Cultured Wednesday: Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

The title for this painting comes from the refrain of a popular song “Ye Shepherds Tell Me” by Joseph Mazzinghi, a pastoral glee for a trio of male voices, which mentions Flora wearing “A wreath around her head, around her head she wore, / Carnation, lily, lily, rose”.

Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose 1885f.jpg
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885)

John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925), American expatriate artist and the “leading portrait painter of his generation”, painted the above portrait of two little girls lighting paper lanterns in the evening light in 1885.  From the beginning of his career as a painter, Sargent’s work was characterized by remarkable technical facility, particularly in his ability to draw with a brush.  His commissioned works were consistent with the grand manner of portraiture, while his informal studies and landscape paintings displayed a familiarity with Impressionism, they say.

The two subjects of the painting are the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, Dolly on the left, 11 years old at the time, and Polly on the right, seven years old.  They were chosen for their light hair, it seems.

We like this painting for its wonderful atmosphere.  Wouldn’t you want to be there with the two little ladies, lighting lanterns and enjoying the summer evening?  We surely would.  You can practically smell the roses and lilies!


Cultured Wednesday: Lilly Martin Spencer’s “We Both Must Fade”

The third portrait of a girl in a row!

This is a favorite painting of our oldest daughter, and the third portrait of a girl in a row, albeit the model is a bit older this time.  Have a look at this pretty, pensive young lady:

Lilly Martin Spencer: We Both Must Fade (Mrs. Fithian) (1869)

It is the first time that we have a painting of  a female painter on here, we just realized.  Well, high time, we say:

Lilly Martin Spencer (born Angelique Marie Martin on 26 November 1822 in Exeter, England, and died 22 May 1902 in Highland, New York) was one of the most popular and widely reproduced American female genre painters in the mid-nineteenth century.  Primarily, she painted domestic scenes, paintings of women and children in a warm happy atmosphere, although over the course of time she would also come to paint works of varying style and subject matter.

In 1830, when Lilly was eight, her family immigrated from the Old World to New York where they remained for three years before ultimately moving to Marietta, Ohio.  There Lilly was home-schooled by her highly educated parents and began what would be her long career as an artist.

She later moved to Cincinnati, OH where she met and married Benjamin Rush Spencer on 24 August 1844.  Her new husband was an Englishman who worked in the tailoring business, but once they were married he dedicating himself to helping his wife both in household chores and with her artistic work.  They raised seven children to adulthood.  Although many feared that matrimony would end Lilly’s career as an artist, it did not.  Instead, she would become the most popular and widely reproduced female genre painter of the mid-19th century.

The family moved to New York City in 1848, and in the winter of 1879–80 to rural Highland, New York.  Her husband of forty-six years died in February 1890, leaving Lilly a widow, but she continued to work  until the day of her death on 22 May 1902.

Lily Martin Spencer had a career that spanned more than 60 years.  Now that’s something!


Cultured Wednesday: Joshua Reynolds’ Little Girl

This painting became popularly known as “The Age of Innocence”.

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 – 1792) was an English portrait painter, one of the major European painters of the 18th century, some say.  “Grande Style” was his cup of tea, and hence, his portraits would smooth out imperfections in his models to present the ideal rather than reality.  In fact, it appears that he often had others paint the clothing of his models for him, and that the actual model would not have to sit on those occasions: Someone else would wear the clothing that was to be in the painting.

Regardless, consider this beautiful portrait.

The Age of Innocence Reynolds
Joshua Reynolds: A Little Girl, later renamed “The Age of Innocence”, c. 1788

While there surely was a model who sat for this painting, it is rather a character study than “just” a portrait.  In the eighteenth century, they would have referred to it as a “fancy picture”.  It became immensely popular in its time, and does this surprise you much?

If you happen to be in or around London, you can see this portrait at the Tate (Tate Britain, that is), where it has been on display since 1951.

Incidentally, Reynolds also painted a portrait of Edward Cornwallis.

Cultured Wednesday: Albert Anker

Enjoy these wonderful portraits of rural Swiss people of the 19th century.

With Albrecht Samuel Anker, portrait painter of the 19th century, I don’t even know where to start when it comes to picking paintings as examples of his art.  Just about each and every one of them is so wonderful!  Here’s the one that caught my attention first and led me to look for other paintings of Mr. Anker:

girls peeting taters
Girl Peeling Potatoes

Albrecht Anker was born on April 1, 1831 in Ins, in the canton of Bern, in north-western Switzerland.  He was a Swiss painter and illustrator and has earned for himself the title “national painter of Switzerland” because of his depictions of 19th-century Swiss village life that are as well-loved today as they were back in his time.  When he was 14, he went to the nearby town of Neuchâtel to school for three years, and it is there that his first name changed from Albrecht to Albert as the latter was much easier to pronounce for his French-speaking classmates.

Albert-Anker- girls with kittens in basket 1862
Girl with Kittens in a Basket, 1862

After finishing his schooling and studying theology for a while in Halle, Germany, the great art galleries there inspired Albert Anker to become an artist, and thus, having convinced his parents to agree to his new career plans, he moved to Paris, France.  He was quite famous during his lifetime already, but only after his death on July 16, 1910 there were exhibitions dedicated only to him.

Girls Braiding Hair, 1887

Albert married Anna Rüfli in 1864, and they had six children together.  Four of his children, the ones who did not die at an early age, appear in some of his paintings: Louise, Marie, Maurice and Cécile.

Which leads me to why we like his paintings so much:  He painted the most wonderful portraits of children as well as older people.  So just sit back and enjoy some more glimpses into the life of 19th century people in rural Switzerland.

Rosa and Bertha Gugger
boy reading
Reading Out Loud
Albert Anker 1831-1910 5
Portrait of a Girl
Warming Old Hands
Schoolboy, 1875
Fortune Teller, 1880
girls knitting
Girl Knitting

And lastly:

Brustbild eines Mädchens in schwarzer Kapuze
Girl with Black Hood
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