It’s no surprise that the painting Bonjour Monsieur Courbet goes by two names. This masterpiece, also called The Meeting – La Rencontre in French, teems with binaries. Painter Gustave Courbet believed in two types of people. There were artists, like himself, and bores. He didn’t keep such opinions to himself. That’s why his critics gave this painting yet another name. They liked to call it Fortune Bowing before Genius.
It’s hard to believe Thomas Eakin’s painting The Biglin Brothers Racing dates back to 1873. Point and click cameras weren’t yet invented. So, this action’s a straight shot from Eakins. He had to be there and capture a split second in oil paint. That’s only one of the wonders at work in this piece.
Edward Hicks paints neat and tidy artworks. So, it’s easy to recognize this trademark style in The Cornell Farm. Hicks obsessed over creating order in his paintings. Many art historians attribute this to a yearning within Hicks to quell his inner demons. But it may have been quite the opposite. Completely self-taught, Hicks could have adopted this perfectionism to prove his artistic merit.
Every time I look at The Blind Girl I forget the two girls are beggars. That may be due to the blind girl’s blissful expression. Also, John Everett Millais sets them in a picturesque field of lush, joyful color.
Mute painter Henrick Avercamp sings an icy opera with Frozen River. In fact, his expressions range from delight to death here. Without a word spoken, Avercamp tells us a complex emotional story.
Clarity and purpose shine through Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel. Its sharp cold bite make this more than a landscape. But on the most basic level it’s one of the best landscapes ever.
Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip delights in joyful nostalgia. No matter the life we’ve led, at some point we all had a moment like this. These scampering bare feet sing to us of freedom.
George Caleb Bingham’s painting, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, dwells in romanticism. The work reminds us that romance in art takes many forms.
Nature versus Man whips like wind through the painting Approaching Storm. Eugène Boudin often painted the moneyed and middle class. Their fancy finery struck a wry contrast with Mother Nature.
Antonio Pollaiuolo’s 15th century Italian masterpiece explores the myth of Apollo and Daphne. It’s the classic tale of unrequited love, with a laurel-scented twist.