Artist Biographies

Artist Biographies

As this blog grows, so will your knowledge about artists from around the world. Not only that but across the ages. Please check out the table of contents below to find out a bit more about the artist biographies. You will also find out some interesting facts and figures. There are also some personal recommendations from me too.

In 2018 I had my 56th birthday, I intend to create an artist biography each week until something stops me – like shuffling off this mortal coil. So with any luck this can grow to around 1500 or so. Why didn’t I start sooner?!!! Trust me though, you will find out about some of the great artists of all time. So keep coming back, either sign up for regular email updates here. Or on my Facebook page or Twitter.

Table of Contents

Each artist is linked to the Art Movement that they are best know for or associated with the most. The recommendations are for books I have read, or videos I have seen. You may have some, please drop me a line if there is something I can include for us all to share.


Mark Rothko (Abstract Expressionist Artist)

Mark Rothko – 25.9.1903 – 25.2.1970. Firstly, this is one artist who is sure to divide opinion. Heralded by some (including me) as a genius. By others, they fail to see what he is on about. He was born in Latvia in 1903. In around 1913, his family emigrated to the USA. As a result of this he inherited American nationality. He is best known for large, doom laden canvases which are chiefly orchestrated as large blocks of colour. So the colours merge into one another. 


Recommended Reading


Works

Working throughout the 1930s and 1940s, sometimes figuratively. After that, he didn’t hit upon his signature style until the late 1940s and early 1950s. His verticals never fail to fascinate or exacerbate in equal measure, for instance. In New York in the 1950s, abstract expressionism reigned supreme. Therefore, along with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning he is one of the most recognisable of this genre. He didn’t paint in the same vein as the rest of the abstract expressionists. Subsequently towards the end of the 1950s, he veered towards the dark side.

Hidden Meaning

Above all, his works were increasingly replete with obfuscation and hidden meaning. Sometimes the meaning was probably known only to himself. Red became a prominent colour choice. Symbolising blood perhaps? The paintings in the Rothko Chapel are bleak and uncompromising. Dark and mysterious they give us time to contemplate. Consequently, they force us to contemplate the cosmos.

Rothko Chapel – Read all about the non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas.

During the 1950s, he famously rejected his commission for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York. So he decided to donate them to the Tate Gallery in the UK.

To sum up, his is now a very expensive artist to acquire works by. He was the classic “Tortured artist”. In short, he painted his own life, moreover, his own impending sense of death.

Moreover, he continued to focus on the expansive canvases almost up until his lonely suicide in 1970.


Birthplace – Dvinsk, Vitebsk Governorate, Russian Empire (now Daugavpils, Latvia)
Birth Name – Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz
Nom de Pinceau – Mark Rothko
Art Movement – Abstract Expressionism
Highest Auction Price (to date, adjusted, if possible) – US$ 192 Million (2014) – No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) – 1951 
ItL Rating (out of Five Stars) – ✪✪✪✪✪

 


Rothko DVDs


Paul Cézanne (Post Impressionist Artist)

Paul Cézanne – 19.1.1839 – 22.10. 1906. Firstly, this chap is definitely in my top 10. Heralded by most as the father of Modern Art, he was utterly dedicated to his passion. Although associated with the impressionists, he was never quite one of them. He (almost single-handedly) made the transition between the late 19th to early 20th Century artistic practices. Famously, he was cited by Picasso as “the father of us all”. Indeed, Picasso only got to experience Cézanne in a retrospective held just after his death at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, 1906.
 
He is known chiefly for his “block” style of applying paint. Flattening perspective and building up colour forms. Such as his many studies of Mont Sainte-Victoire in Aix-en- Provence, where he was born. He is mainly associated with Post Impressionism.
 
 
Mont Sainte-Victoire and Château Noir – c.1904 – c.1906
 

Recommended Reading

Works

One of my favourites of all time is The Bathers. But his still life works, including apples and pears never fail to fascinate. If you are lucky enough to get to Paris, then I strongly urge you to visit the Musée d’Orsay if you can (along with the Musée de l’Orangerie – but that’s for you Monet fans out there).

Musée d’Orsay – Paris

So to sum up – he was certainly the bridge between 19th Century impressionism and Modern Art. Cézanne died of pneumonia, which he contracted when caught out in a storm, carrying his canvases. Truly suffering for his art!


Birthplace – Aix-en-Provence, France
Birth Name – Paul Cézanne
Nom de Pinceau – Paul Cézanne
Art Movement – Post Impressionism
Highest Auction Price (to date, adjusted, if possible) – US$ 272 Million plus (2011) – The Card Players – 1892/3
ItL Rating (out of Five Stars) – ✪✪✪✪✪


Oscar-Claude Monet (Impressionist Artist)

Oscar-Claude Monet or just Claude Monet – 14.11.1840 – 5.12.1926. I wonder how many words have been written about this guy. Probably millions. So, this will be a simple and concise precis. However, he ranks as one of the all-time greats. He’s in my Top 10 for sure. One thing to note right away is his constant repetition of a similar image. Haystacks. London. Water Lillies. His garden. His key focus was always on nature. The impression that he felt when looking at it. The impression he conveyed when painting it. He “invented” impressionism and was always its major exponent.

Shortly after the first exhibition of impressionism, he was able to delight us with works such as: 

His gentle interpretation of light and shadow portrays a delightful and bucolic scene. Madame Monet is bathed in a pellucid back light. We can feel the warmth of that summer day. Even the viewing angle surprises us. We are urged to look up and admire. Surely conveying Monet’s love for his wife and son. He captures a moment in time. Blink and it’s gone. Superb output from this consummate artist, so ahead of his time. 

Recommended Reading

Another favourite subject matter for me is water lillies. When I ticked off another bouquet list item – Les Nymphéas at the Musée de l’Orangerie, I felt a sense of elation. The works are quite simply, breath-taking. You can’t appreciate them without seeing them first hand. The blurb from the museum states that “This unique masterpiece has no equivalent worldwide”. I’d agree wholeheartedly with that. Summing up then, I urge you to get this on your own list as well, please! I still intend to go one more time. J’adore Paris!

 

Birthplace – Paris, France
Birth Name – Oscar-Claude Monet
Nom de Pinceau – Claude Monet
Art Movement – Impressionism
Highest Auction Price (to date, adjusted, if possible) – US$ 91.6 Million plus (2008) – Le bassin aux Nymphéas – 1919
ItL Rating (out of Five Stars) – ✪✪✪✪✪


Sir Stanley Spencer (Post Impressionism and Independent Artist)

Sir Stanley Spencer – 30.06.1891 – 14.12.1959. Unorthodox and a maverick. One of the UK’s greatest national treasures though? Often unsung and overlooked, Spencer was a very gifted artist indeed. Sometimes at odds with the art world, especially the RA (Royal Academy in London). He famously resigned from it as an associate, then, later on in his life, was readmitted as a Royal Academician. Knighted and a CBE, he was always a bit of an outsider, even though he became part of the establishment, receiving a knighthood and a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

Probably best known for his biblical scenes, but translated into everyday village life in Cookham, Berkshire. But there is much more to him than his quasi-religious imagery. He created, and perhaps courted, a controversial personal image. Difficult personal relationships were interpreted in several canvases. Nudes of himself and his second wife were perhaps the progenitors of Lucian Freud’s later signature style. He is also well known for his World War II images of shipbuilding in Glasgow, Scotland.

The eccentricity and slightly off kilter view of the world of this artist appeal to me enormously, check him out if you can!


Recommended Reading


Works

You’ll note from the works below Spencer’s use of perspective and figurative portrayals. Slightly exaggerated, but this does not diminish their actual power. They are arresting images, full of quirky interpretations. I wonder what he is trying to convey in Sunflower and Dog Worship – what do you think?


 
Sunflower and Dog Worship – Stanley Spencer – 1937

 


Birth Name – Stanley Spencer
Nom de Pinceau – Stanley Spencer (Sir Stanley Spencer)
Art Movement – Post Impressionism and Independent
Highest Auction Price (to date, adjusted, if possible) – £5.4 Million (2011) – Sunflower and Dog Worship – 1937
ItL Rating (out of Five Stars) – ✪✪✪✪✪

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