Archive for the art pompier Category

In Defense of Hans Makart

Posted in 19th Century, A. Wiertz, art pompier, Gustav Klimt, Hans Makart, Makartbouquet, Sarah Bernhardt on February 25, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This morning ‘s New York Times had a review of what appears to be a marvelous exploration of Viennese modernism at the Neue  Galerie.

Although Roberta Smith was a bit dismissive of the Neue’s obvious affection for fin de Siècle excess, going so far as declaring the gallery “…adolescently, in love…”; she saves  much of her disdain for Hans Makart.

Hans Makart

b. 28th May 1840

d. 3rd October 1884

Self portrait


She describes Makarts work as “this froth of cloying brushwork and sartorial detail ” that “stands out like a sore thumb opposite Adele. But it vividly locates the artistic stagnation that the painters of other portraits in the room — Klimt, as well as Schiele and Kokoschka — were rebelling against”.

It is  unfair to compare Makart to the Gustav Klimt, but as  the exhibit contrasts the two artist; the former studio assistant will inevitably outshine his master.

I love Klimt of course, how can you not?

Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I


I just feel it important to not dismiss Makart as “froth”.

An artist held in such esteem that Bernhardt posed for him.

Sarah Bernhardt


A master colorist who left behind  a body of work that is often startlingly seductive and subversive. Klimt clearly was a genius, but Makart deserves his due.

Allegory of Lust for Life


(certainly not a subtle image)

It has been awhile since I posted on Makart, I think this a good time to review what I admire about his work.

I find this painting a bit odd, is it a twist on the Nativity?

Child Portrait

It 1872

It is true that Makart enjoyed tremendous success in his day, it is understandable to defend the rebellious Klimt.

Makart’s atelier/ salon, described by Cosima Wagner as a “wonder of decorative beauty” drew a wide circle of fashionable society, Makart satisfied their vanity with very smart portraits.

Crown Princess Stephanie


Considered a poor draughtsman, Makart compensated with dazzling coloring and dramatic composition.

The Death of Cleopatra


This floral painting is far from conventional, there is sinister quality that is difficult to ignore.

Still Life with Roses


And although more conventional,  the gorgeous palette is very seductive .

Large Floral Piece


So pervasive was the Makartstil,floral arrangements of such lush abundance became known as Makartbouquet.

Fanciful images of a faun and nymph  are cast in creepy light by this “frothy” artist.

Pan and Flora


(such a perverse image)

Makart like his contemporary Antoine Wiertz may not have been exceptional next to the wondrous Klimt or Schiele, but they were gifted and inventive; contrary to Smith’s accusation of “artistic stagnation”.

I wish my own work was so stagnant.

Sacrificial Scene


I for one do not want them forgotten.

Enjoy the weekend.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Death and the Maiden, Antoine Wiertz and morbidity

Posted in 19th cent., A. Wiertz, art pompier, Death & the Maiden, Hans Grien, Memento Mori on October 18, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I have within my collection a small little souvenir catalog (19th cent.) from the Musée Wiertz in Brussels. It is brittle and yellowed with age; within glorious sepia images, shocking in content. Rich, narrative paintings, exploring darkness. I thought Wiertz and his work suitable for this season of hobgoblins.

The two young girls or the pretty Rosine


oil on canvas

Musée Wiertz, Brussels

I would love to share images from the catalog, but it is so fragile, I rarely open it. I will just share the cover.

author’s collection

A talented  artist, prone to bombastic paintings,often dismissed by his contemporaries; his work will most likely find few  admirers in our current culture of restraint.

I of course love him, but I tend to favor the derided art pompier school of painting.

Antoine Joseph Wiertz

b. Feb. 22nd 1806

d. Jun. 18th 1865

Why Wiertz focused so frequently on the dark and disturbing I do not know, but it couldn’t have helped his popularity.

Please be prepared, many of the images are gory.

Hunger, Madness, Crime


Just your typical little painting of a starving mad-woman devouring her young, charming touch, the babe’s foot in the cauldron.



( Satan looking pretty hot)

Guillotined Head


The young sorceress

( saucy little thing)

The precipitated inhumation

(gotta love THAT title)



(another saucy little thing)

A Scene in Hell


(love the Napoleon reference, perhaps in response to his poor Parisian reception)

Although clearly prolific, Wiertz did not enjoy widespread acclaim. As hinted at above, Paris was less then enthused. He did manage to persuade the Belgian State to construct a museum devoted to his life work.

Musée Wiertz


To get a sense of the scale of his monumental paintings, check out the size of this gallery.

Interior Musée Wiertz

end wall,” Revolt of the Hell against the Heaven”.

In the end, Wiertz died in his studio, evidently his remains buried a la pharoah,according to some sacred Egyptian burial rite.

A grand fitting end .

I will close with a gallery devoted to Death & the Maiden

Three ages of woman and death

Hans Balgung Grien


Wishing you a cheery week!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

For more images of Wiertz’s work click here.



Hans Makart, the Makartbouquet, and Makartstil.

Posted in 19th cent., art pompier, Hans Makart, Makartbouquet, overfussy tastes on December 22, 2009 by babylonbaroque

I recently finished a really marvelous book “The Poetic Home, Designing the 19th Century Domestic Interior”, by Stefan Muthesius. It is an impressive tome, 350 pages of very in depth study of what made 19th century rooms so special, so loved and so reviled. I became more aware of the inwardness of domestic interiors particuarly in reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Fascinating.

One figure kept popping up, the artist Hans Makart, I knew of him only slightly. I knew I enjoyed his work, I also knew it should be a guilty pleasure. If anyone captured 19th century sentimental excess it was old Hans.I came to understand how powerful he was in the 19th century, particularly in Viennese society. Fashionable ladies flocked to his studio, Cosima Wagner remarked that his studio was a “wonder of decorative beauty”.Mr. Wagner was also great fan, an interest I am  pleased to share .

Alas so was Mr. Hitler.

I’m not so pleased to be a member of  THAT fan club ( Hitler was also vegetarian, yet another unfortunate common interest).

Not good.

Hopefully that is all we share in common. Here is a charming little moment in which Hitler is presenting “The Falconer” to one of his cronies.

It is really a rather nice painting, effective coloring, lovely woman, lively composition. Easy to see how it would warm up ANY Nazi home.

So lots of negative baggage connected to the man, Hitler, Hitler’s favorite composer, not great company. Maybe that’s why poor Hans fell out of fashion.He still is pretty wonderful in a bright eye candy way.

I really love this, wonderful decorative qualities, a masterful use of color. I understand why academics and “real”‘ artists cringe, but it does bring joy in a dark, introspective way. It reminds me of some overblown funereal bouquet.

Please send one along when I pass.

My understanding is that this cult around Makart, his paintings, his studio, his design influenced  artists like Mucha and Klimpt, society broads, and your garden variety housewife. Perhaps Mrs. Aspiring-Society-Lady wasn’t able to have a Herter Bros. pier mirror,  or a bearskin strewn couch; she could gather up some water reeds, some palm fronds, some pretty berries, and a few Japonism-chinoserie doodads, shove them into a chipped majolica jug, and there you have it, a charming little Aesthetic corner.

I thinks it’s interesting that although Makart and “Makartstile” has faded from most public memory, on some intuitive sense, I still feel his influence. My very German grandmother certainly arranged interiors and flowers in a watered down Makartstile. When I have a pile of flowers my instinct is to pile them on ala Makart. I was reminded of this as I was putting up my Christmas tree, out came the little chinois puppets, feathered curiosities, branches of this and that. Much time has passed, fashion has changed, but there is at least one silly West Hollywood queen thinking of and honoring Makart.

Just one more image,( a wee crooked sorry) a cozy little room with one ambitious Makartbouquet.