Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Famous Paintings, Section 3

The WhiteRock  Family Digital  Art Gallery is presented in sections  containing eight images each of famous  paintings by
great artists.  The works  are arranged  according  to what are  generally  accepted and  what the author  thinks are the
best or the most important by the artists who are themselves presented according to the significance of their respective
contributions to art.

Some factors have to be  considered in order to understand  the criteria of the  selection of the works that are included
in this gallery. Examples of these are the influence of Western philosophy in the development of aesthetic  taste and the
adoption of   Western  values and  culture  in  the selection  of artistic  subjects,  the inspiration  that religious  faith has
provided in the creation of great art and the wealth and power of the Catholic Church to commission the services of the
greatest artists of the Renaissance and beyond.

On the other hand,  the human  form  has always  been a subject of  endless intellectual  speculation and this includes the
creation of tasteful art. Along this line, different cultures also have different standards of defining what is "tasteful."
These factors help explain the exclusion of certain aesthetic values and cultures in this selection as well as its liberality
over the selection of certain subjects that some individuals may otherwise find inappropriate.

Art may be objective, but the process of selecting cannot be but subjective. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.     

Welcome to The WhiteRock Family Digital Art Gallery.

This section includes works by the following painters:

Peter Paul Rubens
Edvard Munch
Johannes Vermeer
Andy Warhol
Gustav Klimt
Leonardo da Vinci
Rembrandt van Rijn

Click on the image to view on black background; the title of the work to go to the source.
The name of the artist and location of work link to sources of more information.


Oil on wood (1610-11)


The  Elevation of the  Cross  (also  called The Raising  of the Cross)  is a triptych  painting by  Flemish  artist  Peter Paul
Rubens, completed in 1611. wikipedia

Rubens painted the  triptych  for the high altar of Antwerp's  church of Saint Walpurgis,  which was demolished in 1817.
That explains the inclusion of Amand, Walpurgis and Eligius on the back side of the wings.

The  triptych   marked   Rubens'   sensational   introduction   of  the  Baroque  style  into   Northern  art.   The  diagonal
composition  is full of  dynamism  and animated  colour.  The artist  had just  returned  from  Italy,  with the  memory of
Michelangelo,   Caravaggio  and  Venetian  painting  still  fresh  in  his  mind.   The Raising  of  the  Cross  is  the  perfect
summation of the unruly bravura that marked his first years in Antwerp.

In the centre nine   executioners strain  with all their might to raise the cross from which Christ's pale body hangs. The
dramatic action is  witnessed from  the left by Saint John,  the Virgin Mary  and a group of weeping  women and children.
On the right, a Roman officer watches on horseback  while soldiers in the background are crucifying the two thieves. In
other words,  the subject  is spread  across  all three  panels.  The  outside  of the  wings  shows  Saints Amand,  Walpurgis,
Eligius and Catherine of Alexandria.

The painting was confiscated by the French in 1794 and taken to Paris.  It was returned to Antwerp in 1815, following the
defeat of Napoleon, and installed in the church of Our Lady.

During restoration in the 1980s, successive layers of varnish, which had formed an even grey veil over the painting, were
removed.  The burgeoning  talent of the confident  young  Rubens is more  clearly  visible  now in the intense  emotion of
the figures,  the contrasting  lighting,  the glow of the labouring  bodies and the  gleam of the  armour and costly robes.

Peter Paul Rubens, Elevation of the Cross, 1610 from Smarthistory, art, history, conversation of YouTube.

The Scream
Edvard Munch
Oil, tempera & pastel on cardboard (1893)
National Gallery, Oslo


The Scream  (Norwegian: Skrik)  is the popular  name given  to each of four versions of a composition,  created as both
paintings and pastels,  by Edvard Munch  between 1893 and 1910.  The German  title he gave these works is  Der Schrei
der Natur (The Scream of Nature). wikipedia

Beneath a boiling sky,  aflame with yellow,  orange and red,  an androgynous  figure stands upon a bridge.  Wearing a
sinuous blue coat,  which appears to flow,  surreally,  into a torrent of aqua,  indigo and  ultramarine  behind him,  he
holds up two elongated hands on either side of his hairless,  skull-like head.  His eyes wide with shock,  he unleashes a
bloodcurdling  shriek.  Despite  distant  vestiges of  normality  –  two figures  upon the bridge , a boat  on the fjord  –
everything is suffused with a sense of primal, overwhelming horror.

This, of course, is The Scream – the second most famous image in art history, after Leonardo’s Mona LisaBBC Culture

The Scream  is an icon  of modern art,  a Mona  Lisa  for our  time.  As Leonardo  da Vinci  evoked a  Renaissance  ideal of
serenity and  self-control,  Munch  defined  how  we  see  our  own age  -  wracked  with  anxiety  and  uncertainty.  His
painting of a sexless,  twisted, fetal-faced creature, with mouth and eyes open wide in a shriek of horror, re-created a
vision that had seized him as he walked one evening in his youth with two friends at sunset.

As he  later  described  it,  the  "air turned  to  blood"  and  the  "faces  of my  comrades  became a garish  yellow-white."
Vibrating in his ears he heard  "a huge endless scream course through nature."  He made two oil paintings, two pastels
and numerous  prints of the image;  the two paintings  belong to  Oslo's National Gallery and to the   Munch Museum,
also in Oslo.  Both have  been stolen  in recent years,  and the  Munch  Museum's  is still missing.  The thefts  have only
added  posthumous  misfortune and  notoriety to a life  filled  with  both,  and  the added  attention to  the purloined
image has further distorted the artist's reputation. www.edvardmunch.og

In the late 20th century, The Scream was imitated, parodied, and (following its copyright expiration) outright copied,
which led to  it acquiring  an iconic  status in  popular  culture.  It was  used on  the cover  of  some  editions  of Arthur
Janov's book  The Primal Scream.  In 1983–1984,  pop artist  Andy Warhol  made a  series of  silk prints  copying  works by
Munch,   including   The  Scream.    His  stated  intention  was   to  desacralize   the  painting   by  making  it  into  a  mass-
reproducible object.

In 2013,  The Scream was one of four  paintings that the  Norwegian  postal service chose for a series of stamps marking
the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birth. wikipedia

Edvard Munch - The Scream (1893) from Art History Online on YouTube

Sacred and Profane Love
Oil on canvass (c. 1514)
Galleria Borghese, Rome


Sacred and Profane Love, also called Venus and the Bride, is presumed to have been commissioned by Niccolò Aurelio,
a secretary  to  the Venetian  Council of  Ten  (so identified  because  his coat  of arms  appears  on the  sarcophagus or
fountain in the centre of the image) to celebrate his marriage to a young widow, Laura Bagarotto. It perhaps depicts
the bride dressed in white, sitting beside Cupid and being assisted by Venus in person.

Art critics  have made  several  analyses  and  interpretations,  among  them are:  Ingenious  Love  and Satisfied  Love;
Prudery  and  Love;  the  wise  and  foolish  virgins;  the  dressed  Aphrodite  Pandemos  opposite  the  nude  Aphrodite
Urania.  or that it contains  a coded message  about Bagarotto's  father's innocence.  Nadia Gaus  notes that  while the
title might at first  lead one to view  the left hand  woman as the sacred one,  further thought  leads to the opposite
interpretation: the well dressed woman is Profane Love while the nude woman is Sacred Love.

While the first  record of  the work under its popular  title is in an inventory of 1693,  scholars cannot  definitively
discredit the  theory  that  the two female  figures  are  personifications  of the Neoplatonic  concepts  of sacred and
profane love.  A more recent hypothesis  declares the clothed figure to be  Proserpine the  consort of Pluto, and the
semi nude her mother Ceres. They are seated on the Fountain Cyane, while the child is Mercury. wikipedia

The painting is the gem of Rome’s Borghese gallery and one of the most famous paintings of Renaissance Italy. It’s so
beloved, in fact, that in 1899, the Rothschild family offered to pay the Borghese Gallery 4 million lira for the piece
even though the gallery’s entire collection, and the grounds, were valued at only 3.6 million lira.

Perhaps the painting is so famous  simply because of its beauty and because it’s a masterpiece by the  Renaissance great
Titian.  Or perhaps people have  fallen in love with it because of its  hidden secrets and  symbolism much of which art
historians still don’t completely understand. Walks of Italy

Sacred and Profane Love: A Visual Analysis by Paul Doughton


Girl with a Pearl Earring
Johannes Vermeer
Oil on canvass (c. 1665)
Maritshuis, The Hague


The  Girl with a  Pearl Earring  is a tronie,  the  Dutch  17th-century  description  of a  'head'  that was  not  meant  to be a
portrait.   It  depicts  a  European   girl  wearing  an  exotic  dress,   an  oriental   turban,   and  an  improbably  large  pearl
earring.  In 2014,  Dutch astrophysicist  Vincent Icke  raised doubts about the material of the  earring and argued that it
looks more like  polished tin than  pearl on the  grounds of the specular  reflection,  the pear shape and the  large size of
the earring. wikipedia

The composition of the Girl with a Pearl Earring, nicknamed the "Mona Lisa of the North" is delightfully simple. Unlike
most  of  the  other  paintings  by  the  Delft  master,  the  subject  here is  only a  simple  head of  a girl  looking  over  her
shoulder at the viewer. No hint of a setting is provided, other than its atmospherically dark tone.  The unusually direct
contact between subject and spectator, and the slightly parted position of the lips, presents a sense of immediacy so great
as to imply significant intimacy.

The girl is wearing a simple  brownish-yellow top,  which  contrasts  strongly  with her  bright  white  collar.  A further
contrast is offered  by her blue and yellow  or turban which  gives the picture a distinctly exotic effect.  Turbans were a
relatively common accessory in Europe from the 15th century.

The  final  but  most  noticeable  feature  of  this  picture  is  the  girl's  enormous,  tear-shaped  pearl earring.  This  pearl
earring, possibly along with the girl's turban, may unlock the meaning of the painting.

It seems that the message of the painting  derives from ideas expressed by the mystic St. Francis De Sales (1567-1622) in the
Introduction to the Devout Life (1608),  published in Holland  in 1616.  In a nutshell,  De Sales wrote  that women should
protect  their ears  from  unclean  words,  and that  they  should  allow them  to hear  only chaste  words - the  "oriental
pearls of  the gospel."  Using this text  as a reference,  it seems  that the  pearl earring in  Vermeer's  painting  represents
chastity, while the "oriental" element mentioned is illustrated by the girl's turban. Art Encyclopedia

Johannes Vermeer - Girl with a Pearl Earring from Art History Online on YouTube

Screenprint on Lenox museum board (1967)


Andy Warhol created thee  Marilyn Monroe  screen print  portfolio in 1967,  a few years  after the actress  passed away in
1962.   The  portfolio  of 10  screen  prints  was one  of the  first prints  Warhol  printed and distributed  through  Factory
Additions, New York. The name of this company references to Warhol’s studio known as "The Factory".

For Warhol,  Marilyn was  already a  familiar  subject.  He initially  began  depicting  the actress in the  Marilyn  Diptych,
1962, shortly after her death.  The Marilyn Diptych is a silkscreen painting which contains fifty images of the actress, all
taken from the 1953 film  Niagara.  Warhol  explained  "In August 1962:  "I started  doing silkscreens.  I wanted  something
stronger that gave  more of an assembly line effect.  With silkscreening  you pick a photograph,  blow it up,  transfer it in
glue onto silk,  and then roll ink  across it so the ink  goes through the  silk but not  through the glue.  That way you get
the same image,  slightly different each time.  It was all so simple quick and chancy.  I was thrilled with it.  When Marilyn
Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns."

Half of the diptych was heavily pigmented while the other half was colored in black and white.  Overall,  the work was a
commentary on the relation between Monroe’s life and death.

Warhol’s  Marilyn Monroe, 1967  portfolio  is seen as an  extension of the initial silkscreen painting.  Each image from the
portfolio  is sized  36 x 36”,  considerably  large  and a  closer  crop  of  Monroe’s  face.  Each  print is  vibrantly  colored  to
reflect her vivacious personality.  In many of the prints, her iconic lips are boldly colored a deep red.  Many of the prints
also  emphasize  her  platinum  blonde  hair  by adding  variants of  yellow.  In one  of  the prints,  the actress is  colored in
silver and black, a stark departure from its vivid counterparts. This brings to mind the effect of watching the actress on
the cinema  screen in  black and white.  The dark  colors are  also a  somber  reminder  of the  actress’s  passing.  The colors
ultimately bring  to life Marilyn Monroe’s  iconic status and celebrity glamor.  By creating  repetitive imagery,  Warhol
evokes her ubiquitous celebrity status. Masterworks Fine Art

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1967 from Peter Harrington on YouTube

The Kiss
Gustav Klimt
Oil & gold leaf on canvass (1907-08)
Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna


The Kiss (Lovers)  was the highpoint  of Gustav Klimt's  "Golden Period",  when he  painted a number of  works in a similar
gilded style. A perfect square, the canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated
in a style  influenced  by both linear  constructs  of the  contemporary  Art Nouveau  style and the  organic  forms of the
earlier  Arts and Crafts  movement.  The work is  composed of oil  paint with  applied  layers  of gold  leaf,  an aspect  that
gives it its  strikingly  modern,  yet  evocative  appearance.  The painting  is widely  considered a  masterpiece  of the early
modern period.  It is a symbol of Vienna Jugendstil—Viennese Art Nouveau—and is considered Klimt's most popular work.

The Kiss was painted  soon after  Klimt's three-part  Vienna Ceiling series which  created a scandal and were  criticized as
both 'pornography' and evidence of 'perverted excess'.  The works had recast the artist as an  enfant terrible for his anti-
authoritarian and anti-popularist views on art.  He wrote,  "If you can not please  everyone with your deeds and your art,
please a few". By contrast, The Kiss was enthusiastically received.

Klimt depicts the  couple locked in intimacy,  while the rest of the  painting dissolves into shimmering,  extravagant flat
pattern.  The patterning suggests  the style of Art Nouveau and the organic  forms of the Arts and Crafts movement.  At
the same time  the background  evokes the  conflict  between two- and three-dimensionality  intrinsic to the  work of the
modernists.  Paintings such as The Kiss were visual manifestations of fin-de-siecle spirit because they capture a decadence
conveyed by opulent and sensuous images.

The use of gold leaf recalls medieval "gold-ground" paintings and illuminated manuscripts, and earlier mosaics,  and the
spiral  patterns  in the  clothes  recall  Bronze  Age  art  and  the  decorative  tendrils  seen in  Western art  since  before
classical times.

The man's head ends very close to the top of the canvas,  a departure from traditional  Western canons that reflects the
influence of Japanese prints,  as does the very simplified composition.  The two figures are situated at the edge of a patch
of flowery meadow.  The man wears a robe  with black and white rectangles  irregularly placed on gold leaf  decorated
with spirals.  He wears a  crown of vines  while the  woman  is shown in a  tight-fitting  dress  with flower-like  round or
oval motifs  on a  background  of parallel  wavy  lines.  Her hair is  sprinkled with  flowers  and  is worn in a  fashionable
upsweep;  it forms a  halo-like  circle  that  highlights  her face,  and is  continued  under  her chin by  what  seems  to be a
necklace of flowers.

It  has   been   argued   that   in  this   picture   Klimt   represented   the   moment   Apollo  kisses  Daphne,   following   the
metamorphosis of Ovid narrative.

Syrian artist  Tammam Azzam  superimposed  an image of  the famous  painting atop a bombed  building  in Syria,  in a work
called Freedom Graffiti, to call attention to the plight of war in his country. wikipedia

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss on Smarthistory, art, history, conversation on YouTube

 The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci
Tempera on gesso, pitch & mastic (1495-98)
Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan


The Last Supper  is one of the world's  most famous paintings.  It was commissioned as part of a plan of renovation to the
church  Leonardo's  patron  Ludovico Sforza,  Duke of Milan.  The painting  represents  the scene of  The Last Supper of
Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Leonardo has depicted the consternation that occurred
among the Twelve Disciples when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. wikipedia

"Leonardo imagined,  and has succeeded  in expressing,  the desire  that has  entered the  minds of  the apostles  to know
who is betraying their Master.  So in the face of each one may be seen love,  fear, indignation, or grief at not being able
to understand the  meaning of Christ;  and this excites no less astonishment  than the obstinate  hatred and treachery
to be seen in Judas."  (Georgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, 1568; translated by George Bull)

The subject of the Last Supper is Christ’s final meal with his apostles before Judas identifies Christ to the authorities
who arrest him. It is remembered for two events.

Christ says to his apostles  “One of you will betray me,”  and the apostles react,  each according to his  own personality.
Referring to the Gospels,  Leonardo depicts Philip asking “Lord, is it I?”   Christ replies, “He that dippeth his hand with
me in the dish,  the same shall  betray me”  (Matthew 26).   We see Christ  and Judas  simultaneously  reaching  toward a
plate that lies between them, even as Judas defensively backs away.

Leonardo also  simultaneously depicts  Christ blessing the bread and saying to the apostles  “Take, eat; this is my body”
and blessing the  wine and saying  “Drink from it all of you;  for this is my blood  of the covenant,  which is poured out
for the forgiveness of sins”  (Matthew 26).   These words are the  founding moment  of the sacrament  of the Eucharist
(the miraculous transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ).

Leonardo’s  Last  Supper  is  dense  with  symbolic  references.    Attributes  identify  each  apostle.   For  example,  Judas
Iscariot is recognized  both as he reaches  toward a plate  beside Christ  and because he  clutches a purse containing his
reward for identifying  Christ to the authorities  the following day.  Peter, who sits beside Judas,  holds a knife in his
right hand,  foreshadowing that  Peter will sever  the ear of a soldier  as he attempts  to protect  Christ from arrest.

The balanced  composition  is anchored  by an equilateral  triangle  formed by  Christ’s body.  He sits below  an arching
pediment  that if completed,  traces a circle.  These  ideal  geometric  forms  refer  to the renaissance  interest  in Neo-
Platonism  (an element of the humanist  revival that reconciles aspects of  Greek philosophy with Christian theology).
Geometry,  used by the Greeks  to express  heavenly perfection,  has been used by  Leonardo to  celebrate  Christ as the
embodiment of heaven on earth.

Leonardo  rendered  a verdant  landscape  beyond the windows.  Often interpreted  as paradise,  it has been  suggested
that this heavenly sanctuary can only be reached through Christ.

The twelve  apostles are  arranged as  four groups  of three and there  are also  three windows.  The number  three is
often a  reference  to the  Holy Trinity  in Catholic  art.  In contrast,  the number  four is  important  in the  classical
tradition (e.g. Plato’s four virtues). Khan Academy

Does The Last Supper really have a hidden meaning? Video from Smithsonian Channel on YouTube

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Rembrandt van Rijn
Oil on canvass (1633)
Whereabouts unknown since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft in 1990


The Storm on the Sea of Galilee  is a painting by  Rembrandt van Rijn  that was in the  Isabella Stewart  Gardner Museum
of Boston, Massachusetts prior to being stolen in 1990. The painting depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the
Sea of Galilee, as depicted in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  It is
Rembrandt's only seascape. wikipedia

Rembrandt’s  most  striking  narrative  painting  in  America,  Christ in  the  Storm  on the  Sea of Galilee,  is also  his  only
painted seascape.  Dated 1633,  it was made shortly after Rembrandt  moved to Amsterdam from his native Leiden,  when he
was establishing himself as the city’s leading  painter of portraits  and historical subjects.  The detailed  rendering of the
scene,  the figures’ varied expressions,  the relatively  polished brushwork,  and the bright  coloring are characteristic of
Rembrandt’s  early style.  Eighteenth-century critics often  preferred this  early period to   Rembrandt’s later,  broader,
and less descriptive manner.

The  biblical  scene   pitches  nature   against  human  frailty  –  both  physical   and  spiritual.   The  panic-stricken  disciples
struggle against  a sudden storm,  and fight  to regain  control of their  fishing boat as a huge wave  crashes over  its bow,
ripping the sail and drawing the craft perilously close to the rocks in the left foreground. One of the disciples succumbs
to the sea’s violence  by vomiting  over the side.  Amidst this chaos,  only Christ, at the right,  remains calm, like the eye of
the  storm.  Awakened by  the  disciples’  desperate  pleas  for help,  he rebukes  them:  “Why  are ye fearful,  O ye  of  little
faith?”  and then rises to  calm the fury of  wind and waves.  Nature’s upheaval  is both  cause and metaphor for the terror
that grips the disciples, magnifying the emotional turbulence and thus the image’s dramatic impact.

The  painting  showcases  the  young  Rembrandt’s  ability  not  only  to represent  a sacred  history,  but  also  to seize  our
attention and immerse  us in an unfolding  pictorial drama.  For greatest immediacy,  he depicted the  event as  if it were a
contemporary scene  of a fishing  boat menaced  by a storm.  The spectacle  of  darkness  and light formed  by the  churning
seas  and  blackening  sky  immediately  attracts  our  attention.   We   then  become  caught  up  in  the  disciples’   terrified
responses,  each meticulously  characterized  to encourage  and sustain  prolonged,  empathetic  looking.  Only one  figure
looks  directly  out  at us  as he steadies  himself by  grasping  a rope and  holds onto  his cap.  His face seems  familiar  from
Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and as his gaze fixes on ours we recognize that we have become imaginative participants in the
painter’s vivid dramatization of a disaster Christ is about to avert. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn from WBUR on YouTube

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