The Museum of Modern Art – Matisse: The Red Studio

All pictures were taken by the author during his visit to The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts and museum publication excerpts.

Matisse: The Red Studio

Henri Matisse, Corsica, the Old Mill, 1898

Henri and Amelie Matisse spent the first six months of their married life in Ajaccio, Corsica, where Matisse encountered the Mediterranean sun and sea for the first time. The experience transformed his painting and palette, with realistic description giving away to compositions built primarily on color. The parklike property of this former olive farm was on of Matisse’s favorite sites in Ajaccio; here, his representation of light dissolves details such as the trunks of the olive trees and the door at the top of the stairway.

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

“Where I got the color red—to be sure, I just don’t know,” Matisse once remarked. “I find that all these things . . . only become what they are to me when I see them together with the color red.” This painting features a small retrospective of Matisse’s recent painting, sculpture, and ceramics, displayed in his studio. The artworks appear in color and in detail, while the room’s architecture and furnishings are indicated only by negative gaps in the red surface. The composition’s central axis is a grandfather clock without hands—it is as if, in the oasis of the artist’s studio, time were suspended.

Henri Matisse, Large Red Interior, 1948

Large Red Interior depicts a corner of Matisse’s house in Vence, France, where he lived and worked from 1943 to 1949. It shares with The Red Studio the art-within-art device that had remained a constant for Matisse throughout the decades. Only now, however, does the radical flatness of the 1911 painting return.

Henri Matisse, Studio, Quai Saint-Michel, 1916-17

In many ways, this composition is the antithesis of The Red Studio. Matisse describes the room in clear material details and renders the works of art as virtually blank. In addition to showing a model and a work in progress, it presents a view that vividly brings together indoors and outdoors. Encompassing the full height of the room from the zigzagging floorboards to the scalloped ceiling, Studio, Quai Saint-Michel conveys the closeness of Matisse’s small quarters during the war years, when he spent winters at his Paris apartment.

Henri Matisse, The Blue Window, 1913

This is the sole painting in which Matisse depicted the exterior of his Issy studio. The view through the window shows the studio nestled in the surrounding trees (painted blue, like the dressing table, wall, and sky). The studio’s distinctive pitched roof and chimney are also reimagined as blue, while the yellow of the building’s exterior links it to the objects on the table. In one flat plane, Matisse connects inside and outside, home and work, life and art.

Henri Matisse, Still Life and Geraniums, 1910

This painting was made a few months after Matisse moved into the Issy studio and is his only still-life composition that portrays the wood-paneled walls naturalistically, albeit in blue. A distinctive wooden table occupies the center of the composition. A pot of geraniums and a cloisonne Japanese jar grace the table, across which a floral fabric is draped. The true star of the painting, the flowing textile pulls the real flowers of the geranium and the painted flowers of the ceramic into its own decorative hum.

Appendix I: Collection 1880s-1940s

Pablo Picasso, Three Women at the Spring, 1921

In this painting, the three classical graces gathered at a water source are depicted as a series of solid, sculptural forms that diverge from the modern language of flattened abstraction with which Picasso was also experimenting during this moment. With their terracotta skin and fluted white garments, the women resemble the earthenware vessels in which they gather water, or columns from the ancient world, offering a reassuring link to tradition after the chaos of World War I.

Henri Matisse, Dance (I), 1909

Dance (I) marks a moment in Matisse’s career when he embraced a reductive approach to painting, seeking the expressive potentials of fundamental elements: line, color, and form. Across this monumental canvas Matisse used only four naturalistic colors: blue for the sky, green for the ground, and black and pale pink in rendering the five figures. When it was painted, its simplification of the human body and radical elimination of perspective were attacked as inept or willfully crude, but Matisse felt that it evoked “life and rhythm.”

Gustav Klimt, Hope, II, 1907-08

Although images of women and children are frequent in the history or art, depictions of pregnancy are rare. Klimt was among the many artists of his time who combined archaic traditions–here Byzantine gold-leaf painting–with a modern psychological subject. The artist’s preoccupation with formative drives like sex and death paralleled Freud’s explorations of the psyche.

Pablo Picasso, Two Nudes, 1906

The terra-cotta shades and heaviness of the figures in Two Nudes derive from Picasso’s interest at the time in the ancient Iberian sculpture of his native Spain. Like the woman in Demoiselles, with whom she shares a chiseled nose and dark, hollow eyes, the nude seen here holds open a curtain and gazes toward, as though inviting us in.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples, 1895-98

“Painting from nature is not copying the object.“ Cezanne wrote, “it is realizing one’s sensations.” In this work the artist demonstrates that a still life can be more than an imitation of life–it can be an exploration of seeing and of the very nature of painting. Here, some areas of canvas are left bare, and others, like the drape of tablecloth, appear unfinished. Rules of perspective, too, are broken: the right corner of the table tilts forward and is not aligned with the left side.

Appendix II: Collection 1940s-1970s

Simon Hantai (French, born Hungary), Untitled [Suite “Blancs”], 1973

Hantai executed this work using his signature method of “pilage”, or folding: he knotted parts of an unstreteched canvas, brushed on paint, and then, once they acrylic had dried, untied the surface to reveal interplays of paint and ground. What looks like a playful image is in reality the chance of outcome of a highly technical procedure. Hantai developed an approach that combined features from diverse art movements, including Surrealism’s automatism–in which conscious control is surrendered–and Pop’s and Minimalism’s elimination of traces of the artist’s hand.

Lee Krasner (American), Gaea, 1966

Titled after the ancient Greek goddess of the earth, Gaea is composed of floral colors and organic, somersaulting shapes that reflect the artist’s abiding fascination with the natural world and its primeval origins. Though she painted abstractly, Krasner rejected the notion that her painting was devoid of content—she “wouldn’t dream of” creating a painting from a fully abstract idea, she said. In works like this one, titled after the Earth goddess of the ancient Greeks, the artist claimed to be “drawing from sources that are basic.”

Sonja Sekula (Swiss), The Town of the Poor, 1951

The ghostly scaffolding, swooping calligraphic lines, and blue and yellow washes of this painting most likely depict the view from Sekula’s downtown New York studio, which she shared with composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham. “Looking outside my window,” wrote the Swiss painter and poet, an immigrant to the United States, “I think of all the contemporary American poets and artists who represent their outlook on this strange country and I find myself beginning to realize that I shall be one of them. I shall begin to speak of … a future that we begin to feel underneath the current of war and strife and uncertainty.”

The Met Fifth Avenue – Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents

All pictures were taken by the author during his visit to The Met Fifth Avenue, New York. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts.

Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents

Winslow Homer, The Cotton Pickers, 1876

The Cotton Pickers is Homer’s most monumental representation, in form and content, of life for the newly emancipated in Reconstruction-era Virginia. Two sensitively rendered laboring women appear poised between their past, present, and future. The work’s complexity–of figural characterizations–is grounded in themes of conflict and struggle as well as those of uncertainty and opportunity. Its title and the women’s portrayal suggest a post-slavery economy in which little had changed for many.

Winslow Homer, Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts (High Tide), 1870

In the years after Civil War, Homer often explored women’s new roles in society, especially their access to leisure. This representation of a quintessentially modern subject–women at the beach–confounded critics when it was first exhibited, in New York in 1870. Some viewers focused on issues of decorum and class, criticizing the women’s state of undress–even though they are wearing typical bathing costumes in the era–and one described them as “exceedingly red-legged and ungainly.” A disquieting sense of voyeurism and mystery imbues the scene, amplified by the strong light and strange shadows, suggesting deeper meanings below the surface.

Winslow Homer, The Fog Warning (Halibut Fishing), 1885

Homer often represented the arduous labor of North Atlantic fishermen, based on this experiences at Cullercoats and amplified by observations made around his home on the coast of Maine. In one series of paintings, he explored the inherent dangers of fishing in the Grand Banks, the rich waters southeast of Newfoundland. The meeting of these currents provides a fertile environment for fish, but it also makes the area one of the foggiest places on earth. This painting is infused with tensions as the solo fisherman gazes toward the safety of the distant schooner and considers his ability to reach it before the fog, looming on the horizon, settles.

Winslow Homer, Oranges on a Branch, 1885

Many of Homer’s images of the Bahamas evoke the idea of the islands as a paradise created especially for tourists. Enjoying local fruits was perceived as a fundamental luxury of the visitor experience. This vibrant watercolor, a rare still life by the artist, offers a complete sensory experiance–ripe citrus, bright green leaves, and fragrant blossoms are bathed in warm sunlight.

Winslow Homer, Hurricane, Bahamas, 1898

Homer’s attention to inclement weather in this watercolor distinguishes it from the more idyllic tropical images he produced during a previous trip to Bahamas, in 1884-85. Dark clouds threaten, while several tall palms are lashed by violent winds. This detail combined with the tempestuous weather may evoke the geopolitical turmoil elsewhere in the Caribbean that year, specifically in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The weather events depicted here and in Homer’s images of storms off the coast of Maine represent important precursors to the turbulence of The Gulf Stream.

Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream, 1899

In Homer’s epic saga set along the Gulf Stream, a Black man faces his possible demise on the deck of a distressed boat, while threatened by sharks and a watersprout. This painting is the culminating expression of various deeply personal and universal themes that Homer explored across his career, particularly the conflict between humans and the natural environment. The Gulf Stream is also rich with geopolitical implications. Homer acknowledged the expanded imperial ambitions of the United States beyond North America with the addition of key elements. Sprayed across the ship’s deck are stalks of sugarcane–the Carribean commodity central to the economy of empire and directly linked to the swift ocean current of the title, which enabled its trade, and the devastating history of transatlantic slavery. Homer interweaves these complicated narratives in a painting that confronts human struggle, personified by a stoic survivor, against the relentless power of nature.

Appendix: 19th and Early 20th Century European Paintings

Frits Thaulow, Picquigny, 1899

Thaulow (Norwegian, 1847-1906) earned great success with his depictions of the rivers and byways of Northern France. This canvas shows the village of Picquigny, near Amiens on the river Somme, where the Norwegian painter worked for several weeks in the late autumn of 1899. The composition adopts a downward vantage point that emphasizes the eddying water and its ever-changing colors, reflections and illumination.

Edouard Manet, Madame Manet at Bellevue, 1880

Despite the seemingly rapid brushwork and the summary treatment of detail, this painting was preceded by at least two drawings and an oil sketch. This is Manet’s last portrait of his wife; it was painted at Bellevue, a suburb of Paris, where they spent the summer of 1880.

Auguste Renoir, The Daughters of Catulle Mendes, Huguette, Claudine, and Helyonne, 1888

In addition to the girls’ manifest charm, Renoir undoubtedly counted on the notoriety of Mendes’ bohemian parents to gain attention: their father was a Symbolist poet and publisher, and their mother was the virtuoso pianist Augusta Holmes. Renoir completed the commission in a matter of weeks and immediately exhibited the large canvas in May 1888, but the response to his new manner of painting, with its intense hues and schematized faces, was unenthusiastic.

The Art Institute of Chicago – Manet and Modern Beauty

All pictures were taken by the author during his visit to The Art Institute of Chicago. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts and museum audio guide.

Original draft as of September 7, 2019.

Édouard Manet, Boating, 1874-75

Manet painted Boating in 1874, the same year the Impressionists organized their first exhibition. Unlike many Impressionist works, Boating was not painted outdoors to capture a fleeting moment; Manet actually reworked significant sections in his studio.

Édouard Manet, The Café-Concert, 1878-79

Manet packed this slice-of-life scene to the point of confusion, layering customers, the waitstaff, and a performer’s reflection within the limited frame. The barmaid is drinking beer and the idea that she is taking time away from her job and patrons seems incredibly modern. Manet very likely made quick sketches on the spot and reworked it back in his studio, as a result of a more calculated method. With this Manet announced himself in a strong way at the Vie Moderne gallery in 1880 as a painter of modern life.

Édouard Manet, Still Life with Oysters and Champagne, 1876-78

This exuberant still life features a plate of oysters, a bottle of champagne, and their various accessories. The subject (especially the Japanese fan) and daringly cropped composition, and fluid paint handling signal Manet’s fashionable modernity.

Édouard Manet, Nude Arranging Her Hair, 1878-79

This picture of a woman fixing her hair speaks to Manet’s interest in the activities and accouterments of women’s grooming and styling. Unfinished and unsigned, it was purchased by Berthe Marisot after Manet’s death.

Édouard Manet, Portrait of Madame Manet in the Conservatory, 1876-79

Manet’s sympathetic portrayal of his wife Suzzanne. However, the surface of the painting is strikingly different from contemporaneous depictions of chic young Parisiennes. Like all of Manet’s late portrait of Suzzanne, the painting remained a private work, was retained by the artist’s widow until financial circumstances forced her to sell it.

Édouard Manet, In the Conservatory, 1877-79

In the Conservatory presents a richly ambiguous scene: the two figures’ left hands almost touch. It also remains unclear whether Manet painted the couple in an actual conservatory or created a semblance of one expressly for this and other paintings of this period. This painting was exhibited with Boating at the 1879 Salon, where the two formed a modern pair.

While this painting presents slushy environment and all elements of romance and flirtations, you find it suggests something else, not caring, and indifference. The end result is so narrative but at the same time unyielding in its narrative. Although this painting did not give Manet the universal praise when exhibited in 1879, it becomes foundational for a lot of his later works.

Édouard Manet, Woman Reading, 1880-82

While the mug of beer and the wooden bar attached to the reader’s illustrated journal suggest a Parisian cafe, the scene was in fact composed in Manet’s studio. The backdrop is not a real garden at all, but one of Manet’s own paintings. By 1880, Manet has become less mobile due to illness, and can no longer make it out to the cafes, parks and other Parisian scenes. Instead he resorted to recreating the scenes in his studio.

The woman reading is a modern woman; she has a mug of beer, she is by herself, and she is concentrated in possibly what she is gonna to consume next. Manet said this is the type he would like to show in all his beauty and all of their grace and glamour.

Édouard Manet, The Promenade (Madame Gamby), 1880-81

The model poses in near profile against an artificial verdant backdrop. The composition recalls Manet’s other pictures of fashionable Parisiennes in flowery settings.

Édouard Manet, My Garden (The Bench), 1881

Manet painted this sun-drenched picture in summer 1881. His bright palette and exuberant brushwork create a scene that hardly qualifies as hideous — which is how he described his own garden. Manet is largely confined to the house during this period, discouraged by his illness and frustrated by perpetual bad weather.

Édouard Manet, Still Life with Brioche, 1880

A lighthearted still life. This brings together several of Manet’s favorite motifs. The hat-like egg-washed bread sits askew on a porcelain plat. His wife’s cat, Zizi, emerges from the right edge.

《寻源问道:中国艺术研究院中国油画院油画研究》(杨飞云 主编)(Part 2)


Part 2: 徐芒耀 | 艾轩 | 李自健 | 王宏剑 | 谢东明 | 刘小东


再创造 Recreation 布面油彩 129cm x 96.5cm 2004年

雕塑工作室系列之三——上色 The Third of Sculpture Studio Series: Coloring 布面油彩 140cm x 100cm 1993年


“人们一向以来认为梦是一种虚无缥缈的东西,但徐芒耀却将这种虚无缥缈以写实的手法表现出来,这种荒诞感直接地刺激着人们的大脑,徐芒耀认为在梦意识中对梦境的现象总是确信无疑的,否则你醒来时就不会常常对它心有余悸了。”(焦点 · 艺术)



我的梦之四 141cm x 151cm 1989年


陌生人 Stranger 布面油彩 130cm x 110cm 2006年

穿越狼谷 Traversing the Wolf Valley 布面油彩 160cm x 130cm 2007年





融雪的三月 130cm x 130cm 2006年

静静的冻土带 102cm x 102cm 1992年

白雪覆盖了午后 80cm x 80cm 2003年


汶川娃系列之六——听泉 Wenchuan Children Series VI: Listening to Spring Water 布面油彩 130cm x 173cm 2006年



阳关三叠 Three Layers of Yangguan 布面油彩 180cm x 200cm 1999年




冬之祭 Fete in Winter 布面油彩 180cm x 200cm 1994年


看海 Looking at Sea 布面油彩 130cm x 190cm 2007年

苍山如海 Looking at Mountain 布面油彩 180cm x 250.5cm 2000年


“谢东明的绘画手法是在写实范围中强调书写性和表现性,他画画从来都是站着,拿着大笔在大画布前饱蘸颜料浑身反复舞动,粗放的笔痕朝着四面挥洒,形体在疾速狂放的笔触覆盖中变得有力和厚重。他的造型能力很强,以大笔饱和而纯艳的色彩、过瘾的涂抹 、似农人用大镐刨大地般的够劲。”(杨飞云)


山人 112cm x 146cm 2007年

古风 112cm x 146cm 2007年


晚餐 Dinner 布面油彩 180cm x 195cm 1991年




“以往的中国美术大都以社会化的”公有现实”为素材,表达了为社会所共识的意识形态与美感。……刘小东的绘画显然是以个人的叙述为基础的,他的视点是现场参与者,他本人和画笔与画中的人物共处在一个生活情境之中,需要面对相同的生存处境。他的绘画记录了自己观察和目击到的现实生活,叙述的纪实性使他在现实主义的传统中修正了个人与现实的关系。 ”(宋晓霞)


违章 180cm×230cm 1996年

青春故事 157cm x 180cm 1989年

《寻源问道:中国艺术研究院中国油画院油画研究》(杨飞云 主编)(Part 1)


Part 1: 靳尚谊 | 詹建俊 | 张祖英 | 何多苓 | 杨飞云 | 王沂东


双人体 Joint Body 布画油彩 102cm x 110cm 1983年





晚年黄宾虹 Huang Binhong in Old Age 布画油彩 115cm x 99cm 1996年



一个朋友的肖像 Portrait of A Friend 布面油彩 100cm x 80cm 2003年


青年歌手 Young Singer 布面油彩 74cm x 54cm 1984年

“画这张画时,彭丽媛是中国音乐学院的研究生,我认为她的形象很有中国特色。这一次,我想尝试用平光画人物。 平光在西方肖像画中用得比较少,平光更具中国特色,但难度却增大。”(靳尚谊)

“有人说这张画有“蒙娜丽莎”的味道。“蒙娜丽莎”是西方肖像画的基本格式,我在画彭丽媛的动作时参考了这种格式, 背景的古典、隽雅与“蒙娜丽莎”虽然有相像之处,但我画的是中国的山水,又与中国的人物融在一起,画面单纯、强烈、浓厚,有力度。经过这次尝试,我对两种文化的互补性有了进一步的认识。”(靳尚谊)




飞雪 Flying Snow 布面油彩 100cm x 70cm 1986年





回望 Looking Back 布面油彩 155cm x 128cm 1980年





瑛子之一 Yingzi I 布面油彩 53cm x 45cm 2004年


流浪艺人 Vagrant Artist 布面油彩 160cm x 130cm 2006年


维吾尔族铁匠阿米尔 Ah Mi’an Uighur Blacksmith 布面油彩 130cm x 102cm 2006年




青春 Youth 布面油彩 150cm x 186cm 1984年




窗前的女人 Woman in the Window 布面油彩 100cm x 80cm 1990年




红 Red 布面油彩 180cm x 150cm 2007年





花头巾 91cm x 75cm 2002年

十七岁 130cm x 97cm 2011年

少女与镜子 171cm x 108cm 2005年

红帘子 200cm x 100cm 2005年


深山里的太阳 Sun over Mountains 布面油彩 150cm x 100cm 2005年


冬天的阳光 Sunshine in Winter 布面油彩 180cm x 130cm 2004年



蒙山晨雾 120cm x 120cm 2011年

美丽乡村2-探春 80cm x 80cm 2009年

The Met Fifth Avenue – American Painters in Italy: From Copley to Sargent

All pictures were taken by the author during his visit to The Met Fifth Avenue, New York. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts.

Elihu Vedder, Cypress and Poppies, 1880-90

Although best known for his visionary and mystical works, Vedder developed a lifelong interest in painting the Italian countryside during the 1860s while living in Florence. He associated with a group of artists known as the Macchiaioli, who eschewed academic practice and drew inspiration directly from nature. Probably painted in Rome in the 1880s, Cypress and Poppies reflects the enduring influence of the Macchiaioli landscapes on Vedder, with its soft atmosphere and splashes of bright color.

John Singer Sargent, Boboli Garden, Florence, 1906-7

Boboli Gardens in Florence were designed in the mid-sixteenth century for the Medici court. Sargent’s depiction of a sculpture by Giovanni Battisca Caccini of a figure playing a pipe, set against lush foliage, is a study of contrasting light and shadow. He employs layers of dark pigments of varying opacity to suggest depth and shadow in the background, and renders the sunlight filtering through the branches with pale-hued pigments. He depicts the pietra serena (a light-colored Tuscan limestone) of the statue with warm tones applied in transparent washes.

John Singer Sargent, Garden near Lucca, 1910

Lucca, a charming Renaissance walled city in Tuscany, where Sargent spent the autumn of 1910. Here, Sargent uses a low vantage point to set off the richly carved urn against a brilliant blue sky. He enlivens a static subject by placing the urn close to the top edge of the composition and depicting the vine of vivid pinkish blue blossoms as if it is cascading from the urn, using feathery brushstrokes.

John Singer Sargent, Venetian Passageway, 1905

Sargent’s interest in geometric of the scene, with its numerous horizontal and vertical divisions, is apparent in the carefully ruled underdrawing visible at the left. The proximity of the building’s facade to the picture plane is underscored by the precise rendering of the bright white, carved spiral stone column at the left in contrast to the recession of the dark corridor. By leaving the illuminated area at the rear of the sotto portego ambiguous, Sargent evokes the tangle of streets and passageways so characteristic of Venice.

John Singer Sargent, Giudecca, 1913

A picturesque charm has long been associated with Giudecca, attracting artists for many centuries — both Francesco Guardi and Joseph Mallord William Turner painted view of it. However, their images almost always include recognizable landmarks. In his rendering, Sargent avoids identifiable Venetian monuments in recording the characteristics of a typical neighborhood. The inclusion of sailing vessels invoke the city’s historical importance as an Adriatic port.

John Singer Sargent, Venetian Canal, 1913

For the focal point of this watercolor, Sargent chose the relatively obscure yet scenic eleventh-century tower of the Church of San Barnaba. He positioned himself close to the water to present the view looking down the Rio de San Barnaba toward the Grand Canal. Sargent’s watercolors are admired for their fluid spontaneity, evident here in his rendering of the rippling water of the canal as it reflects the nearby architecture and bright sunlight.

The Met Fifth Avenue – Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence

All pictures were taken by the author during his visit to The Met Fifth Avenue, New York. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts.

Public Parks

Claude Monet, Landscape: The Parc Monceau, 1876

The Parc Monceau in the elegant eighth arrondissement was among the older Parisian parks targeted for renovation and unveiled in 1861. Monet lived a few blocks away from this intimate park. At first he adopted a horizontal format, as in the views he painted of London’s Green Park (1870-71), but for the second group he used a more unusual vertical format, perhaps inspired by Japanese woodcut prints.

Claude Monet, The Parc Monceau, 1878

Monet takes in the park’s curving paths on a sunny afternoon. He skimmed lightly over the figures of park-goers, blending them in with enveloping vegetation, filling the canvas with little patches of color that approximate the texture of foliage and the flicker of light.

Gustave Caillebotte, The Parc Monceau, 1877

Like Monet, Caillebotte was drawn to the renovated Parc Monceau. He inserted a path the beckon viewers into the picture and a bench to invite them to linger. A solitary Parisian gentleman, achieved with  just a few quick strokes, suggests the urbanity of the site.

Camille Pissarro, The Garden of the Tuileries on a Spring Morning, 1899

Camille Pissarro, The Garden of the Tuileries on a Winter Afternoon, 1899

Later in his career, Pissarro — the least cosmopolitan of the Impressionists — devoted successive painting campaigns to the landscape of modern Paris. In 1899 and 1900, he took leave of his home in rural Eragny to rent a large apartment high above the rue de Rivoli “opposite the Tuileries, with a superb view of the garden”. He painted two series of fourteen views each, including half a dozen from the same vantage point. Attentive to changes in the light and color of the grounds, the relative fullness of the trees, and the comings and goings of strollers at different times and seasons, he extracted the very nature of this site.

Auguste Renoir, Versailles, 1900-1905

Renoir gravitated to more traditional motifs during his later career. In this autumnal view of the courtyard on the north side of the palace of Versailles, he paints the chestnut trees that line the allée in rich seasonal hues, while he accords sculpture a key role.

Camille Pissarro, The Public Garden at Pontoise, 1874

By the early nineteenth century, virtually every town, large or small, was graced with a promenade or public garden not unlike the one Pissarro painted in Pontoise. In this semi-rural, semi-suburban hamlet just northwest of Paris, a stroll in the park was a social event.

Claude Monet, The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau, 1865

Monet studied the dramatic shapes and shadows formed by one of Fontainebleau’s most frequently painted and photographed trees, the Bodmer Oak, in preparation of his ambitious picture Luncheon on the Grass (1865-66). Using a palette of bright yellows, greens, and oranges to depict sunlight filtering through the trees, Monet painted this autumnal view just before he wrapped his visits to Fontainebleau in October 1865.

Floral Still Lifes

Mary Cassatt, Lilacs in a Window, 1880-83

One of Cassatt’s rare still lifes, this painting was presumably made at the country house her family rented outside Paris. She placed her casually arranged bouquet on the windowsill of the greenhouse, close to the open air, in cool spring light.

Claude Monet, Bouquet of Sunflowers, 1881

Monet was praised for the “brio and daring” of his technique when the picture was shown at the 1882 Impressionist exhibition. Such qualities seem to have resonated with Paul Gauguin six years later, when he was even more dazzled by the suite of Sunflowers Van Gogh has painted as a decoration for his room in Arles.

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1887

By the summer of 1887, Van Gogh had updated his drab Dutch palette by painting flowers and come into his own as an original colorist. He made the dried blooms and stalks of the tall tournesols the focus of four works, magnifying their ragged heads, where flame-like sepals halo the seed destined to yield next year’s flowers.

Claude Monet, Chrysanthemums, 1882

Monet painted more than twenty floral still lifes between 1878 and 1883, fixing his sight on generous displays of a single type of flower at the height of bloom as opposed to mixed bouquets. A perennial favorite was the exotic chrysanthemum. In painting the small, pearly mums of late summer with petal-size dabs and dashes, Monet created a shimmering effect that is reflected on the polished tabletop, mirroring his concurrent infatuation with the watery surfaces of the Seine.

Gustave Caillebotte, Chrysanthemums in the Garden at Petit-Gennevilliers, 1893

Caillebotte did not develop an interest in floral subjects until the 1880s, when he acquired property in the Parisian suburb of Petit-Gennevilliers. He found inspiration enough to shift his focus from urban scenes of bourgeois leisure to his own backyard. In redirecting his gaze to the plants he had nurtured from the ground up — such as this thicket of homegrown chrysanthemums, seen from an intimate and provocative vantage point — he continued to create what one critic hailed as “impromptu views that are the great delights in life.”

Edgar Degas, A Woman Seated beside a Vase of Flowers (Madame Paul Valpinçon?). 1865

Although Degas once expressed his aversion to scented flowers, he nodded to current fashion by portraying a woman seated beside an enormous bouquet of asters, dahlias, and other late-summer blooms. The gardening gloves and water pitcher on the table suggest that the sitter had gathered and arranged flowers from the garden glimpsed through the window.

Auguste Renoir, Bouquet of Chrysanthemums, 1881

The extraordinary range of hues in which chrysanthemums could be cultivated caught the eye of Renoir. Probably gathered from the garden of his patron Paul Bérard at Wargemont, in Normandy, they must have emboldened the artist to test his overheated palette. “When I painted flowers,” he said, “I fell free to try out tones and values and worry less about destroying the canvas.”

Eugène Delacroix, Dahlias, 1833 or 1847-48

Attentive to botanical accuracy, Delacroix brought a sense of realism to his works that was soon to become the province of photographers. And for younger painters, he set an influential precedent for how high-key color and freewheeling paint strokes could contribute robust vibrancy to a subject often too daintily treated.

Edouard Manet, Peonies, 1864-65

Reportedly Manet’s favorite flower, peonies were introduced to France in the early nineteenth century. They grew in abundance in the artist’s garden in the Parisian suburb of Gennevilliers. Considered the epitome of luxury, the voluptuous flowers were a perfect vehicle for his sensuous brushwork and virtuosic handling of subtle color harmonies.

Private Gardens

Berthe Morisot, The Gate at Bougival, 1884

During the summers of 1881 to 1884, spent with her family in the village of Bougival, just west of Paris, she often painted the garden of their rental house with its wrought-iron gate, tall hollyhocks, and dense foliage. The figures emerging from the verdant surroundings may be Morisot’s five-year old daughter, Julie, and their maid, Pasie.

Paul Cézanne, The Pool at Jas de Bouffan, 1885-86

Cézanne’s affection for his family’s estate, Jas de Bouffan, near Aix-en-Provence, is reflected in the many views he painted of the property over a quarter century. He pictured this prospect along the road that led from an eighteenth-century house to its landscaped gardens, charting the symmetry of the massive chestnut trees and often including the stone washing trough and large square pool for collecting water. A sense of cool tranquility prevails in the artist’s depictions of the garden that afforded him refuge from the challenges of life in Paris.

Claude Monet, Adolphe Monet Reading in the Garden, 1867

Monet was in his twenties when he began to setting up his easel in sunlit gardens. While spending the summer of 1867 with his family on the Normandy coast, he painted his aunt’s garden in the seaside resort of Sainte-Adresse, near the port of Le Havre. The manicured oasis of standard roses and bedding geraniums at her villa made a stunning setting for the artist’s sidelong portrait of his father, Adolphe, a prosperous merchant.

Claude Monet, Camille Monet in the Garden at Argenteuil, 1876

After Monet established his own bourgeois household in rented properties in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil between 1871 and 1876, he began to garden in earnest, making his flower-filled backyards the subject of more than thirty canvases. The artist planted a central flower bed in a walled circular space: gladioli and hollyhocks soar above nasturtiums and geraniums to provide burst of colors at laddered levels, in accord with the current fashion for mounded combinations of annuals and perennials. The hollyhocks grew taller than Monet’s wife, Camille, whose painted from dissolves in shadows, submitting to the primacy of flowers and foliage.

Pierre Bonnard, From the Balcony, 1909

With bemused sunlight, Bonnard pictures here a bucolic summer day at the family estate in Le Grand-Lemps, near Grenoble, adopting a high vantage point that offers a glimpse of five of his offspring and their pets cavorting amid the assorted greenery of vines, shrubs, and trees spread over luxuriant lawns.

Garden Portraits

Edouard Manet, Madame Manet at Bellevue, 1880

Manet painted his wife in the sunlit greenery of their seasonal residence in Bellevue. Much of her face is hidden beneath the broad rim of hat, and her figure melds with the background realized in bravura strokes of ocher, blue, and emerald green.

Mary Cassatt, Lydia Crocheting in the Garden at Marly, 1880

One of Cassatt’s first and most dazzling plein-air pictures, this portrait of her sister Lydia debuted to praise at the 1881 Impressionist exhibition. Lydia is placed along a diagonally receding walkaway, bordered by plants, inviting comparison with Morisot’s somewhat later picture of a sitter absorbed in her knitting. Cassatt rendered her frail sister’s features with sensitivity, using freer brushwork to describe her stylish dress and still more vigorous handling for the foliage of gladioli, roses, and coleus leading to the greenhouse.

Berthe Morisot, Young Woman Knitting, 1883

In this slice-of-life view, Morisot suspends descriptive detail to create a portrait of her time, making a bold fashion statement of sorts: her sitter sports the latest style of dress and is shown knitting in a garden typical of the period, with a gravel path and flowering roses. The elegant chairs suffice to define the private setting. Morisot probably painted the work in Bougival, where she spent the summers of 1881 to 1884, perhaps enlisting her daughter’s nanny as model.

Berthe Morisot, Young Woman Seated on a Sofa, 1879

At the time when artists were churning out sentimental images of women in gardens for the annual Salons, Morisot introduced invention where tired stereotypes left off. She magically transformed the interior into a place out of doors, opening it to her balcony and bringing roses and hydrangeas into the company of a flower-bedecked hat and the floral upholstery of a tufted settee. Her approach led one critic to comment in 1880: “She grinds flower petals onto her palette, in order to spread them later on her canvas with airy, witty touches.”

Claude Monet, Camille Monet on a Garden Bench, 1873

An echo of suitors in Garden of Love paintings from an earlier era. No less traditional is the presentation of the half-acre walled garden. Yet its bright red zonal geraniums are clustered in a corbeille, a basket-shaped flower bed that had recently become as much a fixture in French parks as the bench. Both the parklike setting and Camille’s smart ensemble ascribe to the latest fashion. Still, the sitter telegraphs sadness amid the sunlit blooms.

Edouard Manet, The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil, 1874

During the summer of 1874, Manet paid a visit to the Monet family. Finding them enjoying a leisurely afternoon in their garden, he set up his easel to paint in the open air. Renoir, who arrived just as Manet was starting to work, borrowed materials to paint the same scene from a closer spot. Looking to capture the moment, neither artist ignored the yard’s wandering chickens, Manet placing the rooster, hen, and chick as avian counterparts to Monet, his wife Camille, and son Jean. At some point of that day, Monet took a break from tending his flowers to make a picture of Manet painting in the garden.

Neue Galerie – Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s

All pictures sourced from external links as Neue Galerie New York does not allow visitors to take photos. Notes from the museum audio guide.

Sunrise, Max Beckmann

Two Heads, Rudolf Wacker

Portrait of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Oskar Kokoschka, 1935-36

The first president of Czechoslovakia. Setting him against the backdrop of Prague and Vltava river. Extraordinary brushwork. Shortly after Kokoschka finished this painting, the Nazi called it ‘degenerate’ and he fled to London. Tomas Masaryk died in 1937 and this painting became an elegy for this loved president.

Birds’ Hell, Max Beckmann

Paris Society, Max Beckmann, 1931

Here beckmann portraits real people: intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen. This is an elegant party – there is singer at the background but no one pays attention.The guests don’t seem to enjoy themselves; only the couple at lower left seems to be connected to each other. The main aspect of this painting is isolation.

Self Portrait with a Horn, Max Beckmann

Railway Underpass, Rudolf Dishinger, 1934

Threat, Rudolf Dischinger, 1935

The style and implication of this painting would have been unacceptable to the Nazis and clearly the artist painted it for himself. Has a scientific fiction in it. The barren room, the door that goes nowhere, and the empty frame on the wall. Perhaps this an artist studio but the productivity has been totally gone.

Expectation, Richard Oelze, 1935-36

Oelze drew a variety of sources for this unsettling composition: the use of contemporary photography, combined with traditional European landscape painting – the genuine strategy of surrealism. MoMa bought this painting in 1940.

The Met Breuer – Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed

All pictures without external links were taken by the author during his visit to The Met Breuer, New York. Texts sourced from exhibit label scripts.

Self Portrait with Cigarette, 1895

Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu, 1919

Self-Portrait with a Bottle o Wine, 1906

Though he was enjoying considerable professional success and increasing recognition in Germany by 1906, at this time his private life was plagued by anxiety, alcoholism, and despair, all of which led to his breakdown just two years later. Munch captures here his sense of acute loneliness and melancholy.

Self Portrait by the Window, ca. 1940

The seventy-seven-year-old artist, looking grim, stands next to a window at his house at Ekely on a winter day. Munch divided the canvas into the icy-cold, snow-covered landscape seen through the window and the rose-tinted warm interior on the left. He spent the final years of his life here at Ekely.

Self-Portrait: Between the Clock and the Bed (1940–43)

Starry Night, 1893

Trees from a dark mass along the coastline, and the diagonal fence creates space and depth. Heeding French symbolism, Munch presents landscape as an expression of mood.

Night in Saint-Cloud, 1893

Munch moved to Saint-Cloud, just outside Paris, in 1890. There he broke from naturalism and embraced French Symbolism, which favors emotional experience over objective observation. In this second version of the motif that he initially painted in Saint-Cloud three years earlier, a solitary figure sits near a window at night.

Starry Night, 1922-24

This work belongs to a group of winter views from Munch’s veranda at Ekely, his estate on the outskirts of Oslo. Light from the house creates shadows of the two figures who look out over the dark, snowy landscape. On the horizon shine lights from the city, while bright stars dance in the bluish sky.

Th Night Wanderer, 1923-24

Munch referred to the second half of his life as a “battle just to keep myself upright.” With hollow eyes and a somber expression, the stooped figure of the artist, in his house at Ekely at night, elicits feelings of restlessness and loneliness.

Sick Mood at Sunset: Despair, 1892

This work is a precursor to the first version of Munch’s famous painting The Scream (1893). In fact, the artist later referred to it as “the first Scream.” The dramatic diagonal perspective of the railing emphasizes the figure’s isolation and despair.

The Sick Child, 1907

The third of six versions of The Sick Child, made between 1885 and 1927. Critics cared less for the motif than the artist’s embrace of an experimental, expressionistic technique, which involved the layering of short brushstrokes that seem to quiver with anxiety.

The Sick Child, 1896

Munch used a radical technique of layering paint and then scraping away the color. He regarded The Sick Child as a breakthrough in his work, moving away from realism and Impressionism toward pure expression.

Madonna, 1895-97?

The most technically experimental example of the five paintings and two prints of this subject. Paint has been sprayed all over the surface, and only the body’s outline, face, hair, and halo have been treated with a brush. The delicate pale-blue and purple pigment form other halos around sensuous woman.

Ashes, 1925

A revisit to his work in 1894 as part of his Frieze of Life series. A woeful man holds his head in his hands while a siren-like woman, dressed in red and white, exhibits her sensuous body. Behind them, a log has partly turned to ashes. Here, Munch depicts the flowering and passing of love.

Model by the Wicker Chair, 1919-21

The model Annie Fjeldbu bows her head while standing in front of a wicker chair in Munch’s studio. Unlike in other paintings, she has thrown off her gown and robe, displaying her naked body. The vertical format of the canvas accentuates her elongated pale nude body, which dominates the canvas.

Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904

This is the artist’s first full-length self-portrait and one of only three in which he shows himself with the tools of his trade. Wearing a dark painting smock, he looks confidently at the viewer.

Rijksmuseum – The Collection

Based on museum audio guide. All pictures linked from public sources (e.g. Wikipedia,, The number of each painting corresponds to the actual item number in the museum.

563 The Little Street – Vermeer’s hometown. So realistic almost like a photograph, various materials in precise but convincing manner. Window gives depth. No other artists paint simple city scene in such fondness and precision.

Johannes Vermeer. View of Houses in Delft, Known as The Little Street, c. 1658

575 The Milkmaid – Vermeer is a perfectionist. Sparse surroundings diverted by the focal point – the milkmaid and her colorful dress. Window broken, bread scattered etc. light everywhere in the room.

Johannes Vermeer. The Milkmaid, c. 1660

541 Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul – Rembrandt at age of 55. Light from above – the story from Bible. Ability to capture the inner state of his figures. A typical late work of Rembrandt.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul, 1661

523 The Wardens of the Amsterdam’s Drapers’ Guild – Viewed from a lower standpoint. Have they just finished? Or just started their meeting? The man on the left is standing up or sitting down?

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. The Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, known as ‘The Syndics’, 1662

500 The Night Watch – Disorderly arrangement, makes this painting so unique. Dark background, putting main figures in spotlight. Dramatic, it’s a group in action. Gestures of the guards also capture our attention.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, Known as the ‘Night Watch’, 1642

473 Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters – 17th century. Vibrant ice winter scene. Everyone in motion, falling and getting up again. To fit all, Avercamp raised the viewpoint and muted colors in the background. Nearly 200 figures. His winter scenes even at high demand in summer.

Hendrick Avercamp. Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, c. 1608

Hendrick Avercamp. Enjoying the Ice near a Town, c. 1620

Interiors of a Protestant, Gothic Church – Emanuel de Witte is a master of perspectival church interiors. However he is not depicting reality, composing from parts of various existing churches.

Emanuel de Witte. Interior of a Protestant, Gothic Church, with a Gravedigger in the Choir, 1669

Emanuel de Witte. Interior of a Protestant, Gothic Church during a Service, 1669

Distant View of the Meadows – Back then not everyone was enthusiastic about such unadorned landscapes but now it is considered masterpiece of early 19th century painting, precisely because of its modern and original version.

Pieter Gerardus van Os. Distant View of the Meadows at ’s-Graveland, 1817

The Canal at ‘s-Graveland – High vantage point possibly from the window of Herman Waller’s country house, the paintings’ commissioner.

Pieter Gerardus van Os. The Canal at ’s-Graveland, 1818

Portrait of Lizzy Ansingh – Contrast between light and dark conveys intimacy. Swift vigorous brushstrokes. Schwartze enjoyed great success with her fashionable society portraits.

Thérèse Schwartze. Portrait of Lizzy Ansingh, 1902

The Voorstraat Harbour in Dordrecht – Witsen is a master of tranquil city view. Real passion for detail, worn bricks. Suppressing any signs of life, emphasize everlasting stillness of the old city.

Willem Witsen. The Voorstraat Harbour in Dordrecht, 1898

373 A Windmill on a Polder Waterway – Landscape without narrative, human and animals in secondary place. Put emphasis in depicting the clouds as well as its reflection in the water.

Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël. A Windmill on a Polder Waterway, Known as ‘In the Month of July’, c. 1889

363 Girl in a Kimomo – Japanese was fashionable, artist couldn’t resist. At least twelve different version. No distinction between foreground and background, mimicking Japanese woodcut pattern which the artist admired.

George Hendrik Breitner. Girl in a White Kimono, 1894

349 The Singel Bridge at the Paleisstraat in Amsterdam – Use photo as source. The woman at the front seems out of focus, almost knock onto us. Just another ordinary day. The footsteps on the snow, in a few colorful rough brushstrokes. Woman lift her skirt, dog barking.

George Hendrik Breitner. The Singel Bridge at the Paleisstraat in Amsterdam, 1896

Van Gogh Museum – The Collection

Based on museum audio guide. All pictures copied from Van Gogh Museum’s official website

1883-1885: Van Gogh admired 19th century French peasant painters like Millet, Breton, etc very much. He made up his mind at the age of 27 (1880). From then to 1883 Van Gogh settled in Nuenen and started painting idealized peasant life. He prepared more than one year before ‘The Potato Eaters’ that later made him famous.

Here are a few examples, including works from other painters who also depicted and idealized peasants’ life.

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte. Haymaking, 1887

Vincent van Gogh. Avenue of Poplars in Autumn. Nuenen, October 1884

The Cottage (1885): The huge overhanging roof captivated him – in Van Gogh’s view, roof is like nest, made of all kinds of materials, keep human safe. We also notice there are two doors, which indicates two families under one roof. The painting is set at dusk, the time when peasants return from the entire day of hard work. In addition, there are trees overarching the roof, protecting people inside.

Vincent van Gogh. The Cottage. Nuenen, May 1885

Head of a Woman (1885): It’s all about brushstrokes. Expression is more important than a correct rendering. 

Vincent van Gogh. Head of a Woman. Nuenen, March 1885

Still Life with Bible (1885): On the side of the painting, beside Bible, it is Zola’s novel – Bible of modern life. Painted one year after his father’s death, Van Gogh used two books to symbolize different worlds of his and his father’s.

Vincent van Gogh. Still Life with Bible. Nuenen, October 1885

The Potato Eaters (1885): This painting is filled with dark colors, even on people’s faces; this is the color of the earth – dignity of farmers. Steam rises from the platter and you could almost smell it. Van Gogh has worked a long time on this painting. Over multiple drafts, figures have shifted but the center was always around their hands. However, the publication reaction to this painting was mixed. He even received a shocking response from his friend which treated this work as a caricature.

Vincent van Gogh. The Potato Eaters. Nuenen, April – May 1885

1885-1886: Practice and practice, due to the lukewarm reaction of The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh went to Antwerp to receive training and was further inspired by the 17th-century masters (portraits).

1886-1888: Van Gogh moved to Paris. He Learned from impressionists and then developed his own expressive styles.

Manet – The Jetty of Boulogne-sur-Mer: The seascape from the founder of Impressionim, Manet, was anything but traditional. The sailing boat is largely concealed. There are also bold division of picture plane and marked cropping. This could also be found in Van Gogh’s work.

Edouard Manet. The Jetty of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Young Woman at a Table, ‘Poudre de riz’, 1887

In the Cafe: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin (1887): The figure is Van Gogh’s friend as well as lovers. Like the one in Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s work (above), the girl is likely a prostitute as we see cigarettes and beer on the table. Proper ladies did not drink or smoke in a cafe.

Vincent van Gogh. In the Café: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin. Paris, January – March 1887

Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1887): The blue and orange pattern in the background is, don’t be surprised, science, which was based on the newest optic theories at the time. In adopting this method, Van Gogh tried to make his colors as intensive as possible.

Vincent van Gogh. Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat. Paris, September – October 1887

Garden with Courting Couples (1887): Despite the lack of facial features, this painting expresses the poetic scene of young couples, with increased intensity by dash colors and the combination of foreground and background. Van Gogh here is experimenting colors – there are colors that complement each other just like man and wife. And looking from farther distance, the colors get blended together.

Vincent van Gogh. Garden with Courting Couples: Square Saint-Pierre. Paris, May 1887

Boulevard de Clichy (1887): This is nearby where the brothers (Vincent and Theo) lived.

Vincent van Gogh. Boulevard de Clichy. Paris, March – April 1887

Trees and Undergrowth (1887): The painting has no center or focus – a very modern idea. The plane, from edge to edge and corner to corner, is covered by these dots. Van Gogh seemed very delighted being surrounded by it and all the colors he seized in this work.

Vincent van Gogh. Trees and Undergrowth. Paris, July 1887

1888-1889: Van Gogh left Paris and moved to Arles, a quieter place.

The Pink Orchard (1888): Van Gogh loved blossoms, representing new hope and new way for him to pursue art.

Vincent van Gogh. The Pink Orchard. Arles, beginning of April 1888

The Pink Peach Tree (1888): This is one of the three works painted and presented together. This format was inspired from Japanese graphic art.

Vincent van Gogh. The Pink Peach Tree. Arles, April – May 1888

The Langlois Bridge (1888): Van Gogh applied a simple composition in this painting to convey Provence’s essential beauty and its “the clearness of atmosphere.”

Vincent van Gogh. The Langlois Bridge. Arles, March 1888

The Bedroom (1888): This colorful painting was mean to offer people comfort. Van Gogh was using colors to express emotions.

Vincent van Gogh. The Bedroom. Arles, October 1888

Field with Irises near Arles (1888): The painting is all about light and colors, with a meadow full of yellow buttercups, a ditch with iris plants, town in back ground and a strip of blue sky.

Vincent van Gogh. Field with Irises near Arles. Arles, May 1888

Fishing Boats on the Beach (1888): This painting reveals Van Gogh’s passion in Japanese art, indicated by the clear contrast of the boat’s outline and the clarity he wanted to achieve.

Vincent van Gogh. Fishing Boats on the Beach at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Arles, June 1888

Sunflowers (1889): The flowers almost seem to glow. Here we see all different kinds of essentially one color and could certainly be surrounded by the feeling of power. The paints are so thick to give its weight. Van Gogh liked things to run down, to be a bit rough and worn, which was like real life – you could see some of the flowers are dying. This work was served as a welcome for Gauguin to Arles and the artist Ppainted five different versions all with dazzling light. Van Gogh wanted to proclaimed himself as the painter of sunflowers.

Vincent van Gogh. Sunflowers. Arles, January 1889


Almond Blossom (1890): Here we see a turquoise sky. Where was he standing? After the good news of Theo’s newborn child, this work was painted as a gift to the couples. Van Gogh depicted blossoms in great precision, some in bloom while others are still in bud.

Vincent van Gogh. Almond Blossom. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, February 1890

Butterflies and Poppies, Giant Peacock Moth, Roses (1890): Van Gogh presented a close look at ordinary things, including the pale roses. The exploration of universal beauty is the key of Van Gogh’s art. He always wanted to convey his certain way of looking to the audience.

Vincent van Gogh. Butterflies and Poppies. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May-June 1889

Vincent van Gogh. Giant Peacock Moth. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May – June 1889

Vincent van Gogh. Roses. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May-June 1889

Irises (1890): This painting is strong and animated, elegant and powerful. It was so thickly painted that it took a month to dry.

Vincent van Gogh. Irises. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May 1890

Copies after Millet (1889): This copy of Millet’s famous work are re-presented with colors of Van Gogh’s own invention. This is like a musician interpreting the composer’s work.

Vincent van Gogh. Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet). Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889

Vincent van Gogh. The Reaper (after Millet). Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889

Landscape at Twilight (1890): There are green and black leaves, as well as yellow light full of energy. The foreground is full of long sweeping diagonal strokes. What is the subject of this painting? The strokes themselves, which represent energy and life of nature.

Vincent van Gogh. Landscape at Twilight. Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890

Wheatfield with Crows (1890): The wheat field is as big as sea. The painting is filled with extreme loneliness. This was painted during the last week of Van Gogh’s life though not being his last work. There are a few more which were more optimistic.

Vincent van Gogh. Wheatfield with Crows. Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890

Tree Roots (1890): Van Gogh is here studying tree roots, with its twisted forms. The painting was unfinished. It is the last painting of Van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh. Tree Roots. Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890

Nasjonalgalleriet (Oslo, Norway) Collections (1 of 3): Beyond Edward Munch

All pictures without external links were taken by the author during his trip to National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. Texts sourced from National Gallery’s official English website

Erik Werenskiold. September, 1883

Werenskiold studied in Munich and Paris before he returned to his home country in mid-1880s. Thereafter, depicting rural and folk life of Norwegians became the key theme in his painting. This painting is a study in green, from the grass in the foreground to the trees and further the hillside in the background.

Erik Werenskiold. Peasant Burial, 1883–1885

Peasant Burial has been considered as a principal work of Norwegian art. Its naturalist theme and the bright lighting indicates it was most likely painted outdoors. The picture raises several questions, such as who is the deceased, who is the woman presented, and who is the man reading a book?

Christian Krohg. Albertine to see the Police Surgeon, 1885-1887

Krohg used realist approach as well as size and composition to bring to light contemporary social issues: the center figure is a prostitute while Albertine, the name and the main figure of Krohg’s novel Albertine, is seen further. The painting deals with the compulsory medical exam that prostitutes had to subject themselves to.

Christian Krohg. Sick Girl, 1881

Like Munch, Krohg lost both his sister and mother at his young age, and this painting may well be a source of inspiration of Munch’s Sick Child (1886). The dying girl is heavily foregrounded, allowing viewers to feel as though they are in the same room with her. The girl herself expresses no sorrow or despair.

Harriet Backer. Christening in Tanum Church, 1892

Church’s interior played a crucial role in Backer’s art. She studied in Munich and Paris where she lived for ten years. Backer is considered to be an early Impressionist. In this painting, Backer captures the variously illuminated surfaces as the sunlight filters into the interior of the church. Also the view from inside the church and out into open creates a striking perspective.

Harriet Backer. Blue Interior, 1883

The title of this painting, Blue Interior, alludes Backer’s ambition to depict the impact of daylight on the coloring and lighting of an interior, mirroring Monet and other Impressionists’ interest in lighting effects.

Anders Zorn. In the Skerries, 1894

Swedish artist Anders Zorn manages to capture the play of the light against skin, water, and stone with his broad, rapid brushstrokes. The naked woman depicted allows her body to be warmed by the blazing sun as she peers out into the distance. Zorn was the foremost Impressionist in Scandinavia during his times and here presents an independently Nordic reply to the bathing scenes by Cezanne, Renoir, and others.

Harald Sohlberg. Street in Røros in Winter, 1903

Harald Sohlberg. Street in Røros, 1902

Harald Sohlberg. Summer Night, 1899

The stools have been casually pushed aside and the people have presumably gone indoors. The door remains ajar and reflects in its window the landscape. There is a tension in the painting between the foreground’s colorful wealth of detail and the background’s simplified shapes and tones. The painting can be seen as a homage to the luminous Nordic summer nights. Like many other Sohlberg’s works, the painting is devoid of people.

Halfdan Egedius. Girls dancing, 1895

Nikolai Astrup. Kari – Motiv fra Sunde, 1917

Henrik Sørensen. The Artist’s Wife Gudrun, b. Cleve, 1917

Henrik Sorensen was one of the most distinctive artists in Norway before and after WWII. He received training largely abroad, including Académie Matisse in Paris. This work was painted after his stay in Paris and is a fine example of his more “moderate modernism”. The woman seems both present and somewhat distant.

Henrik Sørensen. Ragna on the Veranda, 1925

Per Krohg. Cabaret, 1913-1914

Cabaret is considered Krohg’s principal work. One year before this painting he stated in an interview that he was “influenced by this Picasso fellow”, also citing Cézanne, Matisse, and El Greco as key sources of inspiration. There are five figures crowded in this painting. The three grey-white, slender female nudes in the foreground contrast sharply with the murky background and the two frantically playing guitarists. The painting may also be an homage to Paul Gauguin, who included small, symbolic scenes with animals in some of his paintings.

Per Krohg. Lucy Vidil, kunstnerens første hustru, 1911

Arne Ekeland. The last Shots, 1940

The painting is highly complex in regard to form, color, and content, and many consider it to be the political manifesto of Arne Ekeland, who was a communist. The three figures – a priest with a collar, a military man in uniform, and a representative of the moneyed interests – can be seen as symbolizing the capitalist society that Ekeland wanted to topple. Beyond Italian Renaissance art that the painter had seen on his trip to Italy, he was also inspired by German expressionism, French cubism, Byzantine art, etc.

MET – Balthus: Cats and Girls — Paintings and Provocations

Viewed in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in Fall 2013.

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Brother and Sister (Hubert and Thérèse Blanchard), 1936

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski) . Thérèse Dreaming, 1938

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski) . Thérèse, 1938

Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski). The Living Room, 1942

Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski). The Golden Days, 1944-46

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Sleeping Girl, 1943

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Still Life with a Figure, 1940

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). The Room, 1947-48

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Nude with Cat, 1949

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Girl at a Window, 1957

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski). Nude Before a Mirror, 1955

The Jewish Museum – Chagall: Love, War, and Exile

Based on museum audio guide. The number of each painting corresponds to the actual item number in the museum.

200. Time is a River without Bank

Marc Chagall. Time is a River without Bank, 1930-39

Up till now I still think of this painting by Chagall in his early period as the most poetic and romantic one in this exhibition. Perhaps this is also why the museum placed it at the front of the hall. In this painting, we see a wide and peaceful river which of course represents Chagall’s hometown; while the flying fish is his father. Chagall himself and his wife, Bella, which are the only two “live” figures in the picture, sit at the corner, holding each other and cherishing the moment being together. This painting is about time, memory and loss, as said by the commentary, which I cannot agree more. Time is like a river, which is always moving and never stops. The grandfather clock in the middle, which is a more obvious symbol of time, in my opinion, is more of a implication of the objectiveness about time and we as human beings have to sit aside to either embrace or withstand the memory and loss that the times brings to us.

201. The Lovers

Marc Chagall. The Lovers, 1937

To understand this painting, it is important to know that bouquet was rare in Russia but plenty in Paris back in 1930s. This helps us understand the inner passion and spiritual energy that drive Chagall to grow and grows his flowers to essentially the whole canvas. The background color of this image is similar to the last one, and also from the lower right-hand side we see the houses the sheep representing Chagall’s hometown and his nostalgia while living in Paris and enjoying his sweet life at the same time. The contrast between these two color palettes and the emotions behind them make this bouquet look so special and joyful.

202. Untitled (Old Man with Beard)

Marc Chagall. Untitled (Old Man with Beard), 1931

203. Study for the Revolution

Marc Chagall. The Study for Revolution, 1937

204. Solitude

Marc Chagall. Solitude, 1953

205. The Fall of the Angel

Marc Chagall. The Fall of the Angel, 1923-33-47

206. Obsession

Marc Chagall. Obsession, 1943

208, Exodus

Marc Chagall. Exodus, 1952-66

209. Calvary

Marc Chagall. Calvary, 1912

210. Descent from the Cross

Marc Chagall. Descent from the Cross, 1941

211. Christ in the Night

Marc Chagall. Christ in the Night, 1948

212. The Flayed Ox

Marc Chagall. The Flayed Ox, 1947

213. Soul of the City

Marc Chagall. Soul of the City, 1945

214. The Wedding Candles

Marc Chagall. The Wedding Candles, 1948

MoMA – Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938

Based on museum audio guide. The number of each painting corresponds to the actual item number in the museum.

651. The Lost Jockery

René Magritte. Le Jockery perdu (The Lost Jockery). Brussels, 1926

The black curtains on the sides of the canvas remind us what we see behind is actually something not real (even surreal?). In the center of the “stage”, we have Magritte (should be himself, right?) riding a horse, seems running very fast but looks like not going anywhere. The standing “trunks” is actually bilboquets – a French toy and Magritte repeatedly used this form in his early works.

652. Portrait of Paul Nouge

René Magritte. Portrait of Paul Nouge. 1927

Paul Nouge was a Belgian composer and he was a close friend of Magritte. In this painting Magritte challenged the convention view that portrait should be singular. The two Pauls look almost identical but with tiny differences – the shades of foreheads, one’s hand was cropped out of the canvas, etc. We believe from Magritte’s view, neither of them is Paul Nouge and both are representations.

653. The Secret Player

René Magritte. Le Joueur secret (The Secret Player). Brussels, 1927

Again, we see the curtain and bilboquets. But here in front of us is an even weird and surreal world, with two players and a woman in a closet whose size is smaller than usual. What is interesting about this work is – it seems there are two sources of light. Obviously one is coming from left to the right (you can tell from the reflection of the bilboquets) and the other one, which sheds light on the woman’s face, is less to be aware of. This is a painting without a narrative and we can only explore the meaning and the truth simply by looking at it.

655. The Titanic Days

René Magritte. Les Jours gigantesques (The Titanic Days). Paris, 1928

This one is disturbing – not only because it shows a man fighting with a woman but more than that we see the two bodies are forced to be in one plane. The three-dimension conventional pictorial space is destroyed.

656. Attempting the Impossible

René Magritte. Tentative de I’impossible (Attempting the Impossible). Paris, 1928

Magritte and his wife. This can be regarded as the most literal interpretation of what a painter does – just apply paints – there is nothing more mystical, mysterious, and metaphysical about it. This also reflects the Surrealists’ attack on painting as a medium itself at the very beginning and what Magritte was trying to bring us here is the initial state of painting, without being commercialized, related to religion or something else, just paint. On another perspective, this painting also reminds us of Pygmalion, the Greek mythological character that brings his beloved sculpture to life.

657. The False Mirror

René Magritte. The False Mirror (Le Perreux-sur-Marne), 1928

Unfortunately this is the only one painting that I knew before I came to this exhibition (but not knowing it is from Magritte). The caption of this work makes us to think about, and problematize that optical vision is limited. What you see is not necessarily reality – inner vision, hallucination, and dream may provide us as real as what we see in external phenomena – this plays an important role in Surrealism and the relationships between dream and reality, vision and illusion, what we see and what we do not see, are among the central issues that the Surrealist painters wanted to address.

658. The Eternally Obvious

René Magritte. L’Evidence eternelle (The Eternally Obvious). Paris, 1930

Personally I think this is the most “magical” work in this exhibition and what you actually see is definitely beyond the five pieces of female torso. It simply ignites your imagination and brings about the inner desire to connect these disjoint pieces and even to create . Each individual piece may also represent a radical and violent act in terms of creation – the cropped and closeup view of a particular part of a female’s body – to some sense it looks like a photograph rather than a painting. It interestingly illustrates the relationship between these two and somewhat the fear that photography as mechanical reproduction is threatening the role of painting.

660. Elective Affinities

René Magritte. Les Affinites electives (Elective Affinities). Brussels, 1932

One of the several works that I cannot understand well. Magritte are trying to depict some form of illusion here because the positions of the edges of the cage are self-contradictory.

661. The Light of Coincidence

René Magritte. La Lumière des coincidences (The Light of Coincidence). Brussels, 1933

This one is my favorite since there are so many interpretations of its meaning, and the line between truth and illusion so blurred here. One cannot really tell if we are seeing a painted female torso in the frame, or instead a sculpture which is illuminated by the candle. The vivid light and shades of the torso is driving us to discover the truth and puzzling us at the same time, with the help the candle, which then represents illumination. Human is illuminated by arts, just like the torso is illuminated by the candle. This simple and complex work illustrates how paintings are created and how arts tell or do not tell stories and communicating ideas.

662. The Interpretation of Dreams

René Magritte. La Clef des songes (The Interpretation of Dreams), 1935

One interesting thing about this work is the English rather than French words under each of the objects (thought only the bottom right is correct). The mismatch between the objects and the meanings of the words reveals the complexity how we as a view gather information from a painting.

663. Clairvoyance

René Magritte. La Clairvoyance (Clairvoyance). Brussels, 1936

Magritte himself is present in this painting, illustrating what his daily work looks like and what he thinks about his work and art itself. Painting is about reproduction – it tells us the truth but also suggests multiplicity. There is no relationship between the egg and the bird and it is something else which is beyond the simply realistic and mechanical reproduction that connects this two objects together.

664. Not to Be Reproduced

René Magritte. La Reproduction interdite (Not to Be Reproduced). Brussels, 1937

The caption of this work is interesting – not to be reproduced. Perhaps this is why the figure behind the mirror refused to turn around his face to us? This hence poses the question on the role of painting as means of reproduction. The figure behind the mirror represents the hidden potential behind our everyday life. More often than not, life and truth is not about what we see but what it is concealed.

665. On the Threshold of Liberty

René Magritte. Au seuil de la liberte (On the Threshold of Liberty). London, 1937

It is hard to imagine what you will really feel if you walk into a room like this. This painting plays with our expectations. One thing to note is that the texture in each plane (for example, the female torso and the wood next to it) and Magritte has applied quite different techniques to achieve that.