Tuesday, September 21, 2010

my favorite paintings


American Gothic is a painting  by Grant Wood, in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood's inspiration came from a cottage designed in the Gothic Revivalstyle with a distinctive upper window and a decision to paint the house along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." The painting shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter (not his wife, as so many parodies and references assume). The figures were modeled by the artist's dentist and sister. The woman is dressed in a colonial  print apron mimicking 19th century Americana and the couple are in the traditional roles of men and women, the man's pitchforksymbolizing hard labor, and the flowers over the woman's right shoulder suggesting domesticity.
It is one of the most familiar images in 20th century American art and one of the most parodied artworks within American popular culture 

Caravaggio painted two versions of Medusa, the first in 1596 and the other presumably in 1597, The first version also known as Murtula, by the name of the poet who wrote about it (48x55 cm) is signed Michel A F, (Michel Angelo Fecit) and is in private hands whilst the second version, slightly bigger (60 x 55 cm) is not signed and is in the Uffizi,Florence
sle of the Dead (GermanDie Toteninsel) is the best known painting of Swiss Symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901). Prints of the work were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century
All versions of Isle of the Dead depict a desolate and rocky islet seen across an expanse of dark water. A small rowboat is just arriving at a water gate and seawall on shore.An oarsman maneuvers the boat from the stern. In the bow, facing the gate, is a standing figure clad entirely in white. Just behind the figure is a white, festoonedobject commonly interpreted as a coffin . The tiny islet is dominated by a dense grove of tall, dark cypress trees — associated by long-standing tradition with cemeteries and mourning — which is closely hemmed in by precipitous cliffs. Furthering the funerary theme are what appear to be sepulchral portals and windows penetrating the rock faces. The overall impression conveyed by the imagery is one of both hopeless desolation and tense expectation.

Böcklin completed the first version of the painting in May 1880 for his patron Alexander Günther, but kept it himself. In April 1880, while still working on it, Böcklin's Florence studio had been visited by Marie Berna (widow of financier Dr.Georg von Berna [1836-65] and soon-to-be wife of the German politician Waldemar, Count of Oriola[1854-1910]). She was struck by the first version of this "dream image" (now in the Kunstmuseum Basel), which sat half completed on the easel, so Böcklin painted a smaller version on wood for her (now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City). At Berna's request, he added the coffin and female figure, in allusion to her husband's death of diphtheria years earlier. Subsequently, he added these elements to the earlier painting. He called these works Die Gräberinsel ("Tomb Island"). (Sometimes the "Basel" version is credited as the first one, sometimes the "New York".)
The third version was painted in 1883 for Böcklin’s dealer Fritz Gurlitt. Beginning with this version, one of the burial chambers in the rocks on the right bears Böcklin's own initials: "A.B.". (In 1933, this version was put up for sale and a noted Böcklin admirer, Adolf Hitler, acquired it. He hung it first at the Berghof in Obersalzberg and, then after 1940, in the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin. It is now at the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin.)







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