Orientalism in Nineteenth-Century Art

The Orient—including present-day Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa—exerted its allure on the Western artist’s imagination centuries prior to the turn of the nineteenth century. Figures in Middle Eastern dress appear in Renaissance and Baroque works by such artists as Bellini, Veronese, and Rembrandt, and the opulent eroticism of harem scenes appealed to the French Rococo aesthetic. Until this point, however, Europeans had minimal contact with the East, usually through trade and intermittent military campaigns. In 1798, a French army led by General Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt and occupied the country until 1801. The European presence in Egypt attracted Western travelers to the Near and Middle East, many of whom captured their impressions in paint or print. In 1809, the French government published the first installment of the twenty-four-volume Description de l’Égypte (1809–22), illustrating the topography, architecture, monuments, natural life, and population of Egypt. The Description de l’Égypte was the most influential of many works that aimed to document the culture of this region, and it had a profound effect on French architecture and decorative arts of the period, as evidenced in the dominance of Egyptian motifs in the Empire style.

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Claude Monet

Claude Monet was a key figure in the Impressionist movement that transformed French painting in the second half of the nineteenth century. Throughout his long career, Monet consistently depicted the landscape and leisure activities of Paris and its environs as well as the Normandy coast. He led the way to twentieth-century modernism by developing a unique style that strove to capture on canvas the very act of perceiving nature.

Raised in Normandy, Monet was introduced to plein-air painting by Eugène Boudin (2003.20.2), known for paintings of the resorts that dotted the region’s Channel coast, and subsequently studied informally with the Dutch landscapist Johan Jongkind (1819–1891). When he was twenty-two, Monet joined the Paris studio of the academic history painter Charles Gleyre. His classmates included Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and other future Impressionists. Monet enjoyed limited success in these early years, with a handful of landscapes, seascapes, and portraits accepted for exhibition at the annual Salons of the 1860s. Yet many of the rejection of his more ambitious works, notably the large-scale Women in the Garden (1866; Musée d’Orsay, Paris), inspired Monet to join with Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Renoir, and others in establishing an independent exhibition in 1874. Impression: Sunrise (1873; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris), one of Monet’s contributions to this exhibition, drew particular scorn for the unfinished appearance of its loose handling and indistinct forms. Yet the artists saw the criticism as a badge of honor, and subsequently called themselves “Impressionists” after the painting’s title, even though the name was first used derisively.

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Arms and Armor in Renaissance Europe

Although arms and armor are most commonly associated with warfare, both were used in other contexts, including hunting, tournaments, and as parade costume.

For warfare, arms and armor must, above all, be practical, affording the utmost protection and functionality without impairing body movement because of excess weight or inflexible material. Even such practical equipment, however, was often decorated, care being taken that the decoration would not impede its function.

Almost all types of weapons have been used in hunting, including bows, crossbows, and firearms, as well as special kinds of swords and spears. In rare instances, armor was worn for hunting bear or wild boar.

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Staatsgalerie Stuttgart Presents First Exhibition Devoted to Hans Holbein in 45 Years

Restaurierung der Bildtafeln zur Ausstellung: Hans Holbein d.Ä.: Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit, 1494-1500, Öl auf Fichtenholz jeweils ca. 89 x 87 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

STUTTGART.- Hans Holbein the Elder: The Grey Passion in its Time opened at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart on 27 November as part of the Große Landesausstellung Baden-Wurttemberg is the first exhibition devoted to the artist in 45 years. At the heart of the exhibition is Holbein’s Grey Passion, a series of twelve panels painted between 1494 and 1500. The artist’s magnum opus is presented in the context of other treatments of the subject, both in painting and in print, by Holbein’s precursors and contemporaries, among them Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien and Matthias Grünewald.
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Robert Adam

Adamwas the most famous of the four sons of the Scottish architect William Adam (1698–1748).

He was brought up in Edinburgh and went to university there (1743–1745). His family circle was that of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, and he was related to the Scottish historian William Robertson and a close friend of David Hume. Though a proud Scot as well as a Scottish member of Parliament for Kinross-shire, he was essentially a man of northern Britain and, as such, part of the mainstream of European thought. His departure for Italy in 1754 was an expression of this intellectual attitude.

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The Louvre Launches an Unprecedented Fundraising Appeal for Cranach’s “The Three Graces”

PARIS— With their strong tradition of state sponsorship of the arts — which dates all the way back to the centralization of political power in the person of Louis XIV — the French are not at all accustomed to relying on the individual donors who play such a crucial role in American and British cultural funding. But in its attempt to purchase Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s 1531 masterpiece “The Three Graces,” the Louvre is one million euros shy of the €4 million ($5.4 million) price tag and has created a Web site and a Facebook page to appeal to French citizens to pick up the tab, encouraging the public to “participate in the acquisition of a masterpiece.”

“The Three Graces” painting has always been in private hands, has, in fact, been owned by members of one French family since 1932, Le Parisien reports. The small work depicts three nude women — seen from the back, the front, and in profile — whose identity is not certain. The fundraising Web site asks, “Are these the three Graces, as the title indicates, or, as some specialists believe, is this an allegorical representation of Charity, Friendship, and Fidelity?” The unusual poses of the three young ladies add to the mystery: the woman in the center for instance sports an unusual flat hat, which is somewhat out of keeping with an allegorical representation, and the woman on the right clasps her raised ankle as if stretching her quadriceps.

The Louvre is eager to bring the painting into its collection, declaring on the Web site that “the work’s astonishing perfection, its extreme rarity, and its remarkable state of preservation allow it to be called a ‘national treasure,’” though it was painted not in France but in Germany. The work’s small size likely indicates that it was commissioned for a patron’s home, and Louvre experts speculate that this allowed Cranach to make the painting more provocative, for the painting emits a “disturbing eroticism,” according to the site, with the black background focusing all attention on the women’s flesh. In a video interview, Vincent Pomarède, head of the museum’s painting department, praises the artist’s extreme skill at depicting nudes, adding that laboratory testing showed that there were no preliminary studies underneath the painting, indicating that it was the work of Cranach the Elder’s hand alone.

While this kind of public fundraising by a museum is a first in France, it happens frequently in Great Britain. The Tate Gallery used publicly-raised funds to buy a Rubens drawing for £5.7 million ($10.5 million) in 2008. Even more impressively, the National Gallery of Scotland managed to raise £100 million ($156 million) to purchase two Titian paintings from the Duke of Sutherland in 2009. And back in 1994, the National Gallery of Scotland kept a different “Three Graces” in its country — this one a sculpture by Canova — using funds from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a large donation by the late philanthropist John Paul Getty II.

The three million euros raised so far come from the Louvre’s acquisitions funds and the support of the Mazars Company. On the Louvre’s fundraising Web page, gifts as small as €20 ($27) are accepted, but individuals contributing €200 ($270) will be invited to a special viewing of the painting, while those who donate €500 ($680) will have the opportunity to preview the work before it is revealed to the general public. The museum has until January 31, 2011, to raise the necessary funds.

Cranach is known to have treated the theme of the three Graces only twice. The other painting, which dates from 1535, is in Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum. Cranach must have had his previous “Three Graces” in mind, for the women’s bodies are similarly arranged, though their gestures are more formal, and the flashy hat has disappeared.

Acropolis

Rising above the typical city-state (or polis) of ancient Greece was a high but accessible hill that functioned at various times in its history as a citadel or sanctuary (and, often, both), a place of refuge and a focus of religious life—an acropolis (literally, high city or city on the height). Although some acropoleis (such as Corinth’s) are geologically more impressive, none is more culturally or historically significant than the Acropolis of Athens.

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