Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in New Jersey. As the youngest of 5 children, she grew up with a desire to please people. She loved playing dress up, and collecting clothes from thrift stores. It must have been these early years where she developed a love for altering the way she was viewed by other people.

In college, Sherman failed her first photography class. But painting, at that time, was “men’s medium” and she wanted to claim her own space. She began documenting her getting ready process before going out at night which led her to her first series of photographs.

“Untitled Film Stills,” which brought Sherman into the limelight, was a series of 69 black and white images. She poses as 69 different character for the photos, each unnamed, but each with an intriguing story behind them.

 

Untitled #374, 1976
Untitled #369, 1976

From this project, Sherman’s career took off. She kept creating, posing for her own photos. In her work, she took on a multitude of roles as she would do makeup, prosthetics, costuming, wigs, prop staging, photography, and modelling – every possible role, for every photo.

Untitled #403

Since Sherman’s work involves her putting on different costumes and make up, much of it is concerned with identity. Her photos aren’t really of her, they’re of other people that she’s portraying. Sherman’s work confronts the way that TV, movies, the internet, and other new media forms have caused us to view other people. She often deals with different extremes – beautiful and ugly, real and artificial, fiction and reality. Gender identity also plays into much of her work, and much of it challenges the way so much art has been created from a male perspective.

Untitled #225

Sherman’s photography is striking and enticing. I find myself both disturbed by it and unable to look away. What’s most remarkable, to me, is her ability to completely embody the characteristics of the people in her photos. She must have some amazing acting abilities to portray so many different people so well. By using photography instead of painting, she is able to force people to think in a new way about the images they’re seeing. Sherman makes us confront the reality of much of our art, and think twice about how we view people. Her photos feel more “real” than paintings, and the characters she take on seem to have endless stories to tell.

Untitled Film Still #54
“I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.” — Cindy Sherman
Sources

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1154

https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/

https://www.thebroad.org/art/cindy-sherman

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jan/15/cindy-sherman-interview

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sherman

David Hockney

David Hockney at home in London
David Hockney at home in London
David Hockney in 1966
This man is a legend, just look at those glasses

David Hockney was born on July 9, 1937, in Bradford, West Yorkshire. At only 11 years he knew he wanted to be an artist. Hockney would watch father repainted old bicycles, and cites this as an early influence on his attraction to art. In 1952, Hockney enrolled in Bradford School of Art, where he gained an impressive foundation in observational and figure drawing. However, the school was very concerned with traditional methods and practices, which frustrated Hockney. In 1957, Hockney sold his very first piece, “A Portrait of my Father,” at the Yorkshire Artists Exhibition.

We Two Boys Together Clinging (1961)

For the next two years, Hockney served his mandatory national service, where he worked in two different hospitals. During this time, he didn’t paint at all, but was influences by the work of Alan Davies and Jackson Pollock.

After his service, Hockney’s education continued at the Royal College of Art. Here, he was a star student. He formed a close friendship with fellow student R.B. Kitaj, who bought drawings from him. He was deeply inspired by a visit to the Tate Gallery where he viewed a Pablo Picasso exhibit. Hockney experimented with abstract expressionism and more modern forms of art but felt that they were “too barren.” At the end of his studies at the Royal College, Hockney refused to write the final required essay, so the school changed their regulations so that he could graduate.

Moving away from more modern art styles, Hockney began to definedIn 1962, a visit to California inspired Hockney’s iconic pool series and an eventual home there where he would live part of the year. He began working more and more with color, moving towards a style more closely tied to pop art (a term he didn’t associate with).

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972)
David Hockney's My Parents
My Parents (1977)

At 81 years old, Hockney is almost completely deaf, but still as lively and prolific as ever. Over his career, he has put out an amazing breadth of work including painting, photography, drawing, stage design, and digital painting. And his pieces are popular too, consistently selling at record breaking prices. Why do people love his work so much? Perhaps it’s the happy, sunlit colors or the pleasing compositions. Some people feel that art that makes you happy isn’t as real as art that makes you uncomfortable or angry. But Hockney’s work is an enduring example against that reasoning. I love it because of its continuity. With decades of work behind him, all of Hockney’s works hanging side by side feel connected. His pieces have a comfortable stillness within them, a strange sterility that manages not to lack feeling and possibility.

David Hockney's Studio Interior #2, 2014
David Hockney’s Studio Interior #2 (2014)

Much of this is probably due to Hockney’s personality. More than any other artist, living or dead, Hockney has swagger. In his youth he partied hard with his fellow artists, but worked even harder. He still smokes weed, and dresses like the classy man he is. His battalion of assistants, friends, and lovers attend to him in his studio and at home. Best of all is his openness with his homosexuality, even in his early years when it hadn’t been decriminalized.

David Hockney, to me, can be summed up in his own words, “Just because you are cheeky, doesn’t mean you are not serious.”

I love this man.

David Hockney, ‘A Bigger Splash’ 1967
A Bigger Splash (1967)

 

Sources

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/david-hockney

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/david-hockney-1293

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/09/david-hockney-interview-cheeky-serious

https://thedavidhockneyfoundation.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hockney

Franz Kline

Franz Kline was born on May 23, 1910. Interested in art from an early age, he studied drawing at Boston University from 1931 to 1935. He continued his studies at the Heatherley School of Art in London. His education provided him with a strong understanding of line that would prove vital in the progression of his work.

After finishing his studies, Kline was working in New York City in the late 1930’s. His art then was a combination of cubism and social realism, depicting objects like chairs in a realistic manner. One day, his friend was showing him his new projector. Kline’s friend projected an enlargement of a small sketch that Kline had drawn in a phone book. When Kline saw the projection, the drawing was so blown up that all that remained was abstract lines and shapes in black and white. From this moment, Kline realized the potential in these abstractions, and turned to abstract expressionism as a new way forward in his art.

Painting Number 2, 1954

Abstract expressionism as a movement was marked by a spontaneous expression of the artists psychic state at the time. Artists were generally dissatisfied with the European tradition of art, and worked to escape its confines. Kline worked on huge canvasses on his floor, forcing himself to work outside of the “normal” restrictions. Using large brushes, he put his whole body into his brushstrokes, which seem to contain so much energy and emotion.

Kline loved working with house paint, something that annoyed his gallerist, Sydney Janis. One night, Janis snuck into Kline’s studio and replaced his inexpensive house paint with professional grade Windsor & Newton paints. The next day, Kline went out and bought new house paint.

Franz Kline, ‘Meryon’ 1960–1
Meryon 1960–1

Why was Kline so enamoured with house paints? For one, they were cheap and not connected to “fine art” in any way. They dry flat and glossy, which appealed to Kline. They were also fluid and fast, allowing Kline to create his long, sweeping brushstrokes. His work is primarily composed of black and white, sometimes with a few other dark colors.

Franz Kline, New York, N.Y. 1953
New York, N.Y. 1953

Kline’s work attracted me because I’ve never really been able to grasp it. People always make the annoying comment, “My 3 year old kid could make that,” and usually in reference to abstract work like Kline’s. However, after researching abstract expressionism and Kline himself, I see how that is unfair and untrue. Kline was not only an extremely accomplished draftsman, he created many studies before he committed to compositions for his pieces. The compositions he achieved were carefully planned and visually attention grabbing. He worked in layers, laying down sweeping strokes of black and adding white around them, often using several different shades of white. He’d then repeat this process many times, building up depth even in the flat nature of his work.

Franz Kline, Bethlehem 1959–60
Bethlehem 1959–60

I find Kline’s work compelling because of its static energy. It is bold. It is a little terrifying. Yet, it seems to contain infinite amounts of emotion and expression. The fact that I never feel like I fully grasp what Kline was feeling when he created his pieces adds to the sense of mystery. Some say that Kline was a very characteristically American artist in the way he thought and worked. I agree with that fact. His works, like most Americans, are brash, loud, confident, and even divisive. Many of them feel like landscapes, perhaps speaking to the vast stretches of farmland the country stands on. Kline also loved New York City, and its impact on him can be seen in much of his art. There is a sense in his work of chaotic, busy space, and bustling energy for change that is contained in dark and dreary surroundings, just like New York City possess. Researching Kline has given me a new desire to understand abstract art and its effects on viewers and the world.

Franz Kline, Black Sienna, 1960 Oil on canvas, 92 ¼ × 68 inches (234.3 × 172.7 cm)
Black Sienna, 1960
Sources

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/abstract-exp-nyschool/abstract-expressionism/v/moma-painting-technique-kline

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/abstract-exp-nyschool/abstract-expressionism/v/moma-painting-technique-kline

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Franz-Kline

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/franz-kline-1419

https://www.moma.org/artists/3148

https://gagosian.com/artists/franz-kline/

Maurice Denis

One of Denis’s early works, showcasing the religious aspect of his art

Maurice Denis is an artist whose work spans several periods and bridge the gaps between important movements in art. Since he was a prolific artist with various movements of art, he is difficult to classify definitively. Aside from an artist, Denis was a writer and a theoretician – an intelligent man who experienced life and produced art on an intellectual as well as visual level. At only twenty years old he penned the famous words, “It should be remembered that a picture—before being a warhorse, a nude, or an anecdote of some sort—is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” His work is tied together with a common thread – that is his affinity for the decorative aspects of art.

Bathers at Perros Guirec (1912)
Wave (1916)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denis was born on November 25, 1870, in Granville, France. As a child, he discovered his dual passions in religion and painting. These would continue to captivate him throughout his life. He studied at the Académie Julian in 1888, and then at the École des Beaux-Arts. His influences include Paul Gauguin, and after his visit to Italy in the 20th century, Raphael and Cézanne.

This painting shows the influence of Japanism on Denis’s work

Denis, along with Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Villard, Ker Xavier Roussel, and Paul Sérusier, was a founding member of the Les Nabis group, which grew out of the Symbolist movement. These men were influenced by the impressionists, but carried the movement a step further, away from realism. Denis used flat color, influenced by Japanism, and believed that the primary purpose of his paintings was to express “faith and love.

Denis’s penchant for religion helped to cause a revival of religious art in Paris. He lived through 2 world wars, and was an extremely respected and sought-after painter. In 1919, along with Georges Devallières, he founded the Studio of Sacred Art.

One of Denis’s later works, Gioco del volano (Racket game on a lawn)
A personal favorite of mine as a kid – I didn’t even know this was Denis’s until I was nearly finished researching!

 

Sources

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Maurice-Denis

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/archives/exhibitions-archives/browse/4/article/maurice-denis-6780.html?print=1&

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Denis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Nabis

Gustave Klimt

Mäda Gertrude Primavesi

Gustave Klimt was born on July 14, 1862, in Vienna, Austria. He was the second son of a gold engraver, which probably helped inspire his love of gold leaf later in his work. Klimt attended the Vienna School of Decorative Arts, and then began specializing in mural paintings. His early works were classical and academic, some featuring historical subjects. By the late 1800’s, he was being recognized for his work

Danaë

In 1892, both his father and brother passed away. It was during this time that a shift can be seen in Klimt’s work. He began moving from classical, academic paintings, to deeper, more personal artwork in the art nouveau style. Along with a group of artist friends, Klimt founded the Vienna Sezession, which aimed to create a space for new and unconventional artists in any movement. The government even gave support for them to construct an exhibition space.

Klimt stirred controversy with his group of three paintings for the University of Vienna. They were deemed pornographic and were not displayed, later to be destroyed by Nazis.

Hope II
Rosebushes Under the Trees

Klimt’s work is sexual and erotic, but not vulgar. He loved painting women. What made Klimt so unique was his ability to mesh decorative arts and fine arts. His paintings are beautiful in their own right, but also serve to enhance the space they exist in in a way that is different from other art. His expressive pieces are at once tense and tender, utilizing the flow and rhythm of art nouveau lines in a new way. His most famous piece, The Kiss, is one of the world’s most recognizable artworks, and Klimt’s paintings consistently sell at some of the highest prices in the art world.

 

 

 

 

 

Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt.
Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.theartstory.org/artist-klimt-gustav.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Klimt

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gustav-Klimt

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/gustav-klimt-100-years/index.html

 

Pierre Bonnard

bonnardindolence
Woman Dozing on a Bed (‘Indolence’) (1899)

Pierre Bonnard was born on October 3, 1867 in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France. As a young man, he excelled in classical studies, and attended law school to please his father. After working for a short time, he began attending École des Beaux Arts, and then transferred to Académie Julian. Here he met two artists, Édouard Villard and Maurice Denis who he began sharing a studio with. Along with his group of artist friends in Paris, Bonnard began to establish a movement named Nabis, the Hebrew word for prophet. This movement was characterized by intimate domestic scenes and decorative curving art inspired by Art Nouveau and defined Bonnard’s body of work for the first half of his life

Nude in the Bath 1925 by Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947
Nu dans la baignoire (Nude in the Bath) (1925)
Pierre Bonnard, The Studio with Mimosas, 1939-46, Musee National d'art Moderne - Centre Pompidou, Paris
The Studio with Mimosas, (1939-46)

Around 1908, Bonnard transitioned out of his intimist period. A newfound interest in landscapes combined with a penchant for colour, inspired by the Venetian school led his art in a new direction. He worked with sunlit interiors, and domestic scenes. The subjects of his paintings, from this time until his death in 1947, were simple, but not simplistic

The Bathroom (1908)

Bonnard was a very shy man. His paintings have a dreamlike quality to them, perhaps due to the fact that he worked from his own memory and sketches, not life. This is surprising, because the subjects in his work are repeated time and again. He preferred to paint things he knew very well, objects that he lived with and saw every day. In this way, he was obsessed with ritual and memories of daily life.

Pablo Picasso said that Bonnard’s work was a “potpourri of indecision”, but I find that statement untrue. Something that I love in Bonnard’s body of work is the changes that it went through throughout his life. I imagine his work is varied and “indecisive” because he was constantly painting not just the appearance of his subjects, but the emotions and subjective feelings he associated with them at the time.

Nu dans le Bain (1936).
Nu dans le Bain (1936)
Sources

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pierre-Bonnard

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/pierre-bonnard-781

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bonn/hd_bonn.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/jul/23/tate-modern-slow-looking-pierre-bonnard-exhibition-2019

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bonnard

https://www.tate.org.uk/press/press-releases/pierre-bonnard-colour-memory

Pierre Bonnard: Marthe

John William Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ 1888
Lady of Shalott, 1888

John William Waterhouse was born in 1849 to two English painters. He studied under his father before attending the Royal Academy in 1870 to study sculpture. He soon switched his focus to painting. While he is usually categorized as a Pre-Raphaelite, like many artists, his work resists categorization. His expressive brushstrokes also link him to Impressionism.

Miranda, 1875
Cleopatra, 1888

Waterhouse painted primarily large scale works, with a focus on mythological, historical, or literary subjects. He loved painting women, particularly damsels in distress or other situations, and was inspired by classical Greek and Arthurian stories. He returned some subjects repeatedly over the course of his career, like the Lady of Shalott from Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem of the same name. He was well known in his time for his use of rich colours, and exhibited often during his years as a painter

 

 

 

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, 1908
The Lady of Shalott Looking At Lancelot, 1894
Sources

https://www.johnwilliamwaterhouse.net/biography.html

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/john-william-waterhouse-583

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-William-Waterhouse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Waterhouse

Georges de La Tour

The Fortune Teller, 1633–1639 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Georges de La Tour was born on March 19, 1593, in Lorraine, France. We know little about his early life or education, although during his lifetime he was a well known and respected painter. La Tour’s work was largely forgotten or misattributed after his death in 1652, until it was rediscovered by Herman Voss, a German historian, in the early 20th century. La Tour had many wealthy patrons, including King Louis XIII, Henry II of Lorraine, and Duke de La Ferté. In 1639, he was chosen as peintre du roi, or painter to King Louis

The Repentant Magdalen

La Tour’s style progressed throughout his lifetime, gradually shifting from highly realistic, well lit scenes, to simplified candlelit scenes. He started painting the human form very simply, in almost a geometric way. His compositions are well planned and pleasing, and he enjoyed using a single candle as the light source in most of his paintings. La Tour used subdued colour palettes, and employed chiaroscuro to great extents, likely influenced in some way by Caravaggio.

Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, c. 1640 Los Angeles County Museum of Art

What I love about La Tour’s paintings is the delicate way he portrays his subjects. While his colours contrast, sometimes even harshly, the people in his paintings appear thoughtful and contemplative. Even with little facial expression, La Tour is able to create a sense of mystery and a story behind each subject. His use of a single flame to light his portraits is unique from what many of his contemporaries were doing at the same time.

 

The Flea-Catcher
The Newborn Christ, c. 1645–1648 Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources 

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georges-de-La-Tour

http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/495/georges-de-la-tour-french-1593-1652/

https://www.museodelprado.es/en/whats-on/exhibition/georges-de-la-tour-1593—1652/c5c86bb6-04fa-4bd5-9847-912ba0081d8b

https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1461.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_de_La_Tour

Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer, Johannes: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Johannes Vermeer has a special place in my heart. When I was ten, on a vacation in Florida one summer, I read a mystery novel called Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliet, that introduced me to his life and works through the story of two adventurous kids.

Vermeer was born in the city of Delft, in the Netherlands. It is not known how or where he received his training, but his work is commonly linked to both Caravaggio and Rembrandt. However, Vermeer’s small collection of work – only 35 paintings – stand out with their meticulous technique and beauty.

The Kitchen Maid, 1658 by Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer seems to love painting simple, common women performing daily activities indoors. His careful treatment of these mundane scenes makes them appear nearly sacred. His paintings are painstakingly realistic, and yet fluid and living at the same time. He was obsessed with light and the balance of colours. Vermeer’s scenes seem mysterious, like the characters are asking a question of the viewer. They feel unbelievably real, so much so that even hundreds of years later we can see them and wonder what they were feeling, what they were thinking in that moment.

Vermeer, Johannes: Girl with the Red Hat

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, 1663 by Johannes Vermeer

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Johannes-Vermeer

http://www.johannes-vermeer.org/

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/verm/hd_verm.htm

https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio/artists/johannes-vermeer

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/johannes-vermeer

https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1951.html#biography

Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo di Cosimo di Mriano Tori, better known as Agnolo Bronzino, was born in Florence in 1503. He lived and worked in Florence until his death in 1572. As a young man, he studied under Raffaellino del Garbo and Jacopo da Pontormo. The latter was so influential on the development of Bonzino’s style that the correct attribution of their works are disputed by art historians to this day. 

Bonzino was a key figure in the Italian Mannerist movement, which was characterized by a focus on style and arrangement to the point of being artificial. From 1539 until his death, he was the official court painter of Cosimo I, and was regarded as one of the best portrait painters in Italy.

His portraits appear cold and unemotional. They seem detatched, almost staring through the viewer, yet they are also elegant in their poses and facial expressions. Since he often portrayed high profile members of the Medici family and court, Bonzino’s portraits have a regal and refined air. While his subjects look cold, his colours are bold and saturated, something that set him apart from his mentors and gained him recognition. Bia, illegittimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici - Agnolo Bronzino (Tempera on wood, 63x48)

Fixed size image

 

 

 

Sources

https://www.artble.com/artists/agnolo_bronzino

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Il-Bronzino

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/bronzino

http://www.travelingintuscany.com/art/agnolobronzino.htm

https://www.virtualuffizi.com/agnolo-bronzino.html

Bia de' Medici