Masterpieces with Single Tree Composition

Fundamentally, all landscape paintings have a focal point, which draws the viewer’s eye to the heart of the paintings composition. For instance (as shown below), the cypress trees serve as the focal point in Vincent van Gogh’s painting ‘Wheat Field and Cypress Trees’, the sun in Claude Monet’s painting ‘Impression’ and the central tree in the painting ‘Banks of the Marne’ by Paul Cezanne.

But what if the composition of the painting comprises of a single tree, the focal point diminishes and the central figure is the lone subject of the painting. Which genre would the artwork fall under – Landscape, subject study or symbolic art? The theme sounds vague, boring and bland but surprisingly this rare composition has been captured beautifully by many master artists. We explore few such masterpieces that aesthetically illustrate this atypical theme.

The Mulberry Tree by Vincent van Gogh-
The isolated tree shown against a rocky terrain has its branches spread out with a blast of fiery colors. Vincent managed to create a magical autumn experience by means of just a single tree.

 

 

Rose bushes under the Trees by Gustav Klimt-
The canvas is like a confetti explosion of various shades of greens and yellows. Klimt’s unique composition of a single tree with rich foliage, depicted with tiny specks of brush strokes is one of his most popular masterpieces.

 

 

The Tree Series by Piet Mondrian-
The solitary trees in the series are depicted in their most basic and simplistic form, true to Mordrian’s art movement ‘De Stijl’ / ’The Style’. Cleverly angled brush strokes, and limited palette void of greens are the unique characteristics of this series.

 

 

The Bonaventure Pine by Paul Signac-
Painted in pointillism style a huge Umbrella Pine tree stretches across the canvas. The subdued background highlights the majestic form and the interesting shape of the tree. Following the pointillism technique of small dots applied in patterns, pixels of lighter tone sprinkled around the tree, suggest sunlight filtering through the leaves, adding a dreamy feel to the painting.

 

 

Autumn trees by Egon Schiele-
The bare lone trees made by the expressionist artists are metamorphic, the series deal with the themes related to death and rebirth. Grey palette, twisted trunk, cloudy sky and entwined branches are a compelling portrayal of a stormy winter, allegorical of misery and loneliness.

 

 

Pine Tree near Aix by Paul Cezanne-
The composition of this artwork differs from the rest, it’s unique and abstract, much like the other artworks of the post impressionist artist. The central figure (i.e. the pine tree) gets cut from all sides and is used as a frame for the painting. The mesh of the branches connecting the sides, combine all the elements to the center of the composition.

 

 

The Oak by Edvard Munch-
The artwork has an interesting color scheme, cool sky tones gradually descend to warm earthy color, diagonally from top left to bottom right. Though the color gradient of the tree is reflected on the background, yet Munch successively managed to highlight the tree as the central figure.

 

 

The Pink Peach Tree by Vincent Van Gogh-
The painting depicts a peach tree in bloom during springtime, despite being painted with subtle and pastel shades the artwork looks vibrant and spirited. The perspective exaggerated by the tapering flow of the brush strokes helps in highlighting the tree as the main subject.

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Th.V. Doesburg, Drei Haeuser by Juan Gris-
The abstract treatment represents the tree as a three-dimensional form viewed from a single perspective. The cubist artist’s composition despite its simplified geometric forms retains the look and feel of a landscape.

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Tree in flower near Vetheuil by Claude Monet-
The father of impressionism’s technique of capturing light and its effect on the color of the object is at play in this painting. The light and shade on the solitary tree are represented brilliantly with precise dabs and dashes of varied tones.

 

 

Little Oak Tree by Franz Marc-
The simplicity of the painting is reminiscent of ‘The Mulberry Tree’ by Vincent van Gogh (first painting on the top), spirals of fresh green leaves are highlighted by the brilliant blue sky and animated strokes of the ground.

 

 

The Fig Tree by Paul Klee-
The lone trees’ composition, monochromatic tones and the arrangement of the colored shapes reflect the artists experience in stain glass.

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L’Arbre (The Tree) by Pablo Picasso-
Picasso’s neutral colored artwork illustrates a stylized tree, with array of bold strokes and distorted shapes, the composition is compact with interlinked forms.

 

 

A Great Tree by  J. W. Turner-
The Watercolor artwork projects a powerful and majestic tree, the composition partly cuts the tree from the sides, highlighting the sunlit part of the tree as the focal point.

 

 

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When Art inspired Art

It has been a common practice for artists to replicate the composition of the paintings made by their favorite master artists.  These replicas have been a result of sincere admiration and genuine inspiration. We have listed few such reproduced artworks that have been created with similar theme as the original masterpiece but yet each the copied painting retains its own uniqueness made with fresh creativity.

Vincent van Gogh made over 30 copies of artworks made by his favorite artists- Delacroix, Jean-Francois Millet and Rembrandt. These replicas are not ‘plagiarized ideas’, he reproduced the paintings infusing his own originality with new art techniques and symbolism.

Noon Rest from Work by Jean-Francois Millet (Original)

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Noon – Rest from Work by Vincent van Gogh

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‘Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn’, a painting made by Raphael was inspired by the ‘Mona Lisa’, painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The landscape in the background, three-quarter cut of the portrait and the subjects pose, clearly takes on the composition of the masterpiece made by Leonardo da Vinci. However Raphael’s model has naivety and innocence in contrast to the mysterious Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (Original)

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Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael

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Silk-screen prints of Kate Moss by the British artist Banksy are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe. The graffiti artist has given a contemporary makeover to the classic masterpiece with superimposed hairstyle and vibrant backgrounds.

Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe (Original)

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Banksy’s portraits of Kate Moss

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‘The Balcony’ a painting by Edouard Manet was inspired by ‘The Majas at the balcony’ made by Francisco Goya. Manet applied an interesting color contrast, the three models are Manet’s friends shown in a casual setting. Goya’s theme on the other hand is rather tense, two elegant women are watched over by hostile male figures in the background.

‘The Majas at the balcony’ made by Francisco Goya (Original)

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‘The Balcony’ a painting by Edouard Manet

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‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ is a depiction of a Muslim harem, the painting was created after Eugene Delacroix’s visit to Morocco. The artist was captivated by the Oriental culture, brightly colored flowing costumes, Caravans, Veiled women, and Erotic Harems. In homage to this artwork, Pierre-Auguste Renoir created ‘Parisian Women in Algerian Costume (The Harem). Later Picasso in his cubist style made a series of 15 paintings inspired by Delacroix’s masterpiece.

‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ by Eugene Delacroix’s (Original)

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‘Parisian Women in Algerian Costume’ by Renoir

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Women of Algiers by Picasso

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Taking inspired from the composition of ‘The Pastoral Concert’ made by Titan, Edouard Manet painted ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’. Unlike Titan’s mythological theme, Manet’s painting had a contemporary setting. In that era, the art critics considered Manet’s painting obscene, lacking any mythological theme or allegorical precedent a nude and a scantily dressed female along with two fully cloth men in an urban setting couldn’t be passed off as a respectable subject. Claude Monet further inspired by Manet’s painting made his own version of ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’.  James Tissot’s version ‘The Foursome’ was more animated but it was much tamer and sober.

‘The Pastoral Concert’ made by Titan (Original)

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‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ by Edouard Manet

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‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ by Claude Monet

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The Foursome by James Tissot

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The composition of ‘Bedroom at Arles’ painted by Roy Lichtenstein is an exact replica of Vincent van Gogh’s painting of the same title. The technique is what gives the Pop artists painting its originality.

‘Bedroom at Arles’ by Vincent van Gogh (Original)

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‘Bedroom at Arles’ by Roy Lichtenstein

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‘The Third of May 1808’ is a painting made by Spanish artist Francisco Goya to honor Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies. The artwork inspired Edouard Manet’s painting ‘Execution of Emperor Maximilian’ and Pablo Picassos masterpiece ‘Guernica’. Manet’s painting portrays the execution of the Emperor of Mexico and ‘Guernica’ is and anti-war painting made by Picasso depicting the aftermath of the Nazi German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

‘The Third of May 1808’ by Francisco Goya (Original)

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‘Execution of Emperor Maximilian’ by Edouard Manet

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‘Guernica’ by Picasso

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The Card Players is a series of oil paintings made by Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne, depicting peasants engrossed in their pipes and playing cards. Cezanne gained inspiration from the painting ‘The Card Players’ made by one of the Le Nain brothers. While the original is highly animated and has a lot of drama, farmers in Cezanne’s artwork are calm and intensely focused on their game.

‘The Card Players’ by the Le Nain brothers (Original)

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‘The Card Players’ by Paul Cezanne

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Johannes Vermeer’s painting ‘The Art of Painting’ is in fact a self portrait, the artist has his back towards the viewer. Perfectly balanced composition, flawless lighting and remarkably realistic technique makes this masterpiece artwork one of the finest creation made by the artist. Salvador Dali revered Vermeer, ‘The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table’ is a surrealistic painting made by him in reference to Vermeer’s appearance in his popular painting ‘The Art of Painting’.

‘The Art of Painting’ by Johannes Vermeer (Original)

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‘The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table’ by Dali

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‘Woman with a Parasol’ (Mrs. Monet and their son) was painted by Claude Monet in a single session probably within few hours, the impulsiveness is clearly visible with the bold and dynamic strokes of multiple shades. Upwards perspective, windy atmosphere and the juxtaposition of Mrs Monet with her partly visible son, adds a sense of amazing depth. Inspired by this remarkable artwork, American artist John Singer Sargent, painted ‘Two Girls with Parasols’, the theme and feel of the painting is similar, it depicts a relaxed and casual outing on a sunny, fair weather day.

‘Woman with a Parasol’ by Claude Monet (Original)

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‘Two Girls with Parasols’ by John Singer Sargent

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10 Legendary Muses in Art History

For centuries, in the history of art many master artists captivated by heir muses have created remarkable masterpieces. The magnetic force of the muse has proved to expand the mesmerized artists’ creativity. It’s interesting how the intensity and nature of muse-artist relationship clearly reflects on the artworks. We have featured some of the most popular muses’ who have been responsible for inspiring renowned artists’ in creating highly creative and incredible paintings.

Emilie Louise Flöge an Austrian fashion designer and successful businesswoman made a lasting impression on the symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. A creative, free-spirited and an accomplished woman, who led a bohemian life style had much in common with the artist. She is known to be his life companion, in his final moments Klimt’s last words were “Get Emilie”. She modeled for his paintings, designed attires for the figures in his artworks and greatly influenced the decorative patterns of his paintings.

emilie-louise-floge_gustav-klimt

 

Gala Dalí, a powerful inspiration for her husband Salvador Dalí, was also a muse for many other writers and artists of her time. She modeled for some of the best known paintings and sculptures created by her husband. The surrealist painter was so enamored by his wife that eventually he started signing his paintings with his and her name. He stated “(i)t is mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures”.

gala-salvador-dali

Galaofspheres

 

Lydia Corbett was an inspiration that lead Pablo Picasso into creating 60+ remarkable artworks. She was a charming 19-year-old at the time she met the artist, she tied her blonde hair in a typical high ponytail fashion with fringes. At the first meeting itself he was taken by her youthfulness, innocence and her timid nature. Art historians have termed this phase of Picasso’s art as his ‘Ponytail Period’ and the artworks as ‘Sylvette series’ (Lydia was then called Sylvette). Lydia Corbett is an artist in her own right who has held numerous successful exhibitions of her remarkable artworks.

lydia-corbett-sylvette_pablo-picasso

 

George Dyer was a petty criminal when he met British painter Francis Bacon. It is said that Dyer was caught by Bacon conducting burglary into the artist’s apartment. Bacon latter stated that he was attracted to Dyer’s helplessness and immaturity, Dyer on the other hand was awe-struck by the artist’s intellect and self-confidence. Their fiery and passionate relationship led the artist to create some of his most original and creative portraits and artworks.

george-dyer_francis-bacon

 

Victorine Meurent modeled for many impressionist artists however she was predominantly featured in most of the masterpieces made by Edouard Manet. The artist is said to have been charmed by her when he first saw Meurent in the street carrying her guitar, she use to play the instrument in café-concerts. ‘The Luncheon on the Grass’ and ‘Olympia’ (Shown below) are the two most popular artworks that feature her nude portrayal. An accomplished artist herself, she regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon.

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Saskia van Uylenburgh, wife of painter Rembrandt van Rijn served as his muse for numerous masterpieces. The artists featured her in many of his mythical, biblical and historical themed artworks and painted numerous portraits of her. Saskia died after giving birth to their fourth child Titus’s, most likely from tuberculosis. There’s a collection of touching artworks which he lovingly created of her while she was sick on her death bed.

saskia-van-uylenburgh_rembrandt

 

Camille Monet, wife and muse of French painter ClaudeMonet has been featured in number of his masterpieces. ‘The Woman in the Green Dress’, which earned Monet critical acclaim at the Paris salon, is the most popular painting which features her as a subject. Besides being Monet’s muse, she also modeled for other known Impressionist artists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet. Tragically, Camille died very young due to pelvic cancer, grief-stricken Monet made numerous intense and expressive paintings of his dead wife.
camille-claude-monet

 

Elizabeth Siddal, a talented artist herself, inspired her husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She has been the central subject of Rossetti’s symbolic and mythological paintings and drawings which have been said to amount in thousands. Rossetti represented Siddal as Dante’s Beatrice in one of his most famous works, Beata Beatrix. While posing for artist John Everett Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ (Shown below) in 1852, Siddal floated in a bathtub full of water to represent the drowning Ophelia. Millais painted daily into the winter putting lamps under the tub to warm the water.

ophelia_elizabeth-siddal_john-everett-millais

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Frida Kahlo once stated “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” In her life-time Frida Kahlo created 55 self-portraits. The experience of excruciating physical pain (due to a childhood accident) and emotional turmoil owing to her tumultuous personal life is characteristically represented by her in her self-portraits.

Self Portrait Frida Kahlo

 

Camille Claudel, a famed French sculptor started her relationship with artist Auguste Rodin as his pupil eventually became his companion and inspiration. Quoted as a ‘woman genius’ by the art critics, she not only played the role of a muse but also influenced sculptor Auguste Rodin’s art style. Interestingly, their turbulent and passionate relationship echo’s on both, Rodin’s and Claudel’s artworks.

camille-claudel_auguste-rodin

5 Misconceptions about Art for Small Apartments

Common belief is that small apartment’s face restrictions on the kind of art to be selected for the interiors. In truth, there are no hard and fast rules to be followed for the size, color, number or theme of the paintings for a residence short on space. If you want to personalize your home with artworks of your choice, just follow your heart. Compromising on art because of space issues is like killing the soul of your room. In fact, a skillful placement and a fitting selection can be smartly used to create an illusion of more space. We have pulled out few classic misconceptions people have for selecting art for their apartment-

Use Light Colored Artworks

‘Hang light colored paintings’, is a rule we are advised to follow for decorating a small room. A professional Interior designer would be willing to break this rule and yet be able to create a sense of space. Simply following subdued tones for a small space is boring, if you wish to hang a deep colored artwork, reflect the darker hues of the paintings on other accessories of the room and juxtaposition the light and dark tones of the room in a manner that adds depth to the space and enhances the neutral shades. Layering of colors adds dimension and makes the room look airy.

Colors from Degas painting ‘Dancers’ reflected on various accessories adds depths to the space.

Image- Margaret Donaldson Interiors

 

Darker tones of the painting ‘Turkish Soldiers Casting Bullets’ and other design elements enhances the lighter shades of the room.

Image- Better Homes and Gardens

 

Only use Small Artworks

Contrary to popular belief of using small artworks for an apartment that lacks space, a large artwork can be an innovate way of adding style and if selected dexterously it can create an illusion of a wider space. For a small room with poor lighting or a windowless space, a large landscape painting makes a lot of difference, it creates a feeling of wider space. Huge, bold and simple art prints which are not too busy or elaborate like abstract art, maps or vintage posters are few of the many tricks used by professional interior designers for adding an illusion of increased space in small apartments and flats.

The scenery ‘Rest along the Stream’ made by Alfred Sisley gives a fresh and airy feeling to the sitting arrangement.

Image source- Better Homes & Gardens

 

A huge map adds an impression of a wider space to a vintage setting.

Image source-  majestymaps.com

 

Picasso’s artwork ‘The Young Ladies of Avignon’ gives a relief to the colorful setting.

Image source-  sukio.com, Designed by Nick Olsen

 

Don’t use Busy or Multicolored Artworks

Another erroneous notion is that an intricate or busy artwork can get overpowering and swallow a lot of space. In fact an engaging painting, involuntarily becomes a focal point, causing a space diminishing effect making the surroundings seem more spacious. If we strike a right balance of size and distance with the other design elements, an intricate and detailed artwork can work wonders for a small space.

Orientalist Painting ’The Carpet Merchants’ made by Jean-Léon Gérôme gives a diminishing feeling to the space.

Image source-  veranda.com

 

Orientalist Painting ’The Dance’ made by Giulio Rosati takes the center stage, as a focal point.

Image source- oldbrandnew.com

The Tiger by Marc Franzis gives the receding effect to the space

Image source-  Better Homes and Gardens

 

Don’t Fill the Walls

Don’t let limited space be a deterrent for displaying your large art collection. Salon-style grouping is a perfect solution for displaying assembly of your exquisite artworks in the trendiest and refreshing manner. It accentuates the height of the ceiling making it seem taller and creates a cozy feeling. Composing salon-style wall is however a challenge, the theme, color palette, size, distance and framing are factors that need to be planned with utmost understanding. A flawed composition can ruin the display by making it look over whelming. Distance between each piece and aesthetic harmony are two main factors to be kept in mind for the composition.

Image source-  houzz.com

Image source-  Better Homes and Gardens

 

Fewer Artworks

For small apartments with heavy-duty and bulky furnishing, we are tempted to follow the rule ‘Lesser the better’ but as per a professional interior designer, fewer artworks is no solution for space issues, it will in no way make the room look any bigger. Instead bare walls would make the room lifeless like an empty shell. While you may not want an over whelming effect on every wall, there’s no harm done in putting up a selection of your favorites’ for personalizing your home, to suit your taste and style. However in this case, the trick is to use lighter and simpler design elements in the vicinity to retain the room’s spaciousness.

‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt and other abstract Art Print’s work well with the light and restrained interior.

Image source-  Dona Rosene Interiors

 

Abstract artwork’s by Kazimir Malevich and Paul Klee despite the size retain the airy feeling of the space.

Image source-  architecturaldigest.com, designed by Christina Murphy

10 Masterpieces that have Transcended Time

Art is decidedly subjective, what might appeal to you may not have the same effect on someone else. For instance, personally, I favor artworks made during impressionism and post impressionism era. There are some who only like realistic art from renaissance period in contrast to a section of art enthusiasts who are fond of modern and contemporary art. Consequently, jotting down a set of ‘Best Artworks’, ‘Greatest Masterpieces’ or ‘Most Famous Paintings’ as such is near impossible. However we have list out 10 masterpieces which are considered most innovative and remarkably intriguing by majority of the art lovers, each made by a different master artist.

Starry night (1889- Post Impressionism), the masterpiece is believed to be a view from Vincent van Gogh’s room in an asylum at Saint-Remy. The upper half of the painting shows a vibrant sky bursting with energy, the turbulent swirls are in sharp contrast with the calm and sleepy village in the lower half of the painting. Based on Vincent’s religiously beliefs, art historians interpret that the cypress tree in the foreground symbolizes the unification of the world with the cosmos.


Impression- Sunrise
(1874- Impressionism), by Claude Monet was displayed in the first art exhibition held by then struggling artists- Manet, Renoir, Degas and Monet. Rebuffed by the art critics, they used the title of this painting to phrase the exhibition as “The Exhibition of the Impressionists” hence accidentally defining the new art movement. His technique of loose and short brushstrokes captured the essence of the Sunrise. The uniquely unfinished look of this artwork is what paved the way for the new art movement- Impressionism.


The Kiss
(1907- Symbolism) Gustav Klimt’s signature style of clubbing decorative patterns with semi- realistic figures has been best achieved in his celebrated artwork-‘The Kiss’.  The painting shows an entwined couple symbolizing love. The masculine geometric shapes on the man’s gown gradually merge in to the lady’s floral pattern symbolizing the couple’s passionate union as one. Further adding to this blissful union is the surreal dreamlike setting of shimmering gold plated background.


Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
(The Young Ladies of Avignon) (1907- Cubism) by Pablo Picasso is considered to be the prototype that shaped Cubism and Modern Art. The masterpiece projects the creative maturity achieved by Picasso over the years, a style that fermented over time through his various experiments and techniques. The painting portrays five female prostitutes from a brothel in Barcelona, with the simplistic and two-dimensional figures Picasso breaks the conventional rules of perspective and realism.


The Persistence of Memory
(1931- Surrealism) by Salvador Dalí, is widely believed to be the masterpiece that best defines the art movement ‘Surrealism’. The painting shows pocket watches melting against a barren backdrop. Composition is dreamlike and the execution is realistic, typical characteristics of a surrealistic painting, as stated by Dali himself “hand painted dream photographs”. The subject of the artwork is insignificance of time, the ants on the left suggest decaying and the distorted central form is often referred as a Self-portrait.


Mona Lisa
(1517- Renaissance) is undoubtedly the most popular portraits in the art world, the greatest creation of renaissance period and the finest masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci. This accomplished portrait is most known for its captivating and mysterious half-smile, it’s been an ultimate source of inspiration for visual and literary arts.  Art expert’s latest belief has been that for the hopping smile, the genius artist, applied optical illusion called sfumato, generated by clever shading around the cheek bones and mouth.


Birth of Venus
(1480- Renaissance) by Sandro Botticelli, is one of the best representation of the origin of the ‘Goddess of love’, a common mythological subject of the Renaissance Period. The painting shows Venus, who has just risen from the sea on a shell, she is gently being blown towards the shore by the God of Wind. On the right, Hora the Goddess of Spring reaches out to cover her with a cloak. Her elegant posture and melancholic gaze makes Botticelli’s Venus look like a mystifying beauty.


The Girl with a Pearl Earring
(1665- Baroque), often referred as ‘The Dutch Mona Lisa’ is one of the most notable painting made by Johannes Vermeer.  The expressions and pose of the subject makes it incredibly interactive. The startled, wide-eyed subject looks back at the viewer with an exceedingly engaging half smile much like Leonard’s Mona Lisa, it seems that the viewer has managed to catch her attention causing her to pause and gaze back over her shoulder.


Dance at le Moulin de la Galette
(1876- Impressionism) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir- The artwork shows, couples dancing in the open-air dance hall and a café on a Sunday afternoon. The joyful ambiance fashioned by Renoir reflects the typical life style of the Parisians. The figures have soft contours, mildly blending with each other, adding a dreamy feel to the painting. The entire canvas is covered with spots of light and shadow, suggesting sunlight filtering through the trees, adding a gleaming summery experience to the scenario.


The Fighting Temeraire
(1838- Romanticism), a seascape made by J. W. Turner, is known for its dramatic play of sunlight and its spectacular theme. The 998-gun ship, played an important role in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, in the seascape it is being towed away by a steamer to be broken up for scrap. The theme is a salute to the passing of the majestic ship, decolorized and faded it seems a thing of the past. For the sunset, Turner used the technique of glazing over impasto, captures the spirit of the moment in the most magnificent manner.

 

There are Passionate Art Collectors and then there are Fanatical Ones

There are passionate art collectors and then there are fanatical ones. We have listed few such obsessive art collectors who even served as art patrons for budding and up-coming young artists, not for personal financial gain or for investment sake but purely for their love for art. Their insightfulness and intuition has originated many success stories for accomplished and skilled artists.

Herbert and Dorothy (1922-2012) (b. 1935), a working-class couple (Herbert was a postal clerk and Dorothy worked as a librarian), are known as the champions of art collectors. With their common interest in art, the made-for-each other couple amassed a priceless collection of over 4,782 artworks, considered to be one of the most important private art collections of the 20th century, which they surprisingly stored in their one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Running out of space in their apartment, they decided to donate part of their collection to the National Gallery of Art (Washington) instead of selling.

Herbert and Dorothy

Herbert & Dorothy (Shown above) with their treasured artworks in their one-bedroom apartment.


Sergei Shchukin
(1854-1936) was a Russian businessman, the art he bought in his time was rebuffed by the Louvre and other museums. He had a strong association particularly with Henri Rousseau. The artist (Rousseau) decorated his mansion and created one of his iconic paintings-La Danse. Shchukin’s collection was brutally criticized and ridiculed by the art circle, he jokingly remarked, “A madman painted it and a madman bought it.”  After the 1917 Revolution, the government acquired his collection, his mansion in Moscow became the State Museum of New Western Art.

Sergei Shchukin the dance

Sergei Shchukin (Left),- The iconic paining made by Henri Rousseau for his mansion- The Dance (Right)

Sergei Shchukin residence, with paintings by Claude Monet and other Impressionists

A portion of Sergei Shchukin’s mansion with his collection (Shown above)


Don and Mera Rubell,
Miami based art enthusiasts started collecting shortly after they got married, Don was still a medical student and Mera was working as a teacher. The couple was organized and practical in their purchases, 25 percent of their monthly finances were fixed for acquiring artworks for their collection. They mostly bought art pieces from young and rising artists. As their financial conditions improved, the Rubells’s gradually extended their range to international aspiring new artists. As selfless art collectors, the Rubell’s showcase their collection annually for public viewing from mid-December to early August.

Don and Mera Rubell

Don and Mera Rubell (Shown above) image source colormecashmere.com


Albert Barnes
(1872-1951) a chemist by profession is known as one of the most insightful and intuitive art collector. In late 19th century/early 20th century, when modern artists like Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani were considered too vague and forward, he bought their artworks and gradually made an art collection of 2,500 art items which is currently worth at least $25-billion. Before long, he got a mansion built and designed especially for his collection, access to which was limited to selected few, mostly art students. After Barnes death, his collection is now part of Philadelphia Museum of Art.

AlbertBarnes

Albert Barnes with his art collection


Charles Lang Freer
(1854-1919), an American industrialist and founder of Freer Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), he is best known for his vast collection of Asian art mostly sculptures, paintings and ceramics from Egypt, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. Though his collection also includes number of American masters but he was particularly fascinated by the works of James Whistler. One of his most famous acquisitions was James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room, a masterpiece of mural art. Freer filled the shelves in the peacock room with pots he had acquired from Asia. This asserted his belief that “all works of art go together, whatever their period.”

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Interior of the Peacock Room, the panels are painted with brilliant blue-greens and metallic gold leaf

 

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Charles Lang Freer (Right), The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (one of the artworks in The Peacock Room)

 

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One of the panels in The Peacock Room (Right), Asian Pots placed along the panels (left)

The Curious Case of- ‘The Barnes Collection’

 

Albert Barnes a chemist by profession is known as one of the most insightful and intuitive art collector. In late 19th century/early 20th century, when modern artists like Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani were considered too vague and forward, he invested in their artworks and gradually made an art collection of 2,500 art items which is currently worth at least $25-billion.

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With his perceptive vision, he bought priceless artworks at advantageous prices. Artworks worth millions in today’s time were bought by him within four to three-figures price range. Today ‘The Barnes collection’ is considered to be the best private art collection of post-Impressionist era. The amazing collection includes – 69 Cézannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 178 Renoirs, 18 Henri Rousseau, 14 Modigliani, 6 Georges Seurat, Edgar Degas, 7 Vincent van Gogh and more.

Shown below are some of the prized assets-

 

 

But his excellent taste in art is not the only thing he is known for, after Barnes’ death, ownership of his exclusive collection had become a very controversial issue. Only once, did Barnes showcase his private collection publically, the displayed artworks were brutally criticized and ridiculed by the local art circle leaving a permanent resentment towards the art critics and institutes of Philadelphian.

Before long, he got a mansion built and designed especially for his collection, access to which was limited to selected few, mainly art students. Idea was to make a school and use the art for educational programs rather than showcasing it as a typical museum. The arrangement of the paintings, ancient artifacts, furniture and other antique pieces (African sculptures, Asian prints, medieval manuscripts, Old master paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian) in the mansion was unique and aesthetically interesting unlike a museum-like clichéd display.

Artworks as displayed in Barnes Mansion

 

 

For the sake of his art collection, he founded ‘The Barnes Foundation’ which stated clearly that the artworks should be only used for educational purpose, they shouldn’t be sold and that the pieces should not be moved out of the mansion under any condition. The foundation permitted the collection to be open to the public, only for few days a week.

The building where the Barnes collection was displayed in Lower Merion

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After Barnes death, in due course, as the masterpiece artworks value increased, The Philadelphia Art Museum, the very institute Barnes detested, claimed that the collection deserved to be made public. Supporters of the original foundation and nonprofit corporations voiced against the proposal since it conflicted with Barnes wishes. The factions accused the government of overlooking and disrespecting the basic rights of private property and monetizing the collection for tourism purpose. After years of legal struggle, the city finally obtains it for $107 million, a measly amount compared to the estimated $25 billion worth collection.

Supporters of the Barnes foundation protesting against the relocation of the art collection

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Barnes protest

Vandalized signs of the protester’s

Photo by William Thomas

‘The Art of the Steal’ is an excellent documentary worth watching (not to be mistaken with the Hollywood movie releases in 2013), it follows this controversial struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

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Other than Barnes’ radical art collection and controversies, what’s more intriguing and admirable is his keen sense of art and intuitive nature. Entrepreneur to the core, the fact that he formed a foundation to protect his art possession proves that he anticipated that his collection in due time would become priceless. He spent most of his fortune on the artworks which the art critics of his time, yet didn’t recognize as masterpieces. Art collectors and enthusiasts like Albert Barnes are rarities in the art world.

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Is Abstract Art Really Art?

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Abstract art is a genre that stirs up extreme emotions, for some it is the most creative and novel way of expressing an artistic vision on the other hand there are a set of art enthusiasts who find it unimaginative, meaningless and even go so far as to say-  “it is an excuse for being a bad artist”. The statement is unquestionably false and invalid, master artists like Pablo Picasso and Kazimir Malevic started as brilliant realist artists, gradually after decades of experience headed towards abstraction as their style and techniques progressively matured. As Picasso quoted- “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Shown below (Left) is a portrait of Picasso’s mother made by him in his early teens. On the right is the painting- ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (The Young Ladies of Avignon) , it is considered to be the prototype that shaped Cubism and Modern art. The evident style difference shows the creative maturity achieved by Picasso over the years.

 

Shown below (Left) is a realistic still life made by Henri Matisse, in his early years. On the right is his masterpiece painting- ‘Dance’ made after he founded Fauvism. The drastic transformation in his style proves the various techniques he adopted as his style matured over time.

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Shown below is a portrait of Kazimir Malevic’s wife made by him in the early years of his career. On the right is the painting- ‘Suprematism’ made after he pioneered geometric abstraction.

 

“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.” – Wassily Kandinksky

To evoke emotions from a visual composition of shapes, lines and color that are completely detached from reality is what an abstract artist wishes to accomplish. It’s a tricky and tough target to achieve, the artwork needs to be intriguing and absorbing enough to give a viewer pause for thought.

Each one of us would have a different emotional reaction, interpretation and understanding of an abstraction, that is the unique creative character of non-representational art. Seeing Paul Klee’s painting (shown below) one might spot, drama and positive energy in the shape shifting color distribution but for some the patterned pastel shades may generate feeling of melancholy or chaos.

 

Feeling intimidated or stressing over deciphering the art would only ruin your visual experience, creative imagination and curiosity is all that’s needed to appreciate and enjoy the an abstract artwork.  What was the artist thinking while making the painting?  What is the message of the artwork? These are pointless questions best kept at bay. Abstract art is open to multiple connotations, it is like a prism that separates a single idea into a spectrum of interpretations.

In summary, abstract art is not an easy route taken by amateur artists, it is an idea that has fermented over years through various movements, experiments and techniques. Before the advent of camera, traditional arts theory was to capture live scenarios as close to reality as possible. Impressionist artists (late 19th century) were the first to defy the traditional methods by introducing abstraction in the art domain with a radical technique of coloring. Following various movements like Expressionism & Fauvism, by early 21st century Cubist artists like Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris gave a sweeping turn by rejecting the most fundamental elements of art- Perspective and Pictorial Depth. Abstract art further evolved with successive movements like Surrealist and Op-art and it continues to progress and transform from post modernism to contemporary art scenario.

Shown below are artworks- La bouteille d’anis (The Bottle of Anis) and Les raisins made by cubism artist Juan Gris.

 

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Are Grief and Suffering a prerequisite for Good Art?

The society in general has a stereotypical image of a tortured artist, who is inspired by the grief and sufferings of his life which further intensifies his creativity, leading him to create artworks that are marked as masterpieces. We have fine examples to prove this- Paul Gauguin made his finest piece after the death of his beloved daughter, Frida Kahlo’s paintings depicted her severe physical pain, Picassos’ ‘Blue Period’ paintings were made while he mourned the death of his closest friend and the list goes on. However it’s not fair to declare that pain and suffering are a precondition that one needs to experience in order to be a good artist.

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Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?- made by Gauguin in his most depressed moment. “I believe that this canvas surpasses all my previous work”- as quoted by the artist. Credits: gauguin.org

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(Left) Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with thorns around her neck. The artist depicts the physical pain she had all her life due to a childhood accident. Credits: http://www.fridakahlo.org (Right) The Guitarist was painted just after the death of Picasso’s closest friend. During this time, the artist painted many canvases depicting the miseries of the downtrodden. Credits: pablopicasso.org

In essence, artists are more sensitive than the average person, elements of passionate experience of any sort is what deeply touches and stirs their artistic soul. However inspiration can be derived from not just a heartbreaking experience, blissful happiness and love could also be a strong reason for the same. Take Dali for example, it was the love for his wife and muse Gala that inspired him to make extraordinary masterpieces. In fact her death gradually killed the artist in him, unfortunately like many others he couldn’t use art to vent out his depression. M. F. Husain’s immense fascination for Madhuri reawakened the filmmaker in him. Monet’s passion for botany and landscaping led him to produce numerous unique artworks, made in his garden at Givery.

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A exceptional portrait made by Dali of his muse and wife Gala. She was the most influential figure in his life. His love for her is evident in most of his artworks. Photo credits: dali.com

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M. F. Husain’s immense fascination for Madhuri reawakened the filmmaker in him. “Madhuri is a classical beauty and still fascinates me” – as quoted by the late master. Photo credits: artsoftheearthindia.in

We all have our own individual way of dealing with emotionally difficult situations, artists’ use their art as a coping mechanism. Whether their feelings are generated from tough times or happy moments, they chose to channel them out by objectifying their experience with complete sincerity. The honesty of this visual expression is what makes their artworks special.

In my experience as an artist and a curator, artists’ are most contented while painting, its an evolution process for their soul. Ultimately what matters is that an artist is in a happier place while creating an artwork, what has lead to the making of it, heartache or joyfulness is not as important. Potpourri of sensitivity, musing and observation is the right recipe for good art, experiencing pain and misery is no criteria for making a masterpiece.

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