Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Félix Vallotton - part 1

1885 Self-Portrait 
oil on canvas

This is the first part of a five-part post on the works of Swiss-born artist Félix Vallotton (1865 – 1925), a painter and printmaker associated with Les Nabis. He was an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut.

Parts 1 – 3 will look at Vallotton’s paintings; parts 4 – 5 at his woodcuts. Personally I believe his woodcuts are his stronger suit – the paintings for me vary enormously in quality and style, but I’m doing a quite extended post to get an objective view of his work.

Félix Vallotton was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1865. In 1882 he moved to Paris to study art under at the Académie Julian. His earliest paintings, chiefly portraits, are firmly rooted in the academic tradition. In 1885 he painted his first painted self portrait which received an honourable mention at the Salon des artistes français in 1886.

During the following decade Vallotton painted, wrote art criticism and made a number of prints. In 1891 he executed his first woodcut, a portrait of Paul Verlaine. The many woodcuts he produced during the 1890s were recognized as innovative, and established Vallotton as a leader in the revival of true woodcut as an artistic medium (see part 4 and 5 of this post for more about Vallotton’s woodcuts).

By 1892 he was affiliated with Les Nabis, a group of young artists that included Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, and Edouard Vuillard, with whom Vallotton was to form a lifelong friendship. During the 1890s, when Vallotton was closely allied with the avant-garde, his paintings reflected the style of his woodcuts, with flat areas of colour, hard edges, and simplification of detail. His subjects included genre scenes, portraits and nudes. Examples of his Nabi style are the deliberately awkward Bathers on a Summer Evening (1892–93) and the symbolist Moonlight (1895).

1892 Bathers on a Summer Evening

1895 Moonlight

In 1899 Vallotton married Gabrielle Rodrigues-Henriques, a wealthy young widow with three children, and in 1900 he attained French citizenship. Around 1899, his printmaking activity diminished as he concentrated on painting, developing a sober, often bitter realism independently of the artistic mainstream. His Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1907) was painted as an apparent response to Picasso’s portrait of the previous year, and in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Stein described the very methodical way in which Vallotton painted it, working from top to bottom as if lowering a curtain across the canvas.

1907 Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Vallotton's paintings of the post-Nabi period found admirers, and were generally respected for their truthfulness and their technical qualities, but the severity of his style was frequently criticized. Typical is the reaction of the critic writing in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, complained that Vallotton "paints like a policeman, like someone whose job it is to catch forms and colours. Everything creaks with an intolerable dryness ... the colours lack all joyfulness.” In its uncompromising character his art prefigured the New Objectivity that flourished in Germany during the 1920s, and has a further parallel in the work of Edward Hopper.

Vallotton responded in 1914 to the coming of WW1 by volunteering for the French army, but he was rejected because of his age. In 1915–16 he returned to the medium of woodcut for the first time since 1901 to express his feelings for his adopted country in the series This is War, his last prints. He subsequently spent three weeks on a tour of the Champagne front in 1917, on a commission from the Ministry of Fine Arts. The sketches he produced became the basis for a group of paintings, The Church of Souain in Silhouette among them, in which he recorded with cool detachment the ruined landscape.

1917 The Church of Souain in Sihlouette

In his last years Félix Vallotton concentrated especially on still lifes and on "composite landscapes”, landscapes composed in the studio from memory and imagination. Always a prolific artist, by the end of his life he had completed over 1700 paintings and about 200 prints, in addition to hundreds of drawings and several sculptures. He died in Paris in 1925.

1886 Paul Valloton

1892 The Invalid 
oil on canvas

1893 Portrait of Edouard Vuillard

1895 Street Scene

1895 The Bistro

1895 The Laundress

1896 The Mistress and the Servant 
oil on cardboard

1897 Passerby

1897 Self-Portrait 
oil on cardboard

c1897-8 Naked Women with Cats 
oil on cardboard

1898 Intimacy

1898 Private Conversation

1899 Bathing

1899 Sleeping Woman

1899 The Fourteenth of July at Etretat

Monday, 28 November 2011

William Merritt Chase - part 3

This is part 3 of a 3-part post on the life and works of American artist William Merritt Chase. For biographical notes on Chase see part 1 also. 

c1896 Landscape, Shinnecock, Long Island 
oil on wood panel 36 x 41 cm

1897 Did You Speak to Me? 
oil on canvas 97 x 109 cm

c1897-9 First Touch of Autumn 
oil on canvas 102 x 127 cm

c1897 Morning at Breakwater, Shinnecock 
oil on canvas 102 x 127 cm

c1899 Artist's Daughter in Mother's Dress (Young Girl in Black) 
oil on canvas 153 x 92 cm

c1899 Dieudonnée 
oil on canvas 84 x 67 cm

c1901 Nude 
oil on canvas 51 x 41 cm

1902 At the Boat Landing 
oil on canvas

1902 Woman in White 
oil on canvas 74 x 48 cm

c1903 Still Life, Fish 
oil on canvas 71 x81 cm

c1904-9 Fish and Still Life 
oil on canvas 46 x 68 cm

c1904 Portrait Group (Dorothy, Helen, and Bob) 
oil on canvas 195 x 123 cm

c1908 Still Life, Fish 
oil on canvas 102 x 114 cm

c1909 Good Friends 
oil on wood 56 x 78 cm

c1910 North River Shad

c1910 Still Life with Fish 
oil on canvas 74 x 91 cm

c 1915 Self-portrait

Still Life with Vegetables

Still Life Brass Bowl 
oil on canvas 97 x 122 cm

Terrace, Prospect Park

The Red Snapper 
oil on canvas 51 x 61 cm

Friday, 25 November 2011

William Merritt Chase - part 2

1884 Self-Portrait 
pastel 44 x 34 cm

This is part 2 of a 3-part post on the life and works of American artist William Merritt Chase. For biographical notes and for earlier works by Chase see part 1 also.

c1888 The Blue Kimono (Girl in Blue Kimono) 
oil on canvas 145 x 112 cm

c1889 Spring Flowers (Peonies) 
pastel on paper 122 x 122 cm

1890 A Bit of the Terrace aka Early Morning Stroll 
oil on canvas 53 x 62 cm

1890 Girl in a Japanese Costume 
oil 63 x 41 cm

1892 Alice

1892 Hall at Shinnecock 
pastel on canvas 82 x 104 cm

1892 The Fairy Tale 
oil on canvas 42 x 61 cm

c1892-3 In the Studio 
pastel 56 x 71 cm

c1892 At the Seaside 
oil on canvas  51 x 86 cm

c1892 Lydia Field Emmet 
oil on canvas

1893 Reflections 
oil on canvas 63 x 46

c1893 The Old Road to the Sea 
oil on canvas 101 x 127 cm

1894 Idle Hours

1894 Wind-Swept Sands

1895 A Friendly Call 
oil on canvas 76 x 122 cm

c1895 Harbour Scene 
oil on canvas 106 x 120 cm

c1895 Portrait of Artist's Daughter 
oil on canvas 82 x 65 cm

c1895 Portrait of My Daughter Alice 
oil on canvas 183 x 121 cm

c1895 Seventeenth Century Lady 
oil on canvas 93 x 60 cm

c1895 The Bayberry Bush 
oil on canvas 64 x 84 cm

c1896 For the Little One 
oil on canvas 102 x 90 cm