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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 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.