Saturday, January 29, 2011

100 paintings artists should know

Here I am returned to my writing. I was unable to write last night. A rock and roll concert was enjoyed and hard decisions were made.

13) La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780-1867 I have departed from the great Italians and am skipping forward a couple of centuries to Ingres. I am putting him in next, not because of a ranking of historical importance but because he was so strongly influenced by the Italians of the renaissance . Compare this figure with the Titian "Venus of Urbino that I posted about a week ago.I have always found this piece bewitchingly beautiful. Much has been made of the elongation of the figure and I suppose that she has about thirty extra vertebra, but fashion drawings are often elongated and runway models often have preposterously attenuated figures. The clarity and elegant style of this painting are what I like.

Here is an example of a drawing by Ingres. The confident outline and suppressed modeling are part of a deliberately "retro" style that he developed based on his study of Raphael, who he revered.

14) The death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

As long as we are in French classicist neighborhood lets get David in here too. Born with a facial tumor that affected his speech David lived through tumultuous times. As an active participant in the French revolution David was one of the national convention and voted for the execution of the king. His wife, a loyalist left him over that.

This painting is in the met in New York and represents Socrates who was ordered after a trial on trumped up charges to drink poison which he did with defiance and dignity in 390 B.C.

(14) The death of Marat, also by David
Marat was another French revolutionary stabbed to death in his bath. He was immortalized by David. The figure is influenced again by renaissance art. I am showing these two not because they are more important that some other paintings but because I want to highlight the enduring legacy of the great Italian painters.


Marko said...


I think the tumour you mention was in fact something to do with swordplay, subsequently ending up in a growth...which follows if you read David's amazing story of means of changing loyalties on the fly, he was a master.

Ever since I stood in front of his painting of "The Coronation of Napoleon" in the Louvre at the age of 22, some 40 years ago, I was hooked on this guys massive ego, unrestrained ability to survive and his incredible mastery of the brush.(Wikipedia - Jaques-Louis David pretty close to his story and also with a nice collection of his work). The Coronation is a painting 32 feet wide by 20 feet high and is a fair job for anyone on a stretched canvas...and a great inspiration to the rest of us as a technical effort.

His output was prolific, full of political metaphor and ass-kissing...think that is how you Yanks say it...but hey he got away with it for a long time.
Due to being involved in regicide (killing a king) he was buried in Belgium (never to be returned to France so the story goes)...his heart was buried in Paris.....I commend to you and your readers his story as a Great Painter...and a nasty man, truth is stranger than fiction.

I recommend you Google "Le Serment du Jeu de paume" - The Tennis Court Oath - a drawing for a painting which was never painted, for within a week, most of the subjects were minus their heads - an amazing drawing.
Simon Schama (UK) did a multi artist TV series "The Power of Art" and our man David is featured in an episode - an intriguing example of art and politics and ass kissing again and well explained by Schama. It is on DVD
My apologies for waffling on.


Tim said...

Hey Stape, guess what! I saw "Death of Marat" last week when I went to Brussels. Check you email!

Simone said...

Looking at paintings done by dead people can be great! But looking at paintings of dead people, done by dead people, now that's really great!

Deb said...

Would be interesting, after this tour de force of historical masterpieces, to know what artists of this generation, living today, you would put as the new "masters", or perhaps even what paintings might be labeled as great. said...

La Grand Odalisque does indeed have an extra vertebrae .
In my anatomy for artists class we had to super impose the skeletal frame of this model's pose on copy of the original. This was only possible by adding an extra vertebrae. Art trumps science. Elegance, indeed.

This comment is being entered from Snow Camp.There are a lot of great people here. All I can say is rock 'n roll is here to stay.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks for adding more info. I am trying to limit what I say to the equivalent of a baseball card for each artist.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks,for that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That is a good quote.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There have been a number of opinions on how many vertebrae were added. I think thirty you think one. Lets split the difference and say, about fifteen.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Maybe down the road. I have to think about that.