Sunday, November 5, 2017

Figurative Watercolors from 19th-century Europe

Johann Christoph Erhard
Painter Johann Adam Klein at the easel in his studio in the Palais Chotek in Vienna
Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin

"August Comte remarked that mental equilibrium was, first and foremost, due to the fact that the physical objects of our daily contact change little or not at all, providing us with an image of permanence and stability.  They give us a feeling of order and tranquility, like a silent and immobile society unconcerned with our own restlessness and changes of mood.  In truth, much mental illness is accompanied by a breakdown of contact between thought and things, as it were, an inability to recognize familiar objects, so that the victim finds himself in a fluid and strange environment totally lacking familiar reference points.  So true is it that our habitual images of the external world are inseparable from our self that this breakdown is not limited to the mentally ill.  We ourselves may experience a similar period of uncertainty, as if we had left behind our whole personality, when we are obliged to move to novel surroundings and have not yet adapted to them."

"More is involved than merely the discomfort accompanying a change of motor habits.  Why does a person become attached to objects?  Why does he wish that they would never change and could always keep him company?  Let us leave aside for the moment any considerations of convenience or aesthetics.  Our physical surroundings bear our and others' imprint.  . . .  Although one may think otherwise, the reason members of a group remain united, even after scattering and finding nothing in their new physical surroundings to recall the home they have left, is that they think of the old home and its layout.  Even after the priests and nuns of Port-Royal were expelled, nothing was really affected so long as the buildings of the abbey stood and those who remembered them had not died."

 Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945), from On Collective Memory, translated by Lewis A. Coser (University of Chicago Press, 1992)

William Blake
St Peter and St James with Dante and Beatrice
ca. 1824-27
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Richard Parkes Bonington
Venetian Scene
ca. 1828
Wallace Collection, London

Hendrik Jan van Amerom
Reading Man
before 1833
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"It may be that, in the imaginary representation that an individual of the beginning of the twenty-first century forms of the world, space and time have come to the point of merging and exchanging their properties.  We know that time is spontaneously identified with succession, and space with simultaneity.  Let us repeat, then, that we now live in times in which nothing disappears anymore but everything accumulates under the effect of a frenetic archiving, times in which fashions have ceased to follow one another and instead coexist as short-lived trends, in which styles are no longer temporal markers but ephemeral displacements that take place indiscriminately in time or space.  Hype, or fashion miniaturized.  For modernism, the past represented tradition, and it was destined to be supplanted by the new.  For postmodernism, historical time took the form of a catalogue or repertoire.  Today the past is defined in territorial terms: when one travels, it is often to change epochs.  Conversely, to consult a book of art history today is to encounter a geography of contemporary styles and techniques."

 Nicolas Bourriaud, from The Radicant (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2009)

Eduard Bendemann
Gymnastic Games
ca. 1838
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Théodore Chassériau
Sophie leaping into the sea from the Leucadian promontory
ca. 1840
Louvre, Paris

Franz Xavier Winterhalter
Victoria and Albert wearing fancy dress ball costumes from the time of Charles II
Royal Collection, Windsor

Eugène Delacroix
before 1863
British Museum 
formerly owned by Edgar Degas

Eugène Boudin
Women on a Beach
Morgan Library, New York

"Try to understand what I paint and what I'm now writing.  I'm going to explain: in my painting, as in my writing, I try to see strictly within the moment when I see  and not to see through the memory of having seen in an instant now past.  The instant is that.  The instant is of an imminence that takes my breath away.  The instant is in itself imminent.  At the same time that I live it, I hurl myself into its passage to another instant."

 Clarice Lispector (1920-1977), from The Stream of Life, translated by Elizabeth Lowe and Earl Fitz (University of Minnesota Press, 1989)

Honoré Daumier
Saltimbanques changing places
ca. 1865
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

Gustave Moreau
Diomedes devoured by Horses
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Paul Cézanne
Bathers at Rest
ca. 1875-77
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo

 Louisa Anne Beresford
Mrs Walter Alexander and Captain Ogle examining a folio
National Portrait Gallery, London

Constantin Guys
before 1892
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC