Thursday, May 28, 2009

Celtic Heroes

With growing nationalism for many European nations came the interest in their barbarian past. A good example is the French painter Evariste Vital Luminais (1821-1896), who had success with Merovingian, Viking and above all Celtic warriors.

Nothing about the great defeats. Here he is showing how the Celts are plundering Italy. In the background is decoratively burning a temple (though I doubt that temples will burn like this).

The booty consists once more in beautiful women - good old 19th century fashion!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A different War Painting

The English painter Sir John Everett Millais, (1829–1896) one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood shows here a scene from the English Civil War. But Millais isn’t the typical battle painter. He’s more interested in the victims and in forgiveness.

The Proscribed Royalist 1651 (1853)

A Royalist who has been proscribed, is hiding in a tree while a Puritan woman is helping him. The date 1651 refers to the incident when Charles II hid in an oak.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Great Defeats: Thusnelda

Thusnelda led in Germanicus Triumph (1873) by the German painter Karl Theodor von Piloty (1826–1886).

Piloty shows Thusnelda the wife of the German superhero Arminius how she and other prisoners are driven through Rome in the Triumph of the victor Germanicus. That seems strange, because Piloty could have painted Arminius’ great victory over the Romans.

But he’s more clever. The German prisoners are a people full of pride and dignity, while the Romans are fat and decadent. The emperor looks gloomy, he seems to suspect that the future conquerors of Rome are passing by.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Diogenes for the rich

Diogenes (1860) by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904).

With Gérôme Academic painting reached it's artistic climax. It's perfect but also artificial, almost synthetic. It is not without certain irony that such a rich and successful painter like Gérôme offered here his wealthy clients the ideal of renunciation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May be US Cavalry

This is one of my great favorites in respect of Spanish conquitadores. It depicts Francisco Vázquez de Coronado heading north to Arizona and New Mexico and is by the famous American painter Frederic Remington (1861-1909).

With all the dust an the Indian scouts it looks like the US Cavalry on the march, a subject well known to Remington. But I think because he knew soldiers serving there in the desert, he suceeded in making one of the most realistic conquistador paintings.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

America's Wilderness

While for example Leutze's "Cortez" seems still a kind of European history painting, this one has already something typical American.

It depicts the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon in Florida and is by the American painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926). Moran was a member of the Hudson River School and more a landscape than a history painter. But therefore and because he was deeply impressed by the dense forests of north Florida, he was able to show the forsakenness of this little group of Europeans in that enormous wilderness. This was something that you couldn't learn on the European academies.

Ponce de Leon in Florida (1878)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cortez in Mexico

Looking for images with conquistadore I found this: The Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops (1848)

It's by the German American history painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816–1868) most famous for his painting Washington crossing the Delaware. Here he's using the same pyramidal composition, which he probably learned studying in Düsseldorf and München.

I don't know what the women are doing in the middle of that carnage. Maybe they should lift the dramatic effect.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

To Conquer History

Looking for history paintings illustrating the great past of the nations I discovered that there are almost no Spanish paintings about conquest of Latin America, probably the most heroic adventure of Spanish history. Sure there are some, but they are more illustrations by inferior painters. It seems that Spanish patriots in the 19th century were occupied by other subjects. America was lost and it seemed better to forget this.

Totally different was the situation in the USA. So was the Capitol rotunda in Washington decorated by the "Frieze of American History", a fresco painting which depicts in 19 scenes the great events from American history. Among these images by the Italian-American painter Constantino Brumidi (1805 – 1880) there can be found three Spanish conquistadores.

Cortez and Montezuma at a Mexican Temple

Pizarro going to Peru

Burial of DeSoto

It’s clear. In the late 19th century it was the USA claiming the great conquistadores as her ancestors, while Spain was still mourning the loss of her empire. Finally in 1992 (500 years Columbus) there was in Spain a new 1,000 pesetas bill showing the two conquistadores: Hernán Cortes and, Francisco Pizarro.