On their arrival, they inaugurated the railway line linking the town to Paris. The following day, 05 August, they welcomed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who had been invited to view the opening of the Arsenal's second basin, called the Napoléon III basin.
Napoléon III, wearing the full-dress uniform of a French admiral, receiving Queen Victoria on board the French flagship, Bretagne, at Cherbourg for a banquet. He stands at the top of the gangway, waiting to receive his guests, who have arrived by royal barge and are waiting at the bottom of the gangway. Napoléon III was anxious to demonstrate to his British guests that his improvements to the naval base at Cherbourg did not constitute a threat to Britain. Thus, he invited Victoria and Albert, together with several politicians and naval officials, to inspect the improvements as a mark of trust.
The Bretagne is shown in starboard-bow view at anchor in the centre of the painting, decked overall with flags and flying the Royal and the Imperial Standards. The deck is lined with French sailors waving their hats and there are also sailors in the rigging. In the center foreground, the royal and imperial barges have been positioned, together with other French and English vessels, some dressed overall. To the right of Queen Victoria's barge, is a barge flying the Imperial Standard, full of French sailors waving their hats in salute. Other ships in the harbor are also firing salutes and there are other smaller craft full of spectators. The town and fortifications of Cherbourg are implied on the right. The Queen and the Prince Consort sailed to France in the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, escorted by a large squadron of ships. They cut short their visit to Cherbourg partly because they were not prepared to stay until 08 August to witness the inauguration of the equestrian statue of Napoleon I by Armand de Veel. This evocation of French-English conflicts was further exacerbated by Victoria's perception of the superiority of the French Navy. Thus, the visit had the exact opposite effect to that intended by Napoléon III, and the British returned home infuriated. After reading a damning report drawn up for her by Sir John Pakington, First Lord of the Admiralty, Victoria wrote a severe letter to Lord Derby, the Prime Minister, criticizing the state of Britain's navy.
— La plage du Tréport (1870, 805x1121pix, 206kb)
— A l'approche de l'orage (1875, 38x58cm; 422x640pix, 46kb)
— Bâteaux à marée basse (35x53cm, 351x550pix, 38kb)
— Coaching Party at the Cathedral of Caudebec, Normandie (1874; 480x353pix, 39kb)
>Died on 24 February 1911: Jules-Joseph
Lefebvre, French Academic
painter born on 14 March 1836.
Lefebvre studied under Léon Cogniet, and afterwards at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1861. His early works were based upon historical events. However, after the death of close family members in the mid 1860s he began to specialise in painting nudes, such as Chloe. Lefebvre became a professor of the Académie Julian in Paris in the 1870s. Lefebvre received many awards during his long life, including being made Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur in 1898.
— He studied in Leon Cogniet’s studio from 1852 and competed at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1853 until he won the Prix de Rome in 1861. In Rome he was influenced by Mannerism and especially by Andrea del Sarto, whose works he copied. In his Boy Painting a Tragic Mask (1863) Lefebvre introduced the precise draftsmanship, delicate color and a lubricity characteristic of many of his later works. In 1866 he experienced a severe depression caused by the death of his parents and one of his sisters, and by criticism of the last major work he painted in Rome, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi. After these experiences he turned from history painting to portraits and nudes; he exhibited 72 portraits in Salons between 1855 and 1898 (e.g. Julia Foster Ward), but little is known about them since nearly all remain in private collections. Although he occasionally finished large-scale, ambitious paintings (e.g. Lady Godiva; Diana Surprised), he made his reputation with nudes such as Reclining Woman (1868). Critics praised this painting and recognized its eroticism, yet there was no scandal as there had been with Manet’s Olympia (1863). Lefebvre avoided the signs of contemporary social reality, prostitution, or the model’s personality that characterized Manet’s painting, focusing instead on the woman’s beauty and stressing her passivity and availability.
— Like a typical academic artist, Lefebvre started his career with the traditional subject matter of histories and other narratives. It would not be till later in his career that he would focus exclusively on the human figure in portraiture and especially the female nude, with great ability and success.
Though his father was only a baker, he nonetheless encouraged his son to pursue painting, sending him to study in Paris in 1852. There, Lefebvre became a student of Leon Cogniet and a year later started attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His debut at the Paris Salon was in 1855. He then spent the next few years pursuing the coveted Prix de Rome (the main competition for young painters, which would win him five years of study in Rome and a reputation that would all but guarantee a successful career). In 1859 he came close, placing second. Two years later the history painting The Death of Priam would win him first place.
It would be during his stay in Rome that he would find his individual artistic niche. Able to study the great Italian masters, Lefebvre was fascinated by the Mannerist painters, especially Andrea del Sarto. He copied his work avidly and demonstrated Andrea’s influence in his painting Boy Painting a Tragic Mask (1863). It was also during this time that his interest in the female nude began, painting his first in 1863. Among other works he did in Rome, he sent the narrative Roman Charity to the salon of 1864 and painted Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi in 1866. The latter narrative, however, was ill received by experts, arousing overwhelming criticism. That same year his parents and one of his sisters died. These negative events in both his personal and professional life sent him into severe depression.
He emerged from his depression and came back to Paris with a different approach to art and a change of interest in subject matter. He apparently became disenchanted with the traditional formulaic approach to painting, instead turning towards more precise rendering from life. In 1868 he exhibited a Reclining Nude at the Salon, which unlike his last significant work, won him much praise. Two years later, his allegory of Truth became his first great success. A beautiful young woman holds up a mirror (the conventional symbol of truth). This symbol, though, is at the very top of the painting, so, in order to get to it one’s eye has to caress the sensuous feminine curves over the length of the outstretched figure. Shortly after the success of this nude, he was made an officer in the Legion of Honor.
What followed in the decades to come were variations on Truth. His many beautiful nudes took the roles of Mary Magdalene (1876), Pandora (1877), Diana (1879), Psyche (1883), and Aurora among others. His nudes became so famous that his only rival was considered to be Bouguereau. Unlike Bouguereau’s figures though, Lefebvre used a greater variety of models, which can be seen in his work. It is not surprising then that he exhibited seventy-two portraits at the Paris Salon from 1855 to 1898. Most, of course, are of women. Among those who sat for him include his daughter Yvonne, the Imperial Prince in 1874, and the novelist Alexandre Dumas (1869), who also seems to have admired his nudes, purchasing a Femme Nue in 1892.
In the 1870’s he became a teacher at the Académie Julien (an atelier that trained women artists as well as men over a decade before they were also permitted into l'École des Beaux Arts). There he is said to have insisted to his students on absolute precision in life drawing. There he became the most admired and sought after teacher of US expatriates, who came to Paris to study. Among his most famous US students, were Frederick Childe Hassam, Frank Weston Benson, and Edmund Charles Tarbell. Following the success of Truth, his accolades kept accumulating. Having won increasingly significant acclaim at the Universal Expositions, he ended up winning the grand prize in 1889. In 1891, he was made a member of the Academie des Beaux Arts. What was admired then about Lefebvre, and can be admired today is the idealized realism of his figures. They are beautiful yet individualized.
— Lefebvre's students included, besides the four already mentioned, Otto Bacher, John Breck, Colin Cooper, C.C. Curran, Charles Davis, Elizabeth Bouguereau, Gaines Donoho, Frank Dumond, Eurilda France, Philip Leslie Hale, William Hart, George Hitchcock, William Kendall, Louis Aston Knight, Fernand Khnopff [1858-1921], Ernest Lee Major, Arthur F. Mathews, Julius Garibaldi Melchers, Willard Leroy Metcalf, Elizabeth Nourse, Robert Reid, Guy Rose, Joseph Henry Sharp, Otto Stark, Albert Sterner, Twachtman, Vonnoh, Mary MacMonnies, Belmiro Barbosa de Almeida, Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Louis Marcoussis, Charles Maurin, George Augustus Moore [1852-1933], Alphonse Mucha, Charles Adams Platt, Georges Antoine Marie Rochegrosse, Ker-Xavier Roussel.
–- Edna Barger of Connecticut (1884 oval; 750x590pix, 58kb _ .ZOOM to 1500x1181pix, 148kb _ ZOOM+ to 2250x1771pix, 215kb) _ Here is a 1910 photo of Edna Barger (it could well be the same one) on horseback in Yosemite.
–- Julia Foster Ward (1880, 94x69cm; 814x472pix, 54kb _ .ZOOM to 1628x945pix, 193kb _ ZOOM+ to 2250x1770pix, 211kb)
–- Clémence Isaure (782x631pix, 39kb _ .ZOOM not recommended to patterned 1573x1262pix, 137kb)
–- Girl with a Mandolin (945x582pix, 68kb _ .ZOOM to 1418x873pix, 80kb)
— La Vérité (1870, 226x110cm), or, for those who prefer abstraction to part of the bare truth, a collaboration of pseudonymous “Hervé Béfel” with Lefebvre's ghost:
_ Vérité Étirée 5 (2005)
Chloé (1875) _ This is perhaps the most famous, notorious, well loved, well hung and controversial painting in Australia. Chloé was exhibited to great popular acclaim winning gold medals in the Paris Salon in 1875, the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 and the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. She was purchased in 1882 by a surgeon, Thomas Fitzgerald (later Sir Thomas) and subsequently loaned to the National Gallery of Victoria. In 1883, after three weeks of exhibition, she fell victim to Victorian "wowserism" (puritanical fanaticism) when outraged citizens objected to seeing the naked female form displayed on the Sabbath. Upon the death of Sir Thomas in 1908, Chloé was purchased by Henry Figsby Young, an ex-digger turned hotel proprietor, for the very considerable sum of 800 pounds. One story relates that Henry took the painting back to his home above Young and Jackson's Hotel and hid it from his wife. While he was away and she was "spring cleaning", the irate wife discovered it and banished it to the public bar, which ironically turned it into a smash hit. It has remained there ever since, apart from touring Australia to raise funds for the Red Cross during World War I and being loaned as the center-piece for the exhibition "Narratives, nudes and landscapes" at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1995. As for the model "Chloé", she had posed for the painting when she was 19, had subsequently fallen in love with Jules Lefebvre and when the artist married her sister, she was devastated. She boiled up phosphorous match-heads, drank the poisonous concoction and died tragically, at 21. Or so they say!
— Mary Magdalen in the Grotto [123kb]
— Jeune Peintre des Masques Grec (1865; 640x410pix, 47kb)
— Fleurs des Champs aka Half-Length Demi-Nude (ZOOMable)
— Japonaise aka The Language of the Fan (1882, 131x90cm)
— Pandora (1882, 97x75cm)
— Young Woman with Morning Glories in Her Hair (67x55cm)
— A Lady
— La Fiancée (157x132cm)
— L'amour Blessé (191x124cm; 1000x650pix, 138kb)
— A Woman (241x150cm)
Born on 24 February 1619: Charles
Le Brun, French painter, designer, decorator, and art theorist,
who died on 12 February 1690, the dominant artist of Louis XIV's reign.
He studied under Nicolas
Poussin and Simon
Vouet. Le Brun's students included Charles
de La Fosse.
After being trained by Vouet Le Brun went to Rome in 1642 and worked under Poussin, becoming a convert to the latter's theories of art. He returned to Paris in 1646. In 1662 he was raised to nobility and named 'Premier Peintre du roi', and in 1663 he was made director of the reorganized Gobelins factory. Also in 1663 he was made director of the reorganized Académie, which he turned into a channel for imposing a codified system of orthodoxy in matters of art. His lectures came to be accepted as providing the official standards of artistic correctness and, formulated on the basis of the classicism of Poussin, gave authority to the view that every aspect of artistic creation can be reduced to teachable rule and precept. In 1698 his small illustrated treatise Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions was posthumously published; in this, again, following theories of Poussin, he purported to codify the visual expression of the emotions in painting.
Despite the classicism of his theories, Le Brun's own talents lay rather in the direction of flamboyant and grandiose decorative effects. Among the most outstanding of his works for the king were the Galerie d'Apollon at the Louvre (1663), and the famous Galerie des Glaces (1679-1684) and the Great Staircase (1671-1678, destroyed in 1752) at Versailles. His importance in the history of French art is twofold: his contributions to the magnificence of the Grand Manner of Louis XIV and his influence in laying the basis of academicism. Many of the leading French artists of the next generation trained in his studio. Le Brun was a fine portraitist and an extremely prolific draftsman.
— Le Brun (or Lebrun) became the arbiter of artistic production in France during the last half of the 17th century. Possessing both technical facility and the capacity to organize and carry out many vast projects, Le Brun personally created or supervised the production of most of the paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects commissioned by the French government for three decades during the reign of Louis XIV. Under his direction French artists created a homogeneous style that came to be accepted throughout Europe as the paragon of academic and propagandistic art.
A protégé of the chancellor Pierre Séguier, Le Brun studied first with the painter Guillaume Perrier and then with Simon Vouet. In 1642 he went to Rome, and during the four years he spent there he learned much from Nicolas Poussin, Pietro da Cortona, and other contemporary Baroque painters. On his return to Paris he was given large decorative and religious commissions; his work for the Hôtel Lambert and for Nicolas Fouquet, the influential minister of finance, at Vaux-le-Vicomte in the 1650s made his reputation. His first commission from Louis XIV dates from 1661, when he painted the first of a series of subjects from the life of Alexander the Great. The Tent of Darius delighted Louis XIV, who liked to think of himself as a latter-day Alexander. Le Brun was made first painter to the king, given an enormous salary, and until his death occupied a position of paramount importance in the artistic life of France not equaled until the advent of the painter Jacques-Louis David at the end of the 18th century.
Fouquet's successor as minister of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was quick to recognize and to use Le Brun's organizing capacities to the greatest advantage. In 1663 Le Brun was appointed director of the Gobelins, which, from being a small tapestry manufacture, expanded into a sort of universal factory supplying all the royal houses. From the 1660s, commissions for decoration of the royal palaces, notably Versailles, were given automaticallyto Le Brun and his assistants, and in 1663 the Academy of Painting and Sculpture was reorganized with Le Brun as director. In 1666 he organized its satellite, the French Academy at Rome, which played an influential role in the artistic affairs of France for more than a century. These institutions gave French art its characteristic homogeneity.
Le Brun's own painting style was a more dramatic and sensuous version of Poussin's static and monumental manner, seen in Horatius Cocles Defending Rome (1644), which became dulled and generalized when applied to large surfaces. As a portrait painter, however, he was consistently distinguished, as in The Banker Jabach and His Family (1647). His position declined after Colbert's death in 1683, although he continued to receive the king's support.
— The Sculptor Nicolas le Brun (1635, 87x69cm; 1250x991pix, 207kb _ ZOOM to 2500x1982pix, 840kb _ or, for more fun than watching your toenails grow, ZOOM= to the same 2500x1982pix, but 4767kb) _ Sculptor Nicolas le Brun [1615–1660], brother of Charles le Brun, is much more likely to be the sitter than sculptor Nicolas le Brun [1580–], his father.
Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist at Porta Latina (1642, 282x224cm) _ This is an early work of the artist showing a strong influence of Simon Vouet. It was executed for the church Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris where it can be seen since then.
The Triumph of Faith (1660) The decoration for the newly constructed château of Vaux-le-Vicomte was begun by Le Brun in 1658 and was probably completed by 1660. On the ceiling of the Hôtel Lambert in Paris, on that of the great room in this Château, and in that of the Galeries des Glaces at Versailles Charles Le Brun rivalled the Italian decorative artists.
Chancellor Séguier at the Entry of Louis XIV into Paris in 1660 (295x351cm) _ Le Brun must not be rejected as a mere decorator, even though so much of his other art is relatively inaccessible, deposited in provincial museums or surrounded in the Louvre by so much more exciting and exacting painting. There was no sense of his inferiority at the time - on the contrary, his art was highly esteemed by his contemporaries - and the ambivalent attitude towards him came about only in later centuries when the art of the period came to be assessed as history. Le Brun was in fact the most important painter in France in the second half of the century and portrait of Chancellor Séguier in the Louvre justifies a high estimation of his talent. The composition forms an enormous pyramid with the figure of Séguier at its apex. The scale is almost life-size, and the characterization of the sitters is worthy of Champaigne. Acknowledged as a masterpiece even though the name of Le Brun is forgotten, it is a unique record of an important official surrounded by his attendants.
Entry of Alexander into Babylon (1664, 450x707cm) _ Louis XIV was interested in the story of Alexander the Great because of his own special type of megalomania could see itself reflected in the Greek past. Le Brun accordingly executed the truly colossal series of four canvasses depicting episodes from the life of Alexander the Great. This series executed between 1662 and 1668 was considered by the artist himself to be his masterpiece. The four paintings of the series are the Passage of the Granicus, the Battle of Argela, the Entry of Alexander into Babylon and Alexander and Porus. Like so many Herculean undertakings, the paintings impressed everybody by their sheer size. Later history has not been kind to them, but even so, tremendous energy burst out of every corner of these pictures, some of which are more than twelve metres long. The source, without any doubts, is Rubens. This is not the exuberant Rubens of the Medici cycle, but the Rubens of the vast hunting scenes and tapestry cartoons. Le Brun had in effect changed sides, as he moved from modest echoes of Poussin to a full-blown eulogy of Rubens.
Apotheose of Louis XIV (1677, 109x78cm) _ In this allegoric painting Providence put the crown on the head of King riding a horse in Roman costume. Angels coming from the cloak of Providence fight the enemies of France, the lion (Netherlands) and the eagle (Germany).
The Resolution of Louis XIV to Make War on the Dutch Republic (1671, 72x98cm) _ At the end of the 1670s Le Brun began the most exacting of his tasks - the decoration of the ceiling of the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles. Many of the sketches for the main compositions survive, and allow an assessment, on a small scale, of his inventiveness, which is usually lost in the vastness of the decorated ensemble. A typical example is The Resolution of Louis XIV to Make War on the Dutch Republic, depicting an event which was to have enormous repercussions (Louis XIV was eventually defeated by the Dutch). The handling, rapid and sure, is taken almost completely from Rubens, and yet the composition is original and dramatic, and demonstrates that Le Brun conformed to the grand tradition of Rubens and Pietro da Cortona in Italy. His work at Versailles shows that he belongs among the great decorative painters on the grounds of his energy, originality and appropriateness of setting, but even in France his reputation is not as high as it should be.
Adoration by the Shepherds (1689, 151x213cm) _ This picture shows how clever Le Brun was at composition, at mingling the world beyond with earthly life and at controlling the fantastic effects of the light produced by a screened fire.
— Le Chancelier Séguier (1657; 688x801pix, 92kb)
— Henri de Turenne (preliminary sketch; 744x650pix, 54kb)
Died on a 24 February:
1920 Paul Albert Girard, French artist born on 13 December 1839. Relative? of Marie-François-Firmin Girard [1838-1921]?
1910 Osman Edhem Pacha Zadeh Hamby-Bey, Turkish artist born in 1842.
1839 Caspar Johann Schneider, German artist born on 19 April 1753.
^ 1819 Jean François Sablet le Romain, Swiss painter born on 23 November 1745. He was the son of painter and picture dealer Jacob Sablet [1720–1798]. Both he and his brother Jacques-Henri Sablet [28 Jan 1749 – 22 Aug 1803] studied at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris as students of Joseph-Marie Vien, François in 1768–1773 and Jacques in 1772–1775. Although their careers did not follow a similar course, the attribution of their works has frequently been confused. Among Sablet's early portraits are those of Charles de Bourbon, Comte dArtois, as Colonel General of the Swiss and Grison Guards (1774) and Charles-Henri, Comte dEstaing (engraved by Charles-Etienne Gaucher). He also painted genre scenes, such as Childhood in the Country and Visit to the Wet-nurse (engraved by L. Perrot, fl 1786), and mythological scenes. In 1791 he left Paris for Rome to join his brother. While there he concentrated on landscapes, for example Gardens of the Villa Borghese and Landscape at Nemi (1793), also depicting people in local costume (e.g. Peasant Woman of Genzano). In February 1793 he was obliged to leave Rome with the rest of the French community and by October was in Paris as a member of the Revolutionary Commune des Arts. He produced a number of Revolutionary portraits, including Joseph-Agricol Viala, William Tell and Lycurgus (all engraved by Pierre-Michel Alix), but spent most of his time quietly in Normandy. In 1802 he worked in Paris for the printmakers Francesco Piranesi  and his brother Pietro Piranesi [1773>1807). In 1805 he established himself in Nantes, producing small-scale portraits of the citys notables (e.g. Nantes, Mus. Dobrée) with sometimes scathing sincerity. In 1812 he decorated the Bourse in Nantes with six large grisailles depicting the Visite de Napoléon à Nantes en 1808.
Born on a 24 February:
^ 1910 Telemachos Kanthos, Greek Cypriot impressionist painter, engraver, teacher, and stage designer, who died on 18 November 1993. From 1930 he studied at the Department of Fine Arts of the National Technical University, where Spyros Vikatos, Umberto Argyros, Dimitrios Biskinis, and Yiannis Kefallinos were his teachers and his fellow students included Yiannis Tsarouchis and Nikos Engonopoulos. Kanthos showed independence from his teachers by studying the works of Cézanne [19 Jan 1839 – 22 Oct 1906] and being influenced by them. After completing his studies in 1938 he worked in Athens and Corfu, but with the onset of World War II in 1939 he returned to his native village Alona in Cyprus. He stayed there until the end of his life . From 1950 to 1969 he taught art at the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Nicosia.
From early on his main interest lay in the landscapes of Cyprus. As well as painting pure landscapes, many of his subjects are taken from rural and village life, as in The Belfry (1952), although harmonization of surfaces and colors and the schematization of forms and backgrounds always went beyond exterior detail to provide a sense of place and inner meaning. His recurring hallmark is a vibrancy and purity of color. After 1960 Kanthos’s work acquired a new immediacy and expressive power. The schematized forms and broad surfaces of Village are characteristic of his understanding of local atmosphere and his ability to express the feeling that underlies external appearance. His engravings provide a marked contrast to his paintings. Vigorous and dramatic, and often with considerable expressive force, they tend to be frugally composed and contain powerful symbolic content. Kanthos’s later engravings are particularly striking for their expression of intensities of inner mood and emotion. — The painters Rallis Georghakis [06 Mar 1933~] and Kyriakos Lyras, and the sculptor Fylaktis Ieridis were among the students of Kanthos.
— On the Rock of Patience (1976 engraving; 601x198pix, 43kb) part of the series Hard Times: started in 1974 after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus: a characteristically monumentalized seated man, the contrasts of light and shade highlighting his strength and long endurance.
— (women near the sea?) (246x450pix, 41kb)
— (which one to choose??) (326x230pix, 19kb) —(060223)
^ 1885 Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz “Witkacy”, Polish eccentric dramatist, poet, novelist, painter, photographer, art theorist, and philosopher, who died on 17 September 1939. Witkacy was one of the leading members of Poland's poetic and artistic avant-garde of the first half of the 20th century.
— He was the son of the architect, painter and critic Stanislaw Witkiewicz [1851–1915], creator of the ‘Zakopane style’. He spent his childhood in Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains and was educated at his family home, a place frequented by artists and intellectuals, and also through his many travels to Eastern and Western Europe. From his wide acquaintance with contemporary art, he was particularly impressed by the paintings of Arnold Böcklin. Witkiewicz’s often interrupted studies (1904–1910) under Józef Mehoffer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków had less influence than his lessons in Zakopane and Brittany with Wladyslaw Slewinski, who introduced him to the principles of Gauguin’s Synthetism. Witkiewicz abandoned the naturalism of his first landscapes, executed under the influence of his father, rejected linear perspective and modeling and began to use flat, well-contoured forms and vivid colors, as in Self-portrait with Flowers and Fruit (1913). But his art escapes all classification, and any similarities to contemporary trends are only superficial. In the so-called ‘period of the monsters’ (1908–1914) he created Expressionist-like compositions with fantastic creatures and deformed, ugly human figures. He exploited the ‘perverse harmony’ of complementary colors and turbulent forms.
— He was born on 24 February 1885, notwithstanding his birth certificate with bears the date as 24 March 1885 as his date of birth. As a child he was encouraged to develop his individuality and creativity in as many outlets as possible: He was schooled at home and pursued diverse interests to promote creativity in painting, music, photography, literature, science and philosophy. Shortly after he returned from his military service in Russia, he combined his last and middle names and began signing his experimental paintings, and most of his correspondence with the name Witkacy, or some variation of it (Witkac, Witkatze, Witkacjusz, Vitkacius, Vitecasse), to distinguish himself from his famous father. But is was just a manifestation of an identity crisis. Due to his eclectic education, Witkacy attempted throughout his life to distinguish himself in many outlets, as a painter, aesthetician, playwright, novelist, and philosopher, and, through whatever means necessary: marriage, sex, drugs, or alcohol. All of these efforts to justify his existence proved futile during his lifetime, as he was privately and publicly, for the most part, unsuccessful; only posthumously did his work receive proper attention, and, subsequently, national and international success. Today his dramas and paintings have admirers all over the world.
He was determined to be an artist and, in his youth, his artwork received some favorable critical attention. While he enjoyed modest success and found kindred spirits for a while in the Formist group in Krakow, he remained an outsider to the cultural and literary establishments of his day. Most, criticized the artist and his theories as the ravings of a maniac or dilettante, who produced nonsensical works with no redeeming qualities. For philosophers, he was intriguing, but lacked technical training; for writers, he was a painter trying his hand at writing; for painters he was too 'literary.' Additionally, his methods and lifestyle - as a drug experimenter, alcoholic, and bohemian sex addict - seemed to overshadow his artistic output. Witkacy, likewise, did not sympathize with the avant-garde movements of the day such as abstract art, futurism, Dadaism, and constructivism. He found no group to support him and no followers to reinforce his fragile ego.
While Witkacy remained on the outer limits of the cultural and literary movements of his day, his unique experiences afforded him insight into questions regarding philosophy and provided material for his creative endeavors. His experiences included being raised in the elite literary culture of Zakopane by an enlightened, and often demanding, father. He witnessed through his travels revolutions in art, music, and science. Trends in mathematics and science led to the world being perceived in radically new ways, which subsequently manifested itself in the dissonance and atonality in the arts, in particular, the cubism of Picasso. Additionally, he was personally introduced to psychoanalysis as he underwent treatment; he witnessed the exotic non-western cultures on his trip with his dear friend Bronislaw Malinowski to Ceylon and Australia; and lastly and perhaps the most significant experience occurred when he participated in both World War I trench warfare and the Russian Revolution on the streets of Petrograd. These experiences were later utilized in his work.
In 1918, after being released from the Russian Army, Witkacy returned home to an independent Poland. During the next twenty years, he wrote over 30 dramas, including The Madman and the Nun or Nothing is so bad that it cannot be made worse; The Mother, The Water Hen; he wrote three novels, Insatiability gaining the most attention; he painted dozens of formist paintings and hundreds, possibly thousands of portraits. In the 1930's he established the Artistic Theater in Zakopane, and devoted the last years of his life to philosophy, most notably to his magnum opus, Concepts and Principles Implied by the Concept of Existence (1935).
When exploring the work of a particular writer, Witkacy often found it ''a matter of importance'' to have an image of the thinker's face (geba) in front of him. However, he offered no detailed explanation as to why he needed this, just that it was essential to see what the philosopher's ''mug'' looked like. He photographed and painted hundreds of self-portraits, illustrating himself as a buffoon, drug addict, priest, doctor, and a madman. There is a famous photograph, taken in Russia, presenting Witkacy in his officer's uniform of the Pavlovsky Regiment, seated in front of two mirrors, which show four Witkacys from different angles. These four reflections may be intended to show Witkacy as a painter, philosopher, writer, and photographer. But the real Witkiewicz is seated with his back to us.
In his theory of art, he claimed that through the experience of true art (primarily painting, drama, music) an individual intensifies his feelings of individuality and affirms his own uniqueness in the face of an alien universe. As a result, the individual restores temporarily what Witkacy calls Metaphysical Feeling of the Strangeness of Existence, which simultaneously creates a childlike sense of wonder and anxiety.
Witkacy attempted to restore this metaphysical feeling, this sense of wonder about life, by creating a world of play, fantasy, and grotesque ghoulishness: a fantastic world of childlike wonder and apocalyptic horror, where the divisions between the dream world and reality cease to exist. This world was not only created in his artistic endeavors but also in his interactions with others. In these encounters Witkacy often resorted to tricks, jokes, and conscious manipulation to reveal the unknown lurking in the depths of the human psyche. He fest that the only fate worse than death for an artist is the lack of originality.
This led him to act weirdly at times. During a conversation, for instance, he would suddenly turn his back on his companion. A moment later he would face him again, now however, peering at his companion through holes cut out in the centers of bisected ping-pong balls otherwise covering his eyes. Or, in the middle of a conversation, he would adopt the role of a drunken tsarist officer or imitate a close friend. Or he would crouch low when opening the door to someone and then slowly to draw himself up, just to see the surprise on the face of the person. On one occasion he ordered a veal cutlet, then put it into his wallet.
He kept a formal list of his friends in order of closeness, best friend first. If a friend displeased or pleased him, he would be demoted or promoted on the list as the case may be. Witkacy then would send a letter to the person indicating his new position. Occasionally he would publish the list in the local newspaper.
He liked to devise strange scenes of unusual events. He manipulated his guests (sometimes rather cruelly) to perform bizarre roles creating unique and sometimes tense situations. Sometimes he would move around during a party explaining to selected guests the role to be played and convincing others to act different roles. Or he would establish the roles to be played by his group of friends beforehand and take them to the party to create a unique event. Once the poet Aleksander Wat was cast in the role of an Italian or Spanish aristocrat. Wat performed his role excellently and took it so much to heart that eventually, having consumed a considerable quantity of alcohol, he came to believe in his aristocratic descent. The night ended with a terrible mêlée in a local restaurant where Wat ran amok and from which he had to be forcibly removed. Witkacy was delighted.
Another weird episode took place when the avant-garde poet Julian Przybos, accompanied by the painter Wiadyslaw Strzeminski, came to visit Witkacy in Zakopane to discuss the theory of Pure Form, about which Witkacy published numerous articles. But Witkacy was in one of his silly moods. Years later, Przybos described the event:
The room was hung with pictures, all of them in the Witkacy style, so well known later on -- pictures he produced in such a quantity that they could be counted in the hundreds . . . It was the first time I had seen them and the impression was unpleasant: the glaring cacophony of colors and the confusion of lines in the Secession style, as if washed down with soapsuds and "licked clean". What else in the arrangement of the room stuck in my memory? A washbasin: a tin bowl and a pot of water. These I remember because, every few minutes, Witkacy interrupted the conversation, went out, came back and washed his hands! I suspect that he did it to make the situation "strange". Another thing he did, seemingly with the same purpose, was to shout out, without any reason, two proverbs: one French: Après nous le déluge! and the other the Russian one, which he later immortalized in his book on narcotics: 'I would be famous for heroism if not for my hemorrhoids!' Strzeminski, who took things in earnest, started to talk about Pure Form right away. But Witkacy did not say anything new; he just repeated all those generalities, already known to us from his publications. How should a picture be painted to fulfill the postulate of Pure Form? -- Strzeminski asked . . . Witkacy's only response was to repeat that the end of art was approaching and to continue to screech, Apres nous . . . The atmosphere was getting tense, I felt intuitively that our host was more and more embarrassed, that he was lacking self-assurance, that it was only to summon up courage that he performed his ablutions and kept repeating the tedious French-Russian tag . . . It went on like that for a while when, suddenly, Strzeminski grabbed his crutches and cried: 'Let's go, I cannot look at it any longer!' pointing at the pictures on the walls. 'It pricks the eyes!' Witkacy giggled 'satanically'. He said that his pictures were not art, but a portrait-painting firm.
Witkacy's buffoonery may have been more than an attempt to "make the situation strange", in which he succeeded. It may also have been intended as an answer to his guests' reservations about the practicality of his theory. It was a clumsy and futile attempt to create a sense of Mystery, a method of discourse, as expression of his philosophical theories.
Although Witkacy pursued many interests concurrently, he was at first primarily concerned with painting. Most of his theories originated out of his theories of painting. Witkacy had five main periods in his life. In his early years, his father, who painted and wrote many articles about art, influenced him more than anyone else. The elder Witkiewicz professed a program of realism in art and pursued the naturalism of the Polish painter Matejko. He encouraged his son to paint in the same manner: a faithful representation of nature. We can see this in an early (1904) oil painting entitled Italian landscape, an attempt by him to paint a fairly realistically. Even some later works, completed during his experimental stage, were realistic; for example, Australian Landscape (1918), based on a photograph from his visit to Australia. However, he uses darker colors in this later work.
In the next two stages Witkacy was primarily inspired by literary references and monsters. His pictures become grotesque. In Composition (with a dancer) (1916) the bodies of the two characters are deformed and the man's hands have animal or devilish characteristics. This stage of his development is marked by literary references. His later Lady Macbeth (1933) is similar, with deformation. and symbols.
Next is the formist stage, during which Witkacy developed his theory of Pure Form. Witkacy claimed that through art we could regain at least temporarily the metaphysical wonder of the Strangeness of Existence. Because we are becoming desensitized, the artwork must shock us, by deformation or a completely separation from reality. Witkacy believed that when a work of art represents nature, it is judged solely upon how faithfully it reflects the real world. In his Flight (1922), Witkacy completely abandons the attempt at representation. It is the viewer responsibility to have a metaphysical experience.
About 1925, Witkacy abandoned artistic painting. He established the Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz Portrait Painting Firm, primarily as a source of income. His paintings and plays had not been very successful and he now had a wife, Jadwiga, to support. Out of all of his endeavors, the portrait firm was the most popular and the most lucrative. Witkacy's portraits became so popular that in 1928 he wrote the guidelines, which clearly explained the rules and the various types of portraits available:
1. Type A -- Comparatively speaking the most "spruced up" type. Suitable rather for women's faces than for men's. Slick execution, with a certain loss of character in the interest of beautification or accentuation of "prettiness".
2. Type B -- A work making greater use of sharp line than type A, with certain touch of character traits, which does not preclude "prettiness" in women's portraits. Objective attitude to the model.
3. Type B+ -- Intensification of character, bordering on caricature. The head larger than natural size. The possibility of preserving "prettiness" in women's portraits, and even of intensifying it in the direction of the "demonic."
4. Types C, C + Co, E, C + H, C + Co + E, etc. -- Subjective characterization of the model, caricatural intensification both formal and psychological are not ruled out. Approaches abstract composition, otherwise known as Pure Form.
5. Type D -- the same results without recourse to any artificial means.
6. Type E -- Combinations of D with the preceding types. Spontaneous psychological interpretation at the discretion of the firm. The effect achieved may be the exact equivalent of that produced by types A + B . . . etc. . .
There are 16 rules, including:
Rule #3. Any sort of criticism on the part of the customer is ruled out. The customer may not like the portrait, but the firm cannot permit even the most discreet comments without giving its special authorization. If the firm had allowed itself the luxury of listening to customers' opinions, it would have gone mad a long time ago. . . Given the incredible difficulty of this profession, the firm's nerves must be spared.
Rule #10. Customers are required to appear punctually for the sittings, since waiting has a bad effect on the firm's mood and may have an adverse effect on the execution of the product.
The Portrait of Ignacy Wasserberg (1910) is a faithful representation of the subject, painted in light colors; however, the dark colors of the fantastic background are still representative of Witkacy's monster period. His Portrait of August Zamoyski (1918) also portrays the subject faithfully.
The Portrait of Anna Nowrocka (1925) is an early product of the portrait firm established in that year. This is a type B. A Portrait of Anna Nawrocka painted five years later has in the corner the notation E + B, special for children since they cannot sit still. Also, just above, there coded information about the artist. During the first sitting he was smoking, indicated by the letter P (for Palil papierosy - was smoking cigarettes); on the second day the code NP 1 signifies he had not had a cigarette for one day. On the last day he also had had no cigarette for one day but he drank alcohol.
The Portrait of Bohdan Filipowski (1928) is of type D. It is in the style of Pure Form, allegedly a psychological, not a physical portrait. The bright colors are something Witkacy picked up while in Australia. The Portrait of Nina Stachurska (1930), a good friend of Witkacy, is type C, done under the influence of cocaine, as shown in the corner.
The notation on the type C 1929 Portrait of Maria Nawrocka, is that Witkacy had not been smoking for two and a half days and that while he made the drawing he was under the influence of a small beer (piwko in Polish but here spelled pyfko) and caffeine. The 1926 Portrait of Maria and Wlodzimierz Nawrocki is a type A and D. The portrait of the woman in the center is of Type A, beautifying the sitter, while the man is portrayed in type D, a subjective interpretation, here achieved without the aid of mind altering drugs.
Witkacy' s theory of theater is based on his theory of Pure Form in Painting. For Witkacy the theater offered more than any other art form could; it was a total fusion of the senses: auditory and visual which made immediate contact with the spectator's sense of metaphysical wonder. passing of daily life. His dramas are not traditional literary works. They are attempts to move beyond the traditional in an effort to restore the mystical function that the theater once had, especially to create metaphysical wonder in the spectators.
On 01 September 1939 the Germans brazenly invaded Poland from the West; on 17 September 1939 the Soviet Union treacherously invaded Poland from the East. That day, Witkacy, physically weak (he couldn't hear or walk very well due to injuries) and in emotional despair, commited suicide.
— Self-Portrait (1938, 516x352pix, 24kb)
— Multiple self-portrait reflected in mirrors (1916 photo)
— Flight (1922) _ detail (543x400pix, 26kb)
— Italian landscape (1904)
— Australian landscape (1918)
— Composition (with dancer) (1916)
— Lady Macbeth (1933)
— Ignacy Wasserberg (1910)
— August Zamoyski (1918)
— Anna Nawrocka (1925)
— Anna Nawrocka (1939)
— Maria Nawrocka (1929)
— Maria and Wlodzimierz Nawrocki (1926)
1884 Josef Stoitzer, Austrian artist who died in 1951.
1844 Raffaelo Sorbi, Italian artist who died on 19 December 1931.
1836 Winslow Homer, US painter who died (full coverage) on 29 September 1910. —(050909)
^ >1835 Jan Evert Morel, Dutch landscape painter who died on 14 May 1905. He was the son and student of the marine artist Casparus Johannes Morel [1798-1861] but Jan specialized in painting wooded landscapes, often depicting small figures. Although he sometimes painted on a large scale, most of his works are small and painted on panel. — Not to be confused with still life painter Jan Evert Morel [08 Feb 1777 – 06 Apr 1808]
–- People Near a Koek en Zopie on a Frozen Waterway (718x961pix, 147kb)
–- S*#> Wooded River Landscape With Peasants and Their Cattle (435x600pix, 71kb)
–- S*#> River Landscape With People (637x961pix, 135kb)
–- S*#> Winter Landscape With Windmills and Skaters (551x840pix, 85kb) almost monochrome brown.
–- S*#> Summer Landscape With Travelers, a Village in the Distance (754x1081pix, 241kb)
–- S*#> 8 Sheep, 2 Goats, 1 Dog, and Their Shepherdess at Rest by a Stream (1311x1126pix, 281kb)
–- S*#> Extensive Summer Landscape With a Town in the Background (904x1303pix, 120kb) in the foreground there is a woman, a dog, and a small house.
–- S*#> Wooded Landscape With a Hunter and His Dog Resting (1309x1029pix, kb) by a stream, on a dirt road on which a woman carrying a basket is approaching.
–- S*#> Wooded Landscape With a Shepherd and his Flock (764x1080pix, 227kb) Painted in collaboration with Franz van Severdonck [1809-1889]
–- S*#> Conversation on a Frozen Ditch (762x1080pix, 229kb)
–- S*#> Summer Landscape With Travelers (684x1080pix, 162kb)
–- S*#> Wooded Summer Landscape With Travelers (803x1080pix, 179kb)
–- S*#> Wooded Landscape With a Shepherd and His Flock Near a Farmhouse (710x960pix, kb) a woman is feeding chicken, a girl is watching ducks on a small pond.
–- S*#> Two Summer Landscapes (two paintings, each 25x36cm; in one image 2466x1785pix, 683kb)
–- S*#> Snowy Landscape With Wood Gatherers — Summer Landscape With Travelers (two paintings, each 25x36cm; in one image 845x1201pix including margins, 218kb) —(070226)
1788 Johan-Christian-Clausen Dahl, Norwegian painter who died (full coverage) on 14 October 1857. —(050918)
1753 Henri-Pierre Danloux, French painter who died (full coverage) on 03 January 1809. —(070222)
1684 Matthys Balen, Flemish artist who died on 07 January 1766.
1613 Mattia Preti “il cavaliere Calabrese”, Italian painter who died (full coverage) on 13 January 1699. —(070222)
Happened on a 24 February:
2006 At the Chácara do Céu Museum in Rio de Janeiro, just before closing time,
_ Homme d'une complexion malsaine écoutant le bruit de la mer aka Les deux balcons (1929, 24x35cm; 232x340pix, 69kb) by Dali [11 May 1904 – 23 Jan 1989];
_ Le Jardin du Luxembourg (1903, 40x32cm; 538x734pix, 38kb) by Matisse [31 Dec 1869 – 03 Nov 1954];
_ Le Cap Martin aka Marine (1884, 65x91cm; 241x329pix, 79kb gif) by Monet [14 Nov 1840 – 05 Dec 1926];
_ La Danse (1956, 100x81cm; 247x200pix, 42kb) by Picasso [25 Oct 1881 – 08 Apr 1973]; Toros, a book of Picasso engravings illustrating poems by Pablo Neruda; and money from museum visitors, are robbed by four men armed with guns and hand grenades. The Matisse is later offered for sale for $13 million on the auction web site Mastak (hosted in Russia) for about four hours. The paintings are not to be confused with other paintings by the same painters and with the same titles.
_ The Monet has to be one of his most hasty and least interesting. However, to console you for its loss (temporary, it is to be hoped), the pseudonymous Nuvy Dineiro has transmogrified the picture into the unrecognizably superior and abstract
_ Narines aka Nos Trilles aka Captain Nitro (2006; screen filling, 212kb)
_ The other three paintings are not as much in need of improvement, yet something had to be done to mitigate the pain caused by their loss, even if it proves to be temporary. So Dineiro recruited three of his pseudonymous friends, and the first one, Hugh Lafsitov, tackled the Matisse picture and called his abstract creation
_ Le Jardin de la Misère en Campagne aka Burg Rub (2006; screen filling, 323kb)
_ The Dali painting has been transformed by Sal Vadehors into the abstractions
_ La mère malsaine écoutant l'homme aux complexes aka Lame Mal (2006; screen filling, 323kb) and
_ Homme complexe écoutant le bruit de l'amer aka Mall Lam (2006; screen filling, 323kb)
_ Finally, Pablum Ohçapique has metamorphosed Picasso's painting into
_ Lad and Set aka Dale Lad (2006; screen filling, 323kb) and
_ Last Danes aka Nada Dan (2006; screen filling, 323kb)
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