With this lesson we are stepping away from the Renaissance
and its concept of art as a mirror of the World. By
comparing and contrasting landscapes and still life of the
17th to 18th century, we can find other ideas of art
emerging. Paintings could be factual or idealized, romantic
or fantastic. They could be soothing or frightening; a show
of accuracy or a show of emotion.
Still life and landscapes seem to have
flourished in the more democratic country of Holland as
early as the time of Breugel and Rembrandt. the simplicity
of still life composition also found favour with the Dutch,
since quiet arrangements of fruits, flowers, oysters and
ceramics were visible evidence of the good life. A rich
merchant could decorate his home in town with small, quiet
landscapes or seascapes.
Instead of carefully classifying the
schools of painting, you may compare and contrast several
paintings at one time. Some sample questions are:
|Do you think these pictures were
painted outside or are they purely works of imagination,
painted in the studio? (Artists like Boucher often
composed their landscapes like small stage settings in
the studio using small rocks and stones with sprigs of
parsley for trees.) Courbet, on the other hand, sketched
outdoors from nature before finishing the painting in
the studio or he used the camera as an aid. |
|Are the clouds in the sky convincing
and accurate or are they more of a decorating
|Can you tell what month of the year or
hour of the day it is? |
|Why do you think people paint
|Do you remember an outdoor scene that
you might like to paint? How much of the scene would you
have in your picture?|
|Would you paint your scene from memory
or go to the spot and set up your paints?|
|How do you think this scene would look
from a bird's eye view - from an ant's view?|
|Think of sounds and smells in the
- Garden Gaiety, , Jan van Huysum, Dutch
(1682-1749), oil, Reproduction photograph.
|Jan van Huysum was a Dutch artist
primarily known as a flower painter although he also did
landscapes. His father had also been a floral artist. These
paintings are an ornamental display of technical skill. They
do not represent any emotions or make us feel the poetry of
the flowers. They are not even true to nature; even with all
the insects. You would never see all these flowers blooming at
the same time. light colors, lighter backgrounds and openness
of intricate compositions are distinguishing features of 18th
century Dutch floral paintings.
Still Life with Lobster and Jug, ,
Abraham van Beyeren, Dutch (1620/1-1690), oil on canvas, Kunsthaus,
Zurich. Reproduction print.
|Abraham van Beyeren is one of the
finest Dutch painters of still life. At first he was known as
a fish painter and his teacher was probably a fish painter.
The fish in his paintings always seemed to look as though they
were fresh from the sea. He later painted sumptuous banquet
tables laden with silver and gold and Venetian glassware on
Damask, satin or velvet table coverings. Opulence, reality and
material wealth are the true subjects. The realism of nature
is seen in the dusty and translucent grapes, the fuzzy skins
of the peaches, but the light is dramatic to create rounded
forms and deep shadows. Notice the blown drapery to magnify
the impression of grandeur.
Nature Morte, c.1759, Jean
Baptiste Simeon Chardin, French (1699-1779), oil on canvas, private
collection. Reproduction print.
| Jean Chardin was born in
1699 into a bourgeois household; he was the son of a
cabinetmaker. In spite of his later success, he would always
paint this solid, honest class. Even though his subject matter
was not favored, his talent was recognized, and he was
accepted into the Royal Academy to which he even became the
Treasurer. Chardin was inspired by the Flemish and Dutch
masters and wanted to paint precise, un-glorified pictures of
reality - but not too precise. When the flower or fish is
pierced too sharply by the attention of the artist, it becomes
dead like the game which is pierced by the hunter's arrow.
"They have become objects of mental or physical
possession, material for study or food for the table. They are
Nature Morte - The French term for Still life. Chardin
thought of textures and densities. He said "one uses
colors to paint, but one paints with feeling." - not just
technical skill. he always painted from nature. His objects
are not defined by sharp outline but by highlights which bring
near objects forward and shadows that heighten the illusion of
depth. He paid as much attention to design as color. Sometimes
he painted a subject several times, each time more simplified.
He was concerned not with the imitation of objects but with
the poetry of common things and rich pigment.
Sideboard, 1928, Henri Matisse, French
(1869-1954), canvas, Musée d'Arte Moderne, Paris, Reproduction print.
Henri Matisse was the leader of the Fauve Movement and one of
the most creative French artists of the 20th Century. His
early years in Paris were spent working in the studio of
Gustave Moreau and in copying the Old Masters in the Louvre.
The development of his style reflects the influence of
contemporary artistic currents. Finding the Impressionists'
and Pointillists' use of colour limited, Matisse used
brilliant color, arranged and controlled in simple flat areas,
found expression expression in a wide range of subjects; still
life, interior scenes, and portraits. Criticized in France,
Matisse found encouragement in the patronage of Gertrude Stein
and the Russian collectors, Stichonkine and Rocasoff, who
helped gain recognition for his work. Matisse settled in
Nice in 1917 and continued to explore the possibilities of
light and colour, deliberately and eloquently reduced to their
essentials. Examples of his meticulous method are to be seen
in his careful pen sketches with sharp, clean lines. Bedridden
after a serious operation in 1941, Matisse began to experiment
with brightly-painted paper which he cut into imaginative
shapes and arranged in vivacious compositions.
culmination of Matisse's creative activity is visible today in
the Dominican Chapel in Venice, for which he designed
everything from the stained glass windows, the liturgical
objects, and vestments to the tiles on the roof and the cross
in the tower. The total effect of the stark white walls with
black-line drawings opposite the shimmering blue green windows
is one of a radiantly spiritual serenity. Matisse's still life
is included in this lesson as an example of the development of
design with colour. The overall design and the colours are
more important to Matisse than a realistic portrayal of the
Le Moulin, , François Boucher, French
(1703-1770), oil on canvas, Reproduction print.
| Boucher was a stage
designer and master decorator for Louis XV and Madame
Pompadour. He was born in 1703, the son of a mediocre painter
and was apprenticed in 1720 to François Le Moine. he found
success through the Academy in 1734. His paintings were
sensual, naughty, stylish and decorative. The landscapes are
idyllic with flirtatious shepherds and shepherdesses. Actually
the peasants were starving; but in his paintings they are
dresses like nobility. Nothing is made to look natural. The
trees are too leafy; the lighting and grass are made for the
stage. This was a period when plain appearance was thought
vulgar; everyone wore wigs and rouge. The works of Boucher
reflect the informal elegance of polite society which, in its
search for pleasure, turned reality into myth - a myth that
was soon shattered by the French Revolution.
He objected to the natural world because it
was "too green and badly lit."
The Old Mill, , John Constable, English
(1776-1837), oil on canvas and sketch, Reproduction print.
Wivenhoe Park, 1816, John Constable,
English (1776-1837), oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
|John Constable was among the
first painters to paint outdoors. He tried to match oil
colours to nature's by quick studies on paper - then he
finished the painting in the studio. Above all, he loved the
English landscape. he was interested in capturing
unpredictable and fleeting changes of atmosphere. His skies
are dramatically painted to catch the infinitely varied
intensities of light on clear, showery or foggy days - and the
changing reflections of the many coloured sky and passing
clouds on water. Critics often made fun of the whites which he
added to make water look sparkling and to add depth of shadow.
They called it "Constable's Snow". Although his work
was not popular in England, it made an impact internationally.
His landscapes were larger than acceptable. After the death of
his wife, he painted nature more freely with loose rapid
strokes. Now whole finished canvasses looked like his earlier
sketches. He was always striving for the simple truth in
nature. Constable's father was a miller.
Rockets and Blue Lights, 1840, Joseph
Mallord William Turner, English (1775-1851) oil, Clark Art Institute,
Williamstown, MA, Reproduction print.
|Turner was a
contemporary of Constable and is included in this lesson for
comparison. There is a story that Turner once demanded to be
lashed to the spar on a deck of a steamboat during a storm,
just to experience the elements. Theme and style mattered less
than the actual experience of painting itself, which was a
reflection of life's experience and fashion dictated that
landscape painters seek drama in nature. Turner used colour
and light for their own sake rather than a part of a
reflection on the landscape.
Turner was born into a simple family in
London's Covent Garden. At an early age he was admitted to the
Royal Academy where he showed great talent and practical
intelligence. By the time he was 15, the Royal Academy
exhibited his work, and three years later he had his own
studio. The first period of his career was spent painting
watercolours with Thomas Girtin, and doing topographical
drawings with Dr. Munro, resulting in new effects of free
handling and bright colours. Although Turner exhibited his
first oil painting around 1796, his mature style did not
reveal itself until he visited Italy in 1819 and in the years
following. These oils and watercolour sketches, which
emphasize the atmospheric effects of light, are romantic in
style and "incomplete" in appearance. They created
criticism at the time but have since proved, in their
coloristic innovations, to be a revolutionary influence on
modern art, particularly on the development of Impressionism.
These 19th Century artists, called Romantics, developed into
various school of landscape painting, each reflecting a
different aspect of nature's character. For Turner and others,
nature was serene in his small, lyrical scenes. Other
landscapists ignores extremes and defined nature's reality
themselves. Their painting often captured nature's moods, for
example, Caspar David Freidrich's "Tree
and Blue Lights
Exploding in the distance beyond the beach's reflections and
the crashing surf is a white burst of rockets, framed by the
glow of blue lights which signal danger. Two steamers lost
from sight but sending their thick smoke swirling up into the
sky, are being warned of shoals. Rockets and Blue Lights,
like so many other late Turner paintings, deals with the
elemental forces of nature. A storm has passed; waves pound
the shore. Man, insignificant and helpless is here watching as
a quiet group of spectators, one holding a
spyglass. The meaning of this
painting, however, is not conveyed by specific details. When
Turner exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy in 1840,
he entitled it "Rockets with Blue Lights (Close at
Hand) to Warn Steam-Boats of Shoal-Water". Yet the
glowing colors, the suggestive shapes, and the swirling forms
developed around diagonals all tell of excitement and danger
far better than any individual detail. Turner appeals to the
emotions; like all Romantics he had a creative imagination.
Wedding Cake Still Life, 1640, Clara
Peters, Dutch (Flemish) (1594-1657) reproduction print.
|Turner - Biography
(scroll down on this page)|
| Now the Middle class begins
purchasing art. A new genre of still life comes into being,
along with seascapes, landscapes and portraits.
Costly items can be painted into small
still-life. Although the owner might never afford them, the
painting contains and shows them off.
items to note in this still life:
Blue and white porcelain
Rosemary - fidelity
Knife - a traditional wedding gift (note the signature of
the artist here)