Two Nice Paintings

I drove pajama-clad to the airport in the pre-dawn hours to pick up my wife who had taken the Red-eye from L.A., and so I am too groggy to write coherently. For example: The squirrel is not to the dog. See?

So, I will skip the audio portion of this program and just give you some nice photos to look at. Here is the firstThat’s a detail of a painting, An Angel, by Abbot H. Thayer (1849-1921). I guess he did lots of paintings like these. The Wikipedia article describes them as “idealized figures” of women “equipped with feathered angel wings.” Now, personally, if I were to list the attributes of my ideal woman, feathered wings would not be included, but we must allow Mr. Thayer his little quirks. Here is a photo that shows the scale of the painting. The woman in the foreground is fifteen feet tall:

The same Wikipedia article informs us that Mr. Thayer was a leading authority on the art of camouflage painting. He worked closely with the U.S. military, designing camouflage patterns for ships and for soldiers’ uniforms. The article doesn’t say whether or not the designs included feathered angel wings, but we can hope.

I was going to end the post there, but since we are all having such Mussorgsky-like fun wandering through the galleries, let’s stand about nine inches from a painting by Bastien-Lepage from 1881 called “The Wood Gatherer.” It shows an old guy in the woods, bent under the weight of the tree branches he’s gathered for… uh… tree branch soup, I guess. In the foreground his little granddaughter (the model for whom was the painter’s old guy’s actual granddaughter) gathers posies. Here’s a detail of the kid:

There now. My day is better and so is yours. For a look at the full painting — it’s big; about six feet square — try going to… let’s see now… ah! Try this link: WOOD GATHERER AND HIS GRANDKID.

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2 responses to “Two Nice Paintings

  1. I first encountered Bastien-Lepage in the Met in NYC. I came suddenly face-to-face with his Joan of Arc, and it practically knocked the air out of me. I literally said out loud, “Oh my.”

    Then I hauled my mother over and she took one look and said, “Oh my.”

    His faces are so incredibly expressive.

  2. Hello,

    The little girl could not possibly be Lepage’s granddaughter, for he was barely 40 years old when he died.

    Jules Bastien-Lepage was described as a man of honesty and sincerity. He was very assertive and positive. He showed a great enthusiasm for other art, especially Van Eyck’s alterpiece at the Ghent cathedral. Bastien was very modest about his own work and his success. He had a deep love of nature. He had many friends and colleagues who loved him. It seems, however, that his strongest quality was that he was always determined to paint and live in his own way. He had great strength for his own beliefs despite the outcomes of those beliefs, as was demonstrated in his loss at the Prix de Rome. As Weir wrote, “he dared to dare” .

    Bastien made a call to painters to go back to nature. He established “the cult of ‘nature as she is”. Bastien wanted painting to return to the depiction of nature as it is without preconception so that the art world could heal. He looked to the painters of the 1400s, who reflected nature’s truth. He was against anything academic and decadent that changed truth’s simplicity to some “mere expression of cleverness and skill” . His love of nature often brought him to paint out in the fields or in the village square.
    Bastien admired those who worked the land, and he eagerly captured the character and individuality of the worker. He tossed aside the beliefs of the time that the scene should be transformed into something beautiful and gentle, which to Bastien was a false representation. He made clear and specific observations abut life from a view that most painters did not take, and this made his work very unique. A number of painters after him took up this philosophy in what is called the plein-air movement.

    J. Alden Weir wrote this about Bastien’s work: “He was uneven at times, and sometimes failed entirely; yet who but mediocre men do not make failures? He who dares and fails is often greater than he who enjoys popular renown”.

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