Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1907
ART TIMELINE: 1864
Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1864
Nadar, Sarah Bernhardt, 1864
Edouard Manet, The Races at Longchamp, 1864
Gustav Klimt, Danaë, c.1907
Gustave Moreau, Salome Dancing Before Herod, 1874-76
Viktor Vasnetsov, Moving House, 1876
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1824-1898
Hope (1872), The Balloon (1871), La Toilette (1883)
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes is an artist I have only come across relatively recently, when I looked into the work of the Symbolists (being a huge fan of Klimt, Moreau and Munch). Puvis de Chavannes was born in Lyon, and decided to become a painter after an eye-opening trip to Italy in his early life. He studied in Paris under the tutelage of Eugène Delacroix and Thomas Couture, and made his Paris Salon debut in 1850 at the tender age of 25.
Puvis de Chavannes was on the earliest committee of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, a French exhibition society established in 1862. After the death of the society’s first president, Ernest Messonier, Puvis de Chavannes took over the prestigious role, with the sculptor Auguste Rodin acting as his vice-president.
Felicien Rops, Pornocrates, 1896
From The World According to Art (Rijks Museum Amsterdam):
When the Belgian artist Félicien Rops worked on this image in 1878, he was in a state of fever, brought on by the stifling heat and intoxicating perfumes of cyclamen and opopanax in his room, which he considered to be very beneficial to the end result.The image, called Pornocrates or The Lady with the Pig, challenges us to decide who is leading who. After all, the woman has the pig on a leash; at the same time, she is blindfolded, so perhaps it is the pig that is actually controlling where she goes. What does the pig represent? Is it man, bestial and ignorant, or does its golden tail represent the lure of worldly goods? And what does its title tell us?Looking at this picture, it is not hard to imagine that Rops belongs to a movement called Decadence. Rops’ works are often sexually explicit and in the eyes of many, perverted. Religion is ridiculed. He was fascinated by the dark side of life: death, satanism and sin. Most of all, he was intrigued by the contemporary woman: assertive, seductive, ruthless and devouring, a Femme Fatale. Just like men were possessed by women, women were possessed by Satan.To Rops, his art showed scenes which typified the 19th century. Living in Paris, he saw the excesses of modern city life and their consequences. A degenerate society, driven by sexual urges, with fancy clothes concealing the dangers within. Several in his circle of friends, like Baudelaire, Flaubert and Manet, died of syphilis. It was a world where the fine arts would suffer, as we can deduce from the frieze below the lady with the pig.While it is often assumed that Rops harbored feelings of hate against women, the perversities of the city and its women energized him. Towards the end of his life, he expressed his greatest fear: ‘I am afraid of being old and of no longer being able to inspire love in a woman, which is a true death for a man of my nature and with my needs for madness of mind and body.’(text: Pauline Dorhout)
NUDE OF THE WEEK: Gustave Moreau, Goddess on the Rocks, c.1890
I love how Moreau’s nude Goddess is just dripping with exotic jewels and fabrics. Sexual connotations are rife here: its hard to miss the green snake coiling itself around the woman’s arm and up to her exposed neck, and the way she ‘coyly’ covers her left breast. For its sheer illuminance and lavish detail, Goddess on the Rocks is easily one of my favourite paintings by Moreau.
Gustave Moreau, n.d, Apollo Receiving the Shepherd’s Offerings
Gustav Klimt, c.1905-06, Country Garden with Sunflowers
Viktor Vasnetsov, 1880, Flying Carpet
Gustave Moreau, n.d, The Fall of Phaethon
In Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, Phaethon was the son of Clymene, who insisted that Phaethon’s father was Helios, the Greek sun God, and not her mortal king husband Merops. Helios reluctantly allowed Phaethon to ride on his sun chariot in order to prove his identity as Phaethon’s divine father. However, Phaethon soon lost control of the chariot and was unable to command the fire-breathing horses. Good old Zeus eventually stepped in to help by hurling one of his trademark lightning bolts at Phaethon and the turbulent chariot, thus killing Phaethon. Great job, Zeus.
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1871, The Balloon
Gustav Klimt, 1905, The Three Ages of Woman
Gustav Klimt, 1916-17, The Friends