This portrait from 1889 depicts one of Paul Gauguin’s closest friends, the Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan, in the pose of a thinker. The painting includes two books that reflect Meyer de Haan’s preoccupations with religion and philosophy: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Thomas Carlysle’s Sartor Resartus. Carlysle’s central character is called Diogenes, after the Greek philosopher who searched by lamplight for an honest man, and the prominent lamp shown here may extend the reference. This work was originally intended to form part of a decorative panel for the door of an inn at Le Pouldo — a small coastal village in France where both artists stayed — and was to be hung next to a companion self-portrait by Gauguin that is now in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
Constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris as a symbol of technological advancement, the Eiffel Tower captured the attention of painters and poets attempting to define the essence of modernity. In his series on the subject (1909 – 12) Robert Delauney developed faceted and fragmented forms typical of the Cubists and presented the tower and surrounding buildings from various perspectives. His technique demonstrated his preference for a sense of vast space, atmosphere and light, while evoking a sign of contemporary life and progress. Many of Delaunay’s city views appear from a window framed by curtains: in Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel, 1911) , the buildings bracketing the structure curve like drapery.
Eiffel Tower was the first of many works by Delaunay that Solomon R. Guggenheim collected following his visit to the artist’s Paris studio in 1930.
While recovering from a mental breakdown at a hospital in Saint-Remy, Vincent Van Gogh created this depiction of the Alpilles, a low mountain range in the southern French town. Van Gogh‘s characteristic heavy impasto and bold, broad brushstrokes activate the terrain and sky. In his letters, the artist wrote: “I rather like the ‘Entrance to a Quarry’ — I was doing it when I felt this attack coming on — because to my mind the somber greens go well with the ocher tones; there is something sad in it which is healthy, and that is why is does not bore me. Perhaps that is true of the ‘Mountain’ too. They will tell me that mountains are not like that and that there are black outlines of a finger’s width. But after all it seemed to me it expressed that passage in [Edouard] Rod’s book [Le sens de la vie, 1889] . . . about a desolate country of somber mountains, among which are some dark goatherds’ huts where sunflowers are blooming.”
Photographed in the Thannhauser Collection Galleries at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC