Saturday, October 31, 2009

Archaic Orient

Heads of the Rebel Beys at the Mosque of El Hasanein (1866) by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904).

Gérôme mixed oriental and historical subjects. Probably he depicts the end of a rebellion against Ali Pasha in the early 19th century. But the whole scenery and the costumes are so archaic that it could also have happened in much older times. But I think that this was the primary reason why Gérôme was so fascinated from the Orient.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Influence of History Painting

At the beginning of the 20th century history painting was out of fashion. It’s kind of realism was displaced by modern art. Sure that there were some incurable epigones, but really good artist painted anything except history. Nevertheless history painting and 19th century art in general had a much bigger influence as it is normally noticed. Great parts of the artistic perception of modern photographers were shaped by 19th century art.

The great influence of history painting is evident in the photos of the great photographer of the American West Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952). They may be called "realistic" but in the end they are arranged and illuminated like good old history paintings.

An Oasis in the Bad Lands

Prayer to the Mystery

The Medicine Man

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Napoleon's Sight of Moscow

Napoleon's First Sight of Moscow by the British military painter Laslett John Pott (1837-1898).

Pott shows the false triumph of Napoleon, the elusive relief of his exhausted men. On the horizon is Moscow, but destiny is symbolized by the skeleton in the lower right corner.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Glorious Past

The glorification of the past by the Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912). Alma-Tadema visited the ruins of Rome and Pompeii and revived them in his paintings. But it’s not only a reanimation, Alma-Tadema’s paintings are much sweeter than Roman reality could have been.

Unconscious Rivals (1893)

The Colosseum (1896)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hussite Sermon

Hussite Sermon (1836) by the German romantic painter Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808-80).

Lessing depicts here the revolutionary Hussites as an idealized example. They are demanding a reform of the Catholic Church and of the feudal society. Disguised as a history painting it’s an explicit critic of German society during the restoration after Napoleonic wars, a prelude to the Revolution of 1948.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Moor's last sigh

El ultimo suspiro del moro (1892)

The Spanish painter Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz (1848-1921) is relating here a nice anecdote about the fall of Granada in 1492. When the Sultan Boabdil, the last Moorish ruler in Spain, had to leave his beloved Granada he turned around and made a big sigh. As legend tells his mother approached him and said: "don't weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man".

Salman Rushdie took this legend as an inspiration for his famous novel “The Moor's Last Sigh”.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cossacks in Battle

Two more paintings by the great Polish artist Józef Brandt (1841-1915). He was glorifying the great past of Polish history in the 17th century.

Return of the Cossacks (1894)

Battle over the Turkish Banner

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dreams Are Born

The Boyhood of Raleigh (1870) by John Everett Millais (1829–1896).

Millais depicts here Sir Walter Raleigh, the best known English explorer of the Elizabethan age. But he didn’t show him on board fighting the Spanish or pointing to distant horizons. Millais shows him as a boy listening fascinated the stories of an old sailor, maybe a pirate. The subjects of the painting are not the heroic deeds, but the way dreams were born.

Millais' eldest son Everett sat for the figure of Raleigh on the left, and his second son George for the other boy.