A still life is a painting that is without people. In French a still life is called a nature morte , a dead nature , which is a strange name to use to describe Nature, which is by definition, living
A still life is a painting that is without people. In French a still life is called a "nature morte", a "dead nature", which is a strange name to use to describe Nature, which is by definition, "living". The term only dates from the middle of the 18th century in France, before that they were called "resting nature" or "motionless objects". The English name "still life" is derived from the Dutch "stilleven", or "motionless life". But "still" has another meaning, "silent", and this seems more appropriate to describe the bouquets of flowers, piles of fruits, haunches of venison and the full array of the huntsman's bag that constitute a still life painting. Still life appeared in religious art of the 15th century, as in the "the Annunciation" by Roger van der Weyden, painted in 1435. Like all the Flemish painters, he paid much
attention to the details in his paintings: the open book, the ewer on the cabinet, the oranges on the chimney place and especially the blue and white porcelain vase standing on the tiled floor.
However, still lifes did not appear as a separate subject until the 17th century, at the same time as genre painting. "I take as much trouble over painting a vase of flowers as I do over painting a face", said the Italian painter Caravaggio at the end of the 16th century. His contemporaries were scandalized. How could anyone dare to compare the art of painting a face with that of painting a mere flower! A few years later, nobody was shocked by the importance given to still lifes.
The still life originated in Flanders and Holland. Major painters like Rubens or Rembrandt painted still lifes, each treating them according to his taste and temperament. The jolly burgomasters particularly liked paintings of "lunches", with the result that a great many painters were to specialize in painting them: Claesz, Hedda, Kalf and Davidsz de Heem... The fashion for painting still lifes quickly spread throughout the Europe. Its most representative painters in France were Baugen in the 17th century and Chardin in the 18th. The best-known Spanish still life painter is Luis Melendes.
Knowing how to paint a still life meant, of course, knowing how to reproduce objects as faithfully as possible. It requires great talent to paint the velvety surface of a peach, the transparency of a crystal decanter or the dull shine of metal. But still life painters often wanted to do more than reproduce objects they wanted to express ideas through them. They would paint an hourglass to denote the brevity of life, or a musical instrument to express the pleasure of it... An object therefore took on a symbolic meaning, which the spectators have to know before they can fully understand the subject of a painting. This kind of still life was called a "vanity".
During the 18th century, the symbolic meanings of the still life were slowly lost and by the 19th century no artist would paint them exclusively. The "Still Life with a Lobster", which Delacroix painted in 1824, is an exception. It is the last major still life of the 19th century, antfit can be said that, until Cezanne revived it in the 20th century, artists almost lost interest in the genre.
Landscape painting was not always a separate genre, but landscapes have always been part of the painter's panoply.
From the Middle Ages landscapes were used as backdrops in a great many paintings. They were used to situate a person in the world and not in heaven, to show a precise location or to convey an abstract idea. In the 16th century, during the Renaissance, the landscape played an important role and reflected a new state of mind. Though it always formed part of the background of a painting, it generally served to underline a strong tie between man and nature. The landscape became the mirror of the cosmic civilization. Towards the end of the century it was discovered that a landscape could be used to emphasize an effect or an emotion: a clear sky reinforced a happy scene, a stormy sky accentuated a strong emotion.
It wasn't until the 17th century that painters began to make nature the sole subject of their paintings. The Dutch were the first to acquire a taste for small landscape paintings, preferring familiar locations to distant, unknown countries. The demand was so great that many artists specialized in the genre, painting country scenes, sandy dunes, canals, seascapes (Hobbema, Van Goyen, Van Reuysdael), views of the cities (Vermeer, Berkcheyde, Van der Heyden) or winter scenes (Avercamp).
During the same period in France, the Academy of Painting established a hierarchy in the genre, separating it into two kinds of landscape. At the top of the scale there was the "heroic landscape", which is included in the "grand manner" of painting. This applied to historical or Biblical scenes that were often set in landscapes with ruins reminiscent of Antiquity.
At the lower end of the scale, the Academy placed the "rustic landscape", country scenes, sometimes containing figures, and generally full of life. These paintings were considered to be inferior because they didn't call for a knowledge of history or any great mastery of the laws of composition. Up to the beginning of the 19th century they were always painted indoors, in the artist's studio, using sketches made at the locations. In the 18th century the popularity of the "fetes galantes" and open-air entertainments encouraged the "rustic landscape". The formal gardens of Versailles were forgotten in favour of a wilder, truer nature.
In the 19th century, during the Romantic era, the genre was freed from a systematic idealization; the modern type of landscape had been born.
English painters in particular were deeply moved by the spectacle of nature. They painted open skies full of movement which they reproduced very accurately and wild seascapes. German landscapes expressed a feeling of unease, or melancholy. Faced with the landscapes of Germany, the painter felt dwarfed and lonely, as if he were facing his destiny. These landscapes are tragic. In France a number of artists, known as the Barbizon School, began to paint sketches in the open air, so as to capture reality better. The final painting, though worked over in the studio, had a greater air of spontaneity. This school was to open the doors to one of the most celebrated movements in painting: Impressionism.
Nowadays famous faces are widely reproduced in the media. Television, magazines and newspapers spread them quickly throughout the world. But prior to the invention of photography, things were not so easy. How could a king, for instance, become known to all his subjects? There was only one way: to commission a portrait from a painter, sculptor or engraver.
In Medieval times, artists painted very few portraits, because religion was the main interest. Portraiture began to flourish at the end of the Middle Ages, when the individual began to gain importance. The first portraits, dating from the 14th century, were still part of religious painting. When a living person was portrayed, he was generally shown on his knees next to a Crucification or a Madonna and Child. He was frequently shown much smaller than the religious figures in the painting, for, even if he were a king or a prince, he could not be painted the same size as God.
What a shock the first portrait of a man alone must have produced! This historic and totally revolutionary painting was painted by an unknown artist and it is the portrait of a king of France, Jean le Bon (1319-1364).
Over the centuries that followed, every king, prince and governer was to have himself "portraited". At first they were invariably shown in profile, as they were on coins and medallions, because painting techniques were not advanced enough to produce a proper likeness in full-face. After the discoveries that were made about colour and modelling, they began to be shown in three-quarter profiles and at last, in full-face. Then they began to be painted half-length, in a flattering pose and richly apparelled. That is when the "display portrait" came into being. By then one no longer needed to be a king or queen to have one's portrait done, but one still had to be rich!
Artists made a good living out of painting the portraits of the well-off, but they also painted them for pleasure. They experimented with their faces, and thus the "self-portrair" came into fashion. From the 17th century, they painted complete unknowns, often usually looking people full of malice or fun.
The portrait continued to gain in popularity, and the group portraits were done of the members of the same firm, profession or social group. These paintings were less costly, since the fee was divided by the number of people in the painting. When someone in a powerful position commissioned a group portrait, he usually intended it as a publicity for himself. Thus, Napoleon commissioned the painter David to paint his coronation as Emperor in 1806 so that entire nation could share in the historic event. 150 years later television would doubtless achieve the same effect.
From 1830, the art of portraiture went into a fast decline. A new technique was available to all levels of society: photography. Who could prefer the days spent for a portrait to the instant gratification provided by a camera?
THE GENRE PAINTING
What is a "genre painting"? Is is a painting that depicts scenes from everyday life. The French word "genre" means "kind", as in "mankind". Street scenes, peasants working in the fields, women at their washing, any subject would do as long as it was taken from life. The term "genre" did not come into use until the end of the 18th century, though this style of painting dates from the 17th. The painting of genre subjects was a reaction against the painting of the 16th century which was considered too mannered, sophisticated and "highbrow". The man who has come to symbolize this upheveal is an Italian painter, Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio, after the town in Northern Italy where he was born.
Caravaggio took the subjects of his paintings from everywhere ranging from everyday life to religion. What mattered was to paint them from life. He treated all of his subjects in the same style painting a small number of figures, caught in full movement and presented in close-up. He would give these scenes a strong, dramatic light that accentuated the contrast between light and shadow. His style of painting became extremely popular and was imitated all over Europe. Is is called Tenebrism, from the Italian "tenebroso", which means "murky" and refers to the dark shadows that characterize Caravaggio's work.
Beginning with Caravaggio, painters were ready to study people's natural, spontaneous behaviour. They began to depict people in a familiar ordinary world, something that had never previously been done in painting. Painters' studios began to be filled with a steady stream of models of all types. The artist would dress them up in the theatrical costumes according to the subject he wished to paint. Sometimes, if he wanied to paint the best of life, he would portray his models drinking or playing musical instruments. Or else he chose the opposite, the misery of life, as the Spanish painter Murilli did with "The Young Beggar".
This new style of painting was immediately popular, especially since small paintings that were easy to handle, had made their appearance. They are called "easel paintings". The rising Dutch bourgeoisie, for example, covered their walls with them. But critics and art specialists looked on them with disdain. To them, these were "minor" or "low" works. Despite the opinion of the specialists, all the major painters were fascinated by genres subjects and widened their scope to include paintings of the life of the bourgeoisie. The Dutch painter Vermeer or the French painters Watteau, Fragonard Boucher and Chardin were the masters of genre painting in the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the eve of the French Revolution, painters began to abandon genre painting, because they thought and felt the subjects were too light and frivolous. Virtue and noble sentiments came back into fashion. This frequently resulted in the theatrical compositions that were too sentimental to be "true". Throughout the first half of the 19th century genre painting was abandoned in favour of grander subjects, inspired by history or mythology. It wasn't until the arrival of the Impressionists in the late 19th century that genre painting came back into its own.
(From "The Louvre" by Anette Robinson, Editions Scala, 1994.)
AN OUTLINE OF ENGLISH PAINTING
There was little pictorial art in England until the great minituarists of the Tudor epoch.
Not until William Hogarth (1697-1764) do we find a painter truly English. Hogarth was a printer's son, uneducated but a curious observer of men and manners who gave with his strong rough hands the decisive impetus to the national temperament. He was famous for both the engravings and oil paintings, some of them of an extreme sensitivity, others bitterly satirical. So actually Hogarth was the first great truly native painter.
For rather more than a century England was to see a brilliant succession of geniuses, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Lawrence, Constable and Turner responding to her highest aspirations. No country has so exclusive and strongly marked a love of the portrait. England and Holland alike were deprived of the religious painting by the Reformation, and mythology met with no better fate. Scarcely any decorative art or painting is found, and what little survived is mediocre. Holland compensated by inventing the small genre picture streen scene or interior which are brought to an unheard of pitch of refinement. But England practised genre painting only from the beginning of the 19th century, in imitation, moreover, of the Dutch, though diluted with sentimentality and humour. Now, if portrait painting is one of the glories of English art, landscape is another; in both directions it rose to superb heights. English landscape painting produced two men of genius - Turner and Constable - who made a great impact on the development of modern art.
If Hogarth was the artist of the towns, Gainsborough, contemporary of Reynolds, was the painter of the countryside, frequently the background to his portraits. In a similiar tradition was Stubbs, as famous for his portraits of horses as of people. Among the other portraitists of the 18th century were Romney and Raeburn, a Scot. Constable finally gave landscape painting its importance. Among his near contemporaries, though a little younger were William Blake, poet, visionary, and painter, and Turner, renowned above all for his naval scenes.
The modern period in British art may be said to date from the year 1910, when the first Post-Impressionist Exhibition was held in London. The first decade of the century had been dominated by two romanticists, Frank Brangwyn and Augustus Jonh and by the sculptor Jacob Epstein who became the protagonist of modernity. The two painters may, to some extent, have been influenced by Gaugin. Epstein was essentially an expressionist.
Such modern painters as Peter Blake, Allan Jones and some others seek an image of immediate popular appeal (hence the term "pop-art" sometimes applied to this school). Lacking any formal or even ideological basis, such a pictorial activity tends to become amateurish, flippant and vulgar. And what is more, it is not "popular" in the sense of having a direct appeal to the masses.
LONDON'S ARTISTIC ATTRACTIONS
In the sphere of visual art London can supply any visitor a vast range of emotions. The British Museum is an almost incomparable introduction to Egyptian, Greek and Roman arts in all their branches, from pottery to sculpture; and it can hold its own with antiquity department of the Louvre or the prewar Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The collection has been arranged with great care, and the layout is clear and easy to grasp.
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square has
The Tate Gallery in Millmank has a collection complementary to that of the National Gallery, for it presents modern masters of England and France. Its collection of French Impressionists is outstanding, and there are some fine examples of modern sculpture. The Victoria and Albert Museum in Brompton Road has a collection mainly of the applied arts of all coutries and peiods, also a new Costume Court, and many exhibits of interest to any student of the visual arts.
There are great art treasures dispersed in private collections throughout the country; the Queen's collection is the most valuable among them.
(From "Great Britain and Ireland".)
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was founded in 1870 by a group of civic leaders, financiers, industrialists and art collectors, moved to its present location on Central Park in 1880.
Today the Metropolitan is the largest museum of art in the Western Hemishere. It occupied 1.4 million square feet, extending from the 80th to 84th Streets on Fifth Avenue. Its collections include more than 3.3 million works of art from ancient, medieval and modern times and from all areas of the world. The collections are divided into nineteen curatorial departments. In each department curators acquire, preserve and exhibit works of art for both the permanent collections and special exhibitions.
The permanent collections offer a comprehensive survey of art from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome to the present time. The Museum's holdings in European art are unparalleled outside Europe. In addition to one of the world's great collections of European paintings, the Metropolitan has outstanding collections of medieval art and architecture, and of prints, photographs, drawings, costumes, musical instruments, scuplture and decorative arts from the Renaissance through to the twentieth century. The Museum's collection of American art exhibited in the recently opened American Wing, is the most comprehensive in the world. Its collection of Far Eastern art are extensive, and its Islamic collection is the largest in existence. A new wing on the south side of the building houses an impressive collection of the art of Africa, Oceanic art as well as that from Native North and South America. The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan, is devoted to the arts of the Middle Ages. The building which opened to the public in 1938, is within Port Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River.
(From "The Metropolitan Museum of Art".)
the prime responsibility - the most important, fundamental, chief duty
to be notoriously rich in - to be ill-famed as to abundance
to ignore talent - to take no notice of, disregard natural ability
to enjoy immediate success - to get/win instant popularity with
to give a profound self-awareness - to impact a deep understanding, knowledge,
cosciousness of oneself
to appreciate paintings - to judge rightly the value of, understand and enjoy, recognize the merits of the pictures/canvases
to penetrate and share the vision - to be able to see and understand well, grasp the idea or image
a relish for - a liking, fondness for
a florid style - a manner of writing/painting too rich in ornaments and colour, flowery, elaborate in nature
to strike and captivate the eye - to attract attention, capture, arrest
to acquire a taste for - to gain fondness or liking for particular art by one's own efforts
at developing it
* # *
to date from - to date back to, to have existed since to describe a person or thing - to pircture, to draw, mark out
to constitute a still life painting - to make up as a whole, to be the contents or components of the genre as such
to originate - to come into existence, appear, spring
to treat the subject - to consider, deal with, give care to the theme
to specialize in the genre - to give particular attention to
a representative painter - a typical, illustrious specimen of
to reproduce objects faithfully - to cause to be seen true to life
to express ideas - to convey a message
to take on a symbolic meaning - to acquire, get, obtain
to revive the genre - to bring back to use or to an earlier state
* * *
to reflect - to express, show the nature of, to mirror - відобразити
to underline - to stress, emphasize, reinforce [ri:n`fo:s](підсилити), enhance[in`ha:ns](збільшувати якість, цінність), accentuate - виділити/підкреслити
to make smth. the sole subject of (робити щось ядиним предметом обговорення/висвітлення) - to make, take one and only theme
to be set in - to be laid /placed / located in
to be reminiscent of(бути згаданим) - to remind one of, to be suggestive of), recalling
to be deeply moved(бути глибоко враженим) - to be greatly touched, aroused(схвильованим), affected
to have an air of spontaneity(мати спонтанні думки/враження/емоції) - to have an appearance, manner of impression of smth.
to open the doors to - to admit, prepare ground for, pave the way - підмітити/підготувати/прокласти(показати/навести на правильний) шлях
* ♦ *
to commission(замовити) a portrait - to place a special order, to appoint an artist to paint a portrait to flourish(процвітати/преуспевать/) - to grow actively, successfully, prosper(преуспевать),
blossom to portray a person - to make a representation or description of(репрезентувати/представити або описати)
to be advanced - to be far on in development, more modern(бути на крок попереду у розвитку /більш
to produce likeness(відтворити оригінал/зробити копію/намалювати щось схоже) - to give, reproduce sameness[`seimnis], resemblance in appearance, to paint or draw a portrait
pose - position, posture(положенн/позиція), attitude(позиція/положення)
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