Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Popular Jean-Francois Millet Etchings

Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75) was a French artist born and raised in a Normandy farm family. He was educated in Latin and became familiar with modern-day writers, under the guidance of the two village priests, before moving to Cherbourg at the age of 19 to study under Paul Dumouchel, a local portrait painter. Within two years, Millet became a full-time student of artist, Lucien-Théophile Langlois, who was a one-time student of Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, a well-known French Neoclassical painter.

By 1837 Millet moved to Paris where he studied under Paul Delaroche, thanks to the financial support he received from Langlois. His first submission to the Paris Salon, in 1839, was rejected, and his financial scholarship was subsequently cut off. The Salon later accepted his first painting, a portrait, the following year. At this time, Millet returned to Cherbourg and began his career as a promising portrait painter.

Between the years of 1830-1870, a substantial group of like-minded artists began painting in and around the Fontainebleau Forest, located some 60 km southeast of Paris. Many settled in the village of Barbizon and were responsible for creating what became known as the Barbizon School. Leaders of the school included Jean-Francois Millet, Charles Daubigny and Theodore Rousseau. Arising during the Romantic Movement, Barbizon artists leaned more toward Realism, causing them to leave behind the formalism so prevalent at the time, instead making nature and country landscapes the central themes of their works. Millet went on to include figures in his landscapes and is best known for his many pieces depicting rural themes of peasant farmers in the course of their daily activities.

Although rejected by the Paris Salon several times and often ridiculed by critics and the public alike, Millet was contracted to produce many works for both the government and for private benefactors. There is no question that he influenced and encouraged such artists as Boudin, Monet and Pissarro, as well as many painters who came to live and work in the village of Barbizon - where Millet eventually died and was laid to rest.

Some Millet Classics

Here at Affordable Art 101, we've put together a great selection of fine etchings made after Millet paintings. Included are two examples of "La cueillette des Haricots," etched by Edmond Hédouin and published in 1875. Example number one, the rarer of the two, is printed on japon paper and has been tipped by the publisher onto a support sheet of Bristol board.

The second example of "La cueillette des Haricots," from the final published edition, is printed on watermarked laid paper. Both etchings measure 8" X 6.5".

Two pieces, etched after figurative paintings made by Millet, are both entitled "Femme Couchee," which translates from the French as “Woman Reclining”. The first is etched by Frenchman, Frédéric Auguste La Guillermie and published in 1873 in Paris. It’s on cream laid paper with the plate measuring 6" X 5". It features a platemark and is plate-signed.

The second "Femme Couchee" etching was made by Charles Courtry and also published in Paris in 1873. The plate measures 4 1/2" X 6 3/8" and is printed on cream laid paper. It's in good condition, featuring good margins and a platemark.

Abstract Expressionism Movement & Prints Reviewed

Although the term "Abstract Expressionism" is believed to have been first used in a 1919 issue of the German magazine, Der Sturm, and later used in 1926 by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. to describe the works of Wassily Kandinsky, the actual Abstract Expressionism Art Movement is generally accepted as beginning in 1946, just after the end of World War II. Barr, an influential art historian of the day and first director of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, witnessed Abstract Expressionism as it became the first American Art Movement to attain genuine international acclaim. Robert Coates, American writer and long-time art critic for The New Yorker magazine, officially coined the phrase in 1946 when referring to works of Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning.

Abstract Expressionism, centered on a number of artists with a loose affiliation working in New York City, is sometimes called the New York School and, alternatively, Action Painting or Abstract Kinetic Art. It resisted being defined as a specific style, breaking away from previous European painting traditions. As a result, and for the first time ever, the primary focus of the international art world transferred from Paris to New York.

Works created within this movement were known for their large-scale, monumental size, where spontaneity and improvisation were most important and imagery was abstractly applied - even when based upon visual reality. The idea was to convey strong, emotional and highly expressive content. Canvasses were sometimes removed from the easel, placed on the floor and painted on quickly and forcefully. Sometimes paint was simply dripped or thrown at the canvas, as a means of showing strong feelings and emotions. It was believed that this type of painting would release an artist's inner creativity and unconscious mind.

Joan Miro (1893-1983), a Catalan artist who enjoyed a long, fruitful career, was quite active during the Abstract Expressionism Movement. After dabbling in the 1920s with early surrealism and as one of the first artists to experiment with automatic drawing, he had already experimented with the expression of the artist's subconscious mind – which later became a common method in later Abstract Expressionism.

Two of Miro's original pochoir stencil prints, both from 1947, can be found here – "Women and Birds before the Moon" (in five colors) and "Woman and Birds in the Night" (in four colors). Both are printed on cream wove paper and are authenticated by the publisher's inscription, located on the reverse side of the sheet.

Another wonderful example of Abstract Expressionism is the 1958 print "Thirteen Standing Figures" by Henry Moore. This original color lithograph is on handmade wove paper and bears Moore's official watermark.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marc Chagall: The Quintessential Jewish Artist of the 20th Century

Chagall original lithograph "L'Inspire" Inspiration
Starting with 1907's "Young Woman on a Sofa (Mariaska)" and concluding with 1983's "Sun in the sky of Saint-Paul" (Soleil dans le ciel de Saint-Paul), Marc Chagall (1887-1985) had an incredibly long and productive artistic career. Born Moishe Segal (or Shagal) in the town of Liozna near Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus), Marc Z. Chagall was raised a Russian Hasidic Jew at a time when Jews were considered second-class citizens in the Russian Empire. He spent much of his life emigrating from country to country to avoid persecution.

Traveling to Paris at age 23, where he spent the next four years, he became totally enamored by the country and French artists. He went back to Russia in 1914, where he'd planned a brief visit only, but got sidetracked by closed borders during WWI and then by the 1917 Revolution. He became one of Russia's most distinguished artists, alternately called an avant-garde modernist, and later the "quintessential Jewish artist" of the 20th Century. Chagall worked in many artistic disciplines, including: painting, illustrations, stage scenery and sets, stained glass, fine art prints, tapestries, and ceramics. During his long career he produced more than 10,000 works of art. Here's a brief snapshot of four of them.

"Printemps" (Spring) is a 1938 color lithograph published in Paris in Number 3, Volume 1 of Verve, the deluxe art revue. It was published by Tériade and printed by Mourlot in approximately 2000 unsigned copies. Chagall frequently featured musical instruments in his works and often worked music into his subject matter. He was also known for creating artwork for musical venues, such as the ceilings in the Paris Opera House and also backdrop paintings found in the Lincoln Center. This whimsical lithograph of a violin-playing goat with a girl sitting on his shoulder measures 14" X 10.25".

"Pliouchkin looking for his Papers" is an original etching with drypoint. It has full margins on a sheet measuring 11" X 15". The actual plate size is 8-3/8" X 10-7/8". This is a  very nice impression showing plate tone and is in fine condition. It's printed on J. Perrigo watermarked wove paper. This is an example of Chagall's earliest etchings, part of the "Dead Souls" collection initially executed/printed between 1923-1927 and then stored in the warehouse of Ambroise Vollard, where they stayed hidden after Vollard's untimely death in a car accident and Chagall's escape from German-occupied France to America. Tériade finally published this etching in 1948.

"Eve incurs God's Displeasure" an original color lithograph from Chagall's well-known "Illustrations for The Bible," shows Eve in The Garden, naked and appearing guilty as the result of her sin. It was printed by Mourlot and published by Tériade in 1956 for a special issue of Verve Magazine dedicated to the artist's Bible themes. This issue of Verve contained copies of 18 full-color and 12 black-and-white lithographs. This 14" X 10.25" sheet is one of 6500 unsigned copies. The subject matter is a reference to Genesis 3:16.

"L'Inspire" (Inspiration) an original Chagall color lithograph on wove paper, was pulled by Mourlot in 1963 Paris and published in the Chagall Lithographe II catalogue raisonné. L'Inspire was one of twelve original Chagall lithographs specially created for that volume. The sheet measures 12.5" X 9.5" and is not signed. Actual image area size is 8.75" X 11.75". This lithograph was executed the same year that Chagall was commissioned to paint (as a gift) the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. They're both childlike in their simplicity, rich in color, and full of dream-images from the artist's subconscious.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Featured Works of the Barbizon School Movement

Roughly, between the years 1830-1870, a group of French painters gathered near the Forest of Fontainebleau, located 60 KM southeast of Paris in a village named Barbizon. This was during what's called the Romantic Art Period, which reached its peak between 1800-1850. In 1824, English artist John Constable (1776-1837) had several of his works exhibited at the annual Salon de Paris. Natural subjects in the form of landscapes were the focus of these paintings and some of the younger artists of the time were greatly influenced by the idea of abandoning the formalism that was currently in vogue, using nature for direct inspiration rather than as just a backdrop to a specific dramatic event.

During the Revolutions of 1848, in which thousands were killed in Paris during the uprisings, many artists left the city and gathered in Barbizon where the major themes of their paintings became the French landscape, particularly scenes around Barbizon, including the Forest of Fontainebleau. This group of nature-painting artists became known as the Barbizon School and included Theodore Rousseau, Jean-Batiste Corot, Jean-Francois Millet and Charles-Francois Daubigny. During the 1860s, many of the younger artists studying in Paris were attracted by Barbizon School's influence and traveled there to paint landscapes of the local area, particularly Fontainebleau Forest. These artists, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley were instrumental in developing Impressionism and painting in the style known as "plein air."

Four Excellent Examples of Barbizon School Art

Clair de Lune a Valmondois by Charles-Francois Daubigny

Famous not only for his paintings but also his etchings, Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-1878) gave us "Clair de lune a Valmondois" (Moonlight in Valmondois) in 1877, produced just two months before his death on February 19, 1878. This original etching was used as an illustration for Daubigny's obituary and later published by The Gazette des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was printed by A. Cadart.

Born the son and nephew of well-known French painters and taught to paint in the traditional style, Daubigny made a significant change in 1843 when he relocated to Barbizon and began using nature as his primary subject while working out in the open air. He produced a total of more than 150 artworks during his career.

Paysage by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), although famous as a Romantic painter and etcher associated with the Barbizon School, had a great number of etchings produced by other artists after his own previously completed works. These were done both during his lifetime and also after his death, as in the case of this etching done by Robert Swain Gifford in 1880. Gifford (1840-1905) was an American landscape artist influenced by the French Barbizon School. This etching on cream laid paper is entitled "Paysage," which translates from French as "Landscape." Corot was well known for his many paintings produced outside in the open air with landscapes as the primary subject.

La Recolte du Sarrasin by Jean-Francois Millet

The Jean-Francois Millet painting, "La Recolte du Sarrasin," which translates from French as "The Buckwheat Harvest," was an oil on canvas executed sometime between 1868-1874. The exact year is unknown. This etching, made by French artist Charles Courtry (1846-1897), was published in 1875 in Paris by The Gazette des Beaux-Arts, the leading French publisher of etchings at the time. The piece was printed by A. Salmon on laid paper, unsigned, and measures 5.5" X 7". Courtry's first etching is believed to have been published in Paris in 1868. He followed this with approximately 500 other etchings, most of which were interpretations of the works of others.

Le Givre by Theodore Rousseau

Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867), one of the leaders of the French Barbizon School, painted with a naturalistic style for which the Barbizon School was known. This etching, called "Le Givre," meaning "The Frost," was executed by H. Lefort after the Rousseau painting. It was published in 1890, 23 years after Rousseau's death, in the village of Barbizon and was printed in a limited edition of 200 on parchment style paper.

Like many Romantic artists of the mid-1800s, Rousseau had difficulty exhibiting his works in the annual Salon de Paris after becoming a "naturalist" artist in 1835, and his work was basically "exiled" until 1849, years after some of his best works were produced.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tips for Displaying Art

Beauty, as we know, is in the eye of the beholder. This includes not only the artwork we collect but also the way we choose to display those works. The process of collecting art is done through a variety of motivations, each unique to us as collectors, and the rewards may be intellectual, emotional, social or based on investment for potential financial gain. Whatever your reasons for acquiring and building a collection of artwork, many collectors agree that a primary precursor to any art purchase should be that you love what you buy.

When you surround yourself with art that brings you pleasure on a day-to-day basis you're providing yourself the emotional reward that comes with simply feeling good. It doesn't matter whether the pieces you choose are expensive or expected to increase in value if your prime motivation is the way the artwork makes you feel emotionally or intellectually. Part of this process, of course, includes not only the artwork you've chosen but also how it's displayed. Here are a few quick tips to consider.

Pleasure or Profit?

Several recent surveys show that 75%-85% of those who collect art do so for the emotional value, although a small percentage admits to collecting for investment purposes. Interestingly, though, it's not for expected returns but rather for capital protection and diversification. Theoretically, these collectors might just as well lock up their artwork in a vault or other place safe from sunlight, humidity and the adoring eyes of appreciative onlookers. For the rest of us, we want our artwork out where it can be enjoyed and bring pleasure to those experiencing it. Some of the more important elements to consider when displaying wall art include how pieces are organized, what locations are best for which items, how things are framed (or not framed) and how they're grouped together.

If you're staring at a large, blank wall and wondering what's best to put there, your decision could be:

  • A single, bold, large painting or art piece that makes a definite statement and reinforces the décor and color scheme of the room
  • Some type of grouping of smaller pieces arranged, perhaps, in a grid pattern of identically sized and framed items such as black and white etchings

Groupings can also consist of different sized pieces, each with a unique frame, and clustered together with a small but equal distance between each piece. The wall above your sofa or fireplace, for example, will often have a more pleasing appearance with a tasteful cluster of smaller pieces on one part of the wall, rather than scattered or spaced out along the entire wall. You may also opt for the idea of building a gallery over time on one large wall. In this case, start with a center cluster that you can add to over time without the need to take pieces down, patch the holes, and start over again.

One way to choose which display works best is to make paper templates you can tape to the wall or spread your artwork out on the floor and shuffle it about until you achieve the look you want.

Wall art should be displayed at the correct height so that it's easy to view. Typically, this would mean the centerline is about 5'7" above the floor in most rooms, although artwork displayed in the dining room may be lowered to easily be viewed from a seated position.

Do you have a preferred method for displaying your art? Let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Timeline of Upcoming Art Exhibits

Taking the opportunity to attend an art exhibit at a nearby museum or gallery is a great idea. Whether as a special weekend outing or part of your itinerary while on vacation, spending time appreciating art, either alone, with friends or family, is a worthwhile endeavor that can provide benefits beyond mere entertainment. A trip to an art exhibit provides education, inspiration, an opportunity to foster a feeling of community among like-minded individuals or a chance to spend quality time with family members. Chances are there's a worthwhile exhibit close enough to easily enjoy. Here are a few to consider.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in N.Y. City has more art exhibits than any other museum in the world. One of their current offerings is an exhibition running through September 2015, featuring works of American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). The artist's 1982 Wall Drawing (#370), entitled Ten Geometric Figures, has been reproduced on a wall in Gallery 399. It will remain there for approximately 14 months, at which time it will be painted over. This was normal for LeWitt wall paintings, which were usually produced for a limited duration and typically scheduled for destruction.

A wonderful exhibit of prints and drawings from Mexico and southern Europe produced during the past 450 years is also being featured in Gallery 690 from July 15 through September 29, 2014. A special collection of prints and drawings by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), who was a prolific printmaker during his long career, demonstrates the wide variety of printing techniques explored by the artist.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. features an ongoing exhibit of "Master Drawings" from the Armand Hammer Collection, consisting of more than 50 pieces from some of the greatest draftsmen of the past 500 years, from 1470 through 1940. Featured artists include da Vinci, Raphael, Van Gogh, Picasso and many more covering a wide range of styles, techniques and studies.

While at the National Gallery, you may be interested in viewing the ongoing Marc Chagall mosaic entitled "Orphée," which is located in the Sculpture Garden. A first-time exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh's celebrated portrait series depicting postman Joseph Roulin is also running between June 8 and September 7, 2014 on the main floor of the West Building in Gallery 83. On loan from the Dutch museum Kröller-Müller, these portraits will hang alongside eight other Van Gogh paintings including "Roulin's Baby," the 1888 portrait of Marcelle, the Postman's infant daughter.

If you're familiar with London, perhaps you're already aware of the great number of quality art museums and galleries located in the city, many of which are available to visitors for no admission fee. Tate Modern, a National Museum of contemporary and modern art located Bankside on the Thames River, is hosting a one-of-a-kind exhibit from April 17 – September 7, 2014 featuring the innovative, colorful cut-outs produced by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) near the end of his career. More than 120 pieces are on display, most of which were produced between 1947 and 1953 when the artist's ill health made the physical activity of painting impossible. One of the most impressive is the 1953 piece entitled "Large Composition with Masks," a 10+ meter long cutout currently on loan from Washington's National Gallery of Art.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is currently closed for expansive reconstruction but they've moved many of their exhibits to other locations within the area for continued viewing. Henri Matisse fans will be pleased to know that a wonderful exhibition of his works is on display up until September 7, 2014 at the Legion of Honor Museum located at 100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121. The exhibit features a total of 23 of the artist's drawings, paintings and bronzes from SFMOFA, plus four others from the Matisse collection belonging to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The de Young Museum, which is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, has a great exhibit going on until October 12, 2014 called Modernism from the National Gallery of Art. Featuring nearly 50 artworks from the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, famous post-war modern and contemporary artists represented include Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and more.

The Musée de l'Orangerie, home of eight of Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," is located in a corner of the Tuileries Garden in Paris. The museum also houses works by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Modigliani, Renoir, Henri Rousseau and others. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if you are able to be at the museum on July 29, August 12 or 26, 2014, at 11 a.m., you can attend an English-language workshop called "In Monet's Footsteps: From Garden to Canvas." The activities start in the garden, move to the display rooms housing Monet's Waterlilies, and end at the workshop where you'll paint your own canvas.

A Review of Impressionist Art

The impressionist art movement emerged during a time when all of Paris was undergoing sweeping change. Newly appointed emperor Napoleon III was implementing drastic changes throughout the city including the creation of grand boulevards, parks and squares as well as the modernization of France’s banking system. The approved art style during this time was quite different though. Works of art were only painted indoors and were in the form of lifelike, finished paintings that depicted religious and historical subjects. These toned-down works were judged at an annual art show called the Salon de Paris, which was controlled by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a dominating force at the time. In the end, this style did not reflect the mood of some talented, young painters living in the city of Paris at the time.

This new wave of artists were dubbed "Impressionists" after an 1872 satirical review of Claude Monet's "Impression, soleil levant." Other artists in the group included Renoir, Sisley, Manet, Morisot, Cézanne, Pissaro and Guillaumin. The young artists broke many of the established rules, bringing their canvases outside to paint "en plein air" and concentrating on free brush strokes of vivid colors rather than focusing on contours and lines, emulating earlier examples provided by artists such as J.M.W. Turner and Eugène Delacroix. Works submitted to the annual Salon jury were often rejected. Between 1874-1886, the Impressionists held eight of their own exhibitions with the main commonalities between the artists being rebellion and independence. Similarities in technique included brushstrokes that were loose and spontaneously applied and a natural, modern interpretation of color and its relationship to sunlight.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), one of the founding members of the Impressionist Movement, was not only a prolific painter who once created as many as 15 paintings in little more than a month, but was also personally responsible for a significant addition to the artistic gene pool. He fathered actor Pierre, filmmaker Jean, and artist Claude, seen here as an infant in the 1904 lithograph called "Claude Renoir, Fils de l'Artiste, la Tête Baisbée." This translates to "The Artist's Son, Looking Downwards." The child was born in 1901 when Renoir was 60 years old and nearly immobile because of severe rheumatoid arthritis suffered from the age of 51.

This original lithograph was printed and published in Paris in 1919. The shifting bands of shadow and light on the child's face suggest the piece was done outside, perhaps under a shade tree, in the "en plein air" style favored by many Impressionists.

Édouard Manet (1832-1883), one of the original rebellious artists known as the Impressionists, was instrumental in transitioning 19th century French artists from Realism toward Impressionism. Two of his most famous paintings, "Olympia" and "The Luncheon on the Grass," both from 1863, caused shock, hostility, astonishment and great controversy within the established art world and, as such, became rallying points for the young Impressionist artists then striving to break with tradition.

This print of an original 1861 etching in brown on woven paper, entitled "Le Gamin," was one of several pieces Manet composed of boys with dogs, including etchings, drawings and paintings. He was well known for his compositions featuring children.

Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), one of the original young realists responsible for the Impressionist Movement, was both well-connected and well-respected by other French artists of her time. She began exhibiting at the prestigious Salon de Paris in 1864 and continued to do so for ten years. She then joined other Impressionists in personally exhibiting works that had been rejected by the Salon. Morisot was one of the first in her group to embrace "open air" painting, which she shared with others, including her brother-in-law Édouard Manet. This original etching and drypoint from 1887 is of Morisot's daughter, Julie Manet, published in 1910. As a drypoint, it was drawn on copper with a sharp needle, leaving burrs in the furrows, producing soft, velvety-looking lines.

If both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse considered Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) "the father of us all," it was because of his positioning as a bridge between the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, including the Cubists. Paul Cézanne created many, many self-portraits during his lifetime and, as an artist, was prodigious. He created more than a thousand pieces during his career. This lithograph print, after the original 1898 lithograph, is unique in that most of Cézanne's self-portraits were done in oil on canvas. This print depicts the artist at about age 60.