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DEATHS: 1584 POURBUS — 1908 JOHNSON — 1652 DE LA TOUR
BIRTH: 1720 BELLOTTO
^ Died on 30 January 1584: Pieter Janszoon Pourbus (or Poerbus), Flemish painter, draftsman, cartographer, surveyor, and civil engineer, born in 1523.
— The second half of the sixteenth century in Bruges was dominated by Pieter Pourbus, a talented master who attained a strictly Italianate classical perfection rare in the Low Countries. In another sense, however, Pourbus was the reincarnation of his famous predecessors, Memling and David, whom he greatly admired. The serenity and innocence of Pourbus's work could almost persuade the viewer that there had never been a transition to the Renaissance. Many of his religious works remain in Bruges churches, as a result of which they are less well known.
      Pourbus died in Bruges, where he had worked mainly, following, in his religious works, the florid Italianizing style of Lancelot Blondeel, whose daughter he married. He was renowned for his portraits, which, though stiff and formal, are equal to those of his contemporaries Mor or Joos van Cleve. Pieter Pourbus was no less active as a painter of religious and secular compositions. His painted oeuvre consists of 40 signed or documented works, to which 30 attributions can be added. He was also an important designer of architectural, applied arts, and decorative schemes, and an outstanding cartographer (25 maps by him are known).
— Pieter Pourbus was probably born in Gouda. His early training is not known, but he settled while young in Bruges, a prosperous town that offered excellent prospects for artists. Pourbus was registered as a (foreign) master in the Bruges Guild of Saint Luke in 1543 and soon emerged as the leading artist of his generation in the city. He took an active part in public life: he was involved with the rhetoricians, was a member of the archers’ company of Saint Joris (from 1544) and was repeatedly appointed an officer in the painters’ guild — six times vinder (committee member) and twice dean (1569–1570 and 1580–1581). He was apparently also dean in the year he died. In 1580 he was appointed wijkmeester (chairman of the district) of Saint Nicolaas Zestendeel, where he lived. After his death, his widow received a government pension, and a portrait of him hung in the guildhall. He appears to have had a special relationship with the Bruges magistrates, for whom he made most of his cartographic commissions, although the Spaniards in Bruges were also an important group of patrons for him.
      He painted portraits, altarpieces and maps, and devised decorative schemes, of which the most important was for the Triumphal Entry of Charles V and Philip II into Bruges in 1549. His Italianate mannerist style was paralleled in Antwerp by Frans Floris, under whom his son, Frans Pourbus the Elder [1545 – 19 Sep 1581] , was to study (and marry Floris's niece, who gave birth to Frans Pourbus the Younger [1569 – 19 Feb 1622 bur.]). The reputation of Pieter Pourbus as a portraitist has sometimes been eclipsed by the work of his son and his grandson, who both were his students, as also were the brothers Gillis Claeissins [<1536 – 17 Dec 1605], Pieter Claeissins II [<1536 – 1623], and Antoon Claeissins [1536 – 18 Jan 1613] .

LINKS
Last Supper (1548, 46x63cm, 777x777pix, 134kb) _ This is the earliest known painting of Pourbus. It reveals his weakness for unusual iconographical programmes, with some similarity to the allegories favored by contemporary chambers of rhetoric. A monstrous figure with claws and a skull (Avarice, Treachery?) enters the room from the right, in the direction of Judas who exits, purse in his hand.
Adoration by the Shepherds (1574; 880x1122pix, 191kb) _ On the side wings of the triptych the donors and their children are represented with patron saints.
Last Judgment (1551, 228x181cm, 830*1005pix, 184kb) _ This is one of Pourbus's earliest and most monumental paintings. It owes its inspiration to Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, completed ten years earlier, and is the first attempt in the Low Countries to pay homage to the work of Michelangelo on a monumental scale. Pourbus painted this for the Council Chamber of the `Liberty of Bruges' (an administrative district consisting of the countryside around Bruges, but not the town itself).
Jan López Gallo and his Three Sons (1568, 98x52cm, 1320x673, 131kb) _ This, the left wing of an otherwise lost triptych, probably remained in the Dominican monastery church in Bruges, where Jan López Gallo, ambassador and trade advisor to Philip II, was buried.
Olivier van Nieulant (1573, 50x38cm; 1032x750pix, 101kb) _ Pourbus can be seen as displaying a certain duality of both progressive and old-fashioned traits. This portrait of van Nieulant, a Bruges alderman, dates from his less successful period. His sober and sharp observation is, however, still present, while the even execution, neutral ground, and flowing outlines of his subject are characteristic. The neat figure of Van Nieulant is rather old-looking for his 26 years at the time.
Jan Wyts (1575, 51x40cm, 1094x821pix, 113kb) _ This portrait of Jan Wyts [1528–], burgomaster of the Liberty of Bruges, is the finest example of the smooth, precise style of Pieter Pourbus. The portrait was done on the occasion of his second wedding, to Margareta van Lichtervelde, whose pendant portrait is lost.
Jan van Eyewerve (1551, 98x71cm, 950x688pix, 55kb) _ Jacquemyne Buuck (1551, 97x71cm, 950x678pix, 68kb) _ These refined, full-face portraits are of two wealthy Bruges citizens who had themselves painted on the occasion of their marriage. Jan van Eyewerve was orator (alderman) of the Deanery. They are shown in their living room, which overlooks the city's famous Kraanplein.
An Allegory of True Love (1547, 133x206cm)
 
^ Died on 30 January 1908: David Johnson, US Hudson River School painter born on 10 May 1827.
— Few nineteenth-century US painters produced an oeuvre with a greater variety of subject than did David Johnson. Predominantly remembered as a landscape painter of the US northeast wilderness, Johnson also produced still lifes, portraits, and an occasional genre subject. His art evolved from the traditional selected observation of nature as transformed by the Hudson River School artists' notion of the ideal, to an art that incorporates the precise clarity of vision as practiced by the US Pre-Raphaelites. Later in his career Johnson employed the diffused suggestions of nature developed by the Barbizon artists in France. Partly as a result of Johnson's stylistic fluctuations, his career has only recently been reexamined and the full richness of his abilities more accurately defined.
      Very little is known about David Johnson's life. He probably received his early training from his brother, who was a portrait painter. In 1850, when he took a few lessons from Jasper Francis Cropsey, he was already an accomplished artist. He perhaps enrolled for two sessions in the antique class at the National Academy of Design, and at an early age knew and traveled with leading landscape painters, including John Kensett, John Casilear, and Benjamin Champney. He exhibited frequently at the National Academy of Design, and lived and painted in New York City during most of his career. He produced paintings of high quality based on locations in the Catskills, the White Mountains, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Warwick, New York, where Cropsey lived, and in 1876 he was awarded a first-class medal at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Johnson owned several European paintings, but there is no specific evidence to suggest he ever traveled abroad.
— Born and raised in New York City, David Johnson surprisingly did not avail himself of local opportunities for a formal education. He was self-trained, having painted in the company of such artists as John Kensett and Jasper Cropsey, refining his natural abilities through their examples. As did other members of the first and second generations of the Hudson River School painters, he spent his summers in the popular rural locales of the Northeast.
      By the early 1870s Johnson's method of painting had evolved into a tightly controlled technique. That hard-edged realism was tempered in the late 1870s by his use of poetic light and atmospheric haze, revealing an interest in the Barbizon School. This wedding of the poetry of that school with the precision of the Hudson River School would become his hallmark. Yet in reviews of the time he was noted for his exact brushwork, which always remained dominant. Using a fine brush and minute, almost invisible strokes, he created richly detailed and delicate vistas.

LINKS
–- Old Kate's Bridge, Ulster County, New York (1872, 46x77cm; 706x1195pix, 144kb _ .ZOOM to 1413x2391pix, 753kb)
Brook Study at Warwick (1873, 66x101cm;_ZOOMable)
View of Dresden, Lake George (1874, 37x62cm)
Bayside, New Rochelle, New York (1886, 50x61cm)
On the Unadilla, New York (1884, 58x94cm)
Near Squam Lake, New Hampshire (1856, 48x71cm)
–- Young Elms (525x800pix, 47kb)
–- a different Young Elms (25x37cm; 508x797pix, 41kb) with, in the distance, Mrs. David Johnson sitting under a tree.
–- Day Lily in a White Vase (800x586pix, 34kb)
–- A Scene in the Bronx, New York (565x799pix, 63kb) not a building (nor any other man-made object) in sight; just trees, rocks, cows in a pasture: that's the Bronx??
–- Scene at Hurley, New York (440x799pix, 45kb)
–- Scene at Cold Spring, Hudson River (1857, 57x86cm; 525x800pix, 62kb) _ De Witt Clinton, Governor of the State of New York remarked in 1816, “Can there be a country in the world better calculated than ours to exalt the imagination-to call into activity the creative powers of the mind, and to afford just views of the beautiful, the wonderful and the sublime. Here, nature has conducted her operations on a magnificent scale. This wild romantic and awful scenery is calculated to produce a corresponding impression on the imagination”. David Johnson, born in 1827, belongs to the second generation of 19th century US artists justly inspired by the grandeur of the US landscape, particularly that of the Hudson River Valley. As the country strove to mature into nationhood, a US culture yearned to be born. While artists of the 19th century still often looked to Europe for cultural inspiration and training, these artists turned to their native soil to create the first purely US landscape tradition. Images of the landscape and ideas of the nation were deeply intertwined. Accordingly, landscape painting assumed an important role in shaping and articulating US identity in the mid-nineteenth century.
      Cold Spring Harbor, Hudson River immaculately captures the majestic landscape in perfect detail. The viewer is absorbed by the delicate rendering of the trees and rock formation of the left foreground but the eye is quickly swept away by the magnificent vistas of the background. A small figure at the right emphasizes the monumental scale of the setting. As Gwendolyn Owens stated, “Johnson’s tranquil meditations always study and celebrate the aesthetic harmonies in patterns of color, shape, and texture which link the diverse elements of the landscape, the ecological relations which make each natural element a part of an intricate whole and also the close interdependence between this natural system and the people who come to it for their livelihood, their recreation, and their spiritual renewal. Emphasizing these harmonies, Johnson’s paintings seem intended to serve as the bridge between human viewers and the world”
–- On the Housatonic River, Connecticut (501x800pix, 40kb)
–- House in the Adirondacks (800x691pix, 51kb)
Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey (1878, 45x61cm; 396x510pix, 117kb gif) _ Although Johnson is known to have painted with Cropsey in New Jersey in 1850, this painting does not appear to be the work of a beginning artist. He also painted in New Jersey in 1877 and again in 1880. Schooley's Mountain probably dates from one of those visits. Johnson's fondness for painting rocks, which began in the 1850s, is apparent in the foreground of this work, the largest boulder becoming a focal point within the composition. Instead of being painted with the geological accuracy one might find, for example, in a major work by Frederic Church, the rocks are treated here as an important pictorial element, a strikingly textured surface upon which to explore the effects of light and shadow. Although there is no visible human presence in Schooley's Mountain, it is a typically hospitable scene despite the rugged terrain of the foreground. Water was Johnson's other frequently chosen theme, which, along with rock formations, showed up early in his career and persisted throughout his life. Schooley's Mountain is an unusual, imbalanced composition, with the heavy cluster of trees on the left side in stark contrast with the comparative weightlessness of the right side with its open field and the lake. It may have been an attempt at a less contrived scene and possibly a further exploration of an earlier lake composition of 1870, in which Johnson attempted to break from his formulaic rut of a foreground river bank, middle ground of water, and mountain background.
44 images at the Athenaeum
—(070129)
^ Died on 30 January 1652: Georges du Mesnil de La Tour, born on 19 March 1593, painter of religious and genre subjects, best known for his night scenes of dark interiors illuminated by candlelight. One (unreliable) source states that he was baptized on 14 March 1593 {could it be that the two dates are reversed?} — Not to be confused with Maurice-Quentin de la Tour [05 Sep 1704 – 30 Jan 1652]
— La Tour was born in Vic, a small town in the duchy of Lorraine. The evidence of his work suggests that he was influenced by the Italian master Caravaggio, known for his dramatic lighting effects, and by the Dutch masters Hendrick Terbrugghen and Gerrit van Honthorst, leaders of the tenebroso (shadowy) style. La Tour's night scenes are often lit by a single emphatic light source, such as a torch or candle. He was particularly effective in exploiting the resulting strong contrasts of light and shadow for expressive effect, as in Saint Sebastian Attended by St. Irene (1649), where the striking colors of the picture are vividly dramatized by the strong light of a large candle. La Tour's daylight scenes most often depict religious subjects and exhibit exquisite attention to detail. His paintings throughout his career are characterized by balanced composition, simplified volumetric shapes, and a precise, uncluttered realism. His solemn simplicity reflected the classicism of 17th century art but had little in common with the emerging baroque style, and his work was forgotten after his death in 1652; his reputation was not revived until the 20th century.
— The son of a baker in the independent province of Lorraine, Georges de la Tour is first mentioned in documents in 1616, when he was still living in Vic. By 1620 he had established himself in Lunéville and hired his first apprentice. He made a visit to Paris in 1639, the same year he was named peintre ordinaire du roi to Louis XIII. While little is known about La Tour's life or artistic training, he may have been in Rome from 1610 to 1616 and may also have gone to the Netherlands. Famous in his lifetime, La Tour's reputation fell into oblivion after his death. His work was rediscovered in the twentieth century. Scholarly opinion remains divided over the chronology of his oeuvre, but La Tour's important position as a dramatist of humble reality is universally acknowledged today.
— Georges de La Tour was born at Vic-sur-Seuille, Lorraine, the son of a baker. Most probably, the artist's early education took place in Vic and then, certainly, at the duchy's capital, Nancy. There is a good chance that the young painter traveled to Italy, a trip that was in fashion at the time with most people and with his young peers in Lorraine. It was not uncommon for whole groups of his Lorraine co-citizens to take off for Italy, and other artists, such as Jacques Callot, may well have taken him along there. In any case, one letter mentions him as a student of the Guide's, that is Guido Reni. This discreet reference has served some art historians as grounds for assuming that perhaps La Tour did go to Italy and that, once there, perhaps he spent some time in Guido Reni's workshop and that - again perhaps - he discovered authentic Caravaggism during his short stay in Rome. Other art historians, however, totally deny such a stay and maintain that La Tour never left Lorraine.
      De la Tour married Diane Le Nerf on 02 July 1617. Very shortly thereafter they left Vic for his Diane's city of origin, Lunéville. There he began making a reputation for himself and even obtained his first commissions. In no time at all he became a man of some wealth and, true to his Lorraine origins, he knew just how and where to invest his new savings. He ran a strict household: the couple's house staff complained about how poorly one ate at the La Tour table. The general gist is that he was of an uncommonly rapacious nature. He died a rich man, of a parapleurisy that seems to have felled eight persons merely in his own household, let alone over 8000 in the city of Lunéville as a whole.
      De la Tour's contemporaries portray him as a basically unpleasant person — haughty, sharp-tongued, self-assured, unbearably self-sufficient, stingy, and violent beyond measure. Strangely, this depiction, except for the stinginess, comes close to fitting Caravaggio. Thus the two painters the most strongly focused on depicting the sacred and the Christian message in all its beauty were both rather despicable. Caravaggio was despicable and La Tour probably even more so, and both produced extraordinary art transcending their true nature. La Tour was proud to boast the title of "painter to the King". But historians have found no traces of any interest shown by the old Louis XIII or the young Louis XIV in his work. Was La Tour perhaps inclined to mendacity as well?
—      Georges de La Tour est le héros du plus mystérieux roman de l'histoire de l'art. Peintre à succès sous Louis XIII, tombé dans l'oubli dès sa mort, en 1652, Georges de La Tour n'a longtemps existé que dans quelques actes d'état civil, papiers notariés et autres inventaires après décès. Peintre sans tableaux, on a souvent attribué ses oeuvres à Vélasquez, Zurbaran, aux frères Le Nain, jusqu'à ce qu'un érudit allemand, Hermann Voss, le ressuscite en 1915 en rapprochant trois toiles mystérieuses, conservées dans des musées français et «donnant à voir, cadrés à mi-corps, des figures subtilement éclairées par la lumière d'une chandelle...» Il s'agissait du Nouveau-né, anonyme étiqueté Le Nain, qui avait déjà enthousiasmé Taine et même Maurice Denis. D'un Reniement de saint Pierre et d'un Vieillard endormi, aujourd'hui baptisé L'ange apparaissant à Saint Joseph, accrochés à Nantes et dans lequel Mérimée et Stendhal, un siècle plus tôt, avaient vu la patte de Vélasquez. Les deux tableaux nantais étaient signés G. de La Tour, mais personne n'était capable d'identifier l'auteur.
      Peu à peu, on trouve des La Tour dans les lieux les plus fous. Dans les réserves poussiéreuses des musées, les greniers de châteaux, les églises de campagne, les chapelles désaffectées... Anonymes, dans les salles à manger familiales, les arrière-boutiques d'antiquaires, les successions modestes... Dans la Sarthe, en Bretagne, à Limoges, en Suisse. Les oeuvres sont fascinantes - ce mélange étrange du primitif et du sophistiqué.
      Georges de La Tour est aujourd'hui définitivement immortel, considéré comme l'un des plus grands artistes de tous les temps, maître du clair-obscur et roi de la nuit. Nous ne connaissions qu'une quarantaine de tableaux sur les cinq cents probables.
      Il naît dans l'évêché de Metz en 1593, à Vic-sur-Seille, grosse bourgade agricole où l'on parle français. Sa mère, déjà veuve avec deux enfants, a du bien. Son père est un boulanger prospère qui possède des terres, des vignes, des rentes, «des bagues et des habillements». A Vic, ville relais entre l'Empire et la Lorraine - à l'époque, heureux duché indépendant -, l'existence est animée. Capitale des évêques de Metz, c'est une place forte catholique. L'évêque, fils préféré du duc Charles III, entretient au château une maison princière, fréquentée par les intellectuels, les artistes qui travaillent pour lui. Nancy est plus brillante, mais Vic tient son rang. A la fin du XVIe siècle, l'Eglise, celle de la Contre-Réforme, est en pleine reconquête des âmes égarées dans le protestantisme ou la superstition. La jeunesse de La Tour voit s'affirmer le réveil religieux qui soulève la Lorraine.
     Le 20 octobre 1616, on le retrouve parrain dans l'acte de baptême d'une petite Marguerite Fontaine. Il a 23 ans. En 1617, le jeune La Tour est assez introduit pour pouvoir épouser Diane Le Nerf, qui a déjà coiffé sainte Catherine, mais dont le père, noble argentier du duc de Lorraine, est l'un des hommes les plus riches de Lunéville, allié à toute l'aristocratie du pays. En même temps qu'une carrière de peintre il voit s'ouvrir à lui une carrière sociale. La Tour est ambitieux. Il quitte Vic pour Lunéville plutôt que pour Nancy, où trop d'artistes lui font concurrence. Et obtient du duc de Lorraine des lettres d'exemption qui lui accordent des privilèges voisins de ceux de la noblesse. Lunéville va permettre au fils du boulanger de mener la vie d'un seigneur. Il va développer peu à peu cette oeuvre étrange, profondément imprégnée de préceptes pieux, mystique et sensuelle, un univers de tension contenue dans lequel les cris, les passions, les douleurs, l'amour sont intérieurs, et l'anecdote, fixée dans l'éternité: une peinture du silence, de l'immobilité, brossée sans dessin préalable, d'un pinceau précis et rapide.
      Une oeuvre à la chronologie impossible: seuls deux tableaux sont datés. 1645 pour Les larmes de saint Pierre et 1650 (le dernier?) pour Le Reniement. Une vingtaine d'autres sont à peu près signés. Tout le reste n'est que suppositions. Même les titres sont pures déductions. On a longtemps cru que les tableaux «diurnes», clairs, stylisés, réalistes, aux alliances subtiles de couleur (Rixe, La diseuse de bonne aventure, Le Tricheur), appartenaient à la première période, tandis que les «nocturnes» à la manière brune dataient de la fin. Mais la découverte, en 1970 à Lvov (URSS), de L'argent versé, un nocturne éclairé à la chandelle dont les personnages ont la violence des oeuvres du début, est venu bouleverser les connaissances. On pense aujourd'hui que La Tour a systématiquement et habilement alterné les deux manières.
      Innovant non dans le choix des sujets mais dans leur traitement, l'Evangile selon La Tour, c'est l'histoire de l'Homme, de la naissance à la mort, mais racontée de deux façons: soit avec des personnages saisis à mi-corps dans un cadrage serré, plans très cinématographiques éclairés par une lumière latérale qui en découpe les contours. Soit, au contraire, en pied, isolés sur fond neutre, sans profondeur, tableaux intemporels dont on ne situe ni le lieu, ni l'heure, ni le temps. la Tour a bien compris la leçon du Caravage. Ses «Apôtres», sans auréole, sont des paysans aux traits rudes, aux grossiers vêtements d'étoffe usée ou de vieux cuir. Corps fatigués, veines saillantes, chairs ramollies, mains calleuses aux doigts épais - le regard du peintre est impitoyable. Les vielleurs sont très âgés, aveugles, avec la bouche ouverte des morts. Mais le ruban du tableau de Nantes est «une coulée de miel et de vieux rose». Les mangeurs de pois sont présentés dans une lumière glaciale qui accentue les rides et la détresse, compensée pourtant par la superbe tache rouge d'un vêtement. De même, dans Rixe de musiciens, longtemps attribuée au Caravage, les cinq têtes placées au même niveau, présentées en frise, sont peintes avec une froide brutalité. Visages avinés, longs doigts tordus, ils sont laids et ridicules.
      Décorateur virtuose, La Tour se fait aussi styliste: raffinement des vêtements, ramage des broderies, moelleux des tissus dans La diseuse de bonne aventure. Variété des bijoux, des coiffures et des turbans, découpes «haute couture» pour les rubans du pourpoint dans les deux exemplaires du Tricheur, dont l'élégance perverse a les attraits du diable.
      On croirait qu'il dispose d'abord des figures géométriques qu'il habille ensuite au gré de ses sujets, dans un «éclairage de cave». Voir Job dont la femme courbe la tête et le dos pour entrer dans le tableau. La Tour lui raccourcit le buste, accentuant ainsi la stature monumentale du personnage, qui n'est plus qu'une immense tache rouge, comme s'il avait horreur du vide.
      Entre-temps, il s'est spécialisé dans les «nuits». Louis XIII, en visite à Nancy, reçoit en cadeau un Saint Sébastien, patron des archers, «d'un goût si parfait qu'il fit ôter de sa chambre tous les autres tableaux pour n'y laisser que celui-là... La toile a disparu, mais on lui connaît une dizaine de copies. En 1639, La Tour est repéré à Paris, où un paiement de 1000 livres lui est fait pour «affaires concernant le service de Sa Majesté». Nommé «peintre ordinaire du roy», il loge au Louvre. Ses clients: Richelieu, le surintendant des Finances Bullion, l'ami Le Nôtre, le collectionneur Jean-Baptiste de Bretagne... C'est la gloire. Il est riche. Et odieux. Affairiste. Rapace. Opportuniste (il a, dès 1636, fait allégeance au roi de France). Il a le sang chaud, la bastonnade facile. Dur aux humbles (il roue de coups un laboureur surpris dans ses champs). Arrogant (il reçoit à coups de pied un sergent venu réclamer un impôt qu'il refuse de payer). Bref, il accumule les litiges et doit dédommager ses victimes. Il est même dénoncé au duc de Lorraine dans une supplique comme «quelqu'un qui se rend odieux au peuple par la quantité de chiens qu'il nourrit, tant lévriers qu'épagneuls, comme s'il était seigneur du lieu, pousse les lévriers dans les grains, les gâte et les foule».
      Peut-on être à la fois grand peintre et méchant homme? Il semble que oui. Car il continue son oeuvre. Des cadeaux commandés par Lunéville pour le gouverneur La Ferté, qui représente le roi de France. Surtout des tableaux de chevalet pour clients fortunés. D'où, peut-être, son goût des séries. Comme plus tard Cézanne ou Mondrian, il revient sans cesse sur le motif, se borne à quelques thèmes qu'il reprend, répète, modifie à peine, les conduisant toile après toile vers la perfection. On ne connaît que cinq «Madeleine», mais peut-être en a-t-il peint une vingtaine. Il progresse, le pinceau à la main, avec chaque fois des trouvailles de mise en scène: une nature morte pour la Madeleine à la veilleuse, le reflet du crâne dans la Madeleine au miroir, celui de la bougie dans la Madeleine aux deux flammes, la plus proche du Caravage: vêtements encore élégants, bijoux à terre, mélancolique, elle a compris que le luxe, le plaisir sont vanités. Et que seul le sacrifice la conduira à la paix. Dans toutes ces nuits, la flamme troue l'obscurité brune. «Je suis la lumière et la vie», disait le Christ. Eclairage inventé. Quand donc une torche a-t-elle dispensé, s'interrogeait Malraux, une lumière aussi sereine et fondue? Peu importe. Le rayonnement des chandelles caresse les visages, fige les corps dans une immobilité intemporelle.
      La Tour fuit le geste, ignore l'anecdote et fixe dans la contemplation un monde à l'arrêt. Ce faisant, il peint le silence. Et la nuit. Fragilité de l'homme, incertitude du destin, méditation sur la souffrance, sont les thèmes qui soutiennent les deux Saint Sébastien soigné par Irène (à la torche)... Eclairage frisant, cadrage serré, composition verticale, vêtements architecturés. Mais on ne voit que les mains. Main tendre d'Irène qui tâte le pouls du blessé, mains ouvertes de la servante, jointes en prière pour la sublime dame en bleu, protectrices pour la femme en larmes. «C'est pour moi l'un de ses plus beaux tableaux, avoue Thuillier, une oeuvre impossible à imaginer. Il nous montre le destin qui s'accomplit. Sébastien n'est pas mort. C'est un héros blessé. Les femmes sont là pour le soigner. Cherchez dans Rembrandt, il n'y a pas cela...»
      Modernité des cadrages, archaïsme bidimensionnel des figures, géométrie des rythmes, cette peinture austère correspond aux perplexités de l'art du XXe siècle. Chardin, Cézanne, Mondrian, ont tenu à leur façon le discours mystique de La Tour, s'efforçant de marquer la préséance de l'immuable, de l'éternel, sur l'éphémère activité humaine. «La Tour ne gesticule jamais, écrit Malraux. En un temps de frénésie, il ignore le mouvement, créant en quelque sorte des statues nocturnes, surgies de la terre endormie. Aucun peintre ne suggère ce vaste et mystérieux silence. La Tour est le seul interprète de la part sereine des ténèbres.» Plus stoïcien que religieux, ni athée ni croyant, l'esprit le plus «déniaisé» de son temps n'a pas encore livré la moitié de ses secrets. On ne lui connaît aucun portrait, ni paysage, pas d'univers, ni ciel, ni mer, ni horizon, même pas de chevaux, rien qui rappelle la nature, le décor de la vie. A part quelques rares animaux, dont une mouche en trompe-l'oeil, le coq de saint Pierre, le chien du vielleur, la tête d'agneau dans L'adoration par les bergers.

LINKS
–- Un Vieux (1619, 91x60cm; 1149x576pix, 55kb _ .ZOOM to 2298x1152pix, 224kb)
–- Une Vieille (1619, 91x60cm; 1166x758pix, 58kb _ .ZOOM to 2332x1516pix, 240kb)
–- Le Jeune Chanteur (1650, 1149x833pix, 56kb _ .ZOOM to 2298x1666pix, 224kb) badly smudged, in great need of cleaning.
–- a different Le Jeune Chanteur (1650, 67x50cm; 779x575pix, 23kb) in much better condition.
Penitent Saint Jerome (1630, 152x109cm)
Saint Jerome Reading (1622, 62x55cm; 949x705pix, 111kb) with the help of a magnifying glass. _ Charles II seems to have acquired this painting in 1662. At that time it was listed as 'St. Jerome wth [sic] spectacles of the manner of Albrecht Dürer'; it was not until 1939 that it was recognized by Kenneth Clark as 'a very bad de la Tour'. Saint Jerome reading is now regularly discussed in the literature on the artist, whose popularity has risen dramatically in recent years. Having been born in Lorraine where he passed most of his life, de la Tour's style reveals a commingling of Italian and Northern Caravaggesque influences which suggest, but do not necessarily prove, visits to Rome and the Netherlands. However, his style remains determinedly individual and was equally the product of local influences. He was a man of independent means and was appointed Peintre Ordinaire du Roi in Paris in 1639. There is a limited number of signed or dated works in the artist's small oeuvre and only approximate indications (some controversial) for the development of his style.
      Saint Jerome Reading may be compared with the series of Apostles, usually regarded as early works although not all autograph. The figures of Saint James the Less, Saint Philip and Saint Paul are particularly relevant. Also significant is a variant Saint Jerome reading, a copy after a lost painting by de la Tour, which is a more sophisticated composition with the figure seen from above and numerous objects comprising a still-life in the foreground. A date of about 1621-1623 has been suggested for all of these works, which herald the influence of Caravaggio. Even allowing for the worn surface of the present painting, the chief characteristics of de la Tour's art can be discerned: the naturalistic rendering of hair and skin, the love of genre details such as the spectacles, the splash of saturated color for the cardinal's robe and, above all, the mysterious light that illuminates the figure so powerfully. As a painter Georges de la Tour lifts the art of scientific observation onto a poetic level. It is not quite certain, for instance, to what degree the intense luminosity renders the paper transparent, but it helps to define the distance between the viewer and Saint Jerome in the picture space while providing a bright focal point on a vertical axis. The concentration that characterizes Saint Jerome gradually envelops the viewer to the extent that the internal act of reading becomes synonymous with the external discipline of looking. The painting was cleaned and restored in 1972.
Saint Thomas (1630, 69x61cm; 1004x875pix, 119kb) _ This is one of La Tour's 'daylight' masterpieces. The bold, simplified modeling is combined here with a psychological analysis of rare subtlety. The refined sable and slate-grey coloring distinguishes the work from some other La Tours where red predominate.
The Payment of Dues (1634, 99x152cm) _ An important early picture of La Tour is the surviving Payment of Dues, only identified in 1972, even though it has been in the museum at Lvov since at least the early nineteenth century. (Formerly the painting was attributed to Honthorst.) The picture was cleaned soon after its debut in Paris at the time of the La Tour exhibition in 1972, and a date was revealed. This date, thought to be 1634, has caused a great deal of controversy. If 1634 is correct, a drastic reassessment of La Tour's stylistic development must be made. The early pictures of saints remain from the 1620s, and then in the early 1630s La Tour moves towards his second phase, basically a Le Clerc-influenced period. The swaying figures and flickering lighting of the Payment of Dues are especially reminiscent of Le Clerc's Concert at Schleissheim. There is a certain ambiguity — often present in La Tour — in the subject, which appears to have been little studied. At first sight it is a simple peasant scene of the rich extracting money, ruthlessly, from the poor, but it could be a depiction of the Calling of Matthew (the tax collector). It was recognized as a de La Tour in 1970 when the signature was found.
Cheater with the Ace of Clubs (600x980pix, 235kb _ ZOOM to 1400x2288pix, 812kb)
Cheater with the Ace of Diamond (1640, 106x146cm; 651x898pix, 81kb _ ZOOM to 1400x1955pix, 600kb) _ almost identical to the preceeding. The scene shows a strong influence of Caravaggio.
Fortune Teller (1635, 102x124cm; 860x1052pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1706pix, 635kb) _ Georges de La Tour depicted a Caravaggesque genre scene popular in the first half of the 17th century: a young cavalier (the prodigal son) robbed by three women.
Magdalen of Night Light (1635, 128x94cm) _ Magdalen was the object of great devotion in France and La Tour painted several pictures representing her. Georges de La Tour was successful during his lifetime, however he remains somewhat mysterious. A journey to Italy during his youth before he settled at Lunéville, may explain his Caravaggism. Without much imagination, he has very personal color. effects; a fine red often recurs in the nocturnal atmosphere of his pictures, in which the long candle, often seen in transparency, lights up thick, voluntarily geometrical volumes, in the melancholy resigned loneliness of his models.
The Penitent Magdalen (1643, 133x102cm) _ An artist of great brilliance and originality, Georges de La Tour was from the duchy of Lorraine in northeastern France. Early in his career he gained knowledge of contemporary Caravaggesque painting with its emphasis on realism and dramatic effects of light and dark. This picture shows Mary Magdalen in a dark room at the dramatic moment of her conversion, her features lit by a candle flame that imparts a hauntingly spiritual quality to the work. The elaborate silver mirror, the pearls on the table, and the jewels on the floor symbolize luxury, which she has cast aside. In their place she clasps a skull, a common symbol of mortality.
Job Mocked by his Wife (1636, 145x97cm _ ZOOM to 1400x970pix) _ There was a change in La Tour's style from the morbidity and mystery of such pictures as the penitent Magdalen contemplating a skull and a monk watching over his dead or dying companion, to works of a much calmer and more distilled air. The transitional pictures, also datable to the 1630s, are Job Mocked by his Wife and the so-called Woman with the Flea. The composition of the Job is immediately striking. There is the same flickering movement that is found in the Payment of Dues, even though there are only two figures. It is derived from Bellange's etching of The Annunciation, an unexpected source, especially when it is considered that The Annunciation by Caravaggio was already in the ducal collection at Nancy by 1616 (this much-damaged picture is now accepted by most authorities as authentic). No influence on La Tour is discernible in the Caravaggio, although it is virtually certain that he knew it. The subject is a rare one, and La Tour has introduced a special pathos into Job's sufferings. Although its composition is a complex amalgam of the Bellange Annunciation, the mood of the Job is entirely original. La Tour has concentrated on a dialogue between the unfortunate Job and his ill-tempered wife, and has allowed us a glimpse of a rarely painted subject, a husband tormented by his wife. Her cruel mockery of him comes over with great force as Job sits helplessly contemplating his sores (the potsherd he uses to scrape them is on the ground). The spectator is forced to realize that this painter's genius lies chiefly in his ability to observe the human condition; his skill in painting candlelight is only part of the brilliance. Such a depiction of the complex relationship between two people is rare indeed in French art of the period, and in his maturity La Tour was to develop the concept of dialogue between people to ever-increasing heights of subtlety.
Woman Catching Fleas (1635) _ La Tour, as with Rembrandt and Velázquez, made the most creative use of the lessons of Caravaggism. This painting combines chiaroscuro and candlelight with an uncompromising realism, and achieves a surprising intimacy of feeling. This painting is enigmatic in both composition and subject-matter. It strikes an uneasy note because of its stark simplicity, which has usually been interpreted as a genre scene of low life, a woman crushing a flea between her fingernails, but no authentic La Tour depicts such an obviously banal theme without a deeper meaning. The only symbol in the picture is the solitary candle burning on the chair, and it is surely not too speculative to suggest that the picture might represent the pregnant Virgin, isolated by Joseph when he discovers that she is with child, the candle thus symbolizing the forthcoming Christ as the Light of the World.
Saint Sebastian Attended by Saint Irene (1649, 167x130cm) _ There is a group of painting attributed to Georges de La Tour depicting Saint Sebastian and Saint Irene. Part of them is a horizontal composition where the model of one of the figures is a familiar La Tour type. Most of the versions are curiously incompetent, only three of them having pretensions to quality. The upright versions of the same subject are more celebrated. The composition is monumental, as if the painting were depicting a sculptured tableau. One composition is especially moving, with the mourning figure in a blue cowl (in another version the cowl is black) looking as if she were taken from a piece of Burgundian tomb sculpture. Recent observations on the possible dating of the costumes have left little doubt that the picture is rather later than the artist's lifetime. Étienne de La Tour, the son of the artist was suggested (but not accepted) as the possible author. Étienne de La Tour is actually documented as being required to continue his father's style, should the latter die inopportunely, and it is likely that he continued long into the 1660s and even the 1670s, painting ever-weaker versions of his father's work which eventually became mockeries of his father's genius.
Saint Sebastian Attended by Saint Irene (another one, 1641, 160x129cm) _ It is one of the typical paintings of the artist showing strong contrasts of light and shadow.
Le Songe de Saint Joseph (1640, 93x81cm _ ZOOM to 1400x1250pix _ detail _ De la Tour's mature pictures form a close-knit group which must date from the years immediately before and after 1640. None of them is documented, although some of them are signed. The most typical and one of the best preserved of them is the so-called Dream of Joseph, which in many respects forms a microcosm of La Tour's art and the problems which surround it, in terms of both history and the interpretation of the subject. As recently as 1913 it was attributed to Rembrandt, although the picture was clearly signed La Tour in the top right-hand corner. It is interesting that an illustrious name should have been sought for so magical a picture, and the subject, even now, is as elusive as was the former difficulty of attribution. A youth in biblical costume is making a beckoning or announcing gesture before an old man who has fallen asleep reading a book. The traditional interpretation is that it is a Dream of Joseph, even though Joseph is normally shown as a carpenter (as he is in another La Tour picture). The youth is hardly the angel Gabriel either, coming to warn Joseph to flee to Egypt in order to escape the impending massacre of all children in Bethlehem by Herod's soldiers. A possible explanation for this enigmatic picture is that it depicts the moment when the young Samuel, having been, he thinks, summoned by the elderly priest Eli, finds him asleep. This surprises Samuel, who at that instant realizes that it is God's voice calling him. If this interpretation of the subject is correct, La Tour has with characteristic subtlety and understatement shown the exact moment when the youth Samuel arrives before the sleeping old man, with a 'here I am' gesture. Samuel's pose is unforgettable. All attempts at the naturalism with which La Tour is so wrongly credited have been abandoned, leaving a Mannerist twisting of the fingers and the caprice of shielding most of the candle flame. Above all, there is an exquisite stillness, which pervades not only this picture but also the other all-too-few masterpieces from this period.
Christ in the Carpenter's Shop (1645, 137x101cm) _ On the same deep level as in the Job, in a similar vein but more complex in composition, is the Christ in the Carpenter's Shop. As in the Job, one of the figures is arched over the top of the canvas, and again the attention to mood is shown in the minute observation of the effects of light in certain areas, especially that of the translucency of the child's hand silhouetted against the candle, revealing even the dirt in the fingernails. As usual, La Tour tells the Bible story in the simplest of terms. Only items essential for identifying the subject, in this case the paraphernalia of the carpenter's shop, are included. The picture can exist on the level of a genre scene without religious overtones, and its realism makes it one of the greatest genre paintings of the seventeenth century, rivaling Velázquez's Water Seller of Seville and Rembrandt's Jewish Bride (the latter has also been interpreted as a religious or mythological subject).
     The Counter Reformation regenerated the previously somewhat neglected Joseph as a cult figure. He became the object of writings and paintings. The topic fit in quite naturally with the times, and was no mark of originality. It was in fact interwoven into the very fabric of contemporary preoccupations, already quite devoted to the Savior's childhood. Here a young child helps his father, a carpenter. The old man, bent low over his chore, is facing the child, who stands motionless and whose face is bathed in light. With the flame he carries to illuminate the adult's work, he is actually shedding light on himself. This light makes him unreal, and the unrealistic transparency of his hand heightens the supernatural effect. A simple workshop scene has been transformed into a divine event: commonplace reality is transfigured into by the lighting. Once again, moreover, the staging of only two persons serves as a masterful device. Joseph, leaning heavily on his drill, together with the flame and the child's leg, describe a set of verticals allowing the eye to travel back and forth from top to bottom of the painting. But the light attracts us, drawing us from father to Son. And it is the luminous presence of the Son, standing attentively straight, that provides the scene with its definitive stability. La Tour's extraordinary technical prowess comes through for instance in the detail of the Saint's head (500x331pix, 16kb), in the mastery of his craggy face, or in the beard, which boasts artistic liberty that far surpasses the painstaking realism of the 17th century. With the slightest stretch of imagination, one finds traces of the masters to come - the light touch of a Corot or the suggestive flick of a brush of a Turner. _ detail _ The attention to mood is shown in the minute observation of the effects of light in certain areas, especially that of the translucency of the child's hand silhouetted against the candle, revealing even the dirt in the fingernails.
_ Compare .Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter's Shop) (1850, 86x140cm; 802x1265pix, 153kb _ .ZOOM to 1603x2530pix, 477kb) by Millais [08 Jun 1829 – 13 Aug 1896] _ also this anonymous poster showing toddler Jesus in the carpenter shop (747x570pix, 102kb).
Adoration by the Shepherds (1644, 107x131cm) _ This picture marks the beginning of La Tour's last phase. The change in La Tour's art in these last years is so great that it has to be seen in terms of a decline and a rapid increase in studio participation. The Adoration by the Shepherds is one of the most frequently painted subjects in western art, but La Tour is unique in the realism of his treatment: the shepherds are entirely convincing.
The Newborn (1645, 76x91cm) _ The subject is ambiguous because the spectator is uncertain whether it is a simple genre scene or whether it represents the Virgin, Saint Anne and the Christ Child. By common consent La Tour's best picture is The Newborn At first sight this now-famous work seems starkly simple, a refinement of the already-familiar mannerisms and abbreviations, and only close inspection of the relatively small-scale picture reveals its complexity. The technique is almost pointillist: the intense red of the mother's dress is achieved by minute dots of color of varying hue, and the same is true of the lilac garment of the servant (or Saint Anne, if the subject is the Christ Child). The whole surface is thus the product of an intensely concentrated effort, and a large amount of detail is concealed in the stark simplicity of the forms. The collar of the mother's dress is elaborately decorated, and the profiles are painted with an exceptional delicacy of line. A total calm pervades the picture, in which the faces have been described as almost Buddha-like in their serenity. The sentiments which characterize almost all the rest of seventeenth-century painting are avoided, and this picture alone justifies La Tour's reputation. Just as Vermeeer's View of Delft is exceptional, even for Vermeer, so the Newborn rises above all the conventions of its time. _ detail _ The profiles are painted with an exceptional delicacy of line.
The Hurdy-gurdy Player (1636, 162x105m) _ The attribution to Georges de La Tour is dubious.
Rixe de Musiciens (1625; 600x1028pix _ ZOOM to 1400x2400pix)
The Apostle Saint Andrew (1640; 600x482pix _ ZOOM to 1400x1124pix) badly crackled and scratched.
Les Mangeurs de Pois (1625; 600x731pix, 193kb)
62 ZOOMable images at Wikimedia and 6 smaller ones. — 25 images at ARC
—(070129)

Died on a 30 January:

^ 1961 John Duncan Fergusson, Scottish painter born on 09 March 1874. He abandoned the idea of a career in medicine to devote himself to art about 1894. He was self-taught. His earliest works were small impressionistic sketches of his native Edinburgh and studies of his family. Influenced by the work of the Glasgow Boys, in particular Alexander Roche [1863–1921] and Arthur Melville, he traveled in northern Africa and paid regular summer visits to northern France from about 1898 (and from the early 1900s in the company of S. J. Peploe). Friendships with artists in France, including the US graphic illustrator Anne Estelle Rice [1879–1959], encouraged him to settle about 1907 in Paris , where he associated with a circle of progressive French, US, and British artists and was elected a member of the Salon d’Automne. Strongly influenced by the Fauves, his work from this date was characterized by strong color, thick impasto, and free brushwork. He also made sculptures. While teaching at the Académie de la Palette run by Jacques-Émile Blanche, he introduced into his work a more structured approach, both in his choice of imagery and in the formal qualities of his composition. This reached a climax in a group of life-size nude compositions executed between 1910 and 1912, including Rhythm (1911), and a series of still-lifes (1912–1914). These accompanied his brief art editorship of Middleton Murry’s London journal Rhythm in 1911–1912. — Jessica Dismorr was a student of Fergusson.

^ 1941 Heinrich Johann von Zügel, German artist born on 22 October 1850.
Schafe im Erlenhain (1875; 600x972pix _ ZOOM to 1400x2268pix)

1905 (20 Jan?) Hermann David Salomon Corrodi, Italian artist born on (main coverage) on 23 July 1844. —(100129)

^ 1891 (20 Jan?) Charles Chaplin, French academic painter, of English nationality from his father, famed for his portraits of beautiful women, who taught several women painters including Henriette Browne, Louise Goode Romer Jopling, Mary Cassatt. Chaplin was born on 08 June 1825. {Not to be confused withclick for a later Chaplinbut who  would?}— He was a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1840, and he regularly visited the studio of Michel-Martin Drolling, whose students included Paul Baudry, Jean-Jacques Henner, and Jules Breton. In 1845 Chaplin entered the Salon as a portrait and landscape painter with his Portrait of the Artist’s Mother. His early works, from 1848 to 1851, are characterized by a concern for realism which had been restored to fashion by the Second Republic: he painted the landscape of the Auvergne, showing a regionalism that is found also, for example, in works by Adolphe Leleux and Armand Leleux. Chaplin soon rejected this early manner in favor of a more supple and gracious style that ensured him fame as a portrait painter. His portraits of women, often half-length, with half-clad models posed slightly erotically in misty settings, appealed to society in the Third Republic and ensured his success, although his genre pictures are the most important part of his painted work. As a decorator, Chaplin painted the ceiling and panels over the doors of the Salon des Fleurs in the Tuileries in 1861 (destroyed since), as well as part of the decoration for the Salon de l’Hemicycle in the Palais de l’Elysée.

bloomers1881 Felice Schiavoni, Italian artist born on 19 March 1803. [He was “felice” happy, no doubt, not to be one of the “schiavi” slaves, but one of the “schiavoni” Slavs from the eastern Adriatic coast. But he probably would not be felice to know that I found none of his artwork shown on the Internet.] [Strange coincidence or typo? Same birthday and deathday as Georges de La Tour, though over 200 years apart. I have verified de la Tour's dates in other sources, I find none for Schiavoni.]

^ 1875 John James Wilson, British painter born in 1818 in London, son and student of marine painter John “Jock” Wilson, RSA [1774 - 1855]. Perhaps as a reaction to his father's teaching, John James Wilson's did not paint any marine subjects before 1849, when his attitude and interests changed: after 1849 he painted little else.— Relative? of George Washington Wilson [07 Feb 1823 – 09 Mar 1893]? of Andrew Wilson [1780-1848]? of Benjamin Wilson [1721-1788]? of William A. Wilson?
–- Fishing Vessels Off the Isle of Wight (600x1097pix, 52kb _ .ZOOM to 900x1646pix, 112kb)
–- A Dutch Barge Off the Coast (504x900pix, 42kb) on a choppy sea, and with people outside two windmills.
–- Greenwich, the Departure of the Belgian Steamer (510x793pix, 45kb)
–- A Farm (1864; 612x1092pix, 67kb) —(070129)


Born on a 30 January:


1845 Bernardus Johannes Bloomers, Dutch artist who died on 15 December 1914. {“Bloomers,” women's pantaloons {image >}, were not invented by him but came to be call that after the somewhat different lower part, never widely adopted, of the clothing worn by US feminist Amelia Jenks Bloomer [27 May 1818 – 30 Dec 1894]. Did B.J. Bloomer ever picture bloomers? Who knows? I can't find any example of his artwork on the Internet.}

1817 Adolphe Yvon, French painter who died on (main coverage) on 11 September 1893. —(090910)

1814 Jérome Thompson, US painter who died on 02 (01?) May 1886. He was the son of the portrait painter Cephas Thompson (1775–1856) and the brother of the artist Cephas Giovanni Thompson [1809–1888]. At the age of 17 he opened a portrait studio in Barnstable MA. He moved to New York in 1835. In 1850 he began to exhibit genre subjects, although he never entirely abandoned portraiture, and after studying in England from 1852 to 1854, he returned to New York where he achieved success with his rustic genre scenes. These include Apple Gathering (1857) and the Belated Party on Mansfield Mountain (1858). His works were particularly praised for the equal emphasis given to landscape and genre elements within the same picture.

1720 Bernardo Bellotto, Italian painter who died (full coverage) on 17 October 1780. —(070129)


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