El Greco to Velazquez – A Review

The Spanish court, specifically under the reign of Phillip IIIspain, is a period in art history where the mature El Greco and the young Velazquez flourished.The court of Phillip III “ushered in a time of elaborate celebrations and religious festivals, a major expansion in new building, and an unprecedented rage for art collecting in the Spanish court. Spain’s art became more naturalistic and expressive; the royal portraits are masterpieces of detailed elegance, and the religious figures have reality and solidity new to the genre,” according to the School Library Journal.

Scholarly Essays

In conjunction with the lavish world of Spanish court portraiture, Bass juxtaposes her rich subject matter with scholarly essays written by some of the nation’s leading art historians. Baer (senior curator, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Schroth (senior curator, Nash Museum, Duke Univ.) lend their extensive knowledge on Spanish portraiture to the catalog with their thought-provoking and well-written essays on the subject. In addition to the inclusion of better-known names such as El Greco and Velazquez, Bass and her contributors also include lesser known artists who lived and worked in the court of Phillip III.

Foundation of the Spanish Style

Through the essays, the reader sees how the naturalistic and dramatic style of paitning would slowly come to define Spanish court portraiture under Phillip III and would go on to lend to the new innovations that would come in the future after El Greco and Velazquez. The history is rich and deep in the Spanish mindset and lends to the reader a fascinating journey of the evolution of court portraiture under each new reign.

Imagery

Bass includes over 170 color plates that are so well-lit and reproduced that the exhibition catalog without the essays would serve as a great way to understand the art of the court of Phillip III with just the imagery alone.

Crucial Artistic Development

As editor Ronni Baer notes in the description of the catalog, Phillip III “actually presided over an era of crucial artistic development in Spain. His reign was a time of cultural and political vitality for the Spanish monarchy, as the king and his court, having successfully maintained a peaceful foreign policy in Europe (the “Pax Hispanica”), ushered in a style of grandeur where fabulous gala celebrations, building campaigns, picture collecting, recreation and travel were the order of the day.

Accordingly, the art of this period flourished, witnessing the birth of a naturalistic style that was variously reflected in a new attention to detail and spatiality in court portraiture, the thriving of still life, the humanizing of saints and the development of polychrome sculpture.” Such a description only teases the reader as to what will unfold while reading Bass’ catalog.

El Greco to Velazquez by Laura Bass is available for purchase through MFA Publications with ISBN 0878467262.

Advertisements

Picasso Looks at Degas – A Review

picassoArtists will often look at, admire and even borrow from other artists to create their own style and ideas. For Pablo Picasso, this was Edgar Degas. His admiration bordered on near-obsession and even went on to extend to Degas’ personality.

Picasso not only borrowed from the artist that he so admired, but he also took from and reworked some of Degas’ works, including the brothel mono-types that Picasso would acquire during the later years of his artistic career.

Comparing Degas and Picasso

It is evident, by looking at the body of work from both artists, that they both were obsessed with the female figure which they both portray in the form of dancers, singers and prostitutes. Degas tended to favor capturing the female form with the portrayal of ballet dancers and singers. Some of his more famous works include L’etoile and The Singer in Green. Comparatively, Pablo Picasso is more widely associated with works such as Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, a cubist portrayal of the ladies that composed a scene consisting of prostitutes. Some scholars have since made a connection between Picasso’s work and that of the court portraits of Spanish painter, Velazquez.

Degas and Picasso Exhibitions

This exhibition catalog is from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute located in Williamstown, MA which hosted the exhibition that depicted the influence of Edgar Degas on Pablo Picasso. The exhibition lasted from June 13, 2010 until September 12, 2010. It was a joint project between the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. According to the Clark Institute website, it was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and with the special cooperation of Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte.

About the Author

According to amazon.com, “Elizabeth Cowling is Professor Emeritus of History of Art at Edinburgh University, and an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Richard Kendall is Consultative Curator of Nineteenth-Century Art at the Clark, as well as an independent scholar and exhibition curator. Cécile Godefroy is a researcher at the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte in Madrid. Sarah Lees is Associate Curator of European Art at the Clark. Montse Torras is Exhibitions Coordinator at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona.”

Picasso Looks at Degas by Elizabeth Cowlin, Mr. Richard Kendall, Montse Torras, Sarah Lees and Cecile Godefroy is available for purchase through the Clark Art Institute with ISBN 0300134126. It was originally published on July 13, 2010.