Tag Archives: Painting

Josef and Anni Albers, German-American Artistic Power Couple


Even if you don’t recognize Josef Alber’s name, you’ve probably seen some of his paintings of colorful squares.

Josef Albers (1888–1976) was a teacher, writer, painter, and color theorist, best known for the Homages to the Square he painted between 1950 and 1976 and for his innovative 1963 publication (at age 75) Interaction of Color. Anni Albers (1899–1994) was a textile designer, weaver, writer, and printmaker who regarded fabrics as an art form, both in their functional roles and as wall hangings. Together, they influenced modern art in both Germany and the United States.

The couple met in Weimar, Germany in 1922 at the Bauhaus. Founded three years earlier, the Bauhaus transformed modern design and emphasized the relationship between art, architecture, and crafts.

Before enrolling as a student at the Bauhaus in 1920, Josef taught in an elementary school; then, following studies in Berlin, he became an art instructor.

At the Bauhaus, he started to make glass assemblages from trash he found at the Weimar town dump and from stained glass; he then made sandblasted glass constructions and designed large stained-glass windows for houses and buildings. He also designed furniture and household objects.

In 1925, he was the first Bauhaus student to be asked to join the faculty. In the late 1920s, he took photographs and made photo-collages documenting Bauhaus life.

Throughout Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann’s childhood in Berlin, she had been encouraged by her parents to study drawing and painting. But she rebelled against her privileged upbringing by entering the Bauhaus in 1922. She enrolled in the weaving workshop because it was the only course of study open to her.

She and Josef, eleven years apart in age, met shortly after her arrival in Weimar. They were married in Berlin in 1925—and Annelise Fleischmann became Anni Albers.

At the Bauhaus, Anni experimented with new materials for weaving and became a bold abstract artist. She used straight lines and solid colors to make works on paper and wall hangings. In her functional textiles she experimented with metallic thread and horsehair as well as traditional yarns.

In 1925 the Bauhaus moved to the city of Dessau to a building designed by Walter Gropius, the architect who had founded the school. In November, 1933, the Bauhaus shut its doors rather than abide by the restrictions of the Nazis, and Josef and Anni Albers were invited to the United States when Josef was asked to design the curriculum at the newly established Black Mountain College in North Carolina. They remained at Black Mountain until 1949, while Josef continued his exploration of a range of printmaking techniques, took off as an abstract painter, and became an ever more influential teacher who wrote about the arts and education. Anni made extraordinary weavings, developed new textiles, and taught, while also writing essays on design that reflected her independent and passionate vision. Meanwhile, the Alberses began making frequent trips to Mexico, a country that captivated their imagination and had a strong effect on their art.

In 1950, the Alberses moved to Connecticut. From 1950 to 1958, Josef Albers was chairman of the Department of Design at the Yale University School of Art. There, and as guest teacher at art schools throughout North and South America and in Europe, he trained a whole new generation of art teachers.

In 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Interaction of Color, Yale released an interactive iPad app based on the principles of the book:

In 1971, Josef Albers was the first living artist ever to be honored with a solo retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Also that year, Josef Albers established a not-for-profit organization to further “the revelation and evocation of vision through art.” Today, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is devoted to preserving and promoting the enduring achievements of both Josef and Anni Albers, and the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived. Most of the information for this article came from their website, where photos of their work can be viewed. (You can even purchase kits to make some of Anni’s jewelry designs.)

At the time of his death in New Haven, Connecticut in 1976, Josef was still working on his Homages to the Square and his Structural Constellations, deceptively simple compositions in which straight lines create illusory forms, and which became the basis of prints, drawings, and large wall reliefs on public buildings all over the world.

While Josef taught at Yale, Anni Albers continued to weave, design, and write. In 1963 she began to explore printmaking and experimented with the medium in unprecedented ways while developing further as an abstract artist. Her text On Weaving was published in 1965.

Here are some of Anni’s prints, textiles, and jewelry:

The Alberses devoted themselves to their work and pursued it regardless to the trends and shifting fashions of the art world. They had an extraordinary relationship and, while never collaborating on art work other than their highly inventive Christmas cards and Easter eggs, fostered one another’s creativity and shared the profound conviction that art was central to human existence.

Following Josef’s death, Anni Albers helped oversee her husband’s legacy while expanding her own printmaking and textile design until her death in 1994.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, but lived much of her adult life in France, where she befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt is known for her images of women, especially her intimate scenes of mothers and children.

393px-Mary_Cassatt_-_The_Child's_Bath_-_Google_Art_ProjectCassatt grew up in an environment that viewed travel as integral to education; she spent five years of her childhood in Europe and visited many of the capitals, including London, Paris, and Berlin. While abroad she learned German and French and had her first lessons in drawing and music. It is likely that her first exposure to French artists was at the Paris World’s Fair of 1855. Also in the exhibition were Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, both of whom were later her colleagues and mentors.

Though her family objected to her becoming a professional artist, Cassatt began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia at the age of 15. Part of her parents’ concern may have been Cassatt’s exposure to feminist ideas and the bohemian behavior of some of the male students. As such, Cassatt and her network of friends were lifelong advocates of equal rights for the sexes.

Cassatt_Mary_Children_on_the_Beach_1884Although about 20 percent of the Academy’s students were female, most viewed art as a useful skill for a homemaker; few of them were interested, as Cassatt was, to make a career out of art. She continued her studies from 1861 through 1865. Then, impatient with the slow pace of instruction and the patronizing attitude of the male students and teachers, she decided to study the old masters on her own, leaving the Academy. After overcoming her father’s objections, she moved to Paris in 1866, with her mother and family friends acting as chaperones.

Cassatt_corner_logeSince women could not yet attend the École des Beaux-Arts, Cassatt studied privately with Jean-Léon Gérôme, a highly regarded teacher known for his hyper-realistic technique and his depiction of exotic subjects. Cassatt augmented her artistic training with daily copying in the Louvre. The museum also served as a meeting place for Frenchmen and American female students, who, like Cassatt, were not allowed to attend cafes where the avant-garde socialized.

626px-Mary_Cassatt_-_The_Boating_Party_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe French art scene was changing. Radical artists such as Manet tried to break away from accepted Academic tradition and the Impressionists were in their formative years. Cassatt, however, continued to work in the traditional manner, submitting works to the Salon for over ten years, with increasing frustration with her lack of acceptance.

504px-Offering_the_Panal_to_the_Bullfighter,_Mary_CassattCassatt observed that works by female artists were often dismissed with contempt unless the artist had a friend or protector on the jury, and she would not flirt with jurors to curry favor. Her cynicism grew when one of the two pictures she submitted in 1875 was refused by the jury, only to be accepted the following year after she darkened the background.

In 1877, both her entries were rejected, and for the first time in seven years, she had no works in the Salon. At this low point in her career, she was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists, a rebellious group that had begun their own series of independent exhibitions. The Impressionists had no formal manifesto and varied considerably in subject matter and technique. They tended to prefer Plein air painting and the application of vibrant color in separate strokes with little pre-mixing, which allows the eye to merge the results in an “impressionistic” manner. The Impressionists endured the critics’ disdain.

458px-Cassatt_Mary_Jules_Being_Dried_by_His_Mother_1900Cassatt admired Degas, whose pastels had made a powerful impression on her when she encountered them in an art dealer’s window in 1875. “I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art,” she later recalled. “It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” She accepted Degas’ invitation with enthusiasm and began preparing paintings for the next Impressionist show, which took place on April 10, 1879. She felt comfortable with the Impressionists and, unable to attend cafes with them without attracting unfavorable attention, she met with them privately and at exhibitions. She now hoped for commercial success selling paintings to the sophisticated Parisians who preferred the avant-garde. Her style had gained a new spontaneity during the intervening two years. Previously a studio-bound artist, she had adopted the practice of carrying a sketchbook with her while out-of-doors or at the theater and recording the scenes she saw.

457px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_Woman_in_a_Red_Bodice_and_Her_Child_-_Mary_Cassatt_-_overallIn 1877, Cassatt was joined in Paris by her father and mother, who returned with her sister Lydia, all eventually to share a large apartment. This suited Mary since she had decided early in life that marriage would be incompatible with her career.

Under Degas’ tutelage, she became extremely proficient in the use of pastels, eventually creating many of her most important works in this medium. Degas also introduced her to etching, of which he was a recognized master. The two worked side-by-side for a while, and her draftsmanship gained considerable strength under his tutelage. He depicted her in a series of etchings recording their trips to the Louvre. She treasured his friendship but learned not to expect too much from his fickle and temperamental nature after a project they were collaborating on at the time, a proposed journal devoted to prints, was abruptly dropped by him. The sophisticated and well-dressed Degas, then forty-five, was a welcome dinner guest at the Cassatt residence, and likewise they at his soirées.

486px-Mary_Cassatt_The_Reader_1877Cassatt and Degas had a long period of collaboration. The two had studios close together, less than a five-minute stroll apart, and Degas got into the habit of looking in at Cassatt’s studio and offering her advice and helping her get models. They had much in common: they shared similar tastes in art and literature, came from affluent backgrounds, had studied painting in Italy, and both were independent, never marrying. Degas, Cassatt, and Lydia were often to be seen at the Louvre studying artworks together. Cassatt frequently posed for Degas and was instrumental in helping Degas sell his paintings and build his reputation in America.

Mary_Cassat_-_Lilacs_in_a_Window_-_MMA_1997.207Cassatt’s style then evolved, and she moved away from Impressionism to a simpler, more straightforward approach. She began to exhibit her works in New York galleries as well. After 1886, Cassatt no longer identified herself with any art movement and experimented with a variety of techniques.


Information for this article came from Wikipedia.

Guest Post: “The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli from The Joy of Museums


Thank you to The Joy of Museums for giving us the historical background of this painting.



“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli

“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli is a tempera and oil painting on wood, painted between 1496 and 1504 during the Italian Renaissance. The subject of this painting is the legend of at Lucretia, a noblewoman, who was raped by the son of the king of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius. Lucretia, believing that the rape dishonoured her and her family, committed suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger after telling of what had befallen her.

According to legend, Brutus grabbed the dagger from Lucretia’s breast after her death and immediately shouted for the overthrow of the King. Lucius Junius Brutus took an oath to expel the King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, from Rome and never to allow anyone else to reign again as King. This revolt against tyranny, made Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome.


In the centre of the painting is Lucretia with the dagger with which she killed herself protruding from her breast. She is on public display as a heroine, and Brutus stands on the base of the column urging the citizens of Rome to revolt. The scene on the left porch is showing Sextus threatening Lucretia with sexual violence. The scene on the right porch shows the death of Lucretia.

The statue at the top of the column is David and Goliath’s head.  “David and Goliath” were a symbol of revolt against tyranny in the Republic of Florence. Lucretia had called for vengeance which Brutus turned into a revolution to end the monarchy. Before the establishment of the Roman Republic, Rome had been ruled by kings. Brutus led the revolt that overthrew the last king.

Many years later, one of the leading assassins of Julius Caesar was a descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus. The primary charge of the plotters against Julius Caesar was that Julius Caesar was attempting to make himself a king. Thus a leading conspirator Cassius, enticed Brutus’ direct descendant, Marcus Junius Brutus, a leading Roman senator to join the conspiracy by referring to his ancestor’s role in deposing the last king of Rome.

Click here to read the rest of this article.


My ICAD and World Watercolor Month Final Tally

My ICAD and World Watercolor Month Final Tally

This summer I participated in three overlapping art challenges. I posted my last update a month ago. The Daisy Yellow Index-Card-a-Day challenge ran June through July, and July was also World Watercolor Month.

I had chosen animals as my theme for ICAD, because I wanted to practice drawing them. But I really missed my Zentangle, so I tangled the butterfly below:


This is what it looked like when it was painted. I think I like the black-and-white better:


I experimented with watercolor pencils. Either I’m not doing it right, or my pencils are crappy, because to me this hen looks like it was done in colored pencils, even though I washed the heck out of it:




In honor of our late dachshund, Rudi:


And this kitty looks a little like our Zoe, but not really:


And here are all my challenge projects:


Only 24, not 61, which would be one a day. Mostly that’s because most of my projects took more than one day to make. I limited myself to 45 minutes a day so I’d still have some writing time. The center column above are my World Watercolor Month paintings.

Creative Juice #100

Creative Juice #100

Back with creative inspiration.

Guest Post: Paris Rooftops by Donna


Thank you to Donna for introducing us to this incredible artist. Donna supplies us with one beautiful thing every day on her blog, My OBT.


Evgeny Lushpin

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Guest Post: “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon Gérôme from The Joy of Museums


Thank you to The Joy of Museums for this guest article about Pygmalion and Galatea. What happens when a sculptor falls in love with his work?



Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme

“Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon Gérôme features the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where the sculptor Pygmalion kisses his ivory statue Galatea, after the goddess, Aphrodite has brought her to life. In Ovid’s narrative, Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory. Galatea  “she who is milk-white” is the name of the statue carved by Pygmalion. His figure was so beautiful and realistic that he fell in love with it. On Aphrodite’s festival day, Pygmalion made offerings at the altar of Aphrodite, and he made a wish. When he returned home, he kissed his ivory statue and found that its lips felt warm. Aphrodite had granted Pygmalion’s request; the ivory sculpture changed to a woman with Aphrodite’s (or Venus’ the Roman equivalent) blessing.

Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor, and his oeuvre included historical paintings, Greek mythology, Orientalism and portraits in the academic painting tradition. In 1891 Gérôme made a marble sculpture of Pygmalion and Galatea, based on a plaster version he used as a model for the painting. He made several alternative versions of this painting, each presenting the subject from a different angle.


  • Have you seen sculpture so lifelike that it seemed about to move?
  • Is the Pinocchio story a variant of this theme?
  • Is Shaw’s play Pygmalion a modern variant of the myth with a subtle hint of feminism?
  • The Pygmalion story has been the subject of notable paintings and poems. Which is your favourite?

Pygmalion and Galatea

  • Title:                    Pygmalion and Galatea
  • Artist:                  Jean-Léon Gérôme
  • Year:                    1890
  • Type:                   Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      35 x 27 in. (88.9 x 68.6 cm)
  • Museum:            Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Jean-Léon Gérôme

  • Artist:                Jean-Léon Gérôme
  • Born:                 1824 – Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France
  • Died:                  1904 (aged 79) – Paris, France
  • Nationality:      French
  • Movement:       Academicism, Orientalism
  • Notable works:


“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo