Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)
L’Origine du Monde 1866
Courbet has got to be one of my top ten favorite artists… and I hate vaginas. Usually. The neat bit of trivia about this- according to historian Paul Johnson (and wikipedia), psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan purchased this painting at auction and had his stepbrother André Masson draw an abstracted sketch of the painting to hang in front of the more explicit Courbet. It was originally commissioned for a rich Turkish diplomat. Personally, I find the existence of Courbet’s more extreme paintings more realistic, beautiful, and progressive than Edouard Manet (1832-1883), although Manet exhibited his Olympia (1863) at the Paris Salon— something Courbet could not have done with L’Origine du Monde. Regardless, I prefer Courbet. Though, apples and oranges I guess.
William Holman Hunt
Strayed Sheep 1952
John Ruskin, the art critic who influenced the Pre-Raphaelites— of whom WHH might be my favorite— in critiquing this painting said that for the first time in the history of art it revealed “the absolutely faithful balances of color and shade through which actual sunshine might be transposed.” Of course, what makes it most interesting are the symbolic messages conveyed by the deceptively simple landscape, made more obvious by the title. It’s mesmerizing. I wish artists still used paint to imitate life, I know we have film and photography to do that, but I personally feel that paint has more substance.
The Box Man by S. M. Bower (yo soy el pinhole caballero) on Flickr.
I found this photo while searching for a good cover of the book The Box Man by Kobo Abe. The result of that search is below. It’s a difficult book to recommend so I’m not going to. I’m also not not recommending it. I’m just saying that it is probably the strangest book I’ve ever read— the Japanese simplicity and poetry combined with the nightmarish atmosphere and disorienting “plot” made it like reading someone else’s bad dream.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Big Fish Eat the Little Fish
The Temptation of St. Anthony 1890
This is one of Moreau’s smaller watercolors— only about 5 X 9”. It seems to be an abstract mess of colors, but the more you look the more figures and shapes emerge. I love how Dore Ashton describes Moreau’s technique with these watercolors:
"Scraping, impasto, clotting, threading, dragged brush, and linear fury: audacious and unprecedented means toward an increasingly abstract end."
Death: “Mine irony surpasseth all others”
Inspired by Flaubert’s Temptation of St. Anthony. Redon was shy, quiet and awkward. He lived in his head, and that world became his art. He worked against the grain of his contemporaries, and he is— in my opinion, one of the finest artists of the past 200 years. The way he works with shadow in this piece is amazing, and i love the shapes: circular spiral, cylindrical Death— like a pillar— and the wave of light and flowers… Redon could do so much with Black.
Jean-François Millet The Keeper of the Herd
Although Millet was a more a Naturalist painter than a Realist painter, I feel his art comes much closer to achieving a sense of reverence and the sublime akin to Medieval Christian art. Only in essence— the form is very Renaissance although the overall style is still very much Millet. I love staring at this one at the AIC.
Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
Made from adobe and palm logs (and other things). Originally erected in the 1300s, this current incarnation dates back to 1906, though the form remains pretty much the same.