Cultured Wednesday: Mønsted’s Sunset Over a Forest Lake

Most of Peder Mørk Mønsted’s landscapes were devoted to Scandinavia.

Peder Mørk Mønsted (10 December 1859 – 20 June 1941) was a Danish realist painter who is best known for his landscape paintings, and a 1995 exhibition of his work bore the very fitting title “Light of the North”.  His Sunset Over a Forest Lake beautifully illustrates how someone can come up with such a title.

Mønsted Forest Lake

For us, his art shows how, and why, painting is superior to photography.  There is a depth in these realistic scenes that might have something to do with the time spent painting, something photography is lacking.  And while there surely is artistic photography even in this digital age where very little skill is required to create a “stunning” picture, it does not compare to the artistic expression in paint on canvas.

Let us invite you to sit quietly by the above forest lake for a spell, or, if you don’t feel like sitting, accompany the young lady and her cow below to the river.   Take your time.

Peder Mørk Mønsted
Peder Mørk Mønsted: By the Rriver 1908

Cultured Wednesday: Diego Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita

Margaret Theresa’s 4-year-old self, painted by her father King Philip IV of Spain’s favorite court painter.

We have been posting portraits lately, and mentioned various Dutch painters.  Today, we will continue one trend but break with the other:  Here is another portrait of a young lady, but the painter is one of the Spanish Golden Age rather than the Dutch:

Retrato de la infanta Margarita Diego Velázquez
Retrato de la Infanta Margarita (Margaret Theresa of Spain),
circa 1655

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age.  Leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, he was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, they say.  It does not come as a surprise that Velázquez painted many portraits of the royal family.  The rise of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty did, after all, coincide with the Spanish Golden Age of of arts and literature.

This little cutie pie princess Margaret Theresa of Spain, who lived to bear the titles Holy Roman Empress, German Queen, Queen consort of Hungary and Bohemia, and Archduchess consort of Austria, struck us as quite dignified for her young age:  She must have been around four at the time.  Velázquez painted her portrait at least 5 times between 1653 and 1660, at different ages, and his portraits of her are by far the most favorable, I dare say.

Now, while I am surely no expert on the matter, I find the 17th century Spanish style of painting quite distinct, although it is said that Velázquez’s obvious belief in artistic realism is comparable to many of the Dutch masters.  Considering the bold brush strokes that give his paintings depth, it is easy to understand why Diego Velázquez’s art and style was a model for the realist and impressionist painters of the early 19th century.


Cultured Wednesday: Léon Augustin Lhermitte’s Gleaners

Léon Augustin Lhermitte was a French naturalist painter whose primary subject matter was rural scenes.

Studying the French naturalist painter Léon Augustin Lhermitte (born 31 July 1844 in Mont-Saint-Père, died 28 July 1925 in Paris), one cannot help but think that, when he saw the women gleaning in the fields after the harvesters were done, he thought of Ruth and Boaz.  How a story from the pages of the Bible can come alive when you watch the workers in the fields of your own neighborhood…

Lhermitte Les Glaneurs 1887
Les Glaneurs (The Gleaners), 1887

Looking at more of Lhermitte’s paintings, one realizes quickly just how much he must have been rooted in Christianity.  He valued family and family life with many children, and man as created, busily going about taking dominion of the earth, preferably in a group since even if the job is hard, “Many hands make light work”.  Besides, you find paintings with obvious religious content, from Gospel scenes to people praying.  Scroll through the list we linked to above to see more of his paintings for an illustration of this.

But his main focus seem to have been the harvesters of late 19th century rural France, which is why we chose two of his gleaning scenes for your consideration today.  The featured image is slightly cropped.  If you have the time, look at the people in the painting above, or in any of his many other paintings with a similar theme, and note how carefully he crafted the expressions on their faces, the details in their postures, their clothes and their tools.  I will add one more painting of harvesters (though not gleaners) for this purpose below, but really, there are many paintings of his that are well worth spending time on.

Paying the Harvesters 1882
La Paye des Moissonneurs (Paying the Harvesters), 1882

Cultured Wednesday: Christian E. B. Morgenstern

Morgenstern the Painter is regarded as one of the pioneers in Germany of early Realism in painting.

Christian Ernst Bernhard Morgenstern (1805 – 1867), grandfather of the poet Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (1871 – 1914), was a German landscape painter.  Since he was born in Hamburg, many of his paintings show northern German, or northern European landscapes, like the one above titled “Blick zum Brocken” (“View towards the Brocken”, see the uncropped painting at the end of the post), which is the highest mountain in the Harz mountains.  Here is one entitled “Buchen – Frederiksdal bei Kopenhagen” (“Beeches – Frederiksdal near Copenhagen”):


Morgenstern the Painter is regarded as one of the pioneers in Germany of early Realism in painting.  Incidentally, both his father and his son were painters as well.  Painting really must run in a family, much like music does, given what we know about the Moran’s, or the Bach’s.  Did you know that the last name “Bach” used to be a synonym for “musician” in Thuringia back in the day?  You could have said “He is a real Bach!” in praise of a musician, and everybody would have known what you meant.  But back to Morgenstern (which translates morning star, by the way) and his paintings.  Here’s Heligoland in the moonlight:

Helgoland im Mondlicht (1851)

Morgenstern was highly regarded in his lifetime, something that wasn’t granted to his poet grandson.  And small wonder it is, given how beautiful his paintings are with regards to composition, colors and choice of landscape.  Here is a landscape at dusk:

Abendlandschaft (1848)

He must have had a special liking for moonlit scenes, and the little island of Heligoland as well as the river that runs through his native Hamburg, the Elbe.  Note how busy the river must have been (already) at the end of the 19th century:

Mondaufgang über der Elbe (probably 1864)

Lastly, a scene at the beach of the Northern Sea.  The coast there is lined with dunes where it is not diked in.  Note how almost all of Morgenstern’s painting contain people as part of the landscape rather than the main focus of the painting.

Dünen an der Nordsee (1853)

Maybe I enjoy his art so much because I grew up in northern Germany, so the places he painted are familiar to me, and he portrays them with such a loving hand.  Hope you enjoy his paintings as much as we do!

Blick zum Brocken (1829)
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