Friday, May 28, 2010

Nordic Kitsch

To Valhalla

Wotan takes leave of Brunhild (1892)

These two illustrations by the German painter Konrad Wilhelm Dielitz (1845-1933) are typical for the popular Nordic fantasies at the end of the 19th century so strongly influenced by Wagnerian stage decorations.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Entering Constantinople

The Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II "the Conqueror" entering Constantinople in 1453 by the French painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902).

Entrée de Mehmed II dans Constantinople (1876)

Constant where had studied in Paris and was a pupil of Alexandre Cabanel. Later he traveled to Morocco and was strongly influenced by Orientalism. Probably because of that he took here more the romantic eastern perspective than the traditional western.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Folkloristic Varangians

The Vikings who went in the 9th and 10th centuries on the great rivers to Russia were called Varangians and are considered as important co-founders of the later Russian states. Here two interpretations by Russian painters who belonged to the avant-garde of their time.

Guests from Overseas (1899) by Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947).

Volga Song (1906) by Vassily Vassilyevich Kandinsky (1866-1944).

It’s interesting to observe that Roerich as well as Kandinsky abandoned the traditional forms of "realistic" history painting and came to a more ornamental and abstract style. They didn’t pretend to narrate history "as it has been", they show history more as a kind of folkloristic aesthetic heritage.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Perfect Luxury

Preparation in the Coliseum (1912) by the Dutch painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912).
This was the last great painting by the famous artist. Above all it strikes by it’s details: the marble, the flowers, the silver, the furs.

Most impressive are probably the fruits and the plates on the marble table. Here a detail.

Sometimes people are quoting artwork like this as "real art" opposite to less well done modern art. But I think it’s more symptomatic of the decline of history painting in general. Almost obsessed Alma-Tadema amasses more and more of these perfectly painted details, probably to ensure the value of the painting to underline his knowledge of the past.

But a well done illusion is not already art. For example Alma-Tadema was very afraid of falsifications and introduced a special identification system together with his signature. Sure it’s an impressive painting and it’s much better than a lot of kitsch in that time, but it hasn’t for example half the power of a good illustration by Howard Pyle.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Merry Old Times

Day in a tavern (1880) by the Spanish painter Luis Ricardo Falero (1851-1896).

Above all Falero became famous for his fantasy paintings of gorgeous nude fairies and witches. Nothing against that, but it indicates that the artist painted at first what could be sold easily.