Art History:   Grade 4 Lesson 1

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  ART AS IT CHANGES - Famous Patrons and Painters



  1. June,1412-16 and later embellishments, from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, (206 leaf book of illuminated manuscripts 8 7/8"x5 3/8"), Musee Conde, Chantilly, France. Reproduction print.

    Illuminated manuscripts are part of the tradition of the Middle Ages. Tress Riches Heures was done by the monastic bothers from Limbourg, France. The Duc du Berry was a fantastic collector, putting his own interests above that of his kingdom. His peasants and towns were taxed heavily to greater enhance and display his own prestige. He owned 17 castles and two homes in Paris. In all he commissioned 20 Book of Hours (prayer books)) but the Tres Riches Heures is one of the most exquisite. His pleasure was to see  his favorite scenes and portraits illustrated. The scenes include delicate multiple-towered cities and castles; rural occupations; knights and ladies in the garden or banquet hall, clad in elegant clothes. The Duke usually appears robed in pure sky blue, which pigment was so precious that two pots of it were listed in an inventory of Berry's treasures.


  2. Wedding Dance in the Open Air, 1566, Pieter Brueghel, Dutch (1525-1569),  , The Delaporte Collection, Brussels, Belgium. Reproduction print.

    Pieter Brueghel was one of the greatest painters from the Netherlands. In 1551 he journeyed to Italy and was deeply impressed with the art of the High Renaissance and the dynamic landscape of Italy. His earliest works reveal in their symbolic content the influence of Bosch, and allegories appear throughout Brueghel's work. Brueghel did not merely comment on the vices of the common man; he glorified the simple life of the country. He was among the first to paint peasants at play. With so many people together, how does he avoid confusion? By carefully spacing the colors and groups and by leaving out shadows and confusing details, he enables us to enjoy what each wedding guest is doing.

    You can see the merriment of a simple peasant wedding in this painting, and you can almost hear the noise as the whole village celebrates the happy event.

    This picture is fun to look at because the longer you look, the more you notice. It is almost a puzzle. How many people can you count? Can you find the bride and the bridegroom? The bride is the long-haired woman just tot he left of center. She is the only woman not wearing a head covering. The man to her left is her new husband.

    The artist painted this picture as though he was standing on a ladder, so we can see the whole crowd. If Brueghel had painted it from a ground level viewpoint we would only see the people in front.

    Brueghel painted many pictures of peasant life. These paintings may not seem unusual today but were startling when they were new more than 400 years ago. Then, life was difficult and short. most art was created for churches or rich patrons. Church leaders wanted religious subjects and the wealthy were not interested in paintings of peasants. But Brueghel appreciated the simple pleasures that the peasants sometimes enjoyed, and he captured those moments on canvas.

    Little is know about Brueghal's life. A biographer writing several years after his death wrote that Brueghel sometimes dressed as a peasant so that he could study village life without being noticed. Some art experts believe that he appears in The Wedding Dance as the man standing by himself on the right, near the musicians.

    See also:          The Wedding Dance in the Open Air (a poem) 

  3. The Mass at Dordrecht, 1607, Aelbert Cuyp, Dutch (1620-1691), oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Reproduction print.

    Aelbert Cuyp was a Dutch landscape painter born in Dordrecht, the son of a painter who taught him. Cuyp is known for his brasd sweeping landscapes dominated by the sea, as is life in Holland. Figures of men and domestic animals are prominent in his landscapes bathed in a poetic golden light which seems to have been influenced by Claude Lorrain of France.

  4. The (Sampling officials)Syndics of the Cloth Guild, 1662, Rembrandt Hermansz Van Rijn, Dutch (1606-1669),  oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Reproduction print.
  5. Rembrandt was such a brilliant and prolific artist that his engravings and paintings have influenced the course of western art. Born in Leyden, he worked with Pieter Lastman until he settled, at the age of 25, in Amsterdam. There he met and married Saskia van Uylenborch, a young heiress, who bore him a son, Titus. Both wife and son were the subjects of many beautiful portraits. Saskia died eight years later and Rembrandt, who had grown accustomed to living extravagantly soon went bankrupt. Henrikje Stoffels came as housekeeper and nurse to live with Rembrandt for the rest of his arduous impoverished life. During the later years, Rembrandt's work changed from the richly-colored portraits of prosperous burghers of his early period to sober, deeply-felt works.

    In this picture, the men are just sitting down to a meeting. Included are the rich tablecloth and bag of gold that symbolize their skill and success. light from an unknown source, perhaps and open door or window, strikes one side of each man's face. Rembrandt was an expert in the study of light and shadow. He discovered the power of light to illuminate character; to tell us not only what a man looks like but also what he is like. We can guess how he acts and feels.

    Rembrandt loved to explore the Jewish ghetto of Amsterdam and found subjects for his painting there.


  6. Dutch Masters and Cigars III, 1964, Larry Rivers, American (1923-2002), oil and collage on canvas, The Larry N. Abrams Family Collection. Reproduction print.

    Larry Rivers was born in New York City where he studied music at teh Julliard School before beginning to paint. In 1947 he worked in Hans Hofman's studio and later held his first one-man show. Rivers painted in a realistic style, chosing everyday subjects from American life. He has been identified with the Pop Art movement and his original emperiments with different media, such as plastic, metal and neon lights, have contributed greatly to contemporary American art. In addition to receiving awards from the Corcoran gallaery of Art, the Newport Arts Festival and Spoleto, Rivers has had many one-man shows in new York, Paris and London, as well as having taken part in exhibitions all over the world.

    The makers of Dutch Masters Cigars used a reproduction of Syndics of the Cloth Guild on the inside of their cigar boxes and also in their advertising. In an effort to open up the avenue of communication between art and everyday reality, Larry Rivers painted boxes of cigars roughly copying Rembrandt's masterpieces. In Dutch Masters and Cigard III the carefully placed light and dark tones give rythm to the canvas.


  7. The Love Letter, 1669-1670, Jan Vermeer, Dutch (1632-1675), oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Reproduction print.



    Jan Vermeer was born in Delft where he lived and worked until his death at age forty-three. Little is known of his life or how his art developed but some of his works show the influence of Carel Fabritues, the most brilliant of Rembrandt's pupils. As most of the Dutch artists, he paints genre scenes; single figures, usually women, engage in simple everyday work; when there are two figures, they do no more than exchange glances. Rectangles predominate, carefully aligned, and the entire painting is a mosaic of colored surfaces catching the intense light filtering in from the left.

    The instrument in the painting is a lute - an instrument of the guitar class and of Oriental origin, formerly popular but now out of fashion. It has generally a pear-shaped back, like a mandolin, and cat gut strings arranged in pairs tuned in unison, with fretting at intervals of a semitone.

  8. Tape of bagpipes and a lute

  9. The Harvesters,  1565, Andrea del Verrocchio, Italian ( c.1525-1669), oil on wood, The Metropilitan, NY. Reproduction print.


  10. Cigar Box 


    During the Renaissance the two great centers of European commerce and culture were Italy's City States and the Netherlands, particularly Flanders. The last lesson concentrated on the Renaissance inspired by the Southern influence of perfect ideal forms and a perspective of geometric exactitude. Reflecting a different climate and culture, but equally important were the developments of art in the North centered in Flanders.

    Instead of developing from the great spaciousness of frescoes, the art of Flanders was inspired by the detail of miniatures in the illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Hours. Even though the Flemish artists were equally interested in all the new learning of the Renaissance, their harsher life taught them that truths could be conveyed by a pale, awkward figure as well as a gloriously graceful one. They saw man as a small part of nature who often fell far short of the ideal. This view inspired the development of landscapes and seascapes as well as a concern for everyday realism.

    Although some great national kings claimed rule by Divine Right over the lands of Europe, and the Dukes of Burgundy laid claim over Flanders, the feudal system was breaking up. Material prosperity of the Flemish cities meant new merchant patrons and a change in the status of the artist. They were still bound by mediaeval craft guild regulations but came to be thought of as privileged individuals who could be inspired and creative. The most desirable merchandise offered for sale in the warehouses on the docks of Antwerp were oil paintings, many of which went to Spain. The number of professional artists multiplied with the demand and led to a corresponding degree of specialization. In portraiture there were painters of the proper family types, of the drinkers in public taverns and of corporation pictures. There were landscapists, seascapists, skyscapists and even those whose specialty was cows.

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