Ivan Morozov (1871–1921) seems to have accepted that the Russian Revolution took his wealth and his home. What he could not bear was the loss of his art collection.
In 1918, a Russian sculptor Sergey Konenkov appeared at Morozov’s mansion in Moscow in his new capacity as a Bolshevik official, according to a biography by Natalya Semenova. (There is a link at the end of this essay to a bibliography of sources used in my research.) Konenkov, who knew Morozov, presented him with what’s called a ‘preservation order,’ essentially taking the mansion and its collection.
A member of a family made wealthy generations earlier through textile manufacturing, Morozov initially took a post as a deputy curator to oversee his collection after the Soviets seized it. He was granted use of some rooms in his own mansion as an apartment for his family. By 1919, Morozov decided to flee Russia with his family. But he remained concerned and hopeful about the fate of the collection he’d arranged with such care. …
The title given to this painting by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) seems wrong to me. It’s commonly called “The Hangover,” which seems to miss the small revolutionary acts we may be witnessing here.
Toulouse-Lautrec shows us a young woman who has the freedom and funds to sit by herself and work through her thoughts over a glass of wine at a cafe. The woman shown here is Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938). She appears to me to be in a pensive mood.
I admit I bring to this interpretation my admiration for Valadon’s determination and grit. The child of a poor unmarried woman, Valadon found a way to become a successful painter, an occupation largely (but not exclusively) limited to men of the middle class even in France’s Belle Époque (c. …
William Merritt Chase (1849–1916) paid homage to one of his fellow portraitists in his painting “The Lady in Black,” but did so in a way that brought honor — and not infamy— to the subject.
The painting on the left is John Singer Sargent’s Madame X, a beautiful and unforgettable image. This painting shocked Parisian art circles on its debut. The portrait initially showed its subject, the Louisiana-born wife of a banker, with one of her straps slipping on her shoulders. Sargent later painted the strap back in place, attempting to soothe ill feelings after the outrage this work cause.
Madame X’s head is turned to put on display her lovely neck. But she is posed in an odd and uncomfortable way, seemingly leaning on the table for balance, with a tight corset emphasizing her figure. Still, Madame X is magnificent. She is compelling. But let’s face it. …
“Painter, Solider, Traveler” is the English title of a book of autobiographical sketches from Vasily Vereshchagin (1842–1904).
I found electronic copies of this book on archive.org while trying to confirm this quote, which is widely attributed to Vereshchagin:
“I loved the sun all my life, and wanted to paint sunshine. When I happened to see warfare and say what I thought about it, I rejoiced that I would be able to devote myself to the sun once again. But the fury of war continued to pursue me.”
That does sound like something Vereshchagin would have said, although I have not yet found the source for it. Below are excerpts of a description Vereshchagin wrote for an 1888 American Art Association exhibition of his work. …
Paintings done by Maurice Prendergast (1858–1924) often remind me of a scene in the movie “Mary Poppins.” In it, Mary Poppins, Bert and the Banks children jump through a sidewalk chalk drawing into a more colorful and joyous scene.
Prendergast shows us urban parks and plazas and beach scenes painted in a style that often brings to mind stained glass and mosaics.
Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) brings us into the most intimate scenes of his life.
Yes, this French artist is famous for his paintings of his wife. Bonnard shows us Marthe in her bathtub. This is different from nude paintings of models stretched out on divans or standing in poses in studios. Bonnard’s Marthe is not only nude, but in what is normally a place of sanctuary and privacy.
But equally or perhaps even more intimate are the paintings where Bonnard puts us at his table.
We’re immersed in a home where pets share in the meals. It’s clear the Bonnard cat and dogs expect to get a bite from their humans’ plates. …
Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541–1614) was an artist with an eye for beauty and a knack for business.
A native of Crete, the painter who would become known as El Greco began painting Byzantine icons. He spent time in Venice and Rome but left Italy in search of better fortunes in Spain. That nation was then flush from the stream of silver it was extracting from its American colonies. Theotokópoulos hoped to become a favorite of Philip II, an ambition that didn’t pan out for him.
But El Greco — the Greek in Spanish — found a home in the medieval town of Toledo, notes Michael Kimmelman in a 2003 article in the New York Times. (There’s a link at the end of this essay to a bibliography with details on this article and other materials used in my research on El Greco.) …
How did artist Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) bring this painting to life?
Look how the leaves of the tulips appear almost to be in motion, as does the textile on the right side of the painting.
This is a painting I might chose when playing a favorite game with friends.
On museum visits, we ask each other what work we’d take home if we could. I’d love to have this in my office. I could also happily find a space on the wall for other still life paintings by Valadon, especially others that also incorporate rich textiles.
How cutting edge were the costumes Oscar Schlemmer (1888–1943) designed for his Triadic Ballet?
So cutting edge that art critic Alastair Smart credited Schlemmer as an influence on costumes David Bowie and Lady Gaga wore on stage decades later. (There’s a link at the end of this essay to a bibliography with details on Smart’s article and other material used in researching this essay.)
Decades after the Triadic ballet toured in the 1920s, Bowie and Gaga were looking rather futuristic in stages costumes that echoed Schlemmer’s designs.
In a 2019 article appearing on the website of Christie’s auction house, Smart wrote about Schlemmer and other artists who work as part of the Bauhaus. This German art school operated only from 1919 until 1933. But it has had a lasting effect on modern style. The artists, architects and designers of the Bauhaus emphasized sleek spare designs, such as the logo Schlemmer for the group, as seen below. …
That is the word that springs to mind on learning about the fate of this painting, titled, “The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon.”
In this painting, the decidedly English artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) explores a quintessential British theme. Burne-Jones gives us his take on the idea that the mythical King Arthur never died, but instead has slept for centuries on the island of Avalon. As legend has it, Arthur will return to his nation someday when it faces a moment of crisis.
In its entirety, this painting of Arthurian drama stretches to about 21 feet, with a height of 9 feet, according to dimensions listed on the website of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico. …