A5 Top 150 artists (1871 – 1919)

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Whistler, James Abbot MacNeill
Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Coley
Cézanne, Paul
Cassatt, Mary
Sargent, John Singer 
Seurat, Georges
van Gogh, Vincent
Boznańska, Olga 
Gauguin, Paul
Picasso, Pablo
Twachtman, John Henry
Munch, Edvard
Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de
Nampeyo
[A5-10]


Klimt, Gustav
Kandinsky, Wassily
Matisse, Henri
Braque, Georges
Bell, Vanessa
de Chirico, Giorgio
Duchamp, Marcel
Chagall, Marc
Malevich, Kazimir
Modigliani, Amedeo Clement
Klee, Paul
Miró, Juan
Moor, Dmitry 
O’Keeffe, Georgia

Note that to minimise the entries and the opportunity for confusion, the text and image sources are not shown here – do follow the links to the artists or their works and you will find a proper acknowledgement of the sources.


Whistler, James Abbot McNeill
1834-1903


Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother
(1871)


Nocturne: Blue and Silver, Chelsea

(1871)


Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
(1872-1877)
[A5-11]


Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, also called Portrait of the Artist’s Mother is a reminder, if only through its double title, of the stylisation to which Whistler soon submitted the realistic aesthetic of his early years. The work, in its linear austerity and chromatic rigour dominated by neutral tones, was a continuation of Whistler’s experimentation with prints, to which View of the Thames hanging on the wall is an allusion.

Chelsea: this is the first of Whistler’s Nocturnes. In these works Whistler aimed to convey a sense of the beauty and tranquility of the Thames by night. It was Frederick Leyland who first used the name ‘nocturne’ to describe Whistler’s moonlit scenes. It aptly suggests the notion of a night scene, but with musical associations. The expression was quickly adopted by Whistler.

Rocket: his work, which is a depiction of a fireworks display in London’s Cremorne Gardens, is probably Whistler’s most infamous painting. It was the central issue of a libel suit that involved the art critic John Ruskin and the artist. Ruskin had publicly slandered the work by making the statement, I have seen, and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face. Whistler won the libel suit; however, he was awarded only the token damages of one farthing.
Merlin: The painting depicts a scene from the Arthurian legend about the infatuation of Merlin with the Lady of the Lake, Nimue. Merlin is shown trapped, helpless in a hawthorn bush as Nimue reads from a book of spells.
The work was commissioned from Burne-Jones by Frederick Richards Leyland, a Liverpool ship-owner and art-collector, in the late 1860s. After a false start blamed on ‘poor materials’, Burne-Jones began work on the painting proper in 1873, finishing the body of the work by the end of 1874; however, the painting was not first exhibited until 1877 at the opening exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery in London.

Pegasus: Perseus eventually discovers Medusa with her sisters, the Gorgons. Unlike her they are all immortal. Using Athena’s mirror to defend himself, Perseus beheads Medusa, at which point the winged horse Pegasus and the warrior Chrysaor spring from her decapitated body. When the Gorgons attempt to punish Perseus for killing their sister, he evades them by using the helmet given to him by the sea nymphs, thus becoming invisible.

Beggar Maid: This work was based on Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘The Beggar Maid’. King Cophetua of Ethiopia falls in love with Penelophon, a young woman he sees begging for money. They marry, and she becomes Queen. This work was considered Burne-Jones’s greatest achievement. Critics praised it for its technical skill and for the message that love is more important than wealth and power.

Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Coley
1833-1898


The Beguiling of Merlin
(1872)


The Birth of Pegasus and Chrysaor from the Blood of Medusa
(1876-1885)


King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid
(1884)
[A5-12]


Cézanne, Paul
1839-1906


The House of
the Hanged Man
(1873)


Nature morte:
les grosses pommes

(1879-1882)


Boy in the Red Vest
(1889-1890)


Man smoking a Pipe
(1890-1892)


The Card Players
(1890-1892)


Rideau, cruchon et compotier
(Curtain, jug and fruit bowl)
(1893-1894)


Still Life with Plastic Cupid
(1895)


Lady in Blue
(c1900)


Monte Sainte-Victoire from Les Lauves
(1904-1906)


Les Grandes Baigneuses
(1906)
[A5-13]

The Hanged Man’s House was one of the three canvases that Cézanne presented at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. The influence of his friend Camille Pissarro, with whom he regularly worked in the region of Pontoise and Auvers-sur-Oise, is clearly perceptible. Compared to his early works, Cézanne has used the pale colours and broken brushstrokes of the Impressionists. He has also given up dramatic or literary themes for a simple, even commonplace subject. It reveals Cézanne’s peculiar brand of Impressionism.

Les Pommes encapsulates Cézanne’s artistic achievement, and displays the brilliance and economy which characterize his best work. This strikingly modern composition foregrounds the artist’s unrivaled facility with the medium and his ability to imbue a still-life with all of the subtlety and emotional potency of portraiture.
Cézanne’s still-lifes have long been recognized among his greatest achievements, the works which demonstrate most clearly the innovations that led to the stylistic developments of early twentieth-century art. 

Boy: Though Cézanne rarely hired professional models, an Italian named Michelangelo di Rosa was the subject for this work—one in a series of four paintings and two watercolors he made of this subject. Di Rosa is seen here in profile, casually hunched over with his hands on his lap. The short brushstrokes and triangular composition of the work provide a sense of volume and underscore the monumental stability of the figure.

Card Players: Cézanne shows a group of farmhands enjoying a game of cards—one of five canvases he devoted to the subject. In this one, the largest and most ambitious of the series, Cézanne gives these humble figures an imposing presence, depicting them on a scale usually reserved for grander subjects like history or mythology.

Rideau: this marks the maturity of great still lifes of Cezanne’s middle and late periods. Beside the others, it seems a return to tradition in its studied outlines and great depth of shadow. It seems also one of the most obviously formal in the sober pairing and centering of objects, from the fruits on the cloth to the foliate pattern on the wall. But through the colour, which has its own pairing of spots, the symmetries of the objects intersect or overlap; the same object belongs then to different groups. The resulting rivalry of axes gives a secret life to the otherwise static whole.

Cupid: This is one of Cézanne’s most complex late still-lifes. Beyond the foreground table on which stands a plaster Cupid, the space and the arrangement of figures become highly ambiguous. The green apple on the floor in the far corner seems too large and the floor itself appears tilted. The blue drapery in the painting, propped up against the wall at the left, merges with a similar fabric in Cézanne’s own still-life. He may have been using these paradoxes to stress the artificiality of the composition, and perhaps, to comment on the act of painting itself.

Blue: Several of Cezanne’s Impressionist portraits which were painted during the 1890s and early 1900s are distinctive for the slightly strained pose of the sitter, and for the oval-like arrangement of the hands, which impart more stability and significance to the figure painting despite the everyday clothes and unassuming features of the sitter.

Sainte-Victoire
: After 1885 the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, near his home in Aix-en-Provence, became Cézanne’s favourite landscape motif.
He painted it many times from different positions and under different light conditions. This view, which shows the mountain with a hooked outline, was painted from a steeply-terraced slope above his studio.

Baigneuses: First exhibited in 1906, the painting is the largest of a series of Bather paintings by Cézanne. Occasionally referred to as the Big Bathers or Large Bathers to distinguish it from the smaller works, the painting is considered a masterpiece of modern art, and is often considered Cézanne’s finest work.
Sewing: A light, lively palette is characteristic of the work of Mary Cassatt, an American painter who introduced art lovers and collectors on the other side of the Atlantic to Impressionism. A great friend of Degas, she took part in the exhibitions of the Impressionist group from 1879.

Child: In this work, Mary Cassatt addressed the theme for which she is best known—women and children—while also experimenting with compositional elements of Japanese art. The Child’s Bath is the culmination of her investigation of a flattened picture plane and decorative patterning. The intimate scene of everyday life also echoes the subject of many Japanese prints. In Cassatt’s painting, the encircling arms and gentle touch of the mother or nurse convey an overall feeling of protection and tenderness.
[A5-14]


Cassatt, Mary
1844-1926


Young Woman
Sewing in the Garden

(1880-1882)


The Child’s Bath
(1893)

Sargent, John Singer
1856-1925


The Daughters of
Edward Darley Boit

(1882)


El Jaleo
(1882)


Portrait of Madame X
(1884)


Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
(1885-1886)


Lady Agnew of Lochnaw
(c1892-1893)
[A5-15]

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit was painted in Paris in the autumn of 1882, one of a number of portraits of members of the American expatriate community that Sargent made in the French capital in the late 1870s and early 1880s. While the exact circumstances of this commission remain unknown, Sargent was a friend of the girls’ parents, Edward Darley Boit and Mary Louisa Cushing Boit.

El Jaleo: Sargent’s monumental painting, based on drawings he made in southern Spain in 1879, is named for an Andalusian dance and is roughly translated as ‘the ruckus’. This is a painting you can hear as well as see: heels clicking, fingers snapping, hands clapping, the sounds of singing and guitars.

Madame X: Madame Pierre Gautreau (the Louisiana-born Virginie Amélie Avegno) was known in Paris for her artful appearance.
Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and exhibiting her portrait. Working without a commission but with his sitter’s complicity, he emphasized her daring personal style.

Lily Rose: The inspiration for this picture came during a boating expedition Sargent took on the Thames at Pangbourne in September 1885, with the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey, during which he saw Chinese lanterns hanging among trees and lilies. He began the picture while staying at the home of the painter F D Millet at Broadway, Worcestershire, shortly after his move to Britain from Paris.

Lady Agnew’s direct gaze and informal pose, emphasised by the flowing fabric and lilac sash of her dress ensure the portrait’s striking impact. Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway, commissioned this painting of his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1864-1932), in 1892. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1893 and made Sargent’s name.
Bathers: This large picture was Seurat’s first major composition, painted when he had not yet turned 25. He intended it to be a grand statement with which he would make his mark at the official Salon in the spring of 1884, but it was rejected. Several men and boys relax on the banks of the Seine at Asnières and Courbevoie, an industrial suburb north-west of central Paris. Shown in profile, they are as immobile as sculptures and each seems absorbed in his own thoughts, neither engaging with each other nor with us.

La Grande Jatte: is considered Georges Seurat’s greatest work, and one of the most remarkable paintings of the nineteenth century. Seurat laboured extensively over A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, reworking the original as well as completing numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches. With what resembles scientific precision, the artist tackled the issues of colour, light, and form. Inspired by research in optical and colour theory, he juxtaposed tiny dabs of colors that, through optical blending, form a single and, he believed, more brilliantly luminous hue.

Lighthouse
: Based on new theories about optical characteristics of light and colour, Seurat invented a scientifically objective form of impressionismby juxtaposing minute touches of unmixed pigments in hues corresponding to the perceived local colour, the colour of light, the complement of the local colour for shadow, and reflected colour of nearby areas, which in principle will combine visually when viewed from the proper distance. This meticulous technique, less random than impressionism, enabled Seurat to record appearances more accurately while preserving the fresh, natural qualities he admired in impressionist works.

Circus: At the Salon des Indépendants in 1888 Seurat demonstrated the versatility of his technique by showing Circus Sideshow, a night-time outdoor scene in artificial light, and Models, an indoor, daylight scene (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia). This is Seurat’s first nocturnal painting and the first to depict popular entertainment. It represents the parade, or sideshow, of the Circus Corvi at the annual Gingerbread Fair, held in eastern Paris around the place de la Nation, in spring 1887.

The Seurat dots of La Tour Eiffel are a riot of multicoloured confetti, each piece notched in order to complement and modify the dots adjacent, painting in a way that allows the viewer’s eyes to blend the myriad coloured dots into a unified, vividly colourful image. This flickering effect is most pronounced in La Tour Eiffel. The bright sky shimmers with obsessive flecks of white, gold, and blue. And dead centre in the middle of this flickering psychedelia appears a promontory of dazzling dots extending to the top of the painting where it simply dematerializes back into the ether.

Seurat, Georges
1859-1891


Bathers at Asnières
(1884)


A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
(1884-1886)


The Lighthouse at Honfleur
(1886)


Circus Sideshow,
La Parade du Cirque

(1888)


The Eiffel Tower
(1889)
[A5-16]


van Gogh, Vincent
1853-1890


The Potato Eaters
(1885)


Self portrait
with Felt Hat

(1887)


Self portrait
with a Straw Hat

(1887)


Café Terrace at Night
(1888)


Sunflowers
(1888)


Vincent’s chair
(1888)


Bedroom in Arles
(1888)


Self portrait
with bandaged ear

(1889)


Irises
(1889)


Starry Night
(1889)


Thatched Cottages and Houses
(1890)


Wheatfield with Crows
(1890)
[A5-17]

Van Gogh saw the Potato Eaters as a showpiece, for which he deliberately chose a difficult composition to prove he was on his way to becoming a good figure painter. The painting had to depict the harsh reality of country life, so he gave the peasants coarse faces and bony, working hands. He wanted to show in this way that they ‘have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish … that they have thus honestly earned their food’.

Felt Hat: Van Gogh painted this self-portrait when he had been in Paris for almost two years. It is clear from the work that he had studied the technique of the Pointillists and applied it in his own, original way. He placed the short stripes of paint in different directions. Where they follow the outline of his head, they form a kind of halo. The painting is also one of Van Gogh’s boldest colour experiments in Paris. He placed complementary colours alongside one another using long brushstrokes: blue and orange in the background, and red and green in the beard and eyes. The colours intensify one another.

Straw Hat: Van Gogh produced more than twenty self-portraits during his Parisian sojourn (1886–88). Short of funds but determined nevertheless to hone his skills as a figure painter, he became his own best sitter: I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model.

Van Gogh painted Café Terrace at Night in Arles. Visitors to the location can stand at the north eastern corner of the Place du Forum, where the artist set up his easel. Towards the right, Van Gogh indicated a lighted shop and some branches of the trees surrounding the place, but he omitted the remainders of the Roman monuments just beside this little shop.

This is one of five versions of Sunflowers on display in museums and galleries across the world. Van Gogh made the paintings to decorate his house in Arles in readiness for a visit from his friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin. ‘The sunflower is mine’, Van Gogh once declared, and it is clear that the flower had various meanings for him. The different stages in the sunflower’s life cycle shown here, from young bud through to maturity and eventual decay, follow in the vanitas tradition of Dutch seventeenth-century flower paintings, which emphasise the transient nature of human actions.

Chair: This painting of a simple chair set on a bare floor of terracotta tiles is one of Van Gogh’s most iconic images. It was painted in late 1888, soon after fellow artist Paul Gauguin had joined him in Arles in the south of France. The picture was a pair to another painting, Gauguin’s Chair. Both chairs function as surrogate portraits, representing the personalities and distinct artistic outlooks of the two artists. While Van Gogh’s chair is simple and functional, Gauguin’s is an elegant and finely carved armchair.

Bedroom: While he was in Arles, Van Gogh made this painting of his bedroom in the Yellow House. He prepared the room himself with simple furniture and with his own work on the wall. The bright colours were meant to express absolute ‘repose’ or ‘sleep’. Research shows that the strongly contrasting colours we see in the work today are the result of discolouration over the years. The walls and doors, for instance, were originally purple rather than blue. The apparently odd angle of the rear wall, meanwhile, is not a mistake on Van Gogh’s part – the corner was skewed.

Ear: This famous painting, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear by van Gogh expresses his artistic power and personal struggles. Van Gogh painted it a week after leaving hospital. He had received treatment there after cutting off most of his left ear. It is shown here as the bandaged right ear because he painted himself in a mirror.

Irises: In May 1889, after episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalisation, van Gogh chose to enter an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. There, in the last year before his death, he created almost 130 paintings. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum’s garden.

Starry Night: This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big, wrote van Gogh to his brother Theo, describing his inspiration for one of his best-known paintings, The Starry Night. It is based on his direct observations as well as his imagination, memories, and emotions.

Cottages: Thatched Cottages and Houses was painted in May 1890, after he had left the asylum in Saint-Rémy. He painted this as he spent the last few months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise just north of Paris.

Crows: Wheatfield with Crows is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. It is often claimed that this was his very last work. The menacing sky, the crows and the dead-end path are said to refer to the end of his life approaching. But that is just a persistent myth. In fact, he made several other works after this one.
Olga Boznańska is one of the most unique and appreciated Polish artists in the world. Her works represent Polish art in many exhibitions in Poland and abroad.

This is how Boznańska spoke about her works: My paintings look great because they are the truth, they are fair, yours, there is no narrow-mindness, no mannerism and no bluff.

Self-portrait with folded hands, is an Impressionist painting created by Boznańska in 1893. It is on show at the National Museum, Warsaw in Poland.
[A5-18]


Boznańska, Olga
1865-1940


The Florists
(1889)


Self portrait
with folded hands

(1893)

Gauguin, Paul
1848-1903


Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)
(1888)


Still Life with
Head-shaped Vase and Japanese Woodcut
(1889)


The Brooding Woman
(Te Faaturuma)

(1891)


The Seed of Areoi
(1892)


Spirit of the Dead Watching
(1892)


Annah the Javanese
(Aita tamari vahine Judith te parari)

(1893)


Woman Holding Fruit
Eü haere ia oe

(1893)


Where do we come from? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
(1897)


Girl with a Fan
(1902)
[A5-19]

Jacob: is one of Gauguin’s most famous works.
The Breton women, dressed in distinctive regional costume, have just listened to a sermon based on a passage from the Bible. Genesis (32:22-32) relates the story of Jacob, who, after fording the river Jabbok with his family, spent a whole night wrestling with a mysterious angel. In a letter the artist wrote to Van Gogh he said ‘For me the landscape and the fight only exist in the imagination of the people praying after the sermon.’

Still Life with Head-Shaped Vase and Japanese Woodcut is a still life painting by Paul Gauguin. In 1888 and 1889 his enthusiasm for Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts emerged. The woodcut in this artwork depicts an ukiyo-e portrait of an actor. Japanese prints also appear in the background of his Apple and Vase painting, and his portrait of The Schuffenecker Family.

Brooding: Gauguin began painting as a hobby in 1875; in 1881, he left his family and career in banking to pursue art. He travelled to Tahiti in 1891, spending most of the remainder of his life in the South Seas in search of symbolism and subjects untouched by Western culture. This was one of the earliest works completed in Tahiti, depicts a woman and Polynesian interior in highly saturated, unnatural colours. The woman’s pose, resting her chin on one hand, is often associated with the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas, who once owned this painting.

Areoi: Here a young Polynesian woman sits on a blue-and-white cloth.
Gauguin’s style fuses various non-European sources: ancient Egyptian (in the hieratic pose [simplified hieroglypics]), Japanese (in the relative absence of shadow and modelling and in the areas of flat colour), and Javanese (in the position of the arms, influenced by a relief in Indonesia’s Borobudur temple).

Spirit: Aside from colour, the composition is itself unsettling, particularly the relationship between the girl and the old woman behind her whose simplified form and disproportionate scale suggest Tahitian statuary or tiki. If she is a carved statue of wood, what or who does it signify? Is she real or otherworldly? Is this the spirit of the dead watching, from the title? And if she is imagined, then by whom? Is all that surrounds the girl the conjurings of her own haunted imagination?

Annah: When Gauguin returned to France in August 1893, penniless and sick, he settled in a studio in Paris with Annah the Javanese, a mulatto whom he had found wandering in the street and who soothed his nostalgia for faraway lands and races.
He decorated his new abode with chrome yellow walls, hung with his paintings and those remaining works from his collection by other artists, including Cézanne and Van Gogh. The decoration also included numerous Polynesian works, which he had brought back, especially idols carved in unknown red, orange, or black woods.Despite her exotic name, the 13-year-old Annah was in fact Singalese. It is generally assumed that this work represents Annah with her pet monkey Taoa.

Fruit: Gauguin’s Eü haere ia oe (Woman Holding a Fruit) – the enigmatic Maori title translates as “Where are you going?” – was painted in 1893 and offers a verdant vision of an idealized South Seas maiden along with an examination of the colonial judgment under which she falls. It’s housed in Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, and has highlighted their permanent collection since 1948. The painting has a sister work, held in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, completed the previous year. In that more muted composition, the woman represents Iviri, the Maori goddess of death. But Gauguin’s focus on the present work is life and fertility.

Where?: In the winter of 1897, Gauguin experienced a psychological crisis. He had left France for Tahiti six years prior, hoping to discover an unspoiled tropical paradise in the French colony, where he could live affordably and advance his art. Instead, he was frustrated by the modernity he witnessed, quarreled with French colonial authorities, struggled financially, and endured a steep mental and physical decline.
At a time of heightened personal hardship, Gauguin explored fundamental questions concerning the nature and meaning of life in this monumental painting – the largest he ever attempted – an ambitious effort in decorative mural painting, no doubt made with an eye to his artistic legacy.

Fan: The sitter of this painting was Tohotaua, the wife of the witch-doctor at Hiva Oa. The figure is strangely isolated in space, staring impassively forward with the static quality and crisply delineated shadows that suggest a photographic source. Indeed, Gauguin used a photo when working on the portrait, it was found in Gauguin’s effects after his death in Hiva Oa.
Picador: Picasso started displaying an ability to paint from the age of three. A small oil painting, Picador, painted by the boy at the age of eight, is considered one of his first works.

Torso: Picasso studied in various art schools between 1892 and 1897, including academies in Barcelona and Madrid. Working from live models as well as plaster casts of Greek and Roman sculpture, the young artist displayed a precocious command of academic draftsmanship that would be evident throughout his career, later serving as the vehicle for some of his most original work. This drawing by Picasso was based upon a drawing of a plaster cast by Charles Bargue.

Communion:  While attending La Lonja School of Art, Picasso produced this his first large-scale oil painting. The communicant was his sister, Lola, the adult male was his father. It conforms to many of the expectations of academic painting at the end of the nineteenth century, emphasizing a dramatic moment in the youth of a Catholic girl as she kneels before the altar, about to take her first communion and thus make the symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood, Picasso has highlighted this sense of passage by linking the bright white of the young girl’s communion dress to the white of the altar cloth and the candlelight that illuminates the whole scene.

Yo: In connection with, or soon after, his first solo exhibition at the principal meeting place of the Barcelona avant-garde, the bohemian tavern Els Quatre Gats, Picasso made a set of small caricatures of the prominent members of the club. This self-portrait announces the eighteen-year-old as a mature artist working in a sophisticated Art Nouveau style.

Femme aux Bras Croisés, depicts a woman with her arms folded staring into nothingness. She is the focal point of the image and is rather simply dressed. Her negative body language of folded arms immediately closes her off from analysis rather cleverly.In effect, the viewer’s eye rests on the composition of the image, which is dominated by shades of blue connoting a sense of sadness, mystery and evokes intrigue. Through using a dominating colour on canvas with little emphasis on any other, Picasso is able to create many emotions simply by the tone of his image. This coupled with the expression of the woman and her body language, all connote a sense of mystery and intrigue.

Blue Nude is one of Pablo Picasso’s early-years masterpieces. It was painted in 1902, after one of his close friends tragically died, he mourned over it for a long time and was in a depressive mode. It is one of Picasso’s paintings that led to his blue period and has without doubt proved Picasso’s talent on highlighting the deepest emotions while using only one colour to effectively express it.

Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto is a study of a young Spanish artist sitting in a bar, shrouded in tobacco smoke from a pipe, with a glass of absinthe in front of him. The young man, Fernández de Soto, was Picasso’s friend and was usually referred to as an ‘amusing wastrel’, as he enjoyed drinking and partying. Picasso met Fernández de Soto in 1899 and they twice shared studios in Barcelona.

La Vie: For all the countless works of art created over hundreds of years, only a select few have the power to thoroughly mesmerise, confound, and challenge the observer. Even fewer have the ability to temporarily divorce everyone from their firmly-held artistic preferences and transcend personal biases. They stand on their own merits, as independent artistic entities. His Blue Period masterpiece La Vie is one such rarity. Picasso never intended for the world to have clear understanding of the painting.

Acrobat and Young Harlequin was produced toward the end of Picasso’s Blue Period and the outset of his Rose Period. The work displays characteristics of both, with its melancholic subject and its blue and rose palette. Picasso created the painting while at Le Bateau-Lavoir, his home and studio in Montmartre, Paris.

Chemise: This is one of the first paintings Picasso made after moving from Barcelona to Paris in 1904. The painting relates stylistically to works of his so-called ‘rose period’.
Even though this painting is predominantly blue, the warm pinkish-brown undertones in the background represent a transition towards a more colourful palette and lighter subject matter. The young woman portrayed here is likely Madeleine, Picasso’s regular model at the time. Her depiction has similarities to his paintings of harlequins and travelling entertainers which featured heavily in Picasso’s rose period.

Garçon à la pipe was painted in 1905 when Picasso was 24 years old, during his Rose Period, soon after he settled in the Montmartre section of Paris, France. The oil on canvas painting depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand and wearing a garland or wreath of flowers.

Famille d’acrobates avec singe is a 1905 painting by Picasso. It depicts a family of travelling circus performers during an intimate moment. The work was produced on cardboard using mixed media: gouache, watercolour, pastel and Indian ink. The work was painted at a key phase in Picasso’s life, as he made the transition from an impoverished bohemian at the start of 1905 to a successful artist by the end of 1906.

Picasso’s Two Nudes precipitated a radical shift in his artistic practices. Though executed in the warm, pinkish tones of his rose period, the figures are now characterised by their sheer volume and weight, a striking contrast to the frail, emaciated and ethereal bodies of his earlier works. Where the previous figures seemed to float, these more sculptural figures stand foursquare. Picasso has added a sense of three-dimensionality. Yet the viewer also gains a sense of seeing them simultaneously from several viewpoints. For example, the torso of the right-hand figure is notably twisted and extended width-wise, so that we see both back and side views. The single breast, in particular – oddly positioned in the center of the torso – undermines any sense of a single point of view.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon marks a radical break from traditional composition and perspective in painting. It depicts five naked women composed of flat, splintered planes whose faces were inspired by Iberian sculpture and African masks. The compressed space they inhabit appears to project forward in jagged shards, while a slice of melon in the still life at the bottom of the composition teeters on an upturned tabletop.

Ambroise Vollard was one of the great art dealers of the 20th century. He championed Paul Cézanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin and Matisse. It depicts a broken architecture of shards of flesh- or brick-coloured painting; planes that have been started and stopped, as if in a slow-motion exaggerated cartoon of the movement a painter makes between looking up, recording on canvas the detail he sees, looking back.

Mandolin: Picasso was now in the throes of Analytical Cubism, a period during which he invested surface ornament with intrinsic value. In this picture, the characteristic fragmentation of form is carried to almost unrecognizable lengths. Only the mandolin is comparatively easy to identify in the lower reaches of the composition.’ Both the outlines of the figure and its internal drawing have become interpenetrative geometrical elements.

Race: The rounded monumental figures of Picasso’s neo-Classical period of the early 1920s. The vivid blues and the flowing hair here are anchored in the elongated brown limbs, contorted yet supple. There’s a sense of fullness that makes you feel that this is how life must be lived – and war must be abandoned. It is a known fact that the women in Picasso’s paintings are the women who inhabited his life at various times. His works are littered with references to artist model Amelie Lang, Eva Gouel, ballerina Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, surrealist photographer Dora Maar, art student Françoise Gilot, Genevieve Laporte and Jacqueline Roque. They gave of themselves to his art and reveals their personalities and the kind of relationship he had with each.

Armchair: this work belongs to the remarkable sequence of portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Thérèse Walter at his country property at Boisgeloup. Marie-Thérèse is presented here – as in most of her portraits – as a series of sensuous curves. Even the scrolling arms of the chair have been heightened and exaggerated to echo the rounded forms of her body. The face is a double or metamorphic image: the right side can also be seen as the profile of a lover, kissing her on the lips.

Le Rêve (The Dream) by Picasso, then 50 years old, portraying his 24-year-old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is said to have been painted in one afternoon. It belongs to Picasso’s period of distorted depictions, with its oversimplified outlines and contrasted colours resembling early Fauvism.

Sleeping: In May or June 1907, Picasso experienced a “revelation” while viewing African art at the ethnographic museum at the Palais du Trocadéro. Picasso’s discovery of African art influenced the style of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (completed in July of that year), especially in the treatment of the two figures on the right side of the composition. Picasso continued to develop a style derived from African, Egyptian, and Iberian art during the years prior to the start of the analytic cubism phase of his painting in 1910.

Guernica:  Picasso painted this at his home in Paris in response to the 26 April 1937, bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain which was bombed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.

Weeping Woman is based on an image of a woman holding her dead child.
Picasso painted both works during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in response to the bombing of Guernica.

Dora Maar: This was painted in 1941 and depicts Dora Maar, (real name Henriette Theodora Markovitch) the artist’s lover, seated on a chair with a small cat perched on her shoulders.

Don Quixote is a 1955 sketch by Picasso of the Spanish literary hero and his sidekick, Sancho Panza. It was featured on an August issue of the French weekly journal Les Lettres Francaises in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the first part of Cervantes’s Don Quixote.

Necklace: In his eighties, he revised the traditional ideal of beauty with particular violence, subjecting the body to a repeated assault in paint. Here, a reclining female figure is presented as a raw, sexualised arrangement of orifices, breasts and cumbersome limbs.

Picasso, Pablo
1881-1973
(a 1904 photo)


Il Picador
(1890)


Plaster Male Torso
(1893)


The First Communion
(1896)


Yo Picasso – self portrait
(1901)


Femme aux Bras Croisés
(1902)


Blue Nude
(1902)


Angel Fernández de Soto
(1903)


La Vie
(1903)


Acrobat and Young Harlequin
(1905)


Girl in a Chemise
(Jeune femme en chemise)

(1905)


Boy with a Pipe
(Garçon à la Pipe)

(1905)


Family of Acrobats with Monkey
(1905)


Two Nudes
(1906)


Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
(1907)


Portrait of Ambroise Vollard
(1909-1910)


Girl with a Mandolin
(1910)


Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race)
(1922)


Nude Woman in a Red Armchair
(1932)


The Dream
(Le Rêve)

(1932)


Head of a Sleeping Woman
(1934)


Guernica
(1937)


Weeping Woman
(1937)


Dora Maar au Chat
(1941)


Don Quixote
(1955)


Nude Woman With Necklace
(1968)
[A5-20]

Twachtman, John Henry
1853-1902


Winter Harmony
(1890-1900)


Barnyard
(c1890-1900)


Sailing in the Mist
(c1895)
[A5-21]

Harmony: Of all the American artists who absorbed Impressionism, Twachtman was probably the most highly regarded both by the critics and by his fellow artists. His most idiosyncratic important complex of works concerned the winter landscapes, the best known of which is the Winter Harmony. Painted in whites, greys and blues only, with stray highlighting, paintings such as this most cogently conveyed the symbolic implications of Twachtman’s tendency toward abstraction.

Barnyard: Art historians consider Twachtman’s style of American Impressionism to be among the more personal and experimental of his generation. He was a member of ‘The Ten’, a loosely allied group of American artists dissatisfied with professional art organisations, who banded together in 1898 to exhibit their works as a stylistically unified group.

Sailing: One of the most poetic and abstract of his Impressionist paintings, Sailing in the Mist epitomises his ability to fuse colour and light. This seascape, which is nearly square, lacks a traditional horizon line. It is only with subtle shifts in brushwork and white highlights that Twatchman hints at recessional space.
Madonna, an erotic nude floating inside a blood-red border full of wiggling spermatozoa and, at the lower left, a ghoulish fetus—is one of the most provocative images in Munch’s intensely psychological oeuvre. While Munch’s title makes blasphemous reference to the Virgin Mary, his dreamlike figure, at once powerful and submissive, conflates that traditional Christian subject with other, more threatening female archetypes of the sort he often mined to develop his themes of longing, jealousy, anxiety, and death.

The Scream is the popular name given to a composition created by Munch. The original German title given by Munch to his work was Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature), and the Norwegian title is Skrik (Shriek). The agonised face in the painting has become one of the most iconic images of art, seen as symbolising the anxiety of the human condition. Munch recalled that he had been out for a walk at sunset when suddenly the setting sun’s light turned the clouds ‘a blood red’. He sensed an ‘infinite scream passing through nature’.

Puberty followed his general impressionistic style. Towards the latter end of the 1880’s and into the middle of the 1890’s, Edvard created a series of pieces referred to as his Puberty period. He was in his mid-twenties during this period. This painting is considered to be the spark that led to the increase in the expression of his personal feelings in his artwork.

Munch, Edvard
1863-1944
(self portrait)


The Madonna
(1892-1895)


The Scream
(1893)


Puberty
(1895)
[A5-22]


Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de
1864-1901


Divan Japonais
(1892-1893)


At the Moulin Rouge
(1892-1895)


Portrait of Yvette Guilbert
(1894)
[A5-23]

Divan Japonais was one of the many café-concerts in late nineteenth-century Paris frequented by Toulouse-Lautrec. His poster advertising the nightspot features two of his favorite Montmartre stars, Yvette Guilbert and Jane Avril. Here, Avril is a spectator, not a performer, as she sits in the foreground with Édouard Dujardin, a dandyish writer and nightclub habitué. In the upper left corner, on stage, is the headless body of Guilbert, recognizable by her trademark long black gloves and gaunt physique.

Toulouse-Lautrec had been associated with the Moulin Rouge since its opening in 1889: the owner of the legendary nightclub bought the artist’s Equestrienne as a decoration for the foyer. Toulouse-Lautrec populated At the Moulin Rouge with portraits of the legendary nightclub’s regulars, including himself – the diminutive figure in the centre background- accompanied by his cousin, physician Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. Dancer La Goulue arranges her hair behind the table where Jane Avril, another famous performer, socialises. Singer May Milton peers from the right edge of the painting, her face harshly lit and acid green.

Yvette: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec always harboured a keen fascination with the world of the theatres and cafés-concerts of Paris, which he depicted in numerous works, exhibiting his impressive powers of observation. The famous singer Yvette Guilbert, a genuine star of the Divan Japonais, Ambassadeurs and Moulin Rouge cabarets in fin-de-siècle Paris, had met Toulouse Lautrec at the beginning of 1893 through the writer Maurice Donnay and had become one of the painter’s favourite vedettes. In this portrait, which was used to illustrate Gustave Geffroy’s article on café-concerts in Le Figaro Illustré in 1893, Yvette is depicted on the edge of the stage, in a stiff pose — haughty even — about to perform the de rigueur curtsey between rounds of applause.
This Hopi-Tewa (Arizona) jar was painted by a tribe artist called Nampeyo. It features imagery of katsinam (spirit beings) from their deep mythology about the unpredictable desert landscape.
[A5-24]


Nampeyo
1859-1942


Katsinam jar
(c1900)

Klimt, Gustav
1862-1918


Pallas Athene
(1898)


Portrait of
Adele Bloch-Bauer I
(1903-1907)


The Kiss
(1907-1908)


Portrait of
Adele Bloch-Bauer II
(1912)


Avenue Schlloss
Kammer Park
(1912)
[A5-25]

Athene: Klimt, along with many of his fellow painters and graphic artists, cultivated a keen understanding of the symbolic nature of mythical and allegorical figures and narratives from Greece and Rome and other ancient civilizations. With his soft colors and uncertain boundaries between elements, Klimt begins the dissolution of the figural to abstraction that would come to full force in the years after he left the Secession.
This painting exudes thus a sensory conception of the imperial, powerful presence of the Greco-Roman goddess of wisdom, Athena, and the inability of humans to fully grasp that, rather than a crisp, detailed visual summation of her persona.

Adele I: The influence of Egyptian art on Klimt is undoubtedly at work in this portrait of the wife of the industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. He twice commissioned Klimt to paint a portrait of Adele. The portrait is notable for the mix of naturalism, in the painting of the face and hands, and the ornamental decoration used for the dress, chair and background.
Since Adele, the subject of both of these works, was one of Klimt’s mistresses, it is difficult not to look for a psychological reason for the disjointing of the head and body.

The Kiss, probably the most popular work by Klimt, was first exhibited in 1908 at the Kunstschau art exhibition on the site of today’s Konzerthaus. It is considered one of the icons of Viennese Jugendstil and indeed of European modern art. It undoubtedly represents the culmination of the phase known as the ‘Golden Epoch’. In this decade, the artist created a puzzling, ornamental encoded programme that revolved around the mystery of existence, love and fulfilment through art.

Adele II: During World War II, both portraits were among the artworks stolen by the Nazis from the descendants of Bloch-Bauer. After the war, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere until 2006, when it was returned to Adele Bloch-Bauer’s niece.

Avenue: While Klimt’s first landscapes date from the early 1880s, it was not until the late 1890s that he turned consistently to landscape subjects, during summer vacations spent in the picturesque Salzkammergut, outside the city of Salzburg.
Landscape painting enabled him to experiment, free from the pressure of commissioned work and the distractions of the metropolis.

The Blue Rider, or Der Blaue Reiter, as the title was called in German, was one of Kandisky’s last works in impressionism, but contains grains of abstractionism. Kandinsky’s life took some interesting turns. He first went to Germany to study art, but in 1914 (WWI) he returned to Moscow, he discovenred his ideas were not in tune with the official Communist ideas for art, and he decided to return to Germany. This only lasted till the Nazi regime rose up, after which Kandinsky was forced to move to France, where he spent the rest of his life.

Interior: Kandinsky was the influential Russian painter and art theorist, credited with painting the first purely abstract works. He began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30. In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich, studying first at Anton Ažbe private school and then at the Academy of Fine Arts.

Composition IV: is said to be is a semi-abstract representation of Cossacks in Moscow during the revolutionary period 1905-1906. Two Cossacks are seen with sabers in the upper left corner of the painting. On the right, are several Cossacks carrying lances and one with a saber against a blue hill with a house on it. A rainbow in the middle left of the picture signifies a bridge.

Kandinsky’s Composition VII is justly considered to be the apex of his artwork before the First Word War. More than 30 sketches made in watercolors and oil paints precede this painting, and they can serve as ‘documentary’ proof of this work creation. Surprisingly that after the painter had finished his long preliminary work, the composition itself was created in just four days.

Squares with Concentric Circles perhaps, Kandinsky’s most recognisable work, is not actually a full-fledged picture. This drawing is a small study on how different colour combinations are perceived that the painter used in his creative process as a support material. For Kandinsky, colour meant more than just a visual component of a picture. Colour is its soul. In his books, he described his own perspective on how colours interacted with each other and with the spectator in detail and very poetically. Moreover, Kandinsky was a synaesthete, i.e. he could ‘hear colours’ and ‘see sounds.’

On White II, is a painting by Kandinsky, and was created in 1923. Kandinsky used an array of geometric shapes and lines in a colourful and riotous contemporary display, prompting many artists to imitate his style. As the title suggests, white is predominant in this painting, including the background. Kandinsky used white to represent life, peace and silence. The majority of the geometric shapes are presented in a variety of colours, reflecting the artist’s love for the free expression of inner emotions.

Yellow-Red-Blue was created by Kandinsky using primary colours and features squares, circles and triangles and there are abstract shapes mixed in with these.
There are also straight and curved black lines that go through the colours and shapes. This is to help provoke deep thought in the person viewing the piece.
Yellow-Red-Blue can actually be divided in half with how different each of the sides are. The left side has rectangles, squares and straight lines in bright colours while the right side features darker colours in various abstract shapes.

Kandinsky, Wassily
1866-1944


The Blue Rider
(1903)


Interior, My Dining Room
(1909)


Composition IV
(1911)


Composition VII
(1913)


Squares with Concentric Circles
(1913)


On White II
(1923)


Yellow-Red-Blue
(1925)
[A5-26]


Matisse, Henri
(1869-1954)


Luxury, Calm and Desire
Luxe, Calme et Volupté

(1904)


In a Tropical Forest Combat of a Tiger and a Buffalo
(1908-1909)


La Danse
(1910)


La Danse II
(1910)


Nasturtiums with the painting Danse I
(1912)


The Piano Lesson
(1916)


Blue Nude II
(1952)
[A5-27]

Luxe, Calme et Volupté is a pivotal work in the history of art, considered as the starting point of Fauvism.
This painting is a dynamic and vibrant work created early on in his career as a painter. It displays an evolution of the Neo-Impressionist style mixed with a new conceptual meaning based in fantasy and leisure that had not been seen in works before.

Tiger: Matisse produced a number of jungle-themed paintings. This one variously reported as a Buffalo or a Bull is now at the State Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia.

Danse 1: In 1909 Matisse received an important commission. An extremely wealthy Russian industrialist named Sergei Shchukin asked Matisse for three large scale canvases to decorate the spiral staircase of his mansion, the Trubetskoy Palace, in Moscow. The large and well loved painting, Dance I: at MoMA is somewhat disingenously titled. Although it is full scale and in oil, Matisse did not consider it more than a preparatory sketch. Yet a comparison between the initial and final versions is instructive. Matisse borrowed the motif from the back of the 1905-06 painting Bonheur de Vivre, although he has removed one dancer.

Dance II: The pair of panels known as The Dance and Music are amongst Matisse’s most important – and most famous – works of the period 1908 to 1913. They were commissioned in 1910 by one of the leading Russian collectors of French late 19th and early 20th-century art, Sergey Shchukin.
Until the Revolution of 1917, they hung on the staircase of his Moscow mansion. Both compositions belong to a group of works united by the theme of “the golden age” of humanity, and therefore the figures are not real people but imagined image-symbols. The sources of Matisse’s The Dance lie in folk dances, which even today preserve something of the ritual nature – albeit not always comprehended today – of pagan times.

Nasturtiums: Here Matisse depicts the left half of his large canvas, Dance I (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York). The carefully arranged furniture in the foreground flattens the pictorial space. The back leg of the tripod sculpture stand appears to rest in the grass of the painting behind it. Similarly, the chair in the left corner is placed so that the top rung of its back extends a horizontal purple stripe across the canvas. In a simpler version of this composition (Pushkin Museum, Moscow), this stripe denotes the area of wall visible between Dance I and the studio floor.

Piano: This large flat gray painting can be a bit confusing at first. Let’s begin with the boy in the lower right. He is the artist’s son, Pierre Matisse, who grows up to become a famous art dealer in New York in the 1940s. It’s worth remembering that 1916 was during world war one, the most devastating conflict Europe had yet known. When Henri painted this image, Pierre was actually mobilized. The painter did not know if his son would return. In a way then, this is a nostalgic image, Matisse has painted his son much younger then he actually was, perhaps recalling happier times.

The Blue Nudes are among the most celebrated and iconic works and a striking example of what Matisse himself called cutting directly into colour.
Large Nude: Braque had moved away from his early Fauvist style of painting which incorporated the use of bright, expressive colour and was beginning to use more geometric shapes like Cézanne. Braque was inspired to create this large female nude after seeing Picasso’s painting of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at Picasso’s studio. Braque’s Large Nude was quite a departure from the usual artistic styles and depiction of women. Without using clear lines, Braque had formed his female nude from geometric shapes and used colour to create the illusion of volume, lines, mass and weight.

Piano: By the end of 2008, Braque and Pablo Picasso, who first met in 1907, began to compare the results of their techniques and it became obvious to both artists that they had simultaneously and independently invented a revolutionary style of painting, later dubbed Cubism by Guillaume Apollinaire.During the next few years the new style blossomed with stunning rapidity from its initial formative stage to high Analytic Cubism. The hallmarks of this advanced phase, so-called for the “breaking down” or “analysis” of form and space.

Violin: Stare at the various shades of colour and we find fragments of the violin at the bottom left side of the painting against the backdrop of what appears to be music scores, all aligned vertically along the length of the painting. Stare hard at the violin and we will see the fragmented strings and the carved S and inverted S shapes that are typical of violins. Stare harder and the pieces seem to float before our eyes. The muted colours allow the play of light and shadows so that as we move from side to side or stare hard at the painting, the various pieces seem to move or merge with other pieces.

Man with a guitar: Braque is better known for his alliance with Fauvism in 1905, and his work 1908-1912 with Picasso in developing Cubism. This however was clearly abstract. but became known as ‘Analytic Cubism’, said to be a challenge to orthodoxy of illusionistic space in painting.

Braque, Georges
1882 – 1963


Large Nude
(1907-1908)


Piano and Mandola
(Piano et mandore)

(1909-1910)


Violin and Palette
(Violon et Palette)

(1909-1910)


Man with a Guitar
(1911-1912)
[A5-28]


Bell, Vanessa
1879-1961


Studland Beach
(1912)


Still life on a corner of a Mantelpiece
(1914)


Abstract Painting
(c1914)


The Tub
(1917)


Arum Lillies
(1919)
[A5-29]

Studland Beach depicts a dramatically simplified landscape with two groups of people. The crouching figures, beach houses and seascape are depicted as flattened shapes and broad bands of colour. The painting emphasizes what Bell’s husband Clive called significant form. The figures in the left foreground of the canvas seem to be watching those in the upper right corner, bringing attention to the act of perception incorporated in painting.

Mantelpiece: Vanessa Bell was a central figure of the Bloomsbury group, a group of artists, writers and intellectuals, formed in 1905. This mantelpiece was in Vanessa Bell’s house at 46 Gordon Square in London, where the group would often meet. The objects on it include handmade paper flowers from the Omega Workshops, a design company founded by Roger Fry, a member of the group. Bell’s use of an unconventional low viewpoint, fractured, abstracted forms and bright colours show her exploring techniques associated with Fauvism and Cubism.

Abstract: Made in London, this work is one of only four fully non-representational paintings within Bell’s oeuvre. They show the artist experimenting with abstraction and investigating through her practice theories of significant form propounded by her husband, the art critic Clive Bell, and her close friend and former partner, the painter and critic Roger Fry.

The Tub painted in 1917, has a simplified abstract background, this is Bell returning to a more figurative style. A letter to Roger Fry of 1918, provides a glimpse into her approach:
I’ve been working at my big bather picture and am rather excited about that. I’ve taken out the woman’s chemise and in consequence she is quite nude and much more decent.

Lillies: Bell’s love of flowers is apparent throughout her career and they appear in much of her work, whether real, or paper flowers made for the Omega workshop.
This sobre arrangement of a few flowers in a distinctive and prominent vase set against a patterned background is typical of her still-life painting in the immediate post-war period.
The vase is placed on the kind of painted rush-seated chair she would have used at Charleston farmhouse in Sussex, where she and Duncan Grant went to live in 1916.
Piazza d’Italie: displays all the elements favoured by the artist’s metaphysical poetics, chiefly a square with architectural structures and porticoes. The statue portraying the sleeping Ariadne, the presence of two men conversing in a corner, a smokestack and a train. Over the years, De Chirico would employ and return to these themes, sometimes after long spells of time, shaping an outright method and especially allowing the infinite combinations it could achieve to surprise him.

L’Incertitude du poèteDe Chirico’s quiet square evokes the classical arcades and statuary of antiquity, the sculpture is a torso of Aphrodite. In contrast, the passing train and perishable bananas suggest a sense of the contemporary and immediate. The distorted perspective and shadows undermine the conventions of pictorial space and time.
De Chirico’s early works were enthusiastically embraced by Surrealism, who saw in them a dream-like parallel existence.

The Song of Love (Le chant d’amour), with its mysterious and incongruous combination of a classical head, a rubber glove and a ball, was typical of those metaphysical works by de Chirico that so appealed to the Surrealism movement. When, for example, the Belgian artist Rene Magritte first saw a reproduction of it in the early 1920s, he could not stop tears coming to his eyes: to see thought for the first time, he later said, was one of the most emotional moments in his life.

Mystery: The painting represents an encounter between two figures: a small girl running with a hoop and a statue that is present in the painting only through its shadow. The girl is moving towards the source of bright light coming from behind the building on the right and illuminating intensively the arcades on the left. The bright yellow corridor stretched up to the horizon separates two zones: light and darkness. If you look closely at the two sharply contrasted buildings you will notice that lighting is not their only distinction. De Chirico intentionally used two contradictory vanishing points.

de Chirico, Giorgio
1888 – 1978


Place d’Italie
(1912-1913)


The Uncertainty of the Poet
(1913)


Song of Love
(1914)


Mystery and Melancholy of a Street
(1914)
[A5-30]


Duchamp, Marcel
1887 – 1968


Nude Descending a Staircase (No2)
(1912)


Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even
(1915-1923)
[A5-31]

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) peels away the traditional beauty of the nude in art, its carnality, even its identifiable sex. Instead, the painting aims to expand our perception of the human body in motion, a topic of fascination for Duchamp around this time. Though the work exemplifies his extremely original engagement with Cubism, it also precipitated his break with the Cubists. When Duchamp presented it for exhibition in Paris in 1912, fellow Cubists on the hanging committee tried to exclude it. They may have objected to the idea of painting dynamic movement, or the unfamiliar subject of a nude on a flight of stairs, or the title written in block letters at the lower margin.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even is often called the Large Glass because that is precisely what it is: two pieces of glass, stacked vertically and framed like a double-hung window to reach over nine feet tall. Though the Large Glass is essentially a flat, two-dimensional object, it is emphatically not a painting, as it is mostly transparent—you can walk around it and view it from both sides—and Duchamp avoided using traditional materials like canvas and oil paint. Instead, he concocted the imagery on the glass surface out of wire, foil, glue, and varnish. He also allowed dust to collect on the glass as it laid flat in his studio, which he affixed with adhesive.
Village: At the centre of this painting, the faces of a goat and a man meet, their pupils connected by a faint and uneven white line. The contours of their noses, cheeks, and chins form the basis of a set of interlocking diagonals, concentric circles, planes of colour, and fragmented forms. This central pair is joined by floating figures and vignettes that are interspersed, dreamlike, throughout the composition: at left, a woman milks a cow; above, a floating face appears in a church entrance; a row of houses features two that are upside down. Chagall painted I and the Village one year after moving from Russia to Paris, where he joined a vibrant community of international artists known as La Ruche (The Beehive).

Fiddler: this painting was produced in Paris, but depicts a fiddler against the background of a town resembling Chagall’s childhood shtetl, Vitebsk. It recalls aspects of Chagall’s life in Russia, integrating both Christian and Jewish elements and practices. The fiddler hints at Chagall’s upbringing among the Hasidim who used music and dance to bring a community together and inspire religious devotion.

War: In 1941, as the Nazis became a greater threat, Chagall moved to New York City with his family, driving him further away from the village existence he knew and loved. Religious imagery, mainly of the crucifixion, reappeared constantly throughout Chagall’s paintings, perhaps communicating his suffering.
Bridging the space between poetry, politics and spirituality, Chagall creates rich visual tapestries, alive with tales of love, loss, faith and war.


Chagall, Marc
1887 – 1985


I and the Village
(1911)


The Fiddler
(1912-1913)


The War
(1943)
[A5-32]


Malevich, Kazimir
1878-1935


The Black Square
(1913)


Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying
(1915)


White on White
(1918)


Black Circle
(1923-1924)


Dynamic Suprematism
(1925-1926)
[A5-33]

Kasimir Malevich’s painting, Black Square was first displayed in 1915. In 1916 in a characteristically bold and provocative mood, he declared the square to be the face of the new art … the first step of pure creation. Malevich gave his new art a name, ‘suprematism’, announcing a few years later that To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling.

Airplane: Malevich unveiled a radically new mode of abstract painting that abandoned all reference to the outside world in favour of coloured geometric shapes floating against white backgrounds.
His style claimed supremacy over the forms of nature. He sought to develop a form of expression that moved away from the world of objective natural forms in order to access the supremacy of pure feeling and spirituality. For Malevich, the white backgrounds against which they were set mapped the boundless space of the ideal.

White: A white square floating weightlessly in a white field, Suprematist Composition: White on White was one of the most radical paintings of its day: a geometric abstraction without reference to external reality. Yet the picture is not impersonal: we see the artist’s hand in the texture of the paint and in the subtle variations of the whites. The square is not exactly symmetrical, and its lines, imprecisely ruled, have a breathing quality, generating a feeling not of borders defining a shape but of a space without limits.

Circle: The black circle is located in the upper right hand corner of the canvas. When a person first sees the painting, it appears to be a simple black circle on a white background, but upon closer inspection, a person is able to see that the circle seems to draw you in, causing several significant spiritual feelings to surface.

Dynamic: Pictured against an off-white background, the canvas features at its centre a large pale blue triangle that is tilted at a slight angle towards the left of the composition. Painted on top of the central triangle and congregated around its three points is a sequence of geometric forms in a range of colours that are positioned at varying angles.
Particularly prominent are a small triangle in deep blue towards the top of the work, a bright yellow rectangle to the right of centre and a larger cream rectangle just below it.
Juan Gris: Modigliani, arguably the leading figure in the expressionist movement in Paris, is world famous for his portrait art – largely inspired by African sculpture – and for his female nudes, which caused a huge scandal at the time. The portrait of Juan Gris was painted during the First World War. German artists had left Paris and all French artists of military age had been conscripted. Montparnasse, the principal artists’ quarter of Paris, was populated only by a handful of artists from non-belligerent countries.

Seated Nude: The painting is one of a famous series of nudes that Modigliani painted between 1916-1918, which include many of his most famous works.
Its model was Beatrice Hastings, then the artist’s lover.

Guillaume: Modigliani and the influential Parisian art dealer Paul Guillaume became acquainted in 1914 through Max Jacob. 1914 proved to be an important year for the artist: he met Beatrice Hastings, an English poet with whom he had a stormy love affair that corresponded to a highly creative phase in Modigliani’s career. And, Paul Guillaume installed the painter in a Montmartre studio.

Bride and Groom: This painting displays some of Modigliani’s most prominent characteristics. The elongated faces and necks of the subjects, their minuscule mouths, pointed noses and empty eyes are a common style in Modigliani’s portraits, undoubtedly inspired by his fascination with African masks and sculpture. The woman in the painting also represents Modigliani’s aesthetic ideal: dark hair and pale skin.

Chaim Soutine: The 11th child of a Russian Jewish tailor, Chaim Soutine was rescued from poverty and abuse by a rabbi who recognized his talent and sent him to art school—first in Minsk, then in Vilna. Soutine arrived in Paris at the age of 17 in 1911–1912 and met Modigliani in Montparnasse in about 1914. They developed a close friendship, and Modigliani painted Soutine’s portrait several times.

Large Seated Nude: In 1916 Modigliani was commissioned by his friend and art dealer Leopold Zborowski to paint a series of nudes. This features a woman sensually gazing at the viewer, her nude body partially covered by a piece of white fabric. The use of warm reds and pinks gives the work a sumptuous feel.

Reclining Nude: Unlike depictions of Venus from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, in which female nudity is couched in mythology or allegory, Modigliani provocatively presents his Reclining Nude without any such context, highlighting the painting’s eroticism.

Lipchitzs: Jacque commissioned Modigliani to paint this portrait on the occasion of his marriage to the Russian poet Berthe Kitrosser, as a way of helping his troubled friend financially. According to Lipchitz, took two days to paint. Modigliani made about twenty drawings on the first day; the next day, he declared the picture finished. At the modest price of what Lipchitz remembered as ‘ten francs per sitting and a little alcohol’.

Jeanne Hébuterne was a young aspiring artist when she met Modigliani in March 1917. They fell in love and moved to the Côte d’Azur, where Jeanne gave birth to their daughter. After returning to Paris in May 1919, Modigliani’s health deteriorated, the result of alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, and childhood afflictions. The artist died on January 24, 1920.

Modigliani, Amedeo Clement
1884 – 1920


Portrait of Juan Gris
(1915)


Seated Nude
(1916)


Paul Guillaume
(1916)


Bride and Groom
(1916)


Portrait of Chaim Soutine
(1917)


Large Seated Nude
(1917)


Reclining Nude
(1917)


Portrait of Jacque
and Bertha Lipchitz

(1917)


Portrait of

Jeanne Hebuterne
(1918)
[A5-34]


Klee, Paul
1879 – 1940


Flower Myth
(1918)


Red Balloon
(1922)


The Goldfish
(1925)


Ad Marginem – to the brim
(1930)


Ad Parnassum
(1932)
[A5-35]

Flower: In front of a deep, apparently spatial red background, a floating plant grows in the middle of the picture, accompanied by simple symbols of the sun, moon and stars. A bird approaches the opening flower from above. Klee was not representing objects. Instead he used typical symbols for plants and trees, for heavenly bodies and Earth and other things. This shows that he withdrew from ‘realistic’ representation.

Balloon: Klee’s persistent shifts in style, technique, and subject matter indicate a deliberate and highly playful evasion of aesthetic categorisation. Nevertheless, it is virtually impossible to confuse a work by Klee with one by any other artist, even though many have emulated his idiosyncratic, enigmatic art.

The Goldfish is one of a number of paintings produced by Klee in 1925 and which feature fish as a subject. Klee was a highly accomplished colourist and his use of rich deep tones of blue, gold and red in this painting clearly shows his abilities.

Ad Marginem: Known for his unique pictorial language and innovative teachings at the Bauhaus, Klee had far-reaching influence on 20th-century modernism. In an early attempt to master colour, he associated himself with the group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), working closely with friend and future Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky. While engaged with artistic theory, Klee also admired children’s art, wanting his own style to be similarly unaffected. And his dream-like pictures made him popular with the Surrealists, though he never officially became one.

Ad Parnassum is one of Klee’s best known works of art, and in the eyes of many critics is his best demonstration of the pointillist style he developed in the later stages of his career. This is one of his largest paintings, and is considered a masterpiece by many due to its incredibly complex nature and design, featuring tiny individually stamped dots in patterns which microscopically form semi-recognisable shapes and objects.
La casa de la palmera (House with Palm Tree), in which Miró’s treatment of the landscape is so painstakingly realistic and descriptive. This type of work, which the artist would continue to develop up until 1922, has a somewhat oneiric, naïve feel, mainly due to the absence of evidence of plein air painting and to the above-mentioned descriptive detail in the landscape features.

The Farm: Miró moved from Barcelona to Paris in 1920, determined to participate in the artistic vanguard of the French capital. Nevertheless, he remained deeply attached to his native Catalonia, and returned each summer to his family’s farm in the village of Montroig.
In 1921, he determined to make a painting of this farm, a painting that he came to regard as one of the key works in his career.

Harlequin‘s Carnival is a climactic work from a series of paintings Joan Miró infused with the colour scheme and landscape of his native Catalonia, Spain. The curious figure depicted in the central-left portion of the canvas with a half-red, half-blue mask and diamond pattern on his tunic references Italy’s commedia dell’arte. In this popular form of theatre, the Harlequin is a foolish stock character who is perpetually unsuccessful in love. Artists often used the Harlequin as a stand-in for themselves. Miró came to know of this tradition through the work of Pablo Picasso.



Woman: Miró assigned this pastel the title Woman, aiming for something unpretentious and very ordinary, he said, but the work has come to be known as Opera Singer because of the figure’s open mouth and what is often identified as sheet music in her right hand. She is rendered in acidic, highly saturated, and dissonant colors, with flagrantly displayed genitalia.

Miró, Juan
1893 – 1983


House with Palm Tree
(1918)


The Farm
(1921-1922)


Harlequin’s Carnival
(1924)


Woman (Opera Singer)
(1934)
[A5-36]


Moor, Dmitry
1883-1943


Take a solemn oath when enlisting into the Red Army
(1918)


Have you volunteered for the Red Army
(1920)


1st of May, the All-Russian voluntary-work day!
(1920)
[A5-37]

This poster print of Moor Dmitry states ‘Take a solemn oath when enlisting into the Red Army’. In 1917 this required agreement to six points, the first states I, son of the laboring people, citizen of the Soviet Republic, assume the title of warrior in the Worker-Peasant Army. The second declared, Before the labouring classes of Russia and the entire world, I accept the obligation to carry this title with honor, to study the art of war conscientiously, and to guard national and military property from spoil and plunder as if it were the apple of my eye. The sixth was a catch-all, If I should with malicious intent go back on this my solemn vow, then let my fate be universal contempt and let the righteous hand of Revolutionary law chastise me.

Volunteered: This famous poster is the work of Dmitrii Moor (the pseudonym of Dmitrii Orlov, taken from the bandit hero of  Friedrich Schiller’s play The Robbers).

Moor was one of the main founders of Soviet political poster design.Here, the central figure with a pointing finger, encouraging men to enlist in the Red Army, echoes the equally famous British First World War recruitment posters featuring Lord Kitchener, but adds a distinct spin with its background of smoking factories and the use of an ordinary soldier rather than a commander.

May 1st: The subject of Moor’s poster is a celebration of the May Day subbotnik (Subbota for Saturday, Nik for unpaid work. This was a day of volunteer work, held throughout Russia, to help the communist cause in the Civil War, the subbotnik held on the 1st of May 1920 was attended by Lenin himself, who called it ‘the actual beginnings of the communism’.
Music: Around 1920 O’Keeffe painted a number of oils exploring, as she later recalled, the idea that music could be translated into something for the eye. In Blue and Green Music, O’Keeffe’s colors and forms simultaneously suggest the natural world and evoke the experience of sound. She was drawn to the theories of the Russian Expressionist painter Vasily Kandinsky, who, in his 1912 text Concerning the Spiritual in Art, argued that visual artists should emulate music in order to achieve pure expression free of literary references.

Canna: Georgia O’Keeffe made a number of Red Canna paintings of the canna lily plant, first in watercolour, such as a red canna flower bouquet painted in 1915, but primarily abstract paintings of close-up images in oil.

O’Keeffe said that she made the paintings to reflect the way she herself saw flowers, although others have called her depictions erotic, and compared them to female genitalia.

Iris: O’Keeffe’s famous irises were an important preoccupation for many years; she favored the black iris. Unlike Impressionist’s flower painting, such as Irises by Vincent van Gogh, O’Keeffe’s enlargements and abstractions derived from the flower have often been explained in gynecological terms, almost clinical in their precision.

Cow: After O’Keeffe’s first extended trip to New Mexico in the Southwest in 1929, her artistic interests shifted from the buildings of New York to the nature of New Mexico. In this work, O’Keeffe isolates a single skull, highlighting its jagged edges, worn surfaces, and bleached colour. To O’Keeffe, such bones represented the desert’s enduring beauty and the strength of the American spirit, which is alluded to in the striped background. In 1949 O’Keeffe settled permanently in New Mexico, where she lived until her death in 1986.


O’Keeffe, Georgia
1887-1986


Blue and Green Music
(1919-1921)


Red Canna
(1923)


Black Iris
(1926)


Cow’s Skull:
Red, White and Blue

(1931)

Note that to minimise the entries and the opportunity for confusion, the text and image sources are not shown here – do follow the links to the artists or their works and you will find a proper acknowledgement of the sources.

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