My Favorite Artists

EDGAR DEGAS  

Edgar Degas
Degas, (Hilaire-Germain-) Edgar (b. July 19, 1834, Paris, Fr.--d. Sept. 27, 1917, Paris) 

French artist, acknowledged as the master of drawing the human figure in motion. Degas worked in many mediums, preferring pastel to all others. He is perhaps best known for his paintings, drawings, and bronzes of ballerinas and of race horses.

The art of Degas reflects a concern for the psychology of movement and expression and the harmony of line and continuity of contour. These characteristics set Degas apart from the other impressionist painters, although he took part in all but one of the 8 impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. Degas was the son of a wealthy banker, and his aristocratic family background instilled into his early art a haughty yet sensitive quality of detachment. As he grew up, his idol was the painter Jean Auguste Ingres, whose example pointed him in the direction of a classical draftsmanship, stressing balance and clarity of outline. After beginning his artistic studies with Louis Lamothes, a pupil of Ingres, he started classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts but left in 1854 and went to Italy. He stayed there for 5 years, studying Italian art, especially Renaissance works.

Returning to Paris in 1859, he painted portraits of his family and friends and a number of historical subjects, in which he combined classical and romantic styles. In Paris, Degas came to know Édouard Manet, and in the late 1860s he turned to contemporary themes, painting both theatrical scenes and portraits with a strong emphasis on the social and intellectual implications of props and setting.

In the early 1870s the female ballet dancer became his favorite theme. He sketched from a live model in his studio and combined poses into groupings that depicted rehearsal and performance scenes in which dancers on stage, entering the stage, and resting or waiting to perform are shown simultaneously and in counterpoint, often from an oblique angle of vision. On a visit in 1872 to Louisiana, where he had relatives in the cotton business, he painted The Cotton Exchange at New Orleans (finished 1873; Musée Municipal, Pau, France), his only picture to be acquired by a museum in his lifetime. Other subjects from this period include the racetrack, the beach, and cafe interiors.

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PABLO PICASSO  

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso ; 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish expatriate paintersculptorprintmakerceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. He is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-CubistLes Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the German bombing of Guernicaduring the Spanish Civil War.

The enormous body of Picasso’s work remains, and the legend lives on—a tribute to the vitality of the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombre…piercing” eyes who superstitiously believed that work would keep him alive. For nearly 80 of his 91 years Picasso devoted himself to an artistic production that contributed significantly to and paralleled the whole development of modern art in the 20th century.

Picasso’s art from the time of the Demoiselles was radical in nature, virtually no 20th-century artist could escape his influence. Moreover, while other masters such as Matisse or Braque tended to stay within the bounds of a style they had developed in their youth, Picasso continued to be an innovator into the last decade of his life. This led to misunderstanding and criticism both in his lifetime and since, and it was only in the 1980s that his last paintings began to be appreciated both in themselves and for their profound influence on the rising generation of young painters. Since Picasso was able from the 1920s to sell works at very high prices, he could keep most of his oeuvre in his own collection. At the time of his death he owned some 50,000 works in various media from every period of his career, which passed into possession of the French state and his heirs. Their exhibition and publication has served to reinforce the highest estimates of Picasso’s astonishing powers of invention and execution over a span of more than 80 years.


GEORGIA O'KEEFE  

Among the great American artists of the 20th-century, Georgia O’Keeffe stands as one of the most compelling. For nearly a century, O’Keeffe’s representations of the beauty of the American landscape were a brave counterpoint to the chaotic images embraced by the art world. Her cityscapes and still lifes filled the canvas with wild energy that gained her a following among the critics as well as the public. Though she has had many imitators, no one since has been able to paint with such intimacy and stark precision.

Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887. The second of seven children, O’Keeffe longed to be an artist from an early age. In 1905 she attended the Art Institute of Chicago and a year later went to study at the Art Students League of New York. Though her student work was well received she found it unfulfilling, and for a short time abandoned the fine arts. She worked briefly as a commercial artist in Chicago before moving to Texas to teach. During the summer of 1915, O’Keeffe took classes at the Teachers College of Columbia University in South Carolina, and there began her re-entry into the world of painting.

Teaching in South Carolina was Arthur Dow, a specialist in Oriental Art. Dow’s interest in non-European art helped O’Keeffe move away from the forms she had found so stifling in her previous studies. She said of him, “It was Arthur Dow who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.” Soon after O’Keeffe’s return to Texas, she made a handful of charcoal drawings, which she sent to a friend in New York. The friend, Anna Pollitzer, showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer and gallery owner. He was enthused with the vibrant energy of the work, and asked to show them. So, without her knowledge, Georgia O’Keeffe had her first exhibition in 1916 at Steiglitz’s “291 Gallery.”

Within two years, Steiglitz had convinced O’Keeffe to move to New York and devote all of her time to painting. His regular presentations of her work had begun to cause a buzz, and create for a her a small following. Six years later the two were married, beginning one of the most fruitful and well-known collaborations of the modernist era. For the next twenty years the two would live and work together, Steiglitz creating an incredible body of portraits of O’Keeffe, while O’Keeffe showed new drawings and paintings nearly every year at the gallery. Living in Lake George, New York, and in New York City, O’Keeffe painted some of her most famous work. During the 1920s, her large canvasses of lush overpowering flowers filled the still lifes with dynamic energy and erotic tension, while her cityscapes were testaments to subtle beauty within the most industrial circumstances.

In 1929 O’Keeffe took a vacation with her friend Beck Strand to Taos, New Mexico. The trip would forever alter the course of her life. In love with the open skies and sun-drenched landscape, O’Keeffe returned every summer to travel and to paint. When Steiglitz in 1946 died, O’Keeffe took up permanent residence there. More than almost any of her other works, these early New Mexico landscapes and still lifes have come to represent her unique gifts. The rich texture of the clouds and sky were similar to her earlier, more sensuous representations of flowers. But beneath these clouds one found the bleached bones of animals long gone.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, O’Keeffe’s fame continued to grow. She traveled around the world and had a number of major retrospectives in the U.S. The most important came in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, placing her categorically as one of the most important and influencial American painters. The next year O’Keeffe’s vision deteriorated dramatically, and she withdrew from artistic life. It was not until 1973, after meeting Juan Hamilton, a young ceramic artist, which she returned to working. With his encouragement and assistance, she resumed painting and sculpting. In 1976 her illustrated autobiography, GEORGIA O’KEEFFE was a best seller, and the next year she received the Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford.

In 1985 she received the Medal of the Arts from President Ronald Reagan. In March of the next year, at the age of 98, O’Keeffe passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Georgia O’Keeffe’s work remains a prominent part of major national and international museums. For many, her paintings represent the beginnings of a new American art free from the irony and cynicism of the late 20th century.

 

 


VINCENT VAN GOGH  

Vincent van Gogh: Starry Night

A Brief Understanding of the Starry Night Paintings.

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh has risen to the peak of artistic achievements. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the aftermath of his work is enormous. Starry Night is one of the most well known images in modern culture as well as being one of the most replicated and sought after prints. From Don McLean's song'Vincent' (Starry, Starry Night) (Based on the Painting), to the endless number of merchandise products sporting this image, it is nearly impossible to shy away from this amazing painting.

One may begin to ask what features within the painting are responsible for its ever

 

growing popularity. There are actually several main aspects that intrigue those who view this image, and each factor affects each individual differently. The aspects will be described below:

  • 1. There is the night sky filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own luminescence, and a bright crescent moon. Although the features are exaggerated, this is a scene we can all relate to, and also one that most individuals feel comfortable and at ease with. This sky keeps the viewer's eyes moving about the painting, following the curves and creating a visual dot to dot with the stars. This movement keeps the onlooker involved in the painting while the other factors take hold.
  • 2. Below the rolling hills of the horizon lies a small town. There is a peaceful essence flowing from the structures. Perhaps the cool dark colors and the fiery windows spark memories of our own warm childhood years filled with imagination of what exists in the night and dark starry skies. The center point of the town is the tall steeple of the church, reigning largely over the smaller buildings. This steeple casts down a sense of stability onto the town, and also creates a sense of size and seclusion.
  • 3. To the left of the painting there is a massive dark structure that develops an even greater sense of size and isolation. This structure is magnificent when compared to the scale of other objects in the painting. The curving lines mirror that of the sky and create the sensation of depth in the painting. This structure also allows the viewer to interpret what it is. From a mountain to a leafy bush, the analysis of this formation is wide and full of variety.

Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889.

 

Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Bedroom at Arles by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh; March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

Van Gogh loved art from an early age. He began to draw as a child, and he continued making drawings throughout the years leading to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fieldsand sunflowers.

Van Gogh spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work. In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later he moved to the south of France and was taken by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.

The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of illness. According to art critic Robert Hughes, van Gogh's late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and "longing for concision and grace"

 

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