THE IMPRESSIONISM SEEN THROUGH 50 PAINTINGS

by G. Fernández - theartwolf.com
No artistic period has been as commented or discussed as Impressionism. But, as an image is worth a thousand words, theartwolf.com has decided to showcase 50 paintings to resume the very best of this fascinating Art movement

When talking about Impressionism, an error is often committed when assigning to this movement a series of painters who nothing or almost nothing had in common with it -Rousseau, Redon-, or others who, despite having felt an early attraction to the new movement, soon separated from it -Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne- or even others who, though being generally considered as representative members of this movement, can not be called "pure impressionists"



 

In this last group, we have to differentiate between those who developed his style before the impressionist dawn - Edouard Manet- and those whose interests led them to search even beyond the Impressionism - Degas, Renoir -. If we want to look for the "pure", essential impressionist painters, those who developed their impressionist style without interferences from any other style, the list -with the risks of using a dangerously simplistic purism- would be reduced to only three names: Monet -the real Michelangelo of the impressionist era-, Pissarro -the great chronicler of the rural life- and Sisley. Nevertheless, in this list we will include not only the "pure" Impressionist painters, but also those related to the so-called Post-Impressionism. We all accept that Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin... are not truly Impressionist painters, but their relation with that Art movement is more than evident

The paintings are listed following the alphabethical order of the name of their author. Click on a image to see the high-resolution version.

FRÉDERIC BAZILLE: "The artist's studio - Bazille's Studio; 9 rue de la Condamine" - 1870  

FRÉDERIC BAZILLE: "The artist's studio - Bazille's Studio; 9 rue de la Condamine" - 1870 - oil on canvas, 98 - 128.5 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Friend of Monet, Sisley and Manet, and born in a wealthy family, Bazille is the tragic figure of Impressionism, dead at the Franco-Prussian War when he was only 28 years old. "The artist's studio" is widely considered his masterpiece, in which we can find some important names in the Impressionist movement: painters like Monet, Renoir and Manet; and friends like Emile Zola or Edmond Maître.

EUGÈNE BOUDIN: "Dock at Deauville" - 1869  

EUGÈNE BOUDIN: "Dock at Deauville" - 1869 - oil on canvas, 23 - 32 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Boudin was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors, and he is widely recognized as one of the most important influences to the first Impressionist painters. When he moved to Saint-Siméon in 1862, some young painters began to imitate his lively brushstroke, starting the "Saint-Siméon School", considered nowadays one of the origins of Impressionism.

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE: "Les raboteurs (The floor scrapers)", 1876  

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE: "Les raboteurs (The floor scrapers)", 1876 - oil on canvas, 102 - 146.5 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

The vertiginous perspective and the almost photographic focus are characteristic of Caillebotte's first works. This work exemplifies as no other the stupor that Caillebotte could cause between the assistants to the first impressionist exhibitions. Zola, who really appreciated Caillebotte, described it like "an antiartistic, clean painting, frost and bourgeois, by force of exactitude."

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE: "Paris Street, rainy day" 1877  

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE: "Paris Street, rainy day" 1877 - oil on canvas, 212.2 - 276.2 cm. - The Art Institute of Chicago - view high resolution image

This is Caillebotte's most famous and ambitious painting, exhibited at the Third Impressionist Exhibition at the Rue Le Peletier, where it was not well accepted by the critic. L'Évenement wrote about this painting: "the drawing is of good quality, but Caillebotte has forgotten to include the rain". Anyways, this is one of the best representations of 19th century Paris ever painted.

MARY CASSATT: "Summertime", 1894
 

MARY CASSATT: "Summertime", 1894 - oil on canvas, 100.7-81.3 cm. - Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago - view high resolution image

Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania, but lived much of her adult life in France, where she was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists. The works created in the 1890s are by far the most interesting of her career, and though the Impressionist group was soon disbanded, Cassatt still had contact with some of the members, enriching her talent to the point of becoming a role model for young American artists.

PAUL CÉZANNE: “The Hanged Man's Housein Auvers-sur-Oise" - 1873  
PAUL CÉZANNE: “The Hanged Man's House in Auvers-sur-Oise" - 1873 - Oil on canvas, 55 x 66 cm - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

This strange landscape is arguably Cézanne's first masterpiece, and it was one of the 3 works exhibited by the artist at the Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874, where it was purchased by Count Armand Doria. While "The Hanged Man's House" can still be considered a Impressionist painting, the work is finished in Cézanne's early and very personal style, working the surface of the canvas with a palette knife.

PAUL CÉZANNE: “Still life with fruit basket (the kitchen table)", 1880-1890  
PAUL CÉZANNE: “Still life with fruit basket (the kitchen table)", 1880-1890 - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Cézanne is arguably the greatest master of still life painting of any era, and this shining painting constitutes one of his most ambitious compositions. Where is this basket? Placed in a very unstable position in the upper right corner of the table, or -thanks to a complex perspective- is on the ground along with the wood piece partially depicted at the right of the painting? Here Cézanne has created a double perspective to paint a sensational work in which the cubism begins to appear.

PAUL CÉZANNE: “The Card Players”, 1893-96  
PAUL CÉZANNE: “The Card Players”, 1893-96 - oil on canvas, 47- 56 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

This is the smallest of the three versions of this subject painted by Paul Cézanne, but it is quite probable that it was also the last of them, and the most elaborated. While the composition is really simple (two players facing each other, with a black bottle silently dividing the composition in two parts) the fabulous psychological intensity in the faces of the players make this painting a masterpiece of post-impressionist art.

PAUL CÉZANNE: “Mount Sainte-Victoire view from Lauves”  
PAUL CÉZANNE: “Mount Sainte-Victoire view from Lauves”, 1904-06 - oil on canvas, 60- 72 cm. - Basel, Kunstmuseum - view high resolution image

Paul Cézanne painted many views of the Mount Sainte-Victoire in the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, and this beautiful work is one of the most developed versions of all them. We can say about this work that it is “cubist before the cubism”: the triangular mountain and the prairie elements -geographic or edificatory- acquire volume by the superposition of many chromatic planes.

PAUL CÉZANNE: “Large Bathers”, 1906  
PAUL CÉZANNE: “Large Bathers”, 1906 - oil on canvas, 208 - 251 cm. - Philadelphia Museum of Art - view high resolution image

This is the largest canvas Cézanne ever painted, and the fabulous culmination of the "Bathers" series. The painting is reminiscent of some Titian's finest paintings, such as the "Bacchanal of the Andrians", while the almost sculptorical representation of the human body link this canvas with some of Michelangelo's frescoes at the Vatican. Two other "finished" "Bathers" paintings exist, one in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the other in the National Gallery, London.

CHARLES CONDER: “A holiday in Mentone”, c.1888  

CHARLES CONDER: “A holiday in Mentone”, c.1888 - oil on canvas, 46.2-60.8 cm. - Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide - view high resolution image

An English-born painter, Conder (1868-1909) emigrated to Australia when he was 20 years old, and is now considered a key figure in Australian painting. While his Art was not well received in Australia in his era, he was praised by artists like Pissarro or Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrect even painted a portrait of Conder in 1892.

EDGAR DEGAS: “The dance class", c.1874
 

EDGAR DEGAS: “The dance class", c.1874 - oil on canvas, 83.2 x 76.8 cm - Musée d’Orsay, Paris - view high resolution image

Degas paintings of young dancers or ballerinas are among his greatest -and of course most famous- achievements. Degas depicted these young girls as true professionals, practicing all day long under the strict tutelage of the master. In this canvas, the dance master appears at the center-right of the composition, supervising the scene like an authority at the height of his powers.

EDGAR DEGAS: “L'absinthe (absinthe drinkers)", 1876
 

EDGAR DEGAS: “L'absinthe (absinthe drinkers)", 1876 - oil on canvas, 92-68 cm. - Musée d’Orsay, Paris - view high resolution image

"What a slut!", George Moore commented about the woman in this painting, adding that "the tale is not a pleasant one, but it is a lesson", and also that "no one has said so much in so little space, and no one has expressed in such a simple way (...) thanks to the science of the drawing, invisible but omnipresent, almost impersonal". The sad and melancholic "Absinthe drinkers" appears to have influenced works of later artists, such as Picasso's interiors from the Blue Period, or Edward Hopper's urban scenes.

PAUL GAUGUIN - "Le Christ jaune (The Yellow Christ"), 1889
 

PAUL GAUGUIN - "Le Christ jaune (The Yellow Christ)", 1889 - oil on canvas, 91.1-73.4 cm. - Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo - view high resolution image

This work is considered one of the origins of symbolist painting, along with "The Green Christ", and can be seen as a precedent to the religious paintings created by Gauguin in the Polynesia ("Ia Orana Maria", "Maternity"), but depicting Breton women instead of Polynesian girls. The yellow Christ also appears in a self-portrait by the artist now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

PAUL GAUGUIN - "Mata Mua (in olden times)", 1892
 

PAUL GAUGUIN - "Mata Mua (in olden times)", 1892 - oil on canvas, 91-69 cm. - Madrid, Thyssen Museum - view high resolution image

Gauguin travelled to the tropics searching an artistic redemption, a comeback to the 'primitive' and the 'exotic' that could help him to find a way in which his Art could be 'purified'. "Mata Mua (in olden times)" is a powerful and fascinating composition divided in two parts by a giant tree that majestically stands over a red and purple river. The two women at the right represent the present of Tahiti, while the group of women in front of a big statue of an idol represent the past, the "primitive" Tahitian way of life.

PAUL GAUGUIN - Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?  

PAUL GAUGUIN - "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?", 1897 - oil on canvas, 139- 375 cm. - Boston, Museum of Fine Arts - view high resolution image

This work is not only the most colossal canvas that Gauguin painted in his entire life, but it is also the work that expound the entire philosophical and pictorial doctrine of the artist. Structuring the canvas in an inverted chronological order, Gauguin seems to point the primitive, the innocent, as the only one way to the artist.

ARMAND GUILLAUMIN: "Soleil couchant à Ivry (sunset at Ivry)", 1873  

ARMAND GUILLAUMIN: "Soleil couchant à Ivry (sunset at Ivry)", 1873 - oil on canvas, 81-65 cm. - Musée d’Orsay, Paris - view high resolution image

Though not as famous as Monet, Renoir, and others first-class Impressionist painters, Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927) was an important figure in the Impressionist movement. Friend of Renoir, Cézanne and van Gogh, Guillaumin is arguably the most colorist of all the Impressionist group, which can be easily appreciated in his landscapes of Paris, the Provence and the Mediterranean coast.

CHILDE HASSAM: "Allies Day, May 1917"
 

CHILDE HASSAM: "The Avenue in the rain" - 1917. Oil on canvas - White House Museum - view high resolution image

Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was a key figure in the American Impressionism, though his only contact with a French Impressionist artist was when he took over Pierre Auguste Renoir’s former studio and found some of the painter’s oil sketches left behind. His most famous works are the “Flag” paintings, completed during World War I, and the stunning "The Avenue in the rain" is his most 'impressionistic' painting in the series.

KONSTANTIN KOROVIN: “Spring” - 1917
 

KONSTANTIN KOROVIN: “Spring” - 1917 - oil on canvas, - The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia - view high resolution image

"Paris was a shock for me … Impressionists… in them I found everything for what I was scolded back at home, in Moscow". Korovin (1861-1939) was, along with his friend Valentin Serov, the main figure of Russian Impressionist painters. Highly influenced by the French Impressionists, he developed, however, a very personal style that mixes the typical elements of French Impressionism with the rich colors of Russian Art of his era.

WINSLOW HOMER: “Summer night”, 1890  

WINSLOW HOMER: “Summer night” - 1890 - oil on canvas, 76.7- 102 cm. - Paris, Musée d' Orsay - view high resolution image

When talking about Impressionism, an error is often committed when considering it an exclusively French movement, when a few North American painters deserve to appear not far from Monet, Degas, Pisarro… Among all them, the most important is, with no doubt, Winslow Homer, and "Summer Night" is one of his undisputed masterpieces. The spontaneity with which the artist represents the charm and magic of a summer night makes of this painting one of the masterworks of American painting.

EDOUARD MANET: "Bar at the Folies Bergere", 1882  

EDOUARD MANET: "Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (Luncheon on the grass)", 1862/63 - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Some experts have called this work "the origin of Impressionism". Manet shocked the Art world when he exhibited the painting at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. Émile Zola wrote about this monumental canvas: "It is, in short, this vast ensemble, full of atmosphere, this corner of nature rendered with a simplicity so just, all of this admirable page in which an artist has placed all the particular and rare elements which are in him".

EDOUARD MANET: "Olympia", 1863  

EDOUARD MANET: "Olympia", 1863 - oil on canvas, 130.5 - 190 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

We can say that this is one of the most controversial paintings of all time, and it was not well received by the critics when it was first exhibited in 1865. "Who is that yellow odalisque?", asked Jules Claretie from L'Artiste, while Antonin Proust declared that "If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration". The painting was, however, admired by Émile Zola.

EDOUARD MANET: "Bar at the Folies Bergere", 1882  

EDOUARD MANET: "Bar at the Folies Bergere", 1882 - London, Courtald Institute Galleries - view high resolution image

Manet's paintings of cafe scenes are direct observations of social life in nineteenth century Paris, and this stunning and complex canvas is one of his most famous masterpieces. Note that the woman in the reflection should appear directly behind the image of the woman who is facing us. Is this a terrible mistake by Manet, or is the artist expressing a sort of "double reality" in this famous work?

CLAUDE MONET – "Terrace at Sainte Adresse" (1867)  

CLAUDE MONET"The Terrace at Sainte Adresse" (1867) - New York, Metropolitan - view high resolution image

"The Terrace at Sainte Adresse" is arguably Monet's first masterpiece, and still one of the most famous paintings from early Impressionism. The bourgeois scene is developed under a strong "plein air" light. The clear limits between land, sea and sky divide and hierarchies the composition, vertically organized by the two flags fluttered by the ocean breeze.

CLAUDE MONET – "Impression, sunrise"  

CLAUDE MONET"Impression, sunrise" (1873) - Paris, Musée Marmottan - view high resolution image

“Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape", said of this canvas Louis Leroy, an Art critic, when the painted was exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1877. And this is just an example of how most of the critics of the time reacted to this painting, and, by extension, to the whole Impressionist movement (a movement that in fact owes its name to this painting) It is not surprising, then, that nobody offered 1,000 francs, the asking price for this painting.

CLAUDE MONET – “Le gare Saint Lazare (Saint Lazare Station)”, 1877  

CLAUDE MONET“Le gare Saint Lazare (Saint Lazare Station)”, 1877 – oil on canvas, 75-100 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

"It's a pictorical symphony", observed the magazine L'homme libre when this painting was exhibited at the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877, one of the few positive critics to a painting in that show. "Monet likes this station, and he has already depicted it with less success. This time it is really wonderful. He has painted not only the movement, the colour and the activity, but also the noise. It's unforgettable".

CLAUDE MONET – “Meules (Haystacks, white frost)” - 1891  

CLAUDE MONET“Meules (Haystacks, white frost)” - 1889 - oil on canvas - Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington - view high resolution image

Between 1889 and 1891, Monet created a series of 15 canvases representing a group of haystacks in the outskirts of Giverny. Wassily Kandinsky had the opportunity of seeing one of these haystacks in an exhibition in Moscow in 1895, and he was impressed to the point of suggesting it as the first abstract painting in the history of Art: "And suddenly, for the first time, I saw a picture. It was a haystack [or rather, a grain stack], the catalogue informed me, but I could not recognize it (.) I realized that there the object of the picture was missed (.) What I had perfectly present was the unsuspected -and until then hidden- power of the palette".

CLAUDE MONET – “Poplars au bord de l'Epte, view from the marshes”  

CLAUDE MONET“Poplars au bord de l'Epte, view from the marshes” - 1891 – oil on canvas, 88- 93 cm. - USA, private collection - view high resolution image

Claude Monet is the Impressionist painter par excellence. His greatest lyrical achievement is reached in this strangely irresistible picture. The composition so beautifully resembles the beauty of a Japanese haiku, asymmetric and touching, while the poplars' leaves sing in red, purple, and finally in a blue that would make Yves Klein green with envy. It's Monet in his full bloom, the artist who once told his family that he wanted “to paint as the bird sings”.

CLAUDE MONET – “The Portal of Rouen Cathedral (soleil), harmony in blue and gold"
 

CLAUDE MONET“The Portal of Rouen Cathedral (soleil), harmony in blue and gold" - oil on canvas, 101 - 65 cm. - 1893. Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

"The climax of Impressionism". That's how the series of views of Rouen Cathedral painted by Monet between 1892 and 1894 has been best described. The series - consisting of 31 canvases showing the facade of Rouen's Gothic Cathedral under different conditions of light and weather- caused an immediate admiration among the critics of his time, and they were praised by many later masters, from Wassily Kandinsky to Roy Lichtenstein. The election of the palette reflects the different shades in which the daily light was dyeing the facade: from the smooth blues of the morning to the vivid ochre and golden shades in the plein soleil pictures, as this one

CLAUDE MONET – “Nympheas (water lilies)"  

CLAUDE MONET – “Nympheas (water lilies)" - oil on canvas, 219-602 cm. - 1920-1926 - Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie- view high resolution image

Monet's series of the "Nympheas" have been described as "The Sixtine Chapel of Impressionism".

BERTHE MORISOT – “Summer day", 1879  

BERTHE MORISOT“Summer day", 1879 - London, National Gallery - oil on canvas, 45-75 cm. - view high resolution image

Granddaughter of Fragonard, the famous 18th century French painter, and raised in a wealthy family, Morisot was an active member of the Impressionist movement, and even Manet admired her artistic style. In his last works, the influence of Renoir is evident.

CAMILLE PISSARRO: "Landscape at Pontoise", 1874  

CAMILLE PISSARRO: "Landscape at Pontoise", 1874 - oil on canvas, 61-81 cm. - Winterthur, Oskar Reinhart Collection - view high resolution image

Known as "The Father of Impressionism", Pissarro is, along with Monet and Sisley, the most "pure" of all Impressionist painters, exhibiting in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions. He is particulary famous for his depictions of rural life of Northern France, specially the town of Pontoise, in which the influence of the naturalism of Jean-Baptiste Corot and Gustave Courbet is evident.

CAMILLE PISSARRO: "Le Boulevard Montmartre, effet de nuit (The Boulevard Montmartre at Night)", 1897  

CAMILLE PISSARRO: "Le Boulevard Montmartre, effet de nuit (The Boulevard Montmartre at Night)", 1897 - Oil on canvas, 53.3 x 64.8 cm - London, National Gallery - view high resolution image

While Pissarro is more famous for his depictions of the rural life, he also created a great number of fabulous urban scenes of 19th century Paris. In 1897, he took a room in Boulevard Montmartre and depicted it at different hours of the day, being this canvas the only night scene of the series. "The Boulevard Montmartre at Night" is a sensational impressionist painting, though Pissarro never exhibited it during his lifetime.

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Moulin de la Galette", 1876  

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Moulin de la Galette", 1876 - oil on canvas, 131-175 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

This masterwork has been described as “the most beautiful painting of the 19th century”. The painting depicts one of the numerous dances that took place in the Moulin de la Galette, one of the most frequented clubs in 19th century Montmartre, a paradise for bohemians and artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh or Renoir himself. One of the supreme masterworks from early Impressionism.

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the boating party)"  

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the boating party)", 1880-81 - oil on canvas, 129.5 × 172.7 cm - Washington, Phillips Collection - view high resolution image

The light is the main protagonist of this famous painting, in wich Renoir has depicted a group of his friends relaxing on a balcony along the Seine river (among them, another famous Impressionist painter, Gustave Caillebotte, who can be seen in the lower right of the canvas).

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "The Umbrellas", 1881-86
 

PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR: "The Umbrellas", 1881-86 - oil on canvas, 180 - 114 cm. - London, National Gallery - view high resolution image

"About 1883, a rupture occurred in my work. I had come to the end of Impressionism, and I arrived at the conclusion that I could neither paint nor to draw. In one word, I was at a dead end". "The Umbrellas" is a complex work in which we can find Renoir in two different periods of his career. While the precise drawing of the girl on the left can be easily ascribed to his 'Impressionist' period, some figures on the right should be identificated with his "dry" or "Ingres" period, started in 1883.

THEODORE ROBINSON: "La débâcle", 1892  

THEODORE ROBINSON: "La débâcle", 1892 - oil on canvas - Scripps College, Claremont, California - view high resolution image

Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) is without question one of the key figures in the American Impressionism. A close friend of Claude Monet, he created some of his best works while living in Giverny, just few months before returning to America. "La dèbâcle" is a typical work by Robinson, executed au plein air, and depicting a young woman in a leisure activity

GEORGES SEURAT: "Une baignade à Asnières (Bathers at Asnieres)", 1883/84  

GEORGES SEURAT: "Une baignade à Asnières (Bathers at Asnieres)", 1883/84 - oil on canvas, 201-300 cm. - London, National gallery - view high resolution image

Georges Seurat is one of the most important post-impressionist painters, often considered the creator of the "pointillism", a style of painting in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary and intermediate colors. "Bathers at Asnieres" is the first of Seurat's large-scale canvases.

GEORGES SEURAT: "Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande-Jatte", 1884-86  
GEORGES SEURAT: "Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande-Jatte", 1884-86 - oil on canvas, 207.6 - 308 cm. - Chicago, Art institute - view high resolution image

"Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte" is Seurat's most important masterpiece (he spent more than two years painting this huge canvas, creating more than 50 preliminary sketches and drawings), the best example of "pointillism" painting and a milestone of late 19th century Art.

PAUL SIGNAC: "The Papal Palace, Avignon", c.1900  

PAUL SIGNAC: "Le Palais des Papes, Avignon (The Papal Palace, Avignon)", c.1900 - oil on canvas, 73.5-92.5 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Along with his mentor Georges Seurat, Paul Signac (1863-1925) is the key figure of the pointillism. Signac loved sailing, and he traveled to almost all the French Coast, specially the Mediterranean Coast, where he created some of his most brilliant and colorful compositions, such as the example illustrated here. Signac was also an important influence to later artists like Henri Matisse.

ALFRED SISLEY: "Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes", 1873  

ALFRED SISLEY: "Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes", 1873 - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - oil on canvas - view high resolution image

If we want to look for the "pure", essential impressionist painters, such list would be reduced to only three names: Claude Monet -the real Michelangelo of the impressionist era-, Camille Pissarro -the great chronicler of the rural life- and Alfred Sisley. Sisley's paintings of the small town of Louveciennes are arguably his greatest achievements, and this simple but powerful canvas is perhaps the best of all them.

ALFRED SISLEY: "L'inondation à Port-Marly", 1876  

ALFRED SISLEY: "L'inondation à Port-Marly", 1876 - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - oil on canvas - view high resolution image

Sisley painted several canvases depicting these floods in Port-Marly, but the two more outstanding examples are those that show the river's waters around a wine shop at Rue Paris. We can suggest a link between these paintings and the turbulent biography of their creator: it is possible that Sisley saw the floods in the quiet town of Port-Marly as a reflection of his own life: troubled and overflowed after several events as unforeseeable and inevitable as the floods of the Seine River.

JOAQUÍN SOROLLA: "La hora del baño (The Bathing hour)", 1904  

JOAQUÍN SOROLLA: "La hora del baño (The Bathing hour)", 1904 - oil on canvas, 84-119 cm. - Private collection - view high resolution image

Impressionism had almost no presence in Spanish painting. In fact, the man who is often considered as the best impressionist painter in Spain -Joaquín Sorolla- was not a "pure" impressionist painter, though in his mature works his style was clearly influenced by that Art movement. This painting was sold for $6.2 million in 2003, an auction record for a work by Sorolla.

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC: "At the Moulin Rouge", 1890  

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC: "At the Moulin Rouge", 1890 - oil on canvas, 115-150 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

Born in an aristocratic family, and physically unable due to a genetic disorder that made his legs extremely short, Toulouse-Lautrec is known as the great chronist of the 19th century Paris nightlife. This painting, depicting a night in one of the most famous cabarets in Paris -the Moulin Rouge- is considered as one of his masterpieces, and, along with Renoir's "Moulin de la Galette" (see above), an unforgettable depiction of 19th century Paris nightlife.
HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC: “Dans le lit (In bed)", 1893  

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC: “Dans le lit (In bed)", 1893 - oil on canvas, 54-70.5 cm. - Paris, Musée d'Orsay - view high resolution image

This is one (and arguably the best) of the several scenes of a couple in bed painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, which have often been described as "dispassionate" despite the intimacy of the subject. While the composition looks really simple, the artist has used a very interesting perspective remarked by the striking colours.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Starry night”, 1889
 
VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Sunflowers (vase with fifteen sunflowers)”, 1888 - oil on canvas - London, National Gallery of Art - view high resolution image

Van Gogh's "sunflowers" are not only one of the artist's favorite subjects (seven canvases of vases with sunflowers, plus three earlier works depicting the sunflowers alone), but they also rank among the most famous paitings ever created. "The sunflower is mine in a way", said van Gogh to his brother Theo. The work illustrated here is one of the brightest of all the series, with a fabulous spectrum of yellow pigments. One of these 'sunflowers' smashed the auction record for a painting when it was sold to a Japanese investor for almost $40 million in March 1987. Recent rumors have suggest that the work could not be a genuine van Gogh, but a copy by Emile Schuffenecker.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles (Van Gogh's room at Arles)”, 1888-89  

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles (Van Gogh's room at Arles)”, 1889 - oil on canvas, 73-92 cm. - Chicago, Art Institute - view high resolution image

Van Gogh first painted his room in Arles in October 1888 (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Van Gogh), and, one year later, he painted two more versions while living in Saint-Rémy, being the work illustrated here the most ellaborated of the three. "This time is simply my bedroom" -commented Van Gogh in a letter - "only here color is to do everything, and giving by its simplification a grander style to things".

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Starry night”, 1889  
VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Starry night”, 1889 - oil on canvas, 73,7 - 92,1 cm. - New York, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) - view high resolution image

One of the artist's most brilliant and famous works, commonly associated to his increasing madness, and that actually was the result of van Gogh's interest for the astronomical investigations. In fact, in this painting we can observe either real or fantastic elements. On the first hand, a study made by the Griffith Park Observatory demonstrated that Vincent represented the Moon, Venus, and several stars in the exact position they occupied that clear night. On the other hand, the showy spiral that occupies great part of the work is clearly a fantastic element.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Irises”, 1889  

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Irises”, 1889 - oil on canvas, 73,5 - 92 cm. - Jean Paul Getty Museum, Malibu - view high resolution image

Van Goh painted this famous canvas when he was living at the mental asylum of Saint-Rémy, where he was sometimes allowed to paint "au plein air". The whole canvas is filled with the splendor and charm of the nature. Curiously, the red flowers at the top of the painting look like an echo of the red floor, while the white flower of the left is "reflected" in a pale blue one at the right. This painting was sold in Sotheby's New York for $53.9 million, then the highest price ever paid for a work of Art.

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Self-portrait with bandaged ear”, 1889
 

VINCENT VAN GOGH: “Self-portrait with bandaged ear”, 1889 - oil on canvas, 60-49 cm., London, Courtald Institute Galleries - view high resolution image

This is one of the two self-portraits that van Gogh painted after cutting off his ear (the other, previously in the collection of Leigh B. Block in Chicago, was bought later by the Niarchos family). The expression of the artist's face is, paradoxically, calmer than in many other self-portraits by the artist; which can be interpreted as an effort of the painter to find in the painting his particular salvation. It is also remarkable the presence of a Japanese stamp in a self-portrait. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent affirmed that he envied the Japanese painters for “his style, as simple as breathing”.

   
Share |
All Rights Reserved

RSS Feeds | Site Map | About Us | Manifesto | Contact | Terms of Use | Art Links | © theartwolf.com