Isaac Levitan

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By
Armand Cabrera

Isaac Levitan’s art represented the culmination of Russian Landscape painting of the 19th century. His paintings go beyond depicting objective representations of nature; they are suffused with profound philosophical and social significance.

Isaac Levitan was born in 1860 in Kybartai, Russia (now Lithuania). His father moved the family to Moscow in the early 1870’s to seek greater fame and fortune. Isaacs’s mother and father died while he was attending the Moscow College of Painting. Only seventeen, Levitan became homeless. He stayed with friends and family and even slept in the empty classrooms of the college. His tuition was waived because of undue hardship.

Isaac’s teachers, Vasily Polenov and Alexei Sarasov, stressed the importance of working outdoors. Sarasov taught his students to “seek out in the most ordinary and commonplace phenomena the intimate, the infinitely touching and often melancholy features which are strongly felt in our native scenery and which evoke an overwhelming response in our soul.” This was a philosophy that the young Levitan would adopt in his own painting.

It was his ability to evoke the subtlest emotions in his landscapes that helped Levitan to convey the Russian landscape as no one else did. He is often associated with Russian Impressionism. Although he painted in an Impressionist manner, Levitan cannot be defined by this technique alone. It is this aspect that elevates his art from French Impressionism. The French school sought only to convey the fleeting effects of light and contemporary life without any deeper meaning.

Isaac Levitan was a friend of the writer, Anton Chekhov. Both men shared and nurtured a common view of nature and mankind’s place in it. They both used nature as a metaphor for human emotions in their art. It is an art of the psychological landscape; the landscape of mood and it has influenced generations of artists that have followed him.

In 1897, Levitan was diagnosed with a heart condition. Three years later, he died at the young age of forty.


Bibliography
Isaac Ilyich Levitan His Life and Work: 2 volumesAlexei Feodorov-Davydov
Mockba 1976

Isaac Levitan the Mystery of NatureAlexei Feodorov-Davydov
Parkstone/Aurora 1996

Isaak Levitan: Lyrical LandscapesAveril King
Phillip Wilson Publishing 2004

Quote

Can anything be more tragic than to feel the infinite beauty of your surroundings, to read natures innermost secrets and, conscious of your own helplessness, to be incapable of expressing those powerful emotions? -IsaacLevitan

Joaquin Sorolla

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

By
Armand Cabrera

Sorolla was born in 1863 in Valencia, Spain. At two years of age, his parents died in a cholera outbreak that left him orphaned. His aunt and uncle raised him. He initiated his artistic learning in 1877 with the sculptor Cayetano Capuz. Four years later, Sorolla won a grant to study painting in Rome. He completed his education in Rome, studying under Francisco Pradilla. While there, he developed a distinct ability for depicting the effects of light. After returning to Spain in 1890, Sorolla settled down in Madrid. He began his professional career with successes, prizes and important orders. Of note, Sorolla won the National Medal of Beautiful Arts in 1892 and 1895 and the Grand Prix of the Exhibition of Paris of 1900. In these years, he painted works of social criticism, which granted a certain prestige to him in both Madrid and Paris.

1900 saw Sorolla move away from salon painting and follow a more personal vision. Sorolla tied the academic traditions of painting to the open air painting of the impressionists. An artist of enormous production, between 1880 and 1920, Sorolla executed over 4,000 paintings and sketches and some 8,000 drawings. He sent 500 paintings to his first show in Paris. His popularity extended through all of Europe, giving exhibitions in Berlin (1907) and London (1908). In 1909, Sorolla delivered 356 works to New York City for exhibition and sale. More than half sold and 160,000 people viewed his show. The success in America provided an important order for him: the decoration of the main room of the Hispanic Society of America. Funded by Archer Huntington, Sorolla was commissioned to paint fourteen panels to represent the people and customs of the diverse regions of Spain. The project took seven years to complete.

Sorolla collapsed from a stroke in 1920 while painting a portrait in his garden. Sadly, he was paralyzed for three years and died the 10th of August 1923 at the age of sixty.

Bibliography

Sorolla: The Hispanic Society
Pricilla E. Muller and Marcus B. Burke

The painter Joaquin Sorolla
Edmund Peel

Sorolla
Trinidad Simo

Quote
“All the mistakes committed by artists are due to their having separated themselves from truth, believing that their imagination is stronger. There is nothing stronger than nature. With nature in front of us we can do everything well.” ~ Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent
By
Armand Cabrera

John Singer Sargent was born on the 12th of January 1856 in Florence Italy. His parents had left America to live in Europe. Because the family constantly traveled, Sargent developed few ties to any one country. He spoke four languages, played the piano and mandolin expertly, and held a great knowledge of literature and art.

Sargent enrolled in the Atelier of Carolus Duran when he was 18 years old. Duran’s approach to painting was to stress accurate values combined with free and rapid brushwork, Au Premier Coup. Sargent quickly rose to the top of his class. His bravura style and naturalist subject matter was well received by critics. Sargent painted with Monet; however, he was never an Impressionist. He was too grounded in academic training to relinquish good drawing and strong value plans for color alone.

In the beginning of his career, Sargent painted society portraits. He created a scandal when he painted a famous society woman in a risky pose with one strap of her dress fallen off her shoulder. The now famous portrait of Madame X seems tame by today’s standards of taste. At that time period, the painting caused such a stir that Sargent was forced to flee Paris for London.

As a portrait painter, Sargent had no equal. His ability to render the subtlest expressions kept him busy throughout his career. His seemingly effortless brushwork garnered him praise and criticism. Sergent’s most vocal critics claimed he had too much facility and no content in his work.

At the peak of his success in 1907, Sargent abandoned painting portraits. His interest in his mural projects and landscape paintings replaced his need for commissioned work. Sergent’s successes provided sufficient income to stick to his principles…except in a few rare occasions. Sargent’s landscape and figure paintings are a tour de force of bravura painting. His watercolors of Venetian scenes are especially fine examples of this style.

John Singer Sargent died in 1925 at the age of sixty.

Bibliography

John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raisonné Project (In Four Volumes)
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

Sargent Abroad
Elaine Kilmurray and Richard Ormond
Yale University Press

John Singer Sargent
Carter Ratcliff
Abbeville/ Artabras

QuoteOnly after years of the contemplation of Nature can the process of selection become so sure an instinct; and a handling so spontaneous and so freed from the commonplaces is final mastery, the result of long artistic training.
~John Singer Sargent

Edward Seago

Edward Seago

1910-1974

By
Armand Cabrera

Edward Brian Seago was born in Norwich, England. A heart condition caused him to be homeschooled and spend a considerable amount of time at rest. It was his mother, an amateur watercolorist, who encouraged Seago to paint. Although primarily self-taught, Seago received some instruction from Bertram Priestman. As a young man, Seago lived a dual life—spending time with the circus performers and gypsies and accepting patronage from prominent society. It was his connection to society that helped Seago achieve the financial success he deserved. His affiliations with prominent art dealers, especially Tom Baskett of P. and D. Colnaghi Galleries, gave Seago the steady promotion of his work, which was lacking in the prewar years. Following the war, the gallery had solo shows of Seago’s works, alternating annually with his watercolors and oils.


At a time when most artists chased so-called “modern art principals”, Seago tenaciously clung to his own idea of painting. Ignored by critics and the art establishment of the time, the public increasingly embraced his honest depictions of East Anglia and his travels abroad. Seago’s influence can be seen in a new group of British painters, including Trevor Chamberlain, Ron Ranson, and David Curtis.

Seago was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists from 1946 and the Royal Watercolors Society from 1959. He exhibited in London, Glasgow, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Oslo and Brussels.

Bibliography

Edward Seago: The Landscape ArtJames W. Reid
Sotheby’s 1991

Edward Seago
Ron Ranson
David and Charles 1987

QuoteYou can have technique without art, but I do not believe you can have art without technique.~Edward Seago

Wilhem Kuhnert

Wilhem Kuhnert
1865-1926
By
Armand Cabrera
Wilhelm Kuhnert was born in Germany on September 28, 1865. At the age of seventeen, he traveled to Berlin to stay with relatives and enroll at the Royal Academy of Berlin. While at the Academy, he studied Animal Painting under Paul Meyerheim and Landscape Painting under Ferdinand Bellerman. Although considerable attention was paid to studying anatomy, the students would sketch captive animals in a zoo and then make formal paintings in their studio—making up the environments from the artists’ imagination. Kuhnert decided to change this. After seeing some African animals at a fair, the young artist vowed to travel to Africa and paint animals in their native habitat.


Upon leaving the Royal Academy, he acquired a studio in Berlin. While Kuhnert was sketching at the Berlin Zoo, he was introduced to Hans Meyer, the first European to climb Kilimanjaro. Meyer was impressed with Kuhnert’s ability and promised the young artist the chance to illustrate his next book. Kuhnert told Meyer of his goal of traveling to Africa to paint the animals in their natural settings. Meyer suggested he travel to East Africa and even gave Kuhnert his safari equipment.

Good to his word, Meyer commissioned Kuhnert to illustrate Brehms Tierbuilder, a dictionary of animals from around the world. With the proceeds from the book, Kuhnert traveled to Africa in 1891.

At that time, the East African Colony was a vast, unexplored territory for most Germans. Kuhnert traveled the only way available—accompanied by a score of men to act as guides and carry the hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies needed for such a journey. A year later, he returned to Germany with dozens of paintings, sketches and drawings of the African animals, people and places.
In 1893, Kuhnert’s paintings went on display at the Berliner Art Exhibition and he took the Medal of Honor. The public responded to his truthful depictions of the great continent. At only 28 years of age, Kuhnert’s success seemed assured.

He married in 1894 and moved to a larger studio. The attraction of Africa could not keep him home, so in 1905, he left his wife and daughter and returned to what he called “The Promised Land”. After a year on the continent, rather than returning home, he traveled to Ceylon. Unable to stand his long absences, his wife left him in 1907. Kuhnert finally returned to Germany in 1908.

He returned to Africa once more in 1911. Two years later, he remarried. In 1920, Kuhnert published two books on African Wildlife—“Im Lande Meiner Modelle” (in the Land of My Model) and “Mein Tierre” (My Animals). He died February 11, 1926 at the age of 60—five months after his second wife had passed away.

It is believed Kuhnert’s body of work totaled 5,500 paintings—primarily animals, but also portraits and landscapes. Today, there are less than a thousand known works in existence. The rest of his paintings were destroyed or lost in World War II.

Bibliography

The Animal Art of Wilhelm KuhnertTerry Weiland
Live Oak press 1995

Quote

Wilhelm Kuhnert’s Achievements can be measured by more than just aesthetics. His Greatest merit was that he was the first artist to paint wild animals in their natural habitat. ~Fritz Meyer-Schoenbrunn in his introduction to Kuhnert’s second book, Meine Tiere (My Animals)