Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 
 

 
 

CHAPTER TWO
 

REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
 

PAINTING
SCULPTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
ARCHITECTURE - Part 1, 2, 3
 

 

PAINTING  


France

"Can Jupiter survive the lightning rod?" asked Karl Marx, not long after the middle of the century. The question, implying that the ancient god of thunder and lightning was now in jeopardy through science, sums up the dilemma we felt in the sculptor Carpeaux's The Dance (fig. 922). The French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire was addressing himself to the same problem when, in 1846, he called for paintings that expressed "the heroism of modern life." At that time only one painter was willing to make an artistic creed of this demand: Baudelaire's friend Gustave Courbet (1819-1877).


COURBET AND REALISM.

Courbet was born in Ornans, a village near the French-Swiss border, and remained proud of his rural background. He had begun as a Neo-Baroque Romantic in the early 1840s. But by 1848, under the impact of the revolutionary upheavals then sweeping over Europe, he had come to believe that the Romantic emphasis on feeling and imagination was merely an escape from the realities of the time. The modern artist must rely on direct experience—"I cannot paint an angel because I have never seen one," he said—they must be Realists. As a descriptive term, "realism" is not very precise. For Courbet, it meant something akin to the "naturalism" of Caravaggio (fig. 741). As an admirer of Louis Le Nain and Rembrandt he had, in fact, strong links with the Caravaggesque tradition, and his work, like Caravaggio's, was denounced for its supposed vulgarity and lack of spiritual content. What ultimately defines Courbet's Realism, however, and distinguishes it from Romanticism is his allegiance to radical politics. His Socialist views colored his entire outlook, and although it did not determine the specific content or appearance of his pictures, it does help to account for his choice of subject matter and style, which went against the grain of tradition.

The storm broke in 1849, when Courbet exhibited The Stone Breakers (fig. 945), the first canvas fully embodying his programmatic Realism. Here, for the first time, was a picture that treated an apparent genre scene with the same seriousness and monumentality as a history painting, in disregard of the academic hierarchy, and with a heavy impasto that violated accepted standards of finish. Courbet had seen two men working on a road, and had asked them to pose for him in his studio. He painted them lifesize, solidly and matter-of-factly. The picture is very much larger than anything by Millet, and with none of his overt pathos or sentiment (compare fig. 897). The young man's face is averted, the old one's half hidden by a hat. Yet he cannot have picked them casually. Their contrast in age is significant: one is too old for such heavy work, the other too young. Endowed with the dignity of their symbolic status, they do not turn to us for sympathy. Courbet's friend, the Socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, likened them to a parable from the Gospels.



945. Gustave Courbet. The Stone Breakers. 1849.
Formerly Gemaldegaierie, Dresden

 

During the 1855 Paris Exposition, where works by Ingres and Delacroix were prominently displayed, Courbet brought his pictures to attention by organizing a private exhibition in a large shed and by distributing a "manifesto of Realism." The show centered on a huge canvas, the most ambitious of his career, entitled Studio of a Painter: A Real Allegory Summarizing My Seven Years of Life as an Artist (fig. 946). "Real allegory" is something of a teaser. Allegories, after all, are unreal by definition. Courbet meant either an allegory couched in the terms of his particular Realism, or one that did not conflict with the "real" identity of the figures or objects embodying it.

The framework is familiar: Courbet's composition clearly belongs to the type of Velazquez' The Maids of Honor and Goya's The Family of Charles IV (see figs. 774 and 878). But now the artist has moved to the center, and the visitors here are his guests, not royal patrons who enter whenever they wish.

He has invited them specially for a purpose that becomes evident only upon thoughtful reflection. The picture does not yield its full meaning unless we take the title seriously and inquire into Courbet's relation to this assembly.

There are two main groups. On the left are "the people." They are types rather than individuals, drawn largely from the artist's home environment at Ornans: hunters, peasants, workers, a Jew, a priest, a young mother with her baby. On the right, in contrast, we see groups of portraits representing the Parisian side of Courbet's life: clients, critics, intellectuals. (The man reading is Baudelaire.) All of these people are strangely passive, as if they were waiting for we know not what. Some are quietly conversing among themselves, others seem immersed in thought. Yet hardly anybody looks at Courbet. They are not his audience, but a representative sampling of his social environment.

Only two people watch the artist at work: a small boy, intended to suggest "the innocent eye," and the nude model. What is her role? In a more conventional picture, we would identity her as Inspiration, or Courbet's Muse, but she is no less "real" than the others here. Courbet probably meant her to be Nature, or that undisguised Truth which he proclaimed to be the guiding principle of his art. (Note the emphasis on the clothing she has just taken off.) Significantly enough, the center group is illuminated by clear, sharp daylight, but the background and the lateral figures are veiled in semidarkness, to underline the contrast between the artist—the active creator— and the world around him that waits to be brought to life.
 


946. Gustave Courbet. Studio of a Painter. 1854—55. Oil on canvas.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris




MANET AND THE "REVOLUTION OF THE COLOR PATCH."

Courbet's Studio helps us to understand a picture that shocked the public even more: Luncheon on the Grass, showing a nude model accompanied by two gentlemen in frock coats, by Edouard Manet (1832-1883). Manet was the first to grasp Courbet's full importance; his Luncheon, among other things, is a tribute to the older artist. He particularly offended contemporary morality by juxtaposing the nude and nattily attired figures in an outdoor setting, the more so since the noncommittal title offered no "higher" significance. Yet the group has so formal a pose that Manet certainly did not intend to depict an actual event.
Perhaps the meaning of the canvas lies in this denial of plausibility, for the scene fits neither the plane of everyday experience nor that of allegory.

The Luncheon, as a visual manifesto of artistic freedom, is much more revolutionary than Courbet's. It asserts the painter's privilege to combine whatever elements he pleases for aesthetic effect alone. The nudity of the model is "explained" by the contrast between her warm, creamy flesh tones and the cool black-and-gray of the men's attire. Or, to put it another way, the world of painting has "natural laws" that are distinct from those of familiar reality, and the painter's first loyalty is to his canvas, not to the outside world. Here begins an attitude that was later summed up in the doctrine of Art for Art's Sake and became a bone of contention between progressives and conservatives for the rest of the century. Manet himself disdained such controversies, but his work attests to his lifelong devotion to "pure painting": to the belief that brushstrokes and color patches themselves—not what they stand for—are the artist's primary reality. Among painters of the past, he found that Hals, Velazquez, and Goya had come closest to this ideal. He admired their broad, open technique, their preoccupation with light and color values. Many of his canvases are, in fact, "pictures of pictures": they translate into modern terms those older works that particularly challenged him. Yet he always took care to filter out the expressive or symbolic content of his models, lest the beholder's attention be distracted from the pictorial structure itself. His paintings, regardless of subject, have an emotional reticence that can easily be mistaken for emptiness unless we understand its purpose.

Courbet is said to have remarked that Manet's pictures were as flat as playing cards. Looking at The Fifer (fig. 947), we can see what he meant. Done three years after the Luncheon, it is a painting with very little modeling, no depth, and hardly any shadows. (There are a few, actually, but it takes a real effort to find them.) The figure looks three-dimensional only because its contour renders the forms in realistic foreshortening. Otherwise, Manet eschews all the methods devised since Giotto's time for transforming a flat surface into a pictorial space. The undifferentiated light-gray background seems as near to us as the figure, and just as solid. II the fifer stepped out of the picture, he would leave a hole, like the cutout shape of a stencil.

Here, then, the canvas itself has been redefined. It is no longer a "window," but a screen made up of flat patches of color. How radical a step this was can be readily seen if we match The lifer against Delacroix's The Massacre at Chios (fig. 888), and a Cubist work such as Picasso's Three Dancers of 1925 (fig. 1064). The structure of Manet's painting obviously resembles that of Picasso's, whereas Delacroix's—or even Courbet s—still follows the "window " tradition of the Renaissance. In retrospect, we realize that the revolutionary qualities of Manet's art could already be seen in the Luncheon, even if they were not yet so obvious. The three figures lifted from Raphael's group of river-gods form a unit nearly as shadowless and stencillike as 'The Fifer They would be more at home on a flat screen, for the chiaroscuro of their present setting, which is inspired by the landscapes of Courbet, no longer fits them.


947. EDOUARD MANET. The Fifer.
1866.
Musee d'Orsav, Paris



MONET AND IMPRESSIONISM.

What brought about this "revolution of the color patch"? We do not know, and Manet himself surely did not reason it out beforehand. It is tempting to think that he was impelled to create the new style by the challenge of photography. The "pencil of nature,' then known for a quarter-century, had demonstrated the objective truth of Renaissance perspective, but it established a standard of representational accuracy that no handmade image could hope to rival. Painting needed to be rescued from competition with the camera. This Manet accomplished by insisting that a painted canvas is, above all, a material surface covered with pigments—that we must look at it, not through it. Unlike Courbet, he gave no name to the style he had created. When his followers began calling themselves Impressionists, he refused to adopt the term for his own work. His aim was to be accepted as a Salon painter, a goal that eluded him until late in life.

The word Impressionism had been coined in 1874, after a hostile critic had looked at a picture entitled Impression: Sunrise by Claude Monet (1840-1926), and it certainly fits Monet better than it does Manet. Monet had adopted Manet's concept of painting and applied it to landscapes done outdoors. Monet's The River of 1868 (fig. 948) is flooded with sunlight so bright that conservative critics claimed it made their eyes smart. In this flickering network of color patches, shaped like mosaic tesserae, the reflections on the water are as "real" as the banks of the Seine. Even more than The Fifer, Monet's painting is a "playing card." Were it not for the woman and the boat in the foreground, the picture would be just as effective upside-down. The mirror image here serves a purpose contrary to that of earlier mirror images (compare fig. 555). Instead of adding to the illusion of real space, it strengthens the unity of the actual painted surface. This inner coherence sets The River apart from Romantic "impressions" such as Constable's Hampstead Heath (see fig. 902) or Corot's View of Rome (see fig. 894), even though all three share the same on-the-spot immediacy and fresh perception.

In the late 1860s and early 1870s Monet and his friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) worked together to develop Impressionism into a fully mature style, one that proved ideally suited to painting outdoors. Monet's Red Boats, Argenteuil (fig. 949) captures to perfection the intense sunlight of Argenteuil along the Seine near Paris, where the artist was spending his summers. Now the flat brushstrokes have become flecks of paint, which convey an extraordinary range of visual effects. The amazingly free brush weaves a tapestry of rich color inspired by the late paintings of Delacroix. Despite its spontaneity, Monet's technique retains an underlying logic in which each color and brushstroke has its place. As an aesthetic, then. Impressionism was hardly the straightforward realism it first seems. It nevertheless remained an intuitive approach, even in its color, although the Impressionists were familiar with many of the optical theories that were to provide the basis for Seurat's Divisionism.
 


948. Claude Monet. The River). 1868. The Art Institute of Chicago. Potter Palmer Collection
949. Claude Monet. Red Boats, Argenteuil. 1875. Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


 

PISSARRO.

The method that Monet and Renoir evolved was soon adopted by other members of the group. The landscapes of Camille Pissarro
(1830-1903) have an unaffected naturalism that places him close to the Barbizon School, and a firm, almost classical structure that was shared only by his friend Paul Cezanne. We see these qualities in The Cote des Boeufs at l'Hermitage, near Pontoise (fig. 950). More than any other Impressionist, Pissarro was concerned with rural existence and scenery, and the painting has a real feel for that way of life. The artist makes no attempt to beautify the overgrown landscape, yet the stately procession of trees and blocklike buildings lend the picture a timeless dignity. The surprisingly abstract composition establishes a complex rhythm across the picture plane. This structure lends order to the tangled network of forms embedded in the dense surface texture, which evokes the rebirth of life in early springtime.






950.Camille Pissarro. The Cote des Boeufs at l'Hermitage, near Pontoise.
The National Gallery, London




RENOIR.

The Impressionist painters answered Baudelaire's call to artists to capture the "heroism of modern life" by depicting its dress and its pastimes. Scenes from the world of entertainment—dance halls, cafes, concerts, the theater— were favorite subjects for them. These carefree vignettes of bourgeois pleasure are flights from the cares of daily life. Auguste Renoir filled his work with the joie de vivre of a singularly happy temperament. The flirting couples in Le Moulin de la Galette (fig. 951), dappled with sunlight and shadow, radiate a human warmth that is utterly entrancing, even though the artist permits us no more than a fleeting glance at any of them. Our role is that of the casual stroller, who takes in this slice of life in passing.
 


951. Auguste Renoir. Le Moulin de la Galette. 1876. Musee d'Orsay, Paris




MANET AND IMPRESSIONISM.

Such spontaneity came less easily to the austere, deliberate Edouard Manet; it appears in his work only after about 1870, under Monet's influence. Manet nevertheless remained the finest painter of all the Impressionists. His last major picture, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, of 1881—82 (fig. 952),
is an unequaled tour de force. The canvas shows a single figure as calm and as firmly set within the rectangle of the canvas as the filer, but the background is no longer neutral. A huge shimmering mirror image now fills four-fifths of the picture. The mirror, close behind the barmaid, shows the whole interior of the nightclub, but deprives it of three-dimensionality, in part by taking liberties with the scene. (Note how the barmaid's reflection is shown off to one side, something that is impossible in reality.) The serving girl's attitude, detached and touched with melancholy, contrasts poignantly with the gaiety of her setting, which she is not permitted to share. For all its urbanity, the mood of the canvas reminds us oddly of Daumier's The Third-Class Carriage (see fig. 892).



952.
Edouard Manet. A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. 1881-82.
Courtauld Institute Galleries, Home House Trustees, London





DEGAS.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917), too, had a profound sense of human character that lends weight even to seemingly casual scenes such as that in The Glass of Absinthe (fig. 953). He makes us look steadily at the disenchanted pair in his cafe scene, but out of the corner of our eye, so to speak. The design of this picture at first seems as unstudied as a snapshot—Degas practiced photography—yet a longer look shows us that everything here dovetails precisely. The zigzag of empty tables between us and the luckless couple reinforces their brooding loneliness, for example. Compositions as boldly calculated as this set Degas apart from other Impressionists.

A wealthy aristocrat by birth, he had been trained in the tradition of Ingres, whom he greatly admired. When he joined the Impressionists, Degas did not abandon his early allegiance to draftsmanship. His finest works were often done in pastels (powdered pigments molded into sticks), which had a strong appeal for him since they yielded effects of line, tone, and color simultaneously. Prima Ballerina (fig. 954) well demonstrates this flexible medium. The oblique view of the stage, from a box near the proscenium arch, has been shaped into another deliberately off-center composition. The dancer floats above the steeply tilted floor like a butterfly caught in the glare of the footlights.


953. Edgar Degas. The Glass of Absinthe. 1876. Musee d'Orsay, Paris
954. Edgar Degas. Prima Ballerina, ρ. 1876. Musee d'Orsay, Paris
 

A decade later, The Tub (fig. 955) is again an oblique view, but now severe, almost geometric in design. The tub and the crouching woman, both vigorously outlined, form a circle within a square, and the rest of the rectangular format is filled by a shelf so sharply tilted that it almost shares the plane of the picture. Yet on this shelf Degas has placed two pitchers that are hardly foreshortened at all. (Note how the curve of the small one fits the handle of the other.) Here the tension between "two-D " and "three-D " surface and depth comes close to the breaking point. The Tub is Impressionist only in its shimmering, luminous colors. Its other qualities are more characteristic of the 1880s, the first Post-Impressionist decade, when many artists showed a renewed concern with problems of form.
 


955. Edgar Degas. The Tub. 1886.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris




MORISOT.

The Impressionists' ranks included several women of great ability. The subject matter of Berthe Morisot (1841— 1895), a member of the group from its inception, was the world she knew: the domestic life of the French upper middle class, which she depicted with sympathetic understanding. Morisot's early paintings, centering on her mother and her sister Edma, were influenced at first by Manet, whose brother she later married, but they have a subtle sense of alienation distinctive to her. Her mature work is altogether different in character. The birth of her daughter Julie in 1878 signaled a change in her art, which reached its height during the following decade. Her painting of a little girl reading in a room overlooking the artist's garden (fig. 956) shows a light-filled style of her own making. Morisot applied her virtuoso brushwork with a
sketchlike brevity that omits non-essential details yet conveys a complete impression of the scene. The figure is fully integrated within the formal design, whose appeal is enhanced by the pastel hues she favored. Morisot's painting radiates an air of contentment free of the sentimentality that often affects genre paintings of the period.


956. Berthe MorisotLa Lecture (Reading). 1888.
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida.



 

CASSATT.

Surprisingly, Americans were the first patrons of the Impressionists, responding to the new style sooner than Europeans did. At a time when no French museum would have them, Impressionist works entered public collections in the United States, and American painters such as Whistler and
Mary Cassatt (1845-1926) were among the earliest followers of Manet and his circle. Cassatt joined the Impressionists in 1877, becoming a tireless champion of their work. She had received a standard academic training in her native Philadelphia, but had to straggle to overcome traditional barriers. Like Morisot, she was able to pursue her career as an artist, an occupation regarded as unsuitable for women, because she was independently wealthy. Cassatt was instrumental in gaining early acceptance of Impressionist paintings in the United States through her social contacts with wealthy private collectors. Although she never married, maternity provided the thematic and formal focus of most of her work. Cassatt developed a highly accomplished individual style, seen at its best in The Bath (fig. 957), which is characteristic of her mature work around 1890. The oblique view, simplified color forms, and flat composition show the impact of her mentor Degas, as well as her study of Japanese prints. Despite the complexity of its design, the painting has a directness that lends simple dignity to motherhood.




957.
Mary Cassatt. The Bath. 1891.
The Art Institute of Chicago

 




MONET'S LATER WORKS.

By the mid-1880s Impressionism became widely accepted, its technique imitated by conservative painters and practiced as a fusion style by a growing number of artists worldwide. Ironically, the movement now underwent a deep crisis. Manet died in
1883. Renoir, already beset by doubts, moved toward a more classical style. Racked by internal dissension, the group held its last show in 1886. At that time Pissarro abandoned Impressionism altogether in favor of Seurat's Divisionism for several years.
Among the major figures of the movement, Monet alone remained faithful to the Impressionist view of nature. Nevertheless, his work became more subjective over time, although he never ventured into fantasy, nor did he forsake the basic approach of his earlier landscapes.

About
1890, Claude Monet began to paint pictures in series, showing the same subject under various conditions of light and atmosphere. These tended increasingly to resemble Turner's "airy visions, painted with tinted steam" as Monet concentrated on effects of colored light. (He had visited London and knew Turner's work.) His Water Lilies, Giverny (fig. 958) is a fascinating sequel to The River (fig. 948) across a span of almost 40 years. The surface of the pond now takes up the entire canvas, so that the effect of a weightless screen is stronger than ever. The artist's brushwork, too, has greater variety and a more individual rhythm. While the scene is still based on nature, this is no ordinary landscape but one entirely of his making. On the estate at Giverny given to him late in life by the French government, the artist created a self-contained world for purely personal and artistic purposes. The subjects he painted there are as much reflections of his imagination as they are of reality. They convey a very different sense of time as well. Instead of the single moment captured in The River, his Water Lilies, Giverny summarizes a shifting impression of the pond in response to the changing water as the breezes play across it.


958. CLAUDE MONET. Water Lilies, Giverny.
1907.
Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art,
Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture




England
 

REALISM.

By the time Monet came to admire his work, Turner's reputation was at a low ebb in his own country. In
1848, when Courbet launched his revolutionary doctrine of Realism, a concern with "the heroism of modern life " asserted itself quite independently in English painting as well, although the movement lacked a leader of Courbet's stature and assertiveness.

Perhaps the best-known example of English Realism is The Last of England (fig. 959) by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), a picture that enjoyed enormous popularity throughout the latter half of the century in the English-speaking world. The subject—a group of emigrants as they set out on their long overseas journey—may be less obvious today than it once was; nor does it carry the same emotional charge. Nonetheless, there can be no question that the artist has treated an important theme taken from modern experience, and that he has done so with touching seriousness.



959.
Ford Madox Brown. The Last of England.
1852-55.
Art Gallery, Birmingham, England
 

The painting is intended to dramatize the conditions that made the emigrants decide to leave England. The pathos of the scene may strike us as a bit theatrical: note the contrast between the brooding young family in the foreground (Brown used himself, his wife, and daughter as the models) and the "good riddance" gesture of the man at the upper left. We recognize its source in the "dumb shows" of Hogarth, whom Brown revered (see fig. 839). Brown's style, however, has nothing in common with Hogarth's. Its extreme precision of detail strikes us as almost photographic. No hint of subjective "handwriting" is permitted to intervene between us and the scene depicted. Brown had acquired this painstaking technique some years earlier, after he met the Nazarenes, the group of German painters in Rome who practiced what they regarded as a "medieval" style. He in turn transmitted it to his three pupils who together in 1848 helped to found an artists' society called the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896), and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

 

THE PRE-RAPHAELITES.

Brown himself never actually joined the Pre-Raphaelites, but he shared their basic aims: to do battle against the frivolous art of the day by having "genuine ideas to express" and by producing "pure transcripts . . . from nature," an objective inspired by the writings of John Ruskin. As the name of the Brotherhood proclaims, its members took their inspiration from the "primitive" masters of the fifteenth century. To that extent, they belong to the Gothic revival, which had long been an important aspect of the Romantic movement. What set the Pre-Raphaelites apart from Romantics like the Nazarenes was an urge to reform the ills of modern civilization through their art. In this they were aroused by Chartism, the democratic working-class movement that reached its peak in the revolutionary year 1848.

The Awakening Conscience (fig. 960) by William Holman Hunt, the artist who remained truest to the Brotherhood's ideals, stands as perhaps the quintessential Pre-Raphaelite statement. It, too, is a morality play in the tradition of Hogarth. Inspired by an episode in Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, the picture shows a young woman stirred to the realization by the music she sings that she has been living in sin. The scene is presented in obsessive detail, which is laden with symbolic meaning: the print above the piano, for example, shows Christ and the Woman Taken into Adultery, while the light reflected in the mirror is that of religious revelation. Here the artist looked to the example of Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait (fig. 547), which had recently been acquired by the National Gallery in London. Although he treated it as a personal moral crisis, The Awakening Conscience addresses a very real social problem of the time.



960.
William Holman Hunt.
The Awakening Conscience.
1853.
The Tate Gallery, London




Dante Gabriel Rossetti, unlike Hunt, was not concerned with social issues. He thought of himself, rather, as a reformer of aesthetic sensibility. The vast majority of his work consists of water-colors or pastels showing women taken from literary sources who bear a striking resemblance to his wife, Elizabeth Siddal. Beata Beatrix (fig. 961), created as a memorial to Siddal, imposes her features on a friend of his namesake, the Italian poet Dante, whose account of her death inspired the painting. Rossetti explained the program in considerable detail: "The picture illustrates the 'Vita Nuova,' embodying symbolically the death of Beatrice as treated in that work. The picture is not intended at all to represent death, but to render it under the semblance of a trance. ... I have introduced . . . the figures of Dante and Love passing through the street and gazing ominously on one another, conscious of the event; while the bird, a messenger of death, drops the poppy between the hands of Beatrice. She, through her shut lids, is conscious of a new world." In this version, the artist has expressed the hope of seeing his beloved Elizabeth again by adding a second panel showing Dante and Beatrice meeting in Paradise and inscribing the dates of their deaths on the frame. For all its apparent spirituality, the painting radiates an aura of repressed eroticism that is the hallmark of Rossetti's work and exerted a powerful influence on other Pre-Raphaelites.



961.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Beata Beatrix.
1872.
The Art Institute of Chicago




BURNE_JONES.

We can sense it again in the work of Rossetti's pupil Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who, although he was too young to have been a member, came to be identified most completely with the Brotherhood in the public's mind. The Wheel of fortune (fig. 962) was initially planned as part of a large pseudo-triptych devoted to the story of Troy. Although the project was never realized, its content was allegorical, rather than illustrative, in character. Based on a poem by William Morris that likewise remained unfinished, it was divided into four sections representing Fortune, Fame. Oblivion, and Love. The figures chained to the wheel of fortune, from which they cannot escape, include a slave, a king, and a poet. The composition was inspired by an altarpiece by Mantegna, while the figures show the impact of the sibyls and nudes that populate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (see fig. 651), which the artist studied in detail during a visit to Rome, as well as Michelangelo's "Captives" (compare figs. 647 and 648). Dame Fortune also reflects his admiration for Botticelli's figures, such as those in figure 623. The artist's principal interest lies in the decorative design, inspired by Early Renaissance paintings, which has the flatness and luxuriance of a tapestry. Even more than Whistler's, Burne-Jones' work represents an escape from reality into a dreamlike world of heightened beauty and attenuated feeling.



962. Edward Burne-Jones.
The Wheel of Fortune.

1877-83.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris




WHISTLER.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) came to Paris from America in 1855 to study painting; four years later he moved to London, where he spent the rest of his life, but he visited France during the 1860s and was in close touch with the rising Impressionist movement. His best-known picture. Arrangement in Ψΰεκ, and Gray: The Artist's Mother (fig. 963), reflects the influence of Manet in its emphasis on flat areas, and the likeness has the austere precision of Degas. Its tame as a symbol of our latter-day "mother cult" is a paradox of popular psychology that would have dismayed Whistler, who wanted the canvas to be appreciated for its formal qualities alone.

A witty, sharp-tongued advocate of Art for Art's Sake, he thought of his pictures as analogous to pieces of music, calling them "symphonies" or "nocturnes." The boldest example, painted about 1874, is Nocturne in Black and Cold: The Falling Rocket (fig. 964). Without an explanatory subtitle, we would have real difficulty making it out. No French painter had yet dared to produce a picture so "non-representational," so reminiscent of Cozens' "blotscapes" and Turner's "tinted steam" (see figs. 864 and 905). It was this canvas, more than any other, that prompted John Ruskin to accuse Whistler of "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face." (Since the same critic had highly praised Turner's The Slave Ship, we must conclude that what Ruskin admired was not the tinted steam itself but the Romantic sentiment behind it.)

During Whistler's subsequent suit for libel, he offered a definition of his aims that seems to be particularly applicable to The Tailing Rocket: "I have perhaps meant rather to indicate an artistic interest alone in my work, divesting the picture from any outside sort of interest. ... It is an arrangement of line, form, and color, first, and I make use of any incident of it which shall bring about a symmetrical result." The last phrase has special significance, since Whistler acknowledges that in utilizing chance effects, he does not look for resemblances but for a purely formal harmony. While he rarely practiced what he preached to quite the same extent as he did in The Falling Rocket, his statement reads like a prophecy of American abstract painting (see fig. 1094).



963. James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Arrangement in Black and Gray: The Artist's Mother.
1871.
Musce d'Orsay, Paris

964 James Abbott McNeill WhistlerNocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket.
ρ
. 1874. The Detroit Institute of Arts.




United States


THE AMERICAN BARBIZON SCHOOL.

After the Civil War, the United States underwent unprecedented industrial growth, immigration, and westward expansion. These changes led to not only a new range of social and economic problems but a different outlook and taste. As the United States became more like the Old World, Americans traveled abroad in growing numbers, seeking their cultural models in Europe, particularly France, which promoted a new cosmopolitanism in art. There was an equally dramatic shift in the attitude toward nature. The uneasy balance between civilization and nature shitted irrevocably in favor of progress by the end of the Centennial Celebration in
1876. The loss of the twin Romantic visions of the virgin wilderness and a pastoral Eden left nature as little more than a sentimental vestige to be preserved in parks. Since landscape ceased to be a teacher of moral truths as well, the viewer was left only with a personal reaction to a total impression of the scenery at hand. Through this resonance, the mystery of nature retained its spiritual significance but required an alternative mode of expression. The American Barbizon painters answered the need for a new form of landscape: they responded to the transformation of America by turning inward. Their canvases embody the altered mentality of the United States by evoking a poetic state of mind with ever-increasing freedom.



INNESS.

The leader of the American Barbizon School was George Inness
(1825-1894), who had been deeply impressed by the work of Theodore Rousseau and his followers during a visit to France. The Rainbow (fig. 965) shows one of the storm scenes so characteristic of this artist. The contrast of nature's beneficence with the tumultuous sweep of cosmic forces is reminiscent of Cole's Schroon Mountain (see fig. 913), but instead of depicting the wilderness, this former member of the Hudson River School has followed a rustic scene by Millet. Inness imbued his landscape with a sense of divine presence by freely rearranging nature according to formulas that act as indexes of personal feelings. Deeply religious, he had converted to the spiritualism of Emanuel Swedenborg, who believed in an immaterial but light-filled realm inhabited by departed souls that is visually similar and parallel to our own. Although only a few of his landscapes have a specific symbolic content, rainbows had spiritual significance for Inness. Swedenborg's ideas confirmed and intensified his approach, which relied increasingly on light and color to impart his vision of a deeper reality lying hidden from people's eyes but not their souls.



965. George Inness. The Rainbow.
ρ. 1878-79.
Museum of Art. Gift of George E. Hume




HOMER.

The far more gifted Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was a pictorial reporter throughout the Civil War and continued as a magazine illustrator until 1875. He went to Paris in 1866, but though he left too soon to receive its lull impact, French art did have an important effect on his work. Snap the Whip (fig. 966) conveys a nostalgia tor the simpler era of America before the Civil War (see fig. 914). The sunlit scene might be called "pre-Impressionist." Its fresh delicacy lies halfway between Corot and Monet (compare figs. 894 and 948). The air of youthful innocence relies equally on the composition, which was undoubtedly inspired by the bacchanals then popular in French art (compare fig. 922). The sophisticated design shows the same subtle understanding of motion as Bruegel's The Blind Leading the Blind (see fig. 731),
which also terminates in a fallen figure.


966. Winslow Homer. Snap the Whip.
1872.
The Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, Ohio





EAKINS.

Thomas Eakins
(1844-1916) arrived in Paris from Philadelphia about the same time as Homer. He went home tour years later, after receiving a conventional academic training but with decisive impressions of Velazquez and Courbet. Elements from both these artists are combined in William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River (fig. 967; compare figs. 773 and 946). Eakins had encountered stiff opposition for advocating traditional life studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. To him. Rush was a hero for basing his 1809 statue for the Philadelphia Water Works on the nude model, though the figure itself was draped in a classical robe. Eakins no doubt knew contemporary European paintings of sculptors carving from the nude; these were related to the theme of Pygmalion and Galatea popular at the time among academic artists. Conservative critics nevertheless denounced William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River for its nudity, despite the presence of the chaperon knitting quietly to the right. To us the painting's declaration of unvarnished truth seems a courageous fulfillment of Baudelaire's demand for pictures that express the heroism of modern life.



967. Thomas Eakins.
William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River.

1877.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art




TANNER.

Thanks in large part to Eakins' enlightened attitude, Philadelphia became the leading center of minority artists in the United States. Eakins encouraged women and blacks to study art seriously at a time when professional careers were closed to them. African-Americans had no chance to enter the arts before Emancipation, and alter the Civil War the situation improved only gradually. Henry O. Tanner (1859-1937), the first important black painter, studied with Eakins in the early 1880s. Tanner's masterpiece. The Banjo Lesson (fig. 968), painted after he moved permanently to Paris, bears Eakins' unmistakable impress. Avoiding the mawkishness of similar subjects by other American painters, the scene is rendered with the same direct realism as William Rush Carving His Allegorical Figure of the Schuylkill River.


968. Henry O. Tanner. The Banjo Lesson.
ρ.
1893.
Hampton University Museum, Hampton, Virginia

 
 

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