I wish to apologize for not reading your posts as quickly as I used to. The reason is one you will understand. It seems all kinds of businesses have found a way of turning my comments into commercial advertisements. They write long texts.
Let me use numbers to describe this new form of terrorism perpetrated on innocent bloggers. Last week, I erased 165,000 comments and changed the settings on my computer so no comment could enter. It didn’t help. Yesterday, I deleted about 30,000 ads, but there are several thousand ads waiting to be deleted.
This is ridiculous. These ads clog up my computer and slow it down. In fact, I can no longer access all of my WordPress applications.
I have been spending entire days deleting ads. Even the bulk action function is slow. I apologize for using settings that isolate me, but until these individuals stop clogging my computer, I have to try to protect myself. This problem started a few weeks ago, perhaps a month.
I had to undergo surgery this week. Everything went very well, but I have not been able to write since the operation. I hope to return to my normal activities as soon as possible.
Farm at Montgeroult
Here are a few paintings by Paul Cézanne (1839–1906). I tend to associate Cézanne with apples or other fruit. Cézanne painted lovely still lifes. In fact, some of his still lifes feature skulls. Your may remember that during the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, still lifes were called Vanitas and often showed a skull, an element depicting the brevity of life (See Pieter Claesz, Wikipedia.)
By and large, an artist’s main frame of reference is art itself, but whether or not Cézanne featured skulls intending to underline the brevity of life would be difficult to ascertain. As a post-impressionist, however, he did attempt to catch the brief moment when the light touches an object, suddenly transforming it. That evanescent moment also points to the brevity of life.
Cézanne also painted landscapes, interesting displays of houses, portraits, people playing cards, nudes, groups of nudes, and works, such as “Curtains,” that constitute a lovely example of intimisme,[i] a private space. Intimisme is often associated with impressionism as an impression is by definition a personal and fleeting view.
However, there is one thing I noticed about Vermeer that seems particularly interesting. The background of his interiors borrows from the main color in the garment people are wearing. This process creates a degree of continuity to his paintings. However, here, the white hat and cape are major factors in the manner Vermeer shapes the canvas and gives the whole painting the pale or bright area it requires.
In this painting the red of the dress colors some of the floor tiles. Yet, the white wall is suddenly blue. The way Vermeer allows the light to touch here and there brightens up the painting considerably.
This painting is nearly monochromatic, but that is because it is a detail. The detail looks like a gold and black painting. The darkened wall makes the girl’s face stand out. This is a common technique, but would that more of us could do this so well.
When I first introduced to “genre” painting, the word “genre” intrigued me and it still does. Theoretically, “genre” paintings depict people going about their everyday activity. Such a definition suggests a very broad range of paintings. For instance Hendrick Avercamp (January 27, 1585 (bapt.) – May 15, 1634 (buried)), who painted winter lanscapes, is also a “genre” artist in as much as his paintings show people going about their daily chores or skating, or playing golf on ice.
However, we can narrow down the field to people going about their daily tasks indoors and in courtyards rather than outdoors, which leads us back to the Dutch Golden Age and, in particular, to the art of Johannes Vermeer (1632, Delft – December 1675, Delft).[i] Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” a 1665 portrait, is now a favorite. Yet, Vermeer, a Dutch Golden Agepainter, who lived in Delft, specialized in everyday interior scenes and his paintings of domestic scenes are now considered the standard reference.
Hendrick Avercamp may still qualify as a genre painter and the same is true of the Limbourg brothers, the miniaturists who illuminated Jean de France, duc de Berry’s Très Riches Heures(1412-1416), one of the most extraordinary “Books of Hours.” These paintings feature individuals performing everyday activity or, in the case of Jean de France’s Très Riches Heures, seasonal activities,
Diversity in “Genre” Painting
Yet within the narrower field of interiors, there is diversity. One of Vermeer’s better-known paintings is “The Procuress,” c. 1656, a brothel scene in which Vermeer himself is probably portrayed (first person to the left). “Genre” works may also depict merrymakers in taverns. The “Procuress” is a legitimate genre painting, as are the paintings of drunken deer drinkers. But such paintings may not be purchased by a bourgeois housewife who would prefer to look at an interior resembling her own or one she would like to live in, which is not an insignificant factor.
The Procuress, by Johannes Vermeer, 1656
“The Procuress” is a relatively early work. In fact, by 1656, Vermeer was beginning to paint the luminous interiors, such as the ones featured below, all of which may have been painted in the same two rooms of Vermeer’s well-to-do’s mother-in-law’s house in Oude (Delft). With respect to these somewhat intimiste paintings, it may be helpful to read a few sentences from the Encyclopædia Britannica‘s entry on Vermeer.
Beginning in the late 1650s and lasting over the course of about one decade—a remarkably brief period of productivity, given the enormity of his reputation—Vermeer would create many of his greatest paintings, most of them interior scenes. No other contemporary Dutch artist created scenes with such luminosity or purity of colour, and no other painter’s work was infused with a comparable sense of timelessness and human dignity[ii]
Characteristics of Vermeer’s Interiors
Chief characteristics of Vermeer’s interiors are black and white flooring leading to a vanishing point, leaded and at times colored windows on the left side of the canvas, heavy rugs on tables, musical instruments, virginals in particular, jugs, and, in “The Milk Maid,” a baseboard made of blue Delft tiles (see below). In his “Lady at a Virginal with a Gentleman,” you may have noticed that the mirror above the virginal echoes the floor. Vermeer was influenced by the Utrecht Carravagists (see chiaroscuro) who enjoyed paintings-within-paintings.
Vermeer’s interiors are clean and his characters, neatly dressed. These are rooms that suggest a degree of comfort and are a pleasure to look at as well as a collector’s dream. Vermeer, a Delft artist, sold at least 21 of his paintings to Jacob Dissius, a Delft collector. Pieter van Ruijven, a baker, also bought two paintings by Vermeer. As a result, Vermeer was not well-known outside Delft and, given that he worked slowly, there are only about 34 to 36 paintings indisputably attributed to him. He was, after all, the busy father of eleven children and an art-dealer, as was his father. From his father, he had also inherited an inn.
Although Vermeer seems to have stayed in Delft most of his life, he did not work in isolation. He was a member of The Guild of Saint Luke, which he joined on 29 December 1653. He was elected head of the Guild in 1662, and was re-elected to the same position in 1663, 1670, and 1671, which is a tribute to the exceptional quality of his paitings and esteem on the part of Dwelft painters. He was influenced by Carel Fabritius, Leonaert Bramer, Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595 – 21 February 1624) and Gerrit von Honthorst, an Utrecht Caravaggist. He may have tutored Pieter de Hooch and Nicolaes Maes, but these artists competed with him.
The Disaster: France invades the Dutch Republic
Until the invasion of the Dutch Republic by French troops, in 1672, the Dutch Republic had been a prosperous nation. But it was suddenly severely impoverished. During five years or so, members of the middle-class could not purchase art and, by extension, artists could not sell their art, not to mention that Vermeer worked slowly and used expensive pigments (lapis lazuli, ultramarine, cornflower blue, etc). When he died, in 1675, aged 43, probably of meningitis or encephalitis, then called “frenzy,” Vermeer left behind eleven children and debts to pay. Furthermore, he would be forgotten until rediscovered in the nineteenth century by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger.
So let this be our introduction to “genre” painting. The Vermeer paintings shown above are interiors and it could well be that focussing on life indoors or in courtyards is the chief characteristic of “genre” painting. Furthermore, we had the privilege of seeing some of the most beloved “genre” pieces in European history.
I must close. So, at this point, let the paintings speak for themselves.
Having admired a number of Dutch paintings last week, leaving the subject is very difficult. In the Fine Arts, I should think it would be difficult to find so many masters living in one area of Europe during what seems a hundred years.
Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640) was active in the early part of the seventeenth century, and he is an accomplished artist and was a fine diplomat. He was not Dutch, but how does one not mention him?
But let us focus on Holland. Dutch artist Rembrant van Rijn (15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669) is usually considered the most prominent artist of the seventeenth century in Holland. However, it is a question of degrees. Johannes Vermeer (1632 – December 1675) is also a Dutch Master. The same is true of Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael(c. 1628 – 14 March 1682), Franz Hals (c. 1582 – 26 August 1666).
Some excelled at portraiture (Vermeer, Hals), others painted landscapes (the Ruisdaels) but Rembrandt was the most eclectic. He painted portraits, the Jewish population of Amsterdam, seascapes, biblical subjects and the very large Night Watch (1642), housed in the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam. Vermeer was also a “genre,” painter. He painted interiors where individuals are going about their everyday activity.
A Young Man in a Large Hat, by Frans Hals, 1626/1629[i]
The Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer, 1665
The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede, by Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael, c. 1670
The above is a mere backdrop or introduction. However, it is quite acceptable. We have identified four Dutch Masters, possibly the most prominent Dutch Masters of the seventeenth century, the Dutch Golden Age. We have linked each of them to subjects they depicted which, by an large, are not religious subjects.
In this regard, a potential gallery of the Dutch Golden Age paintings would contain portraits, seascapes, depiction of Jews in a tolerant Holland, and depictions of rather large groups of people. On the subject of Jews, I should note that the citizens of seventeenth-century Holland were a tolerant society.
As a result, there was considerable emigration to Holland. Not all stayed, but many did, some of whom were artists. Jewish and Mannerist artist Gillis van Coninxloo emigrated to Holland.
I have explored the life and times of several Golden Age Dutch artists, but realize I am now too tired to continue my work. I will have to rest. So I may not post blogs for a few days. However, I will try to catch up with messages and comments.That is very important.