Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Nears


Melozzo da Flori (Italian Renaissance artist, 1438-1494) Angel from the Vault of the Sacristy of Saint Mark  January 29, 2011. "Without Melozzo, the work of Raphael and Michelangelo would have never existed.” This statement by Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, sums up the impact this renaissance painter had on some of the greatest Italian painters.

In many western Christian religions, Advent is a time of expectant waiting, self-examination, & preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.


Thanks for children who fill the house at Christmas


Walther Firle (German artist, 1859–1929) The Fairy Tale


Self-Portraits by Paula Modersohn-Becker 1876-1907


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self-Portrait 1898

Dresden-born Paula Modersohn-Becker was 12, when her family moved to Bremen. She was the 3rd child of 7 children whose father, the son of a Russian university professor, was employed with the German railway. He and Modersohn-Becker's mother, who was from an aristocratic family, provided the children a cultured & intellectual environment in the household. In 1892, she received her first drawing instruction, and a year later came to England to learn English. In 1897, she saw an exhibition at Bremen's Kunsthalle by the members of the "Worpsweders" commune, artists who lived on the moors outside Bremen protesting the dominance of the academy like the French Barbizon school, as they portrayed local farm families.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait on 6th Wedding Anniversary 1906

In 1896, she studied at the Society of Berlin Women Artists. She became close friends with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, but married Otto Modersohn & settled in Worpswede. She later left him to work in Paris, where she immersed herself in French art. A reconciliation led her back to Worpswede, where, in 1907, aged 31, she died of an embolism after the birth of her daughter...her only child. Her daughter Tillie (1907-1998) founded the Paula Modersohn-Becker-Foundation (Paula Modersohn-Becker-Stiftung) in 1978.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait 1897


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait with Hand on Chin 1906


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait with Pearl Necklace 1906


>Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1902


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1903


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1905


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1905


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1906


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 1906-1907


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)1907


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait with Red Flower Wreat and Chain 1907


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Holding her newborn daughter in 1907. She would die only days later.


Paula Modersohn-Becker 1876-1907


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Kopf eines jungen Maedchens mit Perlenkette in Profil nach rechts, 1901

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) is a compelling artist. Here we see a woman trying to find out about herself -- her role as a woman, her sexuality, and her potential role as mother to a young child such as those she paints. Unlike Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) who concentrated on painting mothers & children but early on decided that she would remain unmarried & pursue a career, this artist, obviously attracted to similar subject matter, was in conflict about the path she would take.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Self Portrait on 6th Wedding Anniversary

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Paula: Self-Portrait on Her 6th Wedding Anniversary (1906)The Independent's Great Art series From The Independent, London, UK
By Sue Hubbard Friday, 24 August 2007

She stands there, naked to the waist, a young woman with big cow-brown eyes meeting the viewer's gaze. Her auburn hair is parted in the centre and swept up into a chignon, while her head is held on one side like that of a quizzical blackbird listening. Her eyes are level with those of the viewer, for the artist has portrayed herself life-size, as if painting her reflection in a mirror. Her smile is restrained and confident, yet knowing. A skirt of white cloth is tied loosely around her hips as she clutches her, apparently, pregnant stomach with raw, workman-like hands. Her right arm frames her upper body in a protective curve, while the left seems to protect her lower abdomen. Together they form an "S" that breaks the S-shaped stance of the otherwise static, slightly monumental pose. Around her neck she wears a necklace of lozenge-shaped yellow amber beads that glows warmly against her bare skin and falls between her breasts, close to her heart.

Her face has something of the land about it. The nose is broad, the cheeks rosy, the lips full and red. Yet for a pregnant woman, her breasts are still small and pert, the nipples and surrounding areola not darkened or swollen. The top of the cloth around her hips is level with her lower hand. Ethereal and white, yet with a tinge of blue, it is reminiscent of the loincloth that covers Christ in countless paintings of the Crucifixion, and seems to suggest some sort of spiritual sacrifice on the part of the artist.


The young German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker painted this, one of her most subtle and emotionally complex self-portraits, on the occasion of her sixth wedding anniversary, as she has written in olive-green paint in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas. She has signed it "PB", for Paula Becker, her maiden name, leaving out the Modersohn, which she had acquired on marriage.


Paula Modersohn-Becker was 30 when she painted this self-portrait on 25 May 1906. She had recently left her native Germany to live and work in Paris. What was extraordinary about this move was that, at the time, she was married to Otto Modersohn, an academic painter some 10 years her senior, whom she had met when she lived in an artist's colony at Worpswede, on the moors in northern Germany, near Bremen. There, her fellow-artists, encouraged by Julius Langbehn's eccentric and now notorious book, Rembrandt as Educator, along with their interest in Nietzsche, Zola, Rembrandt and Drer, idealistically embraced nature, the purity of youth and the simplicity of peasant life.


In Worpswede, Paula not only came under Modersohn's influence but also fell in love with the dark moors and the peasants who inhabited them, making their modest living from cutting peat. Yet she was soon to realise, rather like Nora in Ibsen's A Doll's House, that she had to break free of the shackles of conventional matrimony in order to develop as a serious painter. So, very unusually for a young, well-bred woman of that period, she abandoned her husband, much against his wishes, to go to Paris to paint. There she joined her close friend, the sculptor Clara Westhoff, with whom she shared a complex relationship with the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.


This painting, then, is not simply a nude self-portrait but a declaration of liberation. Not only from the ties and duties of marriage, but also from the constraints and expectations of Paula's time and class. As she wrote in a letter to Rilke before leaving for Paris: "I am myself..." For she has painted herself as blooming and quietly exhalant, set against a dappled surround of spring leaf-green. Here she is her own woman, on the brink of fulfilling her true potential, at one with herself. When she arrived in Paris, she wrote: "Now I have left Otto Modersohn, I stand between my old life and my new one. What will happen in my new life? And how shall I develop in my new life? Everything must happen now."


In fact, Paula was not pregnant in this painting. Only the previous month she had written that she did not want to have a child yet, particularly with Otto. The painting, then, is a metaphor for how she felt about herself as a young artist: fecund, ripe, able for the first time in her life to create and paint freely in the manner that she wished. What she is about to give birth to is not a child but her mature, independent, artistic self. Traditionally, nude portraits of women had been painted for the delectation of the male gaze, but here Paula creates a new construct: a woman who is able to nurture herself outside the trappings of marriage, who does not need a man to be fulfilled.


For there had always been an unequal relationship between the male painter (however radical and avant-garde) and his model and muse. Women were sex objects, and models were purchased in a financial exchange that, by definition, privileged the male painter. In this portrait, Modersohn-Becker confounded this norm simply by painting herself.


Her nudity is confident and unabashed. Implicit is a level of self- awareness, for Paula would not have been unfamiliar with the debates about the unconscious that were raging in Vienna around Freud, and beginning to infiltrate both art and literature. The solid monumentality of the pose, the flattened forms and stripping away of detail indicate her awareness of both Gauguin and Czanne, whose work she discovered in Paris between 1899 and 1906. Both of these artists had a huge effect on their peers. The mask-like features and Paula's easy, natural sexuality show not only a familiarity with their work but also an awareness of the "primitive" art that had so inspired them and other painters of the time, from Nolde to Picasso. She stands there in her amber necklace, just as Gauguin might have portrayed one of his Tahitian girls garlanded with tropical flowers. For, like Gauguin, she was seeking the expression of some primordial power in the natural world.


Yet, for Paula Modersohn-Becker, in this self-portrait and its companion painting, Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace (1906), there is no subtext of violence or the sexual exploitation and appropriation that can be read into some of Gauguin's colonised Tahitian nudes with their blank expressions or downcast eyes. What she portrays is the solid dignity of the earth-mother, the liberated woman painted with a direct and fearless gaze.


She gives birth to the expression of her new fearless, artistic self. She was among the very first women painters to explore these concerns. That she collapsed with an embolism and died just weeks after the birth of her daughter, a mere year later, in 1907, gives the painting a haunting poignancy.


Born in Dresden in 1876, Paula Modersohn-Becker was 12 when her family moved to Bremen. In 1892, she received her first drawing instruction, & a year later came to England to learn English. In 1877, she saw an exhibition at Bremen's Kunsthalle by the members of the "Worpsweders" commune, artists who lived on the moors outside Bremen & took the French Barbizon school as their model, rejecting city life.



In 1896, she studied at the Society of Berlin Women Artists. She became close friends with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, but married Otto Modersohn & settled in Worpswede. She later left him to live & work in Paris, where she immersed herself in French art. A reconciliation of sorts led her back to Worpswede, where, in 1907, aged 31, she died of an embolism after the birth of her daughter.

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Baby and Mother's Hand


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Young Girl


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Farm Child on Cushions 1904


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) The Pram


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Elsbeth 1902


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Sleeping Child


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Head of a Girl 1905


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Young Girl


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Head of a Girl Sitting on a Chair


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Elsbeth in the Garden 1902


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Girl with Black Hat


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) A Girl's Head in front of a Window 1906


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Old Peasant Woman 1905


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) The Old Farmer 1903



Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Old Blind Woman 1899



Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Old Woman with Handkerchief 1903



Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Nursing Mother 1902


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Young Girl with Straw Hat and Flower in her Hand 1902




Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Martha Vogeler 


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Two Children Sitting in a Meadow


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Child's Head with White 


Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Woman with Child 1906


Christmas Nears


Francesco Botticini, angel from the San Sabastiano altarpiece, ca. 1476-1479

In many western Christian religions, Advent is a time of expectant waiting, self-examination, & preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.


Morning Madonna


Konrad von Soest (German artist, 1394-1422) Madonna and Child with 6 Angels

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were the core of early Western art.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Nears


Melozzo da Flori (Italian Renaissance artist, 1438-1494) Angel from the Vault of the Sacristy of Saint Mark  January 29, 2011. "Without Melozzo, the work of Raphael and Michelangelo would have never existed.” This statement by Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, sums up the impact this renaissance painter had on some of the greatest Italian painters.

In many western Christian religions, Advent is a time of expectant waiting, self-examination, & preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.



Georgian English Christmas 1714-1820


Farmer Giles's Establishment Christmas Day 1800

Georgian Christmas: An 18C  Celebration
December 22, 2013 Early Modern England


Georgian Christmas dinner

"During the Georgian period (1714-1820), it was often incorrectly assumed that Christmas wasn’t celebrated with as much gusto as during the Victorian era. Although traditions, foods and celebrations differed, Christmas was actively commemorated during this period.

Georgian Food

"Christmas meals during the Georgian period differed vastly from what was common table fare in the medieval and Tudor periods. New and improved agricultural achievements signaled a change in traditional Christmas foods. By the eighteenth century, roasts and various fowl became common but were later replaced by the turkey as the most popular meat at the Christmas table.

"Prior to the Georgian period, Christmas was a twelve day feast in which the foods were prepared well in advance with the idea of using up winter stores and foods that could be well preserved over the holiday season. Typical Christmas foods during the Georgian era were cheese, soups, turkey, geese, duck, capons, minced pies, and frumetnery – a dish which contained grains, almonds, currants, sugar and was often served with meat.

Georgian mince pies

"Mince pies were eaten at Christmas in England since the sixteenth century. They were initially made of minced meat but were later replaced with dried fruit and spices. Christmas pudding was also a popular dish and dated back to the Middle Ages. It was called ‘ lum pottage’ and made of chopped meat with dried prunes or raisins. In the Georgian period, the meat was replaced by suet. Twelfth Cake, a version of present day Christmas cake, was sliced and given to all members of the household and guests. It contained dried beans and dried peas. The person whose slice contained the bean was King for the night; a slice with a pea indicated the Queen. Even servants played along and if they won, they were recognized by everyone, including their masters as the evening’s King and Queen. By the Regency period, Twelfth cake became elaborate and added frosting, trimmings, and figurines. Twelfth night remained popular until the late nineteenth century.

Georgian Christmas - 1800 Traditions

"George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, brought the first version of the present day Christmas tree in 1800 and decorated it with gifts, dolls and tapers after her German traditions. The tradition of gift giving also became popular during the eighteenth century as the wealthy gave gifts to their laborers. Ornaments included paper flowers, tinsel, wire ornaments, beads, candles, gingerbread and wax figures. Although Queen Charlotte brought the Christmas tree to England in 1800, the tree did not become popular until Queen Victoria married German Prince Albert. Homes of this time were decorated with holly, ivy and mistletoe. Stockings filled with presents hanging over the fireplace were first recorded in England in the early nineteenth century.

Games

"Christmas was banned by the Puritans in the mid-seventeenth century giving rise to the belief that Christmas fun and frivolity was not rekindled until the Victorian period. Christmas was completely abolished and shops and markets were kept open during the 25th of December. People were expected to continue going about their normal business and not partake in holiday celebrations or face fines and imprisonment. Puritans disliked Christmas because of its heathen origins and because of its association with extravagance and excess, but by the Georgian period, Christmas was again fully celebrated. Georgians enjoyed many different pastimes during the holidays such as cards, hunt the slipper, blind man’s bluff, shoe the wild mare, carol singing, story telling and dancing. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Twelfth Night parties were extremely popular and involved games, drinking and eating. British Pantomime also grew in popularity during the Georgian period, especially among the upper classes."


Charles Dickens Christmas in Great Expectations


Pip’s Christmas dinner, from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (December 1861)


Icons of Angels


Icon of Archangel Gabriel. One of four panels from a set of the Great Deisis icons from a sanctuary screen, Sinai

The word "icon" derives from the Greek "eikon" meaning any image or representation, but the word usually is restricted to a religious image. Although the word "icon" applies to all kinds of religious images -- those painted on wooden panels (icons proper), on walls (frescoes), those fashioned from small glass tesserae (mosaics) or carved in stone, metal or ivory -- the term is used most often with paintings on wood.

Icon of Archangel Michael, 14th century

The first Christian images appeared around the 3rd century. Perhaps for the first 200 years of its existence, Christianity was influenced by the Old Testament 2nd Commandment, "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven images" (Exodus 20:4).

A Russian Icon of an Archangel also called The Archangel with the Golden Hair from the Kiev School, mid to late 12th century

"When Christians turned to promote their religion, they found many examples in the earlier art of religions in the art of the Roman Empire. For their images, they incorporated various elements from a number of sources: from Hellenic art they borrowed gracefulness & clarity of composition; from the Roman art they took the hierarchical placement of figures & symmetry of design; from Syrian art they took dynamic movements & energy of the represented characters; and from Egyptian funeral portraits they borrowed large almond-shaped eyes, long, thin noses, & small mouths. By the time Christianity became the official religion of the Byzantine Empire (313), the iconography was developing vigorously & the basic compositional schemes were well established." (From Alexander Boguslawski)

Icon Russian Icon. Archangel Michael. 14th century. From Novgorod.

The first icons were brought to Russia from the Byzantine Empire & from Bulgaria, which became an intermediary between Constantinople & Kiev, supplying newly Christianized states with books, icons, & liturgical objects necessary for the celebration of the Christian mass.

Icon Ukranian of Archangel Michael



Angel in White, painted in 1230 at the Mileseva Monastery, Serbia



Icon of Archangel Michael



Orthodox Christian Church Of Christ The Saviour



Icon of Archangel Gabriel, 1387–1395 Byzantine



Russian Icon of an Angel



Andrei Rublev (Russian artist, (c 1360-1430) The Old Testament Trinity. Detail. c. 1410