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Circus: Spectacle
Each Spring, travelling circuses around the world break out of their winter quarters and migrate to cities to bring entertainment to their masses. Much-changed now from their form in their heyday in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they were among the earliest forms of mass entertainment, long before... Read more
Painting Reality: 7 Decline
As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Naturalist painting fell from favour. By the opening years of the new century, it was all but dead, and the few remaining Naturalists were shunned and scorned for not moving with the times. This article looks at what happened, and why... Read more
Painting Reality: 6 Science and technology
The height of Naturalist painting, between about 1880-1910, coincided with a period of prodigious scientific and technological advance. In almost every field touched by these, major changes transformed people’s lives, from fast high-speed travel by train and new industrial processes to general anaesthesia for surgery. Although Naturalism had originated... Read more
The Last Naturalist: Émile Friant, 1
He’s been called the Last Naturalist, and like many of the Naturalists whom I have featured here, was both popular in his day and almost forgotten now. Émile Friant (1863–1932) rebelled against the academic style of the 1880s, and is one of the major artists discussed by Richard Thomson... Read more
The Last Naturalist: Émile Friant, 2
For the Naturalist artist Émile Friant (1863–1932), 1889 was a watershed. His painting of All Saints’ Day (1888) had been a great success at the Salon in Paris, and received a gold medal at the following Exposition Universelle. On the strength and proceeds of this, he travelled to the... Read more
Fly Like a God: Paintings of flight before Blériot
Until 1783, flight was one of the greatest attributes of the gods, and of birds. Untold numbers of paintings showed super-humans making their way through the air, while lesser mortals remained fixed to the ground. Human aviation was born on 19 October 1783, when three men flew in Paris... Read more
Alexandre Cabanel and his pupils: the pupils
Having looked at the life and work of Alexandre Cabanel, I turn now to representative works of some of his pupils: those who learned their skills, techniques, and perhaps styles and motifs in his teaching atelier at the École des Beaux-Arts. In each case, I show the earliest painting... Read more
Out of the Shadows: Form and figures
According to ancient legend, the person who ‘invented’ painting was not a man, and did so by tracing the shadow of her boyfriend. Dibutades, a maid of Corinth in Greece, was about to see her boyfriend sent away from the city on military service. As the daughter of a... Read more