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The art exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has a very interesting collection from all over the world. I will seek to compare and contrast two unique pieces; one is an oil painting by François Broucher, and two is an etching by Rembrandt Van Rijn.
A lady fastening her garter
It is an oil painting by François Boucher done in 1772 with 52.5x66.5 cm dimensions. The painting came from the Museo Thyssen- BorneMisza, Madrid, and was done during the Rococo period of art. It is part of the collection dubbed “Life and Luxury: The art of living in the 18th century Paris”. The painting is of a woman adjusting her garter with another female looking on. The setting of the painting is la toilette as both ladies are dressed in half coats that were used to prevent make up and powder wig from dripping on the dress. In the 18th century, the act of dressing and grooming was done in public. The lady would be sponge bathed by the maid, and spend her morning hours grooming hair, and sometimes entertaining in her la toilette.
The painting show a lady seated fixing her garter to her left, is a table covered with a lace, a cat below her feet and mirrors, which made-up her toilette set. There is also a dressing screen behind her and a decorative chair too. The fashion in this painting shows that it was done mid 18th century in France. The painter is one of the most extravagantly gifted, and major painters of his time, admitted to the academie royale de peintres et de sculpture as a history painter. At this time, he focused on gallant mythology (nude female bodies and gods).
The rococo style of painting followed the baroque and characterized by more ornate, fanciful, and very aesthetic works. There was an increased use of delicate colors, carving forms, cherubs and myths of love and portraiture. The Rococo style was born at the end of the Baroque era and lasted from 1700 to around 1760 and was based on artificial make beliefs, a lot of light and fine details. The painter throughout his work, especially this piece, he demonstrates a love for voluptuous formed and use of a wide color palette He was a remarkable painter that also engraved , designed opera sets and did tapestry. He was chosen as peinture du Roi and did a lot of paintings for Louis XV and his mistress.
Jupiter and Antoipe
This is 1659 etching by Rembrandt van Rijn, a Dutch artist, and the greatest draftsman in history. His favorite media was red and black chalk, brushes/washes and ink with reed or quill pens. This piece of work is on exhibition in the Museum of Fine Art Houston, and its dimensions are 140x205mm, described as an etching with engraving and dry point. Its part of the “Acid on metal: The art of etching and Aquatint” at the museum. The print is an erotic etching of a god (Jupiter as a satyr about to ravish a sleeping woman Antoipe). It’s a classical mythology about a Greek god who turned himself into a satyr to be able to have the princess Antoipe.
Rembrandt was an artist that specialized in etchings, drawings and paintings. He used these techniques to express mist intimate human expressions. Etching was a type of engraving that used acid to make impression on metal plates that were then transferred to prints. His work is characterized by a lot of self portraits, people’s faces and situations and a lot of bible themes. His etching work was so unique in that even after teaching his pupils who copied his style, there was something so unique about his fluid movements and use of light that made his work stand out. This print inspired on of Picasso’s greatest works” the faun unveiling a sleeping woman in 1936”.
Formal analyses of these two art works
In the formal analyses I will focus on lines, forms, light, movement, composition, space, depth, color and techniques. François use bold defined lines to articulate form in his oil painting of the lady and her garter together with the lines to create a pleasant design. The features of all objects in the painting are well outlined. Rembrandts etchings have variety of lines to bring out the form. There is a mixture of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines in the print. Lines have also been used to bring tonal variation as seen on the sleeping ladies hips, the satyr’s hips and under arms. He uses bolder lines where there are shadows to show the distinction of the form and the shadow. Rembrandt’s etchings are characterized by the use of lines to express intimate human emotion.
Lighting used by François is consistent with the art style of that period that emphasized on a lot of natural light and fine details. The light in the painting seems to come from the front of the seated lady as the shadow is falling right behind her, and the door to her right. In Jupiter and Antiope’s print, the artist uses light to bring the contrast created by shadows. Most of the sleeping woman’s body is bathed by the light, creating the focal point of the picture. The light brings her closer to the fore ground than Jupiter’s body, which lights up ¾ view of the face. This technique has been adopted by many photographers is lighting their work. It flatters the subject as it slims down the face, and highlights the cheek while creating an illusion of depth.
The form in François’s painting is solidly brought out as each object is clearly visible in relation to the other objects in the painting. In Rembrandt’s print, there only two subject who are clearly defined. There is solidity in the print as one is so drawn by the two figures, and one hardly realizes there are no other objects in the painting.
The lady with the garter painting has a range of colors that brings out the harmony of the picture. The colors range from light to dark, and since it is an oil painting, colors are more emphasized by the natural glow from paints. There is distinct coloration on the seated lady’s face; one can even see the small mole on her face and the rouged cheeks. The predominant colors are the primary colors; blue, and red, while other colors are brown and blue green. The etching by Rembrandt has brown color and black in these etched lines. He uses lines, shade and shadow to bring contrast in the painting compared to the other painting.
François’s painting has different tone that is brought about by the different colors used by the artist. The lighting that seems to be coming from the lady’s right side emphasizes her face, clothes and the screen behind. There is a darker tone as the focus shifts to the fire place and where her companion is standing. The theme of François painting is historical bourgeois art that depicts the fashion and lifestyle in France in the18th century. It uses the natural light to show what time of the day the painting depicts. The Tone in Jupiter’s and Antiope’s print is used to create a sensual mood. The use of the shadow and alternating brilliant light in the print is more predominant than in François painting.
The technique used by Rembrandt is bold strokes that bring out the texture of the print. These bold strokes are made by the etching technique that uses metal plates that are etched on using acid then printed onto paper. François, on the other hand, uses a very smooth finish of paint that gives the painting a fluid feel. The lady’s clothes in Francois painting are painted in a way; one can feel the texture of the material. The texture is depicted in two dimensions. The texture of various objects in the room provide functional as well as the decorative feel in the painting.
The illusion of depth is created in the painting by François with the use of different colors and intensity. The fore ground is the lady and her companion while the background is the painting on the wall and the screen. There are natural shapes in both art works. Rembrandt’s prints have the tonal modeling that has been created by modeling the figure internally using delicate shading to give it the 3D effect. Both art works come from different eras with different styles and themes. The Rembrandt print was done in 1659, during the Dutch golden age. The painter did some painting, as well; but the etching is what gave him that edge and made his artwork stand out. By use of the etching, he uses lines and shapes to bring out the expression and gestures. To be able to compare and contrast the different art works one must understand the painters behind this creativity.
Rembrandt was a Dutch painter that did not have formal training, whereas François studied at the academie royale de peinture et sculpture in France. François was very successful in his career as a painter; he was even commission by the King to do some paintings for him. During that period, Paris was the hub of fashion in the world, and a lot trend setting activities. The height of la toilette process was at that time, and a lot of what François painted around this time depicted that. That explains the painting of the lady fixing her garter. The ritual of dressing in the morning in 18th century Paris was a process and part of the aristocratic life. This influenced his paintings a lot, and his work is well known for the sensuous portrayal of the human body.
Rembrandt, on the other hand, did not have the same luck as François. When he married and moved to Amsterdam, he was successful for a while and met very people that influenced his paintings. His life was struck by tragedy when his wife and 3 children died, and despite of all the apparent success, he had to declare bankruptcy. He was a person in touch with emotions. This is seen throughout his work, in his paintings and drawings. Both artists were fascinated by mythology as seen in Rembrandts print of Jupiter and Antoipe. This Greek mythology, that tells of how Zeus fancied the princess of the river god, so he changed into a satyr and had relations with her.
François painted various works depicting gods, cherubim, for example, the painting of Venus consoling love. Each of these artists was a master in their genres and influenced artists for many generations. Those two paintings are a marvel, and I like the perfect finish of the Rembrandt and the sensual emotions it provokes. The lady in her Garter just brings 18th Century France to life, the excess, the fashion and luxury.