Burne-Jones

Parkstone International
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Burne-Jones’ oeuvre can be understood as an attempt to create in paint a world of perfect beauty, as far removed from the Birmingham of his youth as possible. At that time Birmingham was a byword for the dire effects of unregulated capitalism – a booming, industrial conglomeration of unimaginable ugliness and squalor. The two great French symbolist painters, Gustave Moreau and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, immediately recognised Burne-Jones as an artistic fellow traveller. But, it is very unlikely that Burne-Jones would have accepted or even, perhaps, have understood the label of ‘symbolist’. Yet he seems to have been one of the most representative figures of the symbolist movement and of that pervasive mood termed “fin-de-siecle”. Burne-Jones is usually labelled as a Pre-Raphaelite. In fact he was never a member of the Brotherhood formed in 1848. Burne-Jones’ brand of Pre-Raphaelitism derives not from Hunt and Millais but from Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Burne-Jones’ work in the late 1850s is, moreover, closely based on Rossetti’s style. His feminine ideal is also taken from that of Rossetti, with abundant hair, prominent chins, columnar necks and androgynous bodies hidden by copious medieval gowns. The prominent chins remain a striking feature of both artists’ depictions of women. From the 1860s their ideal types diverge. As Rossetti’s women balloon into ever more fleshy opulence, Burne-Jones’ women become more virginal and ethereal to the point where, in some of the last pictures, the women look anorexic. In the early 1870s Burne-Jones painted several mythical or legendary pictures in which he seems to have been trying to exorcise the traumas of his celebrated affair with Mary Zambaco. No living British painter between Constable and Bacon enjoyed the kind of international acclaim that Burne-Jones was accorded in the early 1890s. This great reputation began to slip in the latter half of the decade, however, and it plummeted after 1900 with the triumph of Modernism. With hindsight we can see this flatness and the turning away from narrative as characteristic of early Modernism and the first hesitant steps towards Abstraction. It is not as odd at it seems that Kandinsky cited Rossetti and Burne-Jones as forerunners of Abstraction in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”.
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About the author

Patrick Bade is a leading art historian and international guest speaker. Previous publications by Parkstone International include works on Beardsley, Renoir and Rops.

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Publisher
Parkstone International
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Published on
Dec 22, 2011
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Pages
82
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ISBN
9781780424149
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / Ceramics
Art / European
Art / General
Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
Art / Individual Artists / Monographs
Art / Techniques / Painting
Art / Techniques / Printmaking
Design / Decorative Arts
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Eligible for Family Library

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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“The definitive biography for decades to come.”—Leo Jansen, curator, the Van Gogh Museum, and co-editor of Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Letters

“In their magisterial new biography, Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith provide a guided tour through the personal world and work of that Dutch painter, shining a bright light on the evolution of his art. . . . What [the authors] capture so powerfully is Van Gogh’s extraordinary will to learn, to persevere against the odds.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Ornans, Courbet’s birthplace, is near the beautiful valley of the Doubs River, and it was here as a boy, and later as a man, that he absorbed the love of landscape. He was by nature a revolutionary, a man born to oppose existing order and to assert his independence; he had that quality of bluster and brutality which makes the revolutionary count in art as well as in politics. In both directions his spirit of revolt manifested itself. He went to Paris to study art, yet he did not attach himself to the studio of any of the prominent masters. Already in his country home he had had a little instruction in painting, and preferred to study the masterpieces of the Louvre. At first his pictures were not sufficiently distinctive to arouse any opposition, and were admitted to the Salon. Then followed the Funeral at Ornans, which the critics violently assailed: “A masquerade funeral, six metres long, in which there is more to laugh at than to weep over.” Indeed, the real offence of Courbet’s pictures was that they represented live flesh and blood. They depicted men and women as they really are and realistically doing the business in which they are engaged. His figures were not men and women deprived of personality and idealised into a type, posed in positions that will decorate the canvas. He advocated painting things as they are, and proclaimed that la vérité vraie must be the aim of the artist. So at the Universal Exposition of 1855 he withdrew his pictures from the exhibition grounds and set them in a wooden booth, just outside the entrance. Over the booth he posted a sign with large lettering. It read, simply: “Courbet – Realist.” Like every revolutionary, he was an extremist. He ignored the fact that to every artist the truth of nature appears under a different guise according to his way of seeing and experiencing. Instead, he adhered to the notion that art is only a copying of nature and not a matter also of selection and arrangement. In his contempt for prettiness Courbet often chose subjects which may fairly be called ugly. But that he also had a sense of beauty may be seen in his landscapes. That sense, mingled with his capacity for deep emotion, appears in his marines – these last being his most impressive work. Moreover, in all his works, whether attractive or not to the observer, he proved himself a powerful painter, painting in a broad, free manner, with a fine feeling for colour, and with a firmness of pigment that made all his representations very real and stirring.
“I am not interested in myself as a subject for painting, but in others, particularly women...”Beautiful, sensuous and above all erotic, Gustav Klimt’s paintings speak of a world of opulence and leisure, which seems aeons away from the harsh, post-modern environment we live in now. The subjects he treats – allegories, portraits, landscapes and erotic figures – contain virtually no reference to external events, but strive rather to create a world where beauty, above everything else, is dominant. His use of colour and pattern was profoundly influenced by the art of Japan, ancient Egypt, and Byzantium. Ravenne, the flat, two-dimensional perspective of his paintings, and the frequently stylised quality of his images form an oeuvre imbued with a profound sensuality and one where the figure of woman, above all, reigns supreme. Klimt’s very first works brought him success at an unusually young age. Gustav, born in 1862, obtained a state grant to study at Kunstgewerbeschule (the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts) at the age of fourteen. His talents as a draughtsman and painter were quickly noticed, and in 1879 he formed the Künstlercompagnie (Artists’ Company) with his brother Ernst and another student, Franz Matsch. The latter part of the nineteenth century was a period of great architectural activity in Vienna. In 1857, the Emperor Franz Joseph had ordered the destruction of the fortifications that had surrounded the medieval city centre. The Ringstrasse was the result, a budding new district with magnificent buildings and beautiful parks, all paid for by public expenses. Therefore the young Klimt and his partners had ample opportunities to show off their talents, and they received early commissions to contribute to the decorations for the pageant organised to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Empress Elisabeth. In 1894, Matsch moved out of their communal studio, and in 1897 Klimt, together with his closest friends, resigned from the Künstlerhausgenossenschaft (the Cooperative Society of Austrian Artists) to form a new movement known as the Secession, of which he was immediately elected president. The Secession was a great success, holding both a first and second exhibition in 1898. The movement made enough money to commission its very own building, designed for it by the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich. Above the entrance was its motto: “To each age its art, to art its freedom.” From around 1897 onward, Klimt spent almost every summer on the Attersee with the Flöge family. These were periods of peace and tranquillity in which he produced the landscape paintings constituting almost a quarter of his entire oeuvre. Klimt made sketches for virtually everything he did. Sometimes there were over a hundred drawings for one painting, each showing a different detail – a piece of clothing or jewellery, or a simple gesture. Just how exceptional Gustav Klimt was is perhaps reflected in the fact that he had no predecessors and no real followers. He admired Rodin and Whistler without slavishly copying them, and was admired in turn by the younger Viennese painters Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, both of whom were greatly influenced by Klimt.
Gustav Klimt (Baumgarten, 1862 – Vienne, 1918) «Faire un autoportrait ne m'intéresse pas. Les sujets de peinture qui m'intéressent ? Les autres et en particulier les femmes... » Aucune référence au monde extérieur ne vient contrarier le charme des allégories, portraits, paysages et autres personnages que l'artiste peint. Des couleurs et des motifs d'inspiration orientale (Klimt a été très influencé par le Japon, l'ancienne Egypte et la Ravenne byzantine), un espace bidimentionnel dépourvu de profondeur et une qualité souvent stylisée de l'image, autant d'éléments utilisés par le peintre pour créer une oeuvre séduisante, où le corps de la femme s'expose dans toute sa volupté. A 14 ans, il obtient une bourse d'Etat pour entrer à la Kunstgewerbeschule (l'Ecole viennoise des Arts et Métiers). Très vite, ses talents de peintre et de dessinateur s'affirment. Ses toutes remières oeuvres lui valent un succès inhabituellement précoce. Sa première grande initiative date de 1879 : il crée cette année-là la Künstlerkompagnie (la compagnie des artistes) avec son frère Ernst, et Franz Matsch. A Vienne, la fin du XIXe siècle est une période d'effervescence architecturale. L'empereur François- Joseph décide, en 1857, de détruire les remparts entourant le coeur médiéval de la ville. Le Ring, financé par l'argent du contribuable, est alors construit : de magnifiques résidences y côtoient de superbes parcs. Ces changements profitent à Klimt et à ses associés, leur fournissant de multiples occasions de faire montre de leur talent. En 1897, Klimt, accompagné de quelques amis proches, quitte la très conservatrice Künstlerhausgenossenschaft (Société coopérative des artistes autrichiens) ; il fonde le mouvement Sécession et en prend la présidence. La reconnaissance est immédiate. Au-dessus du porche d'entrée de l'édifice, conçu par José Maria Olbrich est inscrite la devise du mouvement : «A chaque âge son art, à l'art sa liberté. » A partir de 1897, Klimt passa pratiquement tous ses étés sur l'Attersee, en compagnie de la famille Flöge. Durant ces périodes de paix et de tranquillité, il eut l'occasion de peindre de nombreux paysages qui constituent un quart de son oeuvre complète. Klimt exécute des croquis préparatoires à la plus grande partie de ses réalisations. Parfois, il exécute plus de cent études pour un seul tableau. Le caractère exceptionnel de l'oeuvre de Klimt tient peut-être à l'absence de prédécesseurs et de réels disciples. Il admirait Rodin et Whistler sans les copier servilement. En retour, il fut admiré par les peintres viennois de la jeune génération, tels Egon Schiele et Oskar Kokoschka.
Gustav Klimt (Baumgarten, 1862 – Vienne, 1918) «Faire un autoportrait ne m'intéresse pas. Les sujets de peinture qui m'intéressent ? Les autres et en particulier les femmes... » Aucune référence au monde extérieur ne vient contrarier le charme des allégories, portraits, paysages et autres personnages que l'artiste peint. Des couleurs et des motifs d'inspiration orientale (Klimt a été très influencé par le Japon, l'ancienne Egypte et la Ravenne byzantine), un espace bidimentionnel dépourvu de profondeur et une qualité souvent stylisée de l'image, autant d'éléments utilisés par le peintre pour créer une oeuvre séduisante, où le corps de la femme s'expose dans toute sa volupté. A 14 ans, il obtient une bourse d'Etat pour entrer à la Kunstgewerbeschule (l'Ecole viennoise des Arts et Métiers). Très vite, ses talents de peintre et de dessinateur s'affirment. Ses toutes remières oeuvres lui valent un succès inhabituellement précoce. Sa première grande initiative date de 1879 : il crée cette année-là la Künstlerkompagnie (la compagnie des artistes) avec son frère Ernst, et Franz Matsch. A Vienne, la fin du XIXe siècle est une période d'effervescence architecturale. L'empereur François- Joseph décide, en 1857, de détruire les remparts entourant le coeur médiéval de la ville. Le Ring, financé par l'argent du contribuable, est alors construit : de magnifiques résidences y côtoient de superbes parcs. Ces changements profitent à Klimt et à ses associés, leur fournissant de multiples occasions de faire montre de leur talent. En 1897, Klimt, accompagné de quelques amis proches, quitte la très conservatrice Künstlerhausgenossenschaft (Société coopérative des artistes autrichiens) ; il fonde le mouvement Sécession et en prend la présidence. La reconnaissance est immédiate. Au-dessus du porche d'entrée de l'édifice, conçu par José Maria Olbrich est inscrite la devise du mouvement : «A chaque âge son art, à l'art sa liberté. » A partir de 1897, Klimt passa pratiquement tous ses étés sur l'Attersee, en compagnie de la famille Flöge. Durant ces périodes de paix et de tranquillité, il eut l'occasion de peindre de nombreux paysages qui constituent un quart de son oeuvre complète. Klimt exécute des croquis préparatoires à la plus grande partie de ses réalisations. Parfois, il exécute plus de cent études pour un seul tableau. Le caractère exceptionnel de l'oeuvre de Klimt tient peut-être à l'absence de prédécesseurs et de réels disciples. Il admirait Rodin et Whistler sans les copier servilement. En retour, il fut admiré par les peintres viennois de la jeune génération, tels Egon Schiele et Oskar Kokoschka.
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