Could I put my hand up please! – and you?
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-1886, The Art Institute of Chicago. This picture which took Seurat two years to complete shows members of each of the social classes participating in various park activities.
Recently the New York Times described the Grand Tour in this way: “Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western Civilisation. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.” (Oxbridge = a term for Oxford and Cambridge Universities)
This genre and the ‘invention of the Grand Tour’, by mainly upper-class European young men of means, meant the custom flourished, demanding that other countries be investigated, wondered at and explored – opening up hitherto unknown Europe to its residents.
This tour will gently guide you along the way with some artists in this period whose notecards I bought to reply to letters or birthday cards received from family and friends. The pack contains five cards – and we start at the beginning with Canaletto (1697 – 1768) who painted the “Grand Canal from the Palazzo Balbi” in Venice.
The River Thames from Richmond House: a classic veduta by Canaletto, 1747.
Canaletto came to England in 1746 to be nearer his market ... he had been selling his paintings to Englishmen on their Grand Tour, through an agent,... and apart from painting London scenes, he travelled to see England, as his picture of Alnwick Castle shows in this post.
Canaletto and many artists from this period until the late 1800s practised the art of ‘vedute’ and were mainly known as vedutisti (“landscape or cityscape painters”). Two cards from Austrian artists the first of The Grand Canal Venice by the old master Franz Richard Unterberger (1838 – 1902); the second by Charles Euphraise Kuwasseg (1838 – 1904) of a continental river scene – but here I show a painting of the Battle of Fuzhou; his father had emigrated to Paris from Austria and both father and son specialised in landscapes.
Chinese ships Yangwu and Fuxing being attacked by French torpedo boats No. 46 and No. 45 at the Battle of Fuzhou. Combat Naval De Fou-Tcheou by Charles Kuwasseg, 1885.
The next artist is Paul Madeline (1863 – 1920), who also specialised in landscapes, but who went and settled in an artists’ commune at Crozant, in central France. This particular commune confirms The New York Times’ statement that those early tourists would find here art, culture and the roots of Western Civilisation.
Creuse River in Argenton-sur-Creuse
The River Creuse, on which Crozant sits, rises in the granite foothills of the Massif Central, while the limestone plains to the north form part of the Paris basin. This geographical boundary provides another frontier – a linguistic one.
To the north the languages of Anglo-Norman and Old French (langue d'oïl) influenced the northern tongues of England, Flanders, Germany, Normandy – including the Old French speaking dialects and languages that developed in the States and Canada; while the southern languages of Occitan (langue d’oc) influenced the tongues of southern France, Spain and Italy.
My fifth card is by the Italian painter Angelo Morbelli (1853 – 1919) – and is exactly this picture: A view of the Isola Bella. However Morbelli, along with many others, became influenced by the ‘divisionist’ techniques being promulgated in the latter half of the 1800s.
Divisonism was the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting defined by the separation of colours into individual dots or patches which interacted optically. By requiring the viewer to combine the colours optically instead of physically mixing pigments, divisionists believed they were achieving the maximum luminosity scientifically possible. This was the period where scientific theories of vision encouraged a departure from the tenets of Impressionism: Seurat (1859 - 1891) was a major artist practising this form, which he called Chromoluminarism.
This ties in with a link provided by Delia Lloyd, who is an American writer/journalist based in London – where she blogs about adulthood (when do we get there?), fun intellectual items, and has links to her political and social inputs on Daily Shows, political shows et al ... worth a check out.
Delia highlighted this website – the Modern Art Time Line .. and what an interesting site it is .. if you want technicolour – go here!! Also if you want to know a little more about Modern Art .. then here’s the place to get a colourful overview.
Our Grand Tour is finished for this letter .. but I have a feeling we will be back, especially as I have just paid a visit to the Gauguin Exhibiton at the Tate Modern on the South Bank of the Thames.
So the notecards reached across the genre of ‘verdute’ originating in Flanders in the 16th century, which became more and more popular each century appealing to the local pride of the wealthy, until in the 18th century the locations were included in the itinerary of the Grand Tours undertaken from about 1660 to the advent of the railways in the mid 1800s.
These five artists also as, I uncovered their (to me) unknown qualities, confirmed the travelling intellectuals’ search for art – ‘verdutisti’, culture of each country and then the early linguistic divide between the north of Europe and the southern parts, before today’s languages evolved.
This set of ‘Waterscapes: Beautiful Notecards for all Occasions’ have provided another occasion – a Positive Letter post, where we have discovered that the movement of art and artists opened up Europe to its citizens in way that had previously been unheard of.
Giacomo Quarenghi. View of Terem Palace in Moscow (1797).
The peoples of all Europe, as these travels reached Russia in its days of empire, could see places they were unlikely to visit, could learn more of the cultural and historical contexts from the ‘veduti’ paintings ... leading to new travels, new learning, a new desire to know and understand other lands.
We are extremely lucky to have access to these works of art, which in reverse can teach us of times gone by. The Grand Tour loop, as I call it, goes on ... peoples now travel to see Old Masters' exhibitions and explore some of that city and country ... modern artists interpret our world of today for future generations to wonder at ... also no doubt in card format to, I hope, write letters to friends and family – or perhaps post about .. an open letter.
Jannie .. has given us a link to the photo recreation of Seurat's La Grande Jatte .. please go here for it.
Dear Mr Postman – my mother expressed her thanks to everyone who sent her birthday wishes, and she is amazed that so many care .. – so thank you very much. Amy from Soul Dipper replied to a comment I made re my mother .. which brought home to me something “I’d forgotten” ..
"Thanks, Hilary. My oldest brother emailed me after reading this post, commenting how our mother taught us lots. He shares memories of good parenting. He was the brother who helped immensely after our mother had her stroke. I purposely did not say “suffered” a stroke because I’m not sure she did suffer. I suspect she lived in her right hemisphere in a state of bliss – as per Jill Bolte Taylor on Ted.com."
As I mention in my reply – I’m not sure my mother is completely at this point – as her left-side brain kicks in quite often! She is aware .. but emotion is not an option (left-side part not working properly – but there). Amy makes a good point and I was grateful for her reminder... it provides a 'sense of relief' ...
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