Painted Saints and Martyrs

March 9, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, RELIGION |

As Cats are to the internet, so Saints were to the religiose and their artisans. Whether by miracle or martyrdom, these historical figures (a miniscule sample of whom are below) provide the anthropomorphic link between the carnal world and the beatific vision.  

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Flower Girl: the Brilliant Rachel Ruysch

February 28, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, HISTORY |

Michiel van Musscher "Portrait of the artist Rachel Ruysch in her studio" (1675-85)

(3 June 1664 – 12 October 1750) Until the Dutch were sent mad by tulips, the Dutch Golden Age had Rachel Ruysch to thank for the luscious still life gallery of flowers.  Her minute observations of each flower, each stem, each inquisitive insect, in an extremely naturalistic way, but according to an elaborate arrangement or composition, are close to miraculous. Simon Schama suggested that this flower genre was a product of male oppression: “There were certainly women painters in the Republic, but just as opportunities for women writes and poets were available so long as they obeyed male assumptions about ornamental…

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John Martin

February 23, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART |


(19 July 1789 – 17 February 1854) The great romantic painter of startling tableaux of the Apocalypse, John Martin passed from glazing plates to classical landscape painting until he found his mileu in fire and brimstone.  Stories of the Old and New Testaments were his templates, and the vast (or small) canvasses and plates of destruction, panic and woe were wildly successful, although now out of fashion (for now). “Below the rational and sensuous surface of nineteenth-century painting, the bright skin of Impressionism, the solid material world of Courbet, or, further back, the ideal forms of neo-classicism, there ran a…

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January 24, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART |

(Jacopo Robusti, late 1518 – 31 May 1594) The anxiety of the late Renaissance centred around how to improve on perfection as represented by Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael.  Vasari thought that the Venetian Jacopo Robusti (‘Tintoretto’) could have entered the Pantheon had he not been so slapdash, too much in a hurry, a jester, lacking ‘finish.’ But ‘the little dyer’ didn’t want smooth or polished finishes to his painting: he worked fast and wanted urgent, dramatic, hectic, even chaotic pictures, with different types of light and a spurning of settled perspective.  Even colouring for him was a dramatic device. Not…

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“Definitely a Vermeer”

January 18, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART |

(Johannes Vermeer, c. 31 October 1632 – c. 16 December 1675) The Master of the Domestic Interior Scene lit by a side window, akin to Trollope’s novels in their chronicling of ‘small beer,’ Jan Vermeer was the greatest Dutch painter along with Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Vincent van Gogh. The purity of his forms, figures, objects and in particular, light – the peerless and meticulous precision with which he rendered quiet goings-on in modest Dutch dwellings – make his imitation of created nature (natura naturata) by a complete encapsulation of a…

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