John William Waterhouse, The Crystal Ball (1902)
Today’s ekphrastic prompt is brought to you by this painting by John William Waterhouse. It had been hanging in the dining room at Glenborrodale Castle, Highland and was sold with the castle in 1952-3. The new owner hated the skull so had it doctored, having it covered by curtains. Subsequently an X-ray by art detectives revealed the skull. Luckily the original surface was still protected by varnish and the addition removed safely.
John William Waterhouse, Echo and Narcissus (1903)
This painting of classical mythology is by an English painter, John William Waterhouse. It is one of many works depicting women in Greek mythology and Arthurian legend. His work embraced the pre-Raphaelite style of painting. Narcissus had rejected the nymph, Echo, causing her to waste away. Nemesis, the goddess, heard her prayers and caused Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection.
Camille Pissarro, The Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage (1877)
Camille Pissarro, a Dutch-French painter, painted the rolling hills of the close-by neighbourhood of L’Hermitage when he stayed at Pontoise. The Côte des Bœufs (‘cattle ridge’) is a steep hill face just north of the River Oise. As an Impressionist, he often painted plein air and at this location he had painted scenes on five occasions in three different decades. He had shown his work at all eight Paris Impressionist exhibitions, from 1874 to 1886. This painting hung in his bedroom for many years. The artist, Walter Sickert, had said of it: “But the charm of a picture like this lies chiefly in its immense and indefatigable laboriousness, in labour so cunning, so swift and so patient, that the more it is piled up, the greater the clarity and simplicity of the result.”
Childe Hassam, April: (The Green Gown), 1920
Art scholars believed that Childe Hassam, an American Impressionist painter, intended this painting as a portrayal of his mother, Rosa Hathorne Hassam, during her pregnancy. She would have been in her third month of pregnancy with her artist son born on October 17, 1859. Hassam had moved to France to study figure drawing and painting at the prestigous Academie Julian and was inspired by French Impressionist paintings he saw at exhibitions. He had taken over Renoir’s studio and found some oil sketches left behind and “looked at these experiments in pure color and saw it was what I was trying to do myself.” In the 1890s, his technique evolved toward Impressionism.
Eduoard Manet, The Balcony (1868)
Manet’s painting was partly inspired by Francisco Goya’s The Majas at the balcony (ca. 1800–1810)–Goya had an influence on his work. The three figures are Manet’s friends, artist Berthe Morisot, violinist Fanny Claus, close friend of Manet’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff, and landscape painter and Jury member of the Salon des Artistes Francais Jean Baptiste Antoine Guillemet. Manet had made a preparatory painting, The Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, which had Fanny Claus sitting on the stool where Berthe sat in this painting. Manet’s painting was considered iconoclastic and scorned when it was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1869.
Berthe Morisot, Lady At Her Toilette (1875)
This painting by Berthe Morisot belongs to a popular genre depicting women sitting at their dressing table, or toilette which is the French term which makes me think of perfume (don’t ask me why). It seems related to the voyeuristic genre of paintings of nude ladies bathing or drying themselves. I read a critical passage which explained that in this genre, the mirror would reflect the woman’s image but in Berthe’s painting this expectation is subverted. There is no reflection of the woman. Instead the mirror reflected the cosmetic container and powder puff on her dresser and some flowers. I like that Berthe’s work is subtly subversive. I also fell in love with the colors and impressionistic brushstrokes. Berthe has been called the “most impressionistic of the Impressionists.” This painting had received high critical acclaim.
Berthe Morisot, The Mother and Sister of the Artist (1869/1870)
Berthe’s sister, Edma Pontillon, visited with the family in the winter of 1869–1870 when she was expecting her first child. Her sister had moved away after marriage. The sisters were art students and used to paint alongside. Edma had lamented to her sister about withdrawing from painting. That is why Berthe painted Edma’s sad countenance, I suppose. Her expression is exquisitely drawn. Berthe had asked for her brother-in-law, Eduoard Manet’s opinion on this painting and he took the liberty to add his brushstrokes to the black dress and face of the mother. Berthe was none too pleased about it.