L’ART FRANCAISE The history of French art and artists FRANCE… What comes to mind first? Bread, monuments, fashion….ART. For centuries France has been a center for the arts. Exactly how and when? That is what you are about to discover. L’ART PRE-HISTORIQUE
The history of French art and artists
What comes to mind first? Bread, monuments, fashion….ART. For centuries France has been a center for the arts. Exactly how and when? That is what you are about to
Lascaux is a series of 110 pre-historic, underground caves in Montignac, France. These caves were discovered by four young boys and their dog, Robot. Prehistoric men and women drew pictures in these caves to record their different observations of nature. The caves feature drawings of animals such as horses, bulls, birds, and elephants. Drawings were done in color by using different minerals to create different colors. Unfortunately, excessive visitation of the cave by humans started causing discoloration and blurring of the drawings. Lascaux was closed to the public in the late 1980’s and a representation named Lascaux II was constructed.
THE CAVES OF LASCAUX
Click pictures to go to the caves of Lascaux
Many centuries after the drawings of Lascaux
were created, art moved from caves to the
Streets of France. However, just as in prehistoric
times, people used art to make sense of their world.
Each art movement was created in response to one
which preceded it. Some of these responses were
positive, others were negative. Now take a trip from
the time of Quasimodo to the present and see how
French artists have helped to shape today’s world.
The 12th and 13th centuries,
marked changes in architecture
which is best seen in the
glorious cathedrals built in
France. These structures
contained vaulted ceilings,
impressive stained class
windows, and gargoyles on the
exterior to scare away evil
spirits. Notre Dame de Paris
and Le Cathedrale de Chartres
are the most famous examples
of gothic architecture.
Changes in Architecture
Click pictures to take a tour of Notre Dame
Tapestries As History Books
Click to link to the full Bayeux tapestry
Another important aspect of Gothic Art was the tapestries. Fiber art was very popular during this time and was used to keep the common people informed of political and social events. Since the common people were illiterate, these tapestries were viewed as picture history books. One of the most famous tapestries is the Bayeux Tapestry. Created with fifty-eight different designs, it tells the story of the Conquest of England by William of Normandy.
The Art of Light Effects
Influenced by the Italian painter Carvaggio, de la Tour was one of the most important painters of the Baroque art movement. He enjoyed playing with the effects of light in his paintings typically painted one of his subjects holding a candle in order to illuminate their face. He typically used earth-tone colors such as orange and brown in his paintings. Typically the subjects of de la Tour appear to be going through a time of solitude or immobility.
Georges de la Tour
The Dream of Saint Joseph
The Repentant Magdalene
During the Baroque period, another art form began to develop. This movement would come to be called Classical Art. Centered around the art of Greece and Rome, this art form called for a return to classical forms. While Baroque art was extravagant, classical art was simplistic with linear structures and an air of perfection.
Return to the Antique
On a trip to Rome as a young man, Poussin was introduced to his future artistic influence, Cardinal Barberini. Feeling that art should reflect a certain timeless style, Poussin used ancient styles as the basis for his paintings. His main themes were religious, mythical, and philosophic ideas. The people in his paintings were meant to be the central objects. The style created by Poussin still influences artists today.
Like Poussin, Lorraine left France at a young age and moved to Rome. It was there that he became an apprentice to the Italian painter, Agostine Tassi. For many years, Lorraine traveled around Italy sketching landscapes he saw around him. Then, he he transferred these sketches into paintings in his studio. Although there were people in his paintings, he wanted the viewer to focus on the beauty of the landscape.
Nicholas Poussin Claude Lorraine
In the first half of the 18th century another art form would capture the attention of French painters. This new art movement was based on some of the elements of Baroque and on the dislike of Classicism. One of their favorite themes was the “fetes gallants” which depicted the happy lives of the nobility. Also, many paintings seem to be centered around love. A common thread for Rococo paintings is their appearance of being extravagant. The painters made their subjects look elegant and their landscapes full of color.
Art of the Nobility
A leading artist of the Rococo period, Fragonard was influenced by other painters of this time period. He enjoyed painting pleasure scenes and was one of the first to paint natural scenery.
Influenced by Claude Grillot, Watteau was another leading painter in the Rococo period. He was one of the first to paint scenes of the fetes gallants; however, may of his paintings also showed sad times.
Jean Honore Fragonard
Boucher’s artistic influence was actually Watteau. He was the dominant artist during the reign of Louis XV and enjoyed painting portraits and mythical objects.
Dislike of Baroque and Rococo art called for a return to classical styles of painting like that of Poussin and Lorraine. Starting after the French revolution, the goal of neo-classical painters was to show how things should be and to change social problems evolving from the revolution. The paintings can be described as serious and realistic with simple lines and geometric patterns.
Back to the Basics
Ingres’ main artistic influence was his teacher, Jacques-Louis David. In addition to David, Ingres was influenced by the works of Raphael while in Rome. Ingres painted mostly portraits of females and is known for recreating the “image” of the female. Ingres remains one of the most respected painters in history as his works have influenced painters after him.
David’s interest in painting was influenced by his relative Boucher. As a young man, he traveled to Rome where he discovered neo-classical art. Upon his return to France, David participated in the Revolution, which eventually became his main subject. Common themes in David’s paintings were Napoleon and mythological objects.
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During the period of Neo-classicism, the art movement romanticism became popular among independent artists. Contrasting the seriousness of the Neo-classical style, Romantic painters wanted the viewer to use his or her imagination. In fact, Ingres would not allow his students to look at Romantic paintings. It was during this time that a great interest in Oriental and African art began and this would influence some of the Romantic paintings. Typically, the paintings are full of color and emotion with melodramatic, imaginary subjects.
Using the Imagination
Like many painters before him, Gericault spent some time in Rome where he was influenced by the works of Raphael and Michelangelo. He was a leader of the Romantic movement who also spent some time involved in politics. As a result, he developed an interest in the military which is reflected in some of his earlier paintings. Other subjects which interested Gericault were animals, especially horses, and mythological objects.
Influenced by the works of other Romantic painters such as Gericault, Delcaroix soon became one of the leaders of the Romantic movement. Many of his subjects came from novels such as Scott’s novel Ivanhoe. He was interested in painting objects from the Roman period, crucifications, violence, and war. In his paintings, Delacroix showed signs of anticipating the Impressionist movement. His head was on the 100 franc before France switched its type of currency.
Click picture to see more paintings by Gericault
Click picture to see more paintings by Delacroix
Toward the end of the 19th century, some artists began to feel that paintings of imaginary objects or portraits in posed positions were unacceptable topics. Realist painters wanted to show life as it really was and did not believe in making people or things appear better then they were. Therefore, this style was opposed to both Neo-classicism and Romanticism even though the majority of people viewed this forms to be more acceptable. Yet, despite controversy, the Realist movement would eventually became a major influence of the Impressionist movement.
Jean Honore Daumier
Influenced by painters of the 17th century such as Rembrant, Michelangelo, Goya, and Carvaggio, Daumier soon became one of the leading painters of the Realist movement in France. His main themes were paintings of daily life and lawyers. However, like Corot, his paintings were not popular during his life. Daumier also influenced painters of the Impressionist movement.
Another leading painter of the Realist movement, Courbet was influenced by many of the same painters as Daumier. However, he was also influenced by Velazquez and Chardin. Courbet greatly enjoyed painting portraits of him-self. He also enjoyed painting portraits of family members and painting landscapes. Like other painters of this time period, his paintings influenced Impressionist painters.
A painter of the Barbizon school, Corot was not recognized as an important painter until the age of sixty when one of his paintings was bought by Napoleon III. Corot liked to paint landscapes and was one of the first painters to paint his landscapes outside. Some of his other themes include biblical or mythological topics. Several impressionist painters were influenced by the works of Corot.
Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
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At the end of the 19th century, art received a complete overhaul. A new revolution in painting was started in France. This revolution focused on painting the light effects on objects instead of just painting objects. At an exhibition in Paris a reporter noticed the painting of Claude Monet called “Impression Sunrise.” It was this title from which the name of this new art movement, “Impressionism,” was derived. Impressionist painters were interested in painting using natural colors and painting the same object at different times during the day. They used a technique which placed complimentary colors side by side on paintings instead of mixing colors. Most impressionist painters enjoyed painting in open air in order to capture the true effects of objects. Common themes among impressionist painters were the following: coastal scenes, peaceful villages, landscapes, and urban life in Paris. Impressionism and its artists would change all art which followed it
Complete Changes in Art
Born in Paris to rich parents, Manet found an early interest in the arts to the dislike of his parents who wanted him to be a politician or businessman. As a young man, he traveled throughout Europe and studied various art forms. Manet also studied art at the Thomas Couture School He found his main influences to be the paintings of Velazquez and Goya. In addition, he found much enjoyment in the literary works of Baudelaire. This literature had a profound influence on his painting. Manet’s principal themes were of cafes and bars in Paris. He also caused scandals with his paintings of nude women. Most of his paintings use dark colors. Manet is given the honor of being the first Impressionist painter.
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Monet’s family moved from Paris to Normandy when he was five years old. It was there that Monet began sketching water scenes. As a young man, Monet met a landscape painter named Boudin who became Monet’s influence. While Manet started the Impressionist movement, Monet established the guidelines of Impressionist painting. Monet created Optical Mixing, an art technique in which colors were not mixed on the artist’s palette, but instead were mixed by the viewer’s eye. Monet often painted the same subject at different parts of the day to show the different light effects. The subjects which he found most interesting were waterlillies, haystacks, sunsets, and water scenes and most of his paintings were done at his residence at Giverny Today, Monet is credited with being the most influential painter of the Impressionist movement.
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Born to rich parents in 1834, Degas was encouraged to pursue painting by his family. He attended a traditional art school and was influenced by many Italian painters. In 1862, Degas met Monet and the two became good friends. Monet became his Impressionistic influence.
Degas was one of the few Impressionist painters who did not paint outside. He enjoyed painting in series and his most common themes were the ballet and horse racing. He used pastel colors in most paintings and made his subjects appear to be on an angle.
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Auguste Renoir was born to poor parents in 1841. As a young man, he worked at a porcelain factory painting representations of Boucher’s paintings on the porcelain. Eventually through hard-work, he won a place at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. A few years later he met Monet and was influenced by his Impressionist paintings. His main themes were parties and luncheons of life in Paris. Later in life, Renoir abandoned his Impressionist paintings and tried to paint in the style of Romanticism.
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Starting at the end of the 19th century, Post-Impressionist painters wanted to further the new art form which focused on the effect of light on objects. Post-Impressionism is actually a combination of many different art forms as the title loosely refers to art which followed directly after Impressionism. One example of an art form which developed in this time period was Pointillisme which focused on applying tiny dots of color next to each other to create a picture. Other Post-Impressionists replaced the vague brushstrokes with large sweeping brush strokes. They wanted the viewer to use his or her mind to make sense of a painting.
Furthering the Impressionist Movement
Vincent Van Gogh
Gauguin was exposed to the paintings of Delacoix, Daumier, and Corot at a young age, and these paintings became on of his major artistic influences. Also, he bought many paintings by Impressionist painters. After his marriage started to fail, Gauguin moved to Tahitit where he found his favorite subject: Tahitien people.Gaughin lived in Tahiti the rest of his life.
Seurat received formal training in art at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where he became interested in the paintings of Rembrant and Goya. Several years later, Seurat took an interest in the Impressionist painters; however, he took their ideas to a new level. Seurat developed the style Pointillisme, which involves painting tiny dots and lines of color side by side. His main themes are everyday life and still lives.
Van Gogh was actually born in the Netherlands but moved to Belgium a little later in life. He was greatly influenced by many of the Impressionist painters. Many of Van Gogh’s paintings use the color yellow and he is especially known for the use of large brush strokes in his paintings. Van Gogh’s most common themes are landscapes, waterscapes, and portraits.
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Cubism was the first abstract art movement to occur and was influenced by the works of Paul Cezanne and African Art It began in the beginning of the 20th century and used geometric forms as the basis of the paintings. There were two phases to cubism. The first was Analytic Cubism in which artists tried to show objects from many angles. The second was Synthetic Cubism in which an artist created an abstract through use of a collage. Most abstract paintings were of still life objects or were portraits of people.
Art Goes Modern
Along with his good friend, Braque, Picasso began the Cubist movement. He was influenced by Paul Cezanne and African Art. His main themes were portraits and geometric elements. Later in life, Picasso took to doing clown and circus paintings.
Along with Picasso, Braque began the Cubist movement. He was influenced by Paul Cezanne and African Art. Braque’s main themes were still lives and landscapes. Along with Picasso Braque created many abstract paintings and collages.
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Around 1920 another art form began. Although it was first a literary movement, Surrealism took hold of the artistic community as well. The leader of the Surrealist Art Movement was an Italian painter by the name of Giorgio de Chirico. Surrealism tries to get the viewer to use his or her subconscious mind when looking at a painting. Often times, Surrealist art is created by rubbing or scratching on paper. Another common technique involves burning paper to form different patterns and shapes. There are no true themes of surrealism except whatever the artist believes will unlock the power of the subconscious mind.
Using the Subconscious
Magritte studied art at L’Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium. There he was influenced by Cubist and Futurist paintings. Magritte enjoyed playing with his viewer’s mind and often painting a normal object and then claimed that it was not that object. He was concerned with the use of lighting in his objects as he felt this showed the reality of an object. His paintings have become an important aspect of modern art.
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