Ilya Repin was the most gifted of the group known in Russia as “The Itinerants”. When only twelve years old, he joined Ivan Bounakov’s studio to learn the icon-painter’s craft. Religious representations always remained of great importance for him. From 1864 to 1873 Repin studied at the Academy of the Arts in Saint Petersburg under Kramskoï. Repin also studied in Paris for two years, where he was strongly influenced by outdoor painting without, becoming an Impressionist, a style that he judged too distant from reality. Taken with French pictorial culture, he worked to understand its role in the evolution of contemporary art. Most of Repin’s powerful work deals with the social dilemmas of Russian life in the nineteenth century. He established his reputation in 1873 with the celebrated picture Barge Haulers on the Volga, symbol of the oppressed Russian people pulling their chains. This struggle against the autocracy inspired many works. He also painted Russia’s official history in such works as Ivan the Terrible Meditating at the Deathbed of his Son Ivan. Seen as one of the masters of realist painting, he devoted himself to portraying the lives of his contemporaries: the most renowned Russian writers, artists, and intellectuals; peasants at work; the faithful in procession; and revolutionaries on the barricades. He understood the pains of the people perfectly, as well as the needs and the joys of ordinary lives. Kramskoï said on this subject: “Repin has a gift for showing the peasant as he is. I know many painters who show the moujik, and they do it well, but none can do so with as much talent as Repin.”Repin’s works, which depart from the academic constraints of their predecessors, are both delicate and powerful. He achieved a superior mastery of skill, and found new accents to transcribe the many-coloured and brilliant vibrations he sensed in the ordinary world around him.
The strict prohibition on the representation of the human form has channeled artistic creation into architecture and architectural decoration. This book is a magical tour through Central Asia – Khirgizia, Tadjikistan, Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan – a cradle of Ancient civilisations and a repository of the Oriental arts inspired by Buddhism and Islam. There are magnificent, full-colour photographs of the abandoned cities of Mervand Urgench, Khiva, the capital of the Kharezm, with its mausoleum of Sheikh Seid Allahuddin, and, the Golden Road to Samarkand, the Blue City, a center of civilisation for 2,500 years.
For Claude Monet the designation ‘impressionist’ always remained a source of pride. In spite of all the things critics have written about his work, Monet continued to be a true impressionist to the end of his very long life. He was so by deep conviction, and for his Impressionism he may have sacrificed many other opportunities that his enormous talent held out to him. Monet did not paint classical compositions with figures, and he did not become a portraitist, although his professional training included those skills. He chose a single genre for himself, landscape painting, and in that he achieved a degree of perfection none of his contemporaries managed to attain. Yet the little boy began by drawing caricatures. Boudin advised Monet to stop doing caricatures and to take up landscapes instead. The sea, the sky, animals, people, and trees are beautiful in the exact state in which nature created them – surrounded by air and light. Indeed, it was Boudin who passed on to Monet his conviction of the importance of working in the open air, which Monet would in turn transmit to his impressionist friends. Monet did not want to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He chose to attend a private school, L’Académie Suisse, established by an ex-model on the Quai d’Orfèvres near the Pont Saint-Michel. One could draw and paint from a live model there for a modest fee. This was where Monet met the future impressionist Camille Pissarro. Later in Gleyre’s studio, Monet met Auguste Renoir Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille. Monet considered it very important that Boudin be introduced to his new friends. He also told his friends of another painter he had found in Normandy. This was the remarkable Dutchman Jongkind. His landscapes were saturated with colour, and their sincerity, at times even their naïveté, was combined with subtle observation of the Normandy shore’s variable nature. At this time Monet’s landscapes were not yet characterized by great richness of colour. Rather, they recalled the tonalities of paintings by the Barbizon artists, and Boudin’s seascapes. He composed a range of colour based on yellow-brown or blue-grey. At the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 Monet presented a series of paintings for the first time: seven views of the Saint-Lazare train station. He selected them from among twelve he had painted at the station. This motif in Monet’s work is in line not only with Manet’s Chemin de fer (The Railway) and with his own landscapes featuring trains and stations at Argenteuil, but also with a trend that surfaced after the railways first began to appear. In 1883, Monet had bought a house in the village of Giverny, near the little town of Vernon. At Giverny, series painting became one of his chief working procedures. Meadows became his permanent workplace. When a journalist, who had come from Vétheuil to interview Monet, asked him where his studio was, the painter answered, “My studio! I’ve never had a studio, and I can’t see why one would lock oneself up in a room. To draw, yes – to paint, no”. Then, broadly gesturing towards the Seine, the hills, and the silhouette of the little town, he declared, “There’s my real studio.”Monet began to go to London in the last decade of the nineteenth century. He began all his London paintings working directly from nature, but completed many of them afterwards, at Giverny. The series formed an indivisible whole, and the painter had to work on all his canvases at one time. A friend of Monet’s, the writer Octave Mirbeau, wrote that he had accomplished a miracle. With the help of colours he had succeeded in recreating on the canvas something almost impossible to capture: he was reproducing sunlight, enriching it with an infinite number of reflections. Alone among the impressionists, Claude Monet took an almost scientific study of the possibilities of colour to its limits; it is unlikely that one could have gone any further in that direction.
“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.
Pierre Bonnard was the leader of the group of post-impressionist painters who called themselves “the Nabis”, from the Hebrew word for “prophet”. Influenced by Odilon Redon, Puvis de Chavannes, popular imagery, and Japanese woodblock printing, Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton and Denis (to name the most prominent members) revolutionised the spirit of decorative technique during one of the richest periods in French painting. Although the increasing individualism of their works often threatened to weaken their unity, the Nabis were above all a group of close friends. The artwork presented in this book − varying between Bonnard’s guilelessness, Vuillard’s ornamental and mysterious works, Denis’s soft languor and Vallotton’s almost bitter roughness − plunges us into the deep source of their creative talents.
After staying in Milan for his apprenticeship, Michelangelo da Caravaggio arrived in Rome in 1592. There he started to paint with both realism and psychological analysis of the sitters. Caravaggio was as temperamental in his painting as in his wild life. As he also responded to prestigious Church commissions, his dramatic style and his realism were seen as unacceptable. Chiaroscuro had existed well before he came on the scene, but it was Caravaggio who made the technique definitive, darkening the shadows and transfixing the subject in a blinding shaft of light. His influence was immense, firstly through those who were more or less directly his disciples. Famous during his lifetime, Caravaggio had a great influence upon Baroque art. The Genoese and Neapolitan Schools derived lessons from him, and the great movement of Spanish painting in the seventeenth century was connected with these schools. In the following generations the best endowed painters oscillated between the lessons of Caravaggio and the Carracci.
In his works, Hopper poetically expressed the solitude of man confronted to the American way of life as it developed in the 1920s. Inspired by the movies and particularly by the various camera angles and attitudes of characters, his paintings expose the alienation of mass culture. Created using cold colours and inhabited by anonymous characters, Hopper’s paintings also symbolically reflect the Great Depression. Through a series of different reproductions (etchings, watercolours, and oil-on-canvas paintings), as well as thematic and artistic analysis, the author sheds new light on the enigmatic and tortured world of this outstanding figure.