ART 4 2-DAY 19 March v.10.20
Born on 19 March 1591: Dirk
Hals, Dutch painter who died on 17 May 1656, brother of
Hals. Dirk Hals studied under Abraham
Dirk Hals was born and died in Haarlem. He was the younger brother of Frans Hals; who was probably also his first teacher. But the painters who influenced Dirck were Esaias van de Velde and Willem Buytewech. Apart from a few small portraits, he devoted himself exclusively to the painting of conversation pieces — the cheerful life of prosperous burghers in their houses, gardens, or public places. Dirck was not interested in the serious side of life; in his work he depicted people in conversation or while flirting, making music and dancing, eating and drinking. His interiors are hardly worked out, all the emphasis is put on fashionable dress and colorful representation. He succeeded in rendering people’s high spirits through facial expression, costly dress, posture and loose grouping.
–- The Merry Company (42x77cm)
–- another Merry Company (45x67cm) _ Dirk Hals was apprenticed to his older brother Frans. Yet while Frans Hals specialized in portraiture, Dirk Hals concentrated primarily on genre paintings and conversation pieces in the manner of Esasias van de Velde and Willem Pieterszoon Buytewech. From the 1620s onwards, he frequently had the figures in his paintings added by his own specialist, Dirck van Deelen. He preferred a courtly setting and noble society, whereas his several versions of the Merry Company follows in the tradition of the brothel painting and the tale of the prodigal son. The bed on the left in the background, and the body language of the couples leave us in little doubt as to the situation. At the same time, however, this is also a “five senses” scene: not only is the sense of touch satisfied, but there is also music and singing, smoking and drinking, while the eyes feast on an empty jug or a bodice. The interior also gives us an idea of how paintings were displayed in Holland at the time. They have been hung on a shabby wall without any evident system: a landscape, a marine painting, a portrait. It is clear that paintings had by now become objects to be taken for granted. Some might be cheaper or more expensive, better or worse painted than others, but they were no longer laden with iconographic significance.
— A Party at Table (1626, 28x39cm) _ This type of elegant interior with a group of well-dressed people enjoying themselves around a table is known as a "merry company". Such examples derive from representations of biblical subjects, for example, The Prodigal Son Feasting, and were often engraved with moralizing verses which condemned foolish behavior. In the left background is a map; on the wall to the right is a painting representing the Betrayal of Christ.
Seated Man Smoking a Pipe
La Fête Champêtre (1627, 78x137) _ A party is taking place in idyllic parkland near a villa. The guests are wearing festive clothes and having a merry time eating, drinking, making music and flirting. Dirck Hals portrayed the various figures in great detail. He borrowed two of them — a woman and a dog — from Willem Buytewech. This outdoor party scene is not based on reality, but recalls the garden of love, a popular late medieval theme.
— Garden Party (1620) _ In the background a fountain with Bacchus can be seen. Dirck Hals often used this theme. Subjects and setting varied, but the message remained the same: warning against lightheartedness and an encouragement of modesty.
— Amusing Party in the Open Air (1621, 34x61cm) _ detail _ Hals was one of the two brothers of Frans Hals, the first great Dutch painter of the 17th century. He painted mostly charming interior scenes. This rather theatrical scene represents the easy-flowing and sparkling style of Dirck Hals. Dirck Hals tried to emulate the fresh and casual style of his brother Frans, particularly in his spectacular way of painting, splendid clothes made of expensive fabrics. The colors are almost too vivid, like the early genre paintings. In this picture the festive party, seen against a background of columns and draperies on the left, seems to be momentarily frozen into a tableau in which the participants pose to welcome a new arrival — the spectator.
Musicale (1623, 43x47cm)
Seated Woman with a Letter (1633)
— Merry Party in a Tavern (1628, 28x36cm)
— Banquet Scene in a Renaissance Hall (1628)
Born on 19 March 1601: Alonso
Cano, Granada Spanish sculptor, painter, draftsman, and
(rarely) architect, who died on 03 September 1667.
— He was an artist of rare versatility in 17th-century Spain. While he is also known for his drawings, only about 60 of these are definitely attributable to him, despite the many extant sketches with the name ‘Cano’ added by later hands. Unlike most of his Spanish contemporaries, such as Zurbarán or Velázquez, whose artistic styles did not outlive them, Cano’s artistic legacy is measured in part by the number of artists who were trained in his workshop and went on to become important masters in their own right: the painters Pedro Atanasio Bocanegra, Juan de Sevilla [1643–1695] and, more distantly, José Risueño, and the sculptors Pedro de Mena and José de Mora, who began by following Cano’s models and then continued to produce polychrome sculpture in a distinctive style typical of Granada. Sebastián de Herrera and Juan Niño de Guevara were also students of Cano.
Cano was sometimes called the Spanish Michelangelo because of the diversity of his talents. He was born and died in Granada, Spain, and worked there and in Seville and Madrid. His movements were partly dictated by his tempestuous character, for more than once he fled or was expelled from the city he was working in (once for the suspected murder of his wife). In spite of his violent temperament, his work tends to be serene and often sweet.
He studied painting in Seville under Pacheco (Velázquez was his fellow-student) and sculpture with Montáñez, and stayed in the city from 1614 to 1638, when he moved to Madrid to become painter to the Count-Duke Olivares and was employed by Philip IV to restore pictures in the royal collection. Thus he became acquainted with the work of the 16th-century Venetian masters, whose influence is apparent in his later paintings; they are much softer in technique than his earlier pictures, which are strongly lit in the manner of Zurbarán.
From 1652 he worked mainly in Granada, where he designed the façade of the cathedral (1667), one of the boldest and most original works of Spanish Baroque architecture. He was ordained a priest in 1658, as this was necessary for him to further his career at Granada Cathedral. The cathedral has several of Cano's works in painting and sculpture, including a polychrome wooden statue of the Immaculate Conception (1655) that is sometimes considered his masterpiece.
— The Vision of Saint John (1635; 108kb)
— St. John the Evangelist with the Poisoned Cup (89kb)
— St. Bernard and the Virgin (114kb)
— St. James the Major (58kb)
— The Dead Christ Supported by an Angel (1652; 58kb)
The Dead Christ Supported by an Angel (1649, 178x121cm)
The Miracle at the Well (1647, 216x149cm)
Immaculate Conception (1648)
Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos (1648, 218x153cm)
Descent into Limbo (1640) _ From 1640 on, Cano's technique became increasingly pictorial, that is to say, increasingly Baroque, acquiring some of the subtleties he had previously ignored. Perhaps his most important painting is the Descent into Limbo, a strange, rather illustrative composition, anecdotal in the movement imparted to the figures, but including one of the rare, and one of the most beautiful female nudes in Spanish art.
Mary (1648, 49x43cm) _ Probably a fragment of a larger painting. There are two somewhat similar representations of Mary by Cano, both are darker than this intimate picture painted with devotion.
Noli me Tangere (1640, 142x110cm) _ Cano was a painter, sculptor and architect and worked for varying periods in nearly every large town in Spain Madrid, Seville, Valencia and Toledo. His oeuvre is very rich, though more restricted in range than that of Velázquez or Murillo, for he painted almost exclusively religious subjects, keeping strictly to the accepted ecclesiastical tradition. Cano never went to Italy but was strongly influenced by the Italian masterpieces in the Spanish royal collection. The composition of Noli me Tangere owes much to the inspiration of Correggio's 1525 painting of the same subject, which was in Madrid at that time, and the coloring shows the influence of Venetian masters, especially Titian.
_ Other paintings of Noli me Tangere, by:
Giotto di Bondone _ another by Giotto di Bondone
Giovanni Battista Franco
Hans Holbein Jr.
Anton Raphael Mengs
Giovanni Francesco Rustici
Pontormo (after Michelangelo)
Born (or baptized? or both??) on 19 March 1593:
Georges de La Tour, French painter of religious
and genre subjects, best known for his night scenes of dark interiors illuminated
by candlelight. He died on 30 January 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.
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 1621-23 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.
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.
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.
Saint Joseph Charpentier (1645, 137x101cm; 1095x801pix, 105kb) _ detail (1200x1600pix, 519kb) _ On the same deep level as in Job Mocked by his Wife, in a similar vein but more complex in composition, is Saint Joseph Charpentier. As in Job Mocked by his Wife, 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)
— Les Mangeurs de Pois (1625; 600x731pix, 193kb)