Alexandre Cabanel - The Birth of Venus - 1863
“This Venus hovers somewhere between an ancient deity and a modern dream; the ambiguity of her eyes, that seem to be closed but that at a close look reveals that she is awake… a nude who could be asleep or awake is specially formidable for a male viewer.” - Robert Rosenblum, art historian and curator
Silver Favourites by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1903
Silver Favourites is an outstanding example of Tadema’s contrasting gleaming white marble against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea. The artist obliterated the middle-ground, and the foreground is abruptly juxtaposed with the distant horizon, creating a dramatic effect.
Oil on wood.
David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, 1609-1610.
Chiaroscuro was practiced long 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. With this came the acute observation of physical and psychological reality which formed the ground both for his immense popularity and for his frequent problems with his religious commissions. He worked at great speed, from live models, scoring basic guides directly onto the canvas with the end of the brush handle; very few of Caravaggio’s drawings appear to have survived, and it is likely that he preferred to work directly on the canvas.
Galleria Borghese, Rome.
The Nightwatch by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632
This piece is interesting because Rembrandt depicted the Kloveniersdoelen, the musketeer branch of the civic militia, in an action scene rather than a stately, formal line-up. It is also interesting because parts of the canvas were cut off (approximately 20% from the left hand side was removed) to make the painting fit on the designated wall when it was moved to Amsterdam town hall in 1715. However, the Rijksmuseum contains a smaller reproduction of the work in what is understood to be its original form; the four, foremost figures occupy the painting’s center.
Oil on canvas; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
“All painting, but also all literature, is merely a process of going round and round something inexpressible.”
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
“I hope with all my heart there will be painting in heaven.”
Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, 1830
Probably Delacroix’s best known painting, it is an unforgettable image of Parisians, having taken up arms, marching forward under the banner of the tricolor representing liberty, equality, and fraternity. The French government bought the painting but officials deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory and removed it from public view. Nonetheless, Delacroix still received many government commissions for murals and ceiling paintings. At the end of the reign of King Louis Philippe, Delacroix’ painting was finally put on display by the newly elected President, Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III.)
The boy holding a gun up on the right is sometimes thought to be an inspiration of the character Gavroche in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Misérables.
Oil on canvas; resides in the Musée du Louvre.
The Song of the Lark by Jules Adolphe Aimé Louis Breton, 1884
Jules Breton was a French Realist painter of the 19th century. This painting inspired the title of Willa Cather’s novel of the same name, published in 1915.
Oil on canvas, located at The Art Institute of Chicago