Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass (1888)

Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass (1888)
One of my favorite still life subjects of Van Gogh, the cut branch in a glass, I ran across this one with the book behind creating a complicated compositional element. Note also the use of complementary colors, red and green, creating a vibration in the painting.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Giovanni Boldini

Happy Birthday Giovanni Boldini!! Italian born portrait painter from 1842, Boldini's father was also a painter, of religious subjects. Giovanni studied in Florence and then in 1872 moved to Paris.  Although some of his work does show Impressionistic influences of friends such as Degas, his style was described as bold, dazzling and elegant. He was a sought after portrait painter of fashionable Parisian and London figures. He was known as the "master of swish" for his flowing brushstrokes. The painting below is titled Spanish Dancer at the Moulin Rouge. 

With some sadness and regret I have to report that this will be my last blog post of Famous Artists on their birthdays, not only for this year, 2011, but permanently. This ends an intense 2 years of research and study of art and the personalities who create it. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the discovery, it is time to move on. I have been retired from teaching for 7 months now. Other avenues are opening up to me and I must follow them. Therefore, so long Van Gogh's Ear the journey has been truly inspiring, enlightening, and educational!! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Aad de Haas

Happy Birthday Aad de Haas!! This artist was an Expressionist sculptor, printmaker and painter from Holland, born today, in 1920. He was educated at the Rotterdam School of Fine Arts. After being labeled a "degenerate" by the Nazis and a stay in prison, he and his wife escaped to South Limburg. He was forced into hiding for a time and finally lived a rather unsettled existence in an abandoned castle in Strijthagen. Through his work he addressed social themes such as suffering, temptation and eroticism. The painting included today is from a series of 14 titled The Way of the Cross, depicting the suffering of Jesus. They were painted directly on the walls of the chapel in St. Joseph's Hospital in Heerlen. Sadly the chapel was destroyed in 1970, the paintings were removed, and are located in a hall in Landgraf today. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Benjamin Burt

Happy Birthday Benjamin Burt!! Born in 1729, this American silversmith's father (also named Benjamin) was a blacksmith. The family lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and originally owned several businesses which were lost during the Revolutionary War. Following the war, his family relocated and Burt apprenticed and began his career as a silversmith in Boston. He worked in the Neoclassical style, stressing simple, classical, symmetrical forms. His contemporary, Paul Revere II, achieved more fame and notoriety as they competed for commissions. His "Sauce Boat" (1770), created for Nathan and Rebecca Peirce,  is shown below.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ludolph Backhuysen

Happy Birthday Ludolph Backhuysen!! (Bakhuysen, Backhuyzen, Bakhuizen) This Dutch artist was actually born in Germany in 1631. His family went back to Amsterdam in 1649 and Backhuysen's first career as a bookkeeper began. His lovely penmanship earned him a membership in the group Kalligraphie. His focus was the sea and Willem van de Velde II ( Dec. 18, 1633) was a contemporary. Backhuysen was considered the leading seascape painter of The Netherlands, second only to the van de Veldes.  Backhuysen's paintings were dramatic in color and lighting and quite realistic, enhanced by his time spent on the open sea in observation for his work. The painting below depicts Christ on the Sea of Galilee during a storm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rene Georges Hermann-Paul

Happy Birthday Rene Georges Herman Paul!! Born in Paris in 1864, Paul's father was a doctor, his family wealthy, from the South of France. Attempting to follow his father's footsteps for a time, Hermann-Paul was unhappy in science so transferred to Ecole des Arts Decoratifs. At the time (1870's) Paris was alive with art, and he became friends with Toulouse-Lautrec, creating poster art, satiric cartoons, illustrations, as well as paintings and pastels. His prints, derived from lithography and woodcuts, were daring in composition and often brilliant in color and high contrast. Interesting to learn a bit about this artist in relation to Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, especially after just seeing a delightful collection of Latrec in Las Vegas at the Centaur Gallery at Fashion Show Plaza. The advertising poster (1895) included here is for an exhibition of the Salon des Cent.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Anthony Ziesenis

Happy Birthday Anthony Ziesenis!! Born in 1731, Anthony Ziesenis was a sculptor and architect from The Netherlands. He was responsible for designing the Town Hall of Westzaan, Northern Holland. The use of this building was eventually focused on wedding celebrations when the town of Westzaan was absorbed into Zanstaad. Not much to be found in the way of biographical information about the artist Ziesenis, but an interesting aside: the inscription above the door of the old Town Hall is a "chronogram", an anomaly that occurs when the letters added up in Roman Numeral amounts reveal the date of construction.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Abraham Bloemaert

Happy Birthday Abraham Bloemaert!! Born in 1564, Dutch Mannerist artist Abraham Bloemaert was a painter and printmaker. The son of an architect, he studied under painters in Ultrecht and in Paris for 3 years, coming back to the Netherlands to settle in Ultrecht. He created landscapes, genre and historical, still life and animal paitnings. Particularly apropos for Christmas Day, the painting I have chosen for today is Rest on the Flight into Egypt, portraying the Holy Family at rest in a ramshackle shack. This painting is on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joseph Cornell

Happy Birthday Joseph Cornell!! This American artist was born in 1903, in the quaint Victorian town on Nyack, New York, on the Hudson River. A collector, he was self-taught and worked with found objects, creating incredible assemblage boxes. It is reported that he first began assembling these 3-dimensional collages to amuse his brother, who had cerebral palsy. Each sectioned wooden box is filled with delightful collections of theater tickets, trinkets, slips of paper, wooden bits, etc. A Symbolist, Cornell used his treasures to allude to big ideas such as the passing of time, looking to the future, memories, fantasies, homage to various figures, etc. You must see these to truly appreciate them, as pictures really cannot do these creations justice!


Friday, December 23, 2011

George Barnard

Happy Birthday George Barnard!! American war photographer, born in 1819, Barnard had a studio in New York. When the Civil War broke out he was sent to photograph locations in Virginia and in Washington D. C. The photograph included below is of soldiers from the Union Army removing railroad tracks in Atlanta (1864).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

John Crome

Happy Birthday John Crome!! English artist, born in 1768, Crome was a self-taught landscape painter who began as a sign painter's apprentice. He was founder of the Norwich Society of Artists, exhibiting with them regularly. In 1814 he traveled to Paris, by way of Belgium, to view the paintings looted by Napoleon. His son was also a painter, often imitating his father.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thomas Couture

Happy Birthday Thomas Couture!! French painter born in 1815, Couture was a teacher and historical and portrait painter. He is best known for a large “orgy” painting titled The Romans of Decadence. Manet was his most well known student. His tonal contrast and free handling of the paint are evident in Manet's work. I am including a lesser known portrait demonstrating his style.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Happy Birthday Clodion!! The French sculptor was born in 1738 and worked in the Rococo style. He went to Paris and began working in his uncle's (Lambert-Sigisbert Adam) studio in 1755. He worked in terra cotta and seemed to reject the idea of creating monumental works. The sculpture for today is titled The Invention of the Balloon (1784), depicting (obviously) the creation of the balloon by nymphs and angels in the flamboyant Rococo style for which he was known.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Su Tung-p'o

Happy Birthday Su Tung-p'o!! The Chinese poet, painter and calligrapher was born today in 1036! Confuscious, Taoism and Buddhism all influenced his poetry and art. He often spoke and wrote against official policies. Considered the greatest poet of the Sung Dynasty, Su wrote satirical free verse. He is credited with designing the parks around Lake Si in Hangzhou. He created impulsive paintings from childhood memories.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Willem van de Velde II

Happy Birthday Willem van de Velde II!! This painter, born in 1633, was from Holland. He was a student of Simon de Vlieger, painter of atmospheric maritime scenes, contrasted by Willem's own father who was also an influential painter of realistic seascapes. Initially Willem II concentrated on serene Dutch genre scenes of fishing boats near the shore, but his focus shifted a bit when he and his father relocated to England. Here he depicted Royal yachts and warships, and was commissioned by the king to paint battles at sea. The painting below, titled The Gust (1680), pictures a ship in trouble with perhaps the smaller ship coming to its aid.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Paul Cesar Helleu

Happy Birthday Paul Cesar Helleu!! French born painter and engraver from 1859, Helleu's work chronicles France at the turn of the century. In 1876 he attended an Impressionist exhibit which was to greatly influence his work thereafter. He painted society ladies whose commissions helped establish his fortune. However his portraits of his wife Alice are perhaps his best loved for their sensitivity and grace. He also loved the sea and created many works on the subject. The pastel portrait included today is of Madame Helleu. Isn't the vantage point unique and interesting?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Antonio de la Gandara

Happy Birthday Antonio de la Gandara!! French painter and pastellist, Gandara was born in 1861 to parents of Mexican (father) and English descent (mother). He began his artistic training at age 14 and a portrait was accepted by the Salon in 1882. He quickly became a favored portrait painter of prestigious figures in Paris. The influence of his friend Whistler can be seen in the setting of his figures against dark background as seen in his portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau (below).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

David Teniers II

Happy Birthday David Teniers II !! This Flemish painter, born in 1610, came from a family of painters; his father was a painter and then his son and son's son followed as well. His wife, Anna, was the daughter of painter Jan Bruegel. He painted group scenes of peasants engaged in various forms of “merrymaking” in golden light with great detail. He is considered one of the greatest European painters of his day. The Tavern (1651) is included below.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Francois Hubert Drouais

Happy Birthday Francois Hubert Drouais!! French painter, born in 1727, in Paris, this artist's father was a painter of portrait miniatures. He was in fact, trained by his father as well as other painters including Boucher. He exhibited regularly at the Salon and was the official court portrait painter for the King Louis XV. He was known for painting great likenesses and also for depicting children in landscape settings, such as the Duke of Bouillon's children shown here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clark Mills

Happy Birthday Clark Mills!! Born in 1810, this American artist was a sculptor. He had his own foundry and several slaves assisted him, including the highly skilled Philip Reid, who after emancipation stayed on to continue working with Mills. He became best known for his 3 renditions of Andrew Jackson on horseback, the one below is located in Washington D. C.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

Happy Birthday Helen Frankenthaler!! The American artist Helen Frankenthaler was born in 1928. She was born into a wealthy family from Manhattan and had determined by age 16 that she would become an artist. She was a painter, sculptor and printmaker who was influential in Abstract Expressionism. She experimented in color field painting and used landscape to guide her abstract work. Frankenthaler was married to Robert Motherwell for 13 years and the two surely collaborated on themes, methods and ideas. She developed a style called “soak-stain” method in which she thinned down the paint with turpentine and then poured, spread, wiped it over the large canvas. I was enthused to see her work (see below) in a recent landscape show: A Sense of Place, in Las Vegas at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Happy Birthday Marjorie Henderson Buell!! American cartoonist, born in 1904 and worked under the pen name “Marge”, this artist was best known for her character Little Lulu. She was only 16 when she published her first cartoon. Little Lulu first appeared in 1935 (below) in the Saturday Evening Post. Marge also created illustrations for other publications including Ladies' Home Journal and Colliers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Adriaen van Ostade

Happy Birthday Adriaen van Ostade!! Born in Holland in 1610, van Ostade was a painter born in Haarlem, where he was to remain his entire life. He studied with Frans Hals and later had students of his own. He was also a member of the civic guard, a sort of volunteer police force. His work is of the peasants from the area and his paintings depict taverns, vendors, etc. as well as biblical scenes. The scene below pictures a couple dancing surrounded by men who are probably playing a drinking game of sorts.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Johann Winckelmann

Happy Birthday Johann Winckelmann!! This artist, born in 1717 was a German art theorist who originally intended to become a physician. He was born into poverty, his father a cobbler and his mother the daughter of a weaver. After attending medical courses, he decided on a radical change and turned to archeology. Winckelmann was the first to make the distinction between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art and in fact a founder of scientific archeology. His contributions to art history as we know it today are unmeasurable. He wrote several books detailing Greek history and distinguishing features of Greek art when compared to Roman copies. I am including a portrait of Winckelmann painted by a close friend, Raphael Mengs.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Gleizes

Happy Birthday Albert Gleizes!! French painter and printmaker, born in 1881, Albert Gleizes was one of the first Cubists. His family had an interior design and fabric business and as a young man he worked for his father, gaining respect for the working man. He began as an Impressionist, creating landscapes, but his work gradually became more and more abstract. He also wrote on the subject of Cubism. He was drafted into the service and following WWI his work displayed a religious side. I have included his Portrait of Igor Stravinsky (1914) below.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Happy Birthday Gian Lorenzo Bernini!! The Italian sculptor, born in 1598, Bernini was certainly the most celebrated sculptor of the Roman Baroque period. His father was a Florentine sculptor and by age 8, young Bernini had mastered the stone chisel and begun receiving commissions. In the 1620's, Bernini became a sculptor and architect for the Pope and this association was to last for the rest of his life. The Ecstasy of St. Theresa (1645-52) pictured here today, is noted as a prime example of Baroque sculpture, displaying extreme emotion through the technical sculpting methods, architectural setting and use of colored (white and yellow) marble. It is hard to imagine or describe the scope of this master's influence on sculptors to follow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Karl Bitter

Happy Birthday Karl Bitter!! Today we celebrate another sculptor's life, this time an Austrian born American, from1867. After training in Vienna, apprenticing with an architectural sculptor and serving for a time in the army there, Bitter immigrated to the U.S. He became associated with architect Richard Morris Hunt and the two collaborated on many projects. Sadly his genius was never allowed to come to completion since he was tragically struck down by a car after leaving the Metropolitan Opera House at age 48. Located in the Grand Army Plaza at 59th and 5th Ave. in New York City, on the Pulitzer Fountain, the sculpture below was created using his (and many other sculptors') favorite model Audrey Munson. Isn't the casual lounge of the figure charming?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pierre Philippe Thomire

Happy Birthday Pierre Philippe Thomire!! Born in 1751, this French artist studied to be a sculptor, but then segued into bronze casting, following in his father's footsteps. He quickly became recognized as the leader in the field, creating decorative pieces and bronze mounts for porcelain for the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory. He was named Engraver to the Emperor by Napoleon in 1809 and continued sculpting and casting even after the fall of Napoleon. I particularly like this Mantle Clock by Thomire.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Richard Roland Holst

Happy Birthday Richard Roland Holst!! Dutch artist painter, born in 1868, Holst began as a painter in the Impressionistic style. His technique tightened and his scope broadened when he began to explore stained glass, printmaking, mural painting and illustration. He married a Dutch writer and the two became involved in the Socialist party in Amsterdam. His art became quite stylized and bound up in decorative line drawing and geometric forms interlocking, as he designed book covers, illustrations, posters, etc. such as the one for Volks University, included here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Constantin Guys

Happy Birthday Constantin Guys!! French illustrator and watercolorist (born in the Netherlands) Constantin Guys dubbed "the painter of modern life" was born today in 1802. He recorded European wars and fashion of the 19th century. After running away and serving in the War of Independence in Greece and later a member of a French dragoon regiment across Europe and Asia, Guys began his art career at age 42, recording various wars and European life. He worked from memory rather than going to the source. Guys did not exhibit his work and lived in virtual isolation and poverty. Few realized his talent outside his circle of friends and admirers. Sadly his legs were crushed when he was run over by a taxi and he spent his last 6 years cared for in a hospice.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Otto Dix

Happy Birthday Otto Dix!! German born painter from 1891, Dix was a German Expressionist known for his graphic depictions of warfare and post-war Berlin. He studied art in Dresden. His expressive portraits were so exaggerated the work was labeled Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) or Magic Realism. He painted a triptych that mysteriously vanished from the Dresden Museum and later Dix himself was even arrested by the Gestapo. Not surprisingly, many of his paintings were destroyed by the Nazi regime. After 1946 he concentrated on religious works.  The work I have included today is titled Still Life with Widow's Veil (1925).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

John Erasmus Quellinus

Happy Birthday John Erasmus Quellinus!! Born today in 1634, Quellinus came from a family of artists including his grandfather, uncle and father who was also a Flemish painter who studied with Rubens.  Young John's career was greatly influenced by a trip to Italy in 1660, whee he studied architecture (which later appeared in his paintings). After returning to Antwerp he became a celebrated master painter, creating works for churches, abbeys, and the court. I had an extremely difficult time locating a painting to include today! The problem is thta his father was much more well known and perhaps popular, so all of my searches turned up works by him. For want of a better one, this is what I came up with a detail from Sainte- Catherine au Mont Sinai.