19th Century Art--2

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J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851,) like other artists of the 19th century, responded to the Industrial Revolution, especially the development of the railroad. A child prodigy, Turner produced an enormous number of paintings that covered the gamut of realistic, Romantic, and abstract art. Some name him the great precursor of abstract expressionism (Smith 1-2). By the 1840s and anticipating the Impressionists, "Turner had transformed the light, air, and motion of the observed world into a visibly fragmented and energy-charged painted surface" (Witt 307). Art historians have commented on Turner's "jewel-like colors, pale washes, and general formlessness..." (Smith 1). His painting, Rain, Steam and Speed--The Great Western Railway, reproduced here was considered shockingly modern in 1844. Art historians comment on how Turner "used oils ever more transparently ...[producing]...an evocation of almost pure light...[and]...shimmering color" ("J. M. W. Turner"). In this painting, the objects are barely discernible or visible. "In this scene the new technology is both part of the natural world and strong enough to dominate it" (Kagan, et al. 649).

< http://www.abcgallery.com/T/turner/turner26.html >

Bridging the gap between the Romantics and the Impressionists, artists like Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) painted subjects drawn from nature or the natural environment, especially French peasants, but he did not portray them romantically. Two of his most famous paintings, The Gleaners (right) and Angelus (left, 1857-1859) should be immediately recognizable.

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/millet/angelus.jpg.html > < http://www.swale-community.org/gleanlg.htm >

Jean-Désiré Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was one of the first to call himself a realist and to distinguish his work from that of his romantic predecessors. He proclaimed a kind of Realist Manifesto, defining the role of art "'to translate the customs, the ideas, the appearances of my epoch'" (Witt 350). As the founder of Realism, he "smashed the tidy boundaries separating established painting genres..." (Smith B33). In short, he painted what he saw, as he saw it. Courbet focused on "rendering the details and textures of every object" (Witt 350). The Stonebreakers (1849) is one of his most famous works. His life, role in protest and politics are also interesting.

< http://www.witcombe.sbc.edu/modernism/roots.html >

Courbet, the type specimen of the artistic rebel or rebellious artist, "was deeply out of sorts, independent, ambitious, wily, perennially dissatisfied with his lot..." (Smith B29). He took pride in being modern, defining himself as a "bohemian, narcissistic loner and political radical..." (Smith B33). He wrote, "I live by the phrase ' shock the bourgeoisie'" (B33). As a man of his time, Courbet "was quick to grasp the usefulness of...newspapers, popular illustration and especially photography" (B33). Feeling stifled under the 2nd Empire of Napoleon III, he spurned the cross of the Legion of Honor and delighted in shocking the Salon. Smith goes on, "More than any painter of this great painting century, Courbet built elements of rebellion and dissent into the very forms and surfaces of his work." His self-portrait, The Desperate Man, on your left.

< See The New York Times website >
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/02/28/arts/0229-COURBET_index.html >

In 1857, Courbet shocked the Salon with his Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine. Art critic Roberta Smith writes of this "drowsy masterpiece": ...[T]wo reclining subjects form a pile of frothy garments, seemingly boneless female flesh, assorted flowers and moral lassitude set on a grassy riverside. The overt, possibly lesbian, eroticism that shocked...the 1857 Salon remains palpable" (B33) Shocking, too, she goes on, does the "ebullient, almost taunting, hash of traditions, of public park with boudoir, of still life and figure painting..." (B33).

< See The New York Times website >

The Metropolitan Museum in New York presented (February, 2009) a Courbet exhibit, featuring 130 of his canvases and drawings.
You may see a slide show by visiting
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/02/28/arts/0229-COURBET_index.html >

More Courbet: (left) The Studio 1855 < http://www.acom/ArtLex/r/realism.html >
(right) The Stormy Sea (The Wave) 1869
< http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/r/realism.html >
For more on this fascinating artist and political activist, read Ross King, The Judgment of Paris.

In England, Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) approached realism by painting "the minutiae of daily life," Work (1862-1865)

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/brown/brown_work.jpg.html>

American artist Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) was influenced by the "intense, ordered, descriptive paintings..." of the realists (Witt 351). Like all artists of the second half of the 19th century, Eakins' realism faced particular challenges from the development of photography, which, in fact, Eakins studied. Nevertheless, art historians comment on his ability, as seen in the painting (left) Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (1871) "to capture a moment in time," as did Monet but with an entirely different style or technique (351).

< http://www.artchive.com/artchive/E/eakins/scull.jpg.html >

Euro students, while Eakins is enormously interesting, you may skim over
the follow discussion of some of his more recent notoreity.

Thomas Eakins' work has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity and controversy. A Philadelphia artist who studied for only three years in Paris, he remained rooted in America and in the the new technologies of the time. His art "was steeped in science and the study of anatomy, aided by the emerging technology of photography, an art that flouted received taste and trafficked in plain truth". (Kimmelman B37). One of the objects of his fascination was prominent Philadelphia surgeon, Dr. Samuel D. Gross, whom he painted without sentimentality in the now controversial painting, The Gross Clinic. The work has traditionally hung in the medical school of Thomas Jefferson University. In the early 21st century it lay at the heart of a bidding war as Alice L. Walton (Wal-Mart heiress) tried to buy it away from the university to place in her (as yet unbuilt) Arkansas art museum. Friends and alumni of Thomas Jefferson University raised the requisite millions to keep The Gross Clinic in its Philadelphia home (Kimmelman B37). (Does it remind you of Rembrandt?)


Eakins courted controversy in his own lifetime: "Eakins has been forced to resign from the Pennsylvania in 1886 after pulling the loincloth off a male model before a class of students that included women" (Kimmelman B44). "In 1905 Eakins painted William Smith Forbes, a pioneering anatomy professor...." (Kimmelman B44) The notorious Dr. Smith "was arrested for grave robbing...as a consequence of using cadavers to train his students" (Kimmelman B44).




BIBLIOGRAPHY (incomplete, alas)

"J. M. W. Turner." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Online available.
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._M._W._Turner >

Kagan, Donald, et al. The Western Heritage, 9th ed., vol. C. Upper Saddle River:
Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007.

Kimmelman, Michael. "In the Company of Eakins." The New York Times, January 12, 2007.

Mataev, Olga, et al. "Joseph Mallord William Turner." Olga's Gallery. Online Available.
< http://www.abcgallery.com/T/turner/turner.html >

Smith, Roberta. "Seductive Rebel Who Kept It Real." The New York Times, February 29, 2008.
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/02/28/arts/0229-COURBET_index.html >

Tansey, Richard and Fred Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages, 10th ed., vol.ii.
Fort Worth, et al.: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

Witt, Mary Ann, et al. The Humanities, 5th ed., vol.ii. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997.

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