Gabriel Metsu

Gabriel Metsu
Just as the attribution of individual artworks changes over time, raising or lowering the fortunes of collectors and museums in the process, the perceived importance of particular artists, and their place in art history, changes as well — depending on who is writing history at the time.

Gabriel Metsu was one of the most important and well respected painters of the 17th Century, and remained the star of the Golden Age of Dutch painting well into the 19th. It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that Johannes Vermeer, largely ignored over that time and now held in such high esteem as to approach reverence among some (yours truly included), began to eclipse his contemporary.

Critics in those centuries praised Metsu and wrote of Vermeer as one of his imitators; collectors turned down Vermeers in favor of Metsus, or bought them because they were sold as Metsus.

How history has changed.

Like Vermeer and another contemporary, Pieter de Hooch, Metsu painted scenes of domestic life, often illuminated by light spilling into the room from a window at the very edge of the composition; light that is given a character of its own and a stage of objects and a wall in the room on which to perform.

The other characters, the people in the scenes, also had their parts as actors. Where Vermeer’s luxuriously clad young men an women live in an enigmatic suspension of time, their thoughts and purpose only vaguely hinted at, Metsu was more of an overt storyteller, with clearer emotional suggestions, though his stories were also left largely to the imagination of the viewer.

Man Writing a Letter (above, top) and Woman Reading a Letter (second down) were meant as companion pieces, each suggesting part of the same story. Metsu’s genre scenes spoke to the character of his times, and found wide acceptance among collectors. Vermeer, though a product of his times, was perhaps not indicative of them, and has risen to a higher status in the last 100 years than he found in his own age.

Metsu is receiving renewed attention, however, in part due to an exhibition of 35 of his most highly regarded works organized by the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, in cooperation with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Having been on view in the other two venues, the show is now at the National Gallery in Washington until July 24, 2011. There is a catalog, Gabriel Metsu, Rediscovered Master of the Dutch Golden Age (more here), accompanying the exhibition, and I’ve gathered some reviews and resources below.

Far from being disadvantageous, it may be that comparisons to Vermeer’s work, particularly in paintings like the two at top and Woman with a Sick Child (third down) spark interest among 21st Century art lovers, bringing Metsu back into the light and place in history that he deserves.

[Suggestion courtesy of Eric Lee Smith]


Judsons Plein Air Journal

Judsons Plein Air Journal
Judsons Art Outfitters is a company that manufactures and sells plein air painting supplies, including a popular line of pochade boxes (see my 2008 post on pochade boxes).

Since 2008, they have been maintaining a blog on plein air artists both contemporary and historic, plein air techniques, plein air competitions and other events of interest to plein air painters, and of course, materials.

The blog, titled Judsons Plein Air Journal, inclides short profiles of the featured artists, along with sample images and links to their websites.

In 2010 they moved the blog from its original home on Blogger and integrated it into their main product website. The archives are now on the new site as well, though you may find them easier to browse using the right hand menu bar on the old blog.


Carter Goodrich

Carter Goodrich
Illustrator, author and character designer Carter Goodrich has a drawing a rendering style that is so springy, energetic and full of lively linework and color, that it’s just a complete joy to look through his portfolio.

Even though his website has fairly extensive galleries of his book illustrations, New Yorker covers, editorial illustrations and character design for films like Despicable Me, Ratatouille, Shreck and Finding Nemo, I came away wanting more.

Goodrich’s film work has garnered him multiple AISFA Annie award nominations, and the award itself for his designs for Ratatouille.

His books as author and illustrator include A Creature was Stirring, The Hermit Crab and Say Hello to Zorro.

[Suggestion courtesy of Chris Sheban (see my post on Chris Sheban)]


Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Van Otterloo Collection

Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the van Otterloo Collection -  Gerritt Dou, Jan van der Heyden, Isaack Kodijck, Rembrandt, Willem Claesz
Extraordinary examples of works form the golden era of Dutch and Flemish painting, drawn from what is one of the finest collections still in private hands, are on display at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts until June 19, 2011.

Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection showcases almost 70 works from the collection, the owners of which have been called “the most important collectors you’ve never heard of” by arts writer Judith Dobrzynski.

The section for the exhibit on the museum’s website shows 12 of the paintings. In addition there are two interactive features, accessed from links in the right-hand column, highlighting Jan van der Heyden’s View of the WesterKerk, Amsterdam (image above, second down), and Isaack Kodijck’s Barber-Surgeon Tending a Peasant’s Foot (above, third down).

Contemporary painter Jeffrey Hayes, who I’ve written about previously, was kind enough to let me know about the exhibit. He has an enthusiastic review of it on his site in which he remarks in particular about the two works in the show by Gerritt Dou (image above, top).

The collectors promise that their remarkable collection is destined to be made public at some point, but have not made any announcements about a specific museum that might wind up as home to the works.

(Images above; Gerritt Dou, Jan van der Heyden, Isaack Kodijck, Rembrandt van Rijn, Willem Claesz)


Jeffrey Catherine Jones, 1944-2011

I was sorry to hear that Jeffrey Catherine Jones died yesterday at the age of 67.

Jones, As I reported in my brief 2006 post, was an influential fantasy artist and illustrator who also did comics and gallery art.

Part of The Studio, a renowned group of illustrators and comics artists in the 1970’s that included Barry Windsor-Smith, Berni Wrightson and Michael William Kaluta, Jones had been called “the greatest living painter” by Frank Frazetta.

Jones helped introduce classical art themes into comics, but was primarily known for her atmospheric, painterly and wonderfully textural paintings for fantasy book covers.

There are a couple of collections of Jones’ work that appear to be out of print, but can be found used: The Art of Jeffrey Jones, Jeffrey Jones: A Life in Art and Age of Innocence: The Romantic Art of Jeffrey Jones. There is also a Jeffrey Jones Sketchbook, which is more readily available.

Maria Cabardo has been working on a film about Jones’ life and art titled Better Things: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones. Her studio, MaCab films, initiated a Kickstarter project to fund the film but it fell short. I believe they are still soliciting donations directly, though I don’t know the current status of the project. There is another clip here.

There is a nice tribute to Jones on the Muddy Colors blog.

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin is a trove of magazine covers and advertising illustration from the decades around the turn of the 20th Century.

Though a number of names of illustrators from that era have become familiar, many many more are still obscure, rarely featured or highlighted. The illustrations in the archives are heavy on the latter, light on the former.

If you dig, you can find some gems by artists like Maxfield Parrish (above, second down) Coles Phillips (4th down) and others.

The real draw here, though, is the unknown artists, both good and wonderfully cheesy. There is a search feature, but discoveries are best made by browsing.

You can start off in galleries sorted by topic (note the numbered links at bottom to subsequent pages) and drill down into individual titles.

Don’t be hasty to pass up categories that might not be of interest to you as a reader. Some of the best illustrations are in women’s magazines and weekly titles like Collier’s; some of the most fun are in the science magazines and pulps.