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Bicentenary of Gustave Courbet, a founding father of modern art
Two hundred years ago today, Gustave Courbet was born in the country town of Ornans in Doubs, in the north-east of France. His paintings were of great influence in the development of art throughout Europe and North America. In my recent series of six articles examining his career and... Read more
The Great Wave 2, Courbet to Gauguin
In the previous of these two articles, I looked at European paintings of near-breaking ‘regular’ or “surfer’s” waves prior to 1850, and the appearance of Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which became so popular in Japan. No one knows when Hokusai’s Great Wave first... Read more
The Great Wave 1, Vernet to Hokusai
Nature has many wonderful forms, of which the near-breaking or “surfer’s” wave is one of the most fascinating. Unless you were an artist in central Europe who didn’t get out much, chances are that you would have witnessed these forms, even if their scale wasn’t so impressive. This article... Read more
More than the Nabi Sculptor: Georges Lacombe
Known primarily as one of the Nabis sculptors, Georges Lacombe (1868–1916) was also an accomplished painter, and it is his painted works that this short article concentrates on. Born into an artistic family in Versailles, he underwent a religious education which succeeded in making him strongly anti-clerical. Although it... Read more
From silk to canvas: 3 ranga and mass-market prints
The Dutch merchants who were allowed to remain in Japan from 1638 were crowded onto a small, artifical island in Nagasaki Bay, known as Dejima (出島). For the next two centuries, until Japan became more open in the Meiji period, after 1853, those Dutch traders were the only conduit... Read more
Why is it that Western-style painting in Japan was kept such a closely guarded secret in the West? Why was the work of Vincent van Gogh not more widely known and appreciated before the twentieth century? Why was Vermeer largely forgotten until his work was rediscovered after 1860? Having... Read more
Japonism(e) and Ukiyo-e
Japanese woodblock prints were a major influence on painting and other arts in Europe during the latter half of the 1800s, part of what has been termed Japonism(e). Several of the Impressionists collected these prints, and their paintings changed in response to what they saw in them. One of... Read more
Painting the Impossible: Gone with the Wind – people
Skilled artists, with the aid of trees, smoke, waves, clouds, skies, and some other features of nature, can paint the wind very effectively. Add some people, and this is what happens. Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (1760–1849),『駿州江尻』(Sunshū Ejiri), Ejiri in Suruga Province (Travellers Caught in a Sudden breeze at Ejiri, A... Read more
Arachne and her web: spiders in paintings and prints
Writing about Ovid’s story of Arachne made me wonder when spiders and their webs started to become popular motifs in visual art. After extensive searching, the answer came as quite a surprise. Woven threads have a very special meaning in the context of the thread of fate, or of... Read more
Coast: At the Shrine of Benzaiten, Enoshima, Japan
As an archipelago, Japan has one of the longest coastlines in the world, almost thirty thousand kilometres (over 18,000 miles). One of its most popular stretches of coast is on Sagami Bay, to the south-west of Tokyo, where among the sandy beaches is the tiny island of Enoshima. The... Read more