The two paintings featured, The Annunciation by Gerard David, were part of a multi-storied polyptych (typically an altarpiece consisting of more than three panels) commissioned in the early 1500's by a wealthy Italian banker and diplomat - for the high altar of the Benedictine abbey church of San Gerolamo della Cervara.
Gerard David was a Netherlandish painter and manuscript illuminator, born around 1460 in Bruges, where he became the leading painter around the age of 34 and was known as one of the town's leading citizens. He became dean of an artist guild, taught for years and around 1519 he and one of his students got into a dispute over a number of paintings and drawings the student has collected from other artists. David was owed a large debt by this man, took hold of those works of art, only to be sued, ordered to return the artworks and served time in prison.
The two panels The Annunciation hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
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You might have run across Edgar Dega's sculpture of the young ballerina in several different art museums. You're not crazy. This Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen resides in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. When I visited the museum, it was not encased in a glass box, which made a huge difference in appreciating this perfect figurative sculpture. And I mean perfect.
Degas painted young ballet dancers numerous times. At rehearsals, stretching exercises and lessons in ballet studios. He drew them in pastels and charcoal, painted them in oils. The model for Little Dancer was Marie van Goethem who posed for the only sculpture exhibited in Dega's lifetime in 1881. Little Dancer was originally executed in wax and later cast in bronze around 1922, after Dega's death. Which is why you maybe have seen one yourself.
It's been my observation that men really like this Portrait of Balzac by Auguste Rodin. The sculpture stands in the large French Impressionism gallery in the Art Institute of Chicago, strikingly bolder than the oil paintings by Renoirs and Degas, to name a few.
The Portrait of Balzac was one of several bronze sculptures commissioned by a literary society in the 1890's, in honor of the famous French novelist Honore de Balzac. Rodin immersed himself in studying the writer - reading all his books, visiting his birthplace and studying all known existing portraits. It took Rodin seven years before he created this particular one - intending to stress Balzac's 'vitality and candor' in a full nude portrait that was immediately rejected by the literary society and the public at large.
This rejection, among others, didn't prevent Rodin from becoming the most famous artist in the world at the beginning of the 20th century. He is best known for the marble sculpture The Kiss and the bronze, The Thinker. Not to mention there's an entire museum in Philadelphia, the Rodin Museum, devoted to the man.
"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is... unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." ~ Alice Neel
"If I had the energy, I would have done it all over the country" - Edward Hopper
"It's what you carry to an object that counts." - Andrew Wyeth
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"When I'm old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in."