Monday, July 26, 2021

Georges Rochegrosse: Not Always an Orientalist

Le Chevalier aux fleurs - 1884
The painting shown above is by Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse (1858-1938) -- Wikipedia entry here.   It's perhaps his most famous work because it is huge and was hung in Paris' popular Musée d'Orsay the last few times I visited there.  According to the museum's Web site, it shows Wagner's Parsifal while on his quest:

"Rochegrosse depicts the moment when Parsifal, the chaste hero destined to find the Holy Grail, has just struck down the guardians of the castle of the magician Klingsor.  He moves away into the enchanted garden, deaf to the calls of the flower maidens, femmes fatales scantily clad in narcissi, peonies, roses, irises, tulips, violets and hydrangeas."

That Wagnerian subject aside, Rochegrosse is often considered an Orientalist.  Scenes of  North Africa and the Near East were popular in the late 19th century, and as best I can tell, the majority of artists painting those subjects were French.  That might be because France's colonial empire included Algeria, Tunisia and (later) Morocco whereas England only had strong influence in Egypt and Germany's colonies were in central and southern Africa.

Although Rochegrosse painted many such scenes and lived in Algeria for a number of years, he also painted non-Oriental subjects.  The images below sample both aspects of his career.  Click on them and the one above to enlarge.


The Arab Guard - 1890
An Oriental scene that includes several partly-clothed beautiful women.  Rochegrosse painted many pictures featuring the same.  They can be easily found in images searches by Google, Bing, and other such Internet sites.

The Queen of Assyria - 1932
A late painting that might be classified as historical-Orientalist.

Arrival of the Queen of Sheeba
Another of the same ilk.

Orientale - 1892

She was the fictional daughter of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal -- and the subject of a sensational 1862 novel by Flaubert.

Salammbô - 1910

Marie Rochegrosse dans la salle à manger de Djenan Meryem - 1904
Rochegrosse's wife in the dining room of a North African friend of his.

Sarah Bernhardt in Costume
This is one of two paintings he made of her.

La France en Afrique, dit aussi La Conquête de l'Afrique - 1899
The caption roughly translates as "France in Africa, also called The Conquest of Africa."  Politically incorrect today, but true to its time.  The style is considerably different from Rochegrosse's usual -- it's flatter, with Impressionist and poster touches.  Examination of an image found in a book I have about Rochegrosse suggests the subject at the far left resembles a Tonkinese from French Indochina.

Les Héros de Marathon - 1911
An historical scene of Greeks defeating the Persians.  Its lighting reminds me of that in the painting of Parsifal.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Molti Ritratti: Juliette Récamier

Jeanne Françoise Julie "Juliette" Adélaïde Récamier (1777-1849) according to this Wikipedia entry "was a French socialite, whose salon drew Parisians from the leading literary and political circles of the early 19th century.  As an icon of neoclassicism, Récamier cultivated a public persona of herself as a great beauty and her fame quickly spread across Europe.  She befriended many intellectuals, sat for the finest artists of the age, and spurned an offer of marriage from Prince Augustus of Prussia"

The entry also mentions that her background and personal life were not as tranquil or conventional as her reportedly quiet, charming personality might have suggested.

Although she lived into the age of photography, I noted no photos of her in Google and Bing image searches.  In any case, any such photos would have been taken after her beauty had faded due to age.

Contemporary images of her in essentially chronological order are below.


By Eulalie Morin - c.1789
Mme Récamier's face seems to have been characterized by hooded eyelids and a slightly long nose.

By Jacques-Louis David - 1800
This is the most famous portrait of her.

By Joseph Chinard - c.1802 - Via Getty
Going back to Classical times, I tend to regard sculpted portraits as being more accurate than drawings or paintings.  Here we find those hooded eyelids.  But her nose seems a bit shorter than in most painted portraits.  Even sculptors can choose to flatter their subjects.

By François Gérard - 1805
The other famous portrait of her.  Her hair seems darker than in the two paintings above.

By Frimm Massot - 1807
She would have been nearly 30 when this was painted, but seems younger.

By Antoine-Jean Gros - 1825
Mme Récamier when nearing 50.

Portrait de Madame Récamier assise, vue de dos, dessin au crayon noir, lavis gris et rehauts d'aquarelle, par François Gérard - 1829
She would have been about 51, according to the date.  But Gérard has her looking younger: note the chin and neck.  He nose is more turned down than portrayed in the sculpture, but consistent with the Gros painting.  It's possible that this drawing was made before 1829 or that Gérard made the drawing from his memories of her.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Philip de László's Casual Portraits

Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937) was a leading portrait painter in England during the first third of the 20th century.  His Wikipedia entry is here.  I wrote about him here in 2010 and, more recenty, here.

Quite a few of his portraits are not "finished" in that they seem incomplete or sketchy.  Some indeed might have been literally unfinished.  But others might have intentionally appeared like that because they are signed.  Which is why I titled this post László's Casual Portraits.

Some of such works are presented below.


Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour
Former British Prime Minister.

Countess Beatty, née Ethel Field - wife of Admiral David Beatty - 1911
She was very rich and he became famous for his battlecruiser service during the Great War.

Ivy Gordon-Lennox, later Duchess of Portland - 1915
This might be unfinished because I don't notice his signature.

Duchess of York - sketch
Later she became the Queen Mum.

Edwina Mountbatten - 1924

Elinor Glyn - 1927

Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies - 1933
An actress who posed for this painting-demonstration portrait.

Marie of Romania

Prince Louis of Battenberg - c.1913
First Sea Lord before the Great War.

Princess Marina of Greece - 1934

Princess Ruspoli, Duchess de Gramont - 1922

Viscountess Chaplin, née Hon. Gwladys Wilson - 1915

Thursday, July 8, 2021

N.C. Wyeth at the Farnsworth

Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth (1882-1945), Wikipedia entry here, was one of the leading American illustrators during the first decades of the Twentieth Century.  As Wikipedia mentions, his non-illustration paintings were often explorations into various fashionable Fine Art styles.  From the David Michaelis' biography I gleaned that N.C. felt illustration was lesser than Fine Art and hoped to establish a good reputation in that field as well.

I wrote about that here, featuring one of his Fine Art attempts I'd seen at the Branywine River Museum in Pennsylvania a few years ago.

It happens that more such works can be seen at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine (museum site here, Wikipedia entry here).  The Wyeth family spent many summers in Maine and Betsy James Wyeth (1921-2020), Andrew Wyeth's widow, donated a number of works by N.C., Andrew and Jamie to the Farnsworth.

Below are iPhone photos I took when visiting the Farnsworth around the 10th of June of this year.  Images of entire works are uncropped and include the nearby information plaques to provide a sense of the paintings' sizes.

Raw images are larger than usual here, so feel free to click on them for significant enlargement.


"Westward Ho" endpapers illustration - 1920
This was the only example of N.C.'s illustration work on display.  Its composition is influenced by the endpaper vertical fold line running down the center.

"Westward Ho" detail
Wyeth's illustrations were usually quite "solid" in their treatment of people and key objects.  His Fine Art works varied from this to one degree or another.

The Harbor at Herring Gut - 1925
Here Wyeth seems to be trying out "naïve" (untrained) art: note the unrealistic sizes of some of the subjects.

Lobsterman - 1927
This is the most abstract of the paintings I saw.  Very large, rather interesting.  But he seems not to have pursued this approach further.

Cleaning Fish - 1933
Solid details, but twisted perspective and other wisps of Expressionism.

Untitled - Port Clyde Harbor scene - 1933
Unfinished painting left at the charcoal-on-canvas stage.

Untitled, detail
This probably reflects N.C.'s illustration procedure.

Fisherman's Family - c. 1933-34
Again, a little Expressionism, but coupled with 1930s modernist simplification.

Fisherman's Family study
Apparently Wyeth was dissatisfied with the composition.  One eliminated detail is the boy at the left.

The Morris House, Poert Clyde - c. 1937
The latest of the paintings I saw.  It vaguely reminds me of Edward Hopper paintings of buildings.  Could N.C. have been influenced by Hopper here?