Petrona Viera, 1895–1960

September 8, 2017 by richard

Petrona Viera

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

petrona viera

Biography[edit]María Petrona Viera Garino (24 March 1895 – 4 October 1960), commonly known as Petrona Viera, was an Uruguayan painter known for being the first female professional painter in Uruguay and for her participation in the Planismo movement.[1]

Planista painting is made on the basis of color planes, planes whose edges interact and appear more or less faceted according to the author. The intentionality is to make a non-volumetric painting, with an austere drawing in details and tending to a certain geometrization. The figures are thus cut out. For the planter painter “the figure is as primordial as the bottom, the center as the angle farthest from the center of the canvas” . The planista painting does not penetrate in the chiaroscuro. The color, absent from modeling, is generally used neat; Chromatism is often vibrant. “Their colors (they come from the Fauvism mediated by Anglada) are allusive to reality … This Uruguayan adhesion to the anecdote determines a painting of deep subjectivity (…). Perhaps in that painting there was something of the national being with its contradictions and personal contribution. Surely this painting inaugurates modern Uruguayan painting “.

Petrona Viera was born in Montevideo to Carmen Garino and Uruguayan President Feliciano Viera. At the age of two, Viera contracted meningitis, which left her deaf. Her parents hired a French teacher specializing in deaf education, Madeleine Larnaudie, who taught her lip reading and sign language.[2]

Around the age of 20, Viera began to take private painting lessons with the Catalan artist Vicente Puig, but she stopped working with him when he left the country a few years later. In 1922, she began to take lessons from Guillermo Laborde, who influenced her to join the Planismo movement. She began to exhibit her paintings in 1923, and had her first solo exhibition in 1926 at Galería Maveroff.[3] Guillermo Laborde’s death in 1940 affected her deeply, and led her to change the direction of her work. After his death, she worked with Guillermo Rodríguez and began producing engravings, watercolors, and ceramics.[4] She continued to paint, but her themes changed, and she began to paint more landscapes and nature scenes than her previous scenes of children’s life.

Style and work[edit]

“Niñas” (oil on canvas, no date), National Museum of Visual ArtsNinas

Petrona Viera is associated with Planismo, a Uruguayan artistic movement from the turn of the 20th century that was known for its austere lines and bright colors. Her work has many typical features of Planismo, such as clear lines, defined contours, flat structures, and a warm palette with primary and secondary colors. However, her work differs from that of other Planismo artists in that she painted themes of daily life rather than landscapes. Her art often includes scenes of her home, children playing and reading, servants, and her sisters. Later in her career, she shifted her style and painted more landscapes.

220px-Petrona_Viera 19243733Pinos-viera-master-artpetrona-viera-la-hermana-de-la-artista,-joven-de-vestido-verdeviera_petrona-meditandoQuinta--viera-uruguaygrimaces-petrona-viera


  1. Jump up ^ Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Uruguay. “Petrona Viera (1895-1960)” (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. Jump up ^ Cultura Sorda (July 2007). “Petrona Viera” (pdf) (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  3. Jump up ^ Juan Andrés Nopitsch. “Petrona Viera: la primer artista profesional uruguaya” [Petrona Viera: The first Uruguayan professional female artist] (in Spanish).
  4. Jump up ^ Ana Inés Larre Borges; Cielo Pereira (2001). Mujeres uruguayas: el lado femenino de nuestra historia [Uruguayan Women: The feminine side of our history] (in Spanish). Alfaguara/Fundación Banco de Boston.

Georgia O’Keeffe, 1887–1986

by richard

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

Photo of the artist Music Pink and Blue 1918

Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, the second of seven children and grew up on a farm in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. As a child she received art lessons at home and her abilities were quickly recognized and encouraged by teachers throughout her school years. By the time she graduated from high school in 1905, O’Keeffe had determined to make her way as an artist. O’Keeffe pursued studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1905–1906) and at the Art Students League, New York (1907–1908), where she was quick to master the principles of the approach to art-making that then formed the basis of the curriculum—imitative realism. In 1908 she won the League’s William Merritt Chase still-life prize for her oil painting “Untitled” (Dead Rabbit with Copper Pot). Shortly thereafter, however, O’Keeffe quit making art, saying later that she had known then that she could never achieve distinction working within this tradition.


In 1905, O’Keeffe began her serious formal art training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then the Art Students League of New York, but she felt constrained by her lessons that focused on recreating or copying what was in nature. In 1908, unable to fund further education, she worked for two years as a commercial illustrator, and then spent seven years between 1911 and 1918 teaching in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. During that time, she studied art during the summers between 1912 and 1914 and was introduced to the principles and philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow, who espoused created works of art based upon personal style, design, and interpretation of subjects, rather than trying to copy or represent them. This caused a major change in the way she felt about and approached art, as seen in the beginning stages of her watercolors from her studies at the University of Virginia and more dramatically in the charcoal drawings that she produced in 1915 that led to total abstraction. Alfred Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, held an exhibit of her works in 1916. Over the next couple of years, she taught and continued her studies at the Teachers College, Columbia University.

Georgia_O'Keeffe_Inside_Red_Canna_1919 Jimson Weed


Her interest in art was rekindled four years later (1912) when she took a summer course for art teachers at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, taught by Alon Bement of Teachers College, Columbia University. Bement introduced O’Keeffe to the then revolutionary ideas of his colleague at Teachers College, artist and art educator Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow’s ideas offered O’Keeffe an alternative to imitative realism and she experimented with them for two years, while she was either teaching art in the Amarillo, Texas public schools (1912-14) or working summers in Virginia as Bement’s assistant. O’Keeffe was in New York again from fall 1914 to June 1915, taking courses at Teachers College. In an attempt to discover a personal language through which she could express her own feelings and ideas, she began a series of abstract charcoal drawings that are now recognized as being among the most innovative in all of American art of the period. She mailed some of these drawings to a former Columbia classmate who showed them to the internationally known photographer and art impresario, Alfred Stieglitz, on January 1, 1916. By the time she arrived in New York in June, she and Stieglitz, who were married in 1924, had fallen in love and subsequently lived and worked together in New York (winter and spring) and at the Stieglitz family estate at Lake George, New York (summer and fall) until 1929, when O’Keeffe spent the first of many summers painting in New Mexico.

Blue-green music 1921Cows Skull 1931

From 1923 until his death in 1946, Stieglitz worked assiduously and effectively to promote O’Keeffe and her work, organizing annual exhibitions of her art at The Anderson Galleries (1923–1925), The Intimate Gallery (1925–1929), and An American Place (1929–1946). As early as the mid-1920s, when O’Keeffe first began painting New York skyscrapers as well as large-scale depictions of flowers as if seen close up, which are among her best-known pictures, she had become recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists. Three years after Stieglitz’s death, O’Keeffe moved from New York to her beloved New Mexico, whose stunning vistas and stark landscape configurations had inspired her work since 1929. Indeed, many of the pictures she painted in New Mexico, especially her landscape paintings of the area, have become as well known as the work she had completed earlier in New York. Indeed, the area nourished O’Keeffe’s creative efforts from 1929 until 1984, when failing eyesight forced her into retirement. She lived either at her Ghost Ranch house, which she purchased in 1940, or at the house she purchased in Abiquiu in 1945. She made New Mexico her permanent home in 1949, three years after Stieglitz’s death, and continued working in oil until the mid–1970’s. She worked in pencil and watercolor until 1982 and produced objects in clay from the mid-1970’s until two years before her death in 1986, at the age of 98.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s first signs of macular degeneration appeared in 1964 when, as Jeffrey Hogrefe relates in his 1992 biography, she “rounded a curve in the road she was driving from Ghost Ranch on a brilliantly sunny day… and the valley narrowed to a patch of greenery along the river. It felt, she said later, as if a cloud had entered her eyeballs…”
Black Rock Blue Skyf--georgia-okeefe-mexico-artOKeeffe abstraction green with red dot

In 1972, she finished her last unassisted oil paintings—Black Rock with Blue Sky and White Clouds, in which a black ovoid stone dominates the canvas, a sliver of blue sky and clouds behind it, and The Beyond, which shows a wide band of darkness at the bottom of the canvas creeping toward the horizon line; one has the sense looking at it that all light will inevitably be engulfed. “My left eye has become much more cloudy,” she wrote in a letter that year, “and it’s as if my right eye is beginning to cloud. I assume I should know there is nothing that could be done about it. Am I correct?”
In the early to mid-seventies, she sometimes elicited assistance from others when working on her canvases, such as the summer of 1976, when she directed John Poling, then a handyman at Ghost Ranch, to execute her conception of several works, including From a Day with Juan. When he saw the painting published in ART news, he asked for credit, and though she advanced the claim that his “contribution had no artistic significance” and he was “the equivalent of a palette knife,” in the years that followed she turned more to clay as the last medium in which she worked.

Dan Budnik Georgia O'Keeffe at the the Ghost Ranch with Pots by Juan Hamilton Platinum Print $9,000.00download (1)

O'keeffe Quotes Georgia O Keeffe Quotes    -

O’keeffe Quotes Georgia O Keeffe Quotes –

Walter Bryan Pearce,1929–2007

by richard

Walter Bryan Pearce (25 July 1929 – 11 January 2007) was a British painter. He was recognised as one of the UK’s leading naïve artists.

Bryan Pearce

Early life[edit]

Bryan Pearce was born in St. Ives, Cornwall, which remained his home for the rest of his life. His father, Walter, was a butcher in St Ives, played rugby for Cornwall, and was later mayor of St Ives. His mother, Mary Warmington, was a painter from another local family.

Pearce suffered from the congenital disease phenylketonuria, which affects the normal development of the brain. He attended a special needs school in the 1940s and 1950s and then, encouraged by his mother and, later, by other St. Ives artists, he began drawing and painting in watercolours in 1953 before moving on to oil paint on board and, later, conté crayon. He attended Leonard Fuller’s St. Ives School of Painting from 1953 to 1957.

bryan_pearce_my_motherSt IvesLithograph Three AnglesSt Michaels Mount

Symptoms of phenylketonuria

PKU symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most severe form of this disorder is known as classic PKU. An infant with classic PKU may appear normal for the first few months of their life. If the baby isn’t treated for PKU during this time, they’ll start to develop the following symptoms:

  • seizures
  • tremors, or trembling and shaking
  • stunted growth
  • hyperactivity
  • skin conditions such as eczema
  • a musty odor of their breath, skin, or urine

If PKU isn’t diagnosed at birth and treatment isn’t started quickly, the disorder can cause:

  • irreversible brain damage and intellectual disabilities within the first few months of life
  • behavioral problems and seizures in older children

A less severe form of PKU is called variant PKU or non-PKU hyperphenylalaninemia. This occurs when the baby has too much phenylalanine in their body. Infants with this form of the disorder may have only mild symptoms, but they’ll need to follow a special diet to prevent intellectual disabilities.

Once a specific diet and other necessary treatments are started, symptoms start to diminish. People with PKU who properly manage their diet usually don’t show any symptoms.


Artistic career[edit]

Pearce specialised in paintings of his home town, and the surrounding Penwith area, drawn in typically flat style, with areas of bright colour surrounded by heavy outlines, like stained glass. His learning disabilities gave his art, in the words of Peter Lanyon, an “awareness more direct” than pure observation. Lanyon also said that “Because his sources are not seen with a passive eye, but are truly happenings, his painting is original”, and “It is necessary to accept these works as the labour of a man who has to communicate this way because there is no other.” His art has been compared to that of Alfred Wallis.

Guided by Denis Mitchell, he joined the Penwith Society of Arts in 1957, and the Newlyn Society of Artists. He had his first solo exhibition at the Newlyn Gallery near Penzance in 1959, and his first solo exhibition in London at the St Martin’s Gallery in 1962. Retrospectives were held at various venues from 1966 to 2004, particularly at Penwith Gallery in 1966, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in 1975, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro in 2000, and the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath in 2004. Examples of his work are held by many public galleries. His business affairs were dealt with first by his family and ultimately by trustees, enabling him to concentrate on his art. In the second half of his career a good deal of his work was produced and sold in the form of prints in relatively small signed, numbered editions. Some of these were small hand-made etchings, with which the artist had a ‘hands on’ creative involvement; others were full size screenprints made by printer-craftsmen ‘after’ works in other media. The latter certainly render just over twenty of Pearce’s original images, with their pure, expansive areas of specific colours, extremely convincingly. Two of the earliest screenprints, ‘St Ives All Round’ and ‘Newlyn All Round’ (both 1976) were printed in black line only. A number of one-colour lithographs also exist.

Bryan Pearce’s mother, Mary, died in 1997. He died peacefully at home in St. Ives, and his funeral was held at St Ives Parish Church on 22 January 2007. An exhibition was held at the Tate Gallery, St Ives from 3 February – 13 May 2007. It had been planned as a retrospective but became a memorial show.

The Bryan Pearce Estate gave a collection of his works from the 1950s to 2006 to the Royal Cornwall Museum. These were shown 17 November 2007 – 5 January 2008, at the Museum. Meanwhile, on 12 March 2008, an auction record for a painting by Bryan Pearce was set at Bonham’s New Bond Street auction rooms in London when the work “St Ives Harbour 1″ (1965), 20″ x 46″, realised a hammer price of £28,000 (with commission around £33,500). This record was soon broken as, in the following May, Pearce’s largest known oil painting, ‘Penzance Harbour (all round)’, oil on board 20.5″ x 60.5″, sold for £39000 (with commission around £47,000) at a Penzance auction house, and was destined for the permanent collection at Penlee House, Penzance. In October 2011, his St. Ives (all round) 1977, oil on board 24″ x 45½”, exceeded the pre-sale top estimate at Christies three times over, selling for £55250 (including buyer’s premium) making it the most expensive Pearce to-date.

Several biographies have been published, including Ruth Jones’s The Path of the Son (1976), Marion Whybrow’s Bryan Pearce: a private view (1985) and Janet Axten’s The Artist and His Work (2004).




Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606–1669

by richard

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

Rembrandt van Rijn was a Dutch artist, generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history.

Several researchers believe that Rembrandt may have had stereo blindness (dissimilar visual images received by his left and right eyes), since many of his self-portraits show each of his eyes looking in a different direction, as in Self-Portrait as a Young Man:hqdefaultRembrandt self portraitRembrandt-self-portrait-circles-oldrembrandtvanrijn_self_portrait_with_lace_collar-copy18a9475940a18265be7a76e755f87cce--rembrandt-portrait-dutch

This lack of binocular vision may have caused problems with Rembrandt’s depth perception – but it also may have helped his art by making Rembrandt become exceptionally aware of light changes, shadows, and other details that helped him judge distances and depth and depict a realistic three-dimensional world on a flat canvas.

One of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings is The Night Watch (1642), known for its effective use of light, depth, shadow, and the perception of motion he created on the canvas:


Who was Rembrandt van Rijn?
Although many of the historcal details of his life are unknown, it is known that Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn was born in Leiden, the Netherlands on July 15, 1606, and that he died Rembrandt died in relative obscurity on October 4, 1669. Rembrandt was the ninth child in the family; his father was a miller and his mother came from a wealthy family. Around 1613-1615, Rembrandt attended the Latin School to prepare for his admission to Leiden University. While still living with his parents, he enrolled at the university in 1620, just before he turned 14. In 1622, at the age of 16, Rembrandt began a three-year apprenticeship with the Leiden painter Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburg.

Rembrandt established his own studio in Leiden, and later settled in Amsterdam (around 1632). Rembrandt was quick at completing exquisitely detailed portraits, a type of work for which he soon became famous. He was also well-known for his self-portraits; many these were simple representations of himself in the background of more elaborate works. His self-portraits, more than 100 of them, provide an excellent visual choronology of his aging, as well as an account of changes in the execution of his work.

Rembrandt considered himself primarily a history painter. Despite the Church of Holland’s ban on religious paintings, agreat deal of his work dealt with Biblical subjects. Following in the path of the late 16th century Italian painter Caravaggio, Rembrandt used powerful light/dark contrasts (ie. chiaroscuro), used to highlight his subject and explore the depths of the human soul. Rembrandt was also an accomplished draughtsman and printmaker whose works were crafted with precision and in minute detail. He is generally considered to be the greatest Dutch painter of all time. Like some other great artists (eg. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael) he adopted the practice of signing his works with a single name, “Rembrandt”.

Throughout his artistic life Rembrandt strived for authenticity and recorded what he saw around him them putting these compositions of ten as part of his 300 etchings or 2000 drawings into his 300 largely commissioned oil paintings.

Rembrandt included a number of disabled people in these drawings. Lepers had to wear a white head band and had had all their worldly goods confiscated by the state as they had been punished by God by acquiring their affliction.

cae328afd982db1b224b4d0f630fe617--wooden-leg-rembrandt 1646Beggars Receiving Alms at DoorThe Leper 1631DP814771 bLINDNESS OF tOBIT rEMBRANDT 1651 nymBeggar long hat and tall cloak



Chris Healing the Sick367px-Rembrandt_-_Tobit_Accusing_Anna_of_Stealing_the_Kid_-_WGA19108


Although there is no documented evidence regarding changes in Rembrandt’s vision, many of the changes in his work may well be the result of visual aging. Others may be the result of purposeful stylistic change. Rembrandt’s earlier works show him to be a master of detail and light sensitivity, or in visual terms, to have good acuity and contrast sensitivity. Judging from his works, his visual acuity and contrast sensitivity appeared to decline as he aged. Certainly, he would have experienced the universal age-related loss of the ability to focus near stimuli, (ie. presbyopia) in his middle years. Presbyopia would make it more difficult to engage in effectively in near visual tasks such as painting. It is also possible that in his later years, Rembrandt experienced visual loss caused by an age-related opacity of the lens of his eye (ie. cataract). Whatever their cause, notable visual changes appear to characterize Rembrandt’s later works. His later work appears to be reduced in detail, clarity and light sensitivity. The fine brush strokes and careful precision that are clearly evident in his early work, gave way to work that was loose, heavy, and less clearly-defined.

Compare, for example, Rembrandt’s depiction of the collar details in the paintings below, one from early in his career, the other painted late in his life. The fine detail seen in the collar from Lady and Gentleman in Black, painted when Rembrandt was 27, is absent from the collar in Margaretha de Geer, Wife of Jacob Trip, painted when Rembrandt was 53.

A_lady_and_gentleman_in_black,_by_Rembrandt 1633rembrandt-van-rijn-margaretha-de-geer


The effects of Rembrandt’s visual aging may also be apparent in his self-portrait painted in 1669 (right), painted in the last year of his life. The detail is minimal, the artist’s strokes are very broad, and the painting has a strong yellow cast, effects that are consistent with deteriorating vision.

Rembrandt_Self Portarait 1669



Douglas Tilden, 1860–1935

by richard


Douglas Tilden (May 1, 1860 to August 5, 1935) was a world-famous sculptor. Tilden was deaf and attended the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, California (now in Fremont, California).[1] Tilden became deaf at the age of four after a severe bout of scarlet fever.[2] After graduating from the CA School for the Deaf, he went on to attend UC Berkeley and studied with Francis Marion Wells, but then left to study art in Paris. Once in Paris, Tilden studied under Paul Chopin, another deaf sculptor. He made many statues that sit in San Francisco, Berkeley, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

He has many amazing artworks.

  • Football Players(1900), which stands as one of the first permanent artwork on the University of California, Berkeley[3]
  • Bear Hunt(1892), a statue of a bear protecting her cub and wrestling with two Native Americans, and is featured in the California School for the Deaf in Fremont.[4]
  • Mechanics Monument(1901), San Francisco. It served as an inspiration for the city to rebuild itself. The fountain was removed at some point and the statue group has been moved a few feet several times.[5][6]


  • Admission Day(1897), is a part of a monument situated at Market, Post and Montgomery Streets in San Francisco.[6][7]
  • Spanish–American War Soldier’sMonument(1906),

    photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons license. If you use this photo within the terms of the license or make special arrangements to use the photo, please list the photo credit as "Scott Beale / Laughing Squid" and link the credit to

    photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
    This photo is licensed under a Creative Commons license. If you use this photo within the terms of the license or make special arrangements to use the photo, please list the photo credit as “Scott Beale / Laughing Squid” and link the credit to

  • Portland, Oregon[8]

Mechanics Monument 1899             Baseball Player                          Bear Hunt City of Fremont

On June 6, 1896 Tilden was married to Elizabeth “Bessie” Cole, a former student of his, also deaf. Although the union produced two children, a son Lee and a daughter Gladys, it was not to prove to be a happy one. Over the years Mrs. Tilden was subject to “melancholia spells” which, among things, placed a large amount of pressure on the relationship. They separated and Mrs. Tilden, who for years had managed their properties, rented out his studio to a theater group, forcing Tilden to do his sculpting in a shed. As they grew farther apart Tilden’s lawyer wrote: “Furthermore, the wife (Bessie) has knowledge of personal indescressions in the personal conduct of Mr. Tilden which would deprive him of any capacity to stand in court, as we say, “with clean hands.” Mr. Tilden claims that Mrs. Tilden has been indescrete. ” The marriage ended in a divorce in 1926.[9]

Many detect a certain homoeroticism in his works because they feature young athletic men who are often unclothed. In the Football Players, many people have noted that the scene of two young football players, one is injured and resting on the shoulder of another, and the other is tenderly bandaging the wounds, shows the intimate male bonding in sports as of interdependence between the players. The gay and lesbian community has adopted the statue as representing the best ideal of the visible queer community on campus.

He was a member of the National Sculpture Society.[10]

Tilden is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.[11]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


Mary Cassatt, 1844–1926

September 7, 2017 by richard

CASSATT, MARY (1844 – 1926)

Who was Mary Cassatt?

Born on May 22, 1844 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now a part of Pittsburgh), Mary Cassatt was a remarkable woman who succeeded in what was then a predominantly male profession. The daughter of a wealthy investment banker, her family was close, and she was brought up to be independent and pursue her own interests. Cassatt lived with her family in France and Germany, where from 1850-55 she spent long periods of time in Paris, Heidleburg, and Darmstadt. In 1855, the Cassatts returned to Philadelphia. In 1861, at the age of 16, Cassatt enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study painting

On January 1, 1866, Mary Cassatt traveled to France to further her study of painting. She eventually settled in Paris, where she took private lessons. It was during this time that Cassatt became aware of and interested in the work of the Impressionists, and in particular that of Edgar Degas. Cassatt was skilled at drawing, and she paid particular attention to form and line in her paintings. Degas, who was known to be blunt and caustic in his opinions towards women, said of Cassatt, “I am not willing to admit that a woman can draw that well.”

Degas invited Cassatt to exhibit her works with the Impressionists in 1877. She was the only American artist ever to do so. She took part in Impressionist exhibitions on four subsequent occasions. After the last exhibition with the Impressionists, she began a professional affiliation with Paul Durand-Ruel and displayed many solo exhibitions in his galleries. Cassatt is best known for her representation of women’s experience, and had a particular focus on the relationship of mother and child. Her work displays the private activities of women, including knitting, reading, taking tea, and interacting with children. In the early years, Cassatt worked primarily in oil, but in the 1890s began to experiment with pastels and printmaking.

Although decidedly a member of the Impressionist circle, Cassatt focused more on form and detail than did such contemporaries as Monet, who was mainly concerned with light and atmosphere. In fact, some of Monet’s work didn’t impress her at all. She wrote, “Rene went to see Monet and found him at work on large panels of water lilies. One would have to build a room especially for them I suppose. I must say his Nemphes [Les Nympheas] pictures look to me like glorified wall paper. You have some of the best work. I won’t go so far as D. who thinks he has done nothing worth doing for 20 years, but it is certain that these decorations without composition are not to my taste.” – from letter to long-time friend Louisine Havemeyer, Sept. 8, 1918.

Cassatt was witty, elegant, and while socially skilled, she loved solitude. Typical for the day, most of her close friends were women. She was, however, also good friends with Degas and her male art teachers. She was avidly interested in politics and literature and her letters contain many literary references. She was never married, career success being more important to her. She was plagued by serious visual health problems in her later years that affected both her art and quality of life. She died on June 14, 1926 in her French Chateau at the age of 81.


Cassatt’s visual disorders: Cataracts & diabetic retinopathy

Cassatt’s visual problems began in 1900, at age 56. Her acuity began to decline, and she reported her sight to be getting progressively dimmer. In 1910, she relinquished printmaking due to these difficulties. In 1912, at age 68, she was diagnosed with cataracts by the famous ophthalmologist, Edmond Landolt, M.D., who had earlier treated Degas. Unfortunately no records survive. Cassatt visual problems were exacerbated by lack of care, as it was difficult to find doctors to treat civilians during WWI. By 1915, at the age of 71, Cassatt was forced to give up her work. Cassatt was diagnosed with diabetes around 1919 and experienced a concurrent retinopathy.

Cassatt’s visual decline had tremendous impact on her psychological well-being. Her problems, which she attributed to painting, shortened her artistic career. In a letter to her good friend Louisine Havemeyer in 1913, she wrote, “I have overlooked my bodily welfare, but I have worked so hard besides, and nothing takes it out of one like painting. I have only to look around me to see that, to see Degas a mere wreck, and Renoir and Monet too.” Wartime conditions also seemed to be taking their toll. Cassatt wrote, “Since I saw you last, I have been so ill, no one thought I would recover – but I did, and then I overworked and when the war cloud burst, I broke down under my responsibilities & it has taken me all winter to get well again, – & my sight is enfeebled.” – from letter to Theodate Pope, June 8, 1915 (Villa Angeletto).


Treatment: Cataracts
In 1917, Cassatt had a cataract operation on her right eye. She subsequently experienced opacity of the posterior lens capsule in the same eye, worsening her already diminished sight. Cassatt dreaded the forthcoming operation on her left eye. On May 24, 1919 she wrote, “My sight is getting dimmer every day. I find writing tires my eyes. I look forward with horror to utter darkness and then an operation which may end in as great a failure as the last one.” Cassatt’s premonitions proved correct; poor results were obtained when the left eye was operated on in 1919 when she was 75. Cassatt was greatly distressed; she could not read, could not paint, and was suffering from the effects of diabetes. It is thought that Cassatt underwent a treatment of radium inhalations, a therapy used for many diseases in the 19th century. The dangers of radium were not fully known, and this type of therapy was used for treatment of cataracts as well as diabetes.


Impact on her work

Cassatt’s visual problems forced her to switch from oils to pastels, which are easier to work with demand less precision. The precision of and detail in her early work is evident in her painting of her sister Lydia (left), painted when Cassatt was 36. Note the fine detail in the lace of Lydia’s hat and in the folds of her dress.

As her visual problems advanced, the meticulous lines that were characteristic of Cassatt’s earlier works became strident, bold strokes of color. This can be seen in her pastel of Margot (right), done at age 58, by which time, Cassatt had experienced visual difficulties for two years. Although a lovely picture in its own right, in comparison to Lydia, Margot is rendered with a more limited range of colors and relatively little detail. In her later works, her color range became similarly limited, and her canvases larger to accommodate for her loss of acuity.

Americans in Paris W010

Little Girl in Armchair 1878 mary_cassatt_spring_margot_standing_in_a_garden_postcard-r34a84d6a46ac45d09976c969a902ab04_vgbaq_8byvr_630



Alfred Reginald Thomson, 1894–1979

by richard

Alfred Reginald Thomson RA (10 December 1894 – 27 October 1979) was an English artist, most notable for being an official War Artist to the Royal Air Force during World War Two.[1]



Thomson’s portrait of George medal holder Charity Bick

Thomson was born in Bangalore in India where his father was a British civil servant.[2] Thomson was deaf from birth and when the family returned to Britain from India he attended the Royal School for Deaf Children at Margate.[3] Later in life he was known, in the press, as the “deaf and dumb” artist.[4]

Sister Fry 1939 Alfred R. Thomson 1894-1979 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1940

Sister Fry 1939 Alfred R. Thomson 1894-1979 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1940



Cocktail Bar 1931

Although Thomson attended the London Art School in Kensington for a time, he was largely self-taught as an artist and his first paid work was designing posters for a whisky company. He also created a series of posters for Daimler Cars.[2] At the end of the First World War Thomson established himself as a commercial artist and figure painter.[2] In the 1930s he created a series of murals for the Duncannon Hotel in London.[2] Thomson also had a talent as a caricaturist and he drew his fellow artists and friends.[2]

Thomson completed a number of commissions for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee during World War Two and in September 1942 became a full-time salaried artist attached to the Air Ministry, taking over the post that Eric Kennington had resigned from. Thomson painted several portraits of RAF air crews and also medical and civil defence subjects.[5][6]

In 1945 Thomson was elected to the Royal Academy and soon became a highly respected society portrait painter.[7] He also continued to paint murals, most notably for the Science Museum and the London Dental School.[3] In the 1948 Olympic Games in London, Thomson became the last person to win a Gold Medal for painting as medals for art were abandoned in subsequent Olympic games.[8]


  1. Jump up ^ “Artist biography;- Alfred R Thomson”. Tate. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e “Mr A.R. Thomson”. Obituaries. The Times (60482). London. 23 November 1979. col G, p. 14.
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b “Artist: Alfred Thomson”. room4art. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  4. Jump up ^ “Alfred Thomson RA (1894-1979)”. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03.
  5. Jump up ^ Imperial War Museum. “War artists archive;- A.R. Thomson”. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  6. Jump up ^ Brain Foss (2007). War paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939-1945. Yale University Press. ISBN978-0-300-10890-3.
  7. Jump up ^ “Alfred Thomson R.A”. Royal Academy. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  8. Jump up ^ *“The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948″ (PDF). London: The Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad. 1951: 535–537. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2012.


Maurice Denton Welch, 1915–1948

September 2, 2017 by richard

Maurice Denton Welch was born March 29, 1915, in Shanghai, to Arthur Joseph Welch, whose parents were English, and Rosalind Basset, whose family was originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Denton Welch was the youngest of four boys and spent his early childhood in Shanghai, with many visits to England.

In 1924 Welch was enrolled in a school in Kensington, and then from 1926 to 1929 he attended St. Michael’s, a preparatory school in Uckfield, Sussex. While he was in school, his mother, with whom he was especially close, died in Shanghai during March 1927; this event had a profound effect on her son. In 1929 Welch started attending school at Repton in Derbyshire. Welch started at the Goldsmith School of Art in New Cross in 1933, where he studied for three years; among his teachers was the printmaker and graphic designer Edward Bawden. At first he lived in a house where his brother Bill was also rooming, and then he moved into a house near Greenwich Park where the landlady was Evelyn Sinclair, who became a close lifelong friend.

On June 7, 1935, Welch was traveling by bicycle to go visit his aunt, when he was hit by a car. His spine was fractured, and for a few months he was paralyzed from the chest down. He was able to learn to walk again, but with difficulty. For the rest of his life he had kidney and bladder infections, which would cause frequent severe headaches. After the accident, Welch first spent time at National Hospital, and then in the Southcourt Nursing Home in Broadstairs, Kent. When he left the nursing home July 1936, Welch rented an apartment with Evelyn Sinclair in Tonbridge in order that he could be close to his doctor, John Easton. Sinclair remained with Welch as his housekeeper at his different residences until May 1946, two months after Welch and his partner Eric Oliver moved to Middle Orchard, the country house of Noël and Bernard Adeney at Crouch, near Borough Green, Kent. Sinclair returned to Middle Orchard in July 1948 to assist Welch until his death.

Welch continued to paint and draw after his accident. In 1941 the Leicester Galleries in London first exhibited some of his paintings, and continued over the next few years to include his paintings in their exhibits. The Leger Gallery and Redfern Gallery, both in London, also exhibited his works.

Welch began writing in 1940, and some of his poems appeared in minor publications in 1941. In 1942, after the death of the painter Walter Sickert, Welch’s article “Sickert at St. Peter’s” (an amusing account of his having tea with Sickert shortly before Welch left the nursing home in Broadstairs) was published by Cyril Connolly in the August Horizon. Welch received a letter of praise from Edith Sitwell. Soon after, Herbert Read, editor at Routledge, accepted Welch’s manuscript for Maiden Voyage, and Dame Edith offered to write the foreword; she also wrote a review for the book. With her support, Maiden Voyage sold out before its May 1943 publication. The book received enthusiastic reviews, and Welch began writing In Youth Is Pleasure, which was published in February 1945. He also wrote several short stories, and in the fall of 1945, as his health was worsening, Welch resumed his work on A Voice Through a Cloud, a novel that he had begun earlier, and that was to remain unfinished at his death. Although Welch was to consider himself primarily a writer after the success of Maiden Voyage, he kept painting and drawing. Nine of his late paintings, created during a time when his health was failing, were reproduced in A Last Sheaf (published in 1951). He died December 30, 1948, at Middle Orchard Cottage in Crouch, Kent.

DentonWelch elf portrait


Self Portrait 1942

Welch, (Maurice) Denton; Harvest; Tate;

Welch, (Maurice) Denton; Harvest; Tate;  1940

For nearly half a century Eric Oliver (born Bromley, Kent 6 October 1914; died Portslade, East Sussex 1 April 1995) basked in the reflected glory of having lived with the writer Denton Welch for the last four years of his life. (P: Eric Oliver in 1947)

Oliver was introduced to Welch in November 1943 at a time when Oliver, a conscientious objector, was working on the land and Welch was living as a semi-invalid, following a disastrous road accident when he was 20, near Hadlow, in Kent. “After you left the other night,” Welch wrote to the painter Nol Adeney, “who should appear but Francis [Streeten, one of Welch’s more eccentric acquaintances] and a new hearty land-boy friend! The land-boy kept suggesting that I should get up and go out and have a drink with him! As I was almost a corpse by then, I could not oblige.” He elaborated in his Journals: “I tried to be very bright; but it was an awful strain. They had been drinking in a pub and had come on to me later. They were still mildly redolent of the pub and beer.”

Despite Oliver’s boozy and often hurtful conduct, Denton Welch fell in love with him. The intensity of Welch’s emotions was not returned, for on his own admission Oliver was incapable of love (“You must never take me seriously,” he wrote in the only letter of his to Welch which survives), but, once they had sorted out the imbalance in their relationship, Oliver moved in with him, and as Welch’s physical condition deteriorated Oliver nursed him with practical expertise.

On the face of it, Eric Oliver seemed an incongruous choice of companion for a writer and painter as fastidious as Denton Welch. “It is just because you are different that I like you,” Welch wrote to him in February 1944. “You wouldn’t touch my imagination in the very least if you approximated more to my type.” Oliver was virtually illiterate, and had little judgement about people, art or business. As Welch’s residuary beneficiary on his death at the tragically early age of 33 (inheriting about £5,000), he appointed himself his literary executor, but parted with the copyrights of Welch’s works to a bookseller who promptly resold them to the University of Texas. Oliver always maintained that he did not understand what he was signing.He wrote that (emetically sentimental, wrenchingly wistful) desire from the crooked perspective of injury and damaged youth. As a statement, it interests me in that it comes from a literalized version of that perennial fantasy of the old: the wasted and damaged youth. For Welch, this fantasy was a reality, and the desire to have it undone, to pull back the cheap threads of time was more violent and truly spoken than the common bad-faith regret of the old. Although, a voice (through a cloud?) whispers into my ear with the warmth of seduction, “We all waste our youth. At least he had a real excuse; you certainly do not.


Portrait of Welch in 1935 soon after accident by Gerald McKenzie

Standing Nude with ViolinThe Coffin House

Claude Monet, 1840–1926

by richard

Claude Monet 1840-1926


Claude Monet also known as Oscar-Claude Monet or Claude Oscar Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.

Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 on the fifth floor of 45 rue Laffitte, in the ninth arrondissement of Paris. He was the second son of Claude-Adolphe and Louise-Justine Aubrée Monet, both of them second-generation Parisians. On May 20, 1841, he was baptized into the local church parish, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette as Oscar-Claude. In 1845, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to go into the family grocery store business, but Claude Monet wanted to become an artist. His mother was a singer.


On the first of April 1851, Monet entered the Le Havre secondary school of the arts. He first became known locally for his charcoal caricatures, which he would sell for ten to twenty francs. Monet also undertook his first drawing lessons from Jacques-François Ochard, a former student of Jacques-Louis David. On the beaches of Normandy in about 1856/1857 he met fellow artist Eugène Boudin who became his mentor and taught him to use oil paints. Boudin taught Monet “en plein air” (outdoor) techniques for painting.


On 28 January 1857 his mother died. He was 16 years old when he left school, and went to live with his widowed childless aunt, Marie-Jeanne Lecadre.

Working Title/Artist: The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest Department: European Paintings Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date: 1865 scanned for collections

Working Title/Artist: The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest
Department: European Paintings
HB/TOA Date Code:
Working Date: 1865
scanned for collections

Working Title/Artist: Garden at Sainte-AdresseDepartment: European PaintingsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: 10Working Date: 1867 Digital Photo File Name: DT48.tif Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 2/20/14

Working Title/Artist: Garden at Sainte-AdresseDepartment: European PaintingsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: 10Working Date: 1867
Digital Photo File Name: DT48.tif
Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 2/20/14


When Monet traveled to Paris to visit The Louvre, he witnessed painters copying from the old masters. Monet, having brought his paints and other tools with him, would instead go and sit by a window and paint what he saw. Monet was in Paris for several years and met several painters who would become friends and fellow impressionists. One of those friends was Édouard Manet.


In June 1861 Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria for two years of a seven-year commitment, but upon his contracting typhoid his aunt Marie-Jeanne Lecadre intervened to get him out of the army if he agreed to complete an art course at a university. It is possible that the Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, whom Monet knew, may have prompted his aunt on this matter. Disillusioned with the traditional art taught at universities, in 1862 Monet became a student of Charles Gleyre in Paris, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Together they shared new approaches to art, painting the effects of light en plein air with broken color and rapid brushstrokes, in what later came to be known as Impressionism.


Monet’s Camille or The Woman in the Green Dress (La Femme à la Robe Verte), painted in 1866, brought him recognition, and was one of many works featuring his future wife, Camille Doncieux; she was the model for the figures in The Woman in the Garden of the following year, as well as for On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, 1868, pictured here. Shortly thereafter Doncieux became pregnant and gave birth to their first child, Jean. In 1868, due to financial reasons, Monet attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Seine.

Working Title/Artist: La Grenouillere Department: European Paintings Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date: 1869 photographed by mma in 1984/94, transparency 23ad (8x10) scanned by film and media 9/10/04 (phc)

Working Title/Artist: La Grenouillere
Department: European Paintings
HB/TOA Date Code:
Working Date: 1869
photographed by mma in 1984/94, transparency 23ad (8×10)
scanned by film and media 9/10/04 (phc)


After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (July 19, 1870), Monet took refuge in England in September 1870. While there, he studied the works of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet’s innovations in the study of color. In the Spring of 1871, Monet’s works were refused authorisation to be included in the Royal Academy exhibition.


In May 1871 he left London to live in Zaandam, where he made 25 paintings (and the police suspected him of revolutionary activities). He also paid a first visit to nearby Amsterdam. In October or November 1871 he returned to France. Monet lived from December 1871 to 1878 at Argenteuil, a village on the Seine near Paris, and here he painted some of his best known works. In 1874, he briefly returned to Holland.


In 1872 (or 1873), he painted Impression, Sunrise (Impression: soleil levant) depicting a Le Havre landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan-Monet, Paris. From the painting’s title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term “Impressionism”, which he intended as disparagement but which the Impressionists appropriated for themselves.


Monet and Camille Doncieux had married just before the war (June 28, 1870) and, after their excursion to London and Zaandam, they had moved into a house in Argenteuil near the Seine River in December 1871. She became ill in 1876. They had a second son, Michel, on March 17, 1878, (Jean was born in 1867). This second child weakened her already fading health. In that same year, he moved to the village of Vétheuil. At the age of thirty-two, Madame Monet died on 5 September 1879 of tuberculosis; Monet painted her on her death bed.



After several difficult months following the death of Camille on 5 September 1879, a grief-stricken Monet (resolving never to be mired in poverty again) began in earnest to create some of his best paintings of the 19th century. During the early 1880s Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. His extensive campaigns evolved into his series’ paintings.


In 1878 the Monets temporarily moved into the home of Ernest Hoschedé, (1837-1891), a wealthy department store owner and patron of the arts. Both families then shared a house in Vétheuil during the summer. After her husband (Ernest Hoschedé) became bankrupt, and left in 1878 for Belgium, in September 1879, and while Monet continued to live in the house in Vétheuil; Alice Hoschedé helped Monet to raise his two sons, Jean and Michel, by taking them to Paris to live alongside her own six children. They were Blanche, Germaine, Suzanne, Marthe, Jean-Pierre, and Jacques. In the spring of 1880 Alice Hoschedé and all the children left Paris and rejoined Monet still living in the house in Vétheuil. In 1881 all of them moved to Poissy which Monet hated. From the doorway of the little train between Vernon and Gasny he discovered Giverny. In April 1883 they moved to Vernon, then to a house in Giverny, Eure, in Upper Normandy, where he planted a large garden where he painted for much of the rest of his life. Following the death of her estranged husband, Alice Hoschedé married Claude Monet in 1892.



At the beginning of May 1883, Monet and his large family rented a house and two acres from a local landowner. The house was situated near the main road between the towns of Vernon and Gasny at Giverny. There was a barn that doubled as a painting studio, orchards and a small garden. The house was close enough to the local schools for the children to attend and the surrounding landscape offered an endless array of suitable motifs for Monet’s work. The family worked and built up the gardens and Monet’s fortunes began to change for the better as his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel had increasing success in selling his paintings. By November 1890 Monet was prosperous enough to buy the house, the surrounding buildings and the land for his gardens. Within a few years by 1899 Monet built a greenhouse and a second studio, a spacious building, well lit with skylights. Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s, through the end of his life in 1926, Monet worked on “series” paintings, in which a subject was depicted in varying light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different points of view and at different times of the day. Fifteen of the paintings were exhibited at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1891. He later produced several series of paintings including: Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, the Houses of Parliament, Mornings on the Seine, and the Water Lilies that were painted on his property at Giverny.


Monet was exceptionally fond of painting controlled nature: his own gardens in Giverny, with its water lilies, pond, and bridge. He also painted up and down the banks of the Seine.


Between 1883 and 1908, Monet traveled to the Mediterranean, where he painted landmarks, landscapes, and seascapes, such as Bordighera. He painted an important series of paintings in Venice, Italy, and in London he painted two important series — views of Parliament and views of Charing Cross Bridge. His second wife Alice died in 1911 and his oldest son Jean, who had married Alice’s daughter Blanche, Monet’s particular favourite, died in 1914. After his wife died, Blanche looked after and cared for him. It was during this time that Monet began to develop the first signs of cataracts.

Working Title/Artist: Monet: The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)Department: European PaintingsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date:  photography by mma, Digital File DT1893.tif retouched by film and media (jnc) 12_7_10

Working Title/Artist: Monet: The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)Department: European PaintingsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date:
photography by mma, Digital File DT1893.tif
retouched by film and media (jnc) 12_7_10


During World War I, in which his younger son Michel served and his friend and admirer Clemenceau led the French nation, Monet painted a series of Weeping Willow trees as homage to the French fallen soldiers. Cataracts formed on Monet’s eyes, for which he underwent two operations in 1923. The paintings done while the cataracts affected his vision have a general reddish tone, which is characteristic of the vision of cataract victims. It may also be that after surgery he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are normally excluded by the lens of the eye, this may have had an effect on the colors he perceived. After his operations he even repainted some of these paintings, with bluer water lilies than before the operation.

 ‘Cataracts the key to Monet’s blurry style’

Image 1 of 2

Monet painted Water-Lily Pond in 1899

By Stewart Payne

12:01AM BST 16 May 2007

Scientists claim to have proved what many in the art world have long suspected – that Claude Monet painted in his distinctive style because cataracts blurred his vision.

Monet, a founder of French Impressionist painting, suffered from cataracts for much of his later life, during which time he produced some of his most characteristic work.

Using computers, researchers recreated the scene of Monet’s Water-Lily Pond as the artist would have seen it.

The pond was the subject of a series of canvasses he painted in 1899, showing the same view in differing light conditions. He exhibited them the following year, when he was aged 60.

Related Articles

30 Sep 2004

09 Aug 2006

16 May 2007

The results of the study, led by Dr Michael Marmor, a professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, California, show how badly Monet’s vision may have been affected. The picture he and his team recreated was blurred and the colours varied, creating dark, muddy shades of yellowish green.

As Monet’s sight worsened, his works turned from fresh, bright colours to blurred visions of heavy browns and reds, abandoning the floral vision of his famous garden at Giverny, north of Paris.

Dr Marmor looked at scenes and models that Monet painted repeatedly, and found that the changes in colour and detail run parallel to the changes in his sight.

Monet underwent two surgeries for his cataracts in 1923, two years before his death aged 85.

Although Monet’s eyesight problems were not recognised until after he painted Water-Lily Pond, Dr Marmor believes his sight was already deteriorating. The cataracts severely limited his colour discrimination, which may explain the muddied tone of his later paintings. “He couldn’t really judge what he was seeing,” said Dr Marmor. “His vision was becoming progressively more brownish in essence. It was getting harder to see, and more blurred, but he was probably more bothered by the progressive loss of colour vision than the blur alone.

“Monet may have used strong colours in these paintings because he was using them from memory or because he was over-compensating for his yellow vision by adding more blue.”

Dr Marmor, whose findings appear in the Archives of Ophthalmology, also recreated some scenes painted by Edgar Degas, who also suffered sight problems.

He said: “Here we can see for ourselves what they were seeing through their eyes.

“Critics have known that these men had failing vision, but I don’t think they could appreciate what it meant to these artists. It gives both new respect for what they could do with limited vision, but also gives us reason to re-examine perhaps what these paintings mean in the evolution of their style and work.” Chris Riopelle, curator of 19th century paintings at the National Gallery, said: “I think there has always been a great mystery behind Monet and how much influence his eyesight problems had on his work.”

However, he said the research did not answer all the questions. “After surgery, Monet’s style did not alter radically.

“He also painted for 60 years before having problems, so developed a vast amount of skill.

“There will always be something of a mystery here.”

Images A and C show two of Monet’s “The Japanese Bridge at Giverny” (1918-1924/Musee Marmatton, Paris) from around the time when his vision was at its worst. Images B and D respectively show the two paintings as they might have appeared to Monet through his cataract. The oranges and blues of the two paintings become almost indistinguishable.

Credit: Archives of Ophthalmology/Musee Marmatton/Michael Marmor

Monet’s visual disorder: Cataracts

Although Monet was diagnosed with nuclear cataracts in both eyes by a Parisian ophthalmologist in 1912, at the age of 72, his visual problems began much earlier. Soon after 1905 (age 65) he began to experience changes in his perception of color. He no longer perceived colors with the same intensity. Indeed his paintings showed a change in the whites and greens and blues, with a shift towards “muddier” yellow and purple tones. After 1915, his paintings became much more abstract, with an even more pronounced color shift from blue-green to red-yellow. He complained of perceiving reds as muddy, dull pinks, and other objects as yellow. These changes are consistent with the visual effects of cataracts. Nuclear cataracts absorb light, desaturate colors, and make the world appear more yellow.

Monet was both troubled and intrigued by the effects of his declining vision, as he reacted to the the foggy, impressionistic personal world that he was famous for painting. In a letter to his friend G. or J. Bernheim-Jeune he wrote, “To think I was getting on so well, more absorbed than I’ve ever been and expecting to achieve something, but I was forced to change my tune and give up a lot of promising beginnings and abandon the rest; and on top of that, my poor eyesight makes me see everything in a complete fog. It’s very beautiful all the same and it’s this which I’d love to have been able to convey. All in all, I am very unhappy.” – August 11, 1922, Giverny.


Treatment Received: Surgery and corrective lenses

Monet sought the help of many ophthalmologists. The French ophthalmologist Charles Coutela, M.D, prescribed eydrops to dilate the pupil of the left eye and Monet was very happy with the results intially. The good vision afforded by the drops, however, didn’t last long and surgery was recommended. Monet was aware of the poor outcome of cataract surgery for his contemporary Impressionist Mary Cassatt, and so was reluctant initially to undergo the same surgery. Doctor Coutela finally performed a cataract operation on Monet’s right eye in January of 1923, when Monet was 82.

At first, Monet was very disappointed with the results of the operation. Immediately after the surgery he did not want to rest his eyes, that doing so interfered with his work. Depressed, he tried to rip off the bandages. He expressed this frustration in writing to Doctor Coutela: “I might have finished the Décorations which I have to deliver in April and I’m certain now that I won’t be able to finish them as I’d have liked. That’s the greatest blow I could have had and it makes me sorry that I ever decided to go ahead with that fatal operation. Excuse me for being so frank and allow me to say that I think it’s criminal to have placed me in such a predicament.” – from letter to Doctor Charles Coutela, June 22, 1923, Giverny.

Monet adamantly refused to have his left eye operated on. The left eye, clouded by a dense yellow cataract, could not see violets and blues; the right eye however, could see these colors clearly. As a result of their difference in color perception and acuity, Monet was never again able to use both eyes together effectively.

Coutela fitted Monet with spectacles specialized for cataracts, enabling Monet to read easily and continue his correspondence. Although Coutela recorded Monet’s vision as near perfect with correction, he found it hard to adjust to the new lenses complaining about seeing distorted shapes and exaggerated colors that were “quite terrifying”. He tried a new pair of glasses in 1924, and was somewhat happier with those.


Impact on his work

Monet’s exquisite sensitivity to light, color, and detail was central to his work. Cézanne characterized Monet as “only an eye– yet what an eye”. As his cataracts advanced Monet’s work was increasingly affected. His paintings of water lilies and willows over the period 1918-1922 as Monet entered his eighties, exemplify this change. Tones became muddier and darker, and forms became less distinct as his contrast sensitivity declined. His later works are typified by large brush strokes, indistinct coloration, and an often an absence of light blues. The sense of atmosphere and light that he was famous for presenting in his earlier works disappeared. In order to distinguish colors, Monet carefully read the labels on his paints, and kept a regular order of colors on his palette. Monet also experienced problems with glare that made working outside difficult. He took to wearing a wide-brimmed panama hat and ceased painting outside in the middle of the day.

While other possible explanations, such as stylistic change or age-related changes in manual dexterity, may account for the dramatic alterations in his work, Monet attributed them to the effects of the cataracts. He wrote, “in the end I was forced to recognize that I was spoiling them [the paintings], that I was no longer capable of doing anything good. So I destroyed several of my panels. Now I’m almost blind and I’m having to abandon work altogether. It’s hard but that’s the way it is: a sad end despite my good health!” – letter to Marc Elder, May 8, 1922, Giverny. Throughout his letters, Monet comments on his good physical health with the exception of his vision. There is no evidence for a great decline in manual dexterity. Thus, it does not seem unlikely that the broad brush strokes of his later paintings are a result of his declining vision and the psychological distress accompanying it.


The absence of form and detail in the paintings below contrasts starkly with those done earlier in Monet’s life.


060502-0114001 18995


Japanese Bridge 1924



Monet died of lung cancer on December 5, 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery. Monet had insisted that the occasion be simple; thus about fifty people attended the ceremony.


Agnes Richter, 1844–1918

September 1, 2017 by richard

Agnes Richter (1844–1918) was a German-born seamstress. In 1893, Richter was admitted to a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital on the behalf of her father and brothers following several acute delusional episodes.[1] Richter’s legacy has survived primarily because of its entanglement with a small, personal jacket that she sewed during her lengthy institutionalization. Pieced together from brown wool and course institutional linen, the jacket is covered in messily embroider deutsche schrift, a script which has largely fallen out of use. The lines of red, yellow, blue, orange, and white threaded text are difficult to read, overlapping and obscured through continual use. Fragments of text from Richters Jacket have been deciphered though their significance and meaning remains unclear (e.g., I am not big, I wish to read, I plunge headlong into disaster). Her case number, 583m appears repeatedly, suggesting that the jacket may represent an biographical object.[1]

Life in German asylums at the fin-de-siecle was highly regimented. While male patients worked in the grounds or in workshops to manufacture shoes, furniture, female patients were expected to clean, sew, knit, and launder institutional uniforms and textiles. Embracing these technologies in a manner, Richter assembled both a and a in the jacket. It bears the marks of its use, including sweat stains and a darted back that may have to accommodate a physical deformity hunch back.

gnes Richter’s embroidered straitjacket has become a beloved and well-known symbol of the Outsider Art movement. And it is indeed a powerful item, whose cryptic words and delicate embroidery still makes a deep impression on people today. The darkly beautiful jacket intrigues the viewer with haunting snippets of phrases and idea that give us tantalizing but mysterious peeks into her disturbed mind. As Helen McCarthy of A Face Made For Radio eloquently puts it: “She wasn’t trying to decorate or sloganize – the words told the story of her life. She spent her days transforming a mental institution’s uniform – the symbol of her de-personalisation – into a profoundly personal record of her journey.”

I find the move to categorize it as “art” slightly problematic. To me, the term “art”- even that created by people outside the bounds of the traditional art world – implies an act of creative intention to make art. Although the embroidery of her jacket was undoubtedly an act of expression, I’m not convinced that this should be the only qualifying trait of art. To me, Agnes Richter’s straitjacket is more akin to a diary created from a comfortable medium (as she was a seamstress), or perhaps made out of the only materials she had on hand. As an art historian, Hans Prinzhorn’s academic interests framed the jacket as “art” and under his influence it has continued to be perceived in that way. I wonder how differently this artifact would be understood if Prinzhorn had been trained in linguistics and collected it to decode the meanings of Richter’s embroidered text?

Or maybe I’m just so “inside” the art world, I can’t see “outside” art properly.


The Jacket was collected by Hans Prinzhornn in the early 20th century.[4] Since its rediscovery amidst the collections in 1980, the jacket has become an iconic piece in the Prinzhorn Collection at Heidelberg. Similar examples of asylum artistry from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries include Myrellen’s Coat.[5