Friday, August 3, 2012

Bessie Potter Vonnoh

Collaboration by Lauren Mills, Chris Saper, and Sarah Bishop
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 53, 4th Quarter 2011

In Arcadia
bronze on marble base
12 7/8 x 28 3/4 x 6 5/8"
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Known as “the grand dame of American sculptors,” Bessie Potter Vonnoh is credited with pioneering the genre of small, elegant bronze sculpture depicting women and children in everyday domestic life. Potter’s artistic direction was a significant departure from the world of sculpture at the time …a world dominated by male sculptors who created large scale public works often described as avant- garde.

Her work was not without its critics, and was at times marginalized by both her gender and choice of subject matter:  

“The work of Bessie Potter…is of the first order of merit, and yet of such a nature as to be in place only in the home. It is too delicate to relate to the private phases and emotions of the home life to appear beautiful anywhere outside the home.”
--Theodore Dreiser, "Frank Edwin Elwell, Sculptor,"
New York Times,
4 December 1898

Clara Westhoff: Art and Community

By Pat Aubé Gray
Edited by Lauren Harris
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 41, 3rd Quarter 2008

Bust of Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1922
by Clara Westhoff
Clara Henriette Sophie Westhoff Rilke was born September 21, 1878 in Bremen, Germany.  At seventeen, Clara Westhoff began her artistic education at the private Munich Damenakademie, one of three art schools in Germany at the time for women artists.  Until the early twentieth century, women were officially barred from traditional government fine art academies in Germany, an obstacle that Clara and her contemporaries circumvented by seeking instruction in other artists’ studios and abroad.

At the conclusion of her formal education at the Damenakademie in 1898, Clara moved to Worpswede, a small town north of Bremen and the recently founded artist colony there that took its name.  While seeking instruction in the studios of other Worpswede artists, Clara was encouraged by Fritz Mackenson, the award-winning German Lyrical painter, to expand her artistic study to include sculpture, a medium which quickly became her primary form of artistic expression. 

Lavinia Fontana Zappi

By Angelo Fernandez
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 40, 2nd Quarter 2008

Judith and Holofernes
oil on canvas, 175.9 x 134.1 cm
Born in the major art center of Bologna, Italy to leading painter, Prospero Fontana, Lavinia enjoyed her professional training at home. In her artistic development, she was influenced by her role model, Sofonisba Anguissola, the first internationally recognized Italian female portrait painter. Lavinia’s own portrait style combined elegance and elongation of the human figure, typical of the Mannerist style. She was admired for the beauty of color and the precise description of clothing, texture, and jewelry worn by her subjects.

Women painters of the era were generally limited to portraiture. Lavinia enjoyed a well established reputation for portraits of many women sitters but also of local, aristocratic men. She became the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen and important individuals connected with the University of Bologna. By the 1570’s, public commissions for large paintings of religious and mythological subjects, which included female nudes, resulted in her unique reputation.

Dawn Whitelaw

By Terry Howell Stanley
The Art of the Portrait Journal
 Issue No. 37, 3rd Quarter 2007

A common thread between the most successful women artists, past and present, is they consider their success neither a result nor an accomplishment in spite of their gender. Dawn Whitelaw echoes that sentiment, saying “I feel that my career is shaped by my personality, by my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses.  My gender has influenced who I am and the choices I’ve made, but I honestly don’t feel like it has generally hindered or helped…my career.”
Private collection, oil

Dawn studied art in college at David Lipscomb University, but her first years in the workforce focused on graphic arts…until she saw the painting Man With A Cat by Cecilia Beaux. Her love affair with painting began in that moment. 

Patricia Watwood: Contemporary Classicist

By Pat Aube Gray
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 38, 4th Quarter 2007

Cecelia Payne Gaposchkin
oil on canvas, 47" x 38"
University Hall, Harvard University
Sewing machine whirring as she finishes a Halloween costume princess cape, successful artist Patricia Watwood, mother of two, expresses, “Having young children is a blessing.  You can’t postpone it until your career is established.” 

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Watwood was enrolled in art classes throughout her childhood.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Trinity University in Texas, with a major in Theatre (Scenic Design), and a minor in Art and Art History.  Watwood moved to Seattle, Washington where Tony Ryder introduced her to traditional figure drawing and painting at The Academy of Realist Art.  She knew then this would be her life’s work.  

Mary Beth McKenzie

By Terry Howell Stanley
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 47, 1st Quarter 2010

oil on canvas, 64" x 48"
Mary Beth McKenzie is not an artist who claims to have found overnight success immediately after first putting paint to canvas. Her path was deliberate and focused, encompassing study with several of today’s acknowledged Masters, as well as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Cooper School in Cleveland, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. McKenzie struggled to find her artistic voice for nearly five years, during two of which, she discarded more of her art than she kept.  Persevering as student, artist and instructor, she has emerged as a celebrated member of today's fine art community.

Mary Beth McKenzie cites Robert Phillipp as one of her most influential instructors and mentors. 
Painting as his student at the National Academy of Design and modeling for him in his studio, McKenzie explains the education she received by watching Phillipp develop paintings was invaluable. “…his remarkable enthusiasm and excitement for life as well as for painting was contagious. I never left his studio without feeling a renewed motivation and inspiration. He really enjoyed the act of painting, and through his bold handling of paint I became aware of a more sensuous side to painting, a lushness of paint surface and a beauty of color. I loved his loose, seemingly effortless way of working.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bettina Steinke On Her Own Terms

By Terry Howell Stanley
Edited by Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 34, 4th Quarter 2006

Bettina at the easel, 1940
The Oklahoma Journal Record dubbed Bettina Steinke the “acknowledged Grande Dame of portrait painting” on the occasion of her retrospective exhibition (at the Cowboy Hall of Fame) in 1995. What else would you call an artist whose first commissioned assignment resulted in two paintings that are now part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection? In talking to Bettina’s peers and protégés, tags of “mentor”, “critic" and “teacher” were often heard, but the common thread in all of the conversations was an almost overwhelming sense of love and admiration. It quickly became evident that any profile of Bettina needed to address the person as well as the artwork in order to do her justice.

            Bettina Steinke had the DNA of an artist: Her father, William (“Jolly Bill”) Steinke, was an editorial caricaturist (and later a popular children’s radio show host) who nurtured her talent and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.  She attended Fawcett Art Institute in New Jersey, Cooper Union and the Phoenix Art Institute (both in New York City) over the course of six years. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Catherine Prescott: Paint & Passion

By Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 45, 3rd Quarter 2009

“I really do think painting is about desire. There is something that I want to make happen. It is about longing…about making an image that I long for… something more beautiful, something more meaningful."

Marriage Portrait: Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe
Oil on wood panels
Catherine Prescott grew up enriched by a constant exposure to the arts through her “culturally interesting” parents in a small Wisconsin community. Her father was a jazz musician and her mother an avid amateur watercolorist and they frequently took her on trips to nearby Chicago to visit the Art Institute and other galleries.   At 13, Catherine studied with a local artist doing plein aire paintings with a adults, and at 15 she studied at an artist’s studio during a summer retreat to Mexico, staying with extended family and creating large charcoal nudes from life.  Prescott pursued art academically, but not without difficulty.

Berthe Morisot: Quintessential Impressionist

By  Laurel Alanna McBrine
The Art of the Portrait Journal
 Issue No.50, 4th Quarter 2010

Cache-cache (Hide and Seek)
Oil on canvas, 1873
Collection of Mrs. John Hay
Whitney, New York
 Looking back more than a century, we find a painter who, despite the constraints put upon her by society, managed to fulfill her artistic ambitions along with marriage and a child.  Berthe Morisot would become one of the core group of six Impressionist painters.  She was born in 1841 to a wealthy and cultured family.  Berthe and her sister, Edma, unexpectedly became serious art students.  Their teacher warned: “With characters like your daughters’, my teaching will make them painters, not minor amateur talents.  Do you really understand what that means?  In the world of the grande bourgeoisie in which you move, it would be a revolution, I would even say a catastrophe.”  Berthe’s mother was undeterred by this advice and the sisters went on to study with Corot, whose teachings encouraged the development of her unique style.  He said, “While trying for the conscientious imitation of (nature), I never for a single instant lose the emotion which first seized me.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mary Minifie

By Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue 39, 1st Quarter 2008

Mary Hampton
Mary Minifie’s greatest lessons came not from Wellesey during her undergraduate studio art degree, nor her advanced work in art at Boston University. They came from nearly ten years of study in Boston with Paul Ingbretson who attended the atelier of R.  H. Ives Gammell… who studied with Paxton… who studied with Gerome…leading to David, as the pedigree goes.

Living modestly as the wife of a secondary school teacher, she had sought out instruction during her 10 years in Europe.  But sales of her fine art and illustrations became their sole income when she and her husband moved from Cairo to Oxford to pursue an additional advanced degree.

Elizabeth Vigee LeBrun

By Angelo Fernandez
Edited by Lauren Harris
The Art of the Portrait Journal
 Issue No. 36, 2nd Quarter 2007

Marie Antoinette a la rose, 1783
In a society that idolized love and feminine beauty, Madame Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842) shone as one of Europe’s finest artists.  Her first teacher was her father, pastel portraitist Louis Vigée.  She studied under many well-known painters, including J.B. Greuze and Joseph Vernet.  Professionally, Vigée-Lebrun earned a substantial sum of money painting portraits and flowers, considered the most appropriate subjects for women artists at the time. By the time Vigée-Lebrun married at age 20, she was overwhelmed with commissions.  In 1779, Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun became Marie-Antoinette’s personal portraitist, going on to produce at least 25 portraits of the Queen during her lifetime.   

Vigée-Lebrun was inducted into the Académie Royale de la Peinture et Sculpture in 1783, in a unique and unorthodox fashion.  Her application was initially rejected because of her husband’s business dealing art, but was reconsidered with royal intercession.  Her salon submissions, Venus Tying Cupid’s Wings and Peace Bringing Back Abundance, circumvented the traditional procedure of submitting a reception piece for membership consideration. 

Malvina Hoffman

Struggle of Elemental Man
University of Syracuse
New York

By Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 33, 3rd Quarter 2006

 Malvina Hoffman was 43 when she received a wire from the Field Museum in Chicago, “Have proposition to make…”

When she received the commission, this New Yorker, daughter of pianist Richard Hoffman and dedicated interpreter of the human form, was already a monumental woman of the arts and sculptor in demand.  She set out, traveling the world for five years and sculpting 104 life-sized figures, busts, and heads in bronze and stone for the "Races of the World" Hall of Man at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  The project became her crowning contribution to the art world and combined knowledge of anthropology, art history, ethnicity and modern culture.  The sculptures are still housed at Chicago's Field Museum.

Cecilia Beaux

By Luana Luconi Winner
Edited by Lauren Harris
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 32, 2nd Quarter 2006

Portrait of Mrs. Larz Anderson
Eliza Cecilia Beaux and her older sister grew up in the care of their maternal grandmother and aunts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the mid 1800’s.  The family home schooled the girls and encouraged them to be creative and imaginative while instilling a strong work ethic. When Cecilia turned 14, she spent two years at a Philadelphia finishing school before beginning her formal art training with her distant cousin, author and painter, Catherine Ann Drinker Javier.

            An uncle then underwrote her classes at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While Cecilia’s early subjects were family members, she became particularly fond of double portraits, allowing her to create inventive compositions that explored relationships between the sitters.  With the creation of Les derniers jours d’enfance, a loving, tender painting of her sister and first-born nephew, Cecilia’s life changed forever.  Les derniers won the Mary Smith Prize in 1885 at the PAFA and launched her career.  

Juliette Aristedes

By Pat Aube Gray
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 35, 1st Quarter 2007

The Artist
oil on canvas, 48 x 36"

Born in 1971 in South Africa, Juliette Aristides immigrated with her parents at age two to the Pennsylvania countryside.  She recalls spending more time in her imagination during her childhood than in reality.  “Drawing,” she says, “gave me a way of engaging.”

An  extraordinary draughtsman, Aristides is the product of many years of study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the more traditional National Academy of Design, and the studios of Myron Barnstone, Atelier (formerly Atelier Lack), Jacob Collins, and the Water Street Atelier.  The artist has embraced the methods of working through the skill and craft building disciplines of creating art under the tutelage of a single instructor.

Sophonisba Anguissola: Discrezione & Portraiture

By Kate Price
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 46, 4th Quarter 2009

The Chess Game
Sofonisba Anguissola was a prodigy in portraiture and politics.  Born into the Cremonese minor nobility in 1535, she faced a harsh and vivid time, where the average Italian lifespan of 30 years intersected with the achievements of Michelangelo, Titan,  Correggio, and da Vinci.  Her life embodied both the exhilarating and bitter aspects.  Destined to be recognized internationally within her lifetime as a portrait painter of incredible skill, she would also face poverty.  Friend and instructor to royalty, she would also mourn their deaths, as well as the deaths of two husbands, parents, and sisters.  Yet she remained undaunted until her death at the venerable age of 96.  Her city, her era, and her family connections all set the stage for her unique and richly productive life, but above all her discrezione, her clever courage, made it possible.