Archive for the BEHIND THE PAINT Category

Happy Christmas and New Year!


In my usual tradition, here is the round up of featured posts for 2011.  It’s been a pretty tubulent year personally for me and I haven’t blogged as much as I usually do – but my New Year resolution is to do so, so get ready for more eclectic mixes of art, design and quirkyness!  I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a bright New Year!

Behind the paint ‘A Tale of Two Chairs’

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2011 by echostains

Van Gogh Chair with pipe 1888

I’ve just put a poem on my other blog Bookstains, using Vincent Van Gogh‘s very famous chair to illustrate it.  A recent (virtual) trip to the Van Gogh Museum (see this post) gave me the opportunity of seeing his paintings up close.  I have seen Van Gogh’s chair before in The National Gallery London – however, this isn’t the only chair the artist painted.

Gauguin's armchair 1888

When Van Gogh’s hero Gauguin stayed with him at the Yellow House in Arles, the  artists initially did get on with each other.  All this was to change though. Van Gogh painted two chair picures – his own chair and Gauguin’s  (Gauguin’s being in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.)  The  chairs embody  the differences between the two artists temperaments and approaches to art.

Van Gogh has painted Gauguin’s more comfier  stylish chair and placed it upon a carpet of flowers.  A candle  illuminates some books which lie there: the green wall behind it is lit  by a blazing lamp.  Van Gogh’s own yellow chair sits in the kitchen on old brown kitchen tiles.  A box of onions lie in the background and the blue door in the picture is shut.  Upon this battered high-backed chair with its stout uneven legs, lies a pipe and some tobacco wrapped  in a scrap of  crumpled paper.

The-Empty-Chair by Luke Fildes

The empty chairs show the artists having left them of course – even perhaps to have departed from this earth.  The contrasts between the chairs do seem to illustrate the differences between the artists (from Van Gogh’s viewpoint).  Van Gogh more attuned to the ethics of the hard working peasants and Gauguin more worldly and sophisticated. What is known is that Van Gogh, who liked  English graphic art was inspired by an image which he saw  in a Victorian Magazine The Graphic by Luke Fildes The Empty Chair, Gad’s Hill’ in 1870, the year Charles Dickens died. 

The paintings also acts as a reminder of that fateful night in 1888 when Van Gogh and Gauguin’s relationship finally reached breaking point, culminating in him threatening Gauguin with a razor (the latter wisely decided to stay at a local hotel that night) and Van Gogh proffered his severed ear lobe to a prostitute.

 Google art Project – Virtual trips around 17 famous museums here

Lots of information about these two paintings here

Van Gogh Images from here

Luke Fildes image from here

Behind the Paint – The Governess by Chardin

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , on August 3, 2010 by echostains


Sellf portrait Chardin


When we look at paintings from the past we look at the subject of the painting – any meaningful clues or messages it may contain.  We also look at the technique of the artist, and also perhaps the symbolism or language of the painting.  Historically, this was easily understood by the artist and his audience.  Space and light are other considerations as the artist endeavours to convey that feeling of space onto a flat surface.  This requires skill on the artist’s behalf.

Style is reflected in each historical period, and this is executed  by each famous artist of the past in the arts.  Whilst it is helpful to have knowledge of the history and the symbolism of the painting and the time it was painted, everyone shall have their own personal interpretation.  A paintings success shall much depend on whether the painting  connects with the viewer.

Chardin, La Gouvernante (Governess) 1738


A member of the Academy in 1728, Parisian born Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779) gained a fine reputation as an artist and by the time of the Salon of 1740, his fame was secured when two works entered by him, were bought by the french monarchy.  Chardin had a perfect sense of colour which always harmonises with his subject (realistic still life).  The artist lived a long and varied life, dying at aged 80 years.  A detailed biography can be found here.

In Chardin’s painting ‘The Governess’, the little boy stands by a half-opened door (to his future), he looks hesitant.  He has two books tucked under his arm and is leaving his governess behind because the time has come for him to go off to school.

The House of Cards circa 1737 another painting where Chardin uses cards


He is leaving his childhood toys behind.  The cards on the floor have been carefully arranged by the artist.  The King of hearts represent love and the Ace of spades – death.  There is a sense of fate which is also symbolised by the open door.  the governess brushes the child’s tricorn hat before sending the boy on his journey into the world.  the open workbasket indicates industry and the red of the upright chair back suggests firmness.

Self portrait from here Lots of Chardin images here The Governess image from here

Don’t forget to tune into the Arts Web Show  Just Click the Echostains Blog Spotlight to read my interview with the Aspects

Plus……… over on Book stains….

My 550th post


I’ve reached a little milestone with this post, and the last time I looked back was on my 500th post.  So I think it’s time for another look over my shoulder.  I’m still blogging every day (in fact I need to look back when I first started this daily blogging and see how long it’s been).  New categories have been added (Behind the paint and Art discovered and uncovered, Bodies in preservation (oooh forgot about that one – must do another post on this very soon).  I also did my first blog spotlight and am working on my second at the moment.  I hope to do interviews with all my blogrollers.  I’ve also started putting some poetry that I like on (whilst neglecting my own efforts on Bookstains:C )  Here’s some memories of past posts (the posts are still there in the categories.)

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Behind the paint – Primavera by Botticelli

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , , , , , on May 16, 2010 by echostains


Primavera by Botticelli

The inspiration for today’s post came from a fantastic poem by the poet Hames1977, which I urge you to read as it is truly beautiful! (here).  Sandro Botticelli was a principal painter in Florence in the latter half of the 15th century.  He was born 1444 and he lived until 1510.  His work is very lyrical and, decorative and almost feminine – which was the Florentine style.

Botticelli self portrait from the Adoration of the Magi 1476

The stamp of approval came from the famous Medici family who were his main patrons.  He accomplished lots of altarpieces, portraits, banners and allegories with literary references.  the Primavera is perhaps one of his more famous paintings.  It was painted in 1463-1503) and is said to have been commissioned by a Medici.  The term ‘Primavera’ means ‘Spring’ and it’s not only a young man’s fancy that turns to love – these gods and goddesses have the same idea and cavort with playful abandoness!

Mercury. messenger of the Gods, stands with winged boots holding back  the clouds on this scene with his caduceus entwined with snakes.

The Three Graces

Attending Venus are the Three Graces in diaphanous gowns displaying typical female Renaissance beauty with their sloping shoulders and long swanlike necks.

Flora's gown

The artist has decorated Flora’s gown with a very good imitation of embroidery and a halo of leaves surround Venus as she stands in the carpeted woods.  Cupid the God of Love flies above her, blindfolded as love is blind.  Is he aiming his arrow at the Three Graces? or is he just hovering above his mother?

The rather sinister blue figure  is the West Wind and is the ghost of Zephyrus, God of the West Wind.  He is touching his lover Chloris.

Zephyrus and Chloris

The goddess of flowers Flora strews blossoms where she treads.  With her beautiful features, her embroidered dress and her grace she symbolises the joys of marriage and is a symbol of Florence, the city. 

Venus detail

There is a strange metamorphosis taking place though.  When Zephyrus fell in love with Chloris, pursued her and took her as his bride, she was transformed into Flora. 

You will notice the flowers falling from the mouth of the nymph and onto the dress of the Goddess.  Botticelli shows the courtship – and the outcome!

Cupid, Venus Chloris and Zephyrus

The painting measures 80 x 123 1/2  in.  tempura on panel, Uffiz Florence

The ‘Primavera’ image came from here and here and here.  Botticelli self portrait from here Flora’s gown here and details here

Behind the Paint: ‘Olympia’ by Edouard Manet

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , on May 3, 2010 by echostains

Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet (b. 1832 – 1883 Paris) he was born to affluent parents.  His mother was the god-daughter to the Swedish Crown prince Charles Bernadotte and his father was a judge who expected his son to follow suit.  Manet had his own ideas though and tried to join the navy but failed the exams.   From 1850 -56 he studied under Thomas Couture who painted very large historical paintings.  Manet loved to copy the old masters in the Louvre.  He much admired Frans Hals, Velazquez and Goya.

He liked to paint everyday people  – cafe people, gypsies and bullfighters.  In 1863 Manet took a famous painting (Sleeping Venus  by Giorgione (b. 1477 – 1610) and recreated it in his own style.

Giorgione Sleeping Venus

When this painting was shown at the Salon 1865, it caused outrage.  It even had to be protected by attendants and eventually had to be hung higher to avoid being damaged by angry spectators!

olympia Manet

olympia Manet

Olympia’ shocked the public because she is clearly not a Goddess but a courtesan.  Her cool confident gaze meets the viewers eyes.  Her casually hanging slipper marks her impatience to be with her next ‘client’.  Monet was  able to use black in a very rich tonal way, using it to bring elegance to his work.  He loved the colour black itself and always wore it.  The flowers are from a previous admirer and not taken any notice of.  They symbolise the pleasures Olympia offers.

Olympia cat detail

The cat also stares directly at the viewer as it stretches, disturbed from its sleep by the viewers intrusion.  The painting has a bold composition with strong outlined forms.  There are hardly any shadows and not a lot of fine detail.  But Critics saw the subtle harmonies and Monet’s style as incompetent and the figure rather crude. The model for ‘Olympia’ is Victorine Meurent, who posed for Luncheon on the Grass, (The Naked lunch) and was a painter in her own right.

Portrait of Victorine Meurent by Eduouard Manet

Poor Manet had a breakdown because of the harsh criticism and constant rejection.  Although he longed for approval from the official Parisian salon, his approach was much too modern to be accepted.  He was indeed ahead of his time leaping out of realism into expressionism. But success did eventually come to him when  Durrand Ruel an art dealer bought 30 of his canvases in 1871.  He received the Legion d’Honneur just before he died.

Biography and lots of Manet’s painting here

Cat detail here

‘Olympia image and short commentary on the painting here 


Behind the paint ‘Susanna and the Elders’ by Artemisia Gentileschi

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , on April 22, 2010 by echostains

Artemisia Gentileschi self portrait

It’s about time we had a woman painter in the ‘Behind the Paint’ category – and who better than Atremisia Gentileschi the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi (1563 – 1639) an Italian Baroque painter, very much influenced by Caravaggio.  He was  quite an important painter at the time and admired.   Orazio Gentileschi went to Paris where he appeared at the Medici court and remained in London from 1626 until the rest of his life working for Charles 1.  He died there in 1639.

St Francis and the Angel by Orazio Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentilileschi (1593 – 1652) was a very talented painter.  She created powerful and very expressive work.  She had a turbulent life and drew upon this for her inspiration and probably for the cathartic benefits.  She was only 19 when she was raped in her home by her father’s friend Agostino Tassi (c.1580 – 1644) and had to undergo further torture of the legal proceedings which followed.

She won the case and despite this setback she became one of the greatest painters of her day.  A native Roman, she left for Florence where she married a minor Florentine artist Pietro Stiattesi.  She became the first female member of the Florentine Accademia del Disegno and had a lot of support from the Medici family.

17th century Medici family

The painting ‘Susanna and The Elders’ is the artist’s earliest signed painting and was painted before her own traumatic experience.  Susanna, the biblical heroine, owing to a false testimony was destined to die, but was saved by Daniel’s timely intervention.

Susanna and the Elders

Susanna is at her bath when  the two Elders accost her, threatening her with false accusations of adultery if she doesn’t agree to their wishes.  Adultery was punishable by death.  In the artist’s own case, Artemisia claimed that her own attacker conspired with a papal orderly, and just like Susanna, she was  publically accused of adultery.

susanna crouches in fear and repulsion

The isolated figure crouches whilst the two Elders threaten.  her head is turned in disgust and fear.   The woman is cornered and victimized.  She is threatened with slander if she does not give into the wishes of these men.

Michelangelo's expulsion

Michelangelo ‘ Adam in the Expulsion scene in the Sistine Chapel is the reversal of Susanna’s dramatic gesture.

susanna and the elders detail

Artemisia borrowed the technique of foreshortening from Caravaggio, seen clearly on the dark-haired elder.

Although Artemisia’s work show her teachers influence (her father) her work grows more and more expressive and dramatic, whilst her father’s stays very graceful and even lyrical.

Great website with lots of paintings here

Nice website about this artist and lots of her work here

A wonderful short biography of the artist here

Behind the paint – ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, BEHIND THE PAINT with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by echostains

Gustav Klimt

‘The Kiss’ by Gustave Klimt (b.1862 -1918 Vienna) was painted 1907  – 1908, it is probably the Viennese artist’s most famous work.  Klimt trained at the school of Applied Arts in Vienna, but eventually broke away from the State’s patronage to form the Secession group with friends.  The group believed the promotion of the  art of unconventional Austrian painters. 

The Kiss


Klimt explorations of  human relationships  in his work was considered very ‘modern’ at the time.  He believed that no institution or person had the right of censorship over his work  His work is a synthesis of both the decorative and sumptuous Art Nouveau and Symbolism

“Enough of censorship……I want to break free”

This work was part of Klimt’s ‘Golden period’. The Kiss shows the man and woman sharing joy –  symbolically dissolving in an embrace. They stand against a background of  beautiful decoration, which is flecked with gold leaf.  The gold background is not incidental, Klimt’s father was a gold engraver by trade.  He had also learned mosaic techniques, fresco and oil painting.  This influence is seen in the carpet of flowers.  The gold is very like the mosaic found in Byzantine churches: Klimt was very much influenced by Italian mosaics he saw in Ravenna.

close up

 The couple each wear individual highly decorated gowns.   The difference in the gowns is important.  The man’s is of a more geometric patters consisting of black and white ‘masculine’ shapes.  By contrast, the woman’s is flowery – tieing her visually to the carpet of flowers she kneels on and linking her to ‘mother naure’.  Her gown does contain a little of the geometric pattern which unites her and symbolises her unity to the male.  A golden envelope envelops them, symbolically uniting the sexes.   Klimt’s work explores the themes of birth, life death.  The woman is especially depicted by turn as emotional joy bringer, temptress and child bearer.  The bodies fused together as one emphasis their unity.

Klimt loves hands and uses them expressively in his paintings. Also his use of gold, entwined couples and the sumptuousness of his highly decorated work have a hint of opulent decadence about them proclaiming the end of the century (fin de siecle)  a mixture of degeneration and but also hope for the future.

2003 Austria 100 Euro coin front

The Kiss was commemorated on a special collectors Austrian coin 2003.   The front of this euro painting coin shows Klimt in his studio. The Kiss was popular in its own time and was purchased by the Austrian State.  The Secession group was a warded international recognition because of Klimt’s status as an artist unlike Van Gogh who did not know fame whilst he lived. He is featured in ‘Beneath the paint’ here.


2003 Austria 100 Euro coin back

an interesting article about Klimt here