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- Pictures Every Child Should Know - 6/52 -
It is extraordinary that there is no blade of grass to be found in any painting by Michael Angelo. He loved to paint but one thing, and that was the naked man, the powerful muscles, or the twisted limbs of those in great agony. He loved only to work upon vast spaces of ceiling or wall. Look at this picture of Daniel and see how like sculpture the pose and modelling appear to be. First of all, Michael Angelo was a sculptor, and most of the painting which fate forced him to do has the characteristics of sculpture.
One critic has remarked that he loves to think of this strange man sitting before the marble quarry of Pietra Santa and thinking upon all the beings hidden in the cliff--beings which he should fashion from the marble.
It was said that in Michael Angelo's hands the Holy Family became a race of Titans, and where others would have put plants or foliage, Angelo placed men and naked limbs to fill the space. When his subject made some sort of herbage necessary, he invented a kind of medival fern in place of grass and familiar leaves. Everything appears brazen and hard and mighty, suggestive of Angelo's own throbbing spirit and maddened soul. Most of his work, when illustrated, must be shown not as a whole but in sections, but one can best mention them as entire picture themes. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are nine frescoes describing "The Creation of The World," "The Fall of Man" and "The Deluge." "The Last Judgment" occupies the entire altar wall in the same chapel of the Vatican. "The Holy Family" is in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
(Pronounced Bek'-lin) _Modern German School (Dsseldorf)_ 1827-1901
This splendid artist is so lately dead that it does not seem proper yet to discuss his personal history, but we can speak understandingly of his art, for we already know it to be great art, which will stand the test of time. His imagination turned toward subjects of solemn grandeur and his work is very impressive and beautiful.
He was born in Basel, "one of the most prosaic towns in Europe." His father was a Swiss merchant, and not poor; thus the son had ordinarily good chances to make an artist of himself. He was born at a time when to be an artist had long ceased to be a reproach, and men no longer discouraged their sons who felt themselves inspired to paint great pictures.
When Bcklin was nineteen years old he took himself to Dsseldorf, with his merchant father's permission, and settled down to learn his art, but in that city he found mostly "sentimental and anecdotal" pictures being painted, which did not suit him at all. Then he took himself off to Brussels, where again he was not satisfied, and so went to Paris. But while in Brussels he had copied many old masters, and had advanced himself very much, so that he did not present himself in Paris raw and untried in art.
At first he studied in the Louvre, then went to Rome, seeking ever the best, and being hard to satisfy. He found rest and tranquillity in Zrich, a city in his native country, but it was Italy that had most influenced his work.
He loved the Campagna of Rome with its ruins and the sad grandeur of the crumbling tombs lining its way, and therefore a certain mysterious, grand, and solemn character made his pictures unlike those of any other artist. He loved to paint in vertical (up-and-down) fines, rather than with the conventional horizontal outlines that we find in most paintings. This method gives his pictures a different quality from any others in the world.
He loved best of all to paint landscape, and it is said of him that "as the Greeks peopled their streams and woods and waves with creatures of their imagination, so Bcklin makes the waterfall take shape as a nymph, or the mists which rise above the water source wreathe into forms of merry children; or in some wild spot hurls centaurs together in fierce combat, or makes the slippery, moving wave give birth to Nereids and Tritons."
Muther, art-critic and biographer, calls our attention to the similarity between Wagner's music and Bcklin's painting. While Wagner was "luring the colours of sound from music," Bcklin's "symphonies of colour streamed forth like a crashing orchestra," and he calls him the greatest colour-poet of the time.
In appearance Bcklin was fine of form, healthy and wholesome in all his thoughts and way of living. In 1848 he took part in revolutionary politics and later this did him great harm. Only the influence of his friends kept him from ruin. After the Franco-Prussian war he was made Minister of Fine Arts. In this office he rendered great service; but because he had to witness the wrecking of the Column Vendme in order to save the Louvre and the Luxembourg from the mob, he was censured; indeed so heavy a fine was imposed that it took his whole fortune to pay it; and he was banished into the bargain. From 1892 to 1901 he lived in or near Florence, and he died at Fiesole, January 16th, 1901.
PLATE--THE ISLE OF THE DEAD
This picture is perhaps the greatest of the many great Arnold Bcklin paintings, and it is both fascinating and awe-inspiring.
It best shows his liking for vertical lines in art. The Isle of the Dead is of a rocky, shaft-like formation in which we may see hewn-out tombs; and there, tall cypress trees are growing.
The traces of man's work in the midst of this sombre, ideal, and mystic scene add to the impressiveness of the picture. The isle stands high and lonely in the midst of a sea.
The water seems silently to lap the base of the rocks and the trees are in black shadow, massed in the centre. It looks very mysterious and still. There is a stone gateway touched with the light of a dying day. It is sunset and the dead is being brought to its resting place in a tiny boat, all the smaller for its relation to the gloomy grandeur of the isle which it is approaching. One figure is standing in the boat, facing the island, and the sunlight falls full upon his back and touches the boat, making that spot stand out brilliantly from all the rest of the picture.
Among Bcklin's paintings are "Naiads at Play," which hangs in the Museum at Basel, "A Villa by the Sea," "The Sport of the Waves," "Regions of Joy," "Flora," and "Venus Dispatching Cupid."
(Pronounced Rosa Bon-er) _French School_ 1822-1895 _Pupil of Raymond B. Bonheur_
Rosa Bonheur, Landseer, and Murillo maybe called "Children's Painters" in this book because they painted things that children, as well as grown-ups, certainly can enjoy. To be sure, Murillo was a very different sort of artist from Rosa Bonheur or Landseer, but if the two latter painted the most beautiful, animals--dogs, sheep, and horses--Murillo painted the loveliest little children.
Rosa was the best pupil of her father; Raymond B. Bonheur. In Bordeaux they lived together the peaceful life of artists, the father being already a well known painter when his daughter was born. She became, as Mr. Hamerton, who knew her, said, "the most accomplished female painter who ever lived ... a pure, generous woman as well and can hardly be too much admired ... as a woman or an artist. She is simple in her tastes and habits of life and many stories are told of her generosity to others."
After a time the Bonheurs moved to Paris where young Rosa could have better opportunities; and there she put on man's clothing, which she wore all her life thereafter. She wore a workingman's blouse and trousers, and tramped about looking more like a man than a woman with her short hair. This, made everybody stare at her and think her very queer, but people no longer believe that she dressed herself thus in order to advertise herself and attract attention; but because it was the most convenient costume for her to get about in. She went to all sorts of places; the stockyards, slaughter houses, all about the streets of Paris, to learn of things and people, especially of animals, which she wished most to paint. She could hardly have gone about thus if she had worn women's clothing.
Rosa Bonheur exhibited her first painting at the _Salon_ in 1841, and this was twelve years before her beloved father died; thus he had the happiness of knowing that the daughter whom he had taught so lovingly was on the road to success and fortune. He knew that when fortune should come to her she would use it well. The year that she exhibited her work in the _Salon_ she painted only two little pictures--one of rabbits, the other of sheep and goats--but they were so splendidly done that all the critics knew a great woman artist had arrived.
It was then that her enemies, those who were becoming jealous of her work, said that she was wearing men's clothing in order to attract attention to herself.
Soon her work began to be bought by the French Government, which was a sure sign of her power. She was already much beloved by the people. In the meantime we in America and others in England had heard of Mademoiselle Bonheur, but we heard far less about her painting than we did about her masculine garb. We thought of her mostly as an eccentric woman; but one day came "The Horse Fair," and all the world heard of that, so the artist was to be no longer judged by the clothes she wore but by her art. Finally, she received the cross of the Legion of Honour, and also was made a member of the Institute of Antwerp.
She lived near Fontainebleau; her studio a peaceful retired home, till the Franco-Prussian war came about. Then she and others began to fear that her studio and pictures would be destroyed, so the artist was forced to stop her work and prepared to go elsewhere. But the Crown Prince of Prussia himself ordered that Mademoiselle Bonheur should not even be disturbed. Her work had made her belong to all the world and all the world was to protect her if need be.
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