Francesco Hayez – The Kiss

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    The Kiss - 1859 Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The Kiss - 1859
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

This painting conveys the main features of Italian Romanticism and has come to represent the spirit of the Risorgimento (Italian Unification). The painting represents a couple from the Middle Ages, embracing. It is among the most passionate and intense representations of a kiss in the history of Western art. The girl leans backwards while the man bends his left leg so as to support her, simultaneously placing a foot on the step next to him as though poised to go at any moment. The painting aims to portray the spirit of the Risorgimento. The girl's pale blue dress signifies France, which in 1859 (the year of the painting's creation) made an alliance with the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia, enabling the latter to unify the many states of the Italian peninsula into the new kingdom of Italy. To see the original: http://bit.ly/1Ud1lP4

Georges de La Tour - The Cheat

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     The Cheat  - 1650 Musée du Louvre

The Cheat - 1650
Musée du Louvre

Also known as The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds. Two versions of the painting circa 1630 and 1635. The version I have placed Santa in is from the Louvre. The other version is in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth Texas. The Texas version is called The Cheat with the Ace of clubs because in the second version he changed the suit of the cheat card from a diamond to a club. This painting is a direct reference to The Cardsharps by Caravaggio (see blog post Dec 7). De La Tour was one of about 50 artists who showed there admiration for Caravaggio by copying this work of art.
In 1934, the Cheat was featured in the memorable exhibition of the Painters of Reality that brought French 17th-century painting back to glory and marked the revival of Georges de La Tour. This sparked a growing craze for the artist and the corpus of his works broadened. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2gzgcbJ

Jean-François Millet - The Gleaners

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     The Gleaners  – 1857 Musée d'Orsay

The Gleaners – 1857
Musée d'Orsay

Millet first unveiled The Gleaners at the Salon in 1857. It immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes, who viewed the topic with suspicion. Having recently come out of the French Revolution of 1848, these prosperous classes saw the painting as glorifying the lower-class worker. To them, it was a reminder that French society was built upon the labor of the working masses, and landowners linked this working class with the growing movement of Socialism. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2fFkfPt

Gerrit van Honthorst - Musical Group on a Balcony

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     Musical Group on a Balcony  - 1622 The J. Paul Getty Museum

Musical Group on a Balcony - 1622
The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Van Honthorst was a Dutch Golden Age painter from Utrecht. He painted for several royal families in the Netherlands, England and Italy. He was strongly influenced by Caravaggio and chiaroscuro receiving the nickname "Gherardo delle Notti" (Gerard of the night). He made a number of paintings of musicians, both as individuals and in groups.
This illusionistic ceiling painting was on of the first of its kind in the Netherlands (1622). The idea sprang from his visit to Italy. Through calculated perspective, he makes the characters seem to extend the height of the overhead plane. An interesting addition to the minstrel group is the dog and parrot he hangs around the railing. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2gPncSv

Edgar Degas - The Ballet Class

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     The Ballet Class –  1871-74 Musée d'Orsay

The Ballet Class – 1871-74
Musée d'Orsay

Dancers, shown in every phase of their complex and demanding art form, make up more than fifty percent of Degas’ abundant output. Degas's favorite subjects were ballerinas at work, in rehearsal or at rest, and he tirelessly explored the theme with many variations in posture and gesture. Here the class is coming to an end – the pupils are exhausted, they are stretching, twisting to scratch their backs, adjusting their hair or clothes, an earring, or a ribbon, paying little heed to the inflexible teacher, a portrait of Jules Perrot, a real-life ballet master. Degas’ figures are caught off guard, often in awkward poses, their movements broken down to convey the underlying rhythms of their actions and gestures. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2ftTUZx

Caravaggio – The Cardsharps

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     The Cardsharps  – c. 1594 Kimbell Art Museum

The Cardsharps – c. 1594
Kimbell Art Museum

Caravaggio came to Rome in the early 1590s. There his early masterpiece The Cardsharps (1594) came to the attention of the influential Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who not only purchased it but also offered the artist quarters in his palace. Caravaggio was thus introduced to the elite stratum of Roman ecclesiastical society, which soon gave him his first significant opportunity to work on a large scale and for a public forum. Cardsharps, with its mixture of brutal low-life realism and luminous Venetian delicacy, was much admired by other artists who went around acclaiming Caravaggio's new style and heightening the reputation of his work. Over fifty copies and variants made by other painters have survived, with artists such as George de la Tour painting their own appreciations of the theme. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2goXPUf

Archibald Willard– The Spirit of 76

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     The Spirit of 76  – 1876 Abbot Hall, Marblehead, MA

The Spirit of 76 – 1876
Abbot Hall, Marblehead, MA

First exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia under the name of Yankee Doodle. It was created as a commercial venture to make chromolithographic copies. Thousands of copies were sold at the exhibition and many thousands thereafter. It was probably the most popular chromo produced in the US. The central figure was painted from a photograph of the artist’s father. Willard made a number of copies of the painting, which do not completely resemble each other. To see the original: http://bit.ly/2gCx1QX

Alexandre Cabanel - The Birth of Venus

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     The Birth of Venus  – 1863 Musée d'Orsay      

The Birth of Venus – 1863
Musée d'Orsay

 

Musee d’Orsay
Cabanel's erotic imagery, cloaked in historicism, appealed to the propriety of the higher levels of society. The painting was purchased by Louis Napoleon for 15,000 francs. Because of the controversy over its erotic nature and the sale to Napoleon, it was the most popular painting at the Paris Salon de Refusé 1863. Ten years later a slightly smaller version was commissioned and now hangs in the Met.  To see the original: http://bit.ly/2gU4shv