Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sweet Decadence

When the Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) moved to England and specialized in sweet paintings about the leisure life in ancient Rome and Greece he became one of the most successful Victorian painters. In endless variations he painted nice girls in classical costumes in smooth colors decorating the whole with some flowers and lots of shiny marble.

Sappho and Alcaeus (1881)

A Coign of Vantage (1895)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The End of a Rebellion

The Spanish painter Antonio Gisbert Pérez (1835-1902) was a convinced liberal. On this painting he shows the end of the rebellion of the Castilian towns in 1521. The members of the Catholic Church are shown as the great enemies of any liberal movement. The rebels didn’t listen to their promises and threats. They are the true martyrs of their time and their people.

Los Comuneros de Castilia (1860)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cossack Painting

Józef Brandt (1841-1915) was one of the most famous Polish battle painters and in my opinion the best. He specialized on scenes from the 17th century, the great and dramatic period of Polish history.

His preferred heroes were the Cossacks from the eastern provinces, who fought in this time normally against the Poles. Brandt’s paintings are so convincing, so realistic because he concentrated more on everyday life scenes than on the great battles, which he also painted.

There’s a Cossack on guard, a wild colorful figure in a wide landscape. This is no pretentious painting, it is reduced to the absolutely necessary.

Returning from Vienna. Here are the victors who saved Vienna in 1683. They are returning with there trophies, their exotic booty and their prisoners.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On the Way to Fantasy

This is a very interesting Art Nouveau painting by the Austrian Maximilian Liebenwein (1869-1926).

Saint George, as though the world were full of devils... (1908)

Sure it’s not a real history painting, neither it’s a religious painting. It pretends to show Saint George but he’s painted as a medieval knight. As model for the costume and the title served the engraving from Albrecht Dürer (1470-1528) Knight Death and the Devil (1513).

The fantastic battle scene with the realistic costume reminds me also of the painting "Beserk" by the American fantasy artist Frank Frazetta (born 1928).

I don’t think that Frazetta knew Liebenwein or his painting. But it is a good example for the strong influence of history painting on modern fantasy art. When painters like Liebenwein abandoned the pretension to be "realistic" they turned into the forefathers of fantasy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welsh Alps

Beyond any doubt this is a very romantic painting. A Gaelic bard is fleeing from an English castle in Wales and curses his pursuers from above a cliff. This nice story is based on the legend that king Edward I ordered to kill all bards to suppress Gaelic culture.

But anyway the artist John Martin (1789-1854) was famous as a landscape painter. And it’s nice to see that he puts some mountains from the Swiss Alps into Wales. The whole scenery is a theatrically arranged invention.

The Bard (c. 1817)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Napoleons Soldiers

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815–1891) was a well known military painter, who focused on subjects from the Napoleonic wars. There he preferred everyday life scenes instead of glorious battle scenes. The result was a kind of military genre painting, which implied a certain authenticity.

Information: General Desaix and the Peasant (1867)

The Rest (1870)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The Polish history painter Jan Matejko (1838-1893) shows here his famous compatriot Nicolaus Copernicus in a conversation with God. Copernicus and his tools are illuminated by the divine light from above.

Astronomer Copernicus: Conversation with God (1872)

Sunday, July 5, 2009


The Return of the Crusader (1835) by the German painter Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808-1880).

The Romantic painter Lessing shows an old disillusioned warrior coming home. Sure that he left a lot of his ideals back there in the war. May be that some crusaders returned like this, but painting must be seen in the context of the conservative restoration in Europe that ended the liberal and national dreams.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Late Academic Painting

The Excommunication of Robert the Pious (1875) by the French painter Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921).

Laurens was the last of the great French history painters. Excellent skilled by his academic studies he preferred anticlerical subjects.