"Art Now and Then" does not mean art occasionally. It means art NOW as opposed to art THEN. It means art in 2020 as compared to art many years ago...sometimes many, many, MANY years ago. It is an attempt to make that art relevant now, letting artists back then speak to us now in the hope that we may better understand them, and in so doing, better understand ourselves and the art produced today.
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Saturday, May 9, 2015
Famous House Painters
The Yellow House, 1888, Vincent van Gogh
Inasmuch as nearly every artist eventually gets around to painting a self-portrait, one would think they'd also have a tendency to paint portraits of their homes too. Well, from all I can tell, it doesn't work that way. I just spent most of the evening perusing the work of just about every famous painter I could think of looking for instances where they painted the houses in which they lived. I have pathetically little to show for my efforts. In most cases, their houses still exist, so I have a good idea what they look like, but most of the time I could find nothing by the artist's hand that even slightly resembles the present day photos, even in cases where the artists abodes have been carefully preserved, often serving today as museums housing their work. By the same token, I've found several paintings that probably depict the artist's home, but no one has gone out on a limb to actually say so. Just for the record, I've painted our home at least a half-dozen times, including a rear view.
The Artist's House at Argenteuil, 1873, Claude Monet.
Probably the most famous painting by an artist of his home is that of Vincent van Gogh's immortal Yellow House (top), which he didn't own, but merely rented a room, while living in the town of Arles (in the south of France, southeast of Nimes). The colors are so bright as to hurt your eyes--not one of my favorite van Goghs. He painted it in 1888, his famous bedroom inside the following year. In general, the Impressionists seemed to be most likely to paint their homes. Claude Monet's The Artist's House at Argenteuil (above), while really not showing much of the house itself, is nearly as famous as van Gogh's effort and would be much easier to live with. But then again, that would be true in comparing most of the works of these two artists.
The Artist's House, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's effort at painting his house (above) really doesn't seem to have been much of an effort. Maybe he was just cleaning his brushes. Even for Renoir, who was notorious for his loose handling of both brush and paint, the work seems slapdash. Maybe he was in a hurry lest he loose his light. On the other hand, Renoir's House at Essoyes (below), from 1906, is hardly identifiable as being from the same artist. The date of the painting above is uncertain, but it would seem Renoir may have improved his technique substantially in the interim, however long it was.
Renoirs House at Essoyes, 1906, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Paul Cezanne's House in Provence (below), dates from 1867, a relatively early point in his career when he seems still bound by the strictures of Impressionism, which at that point were still being more or less "cooked up" by Monet and friends. Also, unlike the others, Cezanne's house portrait appears to be a watercolor, which makes it somewhat "incomparable."
House in Provence, 1867, Paul Cezanne
Speaking of incomparable, I found a painting by a young twelve-year-old Spanish boy which he called Country House (below). It dates from 1893. Maybe you've heard of him--Pablo Picasso? The only uncertainty here is whether the boy intended it to represent a country house or their country house. You'll notice it's signed "P. Ruiz." Picasso was his mother's family name which he adopted as a young man when he took up residence in Paris. Art historians have long debated why he chose his mother's last name over his father's. There are several theories, but my guess is that, inasmuch as his father was an artist as well, it was simply a matter of avoiding confusion.
Country House, 1893, Pablo Picasso (signed P. Ruiz)
I hesitate to include the final example of an artist painting his own home, not that there's a problem with the attribution to Wassily Kandinsky, but simply whether or not it does, in fact, depict his home in Munich around 1908, and if so which one, the red one, the orange one, the yellow one, or one of the miscellaneous "blobs" to the right. If I were the artist, I'd place my house in the center and paint it the brightest color, but then, Kandinsky was nothing if not unconventional, so who knows? As for my own effort along this line, the wintery scene at the bottom is my most recent house portrait. I call in Slopewood in Winter. The house serves as a nice backdrop for the magnificent blue spruce there in our front yard. Unfortunately, just a few months after the painting was completed, a windstorm brought down the slanting tree along the left edge, which it turn broke off the top ten or twelve feet of the spruce (barely missing the house). No longer quite so "magnificent," we had nonetheless hoped the spruce would survive, despite its wounded state; but it's not looking too promising.