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Archive for the 'Fine Art' Category

Art Depicting Art: “Oedipus Rex” by Renoir

December 7th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

In 1895, Renoir was commissioned to paint a series of paintings to decorate the home of the director of the Theatre des Varietes, Paul Gallimard. Perhaps one of the best loved Impressionists of all time, Renoir was renowned for capturing all of his subjects with grace and sensuality and Gallimard, a patron and friend of the artist, thought the artist’s work a perfect fit for his homes in Paris and Normandy. Revered for his figures, still-lives, and landscapes, Renoir chose a theatrical subject for the director’s homes. Encouraged by his friend, the actor Mounet-Sully, Renoir did a series of sketches and paintings depicting a quintessential highly-charged and dramatic moment in theater. The result was this remarkable painting, an awe-inspiring and dynamic canvas depicting Mounet-Sully in his most famous role as Oedipus inL’Oedipe Roi, a French version by Jules Lacroix of Sophocles’ iconic Greek drama.

In this painting Oedipus, having gouged out his eyes after learning of his despicable crimes, is seen groping his way out of the palace, as his subjects look on in terror. Known for his idyllic landscapes and softly painted portraits, Renoir’s 1895 painting, Oedipus Rex, is an incredibly unique and dramatic subject choice for the artist. This exceptional painting depicts a pivotal scene from the Greek tragedy – the final scene of the drama as Oedipus exits the palace confronting the citizens of Thebes. This intimate masterpiece displays Renoir’s uncanny ability to render life, movement and texture and clearly exhibits the brilliant color that the artist infused into all of his works. The exquisite tension and turmoil of the moment is depicted with Renoir’s quick, feathered strokes and intuitively blended applications of pigment.

The Athenian tragedy, Oedipus Rex, was first performed in 429 B.C. and chronicles the story of Oedipus, who becomes the king of Thebes. Sentenced to die at birth because his father King Laius, receives a prophecy that he would be murdered by his own son, the infant Oedipus is left by his mother, Queen Iocaste, on a mountainside. Rescued by a shepherd, Oedipus is given to the King of Corinth who raises him as his son.

The drama continues when as a young man Oedipus is told by an oracle that he will shed the blood of his father and marry his mother. Desperate to avoid this fate, Oedipus flees Corinth and during his journey, travels on the road to Thebes and encounters Laius. Unaware of each other’s identities, Laius and Oedipus quarrel over whose chariot has the right of way. The argument becomes violent and ends when Oedipus throws Laius from his chariot and kills him. Shortly after, Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx freeing the kingdom of Thebes from a curse and as a result the Queen, Iocaste, marries him. At this point in the play both prophecies are fulfilled, although none of the characters are aware of it.

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master's uncanny use of color and texture

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master’s uncanny use of color and texture

As the play unfolds many more incidents highlighting the futility of avoiding one’s fate occur and individual identities are revealed to the leading characters, but only after Oedipus and Iocaste have had many children together. Horrified by their relationship, Iocaste hangs herself and Oedipus blinds himself with her hairpins.  It is at this point in the play that Oedipus emerges out of the palace to confront the citizens of Thebes with his blindness and to demand his exile. It is precisely this dynamic and highly charged scene that is portrayed by Renoir in this exceptional and intimate portrait.

The youngest member of the Impressionist movement, an astute Renoir recognized how a subject was constantly changing due to the dynamic effects of light on color. Capturing a particular moment in time, or an “impression,” was central to the artist’s philosophy and Renoir distinguished himself among his contemporaries with his intuitive use of color and expansive brushstrokes.

Sadly the project for Gallimard’s homes never came to fruition and the director never acquired the finished Renoir paintings so they remained in the artist’s studio, together with several related drawings to be eventually dispersed with the artist’s estate.

Today, Renoir’s work continues to increase in value and the drama of Oedipus continues to be a quintessential icon of western literary, artistic and psychological genres. Renoir’s fame, as well as the classical scene and notable patronage of this particular work, make it an important and notable contribution to 19th century art.

The Inventor of Nocturnes

November 22nd, 2013 | posted by Danielle Halikias

 

The Dockside Liverpool at Night

The Dockside Liverpool at Night

Many of us spend time daydreaming, lots of “what ifs” flit through our heads and our hearts.  Imagine you work as a clerk for a railroad, but you know you are destined for something else.  You are 24, living in a manufacturing town, and already have a growing family; would you take the leap to follow this dream?  Luckily for us, and in spite of having no formal training, John Atkinson Grimshaw felt the pull towards the art world and followed it.

The year is 1861 and Grimshaw’s first concerted forays into the art world are cautious and meticulous. The delicate early paintings serve as reminders that the artist is taking a huge risk, a risk that would make anyone at least a little hesitant.  Drawing inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their battle cry of “truth to nature”, however, Grimshaw soon begins to develop his own unmistakable style.

Whitby

Whitby

 

By the late 1860s Grimshaw had firmly established the style and subject matter that led James McNeill Whistler to remark: “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures”  This style incorporates tones and luminous qualities that have gone unmatched by other artists.

All in the Golden Twilight

All in the Golden Twilight

Grimshaw’s atmospheric works tend to feature a large expanse of sky with precise consideration to how light reflects off other elements in the scene, often pools of water or crisp autumn leaves.  Another reoccurring theme in the artist’s oeuvre is the lone figure along a path.  This evocative combination of evening and solitude has the effect of producing an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in the viewer.

Moody and patiently crafted, John Atkinson Grimshaw’s works have made him a favorite among discerning collectors.  Whistler’s ode to Grimshaw’s prowess is certainly accurate; you may search far and wide, but simply put, no other artist can capture the passing of the evening sky like Grimshaw.

 

 

Serpents & the Sea

November 15th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate

Bursting with the boundless power of Mother Nature, the ocean has been the subject of some of the most evocative pieces in art history.  In considering that economies and lives have been made and ended on the ocean it is easy to understand the fascination it holds, besides its purely aesthetic value.  This role of the ocean in our collective psyche has given birth to countless myths and legends.  Of course some of the most lasting and beloved myths in Western culture have been handed down to us from the Greeks and the Romans.  Poseidon to the Greeks and Neptune to the Romans, this God of the seas plays muse to several dynamic pieces here in the gallery.Sacred to Neptune Ewers

These amazing vessels are crafted in the famed “Sacred to Neptune” design created by renowned artist John Flaxman in 1775. Featuring finely modeled figures of tritons serving as the handles, as well as dolphin masks and swags of cattail plants, the treasures are laden with aquatic symbolism.  The acclaim of this design exemplifying the love of ancient Greco-Roman styles shared between England and France.   This exceptional design is most often found in pottery form, as the renowned maker Wedgwood produced it in both black basalt and jasperware. It was also beautifully realized in silver by the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. However, bronze versions of this neoclassical masterpiece are exceptionally rare, with French examples being even rarer.

30-0977_1Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t share this fantastic work of art we recently acquired when discussing Neptune.  While the dark waters represented here are those off the shore of Hendaye Beach in France, this piece is a phenomenal reminder of the awe-inspiring powers of the sea.  Painted by Hippolyte Pradelles, tumultuous waves and a steel grey sky painted with bravura brushstrokes combine here to create a work with an incredible presence.

This sculpture is a replica of arguably the most famed sculpture ever created.  In fact, Michelangelo referred to the original as “The greatest piece of art in the world”.  This is the fantastic marble sculpture thatLaocoon tells of the death of Laocoön and his sons when the Goddess Minerva sends serpents from the sea to silence them forever.  Their deaths were byproducts of the famed Trojan War; it was Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who was not swayed by the Greek’s offering of a large wooden horse. He started to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.  According to Virgil, the God Minerva, anxious to protect her Greeks, immediately sent two sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his twin sons before they could warn more Trojans of this deception.

The sea, its symbols, myths, and bounty figure prominently in all three of these pieces, to fabulous results.  Sinewy creatures and windswept seas are expertly executed in bronze, oil paint and marble.  If you find these items as captivating as I do, let’s talk soon to discuss how we can make them yours.

The Rumble Heard Around the World: Muhammad Ali Memorabilia

September 12th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” –Muhammad Ali

Gifted athlete. Magnetic personality. A true champion.

With a quick tongue and left jab to match, Muhammad Ali could dispose of an opponent even before stepping into the boxing ring. His uncanny ability to posture himself as “The People’s Champion” proved to be much more than trash-talk. With

An autographed photo of Ali announcing The Rumble in the Jungle match between he and George Foreman in 1974.

An autographed photo of Ali announcing The Rumble in the Jungle match between he and George Foreman in 1974.

a combination of superior hand speed and constant movement in the ring, Ali captivated audiences and won some of the most famed bouts in boxing history…effectively earning the originally self-imposed title of  “The Greatest of All Time.”

Ali continues to be regarded as the greatest heavyweight champion by sports commentators and historians. Artifacts from his career command considerable attention on the market, especially those involving legendary stand-offs such as the 1974 Heavyweight Championship match between Ali and George Foreman dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” M.S. Rau Antiques was fortunate

enough to acquire several such pieces from the private collection of Henry “Hank” Schwartz, the boxing promoter and telecommunications expert responsible for these incredible matches.

“The Rumble in the Jungle” world heavyweight boxing match is considered the greatest sporting event of the 20th century. When the bout was announced, most analysts at the time believed Ali was no match for the younger and seemingly stronger Foreman, who had won 18 of his last 20 matches by knock out. Ali refused to give consideration to such speculation, often stating that

Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created this sketch of Ali training in Zaire for The Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship.

Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created this sketch of Ali training in Zaire for The Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship.

Foreman was “too slow” and “too ugly” to beat him, nicknaming the reigning champ “The Mummy” for his solid stance in the ring, as opposed to Ali’s dancing and fast footwork. This great photograph was taken during the press conference in which Ali announced he was going up against Foreman to regain the title. Signed by Ali, this wonderful black and white image captures the unwavering confidence and charisma of this sports icon. That same focus can be seen in this stunning pencil sketch by renowned sports artist LeRoy Neiman. Completed during Ali’s training sessions in Zaire, Neiman captures the fighter’s  drive and grit to regain the heavyweight title against a perceived unstoppable opponent.

At the end of the day, Ali beat Foreman in the eighth round by a knock out. Over his illustrious 21-year career, this legendary boxer fought in 61 professional matches, defeating every top heavyweight of his time, winning 56 times with a total of 37 knock outs to his credit. Over three decades after his last bout, the name Muhammad Ali continues to inspire. His contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and guiding values of peace, respect and social responsibility have proved that he is a champion both in and out of the ring.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection Muhammad Ali memorabilia, click here.

The Mystery of Chiaroscuro

August 2nd, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

Petrus van Schendel is perhaps most famous for his nighttime market scenes which garnered substantial attention for his use of light and composition.  With their interesting contrast between light and dark, these scenes have a mysterious aura to them. The focal point of these nocturne paintings is the candle which subtly illuminates the entire scene and showcases an overall complex composition. The candle provides a small yet brilliant glow which reflects onto the subjects’ facial features, thus inviting the viewer to imagine their own storyline. Van Schendel’s nocturne paintings truly exemplify the 17th-century Dutch tradition of candlelit paintings and provide a glimpse into what life was like for the working class of the 17th century.

Van Schendel was born in the Netherlands in 1806 and began his art studies early on at the Antwerp Academy. As a student, his primary focus was to become a portrait painter. He started his career painting portraits of various subjects, including his renowned self-portrait. While his career as a portrait painter proved to be successful, these paintings do not compare to his later nocturne paintings which show an incredible level of detail and naturalism.

Upon finishing his studies at the Antwerp Academy, van Schendel began travelling throughout Europe, picking up various artistic styles along the way. He finally settled down in Brussels in 1845, where he began to perfect his nocturne paintings. Strongly influenced by the 17th century tradition of Dutch candlelit paintings, van Schendel mastered the technique of chiaroscuro, or the balance between light and dark. This technique allowed him to paint incredible nocturne masterpieces, such as the painting seen here.

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