Friday, August 24, 2012

Paul Cézanne: The Card Players

Public Domain Image: The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler), oil on canvas painting (1892-93), 97 cm x 130 cm

Can this Paul Cézanne magnum opus be worth $300 million? It seems to be insane, especially so as none of the previously sold most expensive paintings, not another Cézanne, sold ever could fetch even half of the price.

But this painting, The Card Players, one of a series of five paintings by the French Post-Impressionist artist Cézanne, depicting two peasants from Aix-en-Provence deeply engrossed in a card game, broke all the records of art sales and set a new trend of unbelievably high prices for works of modern art, shifting the focus from old master paintings.

The Card Players, believed to be one of the last works Cezanne painted in his life, broke the record of the most expensive painting held by the American painter Jackson Pollock’s classic drip painting titled No. 5, 1948 which was sold for $140 million on November 2, 2006 in a private sale via Sotheby's.

If the highest rumored price for the Card Players can be believed, it is more than double the price of any work of art ever sold. However, the lowest confirmed (yet rumored) price is $250 million. The painting, which was in the private collection of the Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos, was rarely seen by the public as he kept it as one of his most treasured collections and rarely lent out for exhibitions.

However, before his death in 2011, Embiricos planned for its sales and it was pursued and managed by his estate. The painting is believed to have received offers of over $220 million, but the Royal family of Qatar, the ruling emir family of Qatar, outbid other bidders offering $250 million. However, estimates of the price Qatar paid are often quoted as high as $300 million.

The other Cézanne Card Players in the series are currently in the collections of the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Courtauld Institute of Art (London) and the Musée d'Orsay (Paris).

Apart from these paintings, there are several other sketches, studies, and paintings of individual figures in the work which Cezanne painted as preparatory works for the main paintings.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Barack Obama with Larry the cat

Public Domain Photo: The British Prime Minister David Cameron introduces the United States President Barack Obama to Larry the cat, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street in London, England, on May 25, 2011 – photo by Pete Souza, White House Photographer, Washington, DC.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Francis Derwent Wood: Leda and the Swan

Public Domain Photos: Leda and the Swan (1912), marble sculpture by the British sculptor Francis Derwent Wood RA (1871-1926), height: 38 cm, private collection

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hamilton: Lil'l Southern Belles

Public Domain Image: Lil'l Southern Belles (1894), oil on canvas painting by the American Impressionist artist Hamilton Hamilton (1847-1928), 91.44 cm x 81.28 cm (36 x 32 inches), public collection

The celebrated American impressionist artist and illustrator Hamilton Hamilton, who was born in Oxford, England, is best known for his landscape and portrait paintings.

For the painting ‘Lil'l Southern Belles’, Hamilton probably used his twin daughters Marguerite and Helen born in 1889 as models. Helen, trained by her father, became a recognized post-impressionist landscape painter.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Paul Gauguin: The Painter of Sunflowers - Portrait of Vincent van Gogh

Public Domain Photos: The Painter of Sunflowers (Le Peintre de Tournesols), oil on jute painting by Paul Gauguin, 73 cm x 91 cm (28.7 in x 35.8 in), located at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Painter of Sunflowers: Portrait of Vincent van Gogh is a portrait of the Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) painted by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) in December 1888 during his two-months’ stay at Arles, a city and commune in the south of France. The painting features van Gogh as a red bearded man in a brown coat, holding a brush in his right hand and painting sunflowers.

During his stay in Arles van Gogh invited Gauguin to visit him as van Gogh was planning to organize a collective community of artists there. He had also hoped for long-lasting friendship with Gauguin. On 23 October, Gauguin arrived in Arles where the two artists painted together during November. But soon they developed bitter difference of opinion and quarreled frequently on matters regarding art.

Though van Gogh greatly admired Gauguin, he felt that he was arrogant and feared that Gauguin would desert him. Van Gogh became frustrated and critically ill and on 23 December 1888, he threatened Gauguin with a razor blade. But instead of harming Gauguin, he ran to a nearby brothel that used to be the only point of contact he had with other people. In the brothel, he cut off his left ear (or only the lower part of the left earlobe, as claimed by some other accounts) and staggered home, where Gauguin later found him lying unconscious in a pool of blood.

Gauguin took van Gogh to a hospital and informed Theo van Gogh, his younger brother and art dealer, who visited the hospital. Van Gogh had to be in the hospital for several days during which he kept on asking for Gauguin who stayed away. Gauguin left Arles without facing him and he never met van Gogh again.

Now ‘The Painter of Sunflowers’ is housed in the Van Gogh Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of paintings and drawings by van Gogh, and a large number of works by his contemporary artists.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Simon Vouet: La Crucifixion

Public Domain Image: La Crucifixion, oil on canvas painting of the first half of 17th century by the French Baroque style painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649), 85 in x 57.5 in (216 cm x 146 cm), currently at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, France.

Yuri Annenkov: Adam and Eve

Public Domain Image: The picture shows a modern version of the Biblical characters Adam and Eve by the Russian artist Yuri Pavlovich Annenkov (1889-1974)

Yuri Annenkov, also known as Georges Annenkov, is mainly noted for his contributions to book illustrations, his design work for theatre and motion pictures and portraits.

Yuri Annenkov was an active member of Mir iskusstva (World of Art), a Russian artistic and literary movement that influenced and inspired Russians to revolutionize European art in the early 20th century.

Though he had worked in the studios of artists Felix Vallotton and Maurice Denis (1911-1912) in Paris, in 1913 he moved to Switzerland for work and a year later returned to St. Petersburg. In Russia, he mostly did magazine and book illustrations and worked for theatres.

Annenkov’s work as a book designer and illustrator brought him fame as he worked for great authors such as Maxim Gorky (Samovar, 1917), Alexander Blok (The Twelve, 1918), Mikhail Kuzmin, and Aleksey Remizov.

Annenkov was also commissioned by the Bolshevik government in Russia for designing and staging shows related to the Russian Revolution. The later part of his life was spent in Paris, where he died, working as an artist and a costume designer for motion pictures.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus

Public Domain Photo: Mystical marriage of St. Catherine with the Child Jesus, lime wood sculpture with gold coloring and gilding, Master of Morlin-Epitaphs, Augsburg (1510), Bavarian National Museum, Munich

According to tradition, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (also known as ‘The Great Martyr Saint Catherine’ and ‘Saint Catherine of the Wheel’) became a martyr when she was beheaded on the orders of the Roman Emperor Maxentius.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 282 AD as the daughter of Queen Sabinella and King Costus who governed Alexandria, she was of extraordinary intelligence and a reputed scholar well-versed in sciences, arts, philosophy, etc. Though born a pagan princess, she became a Christian in her teens, and vowed to remain a virgin throughout life. Catherine had a vision of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary who gave her to Jesus in mystical marriage.

On reaching adulthood, Catherine visited the Roman Emperor Maxentius and tried to convince him of his moral errors in persecuting Christians who refused to worship pagan gods. In response, the emperor asked his best pagan orators and philosophers to debate on the issue with Catherine. She defeated them in the debate and converted them to Christianity. But, enraged at this, Maxentius executed all the converted philosophers and orators and tortured Catherine by imprisoning her.

During her imprisonment, over two hundred people, reportedly, visited her, including Empress Valeria Maximilla (wife of Maxentius) and all of them too converted to Christianity. The emperor responded to the conversions by executing all of the converted people.

Convinced that imprisonment and torture did not change Catherine’s views, the emperor tried to win over her by proposing to marry her. But she told him that she had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ. Upon this, the emperor sentenced her to death on the breaking wheel (also known as the Catherine wheel), a torture device used for capital punishment. But, miraculously, the wheel was destroyed and Maxentius had to order her beheading in 305 AD.

According to some traditions, angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where, Emperor Justinian (483-565, the Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565) built the Saint Catherine's Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai (now in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt). In fact, it was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, an event in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant atop a mountain.

Over the years, the monastery has become an important pilgrimage center and repository of early Christian architecture and art that is open to visiting scholars and tourists.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at children's party

Public Domain Photo: Members of the Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee aboard USS Bataan enact Santa Claus, Mrs. Santa Claus and their elves at the children's holiday party held at Haygood Skating Center - Virginia Beach, Va. (4 Dec 2007), U.S. Navy photo by Stephen Oleksiak

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rubens: The Adoration of the Magi

Public Domain Image: ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ (1633-1634), oil on canvas painting by Peter Paul Rubens, 328 cm x 247 cm, located at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England, UK.

The Adoration of the Magi, the oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), depicts the Biblical episode as is given in the Gospel of Matthew's (2:11) in which ‘Three Wise Men’, or ‘wise men from the East’ visits the newborn Jesus Christ, though the number of men is not mentioned in Matthew's account.

Traditionally, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ in art, refers to the Nativity of Jesus and the visit of the Three Magi, who followed a star to find Jesus and visited him with gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold and worshipped him. The Orthodox Church celebrates The Adoration of the Magi on the Feast of the Nativity (on Christmas day, December 25). The significance of the visit of the Biblical Magi is often taken to represent that from birth Jesus Christ was recognized as king of the earth.