Lee Jeffries has found a way to capture some of the most emotional and spiritual iconographic images I have ever seen. Yes, he does it well. Mostly in black and white, he focuses on homeless; people with skin so textured, with fingernails permanently stained, with scars and wild eyes… Lee Jeffries takes photographs of people who have so much character and definition that stories instantly flow forth from the photographs he takes.
Make no bones about it, the photographs are portraits. They’re close cropped, shallow depth, superbly lit, mostly black background, slightly vignetted images that talk about history in one single shutter release.
Photo source: Lee Jeffries | leejeffries.500px.com
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Inspired by Lord Byron’s 1821 poem ‘Sardanapalus’, Eugène Delacroix painted Death of Sardanapalus in 1826.
However, the scene painted by Delacroix is much more tempestuous and busy compared to what Lord Byron had written.
In this painting, the King watches as his harem is slaughtered before his eyes, after the loss of battle. One throws herself at his feet in her dying moments.
This scene is very exemplary of the Romantic movement, with rich tones, emotional body gestures and expressions… creating generally epic scenes of human tragedy.
It is interesting to note how Delacroix, and other artists were frequently influenced by literature. Théophile Gautier said: “the artists read the poets, and the poets visited the artists. We found Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Lord Byron, and Walter Scott in the studio as well as in the study. There were as many splashes of color as there were blots of ink in the margins of those beautiful books which we endlessly perused. Imagination, already excited, was further fired by reading those foreign works, so rich in color, so free and powerful in fantasy.”
the Death of Sardanapalus by Eugene Delacroix
Ridden Down by Frederic Remington from 1906.
Remington accompanied the US Military on many exploits, including the last great battles against the Native Americans. Theodore Roosevelt was a great fan of his work, and Remington was invited personally by Roosevelt to accompany him to some battles. After returning from the Spanish-American war Roosevelt was given one of Remingtons early sculptures as a gift from the Rough Riders.
Remington also wrote western novels, and as already mentioned, sculpted. His first full page published artwork was for Harper’s Weekly on January 9, 1886.
Oiran (Grand Courtesan) by Takahashi Yuichi from 1872.
This is an early oil painting from the Meiji period in Japan and is significant because it shows one of the early adaptations of oil paint by a Japanese artist. Represented here this Grand Courtesan is painted in the European portrait manner which diverted from the classic ukiyo-e ‘idealized’ manner, but still wearing classic Japanese attire.
It is interesting to note is that although Takahashi took initiative to develop the first fine art magazine in Japan, and was critical in the development of the modern painting there, he died relatively unknown in Japan.
The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio from 1599 is painted on a side wall of the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francessi in Rome. This scene depicts Christ, identified by the halo above his hand, pointing to Levi, the Roman tax collector. The scene is from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9): “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed Him.”
Caravaggio was a man with suspect background (known from existing police records), and rebelled against the classic masters which caused many of his peers to denounce him as the “anti-Christ of painting”.
Caravaggio was very influential for future artists because of his infusing religion and classics with naturalism. His work frequently reduced these scenes to human dramas in dark and dingy settings, unidealizing the subjects in them.
The effect you see here with darkness and brightness so eminent in the painting is called chairoscuro, something Leonardo da Vinci mastered in the High Renaissance. Caravaggio was part of the later Baroque movement.
Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) by Diego Velázquez from 1656. Las Meninas depicts the young princess and her entourage, which are little people and two ladies in waiting. What makes this painting particularly interesting is that in the background there is a mirror which reflects the image of King Philip IV and Queen Mariana. If that is true, then on the canvas Velázquez is painting in the painting might be a portrait of the King and Queen. But, this fact is up for debate. Further, this would mean that the King himself, though the artist was the official court painter and had many sittings with the King, would have been visiting the artists studio. This signifies the high standard the King held for the artist and in turn for the profession the artist represents.
It is interesting to note that Velázquez wears the Order of Santiago’s red cross on his doublet. No small feat to become a member of this illustrious order, an appointment only given to royal families of blood or through the pope’s dispensation, of which was awarded to Velázquez at the end of his life. Legend has it that King Philip IV painted the cross on there himself.
The Burial of Count Orgaz by El Greco from 1586 is considered El Grecos finest work. Its appeal to pious fervor of the Spanish Reformation efforts should be very evident. The legend has it Saint Stephen and Saint Augustine miraculously descended down from heaven to bury the Count, about 3 centuries prior to the painting, in the church where it was commissioned to reside: Church of Santo Tomé in Toledo.
El Greco is an interesting painter because he draws from so many stylistic sources. The Venetian school is represented in the rich clothing, but the abstractness shift the style towards Mannerism, his usual classification. The elongated limbs, undefined space, and cool light can only be explained by his connection with Titian’s workshop, and Titian’s student, Tintoretto.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter and his The Bohemian (Lise the Bohemian), En été (La Bohémienne) created in 1868.
I particularly enjoyed this definition by George Sterling, a member of the exclusive Bohemian Club, a club that also included the likes of Clint Eastwood, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry Ford:
Any good mixer of convivial habits considers he has a right to be called a Bohemian. But that is not a valid claim. There are two elements, at least, that are essential to Bohemianism. The first is devotion or addiction to one or more of the Seven Arts; the other is poverty. Other factors suggest themselves: for instance, I like to think of my Bohemians as young, as radical in their outlook on art and life; as unconventional, and, though this is debatable, as dwellers in a city large enough to have the somewhat cruel atmosphere of all great cities.
In 1880 Adolphe William Bouguereau painted A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros. The french name for this painting is Jeûne Fille Se Défendant Contre L’Amour. The piece is considered Bouguereau’s finest work, and made it’s way to New York to be bought by Henry Flagler. If you’re having trouble remembering who that is, he was the co-founder of Standard Oil, the other founder was John D. Rockefeller.
The painting depicts Eros, the Greek god of love, attempting to pierce the young girl who’s defending herself from his spells. It seems to be a playful scene, with a hint of a smile on the young womans face. The scene takes place in an idyllic countryside, the surrounding countryside of his French studio was the source.
A Young Girl Defending Herself Against Eros is an oil painting on a 61×43 inch canvas. At present, the painting sits in North Carolina at the Kenan House. It’s remarkable to note that in the mid 90s the painting was insured for $2 million while on tour.
Bouguereau was a man of humble beginnings. He had to support himself by painting labels for locals, bookkeeping for a wine merchant, and painting portraits of local patrons while he attended Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was actually very near the last applicant that year to be accepted into the school.
As an artist, Bouguereau, born in La Rochelle, France, on November 30th 1825, exhibited in the salons of Paris for over 50 years until his death in 1905. Bouguereau was predicted by Edgar Degas and Claude Monet to be considered the most remembered artist by the turn of the 21st century, thought it is reported that they detested him because he represented the exact form of traditional institutional art they were breaking down with their own art. Do you think he was one of the most remarkable artists of history?