Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Moving on to Britain

My recent blog entries on the Cleveland Museum of Art have concentrated on art from France.  Indeed, from the time of Louis XVI onward, France was Europe's trendsetter.  But that is not to say that nothing was going on elsewhere in the world of art.  Britain was becoming a major world power and eventually surpassed France.  There was growing demand not only from the aristocracy but also from the growing merchant class for art.

We will now turn to museum's gallery of British art from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

The wealthy all wanted portraits of themselves or of their family, and there were a number of distinguished British portraitists.

Thomas Lawrence did this painting of Catherine Grey in 1794.  She was an Irish-born poet and the wife of politician Lord William Manners.  She rejected the portrait, saying that it was unflattering, and the painting remained unsold in the aritist's studio until his death.  It was eventually acquired by John D. Rockefeller Jr., and he bequeathed the painting to the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Lawrence also did this portrait of Charlotte and Sarah Carteret-Hardy in the early 1800s.  Although his work was much in demand, he was notoriously slow.  It took him five years to complete this painting.

Even more famous was Thomas Gainsborough.  In 1769 he did this portrait of George Pitt.  Pitt looks every inch the English gentleman, although in real life he was infamous for his debauchery and abuse of his wife.

Gainsborough also did this portrait of Mary Wise in 1774.  I have a branch of English ancestors with the last name of Wise.  Could she be a relative of mine?  Doubtful.  My English ancestors were all farm laborers.

Gainsborough Dupont was the nephew and apprentice to the famous painter.  He eventually opened his own successful studio, and at times it is difficult to distinguish the works of the two.  This portrait of Mary Anne Jolliffe was done in 1788

A third famous name in English portraiture is that of Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Reynolds was the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of the Arts.  He is well known for his pictures of children.  This portrait of the Ladies Amabel and Mary Jemima Yorke was done in 1761.

The most famous English landscape artist was John Constable.  He was an amateur meteorologist, and in his paintings he carefully portrayed cloud formations and weather conditions.  This view of Branch Hill Pond was painted in 1828.

Henry Bone was an enamel artist, and he created this work... enamel on copper... which is an exact reproduction of a painting by Titian, "Bacchus and Ariadne".  The picture took three years to complete.  It was a laborious process in which each addition of color had to be fired in a kiln at a different temperature.

William Blake was a poet and artist and a precursor of Romanticism.  His work was mystical and otherworldly, and he was viewed as a madman by many.  Long after his death he came to be appreciated as an important figure in British literature and art.  This tempera painting of St. Matthew was done in 1799.

William Linnell was a popular painter during the Victorian Era.  This large canvas, "Noah - Eve of the Deluge" was painted in 1848 and was purchased for 1000 pounds (a considerable amount in those days) by a wealthy industrialist. 

Decades later, Victorian paintings had fallen out of style, and this work sold at auction for only 130 pounds.
Linnell is also remembered for having supported the destitute and elderly William Blake.

The crown jewel of the museum's British collection is this work by the Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.  "The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons" was done in 1835, and is a depiction of an event that occurred the year before.

Turner often portrayed the destructive force of nature, and here his atmospheric effects border on abstraction.  Turner's works later exerted a powerful influence on the French Impressionists.

On our next visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art we will see what was going on in the British colonies across the pond.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

From the Webcams

 As you know, I frequently visit the website Webcams de México, especially during my prolonged absence from Mexico.  One place that I always look at is Popocatépetl, an active volcano outside of Mexico City that is the second highest peak in the country.  A few weeks ago, for the heck of it, I checked out the webcam at night.  I didn't expect to see much, so I was truly surprised by what the webcam captured.

Not only was the mountain clearly silhouetted against the night sky, but the fumes emitted by the volcano were illuminated by the fiery cauldron within the crater.  What surprised me most of all was the sky filled with a myriad of stars.  Here, far from the lights and pollution of the city, one can see the night sky as it really is.  When the sky is clear it must be a spectacular sight  for the mountain climbers who camp overnight to begin an early morning ascent.  (Ever since "Popo" became more active again, climbing is no longer permitted, but the neighboring peak of Iztaccihuatl still attracts climbers.)

On the website I also noticed another mountain webcam that I had not seen before.  With an elevation of over 18,000 feet, Pico de Orizaba, an inactive volcano, is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest peak in North America.  A webcam has been installed at the telescope atop an adjoining mountain, Sierra Negra.  However, every time I click on it, I get the same photo, and a message saying that the webcam is temporarily suspended due to technical problems.  The photo is beautiful and worth sharing with you, but I wish that they would get that webcam working.  It would be cool to see the changes at different times of day.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Going Neoclassical

In the last entry from the Cleveland Museum of Art, I wrote that the ornate Baroque and Rococo styles were replaced by Neoclassicism in the late 18th century.  Ancient Greece and Rome had always been an inspiration for artists, but the discovery of the buried Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the 1700s gave new insights into Roman interior design.  Its straight lines, symmetry and restraint inspired a new generation of artists, architects and craftsmen.  Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette embraced the new style, but Neoclassicism is most associated with the era of the French Revolution and Napoleon.

In the earlier entry, I mention Jacques-Louis David, the most important of the Neoclassical painters.  One of his pupils was Anne-Louis Girodet Trioson.  His 1810 painting "Aurora and Cephalus" is based on the myth in which the goddess of the dawn falls in love with a shepherd and carries him to the heavens.  The painting shows hints of the Romantic style which would emerge later in the century.

After the death of Jacque-Louis David, the leading painter of the movement was Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.  His unfinished painting "Antiochus and Stratonice", from 1838, portrays the story of the prince Antiochus who became gravely ill because he was in love with his father's new bride.

This self portrait of Alexandre LePage was done in 1824.  There is no further information given, and when I searched for the artist on the internet, I could find nothing about him.

Here we see a portrait by French painter Louis Horsent done in 1801.  The young woman is wearing the "empire" style dress which was the fashion at the time.  The gilt porcelain vase is from the St. Petersburg Imperial Porcelain Factory in Russia, and it sits upon a French flower stand from around 1800.

Here we see a gilt bronze clock from France from around 1780.  Also from France, a mahogany and oak secretary from around 1800.  A hinged panel lowers to become a writing surface.

A writing desk, vases and a clock from late 18th century France.

A pair of gilt bronze andirons from France from around 1785.

This painting, "The Death of Sophonisba" from around 1810 is attributed to the French artist Pierre Guérin.  Sophonisba was a Carthaginian noblewoman who drank poison rather than become a captive of the conquering Romans.

These painted wooden doors copy ancient Roman design.

In the next entry from the Cleveland Museum of Art we will leave France and see what artists were doing in merry old England.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Moon Over Ohio

 The full moon of February came during the month's final weekend.  The native Americans sometimes called it the "snow moon", although after a week of temperatures above freezing, our snow had nearly disappeared.  Saturday night I went out to try to take a picture.  I couldn't get a good image of the moon, but I thought that this photo of the moonlight shining through the tree branches was an interesting picture.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Europe at a Crossroads

Heading from the 18th century into the 19th century, Europe was at a crossroads.  Events such as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars shook the continent to its foundation.  In art and architecture there were also great changes.  The Baroque and the Rococo were cast aside for Neoclassicism which took its inspiration from the ancient Greeks and Romans.

One of the galleries of the Cleveland Museum of Art has a selection of artwork from the late 1700s and early 1800s.   

Prominently displayed in the gallery are five paintings by the French artist, Charles Meynier. They were done between 1798 and 1800 and represent Apollo and the Muses.  They were acquired by the museum in 2003, and experts spent five years meticulously cleaning and restoring the canvasses.  During much of that time the entire museum had been closed for renovation and expansion.  When the main floor of the original building was reopened in 2008, the paintings were debuted with much fanfare.

Polyhymnia, the Muse of Eloquence

Erato, the Muse of Lyrical Poetry

Apollo, the God of Light, with Urania, the Muse of Astronomy

Clio, the Muse of History

Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry

When I used to take students to the museum, this painting always elicited some giggles as we passed by.  

It was painted in1817 by Jacques-Louis David, the preeminent Neoclassical painter.  (You would surely recognize his famous portraits of Napoleon.)  This canvas depicts the myth of Cupid and Psyche, but instead of portraying Cupid as an idealized lover as other painters did, the artist here shows Cupid smirking over his sexual conquest.

Antoine-Jean Gros was a pupil of Jacques-Louis David.  This portrait, done in 1824, is of Count Jean Antoine Chaptal, who played a major role in the development of industry in France after the French Revolution.

Gros also did numerous historical paintings depicting the victories of Napoleon.  One of them was a massive painting of the Battle of the Pyramids.  After Napoleon's downfall, the new king, Louis Philippe asked Gros to paint additions onto either side of the painting, perhaps to diminish Napoleon's importance in the picture.  The museum has two sketches which Gros did in preparation for those additions.  (The "sketches" are more than eleven feet high!)

This is General Kleber, who had been absent in the original painting.

On the other side, an Egyptian family, with the father standing defiantly against Napoleon's army, was added.

I uploaded this picture of what the entire painting with the additions looks like.  It is in the museum of the Palace of Versailles.

One of the giants of Spanish art, Francisco de Goya, straddled the two centuries and produced paintings that ranged from portraits of the royal family, images of the horrors of war, to ghoulish scenes out of a nightmare.

This portrait from about 1817 is of Don Juan Antonio, one of the leading intellectuals of Spain at that time.  He was the director of the Academy of San Fernando, the official academy of artists and architects.

At first glance, one might think that this is one of Goya's paintings of the Spanish royal family.  

It is indeed a portrait of a Spanish prince, Don Luis de Borbón, but it was done by a German painter by the name of Anton Rafael Mengs.  Mengs worked at the court of King Charles III in Madrid.  He is considered a precursor of neoclassicism.

In the next entry from the Cleveland Museum of Art, there will be more European Neoclassicism.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

From A to Z

 When I was in elementary school I started collecting stamps.  It was a hobby which I continued (judging by the dates on the stamps) until my college years.  I would often walk down to Woolworths and buy packets of stamps from far away countries.  I created my own stamp albums.  I mounted my stamps on typing paper, used a hole punch, and put the pages in Duo Tang folders.  I eventually had stamps from most of the world's nations, from Afghanistan to Zanzibar (a country which no longer exists).  

Stamps from an era long before there was a Taliban, and before the country was on the front pages of our newspapers.

One lonely stamp from Zanzibar, which was an island nation off the east coast of Africa.

In 1964 it merged with Tanganyika to form the country of Tanzania.

My stamp albums have been sitting in a closet for decades.  Alejandro's nephew Ezra is about the same age as I was when I began to collect stamps.  So I decided to give him my collection when I go down there in April.  The old Duo Tang folders were rather shabby looking, so I bought a loose-leaf notebook and put all the pages in that.  

Looking through the collection there were a number of other nations which no longer exist, such as Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

Other countries have changed their names... Ceylon is now Sri Lanka and Burma is Myanmar.

And then there are some oddities from colonial empires like North Borneo, a British colony which is now part of Malaysia.

Bet you have never heard of Ifni, a former Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco!

If you have ever collected stamps, you know that you do not glue your stamps into the album.  You use a stamp hinge, a small, folded, transparent piece of paper that has a mild adhesive.  A few of my stamps had come loose after all these years, so I went on-line to a stamp company to buy a package of hinges.  1000 hinges only cost $3.00, so I bought a couple packets of stamps so that Ezra could add to his collection... 300 stamps from Mexico, and a set of stamps from Spain from the year 1975.

Ezra seems to have an interest in other countries, so I hope that he enjoys his gift.

Friday, February 26, 2021

More from France

Here are more items in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art dating from the eighteenth century when France was the trendsetter in luxurious living among the aristocracy...

We imagine the nobility of that era leading a frivolous, "let them eat cake" lifestyle, and much of the art reinforces that image.  The Baroque style gave way to the highly ornamental Rococo style.  In the early 1700s many paintings belong to a category known as "fete gallante" (gallant party) which portray a carefree aristocracy at leisure.

"Dancers in a Pavilion" by Jean Baptiste Pater

"The Declaration of Love" by Nicolas Lancret

These cutesy paintings by Francois Boucher are entitled "Cupids in Conspiracy" and "Music and Dance".

Boucher also did this painting called "The Fountain of Venus".

"Sleep" by Jean Bernard Restout

The winged, nude figure with poppies (the source of opium) is Morpheus, the god of sleep.

Of course every aristocrat had to have his or her portrait painted.

Jean Gabriel de Theil, the secretary of foreign affairs for King Louis XV, as painted by Jaques-André-Joseph Aved.

Or you could be immortalized in a realistic bust.

"Portrait of Melle de Vandeul" by Jean Baptiste Lemoyne the Younger

This carpet was made for the dining room of one of King Louis XV's chateaux.  In the center is the coat of arms of France topped with a crown with eagle wings.

A grouping of 18th century furniture

A tall clock from1744
The clock movement included a music box.

The chest of drawers has Oriental decoration. On top of it are a pair of covered vases from the Meissen Porcelain Factory in Germany.

Another chest of drawers with an Oriental motif.  The pieces of porcelain are from China.  Above is a portrait of the Marquise d'Aguirandes painted by Francois Hubert Drouais.

Not every work of art from the era was extravagant.  This humble still life by Jean Simeon Chardin is entitled "Kitchen Utensils with Leeks, Fish and Eggs".

The stark realistic detail of Jean Baptiste Oudry's "A Hare and a Leg of Lamb" is influenced by the scientific rationality of the Enlightenment.  A painting such as this might have hung in hunting lodge.

"Head studies" were an important part of a painter's artistic education.  They gave an artist practice in painting facial expressions.  This study of a shepherd was done by an unknown painter.

Supposedly King Louis XV remarked, "Apres moi, le deluge -  After me, the deluge", a premonition of the events that were to shake Europe before the end of the century.