Painting

Department of French & Italian

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Introduction: Besides the distinction between baroque and classical art, it is possible to suggest that seventeenth-century painting divides itself into two other categories: 1) that which illustrates the grandeur of the monarchy and 2) that which depicts a sort of “social realism” which shows the life of peasants and laborers. Since we are interested in images conveying the power of Louis XIV, we will emphasize this first category, among which can be placed artists like Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), J. Werner, Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) and Philippe de Champaigne (1602-74). In the second category belong painters such as Georges de La Tour (1593-1652), and the Le Nain brothers: Antoine (1588-1648), Louis (1593-1648) and Mathieu (1607-77). The most famous painter of the beginning of the seventeenth century, Nicolas Poussin (1593/4-1665), embodies the classical spirit and exerts a tremendous influence on the painting at the end of the century, especially that of Le Brun.

Reference: Hartt, Frederick.  Art:  A History of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. New York:  Harry N. Abrams, 1989.



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RigaudRigaud: His portrait of Louis XIV (which appears on this page) is representative of the “ceremonial baroque,” and demonstrates the detail and abundance of the royal bearing. The baroque aesthetic is visible, but in contrast to the Italian baroque, its expression is relatively moderate.: Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701. This painting was completed near the end of the reign of Louis XIV, during a time of long and expensive wars. Why then did the king choose this type of image to represent himself? How do the clothes, the accessories and the posture of the king demonstrate his power? Discuss the use of color and light to accentuate the majesty of Louis XIV. What does Louis’ face reveal? How does the image of the king evolve with respect to the portraits below?

tags: painting, Louis XIV, Rigaud, war, 1700-1709
WernerWerner: An artist known, above all, for his adaptation of mythological motifs as they relate to royal life at Versailles.: Portrait of Louis XIV, 1670.  Explain the choice of Apollo to depict the young king. Why does the artist try to associate the monarchy with Greek mythology? How does the painting express rigor and orthodoxy in its composition? What “classical” characteristics does the painting have?

tags: painting, Louis XIV, Werner, mythology, 1670-1679
Le BrunLe Brun: The “Chief Painter of the King,” Le Brun was named superintendent of artistic works under Louis XIV. After a long apprenticeship in Italy, Le Brun returned to France in 1646. Inspired by Poussin’s attention to detail, he reorganized the Royal Academy in 1663 and imposed a code and an orthodoxy which established the standards of composition. These norms continue to be applied more than three hundred years after his death. His work includes the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre (1663), the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (1679-84) and the Grand Staircase (1671-78, destroyed in 1752) at Versailles. Exercising a political as well as aesthetic power, Le Brun created a “homogeneous” style, considered “academic” and “propagandist” in certain circles.: The Gallery of Hercules, c. 1675.  How are divine life and spirituality evoked in this painting? In what way does Le Brun make use of the vaults? What are the angels doing? Is it easy to know? Why or why not? How are the ideas of suffering and struggle evoked?

tags: painting, Le Brun, mythology, 1670-1679
Le BrunLe Brun: The “Chief Painter of the King,” Le Brun was named superintendent of artistic works under Louis XIV. After a long apprenticeship in Italy, Le Brun returned to France in 1646. Inspired by Poussin’s attention to detail, he reorganized the Royal Academy in 1663 and imposed a code and an orthodoxy which established the standards of composition. These norms continue to be applied more than three hundred years after his death. His work includes the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre (1663), the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (1679-84) and the Grand Staircase (1671-78, destroyed in 1752) at Versailles. Exercising a political as well as aesthetic power, Le Brun created a “homogeneous” style, considered “academic” and “propagandist” in certain circles.:  The Apotheosis of Hercules, c. 1675. What does Hercules represent in Greek mythology? Why does Louis XIV seek to appropriate this myth? What does the word “apotheosis” mean? What is its political significance?

tags: painting, Le Brun, mythology, 1670-1679
Le BrunLe Brun: The “Chief Painter of the King,” Le Brun was named superintendent of artistic works under Louis XIV. After a long apprenticeship in Italy, Le Brun returned to France in 1646. Inspired by Poussin’s attention to detail, he reorganized the Royal Academy in 1663 and imposed a code and an orthodoxy which established the standards of composition. These norms continue to be applied more than three hundred years after his death. His work includes the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre (1663), the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (1679-84) and the Grand Staircase (1671-78, destroyed in 1752) at Versailles. Exercising a political as well as aesthetic power, Le Brun created a “homogeneous” style, considered “academic” and “propagandist” in certain circles.:  Alexander and Porus, 1673. Why is the eye trained on so many different reference points in this painting? Where does the eye finally focus? Why? What allegory is represented in this painting? What political goal does it serve?

tags: painting, Le Brun, war, 1670-1679
ChampaigneChampaigne: Born in Brussels, Champaigne was trained in the Flemish baroque tradition. Converted to Jansenism in 1643, his work is distinguished by a remarkable austerity and exactitude. Also of note: the control with which this “rational” style is executed.: Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, c. 1670.  How does Colbert’s clothing reveal his social status as well as his function? In what way does the painting evoke a “seriousness” necessary to the post of Minister of Finance? How does the portrait of Colbert contrast with that of Louis XIV?

tags: painting, Champaigne, Colbert, 1670-1679
ChampaigneChampaigne: Born in Brussels, Champaigne was trained in the Flemish baroque tradition. Converted to Jansenism in 1643, his work is distinguished by a remarkable austerity and exactitude. Also of note: the control with which this “rational” style is executed.: The city fathers of Paris, 1648. What types of power are juxtaposed here? What sort of harmony is illustrated? Why is it important to show cooperation at the municipal level and not only at the royal level? What effect does the painting attempt to evoke with respect to authority?

tags: painting, Champaigne, Paris, 1640-1649
ChampaigneChampaigne: Born in Brussels, Champaigne was trained in the Flemish baroque tradition. Converted to Jansenism in 1643, his work is distinguished by a remarkable austerity and exactitude. Also of note: the control with which this “rational” style is executed.:  Triple portrait of Richelieu, c. 1640. Why a “triple” portrait? What is the symbolism? From a stylistic and thematic standpoint, what similarities and differences do you see between this painting and others by Champaigne? Based on what you’ve seen, why would an important person like Colbert or Richelieu commission a painting by Champaigne?

tags: painting, Champaigne, Richelieu, religion, 1640-1649
De La TourDe La Tour: Attempting to imitate the Italian painters Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci, de La Tour highlighted spiritual subjects in the context of everyday life. Of note: the use of chiaroscuro, as well as the realism of his paintings which is linked (at times paradoxically) with the mysterious. : Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, 1635. Discuss the interaction between light and dark. What does the artist illuminate? What does he hide? What do light and dark represent on a metaphorical level? What is the source of light? What is its significance?

tags: painting, De La Tour, religion, 1630-1639
De La TourDe La Tour: Attempting to imitate the Italian painters Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci, de La Tour highlighted spiritual subjects in the context of everyday life. Of note: the use of chiaroscuro, as well as the realism of his paintings which is linked (at times paradoxically) with the mysterious. : Joseph the Carpenter, 1645. One often speaks of “realism” and of “humanism” in the paintings of de la Tour. In your opinion, how do these two terms apply to his work? What has he chosen as a subject? Why? Compare and contrast his depiction of divine power with that of other painters from the end of the seventeenth century.

tags: painting, De La Tour, religion, 1640-1649
The Le Nain brothersThe Le Nain brothers: These painters, all three of whom often worked on the same painting—signing it only with the family name—created everyday landscapes and scenes which portrayed country life with dignity.: Rural Scene with Peasants, 1640. How are peasants and rural life depicted here? What is the relationship between humanity and nature? Contrast the natural elements shown with those in the gardens of Versailles. Does this painting allude to the ideas of grandeur, splendor and nobility? In what way?

tags: painting, Le Nain brothers, humanity/nature, 1640-1649
PoussinPoussin: Born in Normandy, Poussin lived in Italy where he was inspired by Raphael and Titien. His work features, above all, allegorical scenes, even “poetic” images, taken from mythology or ancient history. A believer in what he called the maniera magnifica, Poussin claimed that one must avoid the lowly and ordinary when choosing a subject. Poussin’s maniera emphasizes the natural and serious in the portrait of the human face, as they relate to the general composition of the painting. A theorist like Le Brun, Poussin strove to situate painting within an historical and intellectual context to better mimic “the ideal” represented by Antiquity.:  Et in Arcadio Ego, 1640. The scene here is of four shepherds in front of an inscription on a tomb. What is the reaction of the shepherds to death? How does Poussin illustrate the emotional character of the subjects despite their “sculptured” poses? In your opinion, would the Le Nain brothers have depicted the shepherds in the same way as Poussin? Why? Why not? How does Poussin show the relationship between humanity and nature?

tags: painting, Poussin, humanity/nature, 1640-1649

 

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