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Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss is an oil painting on canvas with additional gold leaf, silver and platinum enhancements. Created by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. It was painted between 1907 and 1908, during the height of what scholars call his “Golden Period”. It was exhibited in 1908 under the title Liebespaar as stated in the catalogue of the exhibition. The painting portrays a couple embracing each other, their bodies intertwined, dressed in sumptuous beautiful robes adorned in a style influenced by the contemporary Art Nouveau style and the organic forms of the preceding Arts and Crafts movement. The painting now hangs in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in Vienna, and is established as a masterpiece of Vienna Secession style, Klimt’s striking canvas brought the emotion of love and symbolism to the whole world.

Date: 1908

Artist: Gustav Klimt

Location: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Austria

Periods: Vienna Secession, Art Nouveau

Media: Gold Leaf on Oil Paint

Dimensions 70.9 in × 70.9 in 180 cm × 180 cm

The Austrian artist Gustav Klimt shared his “Golden period” to the entire world. He was able to create abundant art works that suggested love, passion and beauty. This can be seen through one of his famous artwork The Kiss.

In 1903, Klimt travelled two times to Ravenna, where he saw the mosaics of San Vitale, whose Byzantine influence was obvious. The use of gold harked back to Klimt’s own past, to the metal work of his father and younger brother Ernst, who had both died a decade earlier. Klimt’s awareness in the Byzantine period also symbolized a move towards greater stability, through static, inorganic forms; signifying a search for refuge after the artist’s exploration of the instinctual powers of archaic Greece. The Kiss signifying the apex of his “Golden Period,” this concludes parallel thematic studies during his career, such as The Beethoven Frieze, and The Tree of Life. Each work aids the final understanding of the story, which represents the mystical union of spiritual and erotic love and the absorption of the individual with the eternal cosmos.

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise was first presented at what would become known as the “Exhibition of the Impressionists” in Paris in April 1874. The painting is attributed to inspiring the name of the Impressionist movement. It illustrates the port of Le Havre in France, Monet home town. It is one of a series of paintings based on Le Havre painted about the same time. The series was exhibited at the “Exhibition of the Impressionists”. Some of the other artists who exhibited alongside Monet were Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot and Edgar Degas.

Date completed: 1872

Artist: Claude Monet

Periods: Impressionism

Location: Musée Marmottan Monet

Subject: Le Havre

Genres: Marine art

Art critic Louis Leroy wrote about the exhibition in the newspaper Le Charivari and used the term “Impressionism” to mock the loose and tranquil nature of the paintings. But, despite the anticipated criticism, the artists adopted the term as the name of the movement, Impressionism. Here is an extract from Leroy’s article, which takes the perspective of two sceptical viewers discussing Monet’s painting: “Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it — and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.”

Monet depicts a mist, in which a hazy background is set in French harbour of Le Havre. The orange and yellow hues in the sky contrast luminously with the dark tall ships, with not much detail, is proximately visible to the audience. It is a remarkable and candid work that shows the smaller boats in the foreground almost being thrust along by the movement of the water. This has been achieved by unconnected tonal brushstrokes that also show various colours “sparkling” on the sea.

From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet and what became known as the impressionist exhibited their works. Of all those displayed there, this is probably the most famous picture, not so much because of any crucial status within Monet’s oeuvre, but rather for the criticism it attracted from the reviewers, which gave rise to the name of the movement. Most visitors were offended and even outraged over such “graffiti”. The focus of this painting is almost entirely on colour and light. The brushwork is loose, the detail is simple and the composition is fairly basic. But the use of colour to depict light is enough to make this painting work.

Most of the painting is made up of dull oranges, blues and greens, which form the backdrop for the dark green/blue boats and the vivid orange sunrise.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte painted from 1884 to 1886, is both the best-known and largest painting Georges Seurat ever created on a canvas. It is a prominent example of the pointillist technique, executed on a large canvas. Seurat’s composition includes many Parisians at a park on the banks of the River Seine, which was a popular haven for the middle and upper class of Paris in the 19th century. “Bedlam,” “scandal,” and “hilarity” were among the epithets used to describe what is now considered Georges Pierre Seurat’s greatest work, and one of the most remarkable paintings of the nineteenth century when it was first exhibited in Paris.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Date completed: 1886

Artist: Georges Pierre Seurat

Periods: Pointillism · Post-Impressionism

Location: Art Institute of Chicago

Media: Oil painting

The ‘Ile de la Grande Jatte’ translates as ‘Big Bowl Island’ and the immense work by Georges Pierre Seurat perfectly depicts its character. The island itself is a mile long and located on the Seine in the Neuilly-sur-Seine section of Paris and represented a high-class escape for the Parisian community.

The essential sense of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is far from clear. In its remote location, Seurat was able to capture an interesting glimpse of wealthy Parisian life in the 19th century. However, art critics consider that it should be interpreted in comparison to its sister work Bathers at Asnieres. They believe that ‘La Jatte’ represents the French bourgeoisie, a decaying class that has fallen victim to lust and corruption, and which is now in the shadows. In contrast, the sun is shining on the working class bathers of Asnieres, who symbolise the bright future of France. The painting sparked numerous interpretations and was criticized for being too mathematical. Upon its exhibition, however, it was mostly heralded as a grand work of meticulous proportions.

The painting and the life of its artist were the basis for the 1984 Broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Subsequently, the painting is sometimes referred to by the misnomer “Sunday in the Park”.

Seurat himself told a sympathetic critic, Gustave Kahn, that his model was the Panathenaic procession in the Parthenon frieze. But Seurat didn’t want to paint ancient Athenians. He wanted ‘to make the moderns file past . in their essential form.’ By ‘moderns’ he meant nothing very complicated. He wanted ordinary people as his subject and ordinary life. He was a bit of a democrat a “Communard,” as one of his friends remarked, referring to the left-wing revolutionaries of 1871; and he was fascinated by the way things distinct and different encountered each other: the city and the country, the farm and the factory, the bourgeois and the proletarian meeting at their edges in a sort of harmony of opposites.

The planning and cast of Grande Jatte were notorious as complex as the work itself and Seurat went through many sketched drafts before he arrived on the final plan for the painted piece. The cast comprised three dogs, eight boats and 48 people as they congregated for a Sunday afternoon in the sunny park.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory is a landscape by artist Salvador Dalí, and one of the most recognizable works of Surrealism. It was completed in 1931 and is considered one of Dali’s most famous works. It possibly derives its meaning from Sigmund Freud’s work on psychoanalysis because Dali painted it during his psychoanalytical era of painting. First exhibited at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932, since 1934 the painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, given by an anonymous donor. It has been exhibited in galleries worldwide and is the symbol of Dali’s work. The painting is widely recognized and frequently referenced in popular culture and on occasion referred to by more descriptive titles, such as “Melting Clocks”, “The Soft Watches” or “The Melting Watches”.

Date completed: 1931

Artist: Salvador Dalí

Style: Surrealism

Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Media: Oil painting, 9 1/2 by 13″ inch (24.1 x 33cm)

This iconic and regularly reproduced painting depicts time as a series three melting watches surrounded by swarming ants that suggest decay, an organic progression in which Dali held an unshakeable absorption. The Persistence of Memory contains an upper blue skyline, which gradually diminishes downward from blue to yellow then almost white across the top quarter of the painting. Under the skyline is a body of water. The body of water traces the skyline until it interacts with adjoining mountains to the right. In front of the mountains, there is a single pebble.

On the left close to the water, Dali places a reflective, blue, elevated, rectangular platform with dark brown trimming around the edges. Placed in front of this platform, there is another single pebble. A lifeless tree with a hollow top, is in front of it, missing all of its leaves and branches but one. The single branch holds a silver pocket watch which appears to be melting on the end of the branch showing the numbers three through nine. Only one hand of the watch is shown, pointing at the 6. The tree is located on top of a light brown square object that looks desk-like. The brown object takes over the bottom left corner of the painting and even goes off the canvas. On this object, two more pocket watches are residing. One of them is gold and melted, hanging halfway off the light brown cube. The hands of the gold watch are stopped at five of seven and there is a fly on the face near the 1 o’clock mark. The fly is also casting a very small shadow, which is shaped more like a human. The other pocket watch is bronze and shut. The exterior of the pocket watch is covered with a swarm of black ants. Unlike the other clocks, this is shut, and the only one that is not warped or melted of the four.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night

Date completed: 1889
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Location: Museum of Modern Art · New York City
Media: Oil painting Size: 29 x 36 1/4″ (73.7 x 92.1 cm)
Period: Post-Impressionism
Subject: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The Starry Night is an oil on canvas painting by Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an ideal village. It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941, acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. Regarded as among Van Gogh’s finest works, The Starry Night is one of the most recognized paintings in the history of Western culture. The painting is dominated by a night sky roiling with chromatic blue swirls, a glowing yellow crescent moon, and stars rendered in impasto as radiating orbs. The cypress trees, which are flame-like, tower over the foreground to the left, their dark branches curling and swaying to the movement of the sky. Amid all this movement, the village Saint-Rémy-de-Provence sits on the lower right of the canvas. Straight controlled lines make up the small cottages and the towering slender steeple of a church, which rises as a beacon against rolling blue hills. The glowing yellow squares of the houses with welcoming lights of peaceful homes, creating a calm corner amid the painting’s turbulence.

Vincent wrote “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent describes his inspiration for one of his well known paintings, The Starry Night.

Van Gogh lived well in the hospital; he was allowed greater freedoms than any of the other patients. He could go out for the day with an attendant; he was allowed to paint, read, and was even given a studio. While he suffered from the infrequent relapse into paranoia and fits. He began to suffer hallucination and have thoughts of suicide as he plunged into depression. As a result there was a tonal shift in his work. He returned to using the darker colours from the beginning of his career and Starry Night is an example of that shift. Blue dominates the painting, blending hills into the sky. The little village lays at the base in the painting in browns, greys, and blues. Even though each building is clearly outlined in black, the yellow and white of the stars and the moon stand out against the sky, drawing the eyes to the sky.

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Pablo Picasso, Guernica

Guernica is a highly potent painting by Pablo Picasso. It is one of the world’s greatest anti-war paintings. The painting is gigantic and illustrates the bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Guernica, oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso, 1937; in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. 3.49 × 7.77 m.

Date painted: 1937
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Subjects: Spanish Civil War · Suffering · War
Location: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Genre: Narrative Art
Media: Oil Paint

Guernica, a large black-and-white, bold linear oil painting dramatically executed by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso following the German bombing of Guernica, a city in Spain’s Basque region. The complex geometric painting received mixed reviews when it was shown in the Spanish Republic Pavilion at the world’s fair in Paris, but it has became an icon following it’s tour around the world in the ensuing years.

Spain was six months into its civil war, a military rebellion undertaken by the Nationalists against the government and the Republicans. Several months later, German aircraft, on the request of the Nationalists bombed the metropolis of Guernica on April 26. The three-hour long blitz nearly annihilated the town and killed or wounded nearly one-third of the population. Picasso completed this substantial painting in just under a month.

Picasso had lived in France since 1904. An expat who was vocal about his opposition to the militant autocracy of his home country, Picasso crafted the tribute to the war-torn Spanish city without having set foot within the nation’s borders since 1934. He would never return to Spain.

Picasso once treated a German Gestapo officer to a sharp responce in reference to the painting’s depiction of the atrocities of fascism and war. When asked by an officer about the painting, “Did you do that?” Picasso is said to have replied, “No, you did.”

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Edgar Degas The Dancing Class

Edgar Degas, The Dancing Class, ca. 1870

Date: ca. 1870
Medium: Oil on wood
Dimensions: 7 3/4 x 10 5/8 in. (19.7 x 27 cm)

Durand-Ruel, a Paris dealer bought this painting from the artist in January 1872. After a few trading with other artists, the painting was purchased by Captain Henry Hill, Brighton 1875 or 1876. On his death his estate sale held by Christie’s, London on May 25, 1889, this painting no. 26, titled “A pas de deux,” sold for 41 guineas to Wallis. Later the painting sold on December 5, 1916, through the artist Mary Cassatt to Havemeyer. Then by Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 to The Met, New York. were it is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 815

This early Edgar Degas ballet class painting is drafted in his studio because he has not yet secured permission to paint at the theatre, as are the later painting of the ballet. The dancers are posed in his studio along with the props. It is interesting to see other dancers in the mirror but not in the painting. Many of the dancers are posed at an angle to show drama and action. The green watering can in the lower left corner is possible to the dampen the dusty floor and is a similar colour as reflected in the mirror of the wall not in the picture to the right, and on other walls throughout the painting. Notice how the main dancer has the brightest white to make her stand out against the eleven figures composed in a triangle in the picture. All the dancers practicing have pink ballet shoes and most are wearing a pink bow around their waist, the principle dancer being the exception.

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The brothel culture of the ballet was so pervasive, as historian Lorraine Coons remarks in her essay “Artiste or coquette? Les petits rats of the Paris Opera ballet,” that even successful dancers who did not resort to prostitution would likely have been suspected to have done so anyway.

Jockeys at the Start

Study Jockeys at the Start, Newmarket by Sir Alfred Munnings

“Study: Jockeys at the Start, Newmarket”

Medium: Oil on Canvas board Size: 50.8 x 61 cm. (20 x 24 in.)

Born: 8 October 1878, Mendham
Died: 17 July 1959, Dedham
Other Artworks: The Red Prince Mare, Changing Horses
Buried: St. Paul’s Cathedral, City of London
Education: Norwich University Of The Arts
Spouses: Violet Munnings (m. 1920–1959), Florence Carter-Wood (m. 1912–1914)

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Sir Alfred James Munnings, (British, 1878–1959) KCVO, PRA was known as one of England’s finest painters of horses and as an outspoken critic of Modernism. The loss of sight in his right eye in an accident in 1898 did not deflect his determination to paint, and in 1899 two of his pictures were shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Munnings bought Castle House, Dedham, in 1919, describing it as ‘the house of my dreams’. He used the house and adjoining studio extensively throughout the rest of his career, and it was opened as the Munnings Art Museum in the early 1960s.

The oil painting “Study: Jockeys at the Start, Newmarket” is a typical subject for Munnings. He appeared to love outdoor equestrian and farm animal subjects. This painting packed with action and drama, in his typical lose style executed on a medium size board canvas. The contrasting colours of the jockey’s outfits make for great drama, movement of the horses are portrayed in line and texture, all depited eager to race to the finish.