Archive for the Jacques Louis David Category

The Academy versus The Street, neo-Poussinistes versus neo-Caravaggisti

Posted in 16th cent, Andy Warhol, Babylon Beefcake, Caravaggio, Jacques Louis David, Nicholas Poussin on June 30, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I am fortunate to live in a vibrant neighbor, the Arts District of Los Angeles.

7th & Mateo St., Los Angeles

This neighborhood  may  well be  the center of Los Angeles’ Renaissance, for like 15th-16th century Florence, my neighborhood is rich with public work. On a recent jog through town I  confronted  a familiar face plastered upon a derelict wall, St Therese , lifted directly from Bernini’s masterpiece, translated from divine marble to street-worthy stencil.

I wasn’t sure what to think, I was pleased that this anonymous artist found her beautiful face as inspiring as I have ; but I am concerned that there is a lack of reverence that great art is due. We seem to live in a time and place where all imagry is up for grabs, to be clipped and pasted to suit the creator’s taste and imagination. My experience with fellow students, is a dis-regard for the source, what matters is the aesthetic appeal. This saddens and worries me, what is the relevance of great art when it is as desirable and as ephemeral as an image from advertising.

Damn you Mr. Warhol

I am concerned our cultural experience will become increasingly less rich and less rewarding. This isn’t a new argument of course, Nicholas Poussin famously complained that “Caravaggio had come into the world to destroy painting”. Poussin’s opposition to Caravaggio’s “street” art is understandable considering Poussin’s belief that “…the first requirement, which is the basis for all others, is that the subject should be great, such as battles, heroic actions and divine matters…”; Caravaggio’s saints with dirty feet would certainly have conflicted with Poussin’s directive to “disregard anything that is vulgar…” (source:Alain Merot Nicolas Poussin).

Los Angeles is in enthralled with this image of spontaneous street expression, MOCA is enjoying popular attendance with its blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets. This enthusiasm for uninhibited (illegal ?) expression can be found elsewhere as well, Pasadena Museum of California Art has jumped on the “street” bandwagon with its current exhibition Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas ; recently there was an event downtown in which  skateboarding youth were quite literally given the streets, Wild in the Streets.

As I sit and type this I am aware of how curmudgeonly conservative I appear. I am conservative, but I do not believe that restricts my appreciation of public work with visual merit; my concern is that the traditions I most admire will be lost in a cloud of aerosol .

That said lets look at pretty pictures.

Nomadé

2011 (?)

paste-up

7th and Mateo, Los Angeles

source

Work by Nomadé is difficult to not admire and enjoy, I run by examples quite frequently, particularly around the corner from my home at 7th and Mateo. The work is pasted up and requires  regular maintenance, which often translate into another arresting (no pun intended) image.

Nomadé

2011

paste-up

7th & Mateo

source

This short clip is marvelous at demonstrating the creation,  as you will see, studio preparation is  an important part of the process.

More work by Nomadé can be found at this link.

Please follow the following prompts for more examples to be found in my neighborhood, work by JR, D*Face, Shepard Farey, etc., link and link, you will be in  for a visual treat.

But for all of that robust masculine expression created by Nomadé, I must of course confess an allegiance to that monarchist traitor, Jacques Louise David .

I prefer David’s beefcake to Nomadé’s.

Jacques-Louis David ( 1748-1825)

The Intervention of the Sabine Women

detail

1799

oil on canvas

Louvre

Can I be blamed for preferring the above to this,

Nomadé

I have been “crushing “on David’s noble soldiers since I was a boy, his paintings have continued to give me great joy. A joy  and satisfaction that I doubt a paste-up will be able to sustain.

Although “street” art often requires extensive preparation, this attention to detail  pales to the fifteen years David devoted to his monumental Leonidas at Thermopylae. David strove for  the “ideal beauty” the Academy and subject demanded.

Poussin may well have chided David for defying his decree that an artist must “…make every effort to avoid getting lost in minute detail, so as not to detract from the dignity of the story”, for David made many sketches reworking the composition time and again. The painting has been criticized as over-worked, but again, I am merely infatuated with the virile splendor and painterly virtuosity.

Leonides at Thermopylae

1814

oil on canvas

Louvre

Leonidas at Thermopylae

 detail

I have been in love with the soldier on Leonide’s left for decades, the timelessness of love and art.

For a higher quality image of the painting follow this Encyclopedia Britannica link .

The following are some of the examples of David’s attention to detail, both source links offer very interesting insight into David’s process, well worth a peek.

Leonides at Thermopylae

ca. 1814

black chalk, squared in black chalk

Metropolitan Museum of Art

ca. 1813

Louvre

I will end this Academic love fest with just two more images ,because I can never be satisfied with less.

I appreciate your indulgence.

Study after Michelangelo

1790

black chalk

Louvre

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces

1824

Musée royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique

I appreciate the opportunity to rant, until next time, take care.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Marie Antoinette la Reine Martyre

Posted in 18th century, Basilica of Saint-Denis, Bourbon monarchy, French-American, Jacques Louis David, Kucharski, Marie Antoinette, R.I.P., Vigee Le Brun on October 15, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Before we begin the frivolities of the weekend, I thought it important to remember that tomorrow, October 16th , at 12:15 p.m. marks the 217th anniversary of this great woman’s murder.

Recquiscat in Pace

Queen Marie Antoinette of France

b. 2nd November 1755

d. 16th October 1793, 12:15 pm

Daughter of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and  Holy Roman Emperor Franz I. Stephan of Austria

ca. 1786

Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

Art Institute, Detroit

(of all places)

There are two anniversaries on the annual calendar that  upon my ritual reading of the events causes my heart to ache. The first being the reading of the Passion , the second being the cruelties inflicted upon Marie Antoinette that October morning 1793. Faith and politics aside, both illustrate man’s ability to disregard humanity , particularly shocking when faced with another who has been reduced to abject wretchedness. My great hope is that I would rise above such base behavior, but even Peter found strength elusive.

I love this image of the Queen by Alexandre Kucharski (ca. 1791).

It expresses a great humanity, unlike so many of the “glamour” shoots which we are most familiar with.

The softness of her coloring, the luminous quality of her skin prompting Vigée Le Brun to comment that the Queen’s skin “so transparent that it allowed no shadow,”.

Source: Antonia Fraser

As much as I may admire the subtle humanity captured by Kucharsky, we have all fallen for her  royal public image.

Be it a formal court painting, inspiring reverence and awe,

or a fashion spread, few have been able to ignore her charms ; save for humorless republicans and godless anarchists.

To our very day, folks who share a love of glamour, romance, and style find inspiration in the Martyr Marie.

My dear friend Patrick Ediger of the design house French American has wittily designed a new fabric due out this winter.

It has been dubbed Queen of Pop, I am particularly attracted to the “chandelier” head dress.

Queen of Pop

French American

Winter 2010

click for detail.

As an aspiring artist I am particularly touched by Vigée Le Brun’s remembrance of an awkward moment before the Queen. After having cancelled a sitting with the Queen due to illness, Le Brun went to apologize the next day ;the Queen graciously cancelled her  own scheduled plans for an impromptu sitting. The Queen’s kindness caused Le Brun to fumble .

” I remember that, in my confusion and my eagerness to make a fitting response to her kind words,I opened my paint-box so excited that I spilled my brushes on the floor. I stooped down to pick them up. “Never mind, never mind,” said the Queen, and for aught I could say, she insisted on picking them all up herself…”. source

Le Brun, a favored and ridiculously prolific court painter, remained true to the memory of Her Majesty. Her allegiance complicated matters when the upstart Napoleon sat upon the republican throne.

Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

b. 16th March 1755

d. 30th March 1842

If interested her fascinating memoir is easily downloaded.

In the early hours of October 16th 1793, Marie Antoinette demonstrated her courage and faith in a final letter to her sister-in law, Madame Elizabeth:

“October 16. 4:40 in the morning

I have just been condemned to death, not to a shameful death, that can only be for criminals, but in order to rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to demonstrate the same firmness as he did at the end. I am calm, as people are whose conscience is clear. My deepest regret is at having to abandon our poor children; you know that I only lived on for them and for you, my good and tender sister.”

source: Marie Antoinette, the Journey, Antonia Frazer, pg. 436

Denying the Queen the dignity of Widows Weeds, “Antoinette Capet”was forced to wear a common white dress. The trip to the guillotine was designed to be a trail of humiliation.

The Queen would defy their base intentions.

The hateful David took pleasure in depicting the Queen in her final humiliating moments. Her critics saw imperial Hapsburg haughtiness, justification for their cruel perversions; I see a woman of great breeding, brutally shorn of hair, a sad cap with a few black ribbons of morning, a body and spirit broken, forced to sit in a donkey cart. Willful hatefulness only elicited dignity from this great Queen.

Final sketch by the odious David.

Her breeding and innate kindness apparent even as she approached the blade. Having stepped upon her executioner’s foot, she instinctively apologized, ” I did not do it on purpose”.

For all of her perceived  “sins” that is perhaps a fitting response.

True to the Catholic faith , she chided the false priest Abbé Girard when he suggested she gather her courage.

This great Queen , daughter of the great Empress Maria Theresia did not require this traitor’s words of encouragement.

“Courage! The moment when my ills are going to end is not the moment when courage is going to fail me.”

Well put dear Queen.

Much of her reputation has been restored, aside from the tiresome”cake” references, many folks hold a tender place in their hearts for this unfortunate woman.

Her final resting spot, the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

source

So tomorrow, no matter what your time zone, a t 12:15 pm give a “shout-out ” to dear Marie Antoinette.

Viva la Reine!

Viva la Reine!

Viva la Reine!


Have a great weekend.

Respectfully submitted,

BabylonBaroque

image sources