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WHO IS…PAUL GAUGUIN?

Posted 3 June 2015 by Kat

Who is Paul Gauguin? Did you know that until he was 40 he worked in a bank?!

He was born in Paris in 1848, but he spent his childhood in Lima and Peru! Living in these places gave him a love of exotic, faraway places. He returned to France when he was seven, but he never forgot Peru and often dreamed of returning there.

Gauguin was a Post-Impressionist artist. He was influenced by folk art and primitive art, and kept detail to a minimum in his paintings. He used bold flat areas of colour, like in this painting called Harvest: Le Pouldu. Can you see how the hills and the fields are made up of squares of colour?

Paul Gauguin, Harvest: Le Pouldu, 1890 c. Tate

Paul Gauguin, Harvest: Le Pouldu, 1890 c. Tate

When he was not working in the bank, he would paint and get to know the artists who hung out in the cafes near his house. He became great friends with an artist called Lucien Pissarro who taught him all about Impressionism.

When Gauguin devoted his life to painting he set off on his travels, first in France and then to Polynesia.

Paul Gauguin, Tahitians,  c.1891 c. Tate

Paul Gauguin, Tahitians, c.1891 c. Tate

This unfinished painting above, called Tahitians, was made in Tahiti in 1891 during Gauguin’s first trip to the island. He was so enchanted with the place that he returned a couple of years later and remained until 1903. His paintings of Tahiti became famous after he died, because of their bold, exotic colours, and the feeling of calm. Unlike in Europe, where the countryside was being dug up to create cities and roads, Gauguin’s paintings were about people and nature in harmony, showing a simpler life.

What do think of Gauguin’s paintings? Have you ever been to or drawn an exotic place? How are the colours and shapes different in a rainforest compared to the colours in a city?

 

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WHO IS…EDGAR DEGAS?

Posted 27 May 2015 by Kat

Edgar Degas was a French artist born in Paris in 1834. He was supposed to become a lawyer, but he preferred to doodle so he became an artist instead!

Paris was a very exciting place to live if you were a young artist. There were lots of artists travelling from all over the world to work there, and Degas met a group of young artists called The Impressionists. They wanted to paint scenes from everyday life, like food, people and the countryside. They wanted to paint outside, ‘en plein air’ and show different weather conditions and light in their paintings. Peaches and almonds on a table might not seem too crazy but this was considered weird and exciting at the time!

Auguste Renoir, Peaches and Almonds, 1901, c. Tate

Auguste Renoir, Peaches and Almonds, 1901, c. Tate

Although Degas is often described as an Impressionist, he didn’t really like the title. He never painted ‘en plein air’ arguing that you needed time in the studio to really perfect a painting. But he did paint scenes of everyday life, often from some very odd angles, like this picture of Miss Lala, the circus acrobat.

Edgar Degas, Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, c. Tate

Edgar Degas, Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, c. Tate

She is high up in the roof of the circus tent, and is only holding on to the rope with her teeth. That’s tricky!

Degas is perhaps best known for painting ballet dancers. He was fascinated by them, and wanted to capture their grace and power. He often painted them back stage, getting ready for a performance.

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen 1880–1, cast c.1922 c. Tate

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen 1880–1, cast c.1922 c. Tate

This little bronze sculpture of a dancer is a copy of a wax figure Degas made in 1880. At this time Degas was starting to go blind, and he found it harder and harder to paint. So he began making sculptures. This sculpture is of a little girl who was a ballet student at the Paris Opéra. Her skirt is made of cloth. Her hair is made of bronze, but in the original sculpture she had real hair, tied back with a ribbon.

You might recognise this little dancer from the Secret Dancer game! Go and check it out if you haven’t already!

What do you think of Degas’ artwork? Have you ever tried to draw a dancer? Let us know in the comments below!

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WHAT IS…IMPRESSIONISM?

Posted 22 August 2014 by Kat

I’ve been doing my research and your favourite Tate Kids blog posts are ‘Who is…Henry Moore?’, ‘Who is…Andy Warhol?’ and ‘Who is…Kazimir Malevich?’. It seems you guys are keen to learn more about artists – which is great! – but I was wondering what about art movements?! Don’t start yawning just yet!

I’ve been thinking about ‘isms’! No, I haven’t gone crazy. This is the little word at the end of important movements in art, like Surrealism, Romanticism and Realism. These can all be thought of as particular styles of art at particular points in time. But why are they important? Which artists are in these ‘isms’? What makes them so special?

To start this blog series I’m picking Impressionism! Let’s go!

Impressionism started in France in the 19th Century and it’s all about painting landscapes and scenes of everyday life, like cooking, sleeping and bathing. Artists painted outdoors and ‘on the spot’, rather than in a studio from sketches. As they were outside, they looked at how light and colour changed the scenes. What time of day do you think Monet painted the trees below? What do you think the weather was like?

Poplars on the Epte, Claude Monet, 1891, c Tate

Claude Monet, Poplars on the Epte, 1891, c Tate

These artists were not trying to paint a realistic picture but an ‘impression’ of what the person, object or landscape looked like to them. They often painted thickly and used short brush strokes.

Some of the artists to know!
Claude Monet
Camille Pissarro
Alfred Sisley
Auguste Renoir
Edgar Degas

It wasn’t just in France that Impressionism existed. There was also British Impressionism, like this painting by Philip Wilson Steer. Lots of people didn’t like this style of art and thought it should have been ignored. What do you think?

Philip Wilson Steer, Girls Running, Walberswick Pier, 1888–94 c. Tate

Philip Wilson Steer, Girls Running, Walberswick Pier, 1888–94 c. Tate

Let’s take a closer look at one painting by artist, Alfred Sisley:

Alfred Sisley, The Bridge at Sèvres, 1877 c. Tate

Alfred Sisley, The Bridge at Sèvres, 1877 c. Tate

Don’t you think the weather looks lovely?
Sisley, like the other Impressionists, liked to paint sunlight. He really liked painting this bridge and painted it all the time, from different viewpoints and at different times of day. Could you paint the same scene over and over again? What about painting in the morning and at sunset? How would they look different?

There are lots of people fishing!
At the very moment Sisley was painting, people were just relaxing, strolling and doing normal things. Impressionism was meant to show the simple things in life. Looks nice doesn’t it? Maybe have a look around you when you are next on a walk in a park. Maybe grab a sketch book and draw what people are up to. Are they playing sports? Feeding the ducks? Or just going for a walk with friends?

Have you seen any Impressionist paintings recently? What do you think? Have you tried to make an Impressionist-inspired painting on one of the Tate Kids games? Let me know if there are any other ‘isms’ you’d like me to look at in the comments or email me: kids@tate.org.uk

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