Presenting artwork, critiques, and bio of Gustave Moreau. Thumbnails on text posts may be enlarged for viewing; however, enlarged prints will be posted elsewhere on blog. Moreau's work is usually so complex and intricate that these exquisite details cannot be viewed on such small reproductions. To fully appreciate his genius, it is necessary to view the works full size.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Next Six Posts Informational
The first six posts are sources for bio, critiques of his work, museums who carry some of his work, etc. After these posts copies of his paintings and sketches are posted, with urls for enlargements to view details.
Gustave MoreauSelf-portrait (detail) A painter creates his own museum There is something very special about the Gustave-Moreau museum. The painter himself had it established and designed, so that his works could be gathered and displayed the way he wanted. The building was built at his expense, at the very spot where the artist lived and worked all his life long, and was ready in 1896… Two years later the painter died at the age of 72. A great painter and his universe:The visitors may discover in the museum an incredibly rich universe - that of a great artist. Everywhere visitors will find the disconcerting mythological, literary and biblical themes dear to Moreau. Everywhere, forms and colours match each other. The painter's approach was initially academic and then symbolist, before becoming surprisingly modern and even almost abstract in his last years…
Gustave MoreauThe Apparition (detail) The collection Gustave Moreau's masterpieces:The museum boasts several of Gustave Moreau's masterpieces, together with their preparatory work : the Pretenders, The life of Humanity, the Apparition, Jupiter and Sémélé… But is also contains hundreds of other works of all sizes, all marked by the "unique enchantement" characteristic of Moreau's art. 4.800 drawings and 450 watercolours:Thousands of drawings are on display in cases with movable panels. On the upper floor, visitors will discover an extraordinary rotating display unit for watercolours, designed along the lines desired by Moreau himself and leading into a real whirlwind of colours. The visitors have then an unusual opportunity to discover how and where the painter created …
The artist's apartment In the painter's privacy The Gustave-Moreau museum is exceptional in the way it lets visitors share the intimate life of a painter and his work - and its ability to preserve the magical atmosphere despite the passing decades. As it did at the 1900 turn of the century, the museum still leads to a kind of captivating charm for the pleasure of many thousands of visitors, including numerous writers and artists… The artist's apartment:The apartment in which the painter's mother and father lived, and then Gustave Moreau himself after their deaths, has opened in 1992. Gustave Moreau collected there his very dear souvenirs, relating to his parents and to Alexandrine Dureux, his "best and only friend"… Nothing has changed in a century. And the windows still opens on the garden Moreau could see every day.
Gustave Moreau' study Events Gustave Moreau' study is open for the centennial of the museum (1903-2003):This "cabinet de réception" was closed for one century. After restoration in its original state, the study is recently open to visitors. The "studiolo", with its rare books and its precious or unusual objects carefully taken in by Moreau, had been settled by the artist only in 1896, two years before his death.Count Robert de Montesquiou or Edgar Degas were among the few people who entered the study and were able to discover the brilliant copies of Moreau's former masters.
Moreau's figures are ambiguous; it is hardly possible to distinguish at the first glance which of two lovers is the man, which the woman; all his characters are linked by subtle bonds of relationship... lovers look as though they were related, brothers as though they were lovers, men have the faces of virgins, virgins the faces of youths; the symbols of Good and Evil are entwined and equivocally confused.
- Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony
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Although threatened by the fleeting truths of modern experience that artists like Manet, Degas, or Monet elected to paint, classical mythology, like a proper education in Greek and Latin, remained a cornerstone of nineteenth-century art and culture, propagated by the academies and illustrated in countless official paintings. It was also subject to intensely personal, even perverse interpretations that could use ancient legends to trigger voyages during which the cold marble facts of ancient sculpture, venerated and slavishly copied in the art schools, would evaporate into the strangest mists. So it was with Gustave Moreau's odd visions of antiquity, opium dreams of his own invention. His Orpheus of 1865, when shown at the Salon the following year, needed the artist's own verbal explanation in the catalogue to clarify his deviation from more orthodox depictions of the legend. The inventor of music so beautiful it could charm man and beast, Orpheus had met a gruesome end when he was torn to pieces by the enraged women of Thrace (whose love he had rejected), his head and lyre thrown into a stream. This ferocious group murder could, in fact, be seen at the same Salon of 1866 in a painting by Emile Levy. But Moreau imagined instead a later moment of erotic contemplation rather than one of overt physical violence, conjuring up a "young girl who reverently recovers Orpheus's head and lyre." In Moreau's painting, this Thracian maiden now stares as if hypnotized by her strange captive, a disembodied head fused with the musical instrument he played as he sang. Seen through a misty scrim of twilight tones, this morbid vision wafts us off to what the dean of Surrealism, Andre Breton, would later admire as a "somnambulistic world."
Indeed, Moreau might well be credited as a pioneer in the opening of hazy, disquieting vistas that could begin to plumb the depths of that subconscious fantasy life so prominent in the art and thought of the twentieth century. Supported by a study of Leonardo's otherworldly landscapes of distant waters and strange, almost translucent grottoes, Moreau invented a magical environment where we are not surprised to find bizarre shifts in size (the piping shepherds on the rocks above) or even a pair of what look like prehistoric tortoises in the right foreground, probably an allusion to the myth that their shells were used in the invention of the lyre.
Though partly prophesied by Chasseriau and partly shared by such contemporaries as Burne-Jones and Puvis de Chavannes, Moreau's floating world of cultivated inward sensation and fantasy was remarkably precocious, a voice in the wilderness that announced the more concerted explorations of morbid, inward reverie found in the Symbolist domain of the 1890s. By the end of the century, a vast international repertory of drugged silence, introspective mythmaking, decapitated heads, and demonic women could trace its ancestry back to Moreau's first hallucinatory paintings of the 1860s.
In an era when paintings of mythological subjects often meant sentimentalized renderings or cold recitations of classical sculpture, Gustave Moreau was a pioneer with his intensely personal, fantastic, even perverse, interpretations. His works appeared in the 1860s but they anticipated the Symbolist work of the 1880s, which explored interior consciousness rather than exterior observation. "I believe neither in what I touch nor what I see. I only believe in what I do not see, and solely in what I feel," he wrote.A solitary, wealthy intellectual, Moreau spent his life in Paris, apart from a visit to Italy, where he was impressed by Vittore Carpaccio's work. His early paintings were influenced by Eugène Delacroix and by the Romantic exoticism of Théodore Chassériau. In his paintings, often of mythological or biblical subjects, a powerful, seductive, evil woman often appears. Moreau painted in rich, jewel-like colors, and his detailed oil paintings have a glistening, impastoed surface. His watercolors, which he boldly exhibited at the Salon, were swiftly painted, some almost abstract. From 1892 to 1898, Moreau taught at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he may have had his greatest influence. His students included Georges Rouault and Henri Matisse. His house in Paris's Montmartre district is now a national museum.