10 Paintings / Painters You Should Know

10 Paintings / Painters You Should Know
(Huge pictures, feel free to download)

Paul Klee – Einst dem Grau der Nacht enttaucht 1918
Paul Klee - Einst dem Grau der Nacht enttaucht 1918
Translated title : Once Emerged from the Gray of Night
Current location : Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Bern (Switzerland)

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism and surrealism. He was also a student of orientalism. Paul Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered color theory, and wrote extensively about it. He and his colleague Wassily Kandinsky both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture.

Diego Velázquez – Las Meninas 1656
Diego Velazquez - Las meninas 1656
Translated title : The Maids of Honour
Current location : Museo del Prado, Madrid (Spain)

Las Meninas is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age. The work’s complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted. Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analyzed works in Western painting. The painting shows a large room in the Madrid palace of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured in a particular moment as if in a snapshot.

Edgar Degas – La classe de danse 1871-1874
Edgar Degas - La classe de danse 1871-1874
Translated title : The Ballet Class
Current location : Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France)

Edgard Degas regularly went to the Opéra de Paris, not only as a member of the audience, but as a visitor backstage and in the dance studio, where he introduced by a friend who played in the orchestra. At that time, the opera was still housed in the rue Le Peletier and had not yet moved to the building designed by Garnier which was soon to replace it. From the 1870s until his death, Degas’s favourite subjects were ballerinas at work, in rehearsal or at rest, and he tirelessly explored the theme with many variations in posture and gesture.

Edouard Manet – Olympia 1863
Edouard Manet - Olympia 1863
Translated title : Olympia
Current location : Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France)

Olympia is an oil on canvas painting by that caused shock and astonishment when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. What shocked contemporary audiences was not Olympia’s nudity, nor even the presence of her fully clothed maid, but her confrontational gaze and a number of details identifying her as a demi-mondaine or prostitute. These include the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, pearl earrings and the oriental shawl on which she lies, symbols of wealth and sensuality. The black ribbon around her neck, in stark contrast with her pale flesh, and her cast-off slipper underline the voluptuous atmosphere.

Il Caravaggio – Giuditta che taglia la testa a Oloferne 1597-1600
Il Caravaggio - Giuditta e Oloferne 1597-1600
Translated title : Judith beheading Holofernes
Current location : Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, Roma (Italia)

The widow Judith first charms the Assyrian general Holofernes, then decapitates him in his tent. The beheading of Holofernes was a favourite subject of the age. Caravaggio’s approach was, typically, to choose the moment of greatest dramatic impact, the moment of the decapitation itself. The figures are set out in a shallow stage, theatrically lit from the side, isolated against the inky, black background.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard – La liseuse 1770
Jean-Honore Fragonard - La liseuse 1770
Translated title : A Young Girl Reading / The Reader
Current location : National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (USA)

Fragonard painted several young girls in moments of quiet solitude. These works are not portraits but evocations, similar to the fantasy portraits Fragonard made of acquaintances as personifications of poetry and music. He painted these very quickly (in an hour, according to friends) using bold, energetic strokes. The girl’s dress and cushion are painted with quick and fluid strokes, in broad unblended bands of startling color: saffron, lilac, and magenta. Her fingers are defined by mere swerves of the brush. Using the wooden tip of a brush, Fragonard scratched her ruffed collar into the surface of the paint. This is the “swordplay of the brush” that Fragonard’s contemporaries described, not always with universal approval. His spontaneous brushwork, rather than the subject, becomes the focus of the painting. Fragonard explored the point at which a simple trace of paint becomes a recognizable form, dissolving academic distinctions between a sketch and finished painting.

Paul Cézanne – Pommes et oranges 1895
Paul Cezanne - Pommes et oranges 1895
Translated title : Apples and Oranges
Current location : Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France)

Though Paul Cézanne painted still life compositions from the start of his career, it was only in later years that this genre began to occupy an essential place in his work. Apples and Oranges forms part of a series of six still lifes produced in 1899 in Cézanne’s Parisian studio. Each painting features the same accessories: earthenware dishes and a jug decorated with a floral motif. Their arrangement is also similar, with a draped cloth, reminiscent of 17th century Flemish still lifes, closing the perspective. However, the dynamic effect created by a complex spatial construction and Cézanne’s subjective perception of the arranged objects illustrate his essentially pictorial approach.
Through the rigour and plasticity of his artistic language, Cézanne brings new life to a genre traditional in French painting since Chardin.

Piero di Cosimo – Simonetta Vespucci 1480
Piero di Cosimo - Simonetta Vespucci 1480
Translated title : Portrait of a woman, said to be Simonetta Vespucci
Current location : Musée Condé, Chantilly (France)

Simonetta Vespucci was a young woman of great beauty whom Botticelli also painted. She was the mistress of Giuliano de Medici and died in 1476 (at 23). Her lover, Piero di Cosimo (Pietro di Lorenzo), commissioned her posthumous portrait. He was only fifteen years old when he died. It is an idealized portrait, the image of perfect beauty. The symbolic, with the snake of eternal re-beginning and the dead trees on one side, when vivacious on the other, refer to the brief destiny of the model and the cycle of life.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Julie Manet 1887
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Julie Manet 1887
Translated title : Child with cat / Julie Manet
Current location : Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France)

Berthe Morisot and her husband Eugène Manet, brother of the painter, had known Renoir for many years. Their relationship became much closer in the second half of the 1880s. The Manets’ admiration for the painter’s talent, and their friendship for the man, convinced them, in 1887, to commission a portrait of their daughter Julie. It has to be said that this development in Renoir’s style, characterised by a new attention to line and drawing, and using vivid colours, upset a number of his close friends. Berthe Morisot, on the other hand, particularly liked the work of Renoir’s Ingresque period.

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) – La Venere d’Urbino 1538
Tiziano Vecellio - La Venere d'Urbino 1538
Translated title : The Venus of Urbino
Current location : Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze (Italia)

The Venus of Urbino is a 1538 oil painting by the Italian master Titian. It depicts a nude young woman, identified with the goddess Venus, reclining on a couch or bed in the sumptuous surroundings of a Renaissance palace. The figure’s pose is based on Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, which Titian completed. In this depiction, Titian has domesticated Venus by moving her to an indoor setting, engaging her with the viewer, and making her sensuality explicit. Devoid as it is of any classical or allegorical trappings, Venus displays none of the attributes of the goddess she is supposed to represent…The painting is unapologetically erotic.

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