Archive for expressionism

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 


Happy Birthday James Ensor!

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, ARTISTS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , on April 13, 2010 by echostains

Ensor's self portrait

Today is the birthday of Belgian artist James Ensor (b. 1860 -1949).   Ensor caused great scandal with a painting he painted in 1888 – 89 called ‘Entry of Christ into Brussels’.  A lot of his work was rejected in the late 1800s, though he continued to exhibit. He did eventually gain acceptance with ‘The Lamp Boy’  in 1895.

The Drunkards

Ensor’s early style was realistic with works like ‘The Drunkards’ in 1885.   His palette became bright and his subject matter quite bizarre.  He started to introduce masks into his works.  ‘The skeletons fighting over the Hanged man’ for example feature the artists fascination with masks.  Puppetry and carnivals are also themes employed by Ensor in his later allogorical work.

Christ's entry into Brussels

Entry of Christ into Brussels was not publicly displayed until 1929 and is considered an example of 20th century expressionism.  The picture is shows a carnival of threatening masks  which confront the viewer.  the crowd consists of member of Ensor’s family, historical figures, including politicians.  Christ on a donkey proceeds through the mocking crowd – a victim of their jibes.

two skeletons fighting over a hanged man

Ensor influenced quite a number of artists including Paul Klee and Alfred Kubin, as well as expressionist and surrealist artists.

Lots of his work can be found here

A biography of this artist can be found here

Happy birthday Alice Neel!

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, ARTISTS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , on January 28, 2010 by echostains

Alice Neel

The American artist Alice Neel (1900 – 1984) shares her birthday with  the Dripper himself, Jackson Pollock.  I’ve already celebrated his birthday last year HERE.  Neel’  is especially famous for her portraits.  As a woman artist she had her work cut out to become known, but  as well as talent, she did have  a political voice and self awareness.  She  painted lots of famous people including Andy Warhol.  I love the  expressionistic work of this artist.  She seems to capture the inner as well as the outer being – through her we get a glimpse into the models inner self..  

alice neel Robert Smithson

Neel’s  subjects include motherhood, political figures, landscapes and celebrities of the time.  She even painted the famous feminist activist Kate Millet, for the cover of times magazine in 1970.

Kate Millet by Alice Neel

Neel involved herself in radical social movements, she had a voice’ and was well respected.  Her life was very up and down and at times she did know despair.  But she turned her tragedy into triumph ultimately and this I think is what gave her such empathy with her sitters.  She called her sitters her ‘selection of souls’   She was very much  interested in the inner being and tried to show this in her paintings –  always striving to get to the core or essence of the sitter whether they were famous or not:-

Andy Warhol by Alice Neel

Like Chekhov, I am a collector of souls… if I hadn’t been an artist, I could have been a psychiatrist. (Alice Neel)

alice neel two girls spanish harlem

She painted well into her eighties, even doing a self-portrait of herself.  Her life story is both sad and yet inspiring, exciting and varied –  but always the artist within comes to the surface.  No wonder she is still an inspiration to women artists today!

I do not know if the truth that I have told will benefit the world in any way. I managed to do it at great cost to myself and perhaps to others. It is hard to go against the tide of one’s time, milieu, and position. But at least I tried to reflect innocently the twentieth century and my feelings and perceptions as a girl and a woman. Not that I felt they were all that different from men’s.” (Alice

 Alice Neel website HERE

Good art quotes to be had HERE

Like these artists birthdays?  I have MORE – look in my categories


Happy Birthday Dear Modigliani!

Posted in ART, ART HISTORY, ARTISTS BIRTHDAYS with tags , , , on July 12, 2009 by echostains

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani

It’s Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani today.  He was born in Italy in 1884 and died  in 1920.  Modigliani led a typical bohemian lifestyle, but with more excesses than most.  He was marked for an early death by contracting TB whilst young.

Modigliani, famous for his portraits and nudes

Modigliani, famous for his portraits and nudes

Modigliani’s style is his own though.  He is not easily classified, though he is often called an Expressionist.  He was influenced by Toulouse Lautrec, Cezanne:  his sculpture owes much to the influence of  Brancusi.  Although he did paint a few landscapes, he became famous for his portraits and nudes.  

Amedeo-Modigliani sculpture

Amedeo-Modigliani sculpture

A brief summery of his life and work can be seen HERE

modigliani nude

modigliani nude


More of my posts celebrating artist’s birthday;




Leonardo da Vinci

Hart Benton


Van Gogh