This compelling portrait of a Baltimore toddler picking berries from a surreally-scaled goblet is an icon of the American vernacular painting. Joshua Johnson, who was self taught, is the earliest known African American painter to make his living from his art. Emma Van Name (1805) is his most ambitious and engaging portrait of an individual child. Revealing the hallmarks of Johnson’s characteristic style in its naturalistic precision and imaginative flair, the painting is distinguished by a bravura demonstration of his talents in its nuanced palette, compositional complexity, and deft handling of details, especially in the child’s dress and demeanor.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Modjesko was a popular drag performer in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century. Art critic, Félix Fénéon, included this portrait in several exhibitions at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, including the group show Portraits of Men. In 1909, he signed artist Kees van Dongen to a seven-year contract. Both anarchists, van Dongen and Fénéon shared a desire to advocate for the rights of socially marginalized people.
Modjesko, Soprano Singer (1908) was Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Famous for his depictions of modernist icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Italian-born Joseph Stella immigrated to New York in 1896. There, he produced Cubo-Futurist compositions of the city that captured the tempo and dynamism of urban life. In later years, however, Stella returned to Italy and focused increasingly on religious themes. In The Virgin (1926) the Virgin Mary appears against a dense array of fruits and flowers — common symbols of fertility — with a view of the Bay of Naples in he background. Reinterpreting Italian Renaissance altarpieces through a brightly saturated palette and bold modeling of form, Stella’s Madonna embodies the early twentieth-century interest in region and spirituality.
Ivan Albright painted this lurid work for the 1945 movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Wilde’s tale, Dorian Gary commissions a portrait of himself as an attractive young man, and later trades his soul for an ever-youthful appearance. As the still-handsome Gray leads an increasingly dissolute and evil life, his painted representation rots and decays, revealing the extent of his moral corruption. Albright’s renown as a painter of the macabre made him the ideal choice to paint the horrific image of Gray for the film. Although the movie was shot in black and white, director Albert Lewin filmed the painted portrait in color to emphasize Gray’s shocking transformation.
The careers of some women artists are intimately linked to those os their spouses. This is the case with Elizabeth Jane Gardner, wife of the famous painter and teacher, William-Adolpe Bouguereau. Gardner once declared, “I know I am censured for not more boldly asserting my individuality, but I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than nobody!” Like many of her peers, she overcame formidable obstacles to achieve artistic success: she disguised herself as a man so that she could gain access to life drawing classes with nude models, she actively cultivated connections with powerful men, and she weathered sexist accusations that her husband was the painter fo her works.
La Confidence (1880) was Photographed as Part of The Exhibit Women Artists In Paris The Clark Institute, Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Marie Bashkirtseff (1858 – 1884) was one of the most outspoken and persistent advocates for a woman’s art academy in Paris. The dynamic scene on In The Studio (1881) depicts the artist (foreground, tipping her palette forward) alongside her peers at the Académie Julian as they work from a draped male model. Founded by Rodolphe Julian in 1868, the Académie originally permitted men and women to work side by side from a live nude model, but as news of assumed impropriety spread, Julian created separate studios for men and women. Julian’s school was one of a handful in Paris to provide women with rigorous artistic training. Dying of tuberculosis at the age of 25, Bashkirtseff lived just long enough to emerge as an intellectual in Paris in the 1880s.
Photographed as Part of The Exhibit Women Artists In Paris at The Clark Institute, Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Throughout the 1800s, playing the piano was considered obligatory for the educated and upper class, and many artists depicted girls and women at the piano. Although little is known about the relationship between Berthe Morisot and her subject, Lucie León spent the majority of her childhood training to be a concert pianist. Yet rather than depicting León from behind or in profile — as so many of her male peers do in their portrayals of female pianists — Morisot renders the young artist mid-recital without any visible sheet music, a virtuoso in command of both her instrument and our gaze.
Lucie León at the Piano (1892) was Photographed as Part of The Exhibit Women Artists In Paris at The Clark Institute, Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The Gare Saint-Lazare was the largest and busiest train station in Paris. Early in 1877, with help from his friend Gustave Caillebotte, Claude Monet rented an apartment in the nearby rue Moncey and began painting the first of twelve canvases showing this icon of modernity. Monet displayed seven of them, including this one, at the third Impressionist exhibition, in April of that year. Legend has it that he arranged to have the standing locomotives stoked with extra coal, so that he could observe and paint the effects of belching steam — dull grey when trapped inside the station, but white and cloudlike when seen against the sky.
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) was Photographed at the Institute, Chicago.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s association with the Moulin Rouge began when it opened in 1889 and the owner bought the artist’s Equestrienne (at the Cirque Fernanado) to decorate the foyer. Lautrec populated the scene depicted in At The Moulin Rouge (1892/95) with portraits of the regulars at the dance hall, including himself — the diminutive figure in the center background — accompanied by his cousin and frequent companion, the physician Gabriel Tapie de Celeyran. The woman on the right is the scandalous English singer Mary Milton. At some point, the artist or his dealer cut down the canvas to remove her from the composition, perhaps because her shocking appearance made the work hard to sell. In any case, by 1914 the cut section had been reattached to the painting.
Contrary to its title, this intriguing and enigmatic self-portrait, The Artist Looks at Nature (1943), shows the artist ignoring the brightly lit landscape in front of him. Nature, as depicted here, is surreal, with inexplicable discrepancies of scale and perspective. The fields suggest the terrain around Sheeler’s Connecticut home, while the massive walls recall Hoover Dam, which the artist photographed in 1939. In the painting, Sheeler works intently on a monochromatic drawing of an antiquated stove, which is based on a photograph he took in 1917. Yet despite these deliberate references to his own work, the painting’s meaning is ambiguous. Perhaps Sheeler wished to evoke the many vistas open to an artist, the literal and figurative landscapes of the mind.