Two Men Contemplating the Moon

Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating the Moon, ca. 1820

Who but is pleased to watch the moon on high
Traveling where she from time to time enshrouds
Her head, and nothing loth her Majesty

Renounces, till among the scattered clouds
One with its kindling edge declares that soon
Will reappear before the uplifted eye
A From as bright, as beautiful a moon,
To glide in open prospect through clear sky.

               "Who But Is Pleased To Watch The Moon On High," William Wordsworth, 1846

Two men gaze into a horizon of ceaseless wonder observing the Moon's emanating beauty in Two Men Contemplating the Moon. The men, Friedrich himself and his follower August Heinrich, stand upon a hill pondering thoughts unknown to the viewer. Are they grieving over love? Are they immersing themselves in nature's soothing imagery? Does it truly even matter? Even without knowing their inner contemplations, the painting exerts emotion between the bond of two men, and even their attachment to Nature's glory. 

Friedrich paints himself stern in deep thought, while Heinrich leans on him, depicting the men's relationship. Friedrich embodies wisdom that his pupil admires and eagerly awaits. They peer through a portal created by trees that encapsulate the Moon. Friedrich and Heinrich esteem the moon in comparison to the admiration of a beautiful women, and Wordsworth's poem exemplifies the moon's captivating qualities and its classical evocation of the female. 

The brush strokes and its somber hues surrounding the radiating Moon welcome viewers. Friedrich positioned the men on a path that seems to carry on beyond the boundaries of the painting's frame. It forms and interesting stage for the characters and a unique viewpoint. The Moon hangs in the starless sky as the primary focal point. Friedrich could be hinting towards the Moon symbolizing a catalyst for knowledge and wonder as the men gaze into deep thought. 

The image might allude towards the industrialization shift. The men, as previously mentioned, stand at the conclusion of a path. Along the path sits a chopped tree stump, clearly hacked down by the hands of humans rather than a natural destruction. The men appreciate nature while slowly behind them the industrial powers of humanity catch up. Though ultimately, I believe Friedrich mainly depicts a desire for knowledge, the beauty of nature while adding a rebellious aspect to the work. 

Friedrich and Heinrich sport German garments in the painting during a time of French influence. This signifies his loyalty to his mother country while showing he willingly rebels against the Napoleonic era. This subtle component of his painting represents a major part of Friedrich himself. He was not going to conform to a society which restricts him from truly believing and living how he desires. 

  • 7:00 AM

Cloister Ruins at Eldena

Caspar David Friedrich, Cloister Ruin at Eldena, c. 1825

"We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say 
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal 
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget, 
That after many wanderings, many years 
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, 
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me 
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!"
           "Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth

Caspar David Friedrich had three things for certain: a great disdain for Napoleon, an incredible talent for romantic painting, and a near obsession with churches and abbeys. The ruins of an Abbey in Eldena were one of Friedrich's favorite places and are featured in several of his most striking paintings. Other works like Abbey in the Oak Forest impart a hollow, haunting feeling, designed to slap the audience in the face, but Cloister Ruin at Eldena turns this feeling on its head. I can't help but to feel how alive this piece is in comparison. I feel it breathing with me, I feel the wind on my face, I hear the trees rustling, I smell the fresh dirt. It exists in front of me as real and vibrant as a human being.

The greens and rusty reds emphasize the all-encompassing mother earth, and therefore God. In composition, the placement of the archway draws the eyes immediately and the vertical alignment of the trees and columns intensify the perceived height and strength of this work, invoking divine majesty. The placement of the winding foliage and fallen logs create a comforting intimacy in the painting and further the theme of universality in nature.

The cloister and the trees rise in unison like great pillars from the earth. As the ruins of this beautiful abbey continue to decay, they meld with forest. The massive trees and remaining stone edifice have become one. God in nature, as nature. Friedrich shows the audience the soul of the romantic movement through the combination of a strong spiritual symbol becoming part of the natural world. As traditional God must decay, it lives on in its truest form: the earth, itself. The monks have moved on, but people are still there to worship and continue the human cycle of life, building their quaint cottage among the powerful ruins. They start humbly anew in great appreciation for the world around them, and this painting reveals a genuine nobility in that.

  • 7:00 AM

Yard with Lunatics

Yard with Lunatics, Francisco de Goya, 1794

Francisco de Goya’s Yard With Lunatics [also: Pen of Crazies] is a testament to the chilling apathy of isolation, a diving-bell-and-butterfly horrorscape doused in blasphemous flair. A gradient crescendoes from light to dark as brightness dies in the corners of the courtyard, then glows anew near the “lunatics’” feet, showing a rightful link between the outside world and the trapped while simultaneously emboldening the shadow of each patient’s despair. Two nude men fight in the center; their struggle resembles an embrace. A warden, whose somber clothing matches the shadows, whips the men apart. This clearly evokes the concept of slavery. He gazes up at the sky, as if doing God’s work, while a crawling woman stares into his unseeing eyes. Look down.

Save this woman and the fighting men, none of the damned exchange glances. A lack of meaningful interaction, in Goya’s mind, was the worst of physical and emotional entrapment. He would have agreed with Virginia Woolf’s Septimus that “communication is health.” Each ‘lunatic’ has a distinct personality, an inner world waiting to be understood. Are those blue dots merely blemishes, we wonder, or a bow in the grimacing woman’s hair? Goya claims to have witnessed this scene as a child; perhaps the painting’s tidbits of individuality are memories, or perhaps they were added to evoke the terror he felt, a shiver of prophecy foretelling a drowning self. Goya painted this piece two years after he went deaf. He surely feared that the limitations of his physicality would entrap his soul, forging a distance between himself and those he needed. Man is a social animal, and this anguish glimmers deep within every one of us. As Wordsworth writes: “Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear/The longest date do melt like frosty rime.” Whether in body or in mind, you, too, are made for melting.

We are all born mad, I think, and hide our strangeness in different ways. We must find solace in our mutual insanity. And remember: Time is short and feeble. You were not made to raise yourself above others, to hurt others. You must see past the cages of the flesh; you must seek to understand. The only victory is compassion. 
  • 7:00 AM

Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa

Antoine-Jean Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa, 1804

At 17 feet high and 23 feet wide, Jean-Antoine Gros created a masterpiece to last for the ages. This piece of artwork was displayed at the salon in 1804 and was the first Napoleonic history painting. Gros fostered a relationship with Napoleon and his wife in 1793. In 1796, he recreated an event he witnessed of Napoleon’s army outflanking the Austrian troops at the Battle of Arcole. Napoleon enjoyed how the painting represented the French army, and allowed Napoleon to follow the army to paint future French victories. For this reason, Gros created this depiction of the army.

Because Bonaparte commissioned this painting, Gros had the task of illustrating him in a favorable way. The light illuminates the picture to draw the eye towards the scene of Napoleon. Hidden in the darker areas are the dead or dying army victims of the bubonic plague. Napoleon stands in the Jaffa mosque, which has been transformed into a military hospital. With his bare hands, he touches a plague sore on one of his troop members. This courageous act seems to suggest that Bonaparte has no fears or concerns for his own health. He appears as a man dedicated to his troops. Historians often question his motives for visiting the mosque. Was he there to boost morale because of his dedication to his troops (as Napoleon would like you to think)? Or was he simply there to assess the situation and decide whether he should abandon his troops? History suggests that sometimes Bonaparte even ordered the death of prisoners he could not afford and poisoned troops dying from the plague. Yes, Gros paints a masterpiece and symbolizes Bonaparte as a saint, but he also rewrites history. 

“Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley presents all of Napoleon’s fears. Though the painting shows him as fearless, the fact that he commissioned this to be painted presents one of his concerns. Napoleon did not want to be a figure who fades away into the never-ending cycle of history. He wanted to stand out and be remembered, years from now. The fact that I am sitting here writing this blog post attests to the fact that his goal was met—to an extent. “Round the decay; Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare; the lone and level sands stretch far away,” Shelley writes, suggesting that Ozymandias, supposed “king of kings” has not left a legacy. To the poet, he appears as a lost traveler; the kind of lost traveler that Napoleon does not want to become.

  • 7:00 AM

Liberty Leading the People

 Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830
"The Sensual and the Dark rebel in vain,
Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
They burst their manacles and wear the name
Of Freedom, graven on a heavier chain!
O Liberty! with profitless endeavour 
Have I pursued thee, many a weary hour;
But thou nor swell'st the victor's strain, nor ever
Didst breathe thy soul in forms of human power."
          "Dejection: an Ode" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

In this poem Coleridge talks about the feeling of joy towards a lady. This poem relates to Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix from Coleridge's use in the words "Liberty" and "Freedom" and create a dark and weary setting. 

Liberty Leading the People depicts the July revolution of 1830 and like many Romantic era paintings, encompasses terror, violence, and heroism. He uses bold brush strokes and dark colors to communicate feelings of grand heroism and angry despair. Delacroix also paints people of all different social classes (for example, the man in the top hat and the man next to him in the tattered white shirt on the left) and does so to show that the revolution united the people of France. He also believed that many people had an impact on the revolution, not just the people fighting. He drew himself as the man in the top-hat because be thought that although he did not fight, he painted propaganda which had a major impact in his mind. Delacroix paints himself as the "high class man" in the painting, and possibly chooses to do so because he sees himself as superior to those who actually fought. 

France gifted the United States the Statue of Liberty in 1886 and many believe that the model for the statue had been based off of Liberty in Delacroix's painting. A woman symbolizes Liberty to represent that it is an idealistic liberty and not a real person. Delacroix along with most of society in the 19th century believed that no woman had enough power or strength to have such a role in a major propaganda painting. Simultaneously, Delacroix shows Liberty bare breasted as a symbol of power, feminine/supernatural strength, and possibly motherly care as she takes care of and leads the young men. 

  • 7:00 AM

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818

“Once again / Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, / Which on a wild secluded scene impress / Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect / The landscape with the quiet of the sky”
           “Lines,” William Wordsworth.

Like the narrator of “Lines,” the man in Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog feels connected to nature and reveres its serenity. Alone atop a cliff, the man finds a personal paradise and an escape from the city.

Friedrich’s clouds and fog unite elements of the landscape and envelop mighty mountains in softness. All of nature becomes one before the wanderer’s eyes. Part of the setting but outside of the cycle, he simply observes, in awe of the scene unfolding before him. Above the world, the man can look down on the folly of a civilization from which he temporarily removes himself. Clouds that reveal only the tops of peaks cover trivial concerns below.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog demonstrates Friedrich’s incredible skill and elicits an emotional response. The subtle hues in the sunset have an optimistic quality, and the clouds soften stress. The painting draws out a deep breath and reminds observers to slow down and appreciate the world outside of papers and commitments. Even if one’s cliff exists only within the mind, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog prompts a retreat to regain personal equilibrium.

As diverse as they may be, viewers of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog all assume the man’s position over the mist. By leaving the wanderer faceless and receptive to adaptation, Friedrich intended this response. The clouds and cliffs carry people to tranquility and replace pressure with the pure white landscape.

Wordsworth suggests that one can return to past experiences in memory. He writes, “The picture of the mind revives again: / While here I stand, not only with the sense / Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts / That in this moment there is life and food / For future years.” With the ethereal qualities of memory, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog potentially features a man standing on a cliff, not physically, but within his thoughts.

  • 7:00 AM

Yacht Approaching the Coast

J.M.W Turner, Yacht Approaching the Coast, 1845

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies:
And all that’s the best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies

         “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron

William Turner, the “painter of light,” started painting Yacht Approaching the Coast the same year as he completed his most famous work, the Slave Ship. He completed the work just six years before his death, so it does not look like the classic English landscape painting that his earlier paintings appeared to be. Like his later works, Yacht contains unrecognizable figures. Some described his later works as “fantastic puzzles” of color and light. In Yacht he plays with yellows and oranges as well as light and reflection in the water. While the painting appears happy, most of his later works came from a depressed place as his father, and former studio aid, died. His father’s death made a profound impact on his later works. His grief can be seen through his use of light, because the significance of the light was his way of viewing G-d’s spirit and heaven. While many works focus on ships or shipwrecks, when I look at Yacht, I am immediately drawn to the bright light. Even when I try to look at other parts of the painting, I am drawn back to the center of the light. It engulfs me and makes me feel warm and light.

Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” caught my eye because it describes lightness and darkness, which Turner plays with in his works, as well as, the “tender light which heaven to gaudy day denies” which made me think of the light as G-d’s spirit as Turner had. Also, I found the painting to be pleasant and I felt similarly when reading the poem. They both made me feel warm and calm.

I also enjoy the painting on its own. I like the playfulness of the light and reflection, but it also feels a little violent with the dark ships on bottom. I think of  Yacht is when I am driving and I see an extremely bright sunset, but there is a cloud just blocking the sun from burning my eyes and instead the light shines in every other direction. I feel that Turner painted the sun so we are not directly his by the wonderful sunlight, but it is spread throughout nature and the rest of the painting. Going back to the idea that the light is G-d’s spirit, once way to view the light in this painting is that the viewer will not be touched by G-d’s spirit but the water and the rest of nature in the painting will and that G-d is working to spread himself in all directions. Another way to view it is that the cloud is blocking the sun from its full brightness and so we cannot get close enough to G-d’s spirit until we ascend to heaven.

When this project was assigned, I knew that I was going to write about Turner, because I like his color palette and style. Everything morphs together and things can be viewed in so many different ways. I enjoy looking and trying to piece together his “fantastic puzzles."
  • 7:00 AM

Mount Vesuvius in Eruption

J.M.W. Turner, Mount Vesuvius in Eruption, 1817

Joseph Mallord William Turner, an English artist of the Romantic era, was known for his contribution to beautiful landscapes and historical implementation tied into one. In a way, he was one of the first artists to make an impact on the world of Impressionism. His use of color and light allowed people to see the contrasting elements within his works of art and is known as “The Painter of Light.”Through light and dark colors, the mood of the painting is easily displayed. Through his exquisite oil and watercolor paintings, as his years of work progressed, the less clear the images in his paintings became. His fascination with the world, aspects of humanity, and God, are all presented in his paintings.

In Mount Vesuvius in Eruption, Turner creates a wonderful composition of beauty and catastrophe, just like how life is. The idea behind this painting all began when he began to study other artist works and the knowledge of volcanoes. He did not actually visit Mount Vesuvius until 1819, two years after the the painting was exhibited. The vision of the eruption of a volcano appealed to Turner and the transcendence behind the concept of everyday life. He never actually witnessed an eruption occur, but painted what he thought it would look like. The effect of using bright light colors, such as white, mixed with darker hues, the dramatic image of the volcano erupting is shown. With the choice of variations of orange, red, yellow, and brown, the audience is able to see the intensity behind the action going on in the painting.

William Wordsworth’s poem, "Mutability," not only encapsulates Turner’s painting of Mount Vesuvius, but also his perspective on the world. Mutability discusses how everything in nature eventually will fail and be destroyed completely in the end. Overtime, everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same no matter the circumstance whether it’s subtle or immense. The use of music is important to the poem because the references “melancholy chime” and “high to low, along a scale” in relation to “avarice” and crime,” which shows how something depressing and unpleasing can be beautiful in its own way. This relates to Mount Vesuvius in Eruption because it presents how something in nature that is so magnificent and awe worthy eventually gets demolished by a natural occurrence in nature.

  • 7:00 AM

The Blue Rigi Lake of Lucerne at Sunrise

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Blue Rigi of Lucerne at Sunrise, 1842 


Within Turner’s work he attempts to rationalize the emotions that consume us. To document the struggle of humanity with his inconsistent brush strokes and captivating colors. His use of reflection between the sky and lake not only creates nice composition but reminds the viewer to stay objective.

Initially I saw Turner as another artist on our slide test, but as flipped through his paintings I felt a connection with The Blue Rigi Lake of Lucerne at Sunrise. Something about the looming blue mass in the center sucked me in. The Rothko Effect. The blue tones appear simplistic but spew out an almost hypnotizing aura.

The mass, perhaps a mountain, represents human emotion. Turner makes the lines rough yet delicate to capture the mutability of feeling. Upon staring into the painting or more accurately as I felt the painting gazing back at me, I felt a loss. I felt grief. A grief best described in "Dejection: An Ode: by Samuel Taylor Coleridge “A Grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief.”

Turner captures the grief that comes and goes like the ripples of the lake. I don’t see Trevor’s death in the blue tones. Instead I see his life in the golden reflection of the lake and the rising sun. Reminding me death does not have to be morbid or depressing.

Romanticism represents a connection with nature and emotion. Turner’s painting helped me to reconnect with Trevor. Remember bits and pieces of him that I was sure I had forgotten.

The Blue Rigi Lake of Lucerne at Sunrise sparks something inside of you. Something you may want to ignore or forget, but Turner won’t let you escape. Turner forces you to feel..which sometimes is the hardest thing to do.

  • 7:00 AM

Two Men Contemplating The Moon

Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating The Moon, c.1830

Caspar David Friedrich's oil on canvas Two Men Contemplating the Moon features two figures staring off into the lavender sky covered by gnarled tree limbs. It is speculated that the two figures present in the painting represent Friedrich and his pupil August Heinrich. The romantic piece made circa 1830 currently resides in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Friedrich typically used his artwork as an avenue for venting, particularly about his frustrations regarding the Napoleonic Wars. Being a German artist active during the time of Napoleon's dictatorship, he had a lot of pride and nationalism to portray in his paintings. The two figures in Two Men Contemplating the Moon don old Germanic costumes that a rebel during the 19th century would wear. Such anti-Napoleonic clothing became illegal in Europe in 1819.

By having the two figures with their backs turned to the viewer, one can feel as if they're a part of the painting,  gazing off into the nostalgia of the sky. The asymmetric painting is consumed by gross and grown over tree branches, which represent Germany's unruly state during the Napoleonic Wars. Friedrich painted three versions of this work, all very similar looking but portraying the same emotion of looking towards the hopefulness of the moon and basking in the nostalgia of a better time.

  • 7:00 AM

Rain, Steam, and Speed

J.M.W. Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844

Imagine you were dropped onto a flat plain. There is a large gorge, and in it is a river that sits around twenty to thirty feet below you. Falling in would need immediate death. However, among many things concerning the beauty of the scenery, among them is clarity. You see the land on the other side of the gorge very clearly. Fast forward forty years. The two separate land masses are joined by a massive bridge with tracks extending both ways beyond the eye can see. The once clear air is filled with smog. All that is visible now is the dark outline of the bridge and the hard, defined lines of the new train, emerging from the darkness.

Standing at three feet by four feet, the water color portrait was one in a series of landscapes. Each of the series was set in a different location in nature and contains some allusion to the Industrial Revolution, a technological boom which saw an increase in ease of living. For Turner in particular, he used the new means of travel as still-lifes in these portraits. In this painting in particular, all the viewer can see upon first glance is the train and the smog excreted from the train. Upon further viewership, one can see the land mass beyond the bridge as well as the beautiful blue water and sky which lies below it and above it.

Turner's friends, or who he thought were his friends, called this series of paintings "yellow fever" because of his almost obsession with the color yellow. The color, as expressed by the smog in this particular one, dominates this series of paintings. The more and more you look at it, the more obscure everything becomes. Another major theme of this series was the industrial revolution. Turner was excited by the influx of new technology. In this painting in particular, Turner places a heavy emphasis on his fascination with the new technology, as it blurs and smears the surroundings. It also focuses only on the bright hue of the river readily visible alongside the train.

While I could simply say "What the Hammer" and say that this particular painting was an open letter of appreciation for locomotion (depicting one of the first forms of facilitated transportation), I will go a step further. I say, "What the anvil? what dread grasp,/Dare its deadly terrors clasp!" In my opinion, this painting is not an ode to the train, it is a warning. While today, nobody is surprised to hear that emissions from coal erodes the ozone, there was no scientific evidence of the consequence back in 1840. Turner foresaw the consequence of such an ease in movement. While he didn't know quite know what that consequence was, he knew it existed.

  • 7:00 AM

Abbey in an Oak

Caspar David  FriedrichAbbey in an Oak, 1809-1810

"Not a Mass will be sung then,
Not a Kaddish will be said,
Nothing sung, and nothing spoken,
On the day when I am dead."
           "Romanzero," Heinrich Heine

In Freidrich's most haunting painting, a lone abbey stands among a grove of dead oaks. The sole inhabitants, graves, the corpses interned with in, and the constant air of death. Nothing stirs in this painting, even the living monks seem frozen in place. Upon the shoulder of the groundskeepers sits a coffin, unfortunately for the deceased, the monks carry him deeper into the painting; deeper into that hazy, ethereal back ground.

"But perhaps another day
When the weather’s mild, serene,
My Matilde will go walking,
In Montmartre, with Pauline."  

Perhaps hope may still be found for our dearly departed friend. The only concrete objects are the dead trees and abbey; the abbey and oaks, reach into the unknown of the gray sky. Death, while grounded in our mortal, extends beyond our comprehension. What awaits us in that gray void will remain unknown till we cross. The By-and-By awaits us all, but take comfort, it may deliver you unto paradise unknown.

"With a wreath of immortelles,
She’ll come to dress my grave,
And she’ll sigh: ‘Oh, poor man.’
That moist sadness in her gaze. "

We the view only have the privilege of acting as voyeurs to the transaction depicted here; Frederich allows us this glimpse. This view must be utilized to its full extent. Take head in the lessons taught by these graves and ghosts, for one day you will join them in their macabre lecture.

*suggested listening: "Der Leiermann," by Franz Schubert
  • 7:00 AM

La Maja Desnuda

Francisco de Goya, La Maja Desnuda,1790-1800

Oh how wonderful is sensual Romanticism? The unknown mistress lies upon a green velvet chair with her arms raised as the light highlights her exposed body. Her cheeks appear noticeably rosy and her renowned gaze remains unashamed. Many viewed this particular work as too erotic. What initially sparked the negative connotations was Goya’s promiscuous use of pubic hair. Pubic hair=Prostitutes? Such hairs weren’t very well received…

With every painting comes a story and mystery. La Maja Desnuda was commissioned by Prime Minister Manuel Godoy to add to his nude collection. Alas the Inquisition took the apparently “immoral” painting from Godoy’s home and was then sequestered by King Fernando. Later, Goya was brought before the Inquisition and asked various questions about La Maja Desnuda.


“And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?”
          -William Blake, “Tyger”

An abrupt romance sparked a ruckus up in España. The answers were never recovered and the mystery lives on. Perhaps La Maja is Pepita Tudó, Godoy’s lover, or maybe Goya’s secret mistress, the Duchess of Alba? The entirety of the painting is open to interpretation, including the date (1790-1800).

As of 1901, La Maja Desnuda is present on a wall of the Prado Mueseum in Spain only inches from its counterpart La Maja Vestida. A painting worth the persecution…
  • 7:00 AM

The Turkish Bath

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Turkish Bath, 1862

Ingres’ Neoclassical The Turkish Bath revives a classic bathing scene present in many ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. Eroticism spills from all corners from the countless female nudes. Painted towards the end of his career, The Turkish Bath combines Ingres’ well-known passion for the female nude while also including his arabesque passion for the Orient. 

The cold and filtered lighting contrast the frivolity present in the Rococo movement. Lines dominate and Ingres’ brushstrokes appear tight as the pale skin tones radiate throughout.  He borrows various figures from his previous paintings and confesses that no live models were utilized. For example, the Valpinçon Bather appears in almost an identical position, only this time, she’s featured playing a stringed instrument. The Valpinçon Bather’s skin absorbs light in way that highlights her back and draws the viewer’s attention. This however, is no coincidence.

Initially The Turkish Bath included only one nude (the Valpinçon Bather) before being commissioned by Prince Napoleon III. Oh what a lovely gift to give my beautiful empress? He was presumably incorrect. She found such a painting incredibly unfit to be housed in their home with its excessive nudity. The art piece was then returned to Ingres and revamped. Ingres’ addition to The Turkish Bath was an insertion of 23 of his favorite subject matter, the female nude. A former Turkish diplomat found that the painting fit quite well amongst his erotic painting collection and purchased it in 1865. Eroticism isn’t for everyone, but The Turkish Bath culminates Ingres' life as a combination of his best themes and a centerpiece for his most famous works. 

Clearly, for him, 24 female nudes are better than just one. 

  • 7:00 AM

The Bather of Valpincon

Ingres, The Bather of Valpincon, 1808
During the French Revolution, the predominant form of art was known as Neoclassical. Neoclassicism intertwined with the movement of ornamental and optic art and architecture during the mid-18th to 19th century. For the most part, it was recognized in France, along with Europe and the United States shortly after. Neoclassical art contrasts with Rococo art in terms of elegantly ornate paintings to more of classical thought during ancient times. The whole idea behind this style of art was a way for artists to express themselves through their artwork and the knowledge that they acquired. A well-known artist during this time by the name of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, captured viewers attention by painting conventional, and romantic style of artistry.

Ingres is said to be one of the last Neoclassical painters and was labeled as one of the best artists in France. Historical paintings, nudes, and portraits were his specialty and helped describe the simplicity of emotion and color behind his work relating to romanticism. Denis Diderot, the writer of The Encyclopedia, said, “...the work of past centuries may be useful to the following centuries…” (Diderot 44). This relates to how Ingres distributes the characteristics of people and design in his paintings. He admired the human figure, the philosophy of the middle ages, and how he could be in control of the beauty behind admiring someone and drawing them. Ingres was greatly influenced by another Neoclassical artist, Jacques-Louis David, who inspired him to be the best he could be and grow in his work.
In The Bather of Valpincon, created in 1808, Ingres depicts the simple yet captivating scene of a woman who just finished bathing. Usually, Ingres painted people facing the audience, but in this, the woman’s back is facing toward us, thus being impossible to identify her and the emotion on her face. In another work of his, “...he inserted the torso and head of of his anonymous nude study of the 1808, the so-called Valpincon Bather, almost without alteration in the midst of his crowded Turkish Bath, of 1862” (Eisenman 50). He did this because he enjoyed putting replicas of people or objects into other aspects of different paintings so people would be able to recognize his work. When looking at the painting, the elegance of the white sheets, bed, and her skin color stand out. The color white is usually associated with perfection and the meaning of purity and cleanliness, which compares to the image of her cleansing her body. The significance of her immersing in water and washing herself, portrays the idea of cleansing not only herself, but her soul. Every problem or hardship is being washed away. The concept of religion can then presented relating to the idea of the woman being baptized and becoming new. Although the woman’s expression can not be seen, it can be felt by her body language.

Overall, the simplistic beauty behind The Bather of Valpincon, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, embodies the flawlessness of a woman and the washing away of her imperfections.
  • 7:00 AM