Paula Modersohn-Becker: When Life Imitates Art

The name Paula Modersohn-Becker may not say much to you outside of Germany, but at 30 years old she was the first woman to paint herself in the nude, in Self-Portrait at Sixth Wedding Anniversary. Here, one quarter turned with her face flushed, she exposes two small, perky breasts crowned by an amber necklace, one…

Van Gogh, Hiroshige’s Cherry Blossoms, and the Impermanence of Life

Reading time: 20 minutes “If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic, and intelligent who spends his time doing what?,” wondered 35-year-old Vincent van Gogh in a September 1888 letter to his brother, Theo. Admiring the intrinsic wisdom of the Japanese artist who is unanchored from the dispassionate, reasoning…

Pierre Bonnard – Siesta (1900)

Of all the themes that an artist might tackle, sleep has always been one of my favorites. It’s highly versatile, as it can allude to deep, physical contentment, sexuality, escapism or the mystery of the subconscious. For me, it’s always been more about its physicality, the rejuvenating pleasure one might derive from it and the…

Tsuguharu Foujita – Self-Portrait (1936)

As a Japanese artist arriving in Paris in 1913, Tsuguharu Foujita quickly befriended and got acquainted with all the great painters, including Modigliani and Picasso, as well with socialites and celebrities like Josephine Baker. The Japanese embodied the exoticism that Europeans were longing for and he was quick to profit from it. With his bowl…

Vincent van Gogh – Green Wheat Fields, Auvers (1890)

After having a severe nervous breakdown during which he cuts his own ear and being institutionalized in an asylum for a year, Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh moves to northern France, to Auvers-sur-Oise, to start afresh. He was hoping that his mental frailty was a consequence of the strong impressions and strident colors of Arles…

József Rippl-Rónai – A Park at Night (1892 – 1895)

After moving to Paris in 1888 and joining Les Nabis, a group of Post-impressionists that included Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Félix Vallotton, Hungarian painter József Rippl-Rónai’s art took a modern turn. Those years spent in Paris are known as his black period, for he painted numerous women set against dark backgrounds. Dating from his…