Forgotten Masters


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Forgotten Master: Vicente López y Portaña (September 19, 1772 – July 22, 1850)

The art world seems to have its share of “one hit wonders” no less than the world of pop music. Vicente López y Portaña (September 19, 1772 – July 22, 1850) is a case in point. During his life time he was considered the greatest portraitist in Spain… yet most of his portraits strike me as nothing really special…




Certainly, he is skillful enough... yet he is nowhere near the ability of his predecessor, Anton Raphael Mengs:





Indeed, Vincente’s Portrait of the Royal family of Charles IV is almost comical…


… especially in contrast to Goya’s brilliant portrait of the Spanish Royal Family:


Nevertheless, Vincente pulls off one truly spectacular painting… outside his supposed area of expertise. This painting of Saint Sebastian is simply marvelous… a fireworks display of color and motion worthy of the finest religious paintings of the Baroque or the Rococo:


The lightness of touch… the brilliant contrasting colors, the warmth and animation of the figures… and the glowing light are quite marvelous… and lead me to feel that it is simply too bad that Vincente wasted his talents elsewhere. This painting alone makes Vincente one of our "Forgotten Masters".
I wouldn't say that Vincente’s Portrait of the Royal family of Charles IV is almost comical compared to Goya's. I think it's comparable, but I agree not as aesthetic, just like his portraits. It's almost like he didn't have as great a choice of subjects. Ha ha. I agree that the Saint Sebastian is remarkable because he got the light and shadow perfectly. It shows more drama than most paintings I've seen like these. Simply enchanting.
I think I agree with you on Vicente López y Portaña's work. Technically, it is flawless but just has no special spark.
William Bouguereau: Virgin of the Angels 1881

Bouguereau may no longer be a "forgotten artist"... but he certainly was not long ago. My art school had the largest art library in the state after the Cleveland Museum of Art (right across the street from the school). They had a single book on Bouguereau: a slim old volume from the 1940s or 1950s with sepia-toned monochromatic pictures. In spite of the fact that there were any number of tied-in-the-wool Modernists who despised him... painting him as the anti-Christ of French Academicism and sworn enemy of Modernism and artistic progressives everywhere... there were still students who repeatedly signed out that book and spent hours looking at the poor reproductions like teens in the 1950s listening to the first Rock & Roll from static-ridden stations on cheap transistor radios. I’m not a big Bouguereau fan... there are a few of his paintings I do love... including the single example in the Cleveland Museum of Art... but damn! This is a stunning reproduction of an absolutely stunning painting!

san sebastiano, quel ritratto è meraviglioso, non lo sapevo, grazie.

Bouguereau è fantastico, adoro i suoi lavori anche se in realtà fino a un paio d'anni fa non avevo visto poco o niente di lui e quindi non avrei ricordato il suo nome.
Trovo bello ammirare le sue opere.
Devo cercare altri suoi progetti, penso che siano anche impressionanti.

bello sapere cosa hai detto su di lui. Grazie.

certo che è incredibile come per caso o per storia alcuni artisti abbiano forse attraversato periodi, riconosciuti, idolatrati, in altri invece dimenticati o visti con risentimento.
forse a volte a causa della moda o non so perché.

il mio cuore piange così tanto da ascoltare le storie di Vincent, di MOdigliani (ho ascoltato la sua storia di recente, quindi mi rende così strano che solo per pochi giorni non avrebbe potuto avere la consacrazione nella vita che avrebbe meritato e poi la storia di il suo compagno, è così assurdo)
Non vedo l'ora della prossima settimana per leggere il prossimo nome e scoprire il nuovo artista.
Joe, did you see the movie about Modigliani? I forget what the title is, but it was good to know so much about his life and struggles. I love his work too.
I still miss the film, I have to see it, it must be beautiful.
I saw a documentary about 30 minutes long.
on Modigliani and Jeanne Hébuterne. his muse and companion.
She was also an artist, her works have been found quite recently and causally. Unfortunately she died very young. this, his story recalls the theme of the post in fact.
However their story is very moving and intense.
Modigliani masterfully combined a Mannerist/Modern Expressionist distortion of form with a color palette and rich handling of paint that recalled Titian:




The above nude is elegant and sensuous while the two portraits of Jeanne are absolutely gorgeous!
I've always loved Modigliani. Seeing his work up close and personal made me love him even more.
If you get to see them (Boogie's paintings) in person, you'll find a good deal of painterly touch. That's true of a good many older, "realist" masters. I remember loving this painting for years:


But I only knew it from reproductions in books and postcards that were about this big. When I saw it IRL at the Met NY, I was blown away by the fluidity and at times by the big sweeping impasto applications of paint. I realized why so many artists spoke of falling in love with Venus knees in this painting.
That is a beautiful painting but it doesn't look quite so polished as the Boogies, which I'm sure are much, much more painterly and interesting in person.
the Modigliani paintings you presented are wonderful. , and they talk about both.

not that it matters, however I really like both the wonderful figures and the portraits of MOdigliani and these are just fantastic but having to choose only one, among those I have seen I would say the third that posted. the second portrait. that portrait looks so unsurpassed, perfect in everything.
Forgotten Masters: Phoebe Traquair

Vera Rockline (Russian, 1896-1934).jpg

One of the most intriguing artists associated with the PreRaphaelites... an heir to the movement... was
Phoebe Anna Traquair, a multi-talented artist associated with the Celtic Revival/Scottish Renaissance in Arts and Crafts of the early twentieth century. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she attended the School of Design in Dublin before moving to Edinburgh.

Phoebe was greatly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement, William Blake, and the Italian painters of the early Italian Renaissance (the period from which the “PreRaphaelites”… before Raphael… took their name). She was a correspondent of John Ruskin, a friend of William Holman Hunt, and pursued a successful career as an artist, designer, and craft worker achieving an international recognition.

Traquair produced a staggering body of work over her long career. The work by Traquair that I first stumbled upon… and which I still consider to be her singular masterpiece… is the four-panel tapestry, The Progress of the Soul, the imagery of which was based upon the short story by Walter Pater, Denys l'Auxerrois. The work is a heady mixture of Christian and Pagan imagery and was begun as as ‘homage’ to the memory of Walter Pater who had died a year before.

Traquair spent the years 1895-1902 working on the four-panel tapestries. There is no suggestion of the use of assistants which makes the achievement even more impressive considering the scale (6 x 10 feet). The work depicts the odyssey of the human soul as it/he travels through four stages of life: The Entrance, Stress, Despair and Victory,

Delving deeper into the iconography, I have found that it is impossible… and probably wrong-headed to attempt to read any definitive, specific, clear, linear narrative to the tapestry. Still… we can come to our own interpretations, can we not? Let us look at the first panel…


The central figure appears to be as a young man, though he’s sufficiently androgynous, feminized in appearance… typical of the influence of the female figures in early Pre-Raphaelite painting… but also common to the ideal beautiful males of Renaissance painting (as in the St. Matthew in DaVinci’s Last Supper, which Dan Brown argued was Mary Magdalene).


Of course the beautiful, golden-haired, beardless young man with a lyre immediately draws to mind both Apollo… and his brother/compliment: Dionysus, the God of wine, passion, and ecstasy. One might even imagine him as Orpheus, the legendary musician known for his lyre, who was torn to pieces by the Bacchants, adherents of the cult of Dionysus. The link with Dionysus may have been inspired in part by Titian’s masterpiece, Bacchus and Ariadne, housed in the National Gallery of Art, London. The grape vines and the leopard skin reinforces the connection with Dionysus.


In the second panel a serpent (Python, the earth-dragon of Delphi, and Apollo’s enemy in the underworld) encircles “Apollo’s” feet, while disembodied hands grasp at at pluck the flowers, the birds, the lyre, his animal skin, and the grapevine. The grape vine is broken, flowers plucked, birds killed… and a swan… a bird once sacred to Apollo… savagely bloodies and kills the rabbit from the first panel.


In the third panel we have a tragic view of the aftermath of Apollo/Dionysus/Orpheus/Christ’s travails: his leopard skin cloak is torn; the Python (now doubled in size) encircles his exhausted body; his hair has become as dark as the mood; there are briers and thorns at his feet… and his lyre… the instrument of his artistic creation… is now broken.


In the final panel he is presented victorious… in a moment of apotheosis… his feet placed upon a rainbow above the Python. His head encircled in a crown of grape leaves he is embraced, held aloft, and kissed by an angel.


Is this a victory through death? Is it an expression of the misunderstood artist… the lover of beauty… attacked by those disembodied hands? The outcome of the Victory is not that they went on to live happily ever after. Quite to the contrary: several critics understand the Victory to be a passionate union in death. And then there are the unmistakable homoerotic undercurrents. As a result of Oscar Wilde’s very public trial and sentencing, Walter Pater was placed under a good deal of scrutiny, and was the target of much criticism and hate.

As much as I admire The Progress of the Soul, I recognize that it is Traquair’s mural work that has most served to assure her place in the history of art. The artist painted murals for various religious and charitable institutions.

Traquair’s best known work and quite likely her masterpiece is in the vast former Catholic Apostolic Church (1893–1901) which has been called “Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel”, and “a jeweled crown”. It was this work which helped to confirm her international recognition. The de-consecrated church is now the Mansfield Traquair Centre. Traquair spent eight years on these murals, doing hardly any preparatory drawings before sketching the figures directly onto the walls. This is a particularly stunning achievement given the curved surfaces of the chapel ceiling.




Personally, I cannot help but envy the artist who need not deal with gallery directors, the whims of collectors, and the games of the contemporary art world… but instead was given the opportunity to spend an extended period of time employed upon a work worthy of her talents and ambitions… and a work of such a scale and purpose as to inspire the artist to rise to the challenge.
thank you so much.
I had never seen her works, I didn't know her.
everything you have shown is remarkable.

The panels are my favorites, the last panel, the kiss, that panel I think is an extraordinary masterpiece, or at least I really like it.
Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (c. 1466 – 1516): An Italian painter of the High Renaissance from Lombardy, who worked in the studio of Leonardo da Vinci. Boltraffio and Bernardino Luini are the strongest artistic personalities to emerge from Leonardo’s studio. According to Giorgio Vasari, he was of an aristocratic family and was born in Milan.

thank you for presenting them to us and for the chosen works.

Reading Leonardo, in fact, the face , hair of the work reminds him.

But how wonderful the work of Francesco Hayez,
I have to look for his works, seen some now quickly and, wow. incredible artist.