Thursday, January 31, 2013

Subject and Verb

Berthe Morisot "Self-Portrait"  1885  Musée Marmottan Monet
Berthe Morisot  (1841-1895) was one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. She showed artistic promise from childhood on and at age twenty-three a painting of hers was chosen for the highly selective Salon de Paris. She exhibited in six subsequent Salons until 1874 when she threw in her lot with like-minded art colleagues who (unlike herself) had been rejected by the official salon jury, and the group initiated the first impressionist exhibition. The rest is, of course, history. Morisot is often referred to as one of "les trois grandes dames de l'Impressionnisme" along with Marie Braquemond and Mary Cassatt. Morisot's skill was prodigious and seemed to be forever evolving in both subtlety and directness. On the occasion of the eighth and last Impressionist Exhbition in 1886 critic Jean Ajalbert said this about Morisot's technique, ``She eliminates cumbersome epithets and heavy adverbs in her terse sentence. Everything is subject and verb."

Morisot was one of three painting sisters, all raised in a comfortable and cultured french family who were unusually supportive of the young women's artistic ambitions. I have written about Berthe's close relationship with her sister Edma, but the oldest sister Yves, also displayed unusual talent for art, although she very early abandoned it as a serious pursuit. Yves' daughter Paule Gobillard (1867-1946) inherited both talent and ambition. She was often to be found working with Morisot in her home and studio. Indeed, when Yves Gobillard died in 1893 Paule and her younger sister Jeanne moved in for a time with their aunt Berthe and their cousin Julie Manet. Morisot's husband Eugène Manet had died the previous year and the doubly bereaved women drew together for mutual support and comfort.

Berthe Morisot "Paule Gobillard Drawing"  1886 Private Collection
Interestingly, both these portraits of Gobillard are dated 1886. In the first Gobillard's hair is still down her back in a childlike braid, whereas by the next piece she was wearing it up, a sign of maturity. Hair up or down could be of social significance or simply illustrate a random moment, perhaps a morning when the girl had not had time to dress her hair properly in her eagerness to get to the drawing board! 

Berthe Morisot "Paule Gobillard Painting"  1886  Musée Marmottan Monet

Paule Gobillard never married, but remained close to her sister Jeanne and her cousin Julie Manet, and was involved in the family life of her relatives. She continued to paint throughout her life and exhibited regularly at the Salon, as well as at private galleries in France and abroad.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Frank Herbert Mason

Frank Herbert Mason "The Art Students" 1983

Frank Herbert Mason (1921-2009) had an illustrious and industrious career as an artist, teacher, art conservator and arts activist. Born in Cleveland, at age sixteen he was offered a scholarship to attend The Art Student's League of New York, where he studied closely with Frank DuMond, eventually taking over his teacher's position upon DuMond's retirement. Mason, by all accounts an immensely gifted and beloved teacher, taught for over fifty years at The Art Student's League and also led summer classes in Vermont. He was one of the founders of ArtWatch International, which monitors conservation of great masterpieces and lobbies for better conservation practices generally. At some point in his career Mason moved to Europe for several years where he received commissions and awards for his work, even receiving the Order of Malta. His work is in many public and private collections including the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and The Museum of the City of New York. A documentary film about the artist-teacher-conservator, A Light in the Dark, premiered in 2011.

This painting shows Mason's studio and two of his art students, Elizabeth Torak (left) and Erika Howard Dolmans (right.)  Dolmans says of this piece, "Lizzie and I had a lot of fun posing for this one! The mornings were cold in Frank's studio, though! I miss him."

Mason's official website can be seen here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pompeian Painter

artist unknown "Pompeian Woman Painting" ca. 55-79 a.d.
The National Archeological Museum of Naples, Italy
This fresco panel taken from the ruined city of Pompeii goes by many different names, with the most simple and elegant being the Italian title of "La Pittrice." It shows a seated woman painting, or perhaps applying just some finishing touches to a piece which appears to be already framed and held by a young boy. The artist is looking at a painted statue which is said to be of Priapus (for reasons which become clear if you click on the image and view it enlarged.) However, the God of Fertility is missing one of his usual attributes, a large peaked Phrygian cap. Two women look on as the painter works.  It is interesting to note that the painter has arranged herself so that the light falls from her left, as is still the norm for right-handed painters. A bit of a mystery is that the painting held by the child appears to be translucent...we can clearly see the shadow of his form through the piece, unless it is just a dark stroke that happens to look like this.

We know that women worked as professional painters, sculptors, potters, jewelers and etc. in ancient times. As in most professions throughout history, people tended to do the same work as their families, so that most female artists and artisans we hear about were trained in family workshops.

Monday, January 28, 2013

iphone self portrait

Mia Robinson "Self-Portrait as Paula Rego"  2009

Mia Robinson (b.1979) is one of the growing number of artists using digital apps as a way of creating their artwork. This piece was sketched after the artist spent time poring over the artwork of Portuguese-English artist Paula Rego...and something in the alertness, strength and almost confrontational aspect of the pose does hint at that artist's unique "flavor." Robinson, currently based in  Washington, D.C., has exhibited her work internationally. Her website can be found here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

E de K

Elaine de Kooning "Self-Portrait"  1946
 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  
Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) was born in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Hunter College, the Leonardo da Vinci Art School and the American Artist's School in NYC. De Kooning was a talented and prolific artist but her marriage to the massively influential painter Willem de Kooning both brought her to national attention and somewhat"sidelined" or "ladies auxiliary-ed" her career.  She was nonetheless a highly respected artist, portraitist, teacher and critic in her own right. She is often quoted as saying, "A painting to me is primarily a verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily an image." De Kooning's work is in the collection of MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Whitney Museum as well as many other major art institutions.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Daniel Huntington "Italy" 1843  National Museum  of American Art, Washington D.C.

Daniel Huntington (1816-1906) was born in New York City. He attended Yale University and Hamilton College, studying with F.B. Morse and others who later founded the National Academy of Design. Huntington became a fellow of that organization in 1839 and a full Academician in 1840. The artist traveled extensively in Europe, which he found inspiring. Another locale where he found a lot of subject matter for his work was in the White Mountain area of New Hampshire. Although he lived in New York City, for many years he shared a studio in Jackson, New Hampshire with a group of similar-minded artists that included Asher Durand and Aaron Shattuck.

Daniel Huntington "The Sketcher: a Portrait of Mlle. Rosina, a Jewess" 1858
The Brooklyn Museum, NYC

Huntington seems to have been by all accounts an intelligent, sincere and pleasant person who was esteemed and respected by the majority of his peers. He was twice elected president of the National Academy of Design and he was also the vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for thirty-three years. He died at age 90 after a long career of travel, painting and leadership.

Daniel Huntington "Philosophy and Christian Art" 1868
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California

Friday, January 25, 2013

Three Generations

Charley Toorop "Self-Portrait with Son and Father" aka "The Three Generations"
1945-50  Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Holland

Dutch painter Charley Toorop (1891-1955) was a member of the artist's group "The Signal" which aimed at expressing a deep sense of reality through the use of strong contrast, accentuated lines and intense coloration. It was a style of painting based on a philosophy that is sometimes called "moral realism."  Toorop believed that art had a moral responsibility to human life "...and that the human condition was an esthetic condition, for it involved imaginative wonder at the givenness of life. Without such imaginative wonder life seemed peculiarly unreal, inconsequential, and banal, and we remain humanly incomplete. For...Toorop the task of art was to awaken this wonder ..."realize" the wonder in the inevitable facts of life, and thus the wonder of our own all too human lives." (Donald Kuspit.) 

Toorop was the daughter of Javanese-Dutch artist Jan Toorop and the mother of three children including painter Edgar Fernhout (1912-1974). In this painting Toorop immortalizes the three generations of artists, with a portrait set in her studio in Bergen. She and her son hold their palettes. Her late father is represented by the inclusion of a large portrait head sculpted by John Raedecker (1885-1956) Interestingly, Edgar Fernhout's son Rik Fernhout (b.1959) is also an in fact a newer version of this family piece could incorporate four generations. In addition, Toorop's other son John Fernhout was a filmmaker.  That was some very strong art gene passed down from Great-Grandfather Jan!

This painting was an instant visual "hit". In 1950, not long after its completion,  Toorop's daughter-in-law the well-known Hungarian photographer Eva Besnyö (1910-2003) took a shot of the artist in front of what has since become one of the most iconic Toorop pieces. 

For the previous WAP post on Charley Toorop click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Allegory and Artemisia

Artemisia Gentileschi "Allegory of Painting" 1620's Musée de Tessé, France   
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593- 1656) needs no introduction from me, but this painting might. It has only fairly recently begun to be attributed to Artemisia, and was for some time thought to be the work of Giovanni Baglione (1566-1643) a contemporary and fierce enemy of Gentileschi's father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639.) In fact, as the young woman looks very much like Artemisia herself, it was felt that this piece was intended by Baglione as a cruel barb for Orazio's pride, showing his daughter lying degenerately on the floor amongst the tumbled attributes of painting, nude but for a convenient length of cloth. However, other interpretations have since arisen. The currently prevailing thought is that this piece was painted by Artemisia herself as a sort of demonstration piece of her own abilities, especially as the foreshortening of a figure on the diagonal is a very difficult technical achievement. The piece also seems more somnolent than seductive. The model's naked state is muffled with rich fabric, and softened with shadow. We should also remember that at this time, nudity was a double-edged sword visually, being employed to show erotic love scenes from mythology but equally frequently employed by artists to signify innocence and naturalness, the very opposite of artifice and deceit. Moreover, the handling of the paint is softer than Baglione's generally more hard-edged style.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Speed Diana

Harold Speed "Lady Diana Bridgeman" date unknown
Leamington Spa Gallery and Museum, U.K.

The sitter is (Helen) Diana Bridgeman (1907-1967.) She projects an easy assurance at the easel and in one newspaper clipping from 1930 announcing her marriage to "art authority" Robert Abdy, we read " The bride, the last of Princess Mary's bridesmaids to be married, is also an artist of some ability." However, I can find no examples of any work done by her. She is the subject of no less than five portraits owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London, and their short bio of her omits any mention of artistic aspirations and merely describes her as, "Fashion leader; wife of Sir Robert Henry Abdy and daughter of 5th Earl of Bradford. Sitter in 5 portraits."

Harold Speed (1872-1957) was an English artist of great reputation, even renowned. He studied at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, and the same year he graduated (after winning numerous awards) he was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. As well as a successful career in portraiture, Speed left his mark indelibly on multiple generations of art students with his wonderfully clear and intelligently written manuals on drawing and painting. His most famous book The Practice and Science of Drawing was written in 1913 and is still in print (and available as an e-book) today. My own copy (inherited from my father) sits out where I can refer to it as necessary (i.e. frequently!)

Many thanks to artist John Philip Hagen for sending me this piece, which I had never seen before!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Big Brush

Roni Taharlev "Self Portrait with Big Brush"  2011

Roni Taharlev (b. 1964) is an Israeli painter who paints mostly figurative and portrait pieces. She studied at the Jerusalem Studio School  and has been highly influenced by that institution's founder and artistic director, painter Israel Hershberg. Many artists of the past are important to her as well and Taharlev says, "...of course I have all my dead friends: Rembrandt, Cranach, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Lorenzetti, and many roman artists..." In fact this particular self-portrait exudes a distinct likeness to Fayum (greco-roman-egyptian) portraiture, both thrillingly alive and (faintly, disconcertingly) funerary.

Taharlev has won numerous prizes and awards. Most recently, in 2012,  another of her self-portraits was selected for the BP Portrait Award- a group exhibition held annually at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The artist divides her time between her house in a small village up in the Gallillee mountains and her studio in Jaffa. Her website can be seen here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Art Student

Sharon Sprung "The Art Student" 2011
New York City-based artist Sharon Sprung (b. 1953) paints still-life, landscape and portraits, but is perhaps best known for her figurative pieces of young women. This series generally features a single female figure, either nude or partially clothed, posed in a still, even contemplative, arrangement. Often the setting for the figure is highly simplified or abstracted. This piece (above) is somewhat unusual in its description of what looks like a real, day to day, space, inhabited by what appears to be a fully clothed young woman.

Sprung studied at Cornell University, the National Academy of Design and the Art Student's League,  in New York.  The artist has won numerous awards over the years including an Elizabeth  Greenshields Foundation grant, and prizes from the Art Renewal Center and the Portrait Society of America. In 2006 Sprung's work was selected for the prestigious Outwin Boochever Portrait Exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  Sprung is a popular teacher, leading workshops all around the world as well as teaching regular classes at the Art Student's League of New York. Sprung is currently represented by Gallery Henoch. Her website can be seen here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Kees van Dongen "Diversions" date unknown location unknown
Kees van Dongen (1877-1968) was born in the Netherlands in an area that is now part of Rotterdam.  His full name was Cornelis Theodorus Maria van Dongen. Almost all online biographical sources state that at age sixteen van Dongen began attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam, but an exhaustive search for such a place comes up with nothing, except a similarly named institution in The Hague, a city about sixteen miles from Rotterdam. However, I suspect that van Dongen attended a Rotterdam art school that was originally known as the Academy of Visual Arts. (In 1998 this school changed its name to the Willem de Kooning Academy, in honor of that famous alum.)

In 1901 van Dongen married fellow Academy student Juliana Augusta "Guus" Preitinger. The couple had moved to Paris some years previously. Van Dongen's first foray into the notoriety that was to be a leitmotif of his career came about with a large semi-nude portrait of his wife entitled "The Spanish Shawl" or  "Tableau" which he painted in 1913. He exhibited it in that year's Salon d'Automne and it was considered so salacious and pornographic that it was removed from the exhibition by the police. Van Dongen seemed to have thrived upon the furor and publicity brought about by this incident, but it might have have ended up being a little hard on his wife. Not long afterwards, in 1914, Preitinger returned to the Netherlands with the couple's young daughter intending to make a long summer visit. With the sudden outbreak of World War One return to Paris was impossible. When Preitinger finally was able to return to Paris in 1918 she found van Dongen had "moved on", and was engaged in a relationship with another woman. The couple divorced in 1921. 

Van Dongen had a long, remunerative and successful career. He worked not only as a fine artist and a newspaper sketchman, but also was highly sought after as a society portrait painter. He made additional money organizing very popular costume balls. In 1926, he was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, and in 1927 the Order of the Crown of Belgium. In 1929, he became a French citizen. One of his famous sayings is "Painting is the most beautiful of lies."

note: There is little information about this painting, "Diversions", and it is the only painting I could find of van Dongen's that shows a woman painting. I wonder if it could possibly be a portrait of his wife, who was of course, trained as an artist, although there is little physical resemblance and the painting seems to be alluding to the fact that van Dongen's favorite diversions were women and painting, rather than honoring a particular artist.  Preitinger, van Dongen's wife, is said to have continued her art career but I could not find any examples of her work, all web searches using her name(s) being instantly diverted into the overwhelming flood of information on Kees van Dongen. Any Dutch artists/art historians reading this, please contact me if you have information about Preitinger, or this painting "Diversions", such as the date it was painted and where it is located. I'd also love to know if there is any extant work by Preitinger.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Kate Sammons "Self Portrait in the Studio"  2012
American contemporary painter Kate Sammons was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Illinois. She attended The University of Illinois, attaining an honors degree in painting. She further studied at the Angel Academy in Florence, Studio Incamminati in Phildelphia, and Wachulis Studios in NE Pennsylvania. She is now based in Los Angeles, where she maintains a studio and also teaches. Sammons has said of her work, "...Art, for me, has been a way to transcend many social and cultural boundaries. It appeals to my humanity, inspires a heightened sensitivity to life and gives quality to my experiences."

Kate Sammons "Self Portrait with Hermes"  2009
Sammons has won numerous awards for her work throughout her career. Her drawing "Self Portrait with Hermes" was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC as part of the biennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, and was also featured on the cover of American Artist Magazine. Sammons is represented by Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona and Gallery 1261 in Denver, Colorado. The artist's website and blog can be found here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Lidija Auza "Self-Portrait 1964" private collection

Lidija Auza (1914-1989) was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, of Latvian parentage. She studied at the Art Academy of Latvia, under the guidance of artist Jānis Liepiņš.  Her graduating thesis piece was a scene from the ballet entitled "Ballet Rehearsal" and dance was a continuing theme in her work throughout her life. As well as continuing to paint, she worked as an art teacher, a designer and also an illustrator. She was a member of the Latvian Artists' Union, and exhibited frequently at galleries in Latvia.

Aleksandra Beļcova "Portrait of Lidija Auza" 1957 Latvian National Museum of Art
Aleksandra Beļcova (1892-1881) was born in the Ukraine but spent the greater part of her life in Latvia. (note: this is an area of the world where the borders have shifted several times. Not only that, different ethnic groups have moved from one country to another, or been forced to move, as the borders changed, due to cultural tensions.) Beļcova was married to artist Roman Suta. The couple played vital and important roles in the aesthetic development of Latvia.

note: Each of these artists seems to have many different spellings for their name, obviously transliterations. While not a Cyrillic language, the Latvian standard alphabet consists of 33 letters, using 22 of the 26 latin letters, and adding in an additional 11 modified letters. So there is some inconsistency when translating into English.  Latvian speakers should feel free to contact me with any suggestions/corrections. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Édouard, Eva and Jeanne

Édouard Manet "Portrait of Eva Gonzalès" 1870  National Gallery, London

Édouard Manet (1832-1883) painted this charming but somewhat mysterious portrait of his student Eva Gonzalès in 1870. The mystery stems from the manner in which he has portrayed her. Whether intentionally or inadvertently, in this pose she appears very much as an amateur playing at painting...she looks as light sweet and and bouffant as a meringue with her hair dressed in careful curls and her person arrayed in a frothy white silk dress, with nary an apron or smock in sight. A creamy peony rests at her feet. Perhaps in homage? Nonetheless, the piece she is purportedly painting is not even her work, but one of Manet's own paintings. It is hard to believe this painting would have been meant as an intentional slight on the professionalism of Gonzalès, as from all accounts there were good relations between pupil and teacher. It could simply be that Gonzalès asked to be portrayed in her finest day gown, and to keep it clean they devised this arrangement of an already finished painting, undipped brushes (and most likely empty palette, it tilts away from our eyes but we can guess it is pristine, merely a prop here.) Or perhaps, Manet was considering taking up society portraiture and painted this as a trial run, using his lovely student as a guinea pig. We'll never know, but it is interesting to speculate!

Eva Gonzalès "La jeune élève (Portrait of Jeanne Gonzalès )" 1871-72   Private Collection
Eva Gonzalès (1849-1883) was born and died in Paris. Her father was a well-known writer of Spanish origin, but French citizenship, and her mother was a Belgian of noted musical talent. The family salon was a meeting place for critics and writers.  She began her art training in 1865 by studying drawing with portraitist Charles Chaplin who ran a private art studio for women. Gonzalès was a talented and serious student. Eventually she rented her own studio in the Rue Bréda and under Chaplin’s guidance made figure compositions and landscapes, exhibiting three pieces at the Salon of 1870 as his student.  That year she was also the subject of a fourth painting, the portrait by Manet. In 1869 she met Manet, and began working with him as well, as his student and also, as we have seen, modelling for him on occasion. She is considered Manet's only "official" student. 

Her career rapidly gained momentum, and her work began attracting serious attention from a number of critics. In 1879, Gonzalès married the highly respected graphic artist Henri Guérard (1846-1897.) She continued to paint after her marriage, frequently using her sister Jeanne and her husband as models. However, after three and half years of marriage Gonzalès gave birth to a son, developed childbirth complications and died.  (It is frequently noted, for no reason that I can fathom except the odd random chance of it, that she passed away only a few days after her teacher Manet.) In1885 a retrospective of her work, displaying over eighty pieces, was held at the Salons de La Vie Moderne. Gonzalès' sister Jeanne, who was very close with her older sister and had modelled for her frequently, also became a professional artist. She married her sister's widowed husband in 1888, and her name crops up in later auction records as Jeanne Guérard-Gonzalès (1852-1924.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bella Nella

Nella Marchesini "Self Portrait with Hat" 1925 location unknown

Nella Marchesini (1901-1953) was an Italian painter who spent most of her life in and around Turin, in the Piedmont region. The city of Turin is culturally rich and diverse, known for its numerous art galleries, museums, opera houses, theatres and other attractions.

Nella Marchesini "The Family - or, with the Support of Parents" 1930   location unknown
Marchesini was brought up in a close-knit intellectual family and with her siblings was very happily home-schooled in a variety of subjects. In 1920 she began studying with the Turin painter Felice Casorati and began shortly after that to be identified with the Scuolo di Casorati with whom she exhibited on many occasions and with whom she is primarily grouped as an artist. This painting "...with the Support of Parents" depicts Marchesini at the easel with her father and mother in attendance. This piece was exhibited at the Venice Bienniale in 1930.

Marchesini married painter Ugo Malvano in 1930. Malvano was from a Jewish family and with the rise of fascism in Italy in the 1930's the artist couple's life became more and more harassed and circumscribed by the racial laws, which were hostile to Jews. The couple retreated from the city into the wilder, hilly, countryside around Turin to escape the day-to-day oppression as best they could. During this period Marchesini worked on small paintings, mainly landscapes, and also focused more on her writing, both prose and poetry. Malvano died in 1952. Marchesini spent a good deal of energy organizing a large retrospective of his work. Her health began to deteriorate and she died the following year at age 52. She was all but forgotten in the annals of art history but there has been a rediscovery of her work in recent decades.
Nella Marchesini Painting in the Mountains, Piedmont, Italy

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wall Painting

David Zukas  "Kulungugu House Painters 2"   
David Zukas (b. 1970) is a contemporary artist based in New York. He painted this scene from a photograph he took when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. Zukas comments, "Only women are allowed to paint the traditional designs on the mud brick houses in the north of Ghana... they made an exception in my case and I got the privilege of painting a portion. As with all African art it is beautiful but [wall painting] is also utilitarian because the cow dung/mud mixture being applied protects the structure from the harsh rains."

Zukas currently lives on Staten Island, in New York City, but has traveled extensively throughout Africa and the Caribbean. He has spent more than a decade exploring and studying the regions of this world most affected by the African Diaspora, from its origins in West Africa to final destinations in the Americas such as Haiti. The people of Africa are a predominant theme in the artist's work. Zukas' website can be seen here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bells and Grants

Vanessa Bell "Frederick and Jessie Etchells Painting"  1912  The Tate Gallery

Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) was an English artist descended from an eccentric but intellectually distinguished family. Her father was Leslie Stephen, a famous writer and mountain-climber, and her sister was the writer Virginia Woolf. Both sisters were tutored extensively at home, although Bell did take some classes at Sir Arthur Cope's private art school and at the Royal Academy in London. Famous in her youth for her striking beauty, Bell married art critic Clive Bell in 1907, with whom she had two sons.  The Bells and Woolfs maintained homes in the Sussex countryside as well as their homes in London. Charleston House, the farmhouse which Bell rented from 1916 onwards, became the country meeting place for the painters, writers and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group.

Jessie Etchells (1892-1933) and her brother Frederick Etchells (1886-1973) came for a visit to Asheham House, Virginia Woolf's weekend house near Charleston, in the summer of 1912. Bell found Jessie agreeable, but did not take to Frederick, although none of this emotional strain shows in the painting.  This piece exhibits the deliberate lack of detail that is characteristic of Bell's work in this period.

Duncan Grant "Vanessa Bell Painting"  1915
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The artist and designer Duncan Grant (1885-1978) was also a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Despite his openly declared homosexuality, he and Bell developed a domestic partnership. The couple had a daughter together in 1918 and lived and worked together intermittently for the rest of their lives.

Duncan Grant "Vanessa Bell Painting at La Souco"  1960 Charleston House
This is one of the last paintings of Bell, by Grant. It was painted at "La Souco" a villa owned by friends in Cap Martin, France. Bell died the following year at age eighty-one.

~Many thanks to John Philip Hagen for sending me each of these three images~

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Public Service and Paintbrushes

Sarah Cecilia Harrison "Self-Portrait" 1889  Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

Sarah Cecilia Harrison (1863–1941) was an Irish artist who studied at the Slade School of Art under Alphonse LeGros. Upon graduating from that institution she traveled for some time on the European continent to further her art education, as was common in those days. In 1889 she returned to Ireland and very soon established herself as one of that country's foremost portrait painters. She was an honorary member of the Royal Ulster Academy of Fine Arts, which at first seems a little mysterious as she lived in Dublin, the seat of the Royal Hibernian Academy. However, the RUAFA was founded by both male and female artists, whereas the RHA was less welcoming of women artists as members during Harrison's lifetime. She did however submit work to the annual exhibitions at the RHA as well as to the Royal Academy in London. Although she used her full name professionally, she was known to her friends and family as Cecilia.

An interesting side to the artist was her work in politics and social reform. She was the first woman to be elected to the Dublin City Council, in 1912. She was well-known for her efforts in the fields of Poor Relief and Women's Rights. She was also involved with Hugh Lane's project to establish a museum of modern art in Dublin, which did in fact come to fruition. The Dublin Municipal Gallery was founded in 1908, and is now known as Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane or just, affectionately, as "The Hugh Lane."

"...Sarah Celia Harrison, a pupil of Alphonse Legros and a disciple of John Butler Yeats, produced portraits that, at their best, have the quality of statements in distinguished prose about her subjects. Sometimes, where the subject did not interest her, even her meticulously painstaking methods fail to satisfy, but for the most part her work has one of the essential qualities of true portraiture, it is scrupulously, fastidiously, honest, which means that it has lasting value as human documentation."
~Thomas McGreevy, Fifty Years of Irish Painting: 1900-1950

Sarah Cecilia Harrison "Self-Portrait" 1900 Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
It is interesting to note the similarities between these two self-portraits. Although the date of this second one would have the paintings span eleven years, the artist looks remarkably similar in both pieces, even wearing the same shirt, hairstyle and slightly opened mouth expression.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Jennifer Baker  "Self-Portrait"  2011
Jennifer Baker is a painter and sculptor based in the Philadelphia area. She has degrees from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of the Arts and also took classes at the Art Student's league in NYC. One of the artists she found most influential as a student was Marshall Glasier.

Baker has received numerous awards for her work, including a Leeway Foundation Art & Change grant and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. She was also a finalist for a Pew Foundation Fellowship in the Arts. She has shown her work recently at  Projects Gallery in Philadelphia and at Art 101 in Brooklyn, NY. In 2011 Baker was the subject of a short film by John Thornton.  The artist's website can be seen here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Gratitude of Frida

Frida Kahlo "Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill"  1951  Private Collection

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is one of Mexico's most well-known artists. She did not start out intending to be an artist. A survivor of childhood polio, she developed an interest in medicine, and when she was old enough to start college she enrolled in a pre-med program. But at age eighteen she was severely injured in a terrible bus accident. She was over a year in recovery and during her convalescence, as a way of diverting herself, she began to paint. Despite her complete lack of artistic training, her work instantly merited interest from the intellectual and artistic circles of Mexico City. At age twenty-two she married the muralist Diego Rivera, whom she had met as a schoolgirl, and who was twenty years her senior. Kahlo once said: "I suffered two grave accidents in my life…One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego."

Kahlo never fully recovered physically from the bus accident.She endured more than thirty operations over the course of her lifetime. In 1951 she became gravely ill and Dr. Juan Farill performed a series of seven operations on Kahlo's spine. She remained in the hospital in Mexico City for nine months. In November of that year Frida was finally well enough to paint. Her first painting was this self-portrait which she dedicated to Dr. Farill. This painting (her last signed self-portrait)  is designed in the manner of a Mexican retablo, or devotional painting, with the doctor  in the place of the holy saint, and herself in the place of the saved and grateful petitioner. Kahlo felt enormous gratitude to her doctor, noting in her diary "Dr. Farill saved me."

Gisèle Freund "Dr. Farill and Frida with the Painting"  1951