Tag Archives: manet

First Impression(ism)

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Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists that included Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The movement was extremely radical for the time period and received harsh opposition from the galleries, judges, and overall art community in France. There are about 7,856 things I would love to elucidate and discuss about the movement but for now let’s stick with the general oeuvre of an impressionist paining:

  • Open composition (meaning not constrained to the rectangle of the canvas, leaving the impression that the image is “open” or somehow unfinished)
  • Tiny, thin and visible brushstrokes (these vary depending on artist’s technique)
  • A huge focus on an accurate portrayal of how light changes color and reflects off surfaces
  • Movement painted on canvas as it is pot rayed by the human eye (think about a slow shutter speed on your camera and how it produces a blurring effect)
  • Unusual angles and points of view
  • Daily, every day occurrences (this is in stark opposition to the then contemporary and in fashion painting of still lifes, portraits, allegories, and important historical scenes)

I have often wanted to live inside the soft, bright, floral yet hazy world of an impressionist painting, so here I will try using home goods to recreate a composition’s color array. 

 Mary Cassatt, Lydia Leaning on Her Arms (in a theatre box), 1879

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Camille Pissarro, Hay Harvest at Éragny,1901, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa,Ontario

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Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol, (Camille and Jean Monet), 1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Julie Manet with cat, 1887, Musée d’Orsay

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Before the industrial revolution it was extremely hard to paint outside, a technique also known as “en plain air”. This is due to the fact that artists needed to mix their paints indoors by grinding powders, oils, and other chemicals themselves. With the first creation of pre-made paints in tubes (resembling  toothpaste tubes) artists were able to travel freely outside painting from the easel. Imagine this new freedom!

It is hard to believe that this style of painting was once so controversial and contentious that the paintings were rejected by several art schools and critics. People would GASP at the canvases. Today the manner of the impressionist hand, and the idea of painting freely, permeates our culture. The word impressionism as coined by Louis Leroy, a 19th century artist, playwright, journalist, and art critic, was originally meant to be a scathing and satiric review, ” Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.” Instead of taking the term as an insult, the artists of the group decided to adopt it to call themselves “impressionists” and the  rest, as they say, is history. An inspiring and “impressing” story, no?

El Toreador

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Bullfighting, also known as tauromachia  is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France, India, and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru) in which one or more bulls are baited, and then slaughtered in a bullring for sport and entertainment. Whereas the popularity of this sport has fallen in the past few hundred years, it is still regarded as a “fine art” by some (and a bloodsport by others). Per usual, traditional, culture, and sport are mired in controversy.

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Whatever one’s stance on the activity may be, it still cannot be argued that the professional toreros (also called “matadors”) and the bullring has captured the imagination of many artists throughout the years. The colors, the speed, and the marvel of a show create a vignette in which humanity and mortality are often on display.  I have never been to a bullfight, nor do I really condone the practice – but in the end it is not my religions, culture, or history. So much of this world is based on attempting to understand the importance  and significance of another people’s past. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual which is judged by aficionados (bullfighting fans) based on artistic flourishes and a man’s command of animal. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

Edouard Manet , Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of a Matador, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1862 – (An early instance of cross dressing and “passing” in art, Manet purposely includes a pink sash and a reprint of Goya’s bull’s behind Victorine.)

SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 14, 2007, CONTEMPORARY ART, FRANCIS BACON, 1909-1992, STUDY FOR BULLFIGHT NO. 1, 2ND VERSION , signed, titled, and dated 1969 on the reverse , oil on canvas , 78¾ x 58? in. 200 x 147.7 cm.

VILLEGAS CORDERO, José (Sevilla, 1844 – Madrid, 1921), La muerte del maestro, Óleo sobre Lienzo, 330 x 505 cm., h. 1884, Image via Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla

“Bullfight #5” by Salvador Dali
P.P. Konchalovsky, Bullfight. 1910

 Pablo Picasso, Bullfight, the death of the torero (Course de taureaux – la mort du torero)

Rene Daniels, Painting on the Bullfight, 1985, Photo by Peter Cox, Image found HERE (The colors and quickness of the bullfight reduced to abstraction!)

Jacqueline Kennedy, her hostess the Duchess of Alba, and the Countess of Romanones attend a bullfight in Seville, 1966, Image found HERE.

Magazine: Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Issue: March 2012, Editorial: Before Night Falls, Model: Wang Xiao |Wilhelmina|, Stylist: Kenneth Goh |United Management|, Photographer: Simon Upton, Image found HERE.

Kiss of the Matador, Vogue Japan, Image found HERE.

Oscar de la Renta is inspired by Cubism and Matadors in this collection, found HERE. 

Emilio Pucci 2012 matador skirt, HERE.

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Through the Looking Glass

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest One of All? If the mirror answers back, “One Who Chooses to Decorate with Mirrors”, it is on to something. But before I get ahead of myself, let us discuss what a mirror IS exactly. Technically it is any object that reflects light or sound in a quality similar to the original image.  I personally use my mirror for pimple popping (ew, don’t tell), mascara applying, tie-tying, eyebrow plucking, self admiration, light reflection, and all around personal grooming.

The object known as a mirror is often taken for granted considering that the first mirrors used were made of still water pools, polished obsidian stones, bronze, mercury plate glass (toxic) and silver-mercury substrates (sometimes toxic). The aluminum glass mirror, today’s standard, was not really introduced until the 1800’s, and not manufactured readily until the 1900s.

A mirror has long been used in art. A mirror produces a replica, an illusion, and, in essence, a fake reproduction of an original. The mirrored image is actually an abstraction. A mirror, while utilitarian and functional, also conveys a sense of vanity, self reflection (literally), and introspection. Leonardo da Vinci called the mirror the “master of painters”. M.C Escher used mirrors of convex and concave shapes in order to more completely depict and understand his surroundings. Frida Kahlo’s, Durer’s, and Rembrandts famous self portraits came into being because of the help of a mirror!

Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère intentionally features the trickery of a mirrors surface, using purposefully skewed angles .  Jeffrey Meyers, in his Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, describes the intentional play on perspective and the apparent violation of the operations of mirrors: “Behind her, and extending for the entire length of the four-and-a-quarter-foot painting, is the gold frame of an enormous mirror. The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty has called a mirror ‘the instrument of a universal magic that changes things into spectacles, spectacles into things, me into others, and others into me.’ We, the viewers, are looking at the barmaid, almost intimately gazing at her. We see the faceless French crowd, but we all see the man she is serving, then we realize this man is also where we would be in the mirror. The woman looks forlorn, and bored, yet in the mirrored image her body image appears engaged and interested. Are we the top hatted stranger? Are we causing the barmaid her grief? The mirror gives a disconnected, refracted view of the world, a world wherein several planes of light exist. Our gaze is allowed several points of view – the barkeep, the man (ourselves), the audience, the customer. Given such inconsistencies, Manet seems not to have allowed a single, determinate position from which to assuredly make sense of the whole. The world as portrayed through a mirror.

Mirrors, aside from providing a slight deception, and a beautiful abstraction, also help small spaces immensely. The mirror tricks the eye into believing a space’s depth is deeper than perceived. A mirror collects and beams light out, illuminating cavernous spaces and accentuating natural and artificial light. Place mirrors in any room that lacks natural light (Contrary to Popular Believe, they are not just for the dining room, bathroom, or entryway). Be careful with your experiments in luminosity – a mirror can cause unpleasant glares.

Treat a mirror like a moveable window, place it wherever you want depth, your guests gaze, and the illusion of expansion. Treat a mirror as a porthole into another room – place a LARGE mirror across an entire wall (in a small space) and watch the room transform into twice its size. Think of this effect in the last yoga or dance studio in which you’ve exercised. Although the rooms are always narrow, they seem to infinitely relay images, space, and people from wall to wall. Remember, a mirror does not always have to hang. If you live in an apartment that bans nails on the the wall, or you are dealing with exposed brick, a floor length, mirror can be your “stand” in. If you are planning on creating a curious collection of several mirrors on one wall, make sure the mirrors are all similar sizes, otherwise the decor and reflections could get dizzying and a bit awkward.

Unconventional Mirror Picks:

1. Mirrored Round End Table, $250 – amazon.com

2. Faceted Mirror Side Table, $199 – westelm.com

3. Mirrored Nest Tables, £239.00 – chicboutiqueinteriors.co.uk

4. Mirrored Round Living Room Accent Side or End Table, $80 – target.com

5. Venetian Plain Mirrored 2 Drawer Dressing Table, $380 – thefurnituremarket.co.uk

6.  Wilton Mirrored 2-Drawer Accent Table, $250 – lampsplus.com

7.  Mirrored Accent Table, $50 – target.com

Whether one gazes through the mirror as Dorian Gray, Alice, Narcissus, or even Harry Potter – it is impossible to deny that the mirror might be the most important tool for artists (and decorators) since the paint brush!

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