Category Archives: Eye Candy for Today

Eye Candy for Today: Edward Poynter’s Lesbia and Her Sparrow

Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter
Lesbia and Her Sparrow, Sir Edward John Poynter

Link is to downloadable high-res file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in a private collection; information on the painting can be found in the Bonham’s auction page for its last sale.

The painting is a reference to accounts by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus of his affair with the wife of a prominent Roman statesman — for whom he uses the pseudonym “Lesbia” — and her pet sparrow, on which she lavishes affection that the poet wishes were turned to him.

There is background on Lesbia on this Wikipedia page, including other artists’ interpretations, and additional background on Lesbia and Catullus here.

I find this painting fascinating for the semi-stippled textural paint application that provides the soft edges on the face, hands and grapes in particular. The painting is in oil, but the technique reminds me of an approach often taken in Victorian watercolors.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Meléndez still life with apples

Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle, Luis Melendez
Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle, Luis Meléndez

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Museu Nacional D’Arte De Catalunya.

Here is another beautiful still life by 17th century Spanish master Luis Egidio Meléndez.

I’m particularly fascinated in this arrangement by the dark bottle and equally dark grapes as a counterpoint to the more prominent foreground objects. The entire composition seems to play with light against dark and dark against light, though for the most part with subtle variations in value.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Frederic Leighton’s Winding the Skein


Winding the Skein, Lord Frederic Leighton

Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

I think the Google Art Project version — and the downloadable version of that file on Wikimedia Commons — are too warm and saturated. The images on the Art Gallery of New South Wales site are much lighter and seem more naturalistic (in contrast to the tendency many museums have to post images that are too dark). For the images above, I’ve adjusted the file from Wikimedia Commons to be closer in appearance to the smaller images from the museum.

While the Art Gallery of NSW doesn’t offer a high resolution image, they do feature a number of detail enlargements on their page for the painting.

Leighton’s dreamily idealized bit of labor is set against the backdrop of a real place, the bay of Lindos on the Greek island of Rhodes.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Willem Claesz Heda’s Banquet Piece with Mince Pie

Banquet Piece with Mince Pie,
Banquet Piece with Mince Pie, Willem Claesz Heda

Oil on canvas, roughly 56 x 58 inches (143 x 147 cm).

In the National Gallery of Art, DC, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version. The largest downloadable version (which requires a free sign-in account) is 4000 pixels wide and 20 MB in file size.

There is also a zoomable file on Google Art Project, and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons. The largest version of the latter is even larger, at 10,000 pixels wide and 43 MB in file size.

Grand paintings of luxurious meals served in expensive dinnerware — or the aftermath of such meals — were popular with the wealthy merchant class in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Willem Claesz (Claeszoon) Heda was one of the supreme masters of the form.

It’s interesting to compare his paintings in this genre to his similarly masterful contemporary Pieter Claesz.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Abraham Brueghel still life

Pomegranates and Other Fruit in a Landscape, Abraham Brueghel
Pomegranates and Other Fruit in a Landscape, Abraham Brueghel

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art; use the download or zoom links under their image.

This 17th century still life is an example of how tenuous the attribution of historic art can be. Over time, it has been ascribed to Diego Velázquez, Giuseppe Ruoppoli, and Giovanni Paolo Spadino.

The current attribution is to Flemish painter Abraham Brueghel (son of Jan Brueghel the Younger, grandson of Jan Brueghel the Elder and great Grandson of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, quite a family heritage).

Still life set against a landscape is not an unusual compositional device in painting, but this one looks wonderfully strange. If you take the background shapes to be mountains, the three fruits in the background are atop and escarpment, and those in the right foreground seem to hang above a waterfall.

Whether still life at a giant scale is actually the artists intention, I don’t know, but I enjoy being able to interpret it that way. I also like the tiny (and/or giant) lizard in the foreground.

Regardless of illusions of scale — intended or imagined on my part — it’s a beautiful still life.

It’s naturalistic at a distance, but I love how brushy and painterly this is in close-up — wonderful for a 17th century still life — the apples, figs and grapes look as though they might have come off the brush of Manet, 200 year later.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Conrad Martens landscape

One of the falls on the Apsley, Conrad Martens
One of the falls on the Apsley, Conrad Martens

Watercolor and gouache, 18 x 24 inches (66 x 46 cm); in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Their image is zoomable, even though they don’t give a visible indication to that effect — click on their image to enlarge. There is also a zoomable version on Google Art Project and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.

Though the landscape looks like a cross between Chinese ink paintings of stylized mountains and a fantasy artist’s interpretation of Conan Doyle’s Lost World, this beautiful watercolor by English-Australian painter Conrad Martens is of a real place in New South Wales, Australia.

Reportedly, Martens exaggerated the height a bit for dramatic effect, confronted with the challenge of conveying the feeling of a place like this in an relatively small painting.

Martins has combined transparent and opaque watercolors here to great effect — in particular, using the bold qualities of the former in the foreground, and the delicate atmospheric quality of the latter in the distance.

I love the attention to the texture of the foreground trees, and little touches like the break in the trees at the top left of the middle prominence (images above, third down).

This is one of those dramatic landscape vistas that artists anchor to the foreground with closer details to give them scope and a point of context for the viewer. It’s intersting to compare this to another of Martens’ paintings of the same region, Apsley Falls, in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 
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