The Louvre *
The Louvre museum in Paris has one of the most impressive collections of paintings by European Old Masters in the world. Perhaps the only museum to really rival it in this field is the Prado in Madrid (the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are a few close contenders). But not only does it house an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from that age, it also has a substantial collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic and other World artefacts through the ages.
In this post I am listing my favourite paintings from the enormous collection of paintings on display by Old French, Italian, Flemish and Spanish Masters
Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) – Saint John Baptising The People (1634-5)
Many art writers and historians argue that Poussin was the first great French painter who changed the face of art in France and blazed a trail for all French artists who came after him. The art scene in France during his time was very staid (yet in a state of transition finally moving away from the traditional apprenticeship methods of working) and for this reason he spent most of his life in Rome. The American author Micheal Kimmelman goes as far as saying that Poussin was, ”the springboard for the greatest French artists from David to Matisse”
Claude Lorrain (1600 or 1604/5 – 1682) – Port With Capitol (1636)
Claude was another great French painter who like Poussin spent most of his life in Italy. He was also a prominent landscape painter. As can be seen in the port painting, the landscape was the dominant subject. At the time, making the landscape the dominant feature of a painting as opposed to actual figures/subjects was seen as groundbreaking. Claude’s paintings were an enourmous influence on the dramatic abstract-like landscape paintings of the revolutionary British painter J.M.W.Turner.
Adolphe-Joseph Monticelli (1824 – 1886) – The Diner
Monticelli was a very individual painter with his own unique style. What is even more amazing is how ahead of his time he was regarding his unusual style. Like the other great French painter, Eugene Delacroix (whose oil sketches Monticelli highly admired), he predated the Impressionists by many years.
Herman Naiwincx (1623-1670) – Baptism Of The Ethiopian Eunuch
Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860) – A Begger Counting His Money (1833)
Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) – The Hay Trussers (1850-51)
Millet was a huge influence on Vincent Van Gogh and this painting, as well as being a landmark work of art, perfectly encapsulates what Van Gogh first set out to achieve when he established himself as an artist. Van Gogh had a strong desire to paint the rural folk and their way of life as can be seen in his early paintings such as The Potato Eaters and many of his early sketches.
Jules Dupré (1811-1889) – Sunset After A Storm (1851)
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) – Pietà (1837)
This is a gem of a painting by the great French painter Eugene Delacroix. What is amazing about this painting is, stylistically, how loose and free it is and one could argue that it is a strong example of proto-Impressionism since it predates the movement by four decades (give or take a few years). Furthermore, Delacroix was an enormous influence on that generation of artists. In fact many argue that he planted the seed for the Impressionist movement.
Jaques-Louis David (1748-1825) – Death Of Maret (1794)
This painting is of the murdered leader of the French Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat, and is one of the most iconic images of its time.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) – Rinaldo In The Gardens Of Armida
Cimabue (1240-1302) – The Madonna And Child In Majesty Surrounded By Angels
Cimabue was a revolutionary artist. Arguably the first of the major early Italian Renaissance artists and the first artist to break away from the traditional Italo-Byzantine style art of the time. The above painting is one of his series of famous Maestà paintings.
Giotto di Bondone (1266/67 – 1337) – The Crucifixion
Giotto was a student of Cimabue and along with him a major artist of the early Italian Renaissance movement.
Lo Spagna (d. 1529) – St Jerome In The Desert (1531)
Antonio Campi (1522-87) – The Mystery Of The Passion Of Christ
Bartholomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82) – The Young Begger (1645-50)
This painting, for me, is striking for it’s gritty realism and social context. It was painted towards the end of Spain’s Siglo d’Oro (Golden Age) around the middle part of the 17th century when Spain had an enormous global empire. But what is clear is that, as evident by the acute poverty in the painting, it wasn’t a Golden Age for everyone. Much of Spain’s wealth accumulated from its former colonies was squandered on wars and in spite of its global clout at the time, the Spanish Crown filed for bankruptcy several times.
By Nicholas Peart
26th October 2016
(All rights reserved)
*image source: symmetrymagazine.org