Monday, April 23, 2012

art history

I love history, and art history in particular.

I was reading part of these great books last night
and it got me thinking about the need for expression
and how similar we all are, in so many ways...

There's so much to learn
about one another, isn't there?
Regardless of how far back you go in time.

We are far more similar
than we are different.

I believe the need for expression
is far greater than we sometimes realize.

 I wanted to share
at least these few little things with you
that i find so interesting about these few artists.

Auguste RENOIR (1841-1919)
broke his right arm several times during his life,
and learned to paint with his left hand.
At the age of 57, he has severe athritis,
and eventually paints from his wheelchair.

But still - he paints.

(Renoir, with an already paralyzed right hand)

Claude MONET (1840-1926)

Attempts suicide several times in his life,
by jumping into the Seine River.

Between 1916 and 1926, he works on 12 large canvases,
that become The Water Lillies
and within this time frame,
he goes nearly blind due to cataracts.

Still, he paints.

(Monet - The Water Lillies)

Edouard MANET (1832-1883)
One of the great impressionist painters
who becomes good friends with artist BERTHE MORISOT,
who eventually becomes his model for painting.

He falls in love with Berthe, but in 1874,
she married his brother, Eugène.

Edouard's pain becomes obvious in his brush strokes
and choice of color in his paintings of Berthe.

He is no doubt filled with grief and longing,
and at the age of 40,
he becomes partially paralyzed
due to an illness.

And yet - he paints.

He dies at the age of 51.

The differences between this earlier painting
and the last painting in 1874
show the differences
between love
and loss.

Berthe MORISOT (1841-1895)
Her paintings are accepted at the Salon de Paris
when she is only 23 years old.
She builds a home in Paris
where she often entertains artists & writers,
including her dear friend, Edouard Manet.

Edouard dies in 1883,
her husband in 1892,
and her sister in 1893.

There is a dark cloud cast around her
and her work as an artist.

Still - she paints.

She dies of the flu in 1895,
at 54 years old.

(Berthe Morisot, self portrait, 1885)

Vincent VAN GOGH (1853-1890)
Of all the Impressionist painters,
Van Gogh is the one who inspires me the most
and who i feel was most misunderstood.

 He began to paint at the age of 27,
and painted over 1000 canvases in a period of 10 years.
He also wrote over 800 letters to his best friend & brother Theo.

Vincent suffered from epilepsy and other mental issues
that would surely be treated today,
but they go untreated in the 1800's and eventually,
he is brought to an asylum in Saint Remy de Provence, in Paris
after he cuts off part of his ear.

Van Gogh, self portrait, 1887

Van Gogh, self portrait, 1889

(Van Gogh, his last self portrait, 1889,
given to his mother as a gift.)

Still, he paints.

While he is in Saint-Remy,
 he paints Starry Night.

In 1890, at the age of 37,
he walks to a corn field
shoots himself in the chest,
and dies 3 days later.

His brother Theo dies only 6 months later
at the age of 33,
no doubt of loneliness.

They are buried next to one another
in Auvers, Paris.

Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting during his lifetime.

Today, they are worth millions.

I'm adding this footnote after i saw Lorinda's comment,
for fear that some of you
may run out & cut your wrists this afternoon...

This may sound to some like
the plight of the suffering artist
but what i find so interesting
is how despite everything,
despite how difficult or tragic
or traumatic these lives were -
they still felt the need to create.
The need for expression.

Perhaps it is not despite everything
but because of everything
that this need was so profound?

How about you?

Do you feel more creative
when all is well,
or does your art seem to take on
new meaning
when there's a gray cloud above your head?

Do you use art as a way
to help you out
of the darkness,
or simply to express this darkness?

Humour me.
I have a curious, passionate heart.
I said so in my profile.

And hang around.
Tomorrow's post may not be so heavy.


  1. Thanks so much for the history lesson Pauline! While I admire that they all continued to paint through their sad and tragic lives, I'm really hoping that's not a requirement for the process!! :-) xx

  2. Dude! a) LOVED reading this ~ it was fascinating! I'm so happy you trawled through those books and summarised all the best bits for us so now I don't have to. (I'm not such a fan of art history books.) b) You did it again with the reading my mind thing; I was just thinking last night about how when I feel crap and want to chop my ear off, I never feel like painting. Apparently I can only be creative when I am all sparkly and happy, or at least thoughtful and content. Unless you count bad poetry, which I don't.

  3. Very informative post ~thanks, namaste, ^_^

    I paint, write haiku, collage, asian brush painting because that is my purpose ~ my path ~ my muse goes on vacations sometimes and I do other things ~

  4. Honestly, when I am down and feeling dark I write. I have written since I was nine--just for myself--to sort things out. Art I have to be in a good mood or nothing works the way I want it to. Art is joyous to me. Same with crafts. Have to be in a good mood to make things with my hands, I guess. :)

  5. Ahhh.... yes, "STILL WE PAINT".
    I agree, as creative souls, we are very much alike.
    Time does not change how, "ART CAN HEAL THE SOUL".
    Visual expression... priceless, always!! ((HUGS))

  6. For me, art is a form of expression. Sometimes the beauty of nature inspires me so much that I feel the urge to capture it as best as I can and to share the beauty I see before me with the world; other times it's the stress and darkness that I'm experiencing need an avenue to get out, and that pressure is what drives me to put them down on paper/canvas before they cause me to implode. However, the darker side of art I seldom share with the rest of the world, unless I feel that they might do something positive for others, like assuring them that it's ok to acknowledge our darker moods and deal with them effectively. :-) Great post you've got there! I've really enjoyed reading it.

  7. Pauline this was an incredible post. Since retiring I have been exploring who I am as a creative person. When I paint or write I lose track of time and I usually
    feel really good about what I have done after I am finished. I don't think it matters what mood I am in when I start but I know I always feel better when I am finished.

    I have been thinking about taking an art history class and after your post today I realize I should do more than just think about it.
    Thank you.

  8. Thank you for the comments!
    LORINDA: No, it's not a requirement. You can keep your happy hat on & keep dancing around the room. :-)
    TARA: you make me laugh. And yes, i'm psychic. ;-)
    CAROL: so glad you found your path.
    RITA: I'm very much the same.
    APRIL: always so nice to hear from you. xoxo
    HWEE: I totally get it. Thank you for sharing!
    GINNY: i love what you said about always feeling good when you're done. So true... and yes, art history can be very interesting - depending on the teacher. xoxo

  9. LOVE this post - I was just talking with my 15 year old son the other day about how angst, sorrow and even anger can propel great creativity in people - We talked about Adele in particular. How her heartbreak has made her such a success because people can relate to such deep (and sometimes dark feelings) and that she was able to express them through song. IMO, part of what attracts us to certain great works of art is the story behind them.

  10. Wonderful, interesting post! Yes, art and music have brought me through a lot. I think it's true that art/creativity heals. :)

  11. Wonderful, interesting post! Yes, art and music have brought me through a lot. I think it's true that art/creativity heals. :)

  12. I, like the others, was fascinated by this post, Pauline.

    It's curious how little backstory we generally have about one another. I think our culture is so "in your face" in many respects, that we know the details of things about people and therefore assume we "know" those same people.

    I have been thinking about this lately as I've been more involved with CED and the people I have "met" there. I often feel like I am coming into a party where I only know the person who is giving the party. Or, mayBE, NOT even that person but someone else who knows that person BEcause I have followed a link somewhere...

    In this little snippet, I hope I have conveyed something and yet I am sure I have NOT. At least NOT exactly.

    How much our World has changed and continues to. I cannot imagine NOT having this connection. And yet, just a short while ago I did NOT even "know" you!!

    Well, sorry to go on so. I appreciate you for posting this and everyone else who has caused me to stretch my brain a bit.

  13. Love, love this post Pauline! I find art history so interesting and aside from college and few volunteer lessons with kids I rarely think about it. I so enjoyed this post. And still, they paint. So inspiring!

    I agree with Ginny no matter what mood I am in when I start I am always in a great mood when I finish being creative. It slows me down and releases stress making me calm, peaceful and happy. Even if I'm not happy with the art's outcome I am happy in my heart.

    Also love this - We are far more similar than we are different. So true.

  14. Thank you all...

    Michelle, i totally agree. Yes, Adele's songs (i doubt) would be so popular if they were all about sparkles & rainbows. :-)

    Sharon, yes, music inspires me a lot too...

    Currie Silver, that's one of the great things about blogging, isn't it? So many of you kindred spirits out there, i NEVER would have met otherwise. I love how we're all able to connect despite the miles between us. xoxo

    Kristen, thank you so much... i loved your line "i am happy in my heart". xoxo

  15. i really love this post! I love Vincent so much. I have read so many books about him. He was so passionate,its amazing! How about Matisse too! i couldn't see so instead of painting he cut paper! super genius...
    I don't really paint when I'm down. I ought to try it, hmm? when I am not happy I am always in my head, overthinking, mulling over why iam sad, being disagreeable and grouchy. I hope next time I'm out of sorts I pick up my pens/watercolor