Blog Post 7

Expressionism, Fauvism, & Early 20th Century.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love.

Marc Chagall had first hand experience of the simple life growing up in a small provincial city in Russia with his traditional Jewish family and leaving for France before the First World War. He incorporated his childhood memories of village scenes in Russia with modern experiments even after moving to Paris and created modern works of expressionism and cubism. In 1910, he went to study art in Paris and was influenced by the poets and painters and developed his own emotional and poetic form of art. He claimed that his “homeland exists only in my soul” and incorporated Jewish themes and life in Russia into his abstract Parisian scenes.


“I and the Village” (1911), oil on canvas

“I and the Village”, one of Chagall’s early works, depicts cubism and fauvism through the use of strong colour and inaccurate representation of colour or size. He overlaps whimsical images in a cubist method which creates a soft and playful depiction of the Russian countryside which he grew up on. Through abstraction he integrates Eastern European folklore and Yiddish culture through the story of a cow dreaming of a milk maid and a man and woman working in the fields.


“Bella with White Collar”, 1917, oil on canvas

Chagall’s first wife, Bella, is depicted in the image above, which stands out as a sort of love letter to his wife. She is shown standing above a vibrant landscape with a much smaller Chagall and their young daughter, Ida, at the very bottom. The expressive composition is similar to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary which could further express Chagall’s complete love and adoration for his wife Bella.


 “Green Violinist”, 1923-1924, oil on canvas

Chagall’s connection to his childhood roots in the Russian countryside and his devotion to his Jewish heritage is shown in “Green Violinist” which was completed in Paris after his return from his homeland. The green violinist, believed to be prophet Elijah due to Chagall’s continuous references to the Hebrew Bible, is shown to be the support of this community by extending him from the rooftops and depicting him in communion with God through his rhythmic stance and violin. Geometric shapes stemming from the rooftops connect to the violinist’s pants and clothing.









In his last 30 years, Chagall mastered the art of stained glass and even designed windows for the Cathedral of Metz in France and the synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem. He worked in set and costume design for the Paris Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera. His abstract, expressive and cubist art was extremely personal which I admire. His work is layered with stories and personal meaning, whether from the Bible, his childhood, or his love for his wife. His nostalgic pieces, especially ones regarding his homeland, feel melancholic and bittersweet to me since he was evidently happy in France but was still devoted to Russia and his Jewish heritage. The pieces of his wife really captivate me because I sense his immense love for his wife, Bella; the unfortunate early passing of Bella makes Chagall’s work very bittersweet to me and although his work is generally whimsical, the pieces he created after her death are an ode to her existence. Personally, I admire the symbolism and story he is telling more than the physical art itself, but I do admire how his style beautifully compliments his outlook on life.




Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.–1914)

Blog post 6

Impressionism & post-impressionism.

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947).

Pierre Bonnard was known to be one of the founder members of the post-impressionistic group, “the Nabis”, in which they abandoned three dimensional modelling. Born in France his work was appreciated early on during his career especially his talent in capturing “fleeting poses”; his first show was at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1896. Bonnard was personally an ‘intimist’ since he was more interested in the daily tasks of a simple life and many of these art works include his wife Marthe de Meligny. In general, he was interested in intense colour palettes by building up small brush strokes on these areas. He was more concerned with capturing the essence of a moment through memory rather than accurately portraying it thus giving his work a dream-like quality; his work was not quite accurate to reality yet was immersive and charming. He preferred to work on multiple pieces at the same time in his studio. Personally I admire work that is “narrative” through simple storytelling, whether that be a woman sitting alone in a cafe or everyday people in the street. His use of soft colour palettes and strokes add a tenderness, similar to Bonnard’s personality.

“The Letter” (c.1906), oil on canvas
“Woman Dozing on a Bed”, c. 1899


“Nude in the Bath”, c. 1925


“Self Portrait with a Beard”, c. 1925


“Man and Woman”, c. 1900



resources and photo resources:

Blog Post 5

Realism, Pre-Impressionism, & Pre-Raphaelites.

Winslow Homer (1836-1910). 

Homer began his journey into art with the encouragement of his mother, an amateur watercolour artist. During the American Civil War Homer captured everyday camp life during the battles unlike many who dealt with scenes of battle (fig.1 ). During the summer months he would travel away from his New York Studio and bask in nature where he would camp, hunt, and happily sketch. While his watercolour work had given him some recognition (fig. 2), his career began to kick-off when his central theme became the sea. In 1883, he returned to America with a new intensity in his art after a two year visit to Cullercoats, a remote fishing port in England, where he spent his time depicting the daily lives of women and the wives of the fishermen (figures 3 and 4). He spent most of his time in his studio in Prouts Neck after moving to the coast of Maine to seek absolute solitude. In a famous piece called Fog Warning, Homer portrays a  lone fisherman in the middle of the sea making his way back to his ship, and beautifully captures the eeriness and sense of urgency and vulnerability of the man. His later works were inspired by the struggle of people against the forces of the sea and nature (fig. 5); he then primarily focussed on the strength and beauty of the sea itself, rather than the lives of the seamen and women. His rough and textured brush work gives a sense of danger and action and brings his seascapes to life. Not only do I admire his textured brushwork and the contrast of his waves but also how he went from portraying conventional and poised women to strong willed and resilient women.

fig.1: Prisoners from the Front (c. 1866). Painting depicts real life Union officer who captured several Confederate officers on June 21, 1864
fig. 2: watercolour, “On the Stile”, c. 1878


fig. 3: “Watching the Breakers”, c. 1891
fig. 4: “A Fresh Breeze”, c. 1881







fig. 5: “The Fog Warning”, c. 1885. One of his most famous paintings.


fig. 6: “The Gulf Stream”, c. 1899, oil on canvas. Painted in Prouts Neck, Maine, after one of his visits to the Bahamas.



Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.


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Blog post 4

Neoclassicism, Romanticism, & Rococo.

Thomas Gainsborough. 

The well-known rival of  Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, was talented in rendering textures and surfaces and was the leading portrait painter in England during their time. He grew up in the countryside in Suffolk and trained in London, then moved to Bath in 1759, where he attracted many clients for his portraits that had rich tones and feathery brushwork. He was known to be “self made” and unlike Reynolds, didn’t go to Italy to study under the great masters and didn’t go by rules and theories of tradition. His style consisted of straight-forward and somewhat rough brush strokes, similar to Frans Hals, which added a spark to his work, however, his work also remained refined and delicate. Gainsborough didn’t beat around the bush in his work and captured the grace and charm of his subjects. In his work, “Miss Haverfield”, Gainsborough enamours us by bringing life into his subject’s simple yet graceful movement of tying her bow against a fluid landscape background (fig. 1). However, in his letters it’s also revealed that he didn’t beat around the bush about the fact that he didn’t like being commissioned for portraitures, and instead preferred landscapes and rustic scenes, specifically those set in the countryside (fig. 2). Unfortunately, he didn’t get as much commissions or buyers for his landscape work, his landscape work would usually just be sketches of composed landscapes that captured a mood. Personally, although Gainsborough has a certain feel in his rough brushwork that is similar to Frans Hals, I still prefer how Hals added a sense of lighthearted humour into many of his pieces and fleshed out each of his subjects. I still admire Gainsborogh’s ability to capture the essence and fluidity of his subjects, such as the portrait of his daughters (fig. 5) chasing a butterfly. His work isn’t too rigid and binding but at the same time also has a delicate, lifelike detail which makes it warm and personal.

fig. 1: “Miss Elizabeth Haverfield”, c. 1782


fig. 2: “Landscape in Suffolk”, c. 1748


fig. 3: “Blue Boy”, c 1770. This is Gainsborough’s first attempt at full length “Van Dyck dress” (known to be a homage to Van Dyck and his portrait of King Charles I as a child c. 1637)


fig. 4: Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (c.1750), known for its charm and freshness. What is unique is that it’s not only a double portrait, but also a landscape painting.


fig. 5: The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly (c.1756), captured the swift movement and fleeting moment of his two daughters


Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.


picture references:

Blog post 3: Baroque

Frans Hals

Frans Hals, considered “the first outstanding master of free Holland”, knew how to capture the sprit and life of an occasion and translate it into his portraits without making it look “staged” and “stiff”. For example, in his portrait of merchant Pieter van den Broecke (Fig. 2), Hals perfectly captured his liveliness and sense of adventure by making the portrait asymmetrical. Achieving balance without symmetry was unique to many artists in the Baroque period, and Hals used this as well as using light and “fleeting” brush stokes to make his portrait look more like a snapshot than a posed portraiture. Although the head is slightly tilted and oriented more towards the left, the arm which sticks out and rests on his hip as well as his hand which reaches out to balance on his cane bring a sense of effortless balance since they’re oriented towards the right side of the canvas. Personally, I greatly admire how Frans Hals fleshed out the personalities of the people in his work; I feel intrigued and somewhat connected to these people through their smiles and casual poses.


Fig. 1: “Buffoon Playing a Lute” from 1623.


Fig. 2: “Pieter van den Broecke” c. 1633


Fig. 3: “Malle Babbe” or “Hille Bobbe” depicts a laughing “mythical witch” from 1635


Fig. 4: “The Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company” in 1616 depicts each man with his own characteristic portrait.


Fig. 5: “Gypsy Girl” 1628-1630. Depicts Hals’ visible brushstrokes giving his work an effortless and somewhat rough feel.







Gombrich, E.H.. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 1995.

Blog post 2

Similar yet different than the masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael was the third of the trinity of great masters of the High Renaissance. He spent some time in Northern Italy painting frescos in churches and later spent time in Florence which enabled him to develop his style. In Florence, Raphael’s figures became more dynamic and a portrait of his had similar composition to the Mona Lisa due to Leonardo da Vinci’s influence. Raphael didn’t shy away from using Leonardo’s compositional techniques in his own work and giving it his own twist. He combines da Vinci’s sfumato technique with the soft clearness of his mentor, Perugino, to create his own style. In 1508, Raphael lived in Rome for the remainder of his short life where he also ran a large workshop of about 50 pupils. There he was commissioned by Pope Julius II to complete a fresco in the Vatican Palace and after Juluis’ death he was still commissioned by the next pope, Pope Leo X. His work was not only influenced by Leonardo but also Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel ceiling painting which is evident through his work on painting the “Stanza della Segnatura” in the palace.


Blog post 1

Simone Martini followed Duccios’s lead by revolutionizing Byzantine forms instead of completely breaking free as Giotto did in Florence. Martini, a master of Duccios’s school in Siena, learned and executed the art of composition drawing from medieval tradition. However, unlike medieval artists who carefully arranged compositons of their work, Martini and other Sienese artists didn’t ignore shape, proportion, and space. Martini incorporates objects receding into backgrounds and places objects in relation to his characters. He also incorporates light and shade showing that he probably studied objects from life. Martini also helped pioneer portraitures since he studied objects from nature; he painted a well-loved portrait of a woman named Laura for his friend, a famous poet named Petrarch. Simone Martini, a diciple of Duccio, helped update the way Byzantine art was previously depicted by adding elements of the real world and pioneered the art of portraiture.