5 Historical Figures Feeling the Blues

Feeling down in the dumps? Got a case of the Mondays?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Take solace in these melancholy moments from history.

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Dante Alighieri

Considered to have written the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language, at first glance, it may seem like a complete mystery why Dante would be pictured as grossly miserable in most portraits.

But not many people get to see Hell as vividly as Dante.

Dante Alighieri portrait. c. 1500s.
Dante Alighieri portrait. c. 1500s.

Paradoxically called the “Divine Comedy”, the poem is a narrative of Dante’s travels through Hell, followed by a stay in Purgatory to endure some further suffering and torment before, at last, reaching the Paradise of Heaven.

“Comedy” in the classical sense meant a Providential will that ordered the universe; thus the pilgrimage from Hell to Heaven is the archetypal expression of “comedy”.

Dante's Inferno depicted in wall frescos by Joseph Anton Koch. Credit Sailko
Dante’s Inferno depicted in wall frescos by Joseph Anton Koch. Credit Sailko

When he was just nine years old, Dante fell in love.

That same year, his mother died.

And his love would go unrequited because he was promised in marriage to the daughter of a powerful Florentine family at age 12.

Channeling his emotional pain into poetry, he depicted his lost love, Beatrice, as semi-divine, watching over him constantly and providing spiritual instruction.

This theme would recur in the Divine Comedy as Dante is guided by the Roman poet Virgil through Hell and Purgatory, and then by Beatrice herself, who guides him through Heaven—one of the few times Dante looks the least bit happy.

Dante in Heaven by William Cave Thomas
Dante in Heaven by William Cave Thomas

Influencing many parts of the Comedy was Dante’s bitterness at being exiled from his beloved Florence simply for being on the wrong side of the ideological war between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.

Still, with the eternal damnation to which he condemned his opponents in the Divine Comedy, perhaps Dante had the last laugh.

Andrew Jackson

Serving as the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, Andrew Jackson is best remembered for his triumphal victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 .

Lauded as an American hero, one may be forgiven for wondering why Andrew Jackson looks so sad in many portraits.

But there is a darker side to his past.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States

Prospering as a cotton planter, Jackson may have owned as many as 300 slaves throughout his lifetime.

Permitting slaves to be whipped to increase productivity, his sweeping plantation, the Hermitage in Tennessee, grew to 1,050 acres, while slaves lived in 20 sq ft cabins.

Andrew Jackson's plantation, The Hermitage in Tennessee
Andrew Jackson’s plantation, The Hermitage in Tennessee

In 1838, as many as 4,000 Cherokees died on the “Trail of Tears”—Andrew Jackson’s forced removal of Native American nations from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to designated territory west of the Mississippi River.

Trail of Tears mural at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, NC. Credit Nick Chapman, flickr
Trail of Tears mural at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, NC. Credit Nick Chapman, flickr

Maybe Jackson felt remorse over some of these actions.

But his own life had not been easy by any means.

At the age of 14, he was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War, along with his brother.

When he refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the officer slashed at him with a sword, leaving scars on his left hand and head.

While held prisoner, the two brothers contracted smallpox and nearly starved to death.

Securing their release, his mother walked them home, but his brother died along the way.

Volunteering to help prisoners of war recover from cholera, his mother died after contracting the disease and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Andrew Jackson, age 78. Daguerreotype, 1845
Andrew Jackson, age 78. Daguerreotype, 1845

Later in Jackson’s traumatic life, he dueled with American lawyer Charles Dickinson and was struck in the chest near his heart.

Remaining lodged in his lung, the bullet would never be removed and caused a hacking cough that often brought up blood, sometimes making his whole body shake.

Jackson got his revenge by shooting the man stone cold dead, but chronic headaches and abdominal pains plagued him for the rest of his life.

Observers likened him to a volcano, and only the most intrepid or recklessly curious cared to see it erupt.Biographer H. W. Brands

Napoleon Bonaparte

Rising to prominence during the French Revolution, Napoleon went on to dominate Europe and global affairs as Emperor of the French.

Celebrated as one of the greatest commanders in history, what could possibly cause him to look so down in the dumps?

Answer: defeat.

Napoleon I at Fontainebleau by Paul Delaroche
Napoleon I at Fontainebleau by Paul Delaroche

Winning was everything to Napoleon.

Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.Napoleon Bonaparte

Early signs of Napoleon’s sadness are revealed in an oft-cited letter of 1795 to his brother Joseph, revealing that he felt “little attached to life”, finding himself as though “constantly on the eve of battle.”

He despaired that he would end up “by not moving aside when a carriage goes by”.

His incapacity for pleasure, his all-pervading sadness, his suicidal thoughts, his despair of finding his place in the world were, to some extent, a part of the Romantic era of Byron and Shelley.

But finding action in the field of battle would be all the medicine Napoleon needed.

'Long live the Emperor!' Napoleon on the battlefield
‘Long live the Emperor!’ Napoleon on the battlefield

As long as he was moving forward, taking action, strategizing, he was in his element.

Nothing could stop him.

Even the failed invasion of Russia in 1812 was just a setback to Napoleon.

But after Waterloo, everything changed.

Exiled on Saint Helena, 1,162 miles from the west coast of Africa, Napoleon fell into deep depression and ill health.

Describing St Helena as “this accursed”, “frightful”, “vile”, and “miserable” rock, Napoleon suffered from nervous headaches, a shooting pain in his shoulder blade and down his right side, stomach pains, swollen cheeks and ankles, and bleeding gums.

Talking of suicide by charcoal fumes, he wrote, “death is nothing but a sleep without dreams”.

Napoleon on Saint Helena
Napoleon on Saint Helena

Napoleon died on 5 May 1821.

But he really died six years earlier when he stepped foot on St Helena and no longer had control over an army.

Napoleon had lost his purpose in life.

His last words were, “France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine” (“France, army, head of the army, Joséphine”).

Napoleon on his deathbed by Horace Vernet, 1826
Napoleon on his deathbed by Horace Vernet, 1826

Queen Victoria

Known as the “the grandmother of Europe”, her nine children married into European royalty and nobility, giving her 42 grandchildren.

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years and seven months—longer than any of her predecessors.

Marked by industrial, cultural, political, and scientific advancement, one could be forgiven for wondering what on earth could make the Queen so miserable?

In a word, Albert.

Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899
Queen Victoria, by Bertha Müller, 1899

Not that there was anything wrong with her husband Albert, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, quite the opposite.

After 21 years of blissful married life, Albert contracted cholera and died an early death, plunging her into a deep depression.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1854
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1854

She wrote to her daughter in Germany,

How I, who leant on him for all and everything—without whom I did nothing, moved not a finger, arranged not a print or photograph, didn’t put on a gown or bonnet if he didn’t approve it shall go on, to live, to move, to help myself in difficult moments?Queen Victoria

Victorian-era widows were expected to wear black for the mourning period of up to four years.

Women who mourned in black for longer periods were accorded great respect in public for their devotion to the departed.

Queen Victoria mourned for 40 years.

Queen Victoria and Prince Leopold, 1862
Queen Victoria and Prince Leopold, 1862

Finding solace in unexpected places is a part of the grieving process.

Queen Victoria developed a curious relationship with John Brown, a Scottish horse attendant in her household.

Proud of his heritage, his brusque manner was the bane of her ministers and family.

But she adored him.

John Brown and Queen Victoria, 1868
John Brown and Queen Victoria, 1868

Vincent van Gogh

Struggling with poverty and mental illness for most of his life, Van Gogh is perhaps the most famous tortured artist of all time.

Considered a madman and a failure, his fame grew only after his suicide, with several paintings he couldn’t sell now worth over $100 million each.

No wonder he looked miserable in his numerous self-portraits.

Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887
Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887

Quiet and thoughtful as a child, Van Gogh first began to feel depressed when he moved to London as a young art dealer.

Turning to religion and spending some time as a missionary in Belgium, he drifted into ill health and solitude.

Moving back with his parents in the Netherlands, he took up painting.

But as his talent grew, there was only one place to be for an aspiring artist in the late 19th century—Paris.

Le Moulin de la Galette by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Le Moulin de la Galette by Vincent van Gogh, 1886

Falling in with the avant-garde, he became friends with Paul Gauguin and painted some of his best-loved scenes of Montmartre.

But delusional episodes, poor health, and heavy drinking led to a confrontation with Gauguin that ended their friendship and cost Van Gogh an ear.

Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe by Vincent van Gogh, 1889
Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

Brandishing a cut-throat razor at Gauguin and later cutting off part of his own ear was enough to see him institutionalized.

When you paint your own doctor in a way that suggests he was either deeply depressed himself or powerless to help you, then you know things are pretty dire.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh
Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest on 27 July 1890.

But look on the bright side—it’s possible that our minds are at their most creative when we’re at least a little sad.

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight

Known for his city night-scenes and landscapes, John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist described by British art historian Christopher Wood as a “remarkable and imaginative painter”.

Hailing from Leeds in England, Grimshaw’s first job was as a clerk for Great Northern Railway.

Much to the dismay of his parents, he left the job at age 24 to pursue a career as a painter.

John Atkinson Grimshaw and the Great Northern Railway
John Atkinson Grimshaw and the Great Northern Railway

Leaving a steady job with a growing industry must have seemed foolhardy, but Grimshaw’s passion and talent for art were all he needed to make a success of his life.

Exhibiting for the first time just a year later under the patronage of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, he showed paintings of birds, fruit, and blossom.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that his career really took off.

Influenced primarily by the Pre-Raphaelites, he painted landscapes with precise use of colour and lighting, often focusing on the changing seasons or the weather to bring vivid detail and realism to his work.

But it is the moonlit views of cities and suburban streets, of Docklands in London, Hull, Liverpool, and Glasgow that he is best remembered for.

paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scenePhilip J. Waller.

Sharply focused, almost photographic, Grimshaw poetically applied the tradition of rural moonlit scenes to the city, with its rain puddles, mists, and the smoky fog of late Victorian industrial England.

Grimshaw evokes the very feeling of chill in the night air or the damp of mists at dawn’s early light.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was the Painter of Moonlight.

London Bridge - Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
London Bridge – Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Park Row, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Park Row, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Westminster Bridge by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Westminster Bridge by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Liverpool Quay by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Liverpool Quay by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
The Gossips, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
The Gossips, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Hull Docks at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Hull Docks at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Evening Scene by the Docks, Hull by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Evening Scene by the Docks, Hull by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Burning Off, a Fishing Boat at Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Burning Off, a Fishing Boat at Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
On the Clyde, Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
On the Clyde, Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Lights in the Harbour, Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Lights in the Harbour, Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Moonlight on Lake by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Moonlight on Lake by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool Docks attributed to John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool Docks attributed to John Atkinson Grimshaw
Bonchurch, the Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Bonchurch, the Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Night Vigil by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Night Vigil by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool from Wapping by John A Grimshaw, 1875
Liverpool from Wapping by John A Grimshaw, 1875
A moonlit street after rain by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
A moonlit street after rain by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Blackman Street, Borough, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1885
Blackman Street, Borough, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1885
Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow, Saturday Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Glasgow, Saturday Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A Moonlit Landscape by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A Moonlit Landscape by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Humber Docks Hull, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Humber Docks Hull, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
A Yorkshire Home by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
A Yorkshire Home by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Old Hall Under Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The Old Hall Under Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Figure Overlooking Waterloo Lake, Rounday Park, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Figure Overlooking Waterloo Lake, Rounday Park, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Old Chelsea by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Old Chelsea by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Near Hackness, a moonlit scene with pine trees by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Near Hackness, a moonlit scene with pine trees by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Canny Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Canny Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Heath Street, Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Heath Street, Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Under the Moonbeams by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Under the Moonbeams by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
The Broomielaw Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1889
The Broomielaw Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1889
Forge Valley, near Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Forge Valley, near Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Whitby, from the East Side by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Whitby, from the East Side by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Heaven's Lamp by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
Heaven’s Lamp by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
Lovers in a Wood by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1873
Lovers in a Wood by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1873
The Lovers by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The Lovers by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Briggate, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Briggate, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A moonlit country road by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
A moonlit country road by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Reflections on the Thames, Westminster by Grimshaw, John Atkinson, 1879
Reflections on the Thames, Westminster by Grimshaw, John Atkinson, 1879
The Tryst by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
The Tryst by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
At the Park Gate by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
At the Park Gate by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Full Moon behind Cirrus Cloud from the Rounday Park Castle Battlements by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Full Moon behind Cirrus Cloud from the Rounday Park Castle Battlements by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Home Again by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Home Again by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
November by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
November by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Scarborough by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1876
Scarborough by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1876
Boar Lane, Leeds by Lamplight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Boar Lane, Leeds by Lamplight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Whitby Harbor by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1862
Whitby Harbor by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1862
Moonlight, Wharfedale by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Moonlight, Wharfedale by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Silver Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Silver Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
London Bridge - Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
London Bridge – Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
A Moonlit Evening by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
A Moonlit Evening by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Harbor Scene by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Harbor Scene by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Greenwich, Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Greenwich, Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Custom House, Liverpool, Looking South by John Atkinson Grimshaw , 1890
The Custom House, Liverpool, Looking South by John Atkinson Grimshaw , 1890
Gloucester Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1890
Gloucester Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1890
Thames Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Thames Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Southwark Bridge and St. Paul's by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1883
Southwark Bridge and St. Paul’s by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1883
A Moonlit Lane by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1874
A Moonlit Lane by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1874

The Art of Autumn

Autumn is a time of contemplation.

A time to reflect on the changing of the seasons from growth to decay.

Each year is a cycle of life that repeats.

Mother Nature bears the fruits of her labor, celebrating life in a festival of colour before the long winter months set in.

It’s as if nature is reminding us that life is to be enjoyed, that there is so much to be grateful for, and that we can look forward to renewal again in the spring.

Artists through the centuries have been inspired by the beauty and melancholy of autumn.

Here are 40 beautiful paintings of the season of red and gold along with quotes from poets and writers.

Autumn Regrets by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Autumn Regrets by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Autumn in Cornwall by Walter Elmer Schofield (1869 - 1944)
Autumn in Cornwall by Walter Elmer Schofield (1869 – 1944)
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost
Setting Sun, Autumn in Eragny by Camille Pissarro, 1900
Setting Sun, Autumn in Eragny by Camille Pissarro, 1900
Autumn Festival by Willard Leroy Metcalf, 1915
Autumn Festival by Willard Leroy Metcalf, 1915
Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.George Eliot
Autumnal Forest with Houses by Walter Moras (1856 - 1925)
Autumnal Forest with Houses by Walter Moras (1856 – 1925)
The Sussex lanes were very lovely in the autumn . . . spendthrift gold and glory of the year-end . . . earth scents and the sky winds and all the magic of the countryside which is ordained for the healing of the soul.Monica Baldwin
A Country Road in Autumn by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1918
A Country Road in Autumn by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1918
There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!Percy Bysshe Shelley
Autumn Sunlight by John F. Carlson (1875 - 1945)
Autumn Sunlight by John F. Carlson (1875 – 1945)
Autumn by Stanislav Zhukovsky (1873 - 1944)
Autumn by Stanislav Zhukovsky (1873 – 1944)
Autumn Days
Yellow, mellow, ripened days,
Sheltered in a golden coating;
O’er the dreamy, listless haze,
White and dainty cloudlets floating;
Winking at the blushing trees,
And the sombre, furrowed fallow;
Smiling at the airy ease,
Of the southward flying swallow.
Sweet and smiling are thy ways,
Beauteous, golden Autumn days.
Will Carleton
Autumn in Gloucestershire by Alfred East (1844 - 1913)
Autumn in Gloucestershire by Alfred East (1844 – 1913)
Autumn Gold by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Autumn Gold by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.Robert Browning
A Woodland Path in Autumn by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1918
A Woodland Path in Autumn by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1918
Autumn Colouring by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1894
Autumn Colouring by Edward Wilkins Waite, 1894
You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Autumn Alley by Johan Krouthén, 1917
Autumn Alley by Johan Krouthén, 1917
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
Autumn in Pavlovsk by Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, 1888
Autumn in Pavlovsk by Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, 1888
Late Autumn by Robert Vonnoh (1858 - 1933)
Late Autumn by Robert Vonnoh (1858 – 1933)
Autumn Day, Sokolniki by Isaak Levitan, 1879
Autumn Day, Sokolniki by Isaak Levitan, 1879
Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.Jane Austen, Persuasion
Autumn on the River by Julian Alden Weir, 1906
Autumn on the River by Julian Alden Weir, 1906
The tints of autumn…a mighty flower garden blossoming under the spell of the enchanter, frost.John Greenleaf Whittier
Autumn on the River by Jasper Francis Cropsey, 1877
Autumn on the River by Jasper Francis Cropsey, 1877
Autumn Poplars by Camille Pissarro, 1893
Autumn Poplars by Camille Pissarro, 1893
It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.P.G. Wodehouse
Cresheim Glen, Wissahickon, Autumn by Thomas Moran, 1864
Cresheim Glen, Wissahickon, Autumn by Thomas Moran, 1864
Along the woods in Autumn by Alfred Sisley, 1885
Along the woods in Autumn by Alfred Sisley, 1885
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run
John Keats, Complete Poems and Selected Letters
Autumn Effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet, 1873
Autumn Effect at Argenteuil by Claude Monet, 1873
Autumn Leaves by William McTaggart (1835 - 1910)
Autumn Leaves by William McTaggart (1835 – 1910)
Just as a painter needs light in order to put the finishing touches to his picture, so I need an inner light, which I feel I never have enough of in the autumn.Leo Tolstoy
Alley in Autumn by Walter Moras (1856 - 1925)
Alley in Autumn by Walter Moras (1856 – 1925)
The Water's Edge by William M. Hart, 1881
The Water’s Edge by William M. Hart, 1881
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,Walt Whitman, The Complete Poems
Autumn in Eragny by Camille Pissarro, 1900
Autumn in Eragny by Camille Pissarro, 1900
All-cheering Plenty, with her flowing horn, Led yellow Autumn, wreath’d with nodding corn.Robert Burns, Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns
Autumn on the Farm by Charles Harold Davis (1856 - 1933)
Autumn on the Farm by Charles Harold Davis (1856 – 1933)
Such days of autumnal decline hold a strange mystery which adds to the gravity of all our moods.Charles Nodier, Smarra & Trilby
Edge of a Forest in Autumn by Alfred Sisley, 1883
Edge of a Forest in Autumn by Alfred Sisley, 1883
New England Autumn Landscape by John Joseph Enneking, 1894
New England Autumn Landscape by John Joseph Enneking, 1894
The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown…
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
Helen Hunt Jackson
Autumn Evening by Ferdinand Hodler, 1893
Autumn Evening by Ferdinand Hodler, 1893
The gold and scarlet leaves that littered the countryside in great drifts whispered and chuckled among themselves, or took experimental runs from place to place, rolling like coloured hoops among the trees.Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals
Burnham Beeches by Myles Birket Foster (1825 - 1899)
Burnham Beeches by Myles Birket Foster (1825 – 1899)
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Christabel
Autumn Roadside, Kentucky by William Forsyth, 1903
Autumn Roadside, Kentucky by William Forsyth, 1903
the fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with lightMalcolm Lowry, October Ferry To Gabriola
Autumn Leaves by John Singer Sargent, 1913
Autumn Leaves by John Singer Sargent, 1913
Every season hath its pleasures;
Spring may boast her flowery prime,
Yet the vineyard’s ruby treasures
Brighten Autumn’s sob’rer time.
Thomas Moore
Autumn Landscape by Charles Courtney Curran, 1928
Autumn Landscape by Charles Courtney Curran, 1928
Autumn Tints by Maurice Braun (1877 - 1941)
Autumn Tints by Maurice Braun (1877 – 1941)
In Heaven, it is always AutumnJohn Donne
The Arc de Triomphe, Autumn Effect by Jean-François Raffaëlli, 1907
The Arc de Triomphe, Autumn Effect by Jean-François Raffaëlli, 1907
Autumn Landscape by Paul Madeline, 1905
Autumn Landscape by Paul Madeline, 1905
Methinks I see the sunset light flooding the river valley, the western hills stretching to the horizon, overhung with trees gorgeous and glowing with the tints of autumn — a mighty flower garden blossoming under the spell of the enchanter, frost.John Greenleaf Whittier, Tales and Sketches
A Late Autumn Day in Dyrehaven, Sunshine by Theodor Philipsen, 1886
A Late Autumn Day in Dyrehaven, Sunshine by Theodor Philipsen, 1886
The leaves were more gorgeous than ever; the first touch of frost would lay them all low to the ground. Already one or two kept constantly floating down, amber and golden in the low slanting sun-raysElizabeth Gaskell, North and South
.

The Bridge at Argenteuil in Autumn by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
The Bridge at Argenteuil in Autumn by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
Edward Hirsch, Wild Gratitude
A Wooded Path In Autumn by Hans Andersen Brendekilde (1857 - 1942)
A Wooded Path In Autumn by Hans Andersen Brendekilde (1857 – 1942)

Francois Flameng: Interpreter of Beauty

Beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful clothes—Francois Flameng loved to paint them all.

Born in an art studio in Paris in 1856, Flameng may have known from an early age that he was destined to be an artist.

Indeed, in many ways, he had everything going for him.

Paris was the center of the art world and his father was a celebrated engraver who had once wished to be a painter.

All of his father’s regrets were channeled into making his son a success.

Specializing in history painting and portraiture, Francois Flameng became a professor at the Académie des Beaux-Arts—the premier institution of fine art in France.

If you’d like to add a little atmosphere as we view a gallery of Flameng’s work, press play.

Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud in 1811 by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud in 1811 by Francois Flameng
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna by Francois Flameng, 1898
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna by Francois Flameng, 1898

Many of his studies in Italy are rich in architectural detail in the most vivid light and color.

The Carnival in Venice by Francois Flameng
The Carnival in Venice by Francois Flameng
Ile Pointeaux by Francois Flameng
Ile Pointeaux by Francois Flameng
Equestrienne Au Cirque Fernando by Francois Flameng - c. 1890
Equestrienne Au Cirque Fernando by Francois Flameng – c. 1890
Intelligence by Francois Flameng
Intelligence by Francois Flameng
Reception at Malmaison in 1802 by Francois Flameng, c.1894
Reception at Malmaison in 1802 by Francois Flameng, c.1894
A Concert in Versailles by Francois Flameng
A Concert in Versailles by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud by Francois Flameng, 1896
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud by Francois Flameng, 1896
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng

Flameng would often use a camera lucida to create an optical superimposition of his subject.

Allowing him to duplicate key points of the scene on the drawing surface, it would aid in the accurate rendering of perspective.

How a camera lucida device is used to help with drawing composition
How a camera lucida device is used to help with drawing composition

Once he had the sketch to ensure proportion and perspective were correct, he would paint rapidly yet with such fine detail that within an hour he had what took most artists four hours to complete.

Princess Zinaida Yusupova with her sons Felix and Nikolai at Arkhangelskoye by Francois Flameng - 1894
Princess Zinaida Yusupova with her sons Felix and Nikolai at Arkhangelskoye by Francois Flameng – 1894
Mrs Adeline M. Noble by Francois Flameng
Mrs Adeline M. Noble by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I hunting in the Forest of Fontainebleau, 1807 by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I hunting in the Forest of Fontainebleau, 1807 by Francois Flameng
An Elite Soldier of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
An Elite Soldier of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
I have always thought that portraits ought to be arranged as pictures.Francois Flameng

Flameng said that fashions and hairstyles changed so often that the exact likeness captured in a portrait was gone within a few short years.

Therefore, he said, portraits should aim to be pleasant works of art that one would purchase to adorn the wall of a drawing room, even if it were not a portrait of one’s own image.

Zinaida Yusupova with the famous Yusupov family La Pelegrina pearl by Francois Flameng - 1894
Zinaida Yusupova with the famous Yusupov family La Pelegrina pearl by Francois Flameng – 1894
Maria Fedorovna by Francois Flameng, 1894
Maria Fedorovna by Francois Flameng, 1894

Flameng found that he learned as much about the social aspects of his work as he did the actual practicing of his art.

Making sittings more agreeable for models he had to learn their tastes and habits, likes and dislikes.

That way, he could encourage them to pose in ways that reflected their personality and remain in one position for a long time without noticing it as much.

Portrait of the Duchess Dora Leichtenberg by Francois Flameng - 1896
Portrait of the Duchess Dora Leichtenberg by Francois Flameng – 1896

Of equal importance to remaining true to his artistic integrity was producing a work that was pleasing to the subject and also to her friends and acquaintances.

Portrait of Mme D by Francois Flameng - 1911
Portrait of Mme D by Francois Flameng – 1911

When subjects disagreed with his choice of arrangement or style of composition, he would use all his skill to gradually encourage her to see his point of view without contradicting or offending, always admitting she was right, but gently helping her drop her own preconceived mental image.

Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book by Francois Flameng, 1900
Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book by Francois Flameng, 1900
The Chess Game by Francois Flameng
The Chess Game by Francois Flameng
The People of Paris Come to Versailles by Francois Flameng
The People of Paris Come to Versailles by Francois Flameng
Offizier des Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments of the Napoleonic Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
Offizier des Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments of the Napoleonic Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
Portrait of Madame Max Decougis by Francois Flameng
Portrait of Madame Max Decougis by Francois Flameng
Even the ordinary woman is a thousand times more worthwhile to paint than the ordinary man. But women are never ordinary.Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng

Flameng painted the colors and pageantry of war.

But he was no stranger to its violence.

At age 14, he was playing with fellow students at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, when a bombshell exploded in the courtyard.

It was a gift from the Prussians to mark the onset of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and it prompted him to enlist.

Accepted in the ambulance corps, when Paris fell to the Prussians, he saw seven children killed under the window of his father’s house in Montparnasse.

Napoleon and his staff reviewing the mounted chasseurs of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
In the Woods by Francois Flameng
In the Woods by Francois Flameng
A portrait painter should not only be endowed with talent, but also possess the qualities of a philosopher, of an observer, of a psychologist, and be provided with inexhaustible patience.Francois Flameng
Lady Duveen, née Salamon by Francois Flameng, 1910
Lady Duveen, née Salamon by Francois Flameng, 1910
Portrait Of Mademoiselle Herpin by Francois Flameng - 1908
Portrait Of Mademoiselle Herpin by Francois Flameng – 1908
Picnic by Francois Flameng
Picnic by Francois Flameng
Evening by Francois Flameng
Evening by Francois Flameng
Napoleon After The Battle Of Waterloo by Francois Flameng
Napoleon After The Battle Of Waterloo by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a mother with her children in the garden by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a mother with her children in the garden by Francois Flameng
An Evening's Entertainment for Josephine by Francois Flameng
An Evening’s Entertainment for Josephine by Francois Flameng

Francois Flameng didn’t only paint beauty.

Renowned for his paintings that showed some of the horrors of the First World War, he was an accredited documenter for the War Ministry and named honorary president of the Society of Military Painters.

Flameng’s war paintings were derided by many critics for being too realistic and not including heroic drama.

World War I by François Flameng
World War I by François Flameng
The offensive of the Yser, First French line near Het-Sas, by François Flameng
The offensive of the Yser, First French line near Het-Sas, by François Flameng
World War I Attack by François Flameng
World War I Attack by François Flameng

The Light that Inspired the Skagen Painters

Skagen is a village in the northernmost part of Denmark.

From the late 1870s until the turn of the century, a group of Scandinavian artists descended on Skagen every summer.

It was the light that drew them.

A translucent light that merged the sea and the sky—especially during the evening “blue hour”.

Influenced by the “en plein air” techniques of French Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, they broke away from traditions taught at the academies and developed their own unique styles.

The long beaches stretched for miles and miles …

Listen to Claude Debussy’s haunting Clair de Lune as we travel back in time to late 19th-century Skagen through the eyes of the Skagen Painters.

Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening on Skagen's Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Summer Evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Nor moon nor stars were out.
They did not dare to tread so soon about,
Though trembling, in the footsteps of the sun.
The light was neither night’s nor day’s, but one
Which, life-like, had a beauty in its doubt;
And Silence’s impassioned breathings round
Seemed wandering into sound.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Sea-Side Walk
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Boat at Skagen's South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
Boat at Skagen’s South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour
Sara Teasdale, I Have Loved Hours At Sea
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896

Rendering light with paint in such a way that it makes you feel you are there and you need to squint at the sun’s reflections on the water.

Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909

One of the shared interests of the Skagen painters was to paint scenes of their own social gatherings—eating together, celebrating, or playing cards.

At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883
At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883

As if you could reach out and touch them, Krøyer’s characters are full of movement, full of life.

A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893

The group gathered together regularly at the Brøndums Inn in Skagen, which still operates as a hotel today.

Filled with the paintings the artists donated to cover the cost of board and lodging, the Brøndums’ dining-room became the center of their social life.

The dining room from Branden's hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger
The dining room from Branden’s hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger

Can you feel the excitement in the air and hear the clinking of glasses?

Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
The Actor's Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
The Actor’s Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
An Artists' Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903
An Artists’ Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903

Deep in concentration, an after-dinner game of cards continues into the small hours.

A game of l'hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885
A game of l’hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885

Many of the Skagen painters are depicted here enjoying Midsummer Eve celebrations on Skagen beach around a bonfire, traditionally lit to ward off evil spirits believed to roam freely when the sun turned southward again.

The painting includes Peder Severin Krøyer’s daughter Vibeke, mayor Otto Schwartz and his wife Alba Schwartz, Michael Ancher, Degn Brøndum, Anna Ancher, Holger Drachmann and his 3rd wife Soffi, the Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén and Marie Krøyer.

Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen's beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906
Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen’s beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906

Anna Ancher was the only one of the Skagen Painters to be born and grow up in Skagen.

Her father owned the Brøndums Hotel where the artists stayed during the summer months and she married Michael Ancher, one of the first members of the Skagen colony of artists.

Expressing a more truthful depiction of reality and everyday life, she was a pioneer in observing the interplay of color and natural light.

Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Sewing Fisherman's Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
Sewing Fisherman’s Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it
Carl Sandburg, Young Sea

Combining realism and classical composition, Michael Ancher painted heroic fishermen and their experiences at sea.

Becoming known as monumental figurative art, his strict training at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts was tempered by his wife Anna’s more naturalistic approach.

Painted in 1885, Michael Ancher’s ‘Will He Round the Point?” (below) earned him and the Skagen colony particular attention since it was sold to King Christian IX of Denmark.

Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888

Life was hard.

A fisherman’s life was not an easy one.

Better to die surrounded by people who would give their life for you.

That’s what close-knit communities were made of.

The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891

The Skagen artists also painted each other and their children going about everyday aspects of life—collecting flowers, walking the dog, reading in the shade of the garden or inside the house, meal times with the children, and saying prayers before bed.

Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist's Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist’s Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888

20 Exquisite Paintings of 18th-Century Ladies by Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (1723 – 1792) was an influential eighteenth-century English portrait painter.

He promoted the “Grand Manner” of painting which idealized subjects to convey a sense of nobility.

Knighted by King George III in 1769, Reynolds was a founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Although he had little technical training as an artist, he possessed an instinct for color and composition. His figures appear in a natural attitude of grace and he gives them an air of distinction. Even the most ill-tempered sitters were elevated to a position of dignity.

Reynolds had a gift for capturing the personality of the sitter—what critics called “realizing their individuality.” Using his imagination, he would weave a story into each portrait.

His compositions have a symmetry of outline and flow of lines reminiscent of Raphael. In fact, he borrowed from many sources: Rembrandt’s lighting and color harmonies; Rubens’s splendor; Titian’s decoration.

Yet to all his works, he added his personal touch that makes them uniquely Reynolds.

Which is your favorite 18th-century lady painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds?

Mucha Do About Art Nouveau

The rags to riches story of Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

Living alone in Paris in 1894, Alphonse Mucha barely made enough money to feed himself.

Alphonse Mucha Self Portrait, 1899
Alphonse Mucha Self Portrait, 1899

There had been better times. Back home in Moravia, he had worked in a castle restoring portraits and decorating rooms with murals. Those were the days. His employer, the Count, had encouraged Mucha to take formal studies and had provided financial support.

Now, at 34, with his savings gone, Mucha was scraping a living from his artwork, taking small commissions from magazine pictures, designs for costumes in operas and ballets, and book illustrations.

But his fortunes were about to change.

Just before Christmas 1894, he happened to drop into a print shop and heard that Sarah Bernhardt—the most famous actress in Paris—was starring in a new play, Gismonda.

Sarah Bernhardt by Félix Nadar
Sarah Bernhardt by Félix Nadar

The promoters needed a poster to advertise the production, and so Alphonse Mucha offered to deliver a lithograph in two weeks.

It was an overnight sensation. Bernhardt was so pleased with the success of this first poster that she offered him a six-year contract.

Alphonse Mucha had brought Art Nouveau to the people of Paris.

Poster for Victorien Sardou's Gismonda starring Sarah Bernhardt at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris., 1894
Poster for the première production of Victorien Sardou’s Gismonda starring Sarah Bernhardt at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, 1894
Poster for an evening of theater honoring Sarah Bernhardt (1896)

For the next 10 years, Alphonse Mucha kept busy with commissions for posters, book illustrations, programs, and calendars.

Abounding with ornamental pictorial elements with crisp curvilinear contours, the stylized graceful women of “Style Mucha” became synonymous with the whole Art Nouveau movement.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter by Alphonse much, 1896
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter by Alphonse much, 1896

Mucha’s work captured the worldliness and decadence of the fin de siècle (turn of the century) and the belle époque (“The Beautiful Era”)—a time when Paris was the resplendent cultural capital of the world.

Dance by Alfons Mucha, 1898
Dance by Alfons Mucha, 1898
Zodiac by Alphonse Mucha
Zodiac by Alphonse Mucha
Poetry by Alphonse Mucha
Poetry by Alphonse Mucha
Byzantine Heads - Brunette by Alphonse Mucha
Byzantine Heads – Brunette by Alphonse Mucha
Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile by Alphonse Mucha, 1896
Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile by Alphonse Mucha, 1896
Monaco Monte Carlo by Alfons Mucha
Monaco Monte Carlo by Alfons Mucha
Bières de la Meuse by Alphonse Mucha
Bières de la Meuse by Alphonse Mucha
Advertising poster for Chocolat Idéal by Alfons Mucha
Advertising poster for Chocolat Idéal by Alfons Mucha
Flower by Alphonse Mucha, 1897
Flower by Alphonse Mucha, 1897

Mucha grew up in a small village in Moravia in what is now the Czech Republic. When he was a boy, it was part of the Habsburg Empire. Poverty and suffering were a part of everyday life—five of Mucha’s brothers and sisters died from tuberculosis.

Coming from a deeply religious family, the Church was a big influence on Mucha’s early life. From church decorations to the mysticism of religion, he remained fascinated by spiritualism throughout his life and even dabbled in the occult.

The Municipal House Ceiling by Alphonse Mucha, Prague
The Municipal House Ceiling by Alphonse Mucha, Prague
Mucha's stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral inside Prague Castle
Mucha’s stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral inside Prague Castle
An illustrated page from Le Pater by Mucha
An illustrated page from Le Pater by Mucha

After Paris, Mucha spent four years in the United States before returning to his home country, settling in Prague.

He started work on a fine art masterpiece—a history of the Slavic peoples. Called The Slav Epic, it comprises 20 huge canvases up to 26 ft wide and 20 ft high.

Mucha's The Slav Epic, 1911
Mucha’s The Slav Epic, 1911
The Slave Epic - The coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor (1926)
The Slave Epic – The coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor (1926)
Apotheosis of the Slavs history by Alfons Mucha (1926)
Apotheosis of the Slavs history by Alfons Mucha (1926)

When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha was among the first to be arrested. Weakened by interrogation and suffering from pneumonia, he died shortly after being released.

But his art lived on in the hearts of admirers the world over.

Los Cigarillos Paris, Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, THe Spirit of Spring, Portrait of Mme. Mucha
Los Cigarillos Paris, Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, The Spirit of Spring, Portrait of Mme. Mucha

8 Heavenly Austrian Ceiling Frescoes influenced by the Sistine Chapel

How could we begin without first mentioning the granddaddy of all ceiling frescoes that influenced so many others that followed—the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel exemplifies High Renaissance art—a period of exceptional creativity during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Nine scenes from the Book of Genesis take center stage, of which The Creation of Adam is the best known, deservedly enjoying an iconic status equaled only by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The left half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in 1508 and restored in 1994
The left half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in 1508 and restored in 1994

Anyone who’s tried to paint a ceiling at home will know it’s back-breaking work. All that looking up. But imagine painting that way for 4 years solid!

Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo didn’t lie on his back but painted in a standing position.

The work was carried out in extremely uncomfortable conditions, from his having to work with his head tilted upwards.Giorgio Vasari (1511 - 1574)

The ceiling rises to 44 ft (13.4 m) above the main floor, so, what does a 16th-century sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer do to reach such lofty heights?

You guessed it—he designed his own scaffold. But instead of building from the floor up, he saved on wood by making a flat platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall near the top of the windows.

Besides his own heavenly creations, Michelangelo would inspire later artists like Austrian Paul Troger (1698 – 1762), whose illusionistic ceiling frescoes are notable for their dramatic vitality of movement and light color palette.

Here are 8 examples of heavenly baroque frescoes from 18th-century Austria.

1. Melk Abbey, Austria

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey originally founded in 1089 overlooking the town of Melk in Lower Austria.

Today’s Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736.

Ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall of Melk Abbey by Paul Troger, 1730. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Marble Hall of Melk Abbey by Paul Troger, 1730. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the central arch of the nave at Melk Abbey Church by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1722) Via triumphalis of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the central arch of the nave at Melk Abbey Church by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1722) Via triumphalis of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Frescos of dome and ceiling in Melk Abbey Church (Austria) by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1716-22). Credit Uoaei1
Frescoes of dome and ceiling in Melk Abbey Church (Austria) by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1716-22). Credit Uoaei1
Symbolic illustration of the history of Melk Abbey, 1745. Credit Uoaei1
Symbolic illustration of the history of Melk Abbey, 1745. Credit Uoaei1

2. Herzogenburg Monastery, Austria

The Augustinian Herzogenburg Monastery in Lower Austria was founded in 1112 by Augustinian Canons, and refurbished in the Baroque style in 1714.

Ceiling frescos in Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (left fresco) and Bartolomeo Altomonte. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (left fresco) and Bartolomeo Altomonte. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran The Miracle of Pentecost. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco in the Herzogenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran The Miracle of Pentecost. Credit Uoaei1

3. Sonntagberg Basilica, Austria

Sonntagberg Basilica is a baroque church in Lower Austria, Built between 1706 and 1732, Pope Paul VI gave it the title Minor basilica in 1964.

Ceiling frescos in Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescos in the nave and the dome of Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in the nave and the dome of Sonntagberg Basilica (Lower Austria) by Daniel Gran (1738–43). Credit Uoaei1

4. Altenburg Abbey, Austria

Altenburg Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Lower Austria. It suffered numerous invasions and attacks, and was destroyed by the Swedes in 1645.

The present Baroque abbey replaced the earlier Romanesque structure, and is said to be one of the finest in Austria.

Fresco of the north dome at the library of Altenburg Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1742) Theology and Jurisprudence. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco of the north dome at the library of Altenburg Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1742) Theology and Jurisprudence. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco in the dome of Altenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1733) The apocalyptic vision of St. John. Credit Uoaei1
Fresco in the dome of Altenburg Abbey Church (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1733) The apocalyptic vision of St. John. Credit Uoaei1

5. Seitenstetten Abbey, Austria

Originally founded in 1112, Seitenstetten Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Lower Austria that was lavishly refurbished in the 18th century in the Baroque style.

Ceiling fresco of the Marble Hall at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1735) The Harmony between Religion and Science. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Marble Hall at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Paul Troger (1735) The Harmony between Religion and Science. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Abbey's Staircase at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1744) Triumph of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling fresco of the Abbey’s Staircase at Seitenstetten Abbey (Lower Austria) by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1744) Triumph of St. Benedict. Credit Uoaei1

6. Jesuit Church, Austria

Also known as the University Church, the Jesuit Church is a two-storey, twin-tower church in Vienna, Austria. It was remodeled using Baroque principles in the early 18th century.

Jesuit Church, Dr.-Ignaz-Seipel-Platz, Vienna, Frescoes by Andrea Pozzo during his time in Vienna (1702-1709). Credit Uoaei1
Jesuit Church, Vienna, Austria. Frescoes by Andrea Pozzo during his time in Vienna (1702-1709). Credit Uoaei1

The first church in the Austrian market town of Maria Taferl was built around a shrine to the Holy Mother, which is the origin of the town’s name.

7. Maria Taferl Basilica, Austria

Built between 1660 and 1710, the baroque Maria Taferl Basilica features ornate gold leaf decoration and the frescoed ceiling shown below.

Ceiling fresco in the nave of Maria Taferl Basilica (Lower Austria) by Antonio Beduzzi (1714-1718) Glorification of St. Joseph, Credit Uoaei1
Ceiling frescoes in the nave of Maria Taferl Basilica (Lower Austria) by Antonio Beduzzi (1714-1718) Glorification of St. Joseph, Credit Uoaei1

8. Göttweig Abbey, Austria

Göttweig Abbey is a Benedictine monastery near Krems in Lower Austria.

Founded in the 11th century, the abbey burned down in 1718 and was rebuilt on a grander, more lavish scale.

The fresco decorating the imperial staircase (shown below) is considered a masterpiece of Austrian Baroque architecture.

Apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI by Paul Troger, 1739 in Göttweig Abbey, Austria. Credit Uoaei1
Apotheosis of Emperor Charles VI by Paul Troger, 1739 in Göttweig Abbey, Austria. Credit Uoaei1

10 Sublime Springtime Paintings from Claude Monet

Claude Monet loved nature — and what better time to enjoy it than its reawakening after a long, cold winter.

He loved to paint “en plein air” — outdoors in the open air — enjoying the fresh light and colors of spring, with the scent of blossoms drifting on the spring breeze.

Here are 10 paintings by Monet that feature “spring” in the title.

Hope they put a spring in your step today!

Springtime in Giverny by Claude Monet
Springtime in Giverny by Claude Monet
Springtime by Claude Monet, 1886
Springtime by Claude Monet, 1886
The Spring in Argentuil by Claude Monet, 1872
The Spring in Argentuil by Claude Monet, 1872
Springtime by Claude Monet, 1872
Springtime by Claude Monet, 1872
The Mount Riboudet in Rouen at Spring by Claude Monet, 1872
The Mount Riboudet in Rouen at Spring by Claude Monet, 1872
Springtime at Giverny by Claude Monet, 1886
Springtime at Giverny by Claude Monet, 1886
Spring by the Seine by Claude Monet, 1875
Spring by the Seine by Claude Monet, 1875
An Orchard in Spring by Claude Monet, 1886
An Orchard in Spring by Claude Monet, 1886
The Spring at Vetheuil by Claude Monet, 1881
The Spring at Vetheuil by Claude Monet, 1881
Spring Landscape by Claude Monet, 1894
Spring Landscape by Claude Monet, 1894

Tissot’s Victorian Ladies

James Tissot (1836 – 1902), was a French painter and illustrator.

He painted scenes of Paris and London society—and especially fashionably dressed women.

Click here to continue learning about James Tissot
Self-portrait in 1865
Self-portrait in 1865.

Born in Nantes, France, his father was a drapery merchant and his mother designed hats. Their involvement in the fashion industry influenced his artistic flair for painting the finer details of women’s clothing.

Tissot enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to study in the studios of Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe—both known for their decorative art skills. It was here that Tissot became acquainted with Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet and James Whistler.

In 1863, Tissot found the niche that would bring him critical acclaim and wealth: portraits depicting modern life.

He moved to London in 1871, where he quickly developed his reputation for painting elegantly dressed, fashionable women.

The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists quotes Edmond de Goncourt in 1874 as writing that Tissot had ‘a studio with a waiting room where, at all times, there is iced champagne at the disposal of visitors”.

Tissot’s popularity among wealthy British industrialists gave him an income usually reserved for the top strata of society.

a studio with a waiting room where, at all times, there is iced champagne at the disposal of visitorsPhilip J. Waller.

Tissot painted elegant ladies from high society in enchanting everyday scenes. Vote for your favorites from this list of 20 beautiful Tissot paintings.