Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Studio Air

Emma Amos, Studio Air, acrylic on linen canvas with African fabric borders, 72″ × 61″, 2003
Emma Amos (b.1938) has always been fascinated with fabric, even to the point of weaving her own painting cloth for a time in the nineteen sixties. Her paintings often incorporate distinctively patterned African fabrics as borders which relate in various ways to the central images. Ms. Amos has said of her own work, "I like that people can read their own meanings into my paintings and that those readings may be quite different from mine." This fascinating and many-layered painting, incorporating a self-portrait, definitely sparks off many possible story lines in the viewer's mind.

Georgia-born and raised, Emma Amos has studied and worked in numerous states and countries, but has been based mainly in New York City since the nineteen sixties.  The artist began teaching at Rutgers University in 1980, receiving tenure in 1992 and continuing to teach there until her retirement from academia  in 2008. She has received many honors and fellowships, including the Pollock-Krasner Grant and a Yaddo Artist Residency. Her most recent honor is the Georgia Museum of Art's 2016 Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award, for "her contribution to visual art in Georgia." Her work is in the collection of that museum as well as many others, including the Library of Congress (USA), the National Gallery of Art (USA)  and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as numerous other public and private collections world-wide. She maintains an active studio practice and is represented by Flomenhaft Gallery in NYC. The artist's beautiful website can be seen here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dragon Painter

Totoya Hokkei Woman Painting a Dragon woodblock print ca. 1832 

This beautiful image is a print, so multiple copies of it exist in various locations, including the Denver Art Museum and the Harvard Art Museum here in the states. I don't know if the painting is illustrating a particular tale or poem or if it is just a fanciful invention. The dragon the artist is painting floats up off the paper, which is certainly the way it feels when an artist is deep into the act of creating.

Totoya Hokkei (1780-1850), was a prolific and successful Japanese artist who worked in numerous genres. He started off life as a fishmonger before turning to painting, eventually becoming one of the great Katsushika Hokusai's first students. Hokkei is best known for his work in the ukiyo-e style depicting the "floating world" of courtesans, actors, theatricals and other aspects of the urban pleasure districts which flourished during the prosperous Edo period. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lluïsa who "Paints Like a Man"

Lluïsa Vidal i Puig Self Portrait 1899

Lluïsa Vidal i Puig (1876-1918) was a Catalan painter from Barcelona. One of twelve children she first studied with her father, Francesc Vidal i Jevellí, who, similar to William Morris in England, was a designer and craftsman deeply involved in the art world. When Lluïsa was sixteen she visited The Prado in Madrid, and was inspired by the works of such great Spanish artists as Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya.
She began exhibiting her work professionally in 1898 at age 22, and in 1901 she left to study further in Paris. While in that city she became a supporter of the Feminist movement, which she learned about in part through through the ground-breaking French Feminist newspaper called La Fronde. (It's actually kind of amazing, click on the link to learn more!) She left Paris to study for a short time in England.
Lluïsa returned to Barcelona in 1902 at the request of her family,cutting short her study abroad because three of her sisters had fallen ill and her help was needed. To assist the family financially she began giving private art lessons and also worked as an illustrator for Feminal Magazine, a Spanish Feminist publication. She painted and exhibited tirelessly despite the many calls on her time. "Critics, all of whom were male, were awed as well as stumped, using words such as 'Virile" to describe her talent. In surprised admiration, they would write: "She paints so well... she paints like a man!" ("Painted Like a Man, Disappeared like a Woman: Luisa Vidal, The Daughter of Modernism" by Marcy Rudo, OTI, 1998.) She had a major exhibit at lSala Parés, an important art gallery in Barcelona in 1914, receiving rave reviews and accolades. Unfortunately she died only a few years later, during a Spanish Flu epidemic epidemic in 1918. Despite her burgeoning fame and the critical acclaim she received during her lifetime, after her death her name sank into obscurity. Now rediscovered, she is considered part of Modernisme, the Catalan modernist art movement.
Lluïsa Vidal i Puig Self Portrait Date unknown
note: Lluïsa Vidal i Puig's name follows Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Vidal and the second or maternal family name is Puig. She is often most easily searched by using her patronymic, Vidal, rather than Puig.
P.S. Many thanks to my old friend, writer Elizabeth Castro for her kind assistance in finding out more about this wonderful Catalan artist! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hanna and the Middle Way

Hanna Hirsch-Pauli Portrait of Venny Soldan-Brofeldt ca.1885 Gothenburg Museum of Art
Hanna Hirsch-Pauli (1864-1940) was a Swedish painter who studied in both Sweden and France, and who worked in the juste milieu style. This "middle way" style was thought to reconcile Classicism and Romanticism, or to fall somewhere in between Impressionist artists like Monet and such Pompier artists as Bouguereau. Not avante-garde but modern nonetheless.

Hanna, then Hanna Hirsch, studied in Paris from 1885 through 1887, sharing a studio with her friend the artist Eva Bonnier. Her painting of the Finnish artist Venny Soldan was accepted into the Paris Salon of 1887. It was extremely unconventional for the time, showing her friend seated on the floor, at work on a sculpture with clay on her hands, rather than in more proper bourgeois portrait pose.

Also in 1887, Hanna married the Swedish painter Georg Pauli.

Georg Pauli Hanna in Blue, Painting 1897 Jönköpings läns museum
Hanna hyphenated her name after her marriage though she continued to sign her art with her maiden name. Her output was not large, but very choice. For a nice selection of her images click here.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Samizu Times Two

Samizu Matsuki "Self Portrait with Self Portrait" 1970
Samizu Matsuki (b.1936) was born and raised in Hokkaido, Japan and graduated from the Joshibo University of Art and Design in Tokyo. She worked for a few years as an art teacher before meeting and marrying an American, with whom she eventually relocated to the United States. In 1970, the same year she painted this engaging double self-portrait, she plunged wholeheartedly into the New York City art scene. She won several major awards for her oil paintings painted in the "Magic Realism" style. She was one of the first women invited to membership in the prestigious Salmagundi Club.

Samizu studied further at Oregon State University and eventually relocated to Rockland, Maine. Her most recent honors include being an honoree in "Pioneer Women: First Ladies of the Salmagundi" and receiving a Commendation of Achievement from the Maine State Legislature, both in 2011. Samizu's website can be seen here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Youngest Daughter

Elisabeth Geertruida Wassenbrrgh "Self Portrait" 1754
Elisabeth Geertruida Wassenbergh (1729-1781) was the seventh and last child of painter Jan Abel Wassenbergh. Her father, a successful artist based in Groningen, a province in the northern Netherlands, taught his craft to Elisabeth and one of her brothers, while another daughter became a sought-after embroiderer.

We don't have a lot of biographical information about Elisabeth, other than that she worked as a genre painter and miniaturist, and was known to enjoy painting members of her family. One source states that she was married for the last four years of her life, and during that time she stopped painting. After her death her reputation faded, and atttribution of her work was often ascribed to other artists, in part because she did not sign her work. However, interest in Elisabeth was revived in the last half of the 20th C and several of her paintings were included in the 2006 exhibition "The Silver Age of Groningen."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Mughal artist at work

Unknown Mughal artist
The Lady Paints a Self-Portrait while Her Attendant Faces Her Holding a Mirror
Image from the Khamsa-e-Nizami

Pakistan (1590s)

I was thrilled to find this image when I happened to stumble upon a wonderful blog called "Self Portraits of Color"...you should totally check it out! The image above shows a lady painting a self-portrait while her attendant holds a mirror before her. Another servant is fanning her, or perhaps swatting away insects. It is a detail from within this larger piece:

Unknown Mughal artist
Image from the Khamsa-e-Nizami

Pakistan (1590s)
The British Library
Mughal painting is a style of South Asian art that developed from the Persian Miniature tradition. It was influenced by many different cultures and groups such as Hindus, Muslims, Jains, and Buddhists. It was practiced mainly during the Mughal empire in the 16th-19th C, centered in the Indian subcontinet and Afghanistan. Because I know very little about Mughal art I am going to quote directly:
 "Even though the highly-educated and cultured women of the zenana certainly did commission albums and paintings, the imperial artists would not have been allowed into the zenana [n.b. In India and Iran, the zenana was the part of a house where the women lived in seclusion] to get a glimpse of them. There are a few portraits of this period which appear to be of actual women, taken from life, and it has been suggested that these were executed by female artists within the zenana (there are signed works by at least two female artists from Jahangir’s reign)." 
~Mugal Art 
The author of the blog Self-Portraits of Color has suggested that the artist who created this piece might be Sahifa Banu. If anyone reading this has expert knowledge of this period and can tell us more about the piece, please do chime in!