Posts Tagged ‘Montmartre’

Seascape. L’Estaque, Georges Braque, 1906

March 2, 2010

The artist:

Best known as Picasso’s friend and co-pioneer in cubism, Braque (1882-1963) went through all the artistic phases you’d imagine for the time.  Except the one for which he was trained : house painting!  Starting out with an impressionist bent, the French painter-sculptor switched to a mild form of Fauvism after seeing the 1905 exhibit.  Then, after seeing a Cézanne exhibit in 1907, he headed in a different direction with his famous friend.

Together, they developed (I’m simplifying) Analytic Cubism, with its monochromatic palette (think brownish-gray) and a broken, virtually unrecognizable depiction of the subject matter.  Moreover, their works were virtually indistinguishable from one another!  Though Picasso gets more of the spotlight, it was actually Braque’s  work that inspired art critic Louis Vauxcelles to describe their style as cubism.

That changed when Georges Braque enlisted in WWI.  He came back  in 1917 wounded and with a new style, one that seems a little surprising in a war veteran.  His approach, though still inspired by cubist technique (he became close with Juan Gris), featured a softer touch, color, and in contrast to his work with Picasso, the appearance of recognizable human beings.

The painting:

1906, Oil on canvas, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

In the background, you can see a few houses in the fishing village L’Estaque, near Marseille.  This work employs clearly Fauvist techniques (bold color with no concern for realism).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

March 2, 2010

A French Post-Impressionist, Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) hung out with the Montmartre crowd.  The son of a count, he benifitted from the best, and when his family realized that his primary talent lay in painting (he failed his university exams), they shipped him off to learn.  Unfortunately, though they may have been encouraging on that front, his parents also caused him difficulties.  They were first cousins, and this inbreeding most likely explains TL’s health problems.  (Fragile bones, and a normal length torso with stumpy little legs.)

He did a little bit of everything, from landscapes to posters for the Moulin Rouge to bicycle ads.  Art critics scoffed, but as the son of an aristocrat, TL didn’t really need to care.  He’s also supposed to have invented ‘the Earthquake,’ a cocktail of absinthe and cognac on the rocks, which nicely symbolises his rather sad personal life.  A lifetime alcoholic (perhaps a coping mechanism, as his disfigured body made it hard for him to fit in), he spent his last days in a sanatorium suffering from alcohol-related illness and syphilis, before dying at his family home at the ripe old age of 36.

On a brighter note, the artist managed, in just under 20 years of activity, to create a legacy of several thousand drawings, paintings, and prints.  His cabaret posters have become the unforgettable emblem of Paris’ Moulin Rouge, and now that the art critics are dead, his painting find their way quite easily into museums and private collections.  In fact, his La blanchisseuse set a price record at Christie’s in 2005, selling at a substantial $22.4 million.