Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) was a French modernist painter and has been widely credited for paving the way from realism to the impressionism movement.
Many famous impressionist artists owe a debt of gratitude to Manet as his earlier work would inspire them to break free from traditional forms of art and the types of subject matter that was deemed appropriate up until that point.
The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.
The Post-Impressionist artist, Paul Gauguin’s words couldn’t stand truer throughout the history of art. Especially during the 18th and 19th century, many artists breathed new life into art through innovation and experimentation.
One among them who took the most backlash due to his revolutionary ideas in art was Edouard Manet. The French artist remained unwavering in his resolve to show the world that innovation can be unwelcoming, but it is the only way to progress and evolve.
Let’s dig deeper into the mediums and techniques used by Manet to depict emotion and soul through his artwork!
The French artist Edouard Manet was born into an affluent family of Paris, on the 23rd of January, 1832. He was one of the most controversial artists of his time who defied traditional techniques and altered the conventional elements of art.
Edouard Manet’s mother was the daughter of a diplomat and goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte. His father, Auguste Manet, was the chief of personnel at the Ministry of Justice, and Eugénie-Désirée Fournier.
Manet first started studying French and the classics at Canon Poiloup’s school in Vaugirard. Later, he went on to study at the Collège Rollin as a boarder. From the start, Manet showed little interest in studies and did poorly in all other subjects except the special drawing course.
Manet’s father longed to see him studying at a law school. But, despite his best efforts, he could not talk him into pursuing it as a career. On the other hand, his parents could not be persuaded either to let him become a painter.
So, amid these conflicting desires, he applied to the naval college and ended up failing the entrance examination. In 1848, he went on to become an apprentice pilot on a transport vessel.
He then failed the naval examination yet again, which finally led his parents to give in to their son’s desire to become a painter.
In 1850, Manet joined a classical painter, Thomas Couture, at his studio where he learned a great deal about drawing and pictorial techniques.
After six years of valuable learning, Manet set up a studio that he shared with Albert de Balleroy. Over the years, he created many works worthy of appreciation and recognition.
Despite the criticism that kept raining upon him throughout his career, his efforts in modern arts brought a transition from realism to impressionism.
The history of art, today, marks his experimentation and innovation as the underlying factors that brought him to the pinnacle of his success.
Manet’s work from his early years of career show his inspiration of a realist artist, Gustave Courbet. During this time, his work mostly stuck to contemporary themes and everyday life subjects.
These works depict scenes of bullfights, pavement cafes, beggars, singers and gypsies. You will also notice that he used rather loose brush strokes and the details abide by the traditional themes and standards.
After this phase, next comes the time period when his work progressed from simpler themes to historical and religious ones. He worked on various paintings of the suffering Christ.
Two of these works were also displayed at two famous art museums in the USA. Another two works were displayed at the Salon, which was a major accomplishment for an artist at the time. After his early works, we hardly find other paintings on the subjects of religion, mythology and history.
Manet also painted an image of his parents that was displayed at the Salon as well. However, this piece gained little recognition as compared to The Spanish Singer painting, which was also featured at the Salon.
Manet’s paintings at the Salon stood out among other artists’ works due to their unusual and less detailed appearance. Despite the difference from the traditional style of painting, his work became a subject of intrigue and inspiration among young artists.
It is safe to say that his distinct style of painting gave way to innovation for the birth of modern arts.
When comparing Manet vs Monet it is Monet who is the strict impressionist painter and Manet’s works are a mix of styles.
In 1863, one of his works was rejected by the Salon due to his revolutionary techniques used in the painting. Manet exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés, instead.
This painting, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, brought him a good share of criticism and disapproval far and wide. Unfortunately, this criticism chased him and his unique work throughout his career.
People were largely offended by the female nudity in his paintings in the presence of clothed young men. Rather than viewing the allegorical perspective of his works, people found the nudity to be vulgar and even threatening.
Some of the critics also disapprove of the the work due to the depiction of figures in a harsh light and in a woodland setting. They felt that the depiction was unusually unrealistic and indecent.
Another one of his works, Olympia, caused a scandal in which a nude female gazes boldly and brazenly at the viewer. Dismayed by so much criticism, Manet left for Spain in 1865. However, his aversion to Spanish food and a total lack of the language soon brought him back.
Despite the challenges and persistent criticism, Manet remained relentless in bringing people in grips with impressionism. Some of his most famous works include:
Music in the Tuileries
The Battle of the USS “Kearsarge” and the CSS “Alabama”
The Execution of Emperor Maximilian
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere
The Absinthe Drinker
The last work of one of the pioneers of modernism was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Before his last piece of artwork, he received the highest form of recognition in his life, Légion d’honneur, from the French government.
In 1880, Edouard Manet fell prey to a medical condition that made him retire to the quieter suburbs of Paris. The last many of his personal works were portraits of his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff.
He passed away in 1883, leaving behind a timeless legacy of 430 oil paintings, 89 pastels and more than 400 works on paper.
Above all, his reputation as the first of the moderns and one of the most influential artists remains unsurpassed to this day.
The most famous french artists are house hold names in the art world and their art routinely sets new records at auctions every year.
France has produced some of the greatest artists that have ever lived. From the 18th century it spear headed new styles of art that shock the art world most notably impressionism and then subsequently post-impressionism.
Out went the more symbolic styles of art often routed in religion and in came every day scenes of normal people.
This was the revolution in French art and it immortalized every day scenes for eternity.
Famous French Artists
1. Claude Monet
Claude Monet is arguably the most famous French artist of all time. His waterlilies are famous throughout the world and are studied in elementary schools globally.
Claude Monet was born in 1840 and passed away in 1926. He is best known as the founder of the impressionism movement. Furthermore, Claude Monet was the driving force behind this revolution in the world of art.
He was also the most consistent practitioner of the movement. The name is actually taken from a work he completed which was titled Impressionism, Sunrise.
Claude Monet was known as a master of light. He had the ability to paint the same subject over and over again yet creating a completely different work of art because of his skills.
He is universally acknowledged as the best impressionist artists and his work is held as the standard that all others are judged by.
Claude Monet is best known for his series of water lilies, which he painted between 1896 and 1926. He also published series that explored smoke, steam, rain, and mist. His prolific collection contains around 250 works.
2. Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was born in 1832 and died in 1883. While he had a short life, he is a powerful name in the world of French art.
He was one of the first painters in the 19thcentury to focus on modern subjects; however, he is not considered to be a true impressionist.
Édouard Manet is known as a realist. He rarely left the studio, which is reflected in his work.
His most famous work is titled Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe, which he published in 1863.
He is seen as a pivotal figure in the transition from realism to impressionism.
In this manner, the work of Édouard Manet had a tremendous amount of influence on the artists who came after him; however, his style is notably distinct from the artists who had careers in the later 19thand early 20thcenturies.
3. Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was born in 1869 and 1954. He is known not only for painting but also printmaking, sculpture, and collage.
Along with Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse is known as one of the most influential figures in all of modern art.
He worked using a wide variety of media. These include sculpture, paper cutouts, and more. He is best known for the masterpieces he crafted as a painter.
Today, Henri Matisse is known as a master of color. He was a leader of the Fauvism movement, which was an influential art movement that lasted for a short time during his career.
Henri Matisse is also known for a rivalry and friendship that he had with Pablo Picasso both of which are routinely top the list of famous artists of all time.
They both inspired each other. Henri Matisse is known for his masterpiece called Dance,which eh published in 1910. During his later years, Henri Matisse worked closely with colored paper and arranged them into collages.
4. Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was born in 1834 and passed away in 1917. His best known painting is called The Absinthe Drinker, which he published in 1876. Edgar Degas is considered to be one of the founders of the impressionism artists movement.
While he was closely involved with the movement in the beginning, he made efforts to distance himself from the movement during his later years.
From the 1870s until his passing, he explored the subject of dance. A significant portion of his portfolio includes paintings of ballerinas, for which he is best known.
He was able to capture movement like no other artist of the era, which is why is he considered one of the greatest French painters of all time.
In addition to his painting, The Absinthe Drinker, he was also a renowned sculptor, with his best known work titled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
5. Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne was born in 1839 and passed away in 1906 as one of the most celebrated painters of all time. He is the most famous artist of the post-impressionism movement.
His work acted as a bridge between the impressionist movement of the 18thcentury and the dominant style of the 20thcentury.
During his career, Paul Cezanne was known for creating great masterpieces using his palette knife. This is a phase that led to the development of modern expressionism.
In this manner, Paul Cezanne sought to create a measure of geometric simplification. He would paint an apple as a sphere and a tree trunk as a cylinder.
He best-known work, called The Bathers, was published in 1905. There are a number of famous artists, include Matisse and Picasso, who have stated that Paul Cezanne is the father of us all.
The complex multiple views that were captured by Paul Cezanne have been said to lead to the birth of cubism. In this manner, Paul Cezanne left his mark on art forever.
6. Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in 1841 and passed away in 1919. He is one of the most prolific artists of all time and was one of the leading voices of impressionism.
While he was closely associated with the movement in the beginning of his life, he distanced himself from the movement at the end and drew much of his inspiration from classical art.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir is known for his numerous paintings depicting women. He liked to capture evolving Parisian society in addition to his nude and dance paintings.
He is best-known for his work titled Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, which he published in 1876.
The paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir are known for being intimate and candid in addition to being saturated in light and color.
His unique and powerful style has made him one of the most celebrated artists of his era.
7. Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin was born in 1840 and passed away in 1917. He was a renowned sculptor. While many sculptors drew their influences from the classic work of Greeks, Auguste Rodin decided to take a different approach.
This represented a shocking departure from centuries of sculpting that were steeped in tradition. Instead, he wanted to focus on realism.
In his work, Auguste Rodin sought to express emotion with the interplay of light and shadow. To that end, he used detailed, textured surfaces. His masterpiece was finished in 1902 and is called The Thinker, which nearly everyone has seen represented in some form in some part of the world.
He has been compared to Michelangelo and has been celebrated as the father of modern sculpture, even though he was roundly criticized while he was alive.
8. Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a Danish and French impressionist who was born in the US Virgin Islands before moving to Paris. He was born in 1830 and died in 1903. His is known for his important contributions to both the impressionist and post-impressionist movements.
Camille Pissarro studied from some of the top artists who came before him, including Gustave Courbet, and his work influenced him greatly.
Some of the most famous works of Camille Pissarro include The Boulevard Montmartre at Night, which was published in 1897, and The Hermitage at Pontoise, which was published in 1867.
Camille Pissarro was known as a master of oil paint and this was reflected in his countless works. He most commonly painted landscapes and was able to capture them from different perspectives at different times of the day.
His work is regularly displayed at the National Gallery of Art as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to his work with impressionism, he is also associated with realism and pointillism.
9. Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin was born in 1848 and died in 1903. His best known work is titled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, which he published in 1898.
Paul Gauguin is most closely associated with the post-impressionism movement.
This movement was seen as an extension of the impressionism movement while rejecting many of its limitations. In this manner, the movement placed an emphasis on symbolic content along with abstract qualities.
This is where Paul Gauguin found his calling. He is arguably the most celebrated painter of the post-impressionism movement. He moved to Tahiti in 1891 and spent a large portion of his life on the island.
Many of the works of Paul Gauguin were inspired by his life there. One of his paintings, titled When Will You Marry?, was sold for close to $300 million back in 2015. This is the most expensive piece of art ever sold.
10. Georges Braque
Georges Braque was born in 1882 and died in 1963. He is known as one of the most famous French painters of the 20thcentury. In addition to his work as a painter, he was also a collagist, a printmaker, a sculptor, and a draughtsman.
He had an alliance with the Fauvism movement that started in 1905 and was one of the leading artists who led to the birth of cubism.
One of his most famous works was titled Fruit Fish and Glass, which was published in 1912.
In addition to his association with fauvism and cubism, he is also tied to the birth of the expressionism movement. His work is regularly displayed at The Museum of Modern Art.
Ivan Bilibin was a Russian artist born in 1876 and is mostly remembered for his illustrative works of folk lore.
Art has been a cornerstone of human evolution and enlightenment. From the cavemen to modern day illustrators, humans have come a long way in using narrative images to tell stories.
Yet, most among us have a rather rustic and narrow view of illustration throughout Art History.
After acknowledging Pre-Raphaelites and admiring Impressionists and Symbolists, we don’t take long before ending our horizons of illustration with Europe’s contemporary illustrations.
What we have yet to realize is that the world of illustration is and has always been one of the most versatile forms of art.
A blend of design, depth, detail, lightness and dark with a strange muteness, the works of Ivan Bilibin are one such example of fascinating visual arts.
His best works of art are a vivid visual illustration of Russian history and folklore and more importantly, they are a world on their own.
The underrated Russian artist, Ivan Bilibin was born in Tarkhovka, a suburb of St. Petersburg on 4th August, 1876.
He was a son of a naval doctor who graduated from the law faculty of St. Petersburg University with the intention of becoming a lawyer.
His deeply rooted passion for drawing from an early age led him to study art simultaneously at Anton Ažbe Art School in Munich in 1898.
His experience in a private studio at Munich opened him up to a new world of stimulating ways to express senses and emotions.
On his return back home, he could not help but feel the void that the absence of art was creating in his life. He soon came across a similar set-up in St. Petersburg, managed by Ilya Repin.
During his time at the studio, Bilinin developed a high regard and respect for Repin as an artist. In 1930, he expressed his feelings in his In Memory of Repin as: “He thought and taught in forms and lines as simply as we think and talk to each other in words.”
In 1899, he attended an exhibition by Victor Vasnetsov which comprised mostly of the scenes from folklore and opera.
His work inspired him so much that he found himself drawn to the wilderness and distant regions of Old Russia.
The artists work from this trip was highly appreciated by the Department for the Production of State Documents and he was, thus, employed to illustrate a series of fairy tale books.
The Tale of Ivan the Tsar’s Son, The Frog Princess, The Little White Duck, and Vassilisa the Beautiful are among the most famous of these books.
Bilibin’s ability to use colors vividly, his delicate strokes and just the right selection of shades for the atmosphere are what made his illustrations stand out.
These illustrations not only narrated a scene explicitly, but they also had the ability to bring themselves to life in a viewer’s head. These books gave young Bilibin a promising head start into a remarkable career of illustration and stage designing.
Ivan Bilibin was the creator of the most replicated image in modern Russia. Very few people know that the two-headed eagle on coins of the Bank of Russia belongs to Bilibin’s brush. Painted in 1917, this eagle has become the official symbol of Russia.
Types of Work
Despite possessing the professional qualifications to practice as a lawyer, Bilibin did not once have a speck of doubt that his professional identity could be nothing but that of an artist.
His initial commissions came for magazines and journals from the World of Art. Ten of his illustrations for fairy tales were put on show in a World of Art exhibition.
However, the biggest break-through in his career by far came after his commission by the Department of State Documents. By 1904, Bilibin completed a series of illustrations and due to his outstanding work, the department commissioned him to illustrate fairy tales by Pushkin.
Ivan Bilibin’s remarkable work is not restricted to the sphere of illustrations. In fact, he made a name in another field of graphic art; stage set and costumes. Bilibin designed the stage set and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Snow Maiden which opened in Prague in 1905.
He also provided designs for the premieres of Rimsky-Korsakov’s version of Boris Godunov (1908), and The Golden Cockerel (1909).
Subject Matter of Bilibin’s Work
The dominant subject matter of Bilibin’s work is guided by a unique sense of place. In most of his illustrations, wilderness of Old Russia are the overriding visual details that give his work as many distractions as focal points.
His work also contains a wide array of traditional designs, patterns and motifs. Above all, Bilibin’s ability to bring a sense of reality to his illustrations is the primary factor that increases all of his works’ appeal tenfold.
The subject matter of his work encircles traditional Russian culture. This is strongly reflected in his illustrations for folk tales for children.
Ivan Bilibin committed most of his work to the theme of Russian fairy tales. He found a great deal of inspiration from decorative and folk art that he came across on his trips to Northern Russsia.
Ivan Bilibin died in the February of 1942 in Leningrad during the German blockade. He starved to death as he refused to leave the city and was buried in a collective grave.
The great artist left several of his works unfinished which he was working on during the last few years of his life. Like his other remarkable finished masterpieces, this unfinished work is still not short of his design details and impeccable illustrations.
Needless to say, his undying legacy is worthy of stepping out of the local boundaries of art and marveling at his phenomenal illustrations of folk and fairy tales.
What makes some artists famous and others fade into obscurity? The most famous artists are the ones that capture a time, a place, an idea or spear head a new artistic movement.
Our list of famous artists contains some of the most genius minds to ever exist.
Their art has stood the test of time and adorn galleries the world over with many of their works worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the rare occasions that they come up for auction.
Most Famous Artists
1. Leonardo Da Vinci
Famous artists names don’t get any more recognizable than da Vinci he towers above all other famous artists with a seemingly endless almost supernatural talent.
Leonardo da Vinci, whose interests encompassed everything from painting to architecture, epitomized the renaissance man.
Due to his many endeavors and despite his fame, da Vinci was not a prolific painter, having less than two dozen paintings surviving over the centuries, but his love of science permeated his artistic work (e.g. Vitruvian Man).
Born in 1452 Tuscany, Italy, da Vinci showed an early aptitude for art despite a short formal education.
Around fourteen years old, he apprenticed under Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence where he studied subjects like carpentry and drawing.
By twenty years old he qualified as a master artist at Florence’s Guild of Saint Luke where he established his own workshop but continued his apprenticeship with del Verrocchio for several more years.
After a successful painting career and paralysis of his left hand, da Vinci focused his later years on scientific studies until his death in 1519.
Michelangelo Buonarotti was regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time even while he was still alive.
Although he thought of himself as a sculptor, his artistic talents spread to painting, architecture, and even poetry, but sculpture was the one art form that remained a constant throughout his career.
Born in 1475, Michelangelo was less interested in formal schooling and more interested in church paintings from an early age. By the time he was thirteen, he began an apprenticeship with Domenico Ghirlandaio.
While it was supposed to last three, it ended after just one year because he had already learned all he could from Ghirlandaio, moving on to join the Humanist Academy in Florence.
After completing David in 1501, he secured himself as a respected artist and gained notoriety, leading to a successful career. Towards the end of his life, he abandoned his artistic ventures for architecture until his death in 1564.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, or Rembrandt, was born in 1606 in modern day Netherlands. As a master in visual arts, he is widely renowned as both a painter and print-maker.
Though he painted a wide breadth of subject matter, he was particularly fond of self portraits as well as biblical scenes. He is credited as one of the greatest painter in history.
At fourteen years old, Rembrandt apprenticed Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam for six months. Afterwards, he opened his own studio in Leiden where he took on numerous pupils.
Though he made more than a modest income, he spent his money with wild abandon, leaving himself penniless most of his life.
Thankfully, he spent his money on art which mostly appreciated in value, allowing him to avoid bankruptcy by selling the art he had acquired over the years. Eventually he passed away as a poor man in 1669.
Johannes Vermeer, born in 1632 Holland, was a baroque painter known for his masterful use of pigments and light.
Although he enjoyed painting biblical and mythological scenes, he specialized in painting domestic interior scenes of the middle class lifestyle, often depicting the same scenes and individuals in multiple paintings.
One aspect of his painting that separates him from his contemporaries was his excessive use of expensive paints without concern in conjunction with his lack of preparations for each of his paintings.
Much of Vermeer’s life is left unsure, including whom he apprenticed under. Additionally, only thirty-four paintings are attributed to him today.
However, it is known that in 1653 Vermeer became a master, though he did not achieve wide success until after his death in 1675 where he has been known as one of the greatest painters of the dutch golden age.
Pablo Picasso, born in 1881 Malaga, Spain, is one of the most esteemed painters, in addition to printmaker, poet, and playwright, in history.
Throughout his life, he changed techniques several different times, making it difficult to pinpoint what his trademark style was.
In his early years, his paintings depicted colorful scenes of blue hues, whereas later it turned to blue-green hues that often depicted scenes of impoverished peoples.
Born the son of a painter, Picasso’s father taught him what he knew until Picasso had surpassed him. At fourteen years old, his family moved to Barcelona and he was accepted to the local fine arts school despite his age.
After becoming political during World War II, he eventually enjoyed a very successful career where he achieved international success until he died of heart failure in 1973.
Claude Monet was one of the founders of the impressionist movement, coining the term from his painting Impression, Sunrise. His subject matter always centered on land and seascapes with his most fond subject being the French countryside.
Often, he would paint the same scene over many times to capture the changing of seasons. However, he also painted portraits, most notably of his wife Camille Doncieux in The Woman in the Green Dress.
Born in 1840 Paris, France, he started with drawing charcoal caricatures in his youth. He later learned painting and his outdoor painting style from his mentor Eugene Boudin.
While traveling as a child, he met Edouard Manet, another eventual impressionist. After returning from the military as an adult, he struggled for many years until he finally reached a successful career with the impressionist movement. He eventually died of lung cancer in 1926 at eighty-six years old.
7. Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, born in 1853 Netherlands, is one of the most prominent painters in history. With a large body of work, he created everything from landscapes, still life’s, portraits, and self-portraits.
Born to a wealthy family, he spent his early life as a missionary until pursuing painting when he was almost thirty.
Throughout his life, he was plagued by mental health issues, going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, one instance occurring after he severed his own ear which he is now infamous for. Eventually his mental health issues caught up to him and he died of suicide in 1890.
Ironically, Van Gogh became famous after his suicide, becoming a mythological figure deemed as a tragic genius. His work is largely characterized as neo-impressionistic with a strong use of vivid colours.
Edvard Munch was born in 1863 Norway the son of a priest. After enrolling as an engineer in 1879, he learned scaling and how to draw until an illness disrupted his studies and he dropped out, later pursuing painting instead.
After a few years, he moved to Paris where he studied the impressionist style and learned how to use their vivid color techniques. Struggling to find his own unique style, he continually bounced between naturalism and impressionism throughout his adulthood.
Eventually, his paintings turned more symbolic than realistic, depicting the essence of emotions rather than individuals displaying emotions themselves. The last two decades of his life Munch spent isolated until he died in 1944.
Of all of his famous paintings it is his work called The Scream, one of the most valuable paintings of all time representing the anxiety of the modern man. This work has four versions: two in pastels and two in paints.
9. Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali, born in 1904 Spain, was a surrealist artist that bore striking and bizarre images, often containing sexual and Freudian as well as mathematical and scientific elements. In addition to painting, he also pursued film, poetry, sculpture, and graphic arts.
At fourteen years old, Dali attended the Municipal Drawing School at Figueres where he studied drawing and later moved to Madrid to further his studies.
Early on, his art was more in line with cubism and avant-garde styles but later shifted to surrealism where he became a prominent figure. After moving around Spain and France, he eventually moved to the United States where his career took off.
In 1980, Dali started to exhibit signs of Parkinsons, and, with the passing of his wife Gala shortly after, led to a halt in his artistic endeavors and a steady decline until his own death in 1989.
10. Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, born in Pennsylvania in 1928, was a wildly controversial pop artist. His use of irony and popular elements in his art, fusing together the worlds of art, advertisement, and celebrities, was criticized as a business move to make more money rather than an artistic choice.
As a sickly child, Warhol spent a lot of time bedridden, to which he credited as a vital period in forming his skills and artistic expression.
After studying commercial art in high school, he moved to New York City where he worked in magazine illustration and advertising and became known for his shoe designs.
His inflammatory drawings caused his art to quickly become both popular and controversial.
Even more controversial was his studio, which housed drag queens and other queer individuals, and his personal life where he lived openly gay in a pre-Stonewall era.
Eventually he died due to post-operational complications in 1987.
Edgar Degas was perhaps one of the most purely talented of the impressionists of the late nineteen century — he had a feel for movement and composition that was both the product of intuition and a lifetime of study.
During his life, Degas was often overshadowed by the other impressionists. It wasn’t until later that people realized true stature of the artist– and how prolific he really was.
Degas was born in 1834, to a wealthy banking family in Paris. He was fortunate to have a liberal family which supported his education in the arts. After receiving a classical education at Lycee Louis-le-Grand from 1845 to 1852 and studying law for a while, he decided to become a painter.
He studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris before concluding that he could gain more through independent study. He began faithfully copying the old masters in the Louvre, and continued to do so many years.
Throughout his life Edgar Degas would make over 700 copies of famous classical paintings. It was in this way that he taught himself to paint in any number of styles, and by 1860 had opened a studio in Paris where he painted historical subjects and portraits that were popular at the time.
By the late 1860s, Degas had met and befriended Edouard Manet and the Novelist Louis Edmond Duranty and began to frequent the Cafe Guerbois where many new impressionist artists met for discussion. It was then that he began to develop his own style, influenced by Japanese prints as well as the impressionists and he would go on to produce some of the most famous impressionist paintings ever produced.
After a stay in New Orleans in 1872, Degas returned to Paris and opened another studio. He now turned his attention to what would become his muse for the rest of his life, the theater– dancers, acrobats, singers, and the gracefulness of the female form.
At the impressionist exhibits, Degas chose to highlight a wide variety of styles and subjects rather than choose one theme.
Edgar Degas prided himself on his ability to work in any number of styles, from including classical and realist styles, as well as romanticism, and may have somewhat resented being labelled as an impressionist.
Perhaps this was one of the reasons he never caught on with the public in the way many of the others did.
Although Degas participated in seven of the eight impressionist exhibitions, there were a number of things that set him apart from the movement.
He disliked painting directly from nature, preferring the solitude of his studio, and was uninterested in studying natural light and landscapes, more intrigued by people.
He loved the theater and many of his paintings use the dance halls, cafes, or opera house as settings.
Although he painted many race courses and other outdoor subjects, it was the ballet dancers, in both oil and pastel, that degas would ultimately devote himself to. In his later years degas painted many of his dancers from memory– it had become intuitive.
The would go on to become his most famous paintings and the bulk of his work for which he will be remembered for.
The amazing thing for me is how each of these paintings, while portraying similar scenes, convey a new sensitivity and impression. They show a gracefulness and beauty that makes it easy to forget the skill and hard work that must have gone into each painting.
Like many artists, Edgar Degas did not stop working as he grew older and his eyesight began to fail– he simply switched mediums and began working with pastels and sculpture.
His pastels from the 1890s, while not as detailed or technically perfect as his earlier canvasses, make up for it in expressiveness of line and color. His bronze sculpture of a young dancer is lifelike and graceful, but also displays a fragility as she struggles to hold the pose.
For an artist who most of his life was obsessed with technical perfection, there is an expressiveness and freedom with his later work that must have been liberating. “Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.”
One of the most respected and widely regarded American artists of the of last century, Georgia O’Keeffe was a modernist painter who cannot be tied down to that period — her work seems as timeless, vibrant and inspiring as it was fifty years ago.
Georgia O’Keeffe was born November 15 1887 on a dairy farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. From a very early age she was drawn to art and was encouraged in the discipline by her parents; by the time she left high school she was convinced she wanted to be an artist.
Studying at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905 and the Art Students League in New York, she drew considerable praise from her instructors but was discouraged and uninspired by their emphasis on realism and “perfection” in painting.
She longed for a style of her own, to capture in her paintings the feelings and gracefulness she saw in the world.
In 1915, studying for a teachers degree in South Carolina, O’Keeffe met and took classes with Arthur Dow, an art enthusiast who worshiped oriental art rather than European art.
Dow helped expose Georgia’s mind to the possibility for different styles of art. “It was Arthur Dow who affected my start, who helped me to find something of my own.”
It was then that she began work on her series of small charcoal abstractions, which she was pleased with and sent to a friend in New York.
The drawings by chance found their way into the hands of Alfred Stieglitz, an obsessive photographer and influential participant in certain New York art circles.
The energy and confidence of these drawings from this “mystery woman” so excited Stieglitz that in 1916 he exhibited them at his Manhattan art gallery without her even knowing.
Two years later, Stieglitz had been introduced to O’Keeffe and had persuaded her to move to New York and devote herself to painting.
Shortly thereafter they fell in love and began a romance and artistic collaboration that would last for many years.
The story of Georgia O’Keeffe is inextricably tied up with the life of her husband and partner — and in many ways Stieglitz did for photography what she did for the American painting, championing photography as a display of personal expression.
Both Stieglitz and O’Keeffe were artists eager to take their various art forms in a new direction. They lived and worked together, regularly showing their new work in the gallery.
For Stieglitz, O’Keeffe was a muse, and the many portraits he took of her are known to be some of his best work.
Moving between New York City and upstate Lake George,NY, O’Keeffe was inspired by the beauty of both the rural landscape and the less immediate beauty of the industrialized city.
The nineteen twenties were a time of love for O’Keeffe. Her flower paintings were filled with bright, expressive color and erotic passion. Critics were quick to interpret her paintings as expressions of the feminine, and see her flowers as yonic symbols.
O’Keeffe was able to paint abstract, intensely personal paintings without giving in to the self absorption of many other modernists — her paintings were bold and modern, but they were also very aesthetically beautiful.
She often sought to capture the unique beauty of the American landscape. Her paintings of flowers were both carefully precise in detail as well as abstract, with soft gradients and patches of color.
In 1929 O’Keeffe took a trip with her friend Becca Strand to New Mexico, first to Santa Fe and then to Taos. She fell in love with the location — the bright sunshine and open skies. She would journey there annually from then on, and later make it her home.
The New Mexico landscapes and still life’s, especially the paintings of brilliant white parched animal bones set against deep blue sky, are as highly regarded as her earlier flowers.
By the nineteen forties, Georgia O’Keeffe’s stature in the art world had grown tremendously. In 1946 she was given a one-woman exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first ever from that museum for a female artist.
When Stieglitz died in 1946, O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico permanently to work on her paintings in peace and solitude. She captured in these later paintings the long cloudscapes of the southwestern desert, the adobe walls of her home in Taos, and the shadows and natural curves of the bleached animal bones.
By the end of the nineteen sixties, retrospectives all around the country and the world had cemented O’Keeffe as one of the most admired painters of her time.
However, by then her eyesight had failed to the point that she could barely see past her canvas. It was then that she befriended a local potter named Juan Hamilton, who assisted her with household chores and helped her with her art work.
Together they completed and published in 1976 a book about her art called Georgia O’Keeffe, and a companion video project where she talked about her feelings on art.
O’Keeffe continued to draw charcoal sketches for herself up until 1984. That year she moved in to Hamilton’s home to be closer to medical facilities. She died on March 6, 1986.
Henri Matisse was born in Cambresis France in 1869. He moved to Paris to study law in 1887, earning a degree and going to work as a law clerk and court administrator.
Who would have thought he would go on to become Picasso's chief rival? In the winter of 1889 when recovering from appendicitis, Matisse began painting as a way to pass the time. It quickly grew into a passion, and he began studying academic painting with William Bouguereau and then later Gustave Moreua.
Showing great promise with his classical training, in 1896 became a member of the official Salon in Paris, and it seemed likely that he would go on to have a successful career as a talented but conservative painter. Then, along with a similar group of artists, he discovered Cezanne, Van Gogh, and other neo-impressionists.
With his friend Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck he was a founder of the fauvist art movement, which was recognized by simplified lines, deep bright colors and expressive spontaneity that gave the paintings real vibrant emotion.
Indeed, Matisse is known for his intuitive and expert use of color.
While both the fauvists and the impressionists where interested in capturing the essence and feeling of a place through color, Matisse was less interested in representation as he was in stripping things down to the basics or showing them in a new way. "We must see all life as if we were children."
Matisse also looked to other cultures for inspiration well-- he was influenced greatly by Japanese and primitive art. He broke his paintings down in line, color, and composition, creating a unique style that made use of flat color, brilliant hues, and graceful fluid lines. He emphasized expression over detail and spontaneity over formality.
Hi first exhibition was in 1901, and by 1904 he was considered the leader of the fauvist movement. By this time he was painting full time, and traveled around France with his fellow fauvist Andre Derain.
His travels, including a 1910 trip to Morocco and Northern Africa, would have a great impact on the subjects he painted. The movement began to decline after 1906, but Matisse's fame continued to spread.
One of the most influential early modernists, he is often paired with Picasso. They were both friends and rivals.
Both artists are responsible for the production of some of the most famous paintings ever produced.
Matisse and Picasso had very different personalities. Whereas Picasso was incredibly prolific, forceful, arrogant and somewhat intimidating person, Matisse was slow and thoughtful, encouraging other painters around him.
"The artist has but one idea. He is born with it and spends a lifetime developing it and making it breathe. I basically work without theory. I am aware only of the forces I use, and I move along the course of the picture's creation, pushed by an idea that I come to know only gradually as it develops".
Matisse lived on the french Riviera until his death in 1954. After a bout with cancer in 1941 he was confined to a wheelchair, but found a way to continue his work by creating large cut paper collages, gouaches découpés.
The geometry, bright color and graceful lines from his paintings carried over into his powerful collages.
It is interesting to note that while both Picasso and Matisse worked up to their death, their work diverged in opposite ways-- Picasso's becoming more self involved and psychological and Matisse becoming closer to abstract form and selfless experimentation.