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A blog about about painting, design and other aspects of aesthetics along with a dash of non-art topics. The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished -- just put in its proper, diminished place.

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    Léon Benigni (1892-1948) was one of several fashion-related illustrators whose similar styles helped to visually define the years between the two world wars.

    Unfortunately, aside from his dates and the names of many of his clients, there seems to be next to no biographical information about him on the Internet. One example of this paucity is here.

    Here are some images of Benigni's work for clients in France and elsewhere.


    This seems to be considered his most famous poster design.

    Some fashion illustrations, some perhaps for magazine covers.

    No signature, by credited to Benigni on the Web.

    A 1936 illustration showing a style adjustment to keep up with illustration fashions of the 30s.

    From 1935, a minimalist fashion illustration.

    Below are four examples of illustrations Benigni made for 1931 Cadillacs and LaSalles. Click on them to enlarge.

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  • 03/13/17--01:00: About Blogging
  • I wrote this for a Facebook posting, and thought I might as well post it here and on my Car Style Crtic blog.

    It was almost exactly 12 years ago that I got involved with blogging. Since then I’ve written more than 2000 blog posts.

    The first blog for me was the late, lamented (because it was pretty popular) 2Blowhards blog. The guy running it was Ray Sawhill who wrote bylined articles on art and culture for Newsweek magazine in the 1980s and 90s. Ray blogged using the nom-du-blog “Michael Blowhard” in order to maintain separation from his Newsweek day job. The other Blowhard was “Friedrich von Blowhard,” a Princeton buddy of Ray’s based in Los Angeles.

    The blogging software they used was primitive by today’s standards — an important defect being that post drafts couldn’t be stockpiled for later publication scheduling. That meant each post had to go live shortly after it was written. That put strain on the bloggers who wanted content flowing at the rate of one or two posts per day in order to keep readers interested and returning to see what was new.

    So for some reason Ray pulled me from the commenter ranks to full-time 2Blowhards blogger to ease the load on the original 2. Except that I posted using my actual name.

    At first, I was worried that I could maintain a reasonably high rate of posting. I knew I had perhaps a dozen really nice items that I could write up, but after that? You see, I recalled what happened when old vaudeville stars such as Eddie Cantor first appeared in TV “specials.” They used the good stuff that they’d honed over decades on stage, so their first show would be a wowser. After that, in future specials, their material wasn’t nearly as good due to lack of testing.

    So I resolved to hold back on my so-called good stuff and write what came to mind each day. And it worked. As far as I recall, I never used up the “good stuff.”

    Here’s the deal. Be sure to blog on topics you know something about. Then you must stay alert and notice things related to those subjects that might serve as hooks for posts. It’s even better if you can relate whatever it might be to similar or opposite examples, because that can make for a deeper, more interesting post. Apparently, it’s a special skill set: Ray Sawhill once told me that he thought I was “a natural blogger.”

    Eventually, after his Newsweek buyout, Sawhill tired of 2Blowhards and turned it over to me. I carried on for a few months and finally decided to strike out on my own. My first blog, Art Contrarian, debuted in 2010. It is based on the idea that modernism in art was an experiment that largely failed. More interesting work had been done by more traditional painters in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Illustration, architecture and industrial design are other subjects I treat.

    I’ve always been interested in automobile styling, so in 2013 I started Car Style Critic blog. I post two articles per week on each blog and maintain a backlog of two or three months’ worth of post drafts. Readership for each blog is several hundred page views daily, which is good enough for me.

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    Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) was associated with the French Impressionists during the early stages of the movement. He did not participate in the many later Impressionist showings and activities. That was because he died in battle. Some biographical information about Bazille is here.

    His fatal battle was that of Beaune-la-Rolande, fought 28 November 1870. Its site is roughly between Orléans and Montargis, about 50 miles (80 km) to the south of Paris. The French were attempting to relieve the siege of Paris during the late stages of the Franco-Prussian War. Their attack on a much-smaller, but better-trained, Prussian force was a failure. Bazille died while leading a small-unit assault.

    His paintings are something of a mixed bag, in my judgment. Much of that has to do with the fact that he didn't begin painting full-time until 1864, though he was taking classes before that, according to the link above. Still, dying at age 28, Bazille was at the point where most artists are still sorting out their craft. There is no way of telling for sure how he would have matured as an artist.

    Here is a sampling of his work.


    The Pink Dress (cousin Thérèse des Hours) - 1864

    The Beach at Saint-Adresse - 1865

    The Artist's Family - 1867
    One of his best known works.

    Auguste Renoir - 1867

    View of the Village of Castelnau-le-Lez - 1868

    portrait d'un dragon - 1869
    This dragoon portrait is more "painterly" than many other Bazille paintings. Might he have pursued this had he lived?

    The Fortune Teller - 1869
    Here we find simplification and smoother painting: another trial run?

    La toilette - 1869-70
    Apparently this finished work was an attempt to be accepted in the salon.

    Bazille's Studio, 9 rue de la Condamine - 1870
    Another well-known work. Scattered composition, distorted perspective -- compare the sizes of the various artists depicted here. Such details might have been considered legitimate in 1350 or 1905, but not when this was painted. A curious effort.

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    André Edouard Marty (1882-1974) was an École des Beaux-Arts graduate best known for fashion illustration. Two brief biographies are here and here. They both note that Marty was one of four artists whose work appeared every year of the existence of leading fashion journal Gazette du Bon Ton (1912 to 1925).

    The Bon Ton featured color illustrations produced by the pochoir (stencil) method. A description is here. Below are examples of Marty's work, some in pochoir, others using more conventional, less tedious methods.


    Fashion illustration - 1913

    Les ailes dans le vent - 1919

    À l'Oasis La Jupe Lumineuse - 1919

    Escaped bird

    From Gazette du Bon Ton

    La porte du salon ouvrit

    La douce nuit - Gazette du Bon Ton - March, 1920

    Le pouf

    Vogue cover - 1 April, 1925

    Vogue cover - 12 March, 1926

    Vogue cover - Late January, 1926

    Vogue cover - Late August, c.1925
    The covers shown here are from French, British and American editions of Vogue. Haute couture was and is quite international.

    London Underground Poster - 1933
    Marty did posters for the Underground for a few years in the early 1930s.

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    Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943) painted many pictures of pretty young women in casual settings, often in the American Impressionist style. He often reused the same dresses and other costumes for several paintings over several years, as I posted here. Biographical information on Miller is here.

    The present post presents a wider variety of his works made from about 1905 to the early 1940s. Not included are some sketches from around 1900 and a few late Moderne style works (that I'm not yet certain are by him).


    Café de la Paix - c.1905

    The Chinese Statuette - 1910
    More plaid dresses can be found below.

    Chinese Statuette - 1919
    A recycled pose.

    From his days in Giverny, Claude Monet's haunts.

    The Green Cage - c.1914

    Princess in the Land of Sunshine
    This might have been done while he was in Pasadena, California.

    Afternoon Thoughts
    Her costume can be seen on other paintings.

    Woman Seated at Dressing Table - c.1925

    Girl sleeping (The Plaid Skirt)
    No date for this that I've been able to find, but I think it's a late work due its style.

    Young Lady Sewing
    The lady's hair style suggests late 1930s or early 1940s.

    Young Lady Reading
    From around the same time as the previous painting.

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    Jules Adolphe Goupil (1839-1883) has little in the way of biographical information on the internet, if my casual Google search was indicative. Two brief links are here and here.

    Basically, he trained at the École des Beaux-Arts under Ary Scheffer, exhibited at the Salon early in his career and eventually became a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. At some point in his career Goupil painted scenes related to the French Revolution, but these didn't appear in Google images. What I did find were several images of paintings of pretty young women clothed in elaborate costumes of silky or patterned fabrics. He was good at depicting such materials, which gave him a useful market niche for his works.

    As best I can tell, he was not directly connected to the Goupil art dealership firm, if this Wikipedia entry is any guide.

    Below are examples of Goupil's paintings featuring fabrics.


    An Admiring Glance

    At the Easel

    Lady with a Figurine

    The Village Girl

    By the Fireplace


    Seated Woman

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  • 03/30/17--01:00: Dudie Baird, Model
  • Julia "Dudie" Baird (1872-1932) was a leading artists' model in the 1890s and probably for a while longer. This according to several sources I found on the internet. What is lacking is biographical information about her as well as a comprehensive listing of artworks for which she posed.

    Her most famous image is that of the body of the statue of the goddess Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. A biographical snippet related to that is here.

    As this link mentions, she posed for Thomas Wilmer Dewing. She also posed once for Dennis Miller Bunker.

    If readers know of other paintings or sculptures based on Dudie, please let us know in a comment.


    Diana as seen in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Portrait in Blue - 1896
    This and all but one of the paintings below are by Dewing.

    Julia Baird photo

    Portrait of a Young Girl - 1888

    Portrait of a Lady - 1898

    Brocart de Venise - c.1904
    Based on facial features, my guess is that this painting and the one above it feature Dudie.

    The Mirror - 1890
    This was by Dennis Miller Bunker.

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    Jacques de Lalaing (1858-1917), son of Belgian diplomat Count Maximilien de Lalaing and Bengal-born aristocrat Julie Ann Vibert, was born in London. He moved to Belgium in 1875 to pursue training and a career as a painter and sculptor. Being a sculptor, he probably had a better feel for anatomy than many painters. I deal with his paintings in this post.

    Lalaing's English wikipedia entry is here, and his French entry is here.

    However, the best source of information on him is this fine web site containing biographical information and many examples of his work.


    Les prisonniers de guerre - 1883
    Painted when Lalaing was about age 25. I don't find it very impressive.

    Justine de Monie - 1903 (pastel)
    Lalaing made a number of highly detailed pastel portraits that, viewed digitally, are hard to distinguish from oil paintings. This was made the same year as the oil painting below, so it's possible that it is a study. On the other hand, the third link above has an example of a pastel that looks like the study of a head in an oil painting, but is dated a year later than the painting (the subject is Ghislaine de Caraman).

    Justine de Monie - 1903 (oil on canvas)

    Christine du Tour van Bellinchave - c.1893 (pastel)
    Sister-in-law of the artist. It seems that this was damaged by a German shell (obus, in the web page text). More likely it was done by a shell fragment, probably in 1914 when the German army overran most of Belgium.

    Christine du Tour van Bellinchave
    This photo was probably used by Lalaing as reference for the clothing and the pose. Christine's face differs in liveliness and attractiveness -- photographic portraits were often stiff affairs in the 19th century.

    Christine du Tour van Bellinchave - 1906
    A later portrait, very nicely done.

    Berthe Baeyens-Puissant - 1904 (pastel)

    Général Donny - 1913
    Lalaing also portrayed men.

    Hélène de Burlet - 1894 (pastel)

    Julie Ann Vibart, the artist's mother

    Cécile Gilson de Rouvreux - 1913 (pastel)
    A work made shortly before the war and ill health curtailed Lalaing's career.

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    Eleonora Duse (1858-1924) was a famous Italian actress active during the four decades centered on 1900. Her esteem was on the order of that of Sarah Bernhardt. Duse's Wikipedia entry is here.

    Like Bernhardt, she lived in the age of photography, yet her fame resulted in a number of portraits being made of her by important artists. Below are examples.


    Photo of Eleonora Duse

    By Giovanni Boldini
    As best I can tell from the Internet, this is a portrait of Duse by Boldini, though I could find only one source for this information.

    By Vittorio Corcos
    Corcos was a leading Italian portrait painter and contemporaneous with La Duse.  Her nose looks twisted, but that might not be Corcos' doing (see below).

    By Edoardo Gordigiani - 1890

    By Edoardo Gordigiani
    Two images by Gordigiani, a less-known artist.

    By Franz von Lenbach - 1886
    This is in the collection of Seattle's Fry Museum.

    By Ilya Repin - 1891
    A fine drawing by Repin, who was a major Russian painter active in the late 19th century.

    By John Singer Sargent - c. 1883
    It seems that Duse only allowed Sargent a brief sitting, so this is little more than a sketch. More regarding what happened can be found here.  Note that (1) his version of her nose agrees with Corcos', and (2) the other portraits tend to show her in profile.

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    Frederick Goodall (1822-1904) was a Royal Academician whose career was successful until near the end of his long life when he became bankrupt.

    Goodall's Wikipedia entry is here. A web site devoted to his family includes this biographical information.

    Although he painted a variety of subjects, Goodall is best considered an Orientalist, one of a group of (mostly) European 19th century artists who traveled North Africa and the Near East, painting scenes of the exotic for their pre-television / pre-internet audiences.

    To put it another way, Orientalist painters were reporters of a kind. That, combined with their typically academic training, accounts for that fact that most Orientalist paintings (regardless of artist) are hard-edged and detail-filled.


    A Dream of Paradise
    Many Orientalists needed little excuse of paint exotic beauties, clothed or (so much the better) partly so. The lady pictured here appears to be a fair-skinned Greek in what logically would be a Turkish setting, but more likely she was an Englishwoman.

    Bazaar in Cairo - 1891

    Leaving the Village
    Presumably during the annual rise of the Nile in Egypt.

    The Light of the Sun Upon the Pyramids of Giza

    The Song of the Nubian Slave - 1863
    The color work is nice on this, one of Goodall's better Orientalist paintings.

    The Finding of Moses
    Not strictly Orientalist, but informed by Goodall's travels in Egypt.

    Mrs Charles Kettlewell in Neo-classical Dress - 1890
    Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a master of painting marble and Northern Europeans in Classical scenes. Goodall was not so good at this.

    High Society Couple - 1861
    Now for some examples of Goodall's non-Orientalist work.

    Raising the Maypole - 1855

    The Artist's Wife, Alice Tarry - 1873
    She was his second wife.

    Rebecca at the Well
    A Biblical scene with an Englishwoman posing -- an offshoot of Orientalism.

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    Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859 – 1929) was a Newlyn School (Stanhope Forbes - influenced) painter who mostly dealt with rural subjects. I previously posted about him here. Biographical information on La Thangue is here and here.

    Below are a few rural English scenes along with paintings made in Italy and some portrait works. La Thangue painted in a basically representational manner, but simplified to varying degrees and used strong brushwork -- the latter especially for backgrounds.


    Traveling Harvesters

    The Sussex Cider Press

    The Orchard

    Making Lugurian Lace

    Farmyard Scene - 1905

    The Festa

    Italian Peasant Girl

    The Puppy

    Portrait of a Young Girl - 1880

    Polly (study) - c.1885

    Resting After the Game - Kate La Thangue
    Kate was his wife.

    The Artist's Wife

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    Armand Schönberger (1885-1974) was an Hungarian Modernist who studied in Munich and Paris as well as in Budapest. Internet biographical information is extremely sparse: this will have to do.

    Even though he lived a long life that included World War 2 and nearly 30 years of Communist rule, I could locate none of his paintings dated outside the 1920s and early 1930s. In part this might be because the majority of his paintings seen on the web have no dates attached. Or maybe he painted less as time went by.

    Schönberger painted in a composite of Modernist styles -- mostly Cubist, but with Fauvist coloring and perhaps a whiff of Futurism. So he was not especially "original." But to me this is no artistic crime. What's important, I think, is how well done paintings are in terms of how they look. As for Schönberger, even though I'm not much of a fan of Modernism, I find some of his works pleasing versions of that approach.

    One more thing: Despite plenty of Cubist details, Schönberger's human figures did not stray far from normal proportions. This helps make his paintings more approachable to viewers indifferent to Modernism.


    At the Table


    Concert in the Coffee House - 1928

    Coffee House - 1931

    Musicians - 1929

    Mädchenportrait (Portrait of a Young Woman) - 1925
    This is perhaps his nicest painting.

    Self-Portrait with Daughter Vera - 1928

    Model in Interior - 1931

    Portrait of a Young Woman - 1930

    Model in an Art Studio
    Much less Modernist, so I suspect that it was painted after 1935.

    Young Woman
    Another likely later work, judging by the subject's hair style.

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    Wilhelm (Vasily) Aleksandrovich Kotarbiński (1848-1921), a Pole who spent many years in Italy as well as in his native Russian Empire, is best known for his classical and religious paintings, though he also dealt with other subjects at times. His English language Wikipedia entry is here, and it has a link to the lengthy Polish entry that your browser might be able to translate.

    Based on images of his works found on the Internet, what struck me was the great variation in quality. My guess is that the inferior paintings were primarily sketches or studies, but I can't be certain.


    Raising of the Son of the Widow of Nain - 1879
    This painting was in the National Museum in Warsaw's Gallery of Polish Painting when I visited a number of years ago. It deals with the passage in Luke 7: 11-15. It was painted in Rome, and not intended to be placed in a religious setting.

    On the Terrace
    This is one of those inferior works I referred to. It is sketchily painted. Note how poorly the faces are drawn.

    Evening Reverie
    This is better that the previous painting, but the subject's face is still not quite right (her eyes seem too large).

    If you click to enlarge this image you will find that it is quite sketchy, so I'll assume it was a study.

    Painted in Rome. Given the lack of facial and other details, this too seems to be a study, though it was signed.

    Crowning the Poet - 1881
    Another painting from Kotarbiński's time in Rome. This painting is carefully done.

    Venetian Serenade
    Painted around the same time as the previous painting, but using a smoother style.

    Favorite of the Seraglio with Her Handmaiden
    Another carefully done work.

    Roman Orgy
    Kotarbiński put a lot of imagination and work into this painting.

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    Brazilian illustrator José Carlos de Brito e Cunha (1884-1950) shortened his name to J. Carlos for cartooning and other professional purposes. His English language Wikipedia entry (here) is brief, but the Portuguese entry covers almost exactly the same ground. The message is that he was both versatile and prolific.

    I'll add that he also was very, very good.

    This post features some of his covers for the weekly magazine Para Todos, which another brief reference holds that he owned and edited for much of its 1920s existence. The title's literal translation is "For All" though perhaps a better, looser version would be "Everybody's" -- also the name of an American magazine published 1899-1929.

    All the Para Todos covers I found on the Internet were done by Carlos. But given their quality and on occasion elaborate nature, I almost can't believe that he was able to create a cover every week in addition to his other activities.

    Here is a sampling:


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  • 04/26/17--01:00: Number One Thousand
  • This is the 1,000th post on Art Contrarian.

    For the first few years of this blog I posted three times per week. But I've since cut production down to twice a week due to the need to keep my Car Style Critic blog chugging along. Plus I recently started a personal blog titled Retired Blowhard that has postings whenever I feel the urge to bloviate on one topic or another.

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    John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) -- Wikipedia entry here -- made his living during the 19th century by painting portraits. He was very good at it, as many 21st century folks have been coming to realize.

    His most famous portraits were made using oil paints. He also did finished portrait drawings. And he painted many landscapes, city scenes, and casual views of friends as well various anatomical studies. In other words, Sargent was a hugely prolific artist.

    One aspect of his output that I find worth a blog post is casually-done, sketchy even, oil portraits of women. Some of these are shown below in roughly chronological order.


    Rosina Ferrara - 1878
    She was a favorite subject at a time he visited the isle of Capri. I think this is one of Sargent's finest works.

    A Spanish Woman - c.1880
    A borderline sketch, the face fairly carefully realized while the rest of the canvas is little more than blocked in.

    Vernon Lee - 1881
    Sketch portrait of one of Sargent's friends.

    Head of a Venetian Woman - 1881
    Just enough facial detail to be quite convincing.

    Mme Gautreau Drinking a Toast - c.1883
    Madame X in a casual pose.

    Mme Errazuriz - 1883-84
    A flattering sketch that's interesting in terms of Sargent's choice of placement of light and shade.

    Flora Priestley - 1885
    Another portrait where only the face was given consideration.

    Edith French - 1901
    A very nice study, though her mouth seems too small.

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  • 05/01/17--01:00: Roger Broders Poster Art
  • Roger Broders (1883-1953) is best known for his Art Deco / Moderne style travel posters for French railroads, though he is far less known in the USA than the artist called A.M. Cassandre, whose posters also were both Moderne and more strikingly designed. Broders' short Wikipedia entry is here.

    Some examples of his posters from the late 1920s and the 1930s are below. I will present some of his earlier work in another post.


    These two and around 100 others were made for the Paris-Lyon-Méditeranée (Compagnie des Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée) railroad.

    That railroad went other places than the Riviera.

    This is for another railroad, publicizing a destination nowadays better known as a place to escape via.

    Grasse in a few miles inland from Cannes, up in the hills, and still known for perfumes.

    Another destination not on the Côte d'Azur, but well worth the side-trip.

    More in a Cassandre vein with all those stylized ships, yet not quite in the same league.

    Nice poster of an off-the-mainline destination.

    Not all Boders posters were for French railroads.

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    Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938) was one of those "Ten" group Boston area painters who did a lot of interesting work during the decades around the year 1900. As his Wikipedia entry notes, he might be classified as an American Impressionist -- interested in French Impressionist coloring while giving more respect than Monet or Pissarro, say, to accurate drawing.

    One of his most intriguing paintings can be found in San Francisco's de Young museum. It's titled "The Blue Veil," painted in 1898.

    I viewed it (again!) in December 2016 and took some close-up photos showing Tarbell's brushwork in the hope that you, too, might be interested. Click on the images below to enlarge.


    The painting as seen on the Internet -- perhaps from the museum's web site.

    My establishment shot, showing how my camera captured the painting in the gallery lighting conditions.

    Note the contrast in brushwork. Thinner paint on the face and veil, impasto on the hat and some of the background.

    Close-up of the subject's face The violet of the veil is duplicated in the facial shadows and the face's outline.

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    Salvador Dalí (1904-1989: biography here), like many other painters resorted to making portraits from time to time in order to help earn a living.

    One example is that of Dorothy Spreckels (brief obituary here), daughter of sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels and former artists' model Alma Spreckels (who according to the link referred to Adolph as her "sugar daddy'). The Spreckels donated the San Francisco Legion of Honor to the city in 1924.

    Their youngest daughter, Dorothy, was also interested in art and was painted by Dalí in 1942. This portrait is in the Legion of Honor, but not always on display. The museum's link to it is here. And here is an account of Dalí's doings in the Bay area in 1941-42.

    I visited the Legion of Honor in December 2016, but didn't notice Dorothy's portrait. But I did see and photograph it three years earlier.


    Alma Spreckels in 1904.

    Dalí and Dorothy at Monterey's Hotel Del Monte, 28 August 1941.

    The portrait -- museum site image.

    As it appeared on my camera.

    Close-up of Dorothy. Not shown here are some Surrealist bits to the right.

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    Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) is one of the most famous French painters of Revolutionary and Napoleonic times. Many of his works were directly or indirectly political, and he was personally involved in political matters during the heyday of the Revolution. A fairly lengthy Wikipedia entry on David is here.

    David's basic style was what has been derisively termed "Pompier" in reference to the Greek-style helmets worn by Parisian firefighters. This had to do with subject matter and the idealized depictions done in a highly "finished," hard-edge manner. More regarding his evolution can be found at the above link.

    Given his political stances, David was reluctant to work in France following the Bourbon restoration. Having fled to what is now Belgium after Napoleon's fall, he remained in Brussels for the last years of his life.

    Although David remained capable of making Pompier works during this time, some casual paintings of a greatly different character survive. I found two examples in December at San Francisco's Legion of Honor museum.


    Mars desarme par Venus - 1824
    According to Wikipedia, this is David's last Pompier painting.

    Laure-Emilie-Felicité David, La Baronne Meunier - 1812
    A portrait of one of his twin daughters. Napoleon was still in power and David was still in Paris. But at age 64 this can be considered a late work.

    Laure-Emilie-Felicité David, La Baronne Meunier - 1812
    Close-up view. This seems to be little more that a sketch or study. Or might have David anticipated artistic trends 50 years in the future? Probably not, but I don't know enough to be categorical about this.

    La bonne aventure (The Fortune Teller) - 1824
    This was painted the same year as the Mars and Venus painting, within two years of David's death. Again, the style is casual and sketchy. Could this have been a study for a more finished work that was never made? Again, I don't know.

    La bonne aventure (The Fortune Teller) - 1824
    A slightly closer view.

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