Friday, April 9, 2010

Stephanie Cowell's Guest Post here on EBJ!

What a fantastic event we have going on at Historical Fiction Bloggers Roundtable this week!  This week was the release of Stephanie Cowell's exquisite novel on Claude Monet and the love of his life, Camille, entitled:  Claude and Camille

Stay tuned for my review of this fabulous book on Sunday, April 11th

Today, I have the great pleasure of having Stephanie Cowell guest post here at EBJ!!


The working artist from the Renaissance to Monet’s Water Lilies


The world of the artist changed utterly from the height of the Italian or French Renaissance. Not only did the methods of preparing oil paint change, but the system of patronage largely evaporated.

The Renaissance artist learned his craft apprenticed in a studio and anyone who could afford his services employed him. If you wanted to flatter your countess, you hired a painter to capture her likeness.





If you wanted to show off your wealth or religious devotion, you hired someone to paint your chapel or illustrate the pages of your prayer book.  In the days of the early Renaissance, everything was made by hand. Even the printing press had not yet been invented. If you wanted another picture of your countess or another copy of a book of French love poetry, someone had to make it.

An artist was largely a brush for hire — a craftsman — but by the first depictions of the famous water lilies in the 1890s, things had utterly changed.

Though Monet had earned well enough from a few commissions — to paint panels for his patron Hoschedé or portray someone’s wife and a little from quick charcoal sketches of the neighbors in his youth to keep bread on his table — he painted what he wished and tried to interest buyers in his very new, impressionistic style. This is likely one of the reasons the young Michelangelo could earn a living in his teens and Monet had to wait until he was over fifty.

A Renaissance artist developed as an apprentice in the studio and often followed his master’s style. How many paintings do we have “in the style of Rembrandt” or “by a follower of…” The impressionists proudly went their own way.

The need for artists had also decreased steadily over the years as church walls and chapels could hold no more art. Certainly great monarchs and nobility still sat for their pictures, but now there was another way: the photograph. By the time Monet was a handsome boy of twenty it was the absolute fashion to make your way to the photographer’s studio.  The starving artist had arrived! With this was also born more interpretive painting. The camera was realistic; the painter need not be.

But the way an artist could paint had its greatest change with the invention of the paint tube.
You will remember in the evocative novel and film Girl with a Pearl Earring, that the young servant girl had to grind Vermeer’s colors. To this was added oils and other substances; da Vinci added beeswax.  But to keep the newly prepared oil paints consistent in color and texture was difficult and when artists began to go into nature to paint, they sometimes carried their mixed paint in an animal bladder.  


The paint tube was invented in 1841, when Claude Monet had reached his first birthday…just in time! He could not have painted so freely outside in all weathers without it and we would not have had impressionism as know it today.

From the Florence atelier where the young da Vinci learned his craft to the first impressionists’ Paris art exhibition (which was actually held in a photographer’s borrowed studio) was a long and adventurous journey.

Thank you Stephanie for this most interesting guest post- And- Congratulations on your wonderful book, that is in itself, a work of art:)


For more great posts and events happenig today, please visit our Calendar of Events at HFBRT.  There are great Giveaways happening as well!


303 comments:

1 – 200 of 303   Newer›   Newest»
Rheanna said...

Very interesting something so simple as a paint tube affects art as we know it! It's amazing how little things we take for granted made such a huge difference in society.

Ms. Lucy said...

Rheanna, you are so right about this!Really, there's art everywhere around us, we just have to start recognizing it. Thanks!

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Wow! Such an interesting topic...I even mentioned in my review how I knew a bit about the Impressionists but that most of my art history historical fiction reading had taken place in the Renaissance. So it's pretty fitting to me to stop by your place and read this great guest post that talks about how far art has come from the Renaissnace to the era of Impressionists!

I didn't know that the paint tube was created right before Monet's time...I would imagine da Vinci and Rembrandt wasted a ton of paint when they were painting because it would dry out if they didn't use every last drop from their pallet! You already have to factor in so many different issues when creating a composition...I would NOT want to have to add "paint is too dry and, oops, you wasted your last bit of cerulean blue!" to the list of frustrations artists (I'm an amateur so I wouldn't quite call myself an artist yet) go through!

Pricilla said...

Thank you, that was fascinating!

Muse in the Fog said...

How interesting! Just imagine if that paint tube would have been invented after Monet, what we would be missing. It is always such a pleasure to see the world through someones else's eyes via paintings. Take for instance the water lilies up above...that is how Monet saw them 100 years ago! A special gift to us all.

librarypat said...

Interesting post. I hadn't really thought about the portability of mixed paints. It would certainly effect the time spent working away from the studio. The loss of patrons and the necessity of finding a commercial outlet for their work certainly changed the face of the art world.

dolleygurl said...

Another great guest post. It is so interesting how the change from making your own paints to ready made paints can change a whole lot about painting. I also can really understand the starving artist now, without patrons in need of art, you don't make money.

Arleigh said...

I hadn't thought about the impact the invention of the camera had on the Impressonist's style, and I can see now why it would have appealed to have less realistic paintings. Great informative post!

lizzy J said...

Lucy, I had no idea that the paint tube was invented so much later. I would have though earlier. Plus the part about photography pushing out the need for portraits, it makes sense now that I read this.

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