Monday, April 12, 2021

Molti Ritratti: Cleopatra

Many posthumous images exist of Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC - 30 BC) -- Wikipedia entry here.  A few of them are presented below.

Cleopatra is famous for her involvement with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony at the time the Roman republic was transitioning into an empire.  She is even more famous because of her suicide by an Asp biting her breast -- this being the subject of many paintings of her, breasts and drama being irresistible for many painters.

She was famous in her time for her beauty and charm that captivated Rome's mightiest men.  Yet we do not know exactly what she looked like.  The Wikipedia link above contains some images and speculation, and here is an example of further speculation.

The images below are mostly paintings by late-nineteenth century artists.  That was a period when subjects from Classical times were popular..


Coins issued by Cleopatra (via the second link above)
Most speculation centers on her nose.  It was prominent, but its shape varies from coin to coin.  Despite what some have claimed, Cleopatra was not "African," being a descendent of a Greek officer who claimed the Egyptian part of Alexander the Great's empire upon the latter's death.

Tiepolo, Giovanni-Batista - The Meeting of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra - 1749
An example of an 18th century depiction by a famous artist.  Tiepolo, as he often did, used the face of a favorite model to depict Cleopatra.  As was also common before the 19th century, he has her dressed in contemporary garments.

Clive, Henry - Cleopatra, American Weekly magazine cover illustration - 13 October 1946
This is a comparatively recent depiction.  Cleopatra's lipstick is very-1946, as is her eye and eyebrow makeup.  Female beauty standards seem to be time-dependent.

Mousset, Pierre-Joseph - La mort de Cléopâtre
An example of the Cleopatra death scene.

Cabanel, Alexandre - Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners - 1887
Cleopatra working out suicide details.

Cabanel, Alexandre - Cleopatra - c.1887
Perhaps a study for the painting in the previous image.

Gérôme, Jean-Léon - Cleopatra Before Caesar - 1866 (cropped)
Gérôme made many Orientalist paintings, so this must have been an easy variation.  His version of Caesar in the background seems odd -- especially the pose and the long neck.

Bridgman, Frederick - Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae - 1896
An example of a 19th century non-suicide view of Cleopatra.

Alma-Tadema, Lawrence - Cleopatra (cropped)
Tadama tried more than most artists to portray Classical settings as accurately as data allowed.

Waterhouse, John W. - Cleopatra - c.1887
A psychological study of the queen perhaps contemplating suicide.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Ivan Kramskoy, a Major 19th Century Russian Painter

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi (1837-1887), commonly rendered as Kramskoy in English transliteration, was an important Russian painter during the late 1800s.   His Wikipedia entry is here.

If image collections on the Internet are any guide, much of his production was in the form of portraits that were a reliable source of income.  Subjects ranged from family members to underclass people to royalty.

His artistic generation and Russian (not French or German) training yielded a consrvative, representational style.  However, as best I can tell, he painted few if any works of classical subjects.   One image below is of a religious nature.


Portrait of an Unknown Woman - 1883
This is Kramskoy's most famous painting.  The subject seems to have been a lady of questionable repute.

Princess Ekaterina Alekseevny Vasilchikova - 1867
He was about age 30 when this was painted.

Alexander III - 1886
Kramskoy was something of a court painter.

Empress Maria Federovna - c.1886
Click on this image to enlarge.

Christ in the Desert - 1872
Not Kramskoy's usual subject matter.  Note his treatment of rocks, sand and (morning?) sky.

Mina Moiseyev (a peasant) - 1882
An example of non-royal work.

Vera Treyakova
Daughter of art patron Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898).

Admiral Login Loginovich Heyden - 1882

Moonlit Night - 1880
Another unusual subject for Kramskoy, and very well done.

Portrait of Anna von Derviz - 1881

Sophia Ianovna Kramskoya, daughter of the artist - 1882

Monday, March 29, 2021

Philip de László: Pre- Age 40 Portraits

Philip de László (1869-1937) was one of England's most prominent portrait painters during the first third of the 20th century.  Some considered him the successor to John Singer Sargent, and I used that thought as the "hook" for this post about him.  László's Wikipedia entry is here.

Today's post presents some of the portraits he made before he was 40 years old, so his skills were fairly mature but perhaps not fully formed.  Pre-1899 works were not evident in a Google search, though I surely must have missed some.  Those paintings were made when he lived in Budapest.

The portraits below are arranged in approximately chronological order.


Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary - 1898
She was killed in September of that year, so it is possible that this portrait is posthumous.  That said, its sketchy quality suggests that she might have sat for him.

Kaiser Franz-Joseph of Austria-Hungary - 1899

Adele van Loon - 1901

Pope Leo XIII - 1900
This might have been a study for a larger, more formal painting.

Jan Kubelik - 1903

Princess Max Egon von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, née María de la Piedad de Yturbe - 1906
But this time, László's style is beginning to approach maturity.

Princess Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary of Wales - 1907
Signed, but not "finished."

Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, née Princess Alice of Battenberg - 1907

Condesa Meyendorff - 1908

Kaiser Wilhelm II - c. 1908
Again, more a study than a completed work.  I'm assuming the Kaiser sat for this.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Eugene Savage, Moderne Muralist

Eugene Francis Savage (1883-1978) was a muralist and academic whose major works were made in the late 1930s.   His Wikipedia entry is here.

Nowadays he is best known for a set of murals featuring scenes from Hawaii and its history.  But he painted other murals and paintings, some of which are shown below.

His style was clearly in the 1930s Moderne vein, where a touch of subject simplification was expected.


Aloha ... The Universal Word - c.1940
This is one of Savage's well-known murals painted for the Maison Navigation Company that had ocean liners such as the Lurline that plied between Honolulu and California.  On ship, the murals served as the basis for menu covers.  Standard Savage visual fare included bold, slightly simplified shaping of human bodies and stacked groups of similar people such as the group of women seen at the far left.

Competition painting, American Academy in Rome - 1912
Painted when in his late twenties, this is fairly traditional.  Very striking female nude, indicating that he might have taken a different artistic path than the one he chose.

Armistice - 1926
An early mural featuring stacked figures having odd expressions on their faces.  Murals seem to work best when visually "busy," and Savage painted many busy murals.

Biscayne Holiday - 1936
Again, stacked figures and strong body shaping.

Carrier of News and Knowledge - post office mural - 1937
Even though Savage was on the Yale University faculty, he seems to have been involved with Depression-era Federal art projects.

Spirit of Oshkosh - mural study - 1937
Oshkosh is a city in Wisconsin, and this might be a study for a post office mural intended for that place.

Seaside Market - 1942
Not a mural, I suppose.  But a genre painting in the spirit of 1930s artists such as Reginald Marsh and Paul Cadmus.  Perhaps a view down Savage's nose from the heights of Yale University.

Spirit of the Land Grant College - 1961
A comparatively late work.  It retains much of his late-1930s feeling -- though a bit simplified and lacking the stacked groups of people.

Monday, March 15, 2021

John W. Waterhouse Studies and Sketches

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) was an important British painter, especially during the period 1890-1910.  He mostly dealt with classical, mythological and literary subjects featuring attractive woman.  His Wikipedia entry is here.

I am interested in how painters work, so from time to time present example of sketches, studies, and uncompleted paintings that offer insights.

Below is a set of such images by Waterhouse.


An Eastern Interior with Seated Girl - 1886
I rate this as an oil sketch rather than a study for a more finished painting, but I might be wrong.

Head of a girl - sketch
Focus is on her face, the rest is roughly indicated.

Jason and Medea? - 1907? - study
Her face is largely finished, so I wonder if Waterhouse was thinking of making a painting of Medea only.  Given the roughed in background, it's possible that this was an unfinished work.

"Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus" -- a study of the nymph at the left - c.1910

Study for "The Head of Venus in the Awakening of Adonis" - c.1899

"Maidens Picking Flowers by a Stream" - 1911
This has the look of an unfinished painting rather than a study.  An Internet search turned up no other Waterhouse image of that title.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Thomas Wilmer Dewing's Outdoors Scenes

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) was a prominent American painter during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Trained in Paris at the Académie Julian in the late 1870s, his style was originally academic but soon became became something that might be described as "tonalist-representational" where his depictions ranged from fuzzy to fairly sharply done.  He did not disguise his brushwork.

Some background on Dewing is here, and I wrote about his scenes of women with musical instruments here.

His subject matter was almost exclusively women, so far as I can tell.  If he depicted men, that would have been while a student or if he ever painted portraits early in his career to earn some money.  A chalk drawing of the poet Walt Whitman is in the Smithsonian collection.

Today's post presents some of Dewing's outdoor scenes populated, as usual, by attractive, aristocratic-looking women.

Images are in approximate chronological order.  Seen on the Internet, at times there are color and sharpness variations of the same painting, so view my selection with the proverbial grain of salt.


Summer - 1890

Summer - 1890

The Hermit Thrush - 1890

The Recitation - 1891

In the Garden - c.1893

The Garland - 1899

The Lute - 1904