The Fanatics of Tangier

Eugene Delacroix, The Fanatics of Tangier, 1837


Painted in 1837, Eugene Delacroix’s The Fanatics of Tangier depicts a scene of temporary frenzy in the city of Tangier. Delacroix witnessed the event firsthand, watching from a hidden attic along with the French ambassador Comte de Mornay. In portraying this singular chaotic event, Delacroix manages to encapsulate the spirit of the Romantic style of art of the early 19th century.

The Romantic style was characterized by its rejection of the Neoclassicism's strict structure and emphasis on reason and order. By illustrating this scene of bedlam, Delacroix goes against this understood convention. Additionally, the rendering of a French colony in Africa sets the painting apart from others of its time period, giving it a distinct exotic feel. Finally, Delacroix intended the painting to evoke an emotional response as opposed to an intellectual one. He achieves this through emphasizing color contrasts and an asymmetrical composition. 

Compositionally, the eyes are immediately drawn to the five frenzied men in the center of the painting, pushing their way through the crowd. The contrast between the men and the rest of the crowd forces the eyes toward the center, specifically to the man in the white. His flailing arms and contrasting color serve to establish him as the main subject of the painting. The tranquility of the men on the far right contrast the frenzy even further, and they serve as a vertical balance to the mayhem. The buildings achieve the same effect, forming a horizontal line that divides the paintings as well as vertical lines which prevent total chaos and provide stability. Finally, Delacroix’s use of colors greatly enhance the emotional experience of the painting. The swirling reds, greens, yellows and white within in the crowd evoke the mood of chaos, and contrast nicely with the brilliant blue sky. The combination of these elements - subject, line, body movement and color sets this painting apart from others of its time period and shows the true talent of Eugene Delacroix.
  • 1:00 AM

Peace: Burial at Sea

J.M.W. Turner, Peace: Burial at Sea, 1842
J. M.W Turner, born in 1775, had a career at a young age. By 18, he owned his own studio and a few years later, was elected as an associate of the Royal Academy. Later in his life, in 1842, Turner painted Peace: Burial at Sea. It depicts the burial of Turner's friend and fellow member of the Royal Academy, David Wilkie, who died in 1841.

In the autumn of 1840, Wilkie embarked on a trip to the East, on his way passing through Holland and Germany, eventually reaching Constantinople. He then sailed for Smyrna and traveled to Jerusalem. Along this journey, Wilkie produced several works including a portrait of the young sultan at Constantinople, and, his last painting ever, a portrait of Mehemet Ali, which was done at Alexandria. Once on his way back, Wilkie became ill at Malta, and on the morning of June 1, 1841 he died at sea, just off of Gibraltar, located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. 

His body was buried at sea in the deep Bay of Gibraltar after officials at the British port refused to accept his body, fearing that he might have had cholera.Peace: Burial at Sea is Turners tribute to David Wilkie. In this painting, Turner’s skill of contrasting light and dark and his excellent use of shading are shown. He depicts the scene with a dark background, appropriate for the funeral of his friend, contrasted with the bright and explosive colors that Wilkie’s body is being lowered into.

Turner created another painting that same year, War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet. It was intended as a companion to Peace: Burial at sea. War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet depicts Napoleon in exile on St. Helena. They are made to contrast each other by their colors:  pale and somber, Peace; explosive reds and yellows, War.
  • 1:00 AM

Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct

Theodore Gericault, Evening:Landscape with Aqueduct, 1818

Gericault completed Evening during the summer of 1818. This painting is one of the four landscapes painted to portray different times of day.
It highlights the ruins of an aqueduct in the Italian countryside, which Gericault visited in 1817. During his visit to this site, the weather started to become turbulent and sun started to disappear as pitch black clouds invaded the sky. This scenery was quite fitting for the personal turmoil that Gericault had at that time, as he had fathered the son of his uncle’s second wife.
However, Gericault saw this as a sublime scene of beauty and action, which he felt compelled to paint rather than wallow in. Despite his short life of 32 years, it was with this stormy aesthetic that Gericault fathered the styles of emerging Romanticism.
Some critics say that the painting is unusually large for a landscape from that era, and depicting an ambiguous scene, cast in slanting light, of swimmers bathing near a hill town. However, many argue that like other Gericault paintings, Evening is energetic and brilliantly colored.
Unfortunately, Gericault was able to only finish two out of the remaining three landscape paintings (Morning: Landscape with Fishermen and Noon: Landscape with a Roman Tomb) due to the family conflict with his illegitimate son.
  • 1:00 AM

A Young Tiger Playing with its Mother

Eugene Delacroix, A Young Tiger Playing with
its Mother, 1830
One of Eugène Delacroix's earlier paintings from 1830, A Young Tiger Playing with its Mother provides a perfect example of the artist's interest in animals and their human qualities. The enormous creatures aggressively interacting, are, in fact playing with each other. Influenced by his trips to the zoo, Delacroix was thought to have used his own pet cat in order to correctly form the felines' bodies.

Based on his thoughts that there is beauty within the intensity and violence of nature, Delacroix painted the tigers in intense colors with piercing gazes. Delacroix believed that pure colors were rare in nature. This is why he sought to capture the pureness and richness in Young Tiger Playing with its Mother.

The painting’s subject matter is nearly the same as his other piece, Tiger Hunt. Both works contain the same intensity in the color and movement, but Tiger Hunt is much more violent. Rather than the innocent play of the cats in Young Tiger, Tiger Hunt, is full of adrenaline and ferocity. Both paintings of tigers also display Delacroix’s interest in exotic cultures other than his own. Delacroix’s brilliant use of color and ability to capture the beauty within ferocity set the tone for many of his future works.

  • 1:39 PM

Witches’ Sabbath

Francisco Goya, Witches' Sabbath, 1823

With their dark tones and cynical themes, Goya’s Black Paintings epitomize the artist’s bitter resentments toward the Napoleonic Wars and Spanish governmental reformations. On top of constant political turmoil, Goya also contracted two epidemic diseases, the product of which resulted in his masterpieces, the 14 Black Paintings. With the intent of keeping the paintings hidden within his home, Goya invested all his negative feelings into the works through painting scenes filled with terror and horrific occurrences.

Goya’s overpowering brush strokes and imposing shadows add to the terror clearly displayed on the women’s faces in his painting Witches’ Sabbath. The distinct silhouette of a midnight-colored goat shrouded in a monk’s robe clearly dominates the scene, while offering an explanation for the fear-stricken postures of the surrounding females. Goya paints the goat as a representation of Satan, who acts as a supervisor to the witches’ meeting, while also equipping the demon with a scribe, adorned in white. Sitting to the right of the painting, a young witch fidgets in her chair in anticipation of the ceremony that follows the Devil’s presence.

Goya bases the events depicted in his painting off of the Basque witch hunts that occurred throughout 17th century. The trials, started by the same skepticism and fear caused by religious paranoia, represent the Spanish Inquisition’s most ambitious attempt at stomping out societal weaknesses. By setting his painting in a dark setting, Goya draws attention to the illuminated silhouette of the satanic goat while satirically mocking the historical relevance of a cave setting in the history of witchcraft.

  • 7:29 PM

St. Patrick's Cathedral


James Renwick, St. Patrick's Cathedral, 1858-1878 
The Gothic revival, which had begun in the 18th century, was an architectural movement of returning back to the building styles of the Middle Ages. This revival, having the  most impact in England and the United States, gave us the cathedrals of Reims, Amiens, Cologne, Exeter, York Minster and Westminster Abbey, all of which went into the planning of James Renwick’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located in midtown Manhattan across from the Rockefeller Center.

Renwick became an important leader of the Gothic revival in the U.S. Having already become a successful and widely acclaimed architect by the 1850s, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was the most significant commission of Renwick’s career. It became his greatest success, yet lack of sufficient funds forced Renwick to rework his original plans. The most significant alteration was the use of plaster as a substitute for the masonry he had originally planned for the vault. The lack of funds was a reason for the Gothic movement's decrease in  its momentum.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral was Renwick’s masterpiece. He oversaw every detail that went into the cathedral that would become one of the most important in the history of American architecture.
  • 1:00 AM

The Women of Algiers


Eugène Delacroix, The Women of Algiers, 1834

The Women of Algiers by Eugene Delacroix depicts three Algerian concubines lounging in their harem accompanied by their black slave. In true Orientalist style, Delacroix clothes the women in luxurious fabrics and surrounds them with lavish rugs. Decorative tiles surround the women, as the light source highlights the languid form of one subject, eyes closed in an opium-induced bliss.

None of the women make eye contact with the viewer, either out of submission or disinterest. The viewer takes on the role of a dispassionate observer, bringing to an Eastern-style painting a host of Western preconceptions and inclinations. The scene might appear primitive to some, lavish to others. To the viewer, the women could appear modest and plain, or strikingly beautify and exotic. The function of Orientalist paintings in the 19th century is nebulous. Most artists sought out to document French or British colonial prowess. Some sought variation in subject matter and the excitement of travel. Few tried to depict the indigènes, or native people, in an autonomous fashion.

Delacroix paints The Women of Algiers with masculinist ambitions. Bringing the full force of French colonial power into a previously private locale - the harem - Delacroix observed the kept women in the name of ethnographic investigation to justify colonial expansion. He portrays the Eastern women as being first dominated by the Eastern man, the invisible tyrant who locked them into the room, and then by the Western man, who succeeded in breaching the confines of harem to document their submission. The resounding message of the painting is Western domination.

Edward Said writes later about the East/West binary and the misrepresentation of the East by the West. Delacroix best illustrates this concept in The Women of Algiers. He portrays Algerian women as primitive, dependent not only on a man’s benevolence, but also on the pleasure of opiates, and submissive. This was the image that was sent to Paris’ Salon to represent the Orient. This and many other paintings were integral in maintaining support for the war and justifying the horrors and violence of French colonial rule. 
  • 1:00 AM

Benoist's Portrait of a Negress

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait of a Negress, 1800
Marie Benoist belonged to a small and select group of woman painters in the 1800s, and one of her most provocative paintings was Portrait of a Negress. Benoist was the student of another prominent woman painting of the time, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. The picture was painted six years after the emancipation of slaves and termination of slavery, but two years before Napoléon reinstated slavery in the French colonies. At the time portraits and images of Africans were incredibly popular. Although the painting was not commissioned it creates a bridge between the movement for women's rights and the abolition of slavery.

Before the nineteenth century, many paintings featuring blacks  merely showcased them as a possession and asserted wealth of the owners of the works. As for Benoist, a majority of her paintings before Portrait of a Negress, were centered on woman and family life. When Benoist brought her portrait to the Salon, it was highly praised. The portrait strayed from the usual representation of blacks as simple servants or splashes of color. Benoist wanted to send a clear message with this painting. She strives to address female agency as well as the racial issues of the time. Although she does the issues at hand justice, she robs the Negress in the painting of her identity and voice and uses her as a vehicle for her message. Unfortunately, the woman remains unnamed .

The painting mirrors many feelings of Benoist and other woman at the time. Benoist longed for freedom in a world controlled by men. This portrait serves as a way from Benoist to break out of the stereotype of other female artists of the time. Yet like the Negress, in the larger picture Benoist is another female artist. She only receives half the recognition she truly deserves.
  • 1:00 AM

Altes Museum

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Altes Museum, 1825-1830
The Altes Museum (old museum), German's first formal museum of art and history, seamlessly displays the beauty of German nature and artistry with regal Grecian stature. Located on the Spree Island in Berlin, Germany, it serves as one of the nation's most treasured Neoclassical works of architecture. Built between 1825 and 1830 by Berlin's most renowned architect of the time, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the museum actually served as a complement to the impressive Pleasure Garden of the Spree Island.

Princess Louise of Prussia, the daughter of Fredrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, built the garden over the course of the seventeenth century as a refuge in Prussian territory. Almost a century and a half later, one of Fredrich Wilhelm's successors sought to expand the artistic influence of the Spree Island and built the museum as a haven for the treasures of German culture, mostly to keep them away from the French. The museum thrived for approximately a century, acquiring an extensive collection of Grecian masks and iconic statues even through periods of war and political tension. During the rise of national Fascism, the Altes Museum was the subject of many propaganda publications, and because of its increase popularity, multiple German painters donated some of the nation's most spectacular frescos.

Yet at the start of the Second World War, a tank explosion destroyed the Pleasure Garden and much of the museum, destroying nearly all of the walls of the Altes Museum. After a period of post-war restoration that resulted in the museum's closure from 1951 through 1965, it reopened with a newly added Romanesque rotunda and sculpture garden (commemorative of the Pleasure Garden that was unable to be recovered after the war). The building continues to be one of Berlin's most prestigious structures of the nineteenth century, combining the revival of Grecian architecture with the magnificence of the Neo-classical Germany.
  • 1:00 AM

Liberty Leading the People

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People is one of the most shocking and popular paintings of its time. Painted in 1830 and measuring 6 feet  by 10 feet, the painting manages to encapsulate the struggle for freedom waged by French working middle class. He achieves this through his use of composition, spacing, body language and color.

Delacroix makes two distinct groupings of people in this painting - the dead lying in the foreground and the gallant revolutionaries standing just above them. Reportedly, Delacroix painted the man sporting a top hat and musket as himself, showing his support for the cause.

Everything in the painting revolves around the center figure and her flag. Her importance in the painting could not be more blatant. Wielding a musket in one hand, she illustrates the call to arms against tyrannical rule. Her stepping forward with one foot over the dead shows the victory over the regime. And finally, placed directly in the center of the painting and held high above anything else, the French flag, wrinkly and beaten by the struggle, waves brilliantly. On top of all this, the light source spotlights her, while an opening in the clouds illuminates her from behind, leaving the rest of the sky in darkness. Her face, looking back to the people, beckons them to march forward. By throwing all the light at the main Liberty figure, Delacroix manages to ensure that the painting beckoned feelings of excitement, as opposed to a solemn reaction to the dead. The men holding guns and swords in the background add to the effect, working together to make this one of the most powerful and well-known paintings of all time.

  • 1:00 AM

Saturn Devouring His Son

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His
Son
, 1818-1823

As one of Goya’s 13 Black Paintings, Saturn Devouring His Son was painted directly on his house wall—specifically, the wall of his dining room.

During the period it was painted (between 1819 and 1823), Spain was undergoing turmoil as its government, the Liberal Triennium, struggled to stay in power. Government forces seized the royal palace and took King Ferdinand VII prisoner. In 1822 Ferdinand’s supporters staged an uprising in Madrid, which sparked a national civil war. At this point, the government had almost zero power.

Just a year later, France invaded Spain, slaughtered the remaining constitutionalists, and made Ferdinand VII an absolute monarch. The corpse of Saturn’s son portrays Spain’s death at the hands of political strife, while the culprit stands in an almost off-balance position.

A giant monster, Saturn, opens his mouth wide open to chomp off another piece of his son’s body. However, while covering the left side of Saturn’s face, the observer notices a scared, frail middle-aged man constantly regretful of what is happening. When covering up the right side of Saturn’s face, his left eye stares piercingly at the observer. Saturn is a fierce Titan stopping at nothing to assert his dominance. Supporters of both the constitutional government and the monarchy were themselves terrified of the violence in Spain, but masked their feelings with a false sense of confidence.

In the end, revolutionaries promoted their own agendas at the expense of the country, just as Saturn sacrificed his sons in an effort to continue his rule.
  • 1:00 AM

Sultan of Morocco


Eugene Delacroix, Sultan of Morocco and his Entourage, 1845


Eugène Delacroix, a prominent French Romantic painter, uses animated brushstrokes and lively color in opposition with neo-classical perfectionism. Inspired by the Renaissance painters, such as Rubens, Delacroix’s style calls attention to movement and color rather than perfecting form. On a political trip to North Africa, Delacroix studied art and discovered foreign cultures. While there he wrote, "The Greeks and Romans are here at my door, in the Arabs who wrap themselves in a white blanket and look like Cato or Brutus…" Inspired by North African culture, Delacroix believed their style and ideology rivaled that of the classical Rome and Greece.

Delacroix’s Sultan of Morocco and his Entourage intended to pay homage to Comte de Mornay's diplomacy with the Sultan. However, Delacroix rejected this notion and instead focused on capturing the spirit of his new-found environment. Delacroix’s intentions are evident through his use of remarkably vivid and euphoric colors that transcend the figures they encompass. Moreover, color and movement work seamlessly together to combat the need for crisp lines. Delacroix manages to emphasize neither the Sultan nor the ambassador. Instead, the coloring of the sky, structures, and figures all equally portray the general atmosphere of jubilation and provide compositional balance.


  • 11:00 PM

Two Old Men Eating

Goya, Two Old Men Eating, 1819-1823
In the last few years of Goya's life he recovered from yellow fever alone in his home. Sitting alone at a table day after day while slowly decaying would cause anyone to stray from sound thinking. Fortunately for Goya, the dark and quiet closing years of his life influenced some of his greatest work.

Old Men Eating at first glance does not hold a candle to Goya's other works from The Black Paintings. However, if one thinks about how Goya literally held a candle to it, the true power of the painting emerges. After Goya's death this painting was removed from Goya's dining room wall. Late at night Goya would have sat across from these Old Men Eating and watch them. He would absorb the colors of the barely candle-lit room as the lights and darks bring out the phantom-like figures.

Could these disturbing men could be embodiments of Goya's fears? Could they represent of Goya's impending death? Perhaps the old men pointing to him beckon him to join them for clam chowder and biscuits at the dinner table of the afterlife? Or perhaps this painting foretells the new release of GOYA® Foods Latin American blends on September 9, 2009? We can only speculate what the meaning behind this painting is, but we can always watch in awe at the terrifying beauty of Goya's Old Men Eating.
  • 1:00 AM

The Shipwreck

J.M.W. Turner, The Shipwreck, 1805
Paintings depicting shipwrecks and other calamities caused by natural disasters constituted a large number of Romantic paintings. The Romantic Movement responded to the Neo-classical focus on historical accuracy and meticulous attention to detail. Artists from the Romantic period such as Joseph Turner glorified nature and emotion. They aimed to illustrate the raw force of nature presented in the eighteenth century theory of the sublime, which proclaimed notable artwork’s use of powerful themes of nature.

Painted in 1805, his work, The Shipwreck, showcases the wrath of the ocean and nature, exposing the true helplessness of humans. Turner attempts to honestly portray the relationship between humans and nature as evidenced by this highly climatic scene. Large ships are effortlessly tossed around the commanding sea, rendering the men on them completely without of control. Turner capitalizes on this feeling of vulnerability to nature's torment through shifting the paintings focus from the ships being swallowed to the sea that consumes them. He does this by implementing light, swift brush strokes that highlight the movement of the crashing waves and inevitable fate of the ships. Turner overwhelms the canvas with the blue of the sky and sea leaving the shining sail to distinctly stand out. Furthermore, the light source emanates from the sail,contrasting the gloomy scene behind. These techniques add to the drama of the painting and heighten the tension between humans and nature.
  • 10:30 PM

Dante and Virgil in Hell

Eugene Delacroix, Dante and Virgil in Hell, 1822
Eugene Delacroix was a master of color, emotion, and poetic painting. He was the leading French romantic and Ingres biggest rival. Delacroix’s snobbish demeanor paved way for few friends, however, he admired Rembrandt and Rubens for their use of color, and Constable for the lighting in his landscapes. His devotion to rich earth tones and his life-long rejection of the color gray can be seen in Dante and Virgil in Hell.

This painting is a revival of Dante’s Divine Comedy, composed in the early 1300s . This epic served as the summation of the philosophy of the Middle Ages, reflecting on politics, society, and culture. It put Italy at the forefront of the Renaissance, similarly, Delacroix put France at the forefront of the Romantic Movement. In Dante and Virgil in Hell Delacroix mastered the challenge of painting eternal suffering. His use of deep browns and reds creates a dark feeling. As the Divine Comedy was a commentary on Italian society, Dante and Virgil in Hell contains small symbols of the eventual Italian demise. Virgil is in the red robe of medieval Florence, one of the principalities that fell to the plague and quickly lost all forms of humanity and dignity. Dante occupies the left half of the painting, and seems to be the only character aware of the horror that surrounds him. This commentary clearly conveys Delacroix’s feelings that Middle Age upper class Italian citizens were grossly unaware of surrounding suffering. 

The painting was originally criticized at the Salon of 1822 as a “splattering of color.” The negative reaction was still attention, and this painting was the beginning of Delacroix’s climb to fame. Today the painting is revered as one of his best, as art historians and simple viewers claim to understand its beauty and complexity.
  • 1:00 AM

Insane Woman

Thedore Gericault, Insane
Woman,
1822
Théodore Géricault's Insane Woman greatly opposes Enlightenment ideology. Géricault bases his portrayal of the insane on his continuous study of the mentally ill. The subject's contorted face reveals what people of the 1800s considered insanity. The piece greatly contrasts Géricault's typical subject matter of extreme situations.

One of twelve commissioned pieces, all portraying the mentally unstable, Insane Woman depicts the artist's fascination with the brain and its condition.

People at the time thought that a person's facial structure and appearance revealed their mental state and character. After visiting numerous mental institutions and observing the patients, Géricault formed the face of Insane Woman. The woman's gaze, slightly crooked, contains harsh eyes along with an almost smirk. Her aged and speckled face with slack muscles would have been tell-tale signs of mental illness.

Many as well believed that an other true display of a person's character was at their moment of death. It was for this reason that Géricault also studied heads severed by the guillotine. The combination of bodiless heads and mentally ill patients created the perfect grounds for his portrayal of the Insane Woman.

  • 4:21 PM

Study of Two Severed Heads

Theodore Gericault, Study of Two Severed Heads, 1818

Over the course of his career, Theodore Géricault created countless sketches and studies of executions in France, England, and Rome, but none so carefully crafted or thoroughly unsettling as his oil painting collection of severed limbs and heads just prior to his infamous entry of The Raft of Medusa into the Salon of 1819. Perhaps the most unsettling of these preliminary paintings, Study of Two Severed Heads not only prepared Gericault to craft his masterpiece, but also reflects his staunch opposition to capital punishment.

Though the work appears to be a pure study piece, some scholars have made claims that the painting may have been meant to stand on it’s own, citing the piece’s arrangement and the sketches which Gericault created in preparation for the “study.” Furthermore, neither of the two heads in the painting appear directly within Raft of Medusa, and though they likely assisted Gericault in depicting the limp lifeless form of the human corpse, the figures in each clearly share emotional as well as visual qualities. The artist acquired the male head in the painting from the Parisian hospital prison, Bicetre, the noggin having once belonged to a thief in the city. However, for the female head, Gericault hired a living model to pose for the painting, likely requesting her to emulate the expression of the head already in his possession. So, technically speaking, a more proper title might be Study of a Severed Head, and A Woman Playing Possum.

The use of a live model in a supposed study further suggests the possibility of social and political undertones within the piece. Gericault also likely exaggerated or even fabricated the blood stains that cover the sheets upon which the heads are placed, for the severed head would have been drained of blood by the time it came into his care, and the woman, given that her head was very much attached, would also have shed no blood. Despite its title and its label as a study piece, the painting subtly decries the use of the guillotine.
  • 1:00 AM

Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus...

J.M.W. Turner, Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus..., 1831
William Turner, a dark complex man, was born into a family that had increasing mental illnesses. Death occupied his family and consumed his sister after she was assigned to a mental institute. Turner lived with his uncle because of these increasing family problems. His love for painting and drawing emerged a few years after he moved in with his new guardian. The Royal Academy of Art schools soon recognized Turner's skill and accepted him into the school. During his early years of painting, Turner developed a love for marine life. This was not a love for the beauty of nature brings, but instead for the destruction that it creates.

In 1831 Turner painted Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus Going off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal of Distress. This work perfectly displays the darkness that nature can bring upon mankind. A blue flair in the background can be seen as the violent waves rip through the vessel that was in despair. Bone-chilling clouds in the background overpower the light that the painting emits. Although Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus Going off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal of Distress was an extremely dark painting, not all of his were like this. Many of his works provided a great source of pure light that bordered destruction and darkness, mostly in nature.

The fact that no matter how pure and light Turner painted, he always had darkness in the painting that could resemble the screams that haunted his house. After Turner's sister died, his mother began to go crazy. This haunted Turner and gave an edge to the darkness in his painting. It is even said that the violent brushstrokes seen in his work are directly from the screams from his mother that haunt him.
  • 1:00 AM

The Honorable Mrs. Thomas Graham

Thomas Gainsborough, Mrs. Thomas Graham, 1777
Pearls, diamonds, feathers, and silk cover her perfectly postured physique. The slight curve of her wrist mirrors the draping of her cascading dress and the plume of her hat. Wispy trees and branches frame her delicate porcelain face. The pink of her crepe skirt brings out the faint blush of her cheeks, giving a warmth to her face accentuated by the sunset. At first glance, Mary Cathcart appears to be the quintessential high-class woman of eighteenth century England, dripping with all of the grandeur that money could buy. Yet the painting tells an entirely different story of Mrs. Graham.

Despite her pristine attire and elite status, Thomas Graham's spouse longs for something more from her seemingly flawless life. The clouds in the background follow the same path as her longing stare, away from the dark forest that holds her into the oppressive shackles of European society. Even the passionate love from her husband, vaguely shown by the rosiness of her skirt, fades into the smokey, ominous countryside behind her.

Though Thomas Gainsborough was no fortuneteller, Mary Cathcart, the subject of the painting, died just a few years later at the young age of 35 after a bout with tuberculosis. The clouds arguably could be the disease creeping upon Mrs. Graham, or they might simulate the black drape that her husband placed over her painting after her demise. Whatever the significance of the countryside, Gainsborough's The Honorable Mrs. Thomas Graham unfolds the dark effects of high society in eighteenth century England.
  • 9:13 AM

The Massacre at Chios

Eugene Delacroix, Massacre at Chios, 1824
In 1821, a war broke out between Greece and Turkey, otherwise known as the Greek War of Independence. A small orthodox community lay just off the coast of nationalist Turkey and in the middle of turmoil. Europe found themselves profoundly engaged with the Grecian revolt. Eugene Delacroix, a 26-year-old painter at the time, had had his mind set on doing his own rendition of the atrocities. In 1824, he would realize this hope.

In 1822 the Turkish Sultan designated his army for the small island. Nearly 20,000 people of the island of Chios were massacred. Citizens were hanged, butchered, starved, and tortured;  women and children were raped and enslaved and sent to North Africa.

Such suffering provides a rich source material  for a Romantic painter. Delacroix interviewed an eyewitness, Colonel Vautier, to make sure he painted an exact scene from the horror. Another name for The Massacres at Chios, Scene from the Massacres at Chios: Greek Families Awaiting Death or Slavery, etc.--See Various Accounts and Contemporary Newspapers, shows Delacroix's drive for utmost accuracy. Some art historians, however, battle against this false notion of complete accuracy.

Delacroix did many studies on items such as exotic costumes in Paris and Persian miniatures to create an Arabian Nights feel. The Persian miniatures, from which Delacroix borrowed the lighting, made their faces somewhat "flat and brilliant."

Many, including Ingres of course, would call Delacroix's Massacre an "assault on the great traditions of history painting." His painting, lacking a centralized hero, creates two ideas of desolate and tortured scenery, but it seems spread out and disjointed. Through all this supposed fiction, the truth which Delacroix hoped the public would see comes through.

Families and individuals lay crowded alongside each other, starved and depleted. A woman chained across the soldier's horse indicates her future sexual enslavement, and a child on the ground clings to her dead mother, hoping to be fed. Even though Delacroix might have romanticized the scene as always, he successfully portrayed the "contemporary barbarism."

For a brief moment in history, Eastern and foreign paintings dominated historical painting. Right before putting The Massacre of Chios on display, Delacroix revised his painting at the last moment to mimic the "vibrant, flecked surfaces" of other paintings done by Constable.
  • 1:00 AM

Stonehenge


John Constable, Stonehenge, 1836
John Constable’s landscapes perfectly sum up the artist’s love for nature.  Constable spent his career sketching the outdoors and then later converting his sketches to paintings. Unlike many landscape artists, Constable painted places he lived around and saw every day.  He rarely traveled to find places of extraordinary beauty, but instead found splendor in his homeland. Constable grew up and lived in East Bergholt in Suffolk, England, which would later be nicknamed Constable County due to the fame of Constable’s work.  Besides Suffolk, Constable spent a lot of time in Salisbury because his good friend, John Fisher, lived there.  Fisher, an Anglican priest, became Constable’s greatest patron and would go one to commission Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.  Due to this good friendship, Constable spent a good deal of time in Salisbury where he would become acquainted with Stonehenge.

Constable made a sketch of Stonehenge in 1820.  He would wait nearly until the end of his life to put the stone monument on a canvas.  Constable finished Stonehenge in 1836, just a year before his death.  At the time, Britain had become caught up in an age of industrialization that completely undermined Constable’s naturalism.  To retort, Constable started painting double rainbows into his work.  They appear in such paintings as Stonehenge, Landscape and Double Rainbow, and Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.  The rainbow stands for the wonder in nature that Constable saw.  They usually emerge from a dark, cloudy sky.  The darkness surrounding these vibrant rainbows represents the brilliance of the natural world compared to the slums of the industrialized one.  Sadly, the colors of the rainbows in Stonehenge have faded.

Stonehenge ended up being unveiled at John Constable’s final exhibit in 1837.  Throughout his career, Constable found himself on the butt end of a fair amount of criticism, similar to his counterpart, Turner.  Constable’s memoirs wouldn’t be published until 1843, by which time many people had already forgotten about him.  But, as time went on, art historians began to slowly rediscover his work and found Constable had innovated many things that Turner had also come up with.  Now, the two are the most well known British artists of the Romantic era.  Like Stonehenge, time has failed to topple the large, insurmountable rock that John Constable’s art has become.
  • 1:00 AM

The Third of May

Franciso Goya, The Third of May, 1808, 1814
Francisco de Goya’s experience and work for the series known as The Disasters of War culminate in one painting, The Third of May. The majority of the prints comprising The Disasters series were likely Goya’s personal recordings on War. Yet, it is through The Third of May that Goya achieves unequivocal mastery in displaying man’s savage, primitive, and bestial character. Goya’s ability to strongly display his opinion of man’s nature was accompanied by a different ability – being able to reject the art constructs.

Scenes depicting battle have constituted a noticeable amount of art. Yet, in The Third of May, unlike its predecessors, the viewer is given no sense of place in the battle that is ensuing. Rather, the viewer is thrown into the thick of war without any perspective as to where the perimeters of the battle are located. Through this Goya has forgone the traditional style of perspective in a battle scene and given us something rarely before seen in art.

The most heart-wrenching quality of this painting is the utter execution and erasing of the slain man. His figure is not made in the image of God, but rather that of an everyday man. Furthermore, the viewer is left with no intimation that a divine transition from life to death exists. We are only given his death. The austere conclusiveness cuts deeply.

Goya makes every subject in The Third of May anonymous. Through this anonymity the artist forces the observer to take a stance with the characters – truly something that sets him apart from his contemporaries. One could easily argue that the sheer terror and horror depicted in the scene evokes human emotion so strongly that it causes an analytical eye to stop and pause for a moment. Goya has successfully been able to leave the viewer bereft of any detachment from the characters and the scene – if you’re looking for the Giotto of the modern art movement, look no further.

  • 1:00 AM

Madame Phillippe Desbassayns de Richemont and Her Son, Eugene

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Madame Phillippe Desbassayns,
1802-1803 
Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s work Madame Phillippe Desbassayns de Richemont and Her Son, Eugene has a bit of a cloudy background. In 1897, the painting surfaced in an exhibition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This was the first time that Jacques-Louis David scholars had seen the work, and they presumed (wrongly) that it was his.

A member of the de Richmont family gave the work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1953. Family tradition stated that David painted Madame de Richemont and her daughter, Camille, shortly before the girl’s death in an accident. The family sold the painting because the painting alludes to memories of their daughter’s tragic death. Critics speculate that after Camille’s death, the painting was altered to replace the young girl’s portrait with that of her brother Eugene’s. However, the physique of the child in the portrait, as portrayed through its curls and rosy skin tone, does not indicate a particular gender.

While art critics attribute the painting to Benoist, the mannerisms of David, her mentor, shine through the work. The position of the character, short brushstrokes, and wisp-ish quality of the hair mimics David’s style. But, the shade of red in the shawl that adorns the chair contradicts David’s customary color. The orange tones of Benoist’s fabric almost seem too bright and florescent compared to the customary crimson used in David’s works, such Venus Disarming Mars. After studying David’s paintings, it can resolutely be stated that Madame Phillippe Desbassayns de Richemont and Her Son, Eugene was not painted by the late master, but by his studious disciple.



  • 1:00 AM

Cloister Ruins at Eldena

Casper David Friedrich, Cloister Ruin at Eldena, 1825
Caspar David Friedrich used his art to find solitude, God, and death in folklore and religion. Friedrich found himself especially drawn to German folklore and culture because Napoleon occupied Friedrich’s home, Dresden, for a number of years.

During Napoleon’s reign, Friedrich painted the ruins of old German architecture to express his patriotism. Friedrich’s favorite building to paint was the monastery at Eldena. The monastery (or an edifice resembling the monastery) appears in the several of Friedrich’s paintings, including Cloister Ruins at Eldena, Winter, and Abbey in an Oak Grove. The Cisterian sect monks who lived in the Eldena Abby carried out secluded lives that focused on self-sufficiency and Christ. Friedrich's paintings were already about solitude before he saw the ruins at Eldena, so the haunting feeling of the long dead monks naturally attracted Friedrich.

He finished Cloister Ruins at Eldena around 1825, a time in which his personal struggles climaxed. The Akademie der Bildenden Kunst (the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts) refused to give Friedrich the landscape painting teaching position in 1824. The old teacher, Johann Christian Klengel (one of Friedrich’s major influences), died and left the post vacant. Friedrich never received wide critical acclaim in his career, so he was used to this sort of rejection. However, Friedrich fell ill afterwards. 

From 1825-1826, Friedrich suffered health problems that almost claimed his life. These years aged Friedrich and marked an end of an age that Cloister embodies. In the years before his illness, Friedrich’s paintings had worked mostly with landscape, but some featured little pairs of people (as seen in Cloister). These couples disappear in the later works, as Friedrich broods over works featuring winter landscapes.
  • 1:00 AM

Napoleon Visiting the Pest House in Jaffa


Though known for his warm-color palettes and dabbing brushstrokes, Antoine-Jean Gros developed his style of painting under the guidance of the Neoclassical master Jacques-Louis David. His signature pieces include light brushstrokes, rosy complexions and splitting colors that highlight principal scenes when placed against his customarily blurred backgrounds. To gain influence in French Salons, Gros (falsely) romanticized Napoleon’s non-belligerent nature by commemorating the emperor’s kind deeds through a series of flattering portraits. Of these scenic paintings, Bonaparte Visits the Plague-Ridden of Jaffa portrays the ruler as the sympathetic authoritarian who lovingly visits Jaffa’s plagued populations. 

Emphasized by the striking crimson view of his hat’s feathers, Napoleon reaches out and touches an ill man’s bubo, a lump formed in the armpit or groin region as an indicative symptom of the bubonic plague, with his ungloved hand. In obvious disregard of the disease’s contagious nature, Napoleon’s gesture stamps “Napoleon is a benevolent ruler” across Gros’ portraiture campaign. A fallen soldier and imposing doctor from the background move to restrain the ruler from touching the deathly lump while acting as a framing technique that Gros uses to focus his audiences’ attention on Bonaparte’s optimistic gesture.

After watching their immortalized ruler visit the condemned, Bonaparte’s subjects elevated their ruler’s reputation. Unfortunately for them, Gros embellished the scene beyond the situation's reality.

The black plague, now classified as a respiratory disease, travels from sharing air with the victims. Therefore, touching the bubo of a plagued victim does nothing to heighten one’s chances of catching the disease, though it might spread the disease's pus-like discharge on the contact region. Furthermore, the real Napoleon Bonaparte never did that, anyway. The ruler actually fostered contempt for the plague-ridden patients housed in Jaffa. After his first visit to the disease-ridden pest house, he asked doctors to treat the terminally-ill patients with a fatal dosage of opium. When they refused to obey his orders, Napoleon visited the city one more time and paid his final, grand adieu to the almost-dead victims before turning his back on them and resuming his imperialistic wars.
  • 1:00 AM

Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming

Joseph Mallord Willliam Turner, Slave Ship, 1840
 J. M. W. Turner’s Slave Ship speaks out against British colonial rule and subsequent slave trade by depicting a strikingly beautiful setting that, on closer examination, reveal itself to be the shackled forms of drowning slaves being torn apart by carnivorous fish.

Many prints omit the lower half of the painting, choosing to admire the sunset rather than experience the violence of the Middle Passage. This refusal to come to terms with the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade reflected the sentiment of the British government at the time. Claiming to abolish slavery through a series of treaties with other European countries, the British strategically left the Middle Passage and trans-Atlantic slave trade alive and well. But, while attempting to force the issue into the public sphere, Turner inadvertently pledged his patronage to the very institution he was trying to bring down by frequently using gum arabic, a painting supply that facilitated the binding of pigment to the surface of the canvas for deeper and longer-lasting color.

Exporting almost 80% of the world’s gum arabic, modern-day Sudan was under British control until 1885. The colony of Senegambia also contributed greatly to the gum arabic economy during the 19th century. Those buying gum arabic were paying for the salaries of British government officials responsible for its harvesting. This was done by the women and children of central Africa. The men were shipped off to Britain’s other colonial land holdings to fight in wars or work on the Suez Canal. 

While Turner's attempt to join the growing anti-slavery movement successfully critiques the Middle Passage with great dexterity, he could not account for the pervasiveness of the slave economy in Britain. By trying to use his paintbrush to speak for the victims of the Atlantic slave trade, his use of gum arabic silences their voices.


  • 5:00 PM

The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up


J.M.W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839
Painted at the height of Turner’s career, The Fighting Temeraire, represents a shining moment for England, or the end of an era. The ship that served as a faithful companion in the British Navy being tugged away by a modern tug boat that's half the size.Turner so desired the work that he called the painting his "darling."

The ship’s name was Temeraire, and she served in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 as a gun ship. The battle was fought between the British Naval armies and those of Spain and France during the Napoleonic Wars. The battle proved to be instrumental in securing Britain’s win in the war. Britain had 27 ships compared to the French and Spanish’s combined 33. Yet, once the battle ended, 22 French and Spanish ships had been lost, while the British fleet remained unharmed.

Admiral Lord Nelson, who was mortally wounded during battle, led the British Navy. Nelson won the battle with pure naval genius. Opposed to the primary way of approaching the enemy in a single line then splitting into two, Nelson chose to approach in two rows forcing the opposing fleet to split. Nelson knew his navy was superior and by prohibiting the French and Spanish to leave. It forced the fleets to fight, created mass chaos among the French and Spanish fleet and created no way for them to reposition to fire. 

The painting minimizes the beauty and power of the Temerarie when it is compared to the small boat pulling it. Turner made a bold statement inferring that he believed the British Navy was declining. The ship also represents Turner in some ways. He painted the Temeraire when he was in his sixties and, like the ship, he knew his time was coming to a close.  

  • 5:25 PM

Wanderer Above Mist


Casper David Friedrich, Wanderer Above Mist, 1818
During the reign of Napoleon, the Romantic Movement rooted itself in European culture. As other European nations forged alliances to protect themselves from growing French nationalism and Napoleon’s conquest for domination continued, artists and philosophers moved away from the Enlightenment thought that, in their eyes, brought on this conflict-filled period.

Casper David Friedrich and Charles Baudelaire are products of this philosophical and artistic movement. Baudelaire’s poem “Elevation” describes a world unknown, which parallels Friedrich’s Wanderer Above Mist. The Romantic Movement is characterized by a regression to the outlook of the middle ages. Baudelaire expands on the souls function in the spiritual realm. He speaks of the soul moving “ with ease … blithely through boundless space.” As the man stands on a cliff overlooking the vast foggy valley below his soul moves with ease.

The luminous colors in Wanderer Above Mist represent the spiritual realm. The man stands above the fog, and contemplates his life his soul takes flight. Baudelaire speaks of the soul taking flight in “Elevation.” He states that he whose thoughts take flight hovers and understands life with ease. This imagery is presented perfectly by Friedrich’s painting. The man stands above his life with ease. He sees all and accepts all. The lightness that Friedrich approached this painting with embodies the thesis of the Romantic Movement.

Friedrich’s influence on 19th century art and philosophy is undeniable. With his use of color to the story he created, Friedrich took painting to an entirely new level.
  • 4:14 PM