Art & Design

I’ll Just Move to France

There is nothing I admire more than a talented woman who knows her worth. A woman who pursues her dreams, without limitation and fear. Mary Cassatt was definitely that and more. If you’re not familiar with Cassatt, I suggest you read the rest of the post. Reading her story is nothing but inspirational and probably would’ve dominated the social media world if she were here today.

Born around the 1840s, Cassatt was born into a pretty wealthy and established family; her father being a real estate and investment broker. Skip ahead to the 1850s where her mother of all trades taught Cassatt the following: homemaking, embroidery, music, sketching and painting. As she grew older, her family lived in Europe for several years to experience culture; eventually becoming a very well-rounded individual.

Of all the trades she was taught at a young age, painting became her passion. So much so, that she wanted to go to school to become a professional painter. At the age of 16, she enrolled in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It was uncommon for women to attend school or pretty much anything that was male dominated, so she wasn’t welcomed with open arms. With a mixture of negativity and the school’s curriculum, Cassatt grew tired and moved to France to learn from Old Masters. All by herself. You go girl! 

Passing over Cassatt’s story where her father’s disapproval, submitting work under a different name, the Franco-Prussian War, and becoming an established artist from 1872-74, she befriended Degas in 1879! It started as being an admirer of his work to being one of his strongest friends. Through the connection, Cassatt was able to submit 11 pieces of work with the Impressionists of 1879 (Monet, Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, need I say more?). It was definitely the highlight of her artistic career.

Most impressionists are known for landscapes, light and movements. Cassatt was known for her portraits of women, more specifically, mothers and their children. Which brings me to The Child’s Bath. Painted in 1893, it shows the relationship between mother and child.

According to The Art Institute’s Art Access online, it states, “In rendering this subject, the artist relied on keen observation rather than idealization, yet still portraying great intimacy. The woman’s gestures—one firm hand securing the child in her lap, the other gently caressing its small foot—are both natural and emblematic, communicating her tender concern for the child’s well-being. The two figures gaze in the same direction, looking together at their paired reflection in the basin of water…The many paintings, pastels, and prints in which Cassatt depicted children being bathed, dressed, read to, held, or nursed reflect the most advanced 19th-century ideas about raising children.”

The Child’s Bath creates various feelings for me. Whenever I look at the painting, it reminds me of the relationship I had with my grandmother. Our bond was like the painting, effortless and filled with love. My grandmother was the type of person who would do anything for the people she loved, even on her toughest days where the world got the best of her. With that said, the painting reminded me of summer days where the house was too hot. We’d go outside, turned on the water hose, filled up a bucket, and cooled ourselves off. Once we were done, she’d sit next to me with a towel (just like the lady in the painting) and dry me off before I entered the house.

I believe the toughest part about losing someone you cared for are the memories. They hit you in tiny waves and all at once, but they’re all we have left. The Child’s Bath  hits me like a tidal wave, but that’s why I hold the painting dear to my heart.

I am completely grateful for Cassatt’s existence and influence in the art world. She managed to almost always show women as the main subject, relationships between them, and relevancy in women artists. Cassatt was the second woman impressionist to showcase her work amongst Impressionist giants. To display work next to influential artist is probably the most intimidating feeling to have, but she just focused on her art and craftsmanship. Taking an opportunity and creating beautiful artwork that shows more than a technique(s) is what I aspire to do as a designer.

-Michelle

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References

  1.  http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Impressionism/Cassatt
  2.  https://www.biography.com/people/mary-cassatt-9240820

 

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Art & Design

When Your Unapologetic Glass Becomes Half Empty

The headline to this blog would’ve been the perfect title to Henri de Toulouse Lautrec’s autobiography if he had written one. His paintings were risqué and “in your face”, yet those were the paintings his sorrows hid behind. Lautrec is a perfect example of a complex person with a contrasted life, and I hope you enjoy reading the following post as much as I did writing it.

From the setting of the room to the colorful characters depicted, At the Moulin Rouge is a piece that is unlike any other.  The oil on canvas painting, created from 1892-1895, hangs at 4’ x 4’7”, and depicts nightlife in Paris (like most of Lautrec’s paintings).   

Not many people who view the painting know this detail, but At the Moulin Rouge is considered a self-portrait. Looking toward the back of the composition, Lautrec is standing next to a taller man with a top hat (his cousin, Gabriel Tapie de Celeyran). When I first looked at this painting, I thought he disproportionately painted himself in or was sitting at a table like the other people in the painting. As I continued to do more research, Lautrec was a shorter than the average man. His height ranged from 4 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet (according to different sources). Other than himself, Lautrec wanted to include the people he admired or had a friendship with. The list: La Goule, La Macarona, Jane Avril (speculated) and May Milton (woman with the blue/green colored face depicted in the foreground), Maurice Guibert (winemaker), Paul Sescau (photographer), and Edouard Dujardin (writer). Not only did Lautrec capture his friends and favorite entertainers in the portrait, but the particular piece captured the atmosphere of Parisian nightlife; showing us that the man behind the painting had more depth and meaning behind his works of art. 

Due to Lautrec’s height, he was ridiculed and wasn’t accepted into high society; which he was born into. He used art as an outlet to a lot of the suffering he had been through with his family and with his personal image. Although he found comfort and acceptance in Paris nightclubs, he suffered a great deal. According to Biography.com, it states, “Though presenting himself as a witty, fun man about town, Toulouse-Lautrec suffered greatly due to his physical ailments as well as past family trauma, with his father never accepting his son’s decision to become a professional artist. He had also contracted syphilis, which further impacted his health. As he had for much of his adult life, Toulouse-Lautrec turned to alcohol to deal with his pain and would ultimately drink himself into oblivion. He had a nervous breakdown in 1899 after his mother, whom he was close to, decided to leave Paris, and the artist was committed to a sanitarium for several months.” His paintings showed a perspective that was frowned upon in high society, but he ultimately found himself and genuine friendships at the Moulin Rogue. To Lautrec, being frowned upon from “his crowd” was worth it. 

The Post- Impressionist painter was rich enough to do what he wanted and hang out with whomever he pleased. So when he started to hang out at Parisian nightclubs, one of the owners of the Moulin Rouge made an agreement with Lautrec to paint pictures of the nightclub to capture the essence of the environment and entice more people to “join in on the fun.” Lautrec was pretty well off and could have easily rejected the offer, but because the Moulin Rouge became an escape from criticism and disapproval of his personal life, he happily agreed to the deal and hung out there all the time. From an economic circumstance, most of his work wasn’t done for money; it was done for the place he called a second home. Being that he was an artist for the Moulin Rouge.

I don’t think his decisions were based on his political, economic or social stances. Instead, based with what he wanted to do. One of the attributes I loved about Lautrec was that he didn’t care about what others thought about his artwork. He made pieces that made him and his friends happy. I wonder, if he carried that same outlook into his personal life, would he have had a longer, happier life? Then again, syphilis. 

Lautrec’s social circumstances led him to make the choices he made during his life as an artist. He did the things he did according to how he felt, not because it was right or wrong. Ultimately, he did what he wanted to do, hung out with performers, prostitutes, drunks, etc. and that’s how he loved to live his life. Additionally, that kind of attitude was reflected in his paintings, such as At the Moulin Rouge.

He never depicted his subjects as something they weren’t or in judgement due to his status. Lautrec candidly painted them for who they were.  I found that perspective extremely refreshing. Coming from a generation where being Photoshopped in a magazine is the norm or being manipulated into an image that is acceptable on social media, there is a lack of authenticity in today’s society. I think the goal is to boldly and unapologetically be yourself wherever you go. Lautrec did exactly that with his art! With that said, I truly believe the genuineness from his art left a huge impact in the creative world and paved the way for artists and designers who came after him. 

-Michelle

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Uncategorized

Promises for 2018

As I sit here with my black velvet dress and drink Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider, (in a fancy glass, of course) it’s crazy to think how fast the year went by. 2017 was a year of rollercoaster emotions, milestones, friendships, new hopes and dreams. This year, I want to make a list of promises I would like to maintain not only for 2018, but promises I would like to carry with me for a very long time.

In 2018, I promise…

  • to never give up on myself or the people I love when life gets tough
  • to encourage others to follow dreams that seem out of reach
  • to speak up for the voiceless
  • to give, give, give, give, give
  • to find at least one good quality in individuals I don’t really care for
  • to believe that doors open and close for a reason
  • to dive into life without knowing where I’ll fall
  • to value great friendships
  • to appreciate family and all that they do
  • to enjoy the little things
  • to allow and trust in God to guide me into my purpose

 

I hope 2018 brings a multitude of blessings, joy and love.

Best,

Michelle

 

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