Continuing my series of great ‘regional’ painters (previous ones were Holland, California, Italy, and Russia), here are a few great painters from Croatia.
Bukovac was born in a small town on the coast south of Dubrovnik to an Italian father and Croatian mother. He studied in Paris with Cabanel and worked in Zagreb, Belgrade and Prague. His life story is quite interesting and included a stint in a reform school in New York and painting trains in Peru (more here).
While famous for his large Salon-style pieces and portraits, he also painted a lot of beautiful plein air sketches.
Gundulićev San (Gundulic’s Dream). 1897
Baron Ljudevit Vranyczany. 1898
Courtyard in Cavtat. 1899
This nude reminded me of his teacher’s famous painting:
Reclining Nude. c. 1900
Alexandre Cabanel. The Birth of Venus, 1864
Miroslav Kraljević was only 27 when he died of tuberculosis. He studied in Munich and Vienna. (He kinda looks like Valdemar Lethin).
Self-portrait with Dog. 1910
Unfortunately the above image quality is rather poor. Below is a great detail of the dog from Croatian painter Valentino Radman’s blog:
Self-portrait with Dog (detail).
Josip Račić also died very young, only 23, but is considered one of the most important modern Croatian painters. He was part of the ‘Munich School’ with Kraljević and a couple of others.
Self Portrait (detail). 1906
Portrait of the Artist’s Sister. 1907
Pont des Arts. 1900
Another good 20th century painter who’s work is in the museum here in Zagreb, but is hard to find online, is Vladimir Filakovac. Valentino Radman has a couple of blog posts on him here and here.
Other interesting historic Croatian painters are Čikoš Sesija, Robert Auer, Mato Celestin Medović, and Mirko Rački.
My 4 month stint in Limburg is rapidly drawing to a close. I’ve painted with a couple of professional plein air painters, Hans Versfelt and (briefly) Roos Shuring, and had a few coffees with fellow ex-pat portraitist Scott Bartner.
In March, I visited the Tefaf fair in Maastricht with Urban Larsson, who showed me around and introduced me to the great Dutch painters of the 19th-century. As always, most of these artists aren’t well known abroad, but deserve greater recognition.
I had trouble finding books and images online for these artists, and I may have the titles wrong, but here goes.
(They have really long-winded names for being from such a small country).
Continuing the theme of brilliant regional painters from the Californian school post below. There is a Telemaco Signorini show in Padua at the moment which I am really looking forward to seeing. Signorini has always been one of my favorite plein air painters both for his superb painting technique and the wit he instills in his best work. Such as the play of the bright colors of the advertising billboard above contrasted with the greys and browns of the Scottish town, the lone dog on the wall in End of August at Pietramala below, and the contrasting of the various levels of human endeavor between the humble, transitory vegetable garden and the grand, immutable silhouette of the Duomo in (a painting I haven’t been able to find an image of and can’t remember the title!).
Fine d’agosto a Pietramala, 1889
Una Via di Ravenna
Signorini is probably the greatest painter of the Italian light, from the dirty summer skies contrasted with bright sun-lit roads, to his exceptional rendering of the long grey autumn and winter evenings. His draftsmanship is superb, and often in the small unfinished sketches you can see how everything was meticulously drawn in pencil before he started (Paxton recounted seeing Sargent do this as well with his seemingly freehand Venetian watercolors). Signorini’s brushwork and, often, palette-knife-work is always varied and unexpected, and I would be curious to know what medium he used as the variety of edge is really impressive, from the long soft gradations of the foliage and shadows, to his razor-sharp roofs and palm fronds.
Paesaggio Toscano, 1875
Also, the museums in Italy are all free this weekend. I just spent an hour looking at the Signorini at the Pitti Modern and was the only one in the place the whole time.
Having just returned from California, I thought I’d do a post about the local 19th and early 20th century painting school. I’ve always preferred the term ‘Californian Impressionists’.
After talking with other Californians about these artists like no one else had ever held a brush to canvas, I arrived in New York and went painting with American artists from elsewhere in the U.S. and realized many painters have never heard of them outside of the Golden State. As often happens with historic representational artists, their greatness is often only appreciated by those who live there and love the views they painted (even if, in the case of Southern California, very few of the views in their paintings exist any more).
What is more annoying is that some of the museums in California are in the process of ridding themselves of these paintings at the moment. This year the Orange County Museum sold 18 of its 20 Californian Impressionist paintings for a fraction of their market price to an unnamed private collector. The money they received was little more than what the museum intends on spending for an exhibition of Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract drivel next year.
Guy Rose. Point Lobos, 1918
Hollywood supposedly started out as the center for film making because it never rains in Southern California and they could film outside all year long. You can imagine how well that worked for plein air painters as well.
Here are few of my favorites:
William Wendt (1865-1946)
“Where Nature’s God Hath Wrought” 50 x 60 inches, 1925
You can still see this mountain north of Morro Bay. Already here he is developing into his later, more mannered style which I am less fond of. His earlier work has a wonderful naturalism (as in Cup of Gold above and A Clear Day below). The Irvine and Laguna museums have published a fantastic catalog of Wendt’s work with 320 pages of great color reproductions for only $30.
A Clear Day. 30 x 40 inches, 1903
Guy Rose (1867 – 1925)
Most of Guy Rose’s paintings I’m not too fond of, but his seascapes are some of my all-time favorites. The Point Lobos above (a view which I painted while still a student many years ago) is superb and the view of the Carmel coast below captures the feel of the Monterey Bay so beautifully. He has some of the most interesting brushwork of any plein air painter I’ve seen, and the paintings really need to be seen in person to be appreciated. In the meantime, you can see a lot of his work online here.
Carmel Seascape. 21 x 24 inches, 1918.
E. Charlton Fortune (1885 – 1969)
Euphemia Charlton Fortune was, like Guy Rose, another native Californian painter and she helped found the artist colony at Carmel, California. I know her work much better than the other painters as so much of it is regularly on display in Monterey area exhibits. She often has much more interesting compositions than her contemporaries and a boldness in her colors, while still managing to retain a wonderful naturalism. Unfortunately I could find very little online so I’ll have to get the scanner out when I have a free second.
Monterey Bay. 30 x 40 inches, 1916
Granville Redmond (1871 – 1935)
Granville Redmond’s best work is excellent, but he painted way too many of his ‘home run’ subject of the lupine and poppy fields of the Californian Spring for my taste. Apparently he (like other great landscape painters) suffered from depression throughout his life, which certainly doesn’t show in his high chroma subjects which are full of light, but does come through in his more melancholy sunset paintings. He told a critic in 1931 that he preferred to paint pictures of solitude and silence. “Alas,” he wrote, “people will not buy them. They all seem to want poppies.” Sounds familiar.
Poppies and Lupine. 1913
Other early Californian plein air painters to look at are Armin Hansen, William F. Ritschel, Percy Gray, and Edgar Payne.
With landscape season in full swing I thought I’d do a post about my favorite historic landscape painters. I’ve added the names in Cyrillic in case you want to check Google images for more work.
First and foremost, Isaac Levitan (Исаак Левитан):
March by Isaac Levitan. Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm, 1895.
Birch Forest by Isaac Levitan. Oil on canvas 1885-1889
Isaac Levitan has been my favorite landscape painter from the first time I saw his work in reproduction. A few years ago I went to Russia and was almost in tears in front of the original paintings (though that could have also been the vodka hangover). His technical prowess is astonishing when you see the paintings in person. Some of his brush work would be gimmicky in the hands of anyone else. For example, in one painting of an old wood barn, he laid on impastos, then glazed them, then lightly wiped off the glaze so the darker color stayed just in the ‘valleys’ of the impasto. It works from a distance, but, amazingly, it works also if you ‘sniff’ (in the words of Gilbert Stuart) the painting. I’ve never seen anyone who could pull that trick off, and I have tried it myself a few times with terrible results.
“In Birch Forest”, pictured above, half of the painting appears to have been done with the same unmixed transparent green pigment, and the changing hue and high chroma in the glazing on the whites of the tree-trunks is alone worth the trip to Moscow.
The variety of his subjects and compositions has always inspired me. But most of all, the sense of meaning he instills in every painting. When you look at his landscapes there is something so much greater than just simply the view being depicted. His best landscapes are filled with a profound philosophical meaning beyond anything I’ve seen painted before. For me, this is art at its highest level. Recalling the French academicians with their hierarchy of painting which held landscape in third place, I think “they never saw a Levitan”.
Isaac Levitan’s By the Mill-Pond. Oil on canvas 1891
There is an interesting article here on Levitan’s By the Mill-Pond.
Ivan Shiskin (Иван Шишкин):
A Rye Field by Ivan Shishkin. Oil on canvas, 107 x 187 cm, 1878
The baby bear paintings I can do without, but the painting above is one of my all time favorites. I love the personality in each of the trees. My wife wants a large landscape for our apartment (we can’t afford one of mine) so I plan on copying it. If I had to have any painting on my wall it would be this one.
Vereshchagin. Hazreti Shakh-i-Zindeh Mausoleum in Samarkand. 1869-70
Vereshchagin. Chuguchak Doors
Vereshchagin, The Taj Mahal at Agra
Here is a painter I had never heard of until I visited Russia. His work was incredible when I saw it in the museums. They didn’t have the artist’s names in English so I copied down the Cyrillic characters on a piece of paper and took it to bookstores afterwards, only to find that books on Vereshchagin are few and far between. The reproductions I’ve found on the internet are also less than ideal so you’ll just have to take my word for how good this guy was. Apparently he was an officer in the Russian army and traveled across Asia on campaign, painting these gems. I assume they were painted from life, as it is hard to imaging how else he could have done them.
The paintings of Samarkand in Uzbekistan were especially stunning. One of my favorites was a stetch of the Medrasah Shir-Dhor at Registan place in Samarkand. (It was also interesting to see difference between the small plein air sketch in which the place looks like a quiet historic site with a few market stalls, and the larger, dramatic studio painting with camels, heads on poles and raving Central Asian warriors).
His later studio work from Munich of large, crudely painted battle scenes I was less fond of, but I can imagine how someone with the sensitivity to create the plein air sketches above could have been affected by the brutality and horror of nineteenth century military campaigns.