Memories of Granada 1881.Oil on canvas, 97 x 144.5 cm.
Torrential rain falls on one of the most picturesque areas of the city of Granada, where the Darro River runs alongside the street leading to the Generalife neighborhood. The choice of this city for a pictorial scene is significant in Muñoz Degrain, as he was attracted to its historical past and the possibility of recreating legendary Arab episodes, often set in the Alhambra. The stormy subject of this painting also gives this view of the city a strongly Romantic sense. This was one of the most highly praised works by Muñoz Degrain, who first conceived of it as the setting for a kidnapping scene, which he later applied to another work. The painting was shown at the Nation Exhibition of 1881 under the title Memories of Granada. With this image, Degrain achieved the very high level of lyricism and melancholy that marks all his work. It was acquired in 1882 for the Prado Museum, and was later sent to the Museum of Modern Art.
Antonio Muñoz Degrain, a clockmaker’s son, was born in Valencia on 18 November 1840 and was persuaded by his father to study architecture, which he soon abandoned for painting. Vehement and impetuous by nature – and these traits showed in his work – in 1856 he decided to walk to Italy with hardly any money. A student of the San Carlos Academy in Valencia from the age of twelve, he was a pupil of the painter Rafael Montesinos although, as he himself claimed, he was essentially a self-taught artist.
Like the great majority of Spanish painters of his day, he took part regularly in the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts from 1862 to 1915, and it was his successes at these competitions that decisively shaped his reputation. Indeed, in addition to receiving an honorary mention in 1862 and a third-place medal in 1864 for Vista del valle de la Murta (Alcira) [“View of the Valley of La Murta (Alcira)”], he was awarded second prizes in 1867 for Paisaje del Pardo al disiparse la niebla (“Landscape of El Pardo after the Mist has Cleared”) and in 1871 for La oración (“Prayer”).
Commissioned to decorate the Cervantes theatre in Malaga in 1870, he settled in that Andalusian capital, which he always considered his city of adoption. There he married and was appointed a supernumerary lecturer at the San Telmo Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1879. Years later he became the master of a whole generation of artists, among them the very young Picasso, who always showed him affection and respect.
The first medal to be awarded to Muñoz Degrain in 1881 for a painting on canvas entitled Otelo y Desdémona (“Othello and Desdemona”) secured him a government grant that enabled him at last to make the long hoped-for trip to Rome and visit several cities of Tuscany and Venice. It was in Italy that he produced his great work entitled Los amantes de Teruel (“The Lovers of Teruel”), a masterpiece of his entire career and one of the most important Spanish paintings of the 19th century, which won him first prize at the National Exhibition of 1884. Thenceforward his growing prestige earned him many honours and public recognitions. A knight of the orders of Isabella the Catholic, Charles III and Alfonso XII, he received the medal of honour at the National Exhibition of 1910 and, following the death of Carlos de Haes, was appointed professor of landscape at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid, of which he became a member the following year and director in 1901 until his resignation in 1912; he was also president of the capital’s Circle of Fine Arts.
Muñoz Degrain enjoyed similar success at international events such as the Universal Expositions of Philadelphia (1876), Munich (1883) and Chicago (1893).
A highly prolific and generous artist, in his old age he made significant gifts of his works to the art museums of Valencia and Malaga, the cities that were dearest to him, and of nineteen works illustrating scenes from Don Quixote to the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. He died in Malaga on 12 October 1924.
Muñoz Degrain is one of the most outstanding painters of the fin-de-siècle period in Valencia. Naturally inclined from his youth towards landscape painting, which he never abandoned, he nevertheless explored a variety of subject matters throughout his career and displayed a particular fondness for literary passages, dramatic scenes of floods, Orientalist themes and history. From his earliest works he sacrificed the rigour of draughtsmanship in favour of an impassioned and joyful vision of colour in tones that became garish and violent in his mature period in order to convey his visions of fantasy and imagination with a feast of colour and a boldness that few artists of his day dared to attempt.
Oil on Canvas 180cmx120cm
The large canvas (1.8mx1.2m) has been released from where it was hiding in the canvas storage area. Zebra’s from the Mountain Zebra Park, defending their foal from a hunting lioness. My hands and shoulders screaming at the demanding physical effort. I almost need to stand across the lagoon to get perspective on what it is I’m doing.
My running shoes have been out trying to keep up with Craig who is turning into a hill running fiend. Phantom, fortunately graded so the surface not as tricky.
This, while Adventure fever rips through Knysna, following the Expedition African 500km race. Live tracking providing ADHD surges of adrenalin, between spurts of news in coffee shops, garages, shops and social media.
Project Bar to watch the sunset. With the weather much cooler, the glamorous people from the season have moved to other locations and my painting shorts weren’t out of place. I did need my fleece!
A walk along the red brick to collect trash for an installation art competition to be part of the Oyster Festival as a school education project. Did collect a few bits, but as the municipality had been along in the morning it was mostly sorted. Will try again in a few weeks.
Visit to the second last Friday market. Blue afternoon skies and sunshine giving way to live music, under a full moon with fires warding off the evening chill. A tangy butter chicken curry exactly what was needed, the chillies hidden in the salad, an abrupt wake-up.
FEMME À L’ÉVENTAIL
62 by 52 cm
Femme à l’éventail, also known as Tête de jeune fille,was painted in 1876 during a momentous period in French painting and is considered one of Morisot’s most accomplished canvases. Included in the third Impressionist group exhibition in Paris in 1877, this elegant depiction of a woman holding a fan exemplifies Morisot’s technique at its most painterly and sophisticated. Most striking here is her application of black paint, applied with varying degrees of translucency to convey the folds in the fan and the crispness of the gossimer fabric draped around the figure’s shoulders. The picture exemplifies Morisot’s individual Impressionist technique as well as the stylistic attributes shared by Edouard Manet, her mentor, brother-in-law and artistic collaborator.
The identity of the sitter for Femme à l’éventail is unknown; neither a member of the artist’s family or a professional model can be clearly identified. But what is particularly striking about the present work is that it calls to mind a portrait of Morisot herself, dressed in black and holding a fan, that Manet painted two years earlier. Femme à l’éventail may very well be Morisot’s response to that portrait, but it arguably presents a more intimate and psychologically compelling rendering of its glamorous female subject.
Berthe Morisot holds the distinction of being a founding member of the Impressionist group and one of its most important contributors. The casual elegance of her compositional style and her liberal application of paint, demonstrated beautifully in Femme à l’éventail and other paintings from the 1870s, helped to define the aesthetic of the movement. As one of its only women members in addition to the American, Mary Cassatt, Morisot lent a valuable female perspective to avant-garde art at the turn of the century. Her pictures gave insight to aspects of French society and provided a platform for ‘feminine’ subjects and concerns that remained unexplored by her male colleagues. The models for her paintings were mostly women and children, many of whom were members of her own family, and they posed for her with a level of ease and familiarity that was rarely seen in 19th century portraiture.
In the year Femme à l’éventail was painted Morisot and her fellow Impressionists organised the second Impressionist exhibition held in Durand-Ruel’s galleries at 11 rue Peletier. As had been the case at their previous group showing in 1874, the critics of Paris responded ferociously to these avant-garde artists. One review in particular by Albert Wolff infuriated Morisot’s husband, Eugène, so greatly that he challenged the author to a duel. Morisot remained undiscouraged by her critical reception and chose to exhibit Femme à l’éventail at the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877. The show in general fared little better with the conservative press, but Emile Bergerat recognized the preeminent qualities of the present work writing, “The most gifted painter of all [the Impressionists], in the sense that they possess an innate gift for color, is a woman, Miss Berthe Morisot. This is the artist who has signed the best picture of the exhibition, a portrait of a woman holding a fan. Her brushstrokes are both spontaneous and precise” (Emile Bergerat, op. cit., April 17 1877, translated from French).
From 1877 onwards Morisot continued to be consistently singled out for her sophistication and exemplary technique. Reviewing another Impressionist exhibition for the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Charles Ephrussi wrote: ‘Berthe Morisot is French in her distinction, elegance, gaiety and nonchalance. She loves painting that is joyous and lively. She grinds flower petals onto her palette, in order to spread them later on her canvas with airy, witty touches, thrown down a little haphazardly. These harmonize, blend and finish by producing something vital, fine, and charming that you do not see so much as intuit…” (Charles Ephrussi, ‘Exposition des artistes indépendants’, in Gazette des Beaux Arts, May 1, 1880, pp. 485-88, quoted in op. cit. (exhibition catalogue), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1992, p. 327.
Slightly desperate, it still exudes a frontier mentality.
The maintenance being done on the national road (with a high percentage of female employment), and the wind farms generating power, giving some assurance that development is happening.
Stunning architecture, struggling against a tide of poverty. No charismatic charm of some Karoo towns and villages, this is where it gets real.
Our history entwined in two rows of picturesque Colonial houses. One designer perfect, whilst the return street is struggling not to internally combust.
A stop at Lani’s Farm Kitchen, next to the butcher and down the road from the magnificent Dutch Reform Church, for a tasty lunch. I probably should only have had the deserts and cakes that looked scrumptious.
We didn’t see any signage to the ‘Cradock Four Memorial’, and the Olive Schreiner Museum was closed. As there wasn’t another bookshop, our idea of getting her book of ‘Story of an African Farm’ will have to wait.
Smiling, carefree, school children in the sprawling economic development part of town, the barometer of priorities?
We drove through the magnificent Titsikama forests, the roadside dusted with pink and a striking mauve flowering bush. Trees, tinged with yellow at the changing of season.
Turning left from the sea, a sudden transition into the garden kingdom of the Addo Elephants.
Smaller than their Northern brethren, dusted with red sands, they exude the carefree attitude of the surfers who call this stretch of coast paradise. A whole heap of elephants surrounded the car, pausing to ratchet up the levels of anxiety as trunks pondered how much mischief to create. We sat entranced.
Secretary bird. Full of attitude. Stabbing at the ground before throwing a tantrum and prancing off. Careful, however, to ensure that the best profile continually faced the camera, and the light was just ‘so’!
Monkeys sneaking into the chalet while we sat on the patio watching the graceful kudu. They stole little, but created a mess of broken eggs, half nibbled biscuits and chocolate. Fortunately, they didn’t bother with the wine or Nespresso.
Star filled sky. Glowing coals. Black backed jackals calling. Long forgotten stories, conjured in twisting smoke. The sound of trees being pulled apart as old tuskers searched for delicacies.
A moment. A lifetime.
Westminster Bridge, 1878
Oil on canvas – 110 X 95 cm
Trained in Naples, the Italian-born painter Giuseppe de Nittis, in his early twenties, settled in Paris in 1868. He fell in love with Léontine Gruvelle, the daughter of an “important costume dealer in Paris” who became his model and whom he married the following year. The young couple moved into a small house in La Jonchère, on the banks of the Seine, between Rueil and Bougival, welcoming Manet, Berthe Morisot, Caillebotte, Pissarro as guests into their home. De Nittis rode through the countryside painting scenes from life, of themes popular at the time.
Five of De Nittis’ paintings were included in the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874. He was committed to a naturalistic art that explored the changing play of light. He frequently painted snow scenes, showing solitary figures in wintry streets or parks. He also specialised in depictions of the newly constructed areas of Paris and its suburbs. Under the influence of Japanese prints, he often left large open areas in his pictures, relegating buildings to the edges.
In London, he found a patron in the person of a banker who asked him to use his brushes to “photograph” typical scenes and figures. “London’s terrifying misery in all its hopeless horror” The large format of Westminster Bridge , whose composition is organized in three diagonal zones placing side by side from right to left, clearly outlined figures à la Caillebotte, the Thames and Parliament barely discernible in a Monet-like fog , finally a hesitantly reddish sky.
While his paintings continued to gain favor with the public, De Nittis also adopted the fashion of japonism after meeting Seitei, the master. De Nittis was, with Degas and Manet, among the first painters to use pastels on a large scale.
In 1884, he died at 38 from a stroke.
Slow cooked lamb curry that Terry made using Durban red masala spice blend curry mix, a remnant from our days at Umhalanga Rocks. Lismore Shiraz (magnificent) and an interesting, Roussanne from Bellingham. A Rhone style white blend that hinted at fields of summer flowers and the wondrously clear light. Scrumptious.
Wildflowers at Steenbok Park my painting on the easel. Striving for an abstract approach that keeps getting bogged down in the detail of the flowers. I wanted to allow plenty of room for the flowers against an ’empty’ canvas.
The yellow flowers were distracting, so I simplified the composition to the architectural spires of orange wild tobacco bush, with the pink of katterkruie. A few jabs of paint to create a double collared sunbird to sharpen the focal point of the painting. Particularly as the wild dagga is one of their favorite flowers.
Pancakes, cars and sunshine for the annual motor show that leads up to the Simola Hillclimb. We did our own hillclimb on an unexpectedly rainy morning, my groin muscle not too much of a bother. My toe which I managed to kick against some immovable object, a nuisance.
Waters of the lagoon still. First light turning the building at Belvedere into a floating village of white through the mist. Hills dusted pink with flowering Erica’s. Our running playground