A Master of Lyon: Tony Tollet

Tony Tollet was a Lyon-based French painter who had one of the longest and most distinguished careers of his time. Born in 1857, he began his artistic career as a child when, bed-ridden because of illness, he began to produce drawings that impressed his father, who then encouraged him to take up art. In 1873, the 16-year-old Tollet did precisely that, taking up training at the École des beaux-arts de Lyon, where he would flourish under the tutelage of Jean-Baptiste Danguin and Michel Dumas. A mere six years later, he won the Prix de Paris, allowing him to further his education at the even more prestigious École des beaux-arts de Paris. Here he studied under such world-class painters as Alexandre Cabanel, Luc-Olivier Merson and Albert Maignan, and in Paris he also befriended the Flandrins, a well-established family of painters.

In 1885, he won the 2nd Prix de Rome for a piece entitled Themistocles in the Home of Admete (which I’ve not been able to track down on the internet). In 1889, with his mother growing ill, he returned to Lyon and here remained for the rest of his life, marrying Jeanne Pailleux, who bore him six children. He set up his own studio in Lyon where he painted the portraits of notable local personages and taught drawing in the municipality of Guillotière. He suffered a major setback in 1909, when his studio caught fire and was destroyed, along with all of the works contained therein. Luckily, this did not stop Tollet from starting over, and he continued to paint until 1942, well into his eighties by then. Having accomplished many honors and held several important official positions in Lyon, Tollet finally passed away in 1953, at the age of 95.

One of the artist’s most recognizable paintings is this portrait of the Bernard children, painted around 1920. This piece would of course be classified as Realism, but I feel there’s a nice balance here between the romanticism of the 19th century and the modernity of the 20th.

Tony Tollet - Portrait of the Bernard Family in Lyon (ca. 1920)

Tony Tollet – Portrait of the Bernard Family in Lyon (ca. 1920)

Unfortunately, I could never track down a color version of this piece. It is certainly a sweet painting, reminding me somewhat of the work of Mary Cassatt, though with more of a Victorian sensibility than Cassatt’s work tends to have.

Tony Tollet - Le secret

Tony Tollet – Le secret

Tony Tollet - Happy Children

Tony Tollet – Happy Children

And finally, my favorite of Tollet’s paintings, an allegorical work. The central subject of this piece is Flora, Roman goddess of flowers and springtime. Little girls, representing the springtime of human femininity, fit in nicely here.

Tony Tollet - Flore, symbole du Printemps

Tony Tollet – Flore, symbole du Printemps

Are You People Too?

Just something cute for you today. This painting was made by Theodor Grätz, of whom there is virtually no background data for on the web. This little toddler girl approaches what appears to be two orangutans and asks them if they too are people. It is exactly the sort of charming image that would’ve been used on a postcard in the early part of the 20th century, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out it had been at some point. The image required a small amount of clean-up when I found it, but nothing too troublesome.

Theodor Grätz - Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Theodor Grätz – Seid Ihr auch Menschen?

Laurits Tuxen

Danish painter and sculptor Laurits Tuxen was a member of the Skagen Painters, a group of Scandinavian artists who met in Skagen, Denmark’s northernmost town (situated at the very tip of the Skagen Odde peninsula) during the last decades of the Victorian era. The set also included husband and wife teams Michael and Anna Ancher and Peder Severin and Marie Krøyer, as well as Viggo Johansen, Carl Locher and Christian Krohg. These artists generally preferred outdoor (en plein air) painting, for which the sparsely populated Skagen was ideal. Peder Severin Krøyer was unquestionably the group’s anchor. One of the most popular Danish artists of his time and a dashing, dynamic and magnetic figure, he will get his own post here eventually. But for now, back to Tuxen.

Laurits Tuxen was raised in Copenhagen, where he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to being an early member of the Skagen Painters, Tuxen traveled quite a bit, painting landscapes and portraits, mainly of European and Russian royalty. His style was primarily Realist, though he also dabbled in Impressionism. The following piece falls pretty solidly into the first category, though there are Impressionistic touches here and there. The painting features three young girls in their tween to early teen years on a beach in Skagen, two of them nude. It’s not a particularly unusual painting for its time. In fact, what’s most fascinating about this piece for me is that a set of photographs were taken of this scene as it was being painted, an unusual occurrence for artists of the Edwardian era, for which photography was still a fairly cumbersome activity, though its popularity was growing by leaps and bounds. Anyway, here is the painting:

Laurits Tuxen - Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med figurer (1907)

Laurits Tuxen – Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med figurer (1907)

We also have quite a bit of historical data on this painting. The standing girl and the girl lying on the beach in a pink dress were Tuxen’s own daughters, Yvonne and Nina, aged 13 and 10 respectively at the time. Yvonne was born in 1894, Nina in 1898. The third girl is almost certainly Peder and Marie Krøyer’s daughter Vibeke Krøyer, born in 1895, so she would’ve been about 12 or 13 here as well. She appears to have her father’s red hair. Now, here are the photographs of the scene, showing Tuxen at work in the background. You’ll see that, despite her nudity in the painting, Yvonne is fully clothed in the photos. This modesty may have been for the sake of the photographer, who has not been identified, but also it may have been unnecessary for her to strip, as the artist may simply be touching up some of the details. If you look closely, you can see that the painting appears to be pretty close to completion.

Photographer Unknown - Laurits Tuxen painting 'Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer' (1)

Photographer Unknown – Laurits Tuxen painting ‘Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer’ (1)

Photographer Unknown - Laurits Tuxen painting 'Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer' (2)

Photographer Unknown – Laurits Tuxen painting ‘Sommerdag på Skagen Strand med Figurer’ (2)

By the way, there is a wealth of information about this group and several more photos and artworks featuring these three girls, including some closeups (they were all quite beautiful in my estimation) at this site, where the above photos were borrowed from, though it’s all in Danish. If you’re willing to slog through it and do the translations, it is quite a fascinating look at the life of these artists and their children.

Random Image: John Philip Wagner

A reader just shared this sensuous image of fairies.  For some reason there is a transposed version and I am told this one has the correct orientation.

John Philip Wagner - Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner – Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner was born in Philadelphia in 1943, got his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the Philadelphia College of Art and his Masters at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also studied with David Hare and Dennis Leon. As a child, he plastered the walls of his elementary school with paintings of Egyptian pyramids and Roman ships and later studied the theater arts, painting, sculpture and printmaking. He resides in the American Southwest, having lived in New Mexico and then southern Colorado, adding Native American and Southwestern Art to his repertoire. While in Santa Fe, he created the first version of the puppet theater known as “Wagner Marionettes”. Since then, he spent much time entertaining children with his little players on string. In 2005, he was charged with sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, claiming that he touched her buttocks. Found on his computer were nude photos of the girl the artist says were used for reference. The mother denies giving her consent for these photographs. There is no information about a hearing or trial but, presumably, he agreed to a plea bargain as he was required to register as a sex offender. He no longer has his own website and sells his beautiful art through CafePress. Categories of interest include Fairy Art and Angel Art.

Delphine Blais

After Alexandre Lamotte, I will present another painter from Carré d’artistes.

Delphine Blais was born on February 15th, 1971 in Rouen (Northwestern France). She soon developed a taste for drawing, painting and sculpture. In 1993 she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Bordeaux (Southwestern France). Her art career was interspersed with raising two children in the early 2000s and then animating art workshops for children as well as adults.

Her technique mixes collage with acrylic painting. She glues on a support little pieces of various old material, in particular found in flea markets: wallpaper, handwritten letters, vintage photographs, fabric or lace. Then she paints over them figures of women made of successive layers of colour. In her Carré d’artistes webpage, they have been compared to stalagmites (although I tend to think rather of a kebab). On top of their elongated body stands a tiny minimalist head. Thus all emotions are conveyed by the colours and by the posture and movement of the body.

I bought one of her works, which shows a painted woman beside a vintage photograph of a little girl. It is a painted collage on a 13cm×13cm cardboard, itself glued to a larger white support that I surrounded by a black frame. Here is the photograph I took from it; I cropped it slightly outside the collage, so that one can see its irregular border and its relief above the support.

Delphine Blais - Angèle (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Angèle (c2016)

I show next reproductions of two other of her painted collages, from her Carré d’artistes webpage; I chose them because they also mix painted women with vintage photographs of little girls. The first one is 13cm×13cm, the second one is 19cm×19cm.

Delphine Blais - Félicie (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Félicie (c2016)

Delphine Blais - Suzanne (c2016)

Delphine Blais – Suzanne (c2016)

Finally I show a picture of the artist at work, from the information leaflet about her made by Carré d’artistes:

(Unknown photographer) – Delphine Blais at work

(Unknown photographer) – Delphine Blais at work


Alexandre Lamotte: Langoureuse

Last April, I bought at Carré d’artistes a second watercolor painting by Alexandre Lamotte. Its French title Langoureuse means “languorous,” and indeed I find it soft and sensuous. It is one of my loveliest, and it hangs above my bed.

Compared to the previous one, it is slightly smaller (25cm×25cm instead of 36cm×36cm); as in the latter, there is a white cardboard inside the frame surrounding the picture, but given the smaller size of the painting, I have cropped the photograph to remove it. Without professional equipment, it is difficult to reproduce exactly the tones and colors of a watercolor having a weak color contrast. Of all my shots and computerized contrast enhancements, I chose the version that seems to me the most emotional. So the background looks a little bit bluish, while in reality it is beige.

Alexandre Lamotte - Langoureuse (2016)

Alexandre Lamotte – Langoureuse (2016)

At Carré d’artistes, paintings rotate between their various galleries. Indeed, the week after I bought Langoureuse, all unsold works by Lamotte had been removed. But the staff told me that he has now other projects beside painting, so instead of being sent to another gallery, his works were returned to him. And his webpage on their site has been reduced to his biography.  They removed the image of one of his paintings that appeared on it; however I had saved it, so I give it here.

Alexandre Lamotte - Carre-d'artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alexandre Lamotte – Carre-d’artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alphonse Isambert

I’m back! At least for awhile. And here’s a taste of what I have in store for you. This piece is by Alphonse Isambert, a student of the master historical painter Paul Delaroche. Isambert, like many artists of the 19th century, was heavily inspired by ancient Greco-Roman art and culture. The style here is Neoclassical, and this piece exemplifies the tradition of the idyll, with two rustic youths, likely young lovers, playing music in the woods. The title translates to Aulos Players in Arcadia.

Alphonse Isambert - Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)

Alphonse Isambert – Les joueurs d’aulos en Arcadie (1847)


Creator of the Flower Fairies: Cicely Mary Barker

Cicely Mary Barker (1895–1973) was born on 28 June, 1895 in Croyden, England, to Walter Barker and Mary Eleanor Barker. As a child she suffered from epilepsy so her parents thought it would be safer for her to be home-schooled by a governess. She spent a lot of her time drawing and painting and her father decided to pay for a correspondence course in art which she continued until at least 1919. He also enrolled her in evening classes with the Croyden School of Art in 1908, which she attended until the 1940s and eventually became a teacher there.

Cicely’s parents noticed the quality of her drawings—that they might be good enough for publishing—so they took examples to publishers and printers. The artist’s first published works appeared in 1911 when Raphael Tuck, the printer, bought four drawings and turned them into postcards. In October 1911 she won second prize in a poster competition run by the Croydon Art Society, and shortly after was elected the youngest member of the Society.

After her father’s untimely death in 1912, her older sister, Dorothy, tried to support the family by teaching in private schools then opening a kindergarten at home. The artist also contributed to the finances of her family by selling poetry and illustrations to magazines such as My Magazine, Child’s Own and Raphael Tuck annuals. Additionally, she exhibited and sold work at the Croydon Art Society and at the Royal Institute. She also designed postcards for various printing firms.

Cicely Mary Barker - Because He Came... (date unknown)

Cicely Mary Barker – Because He Came… (date unknown)

After approaching several publishers. Cicely’s first book was accepted by Blackie and published in 1923. Entitled Flower Fairies of the Spring, the book contained watercolour paintings with pen and ink outlines of fairies situated in idyllic settings with each image accompanied by a small song. As fairies were popular at this time the book sold well and also received many positive reviews, consequently over the next thirty-two years another nine flower fairy books were produced.

Cicely Mary Barker - A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Though she is most often remembered for her flower fairies, they are far from the only books she produced. During the 1920s the artist also created images and wrote some of the songs for several books of songs and verse.

Cicely Mary Barker - Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker – Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

She was also an author of three stories with the first, The Lord of the Rushie River, published in 1938. As the book sold well, Blackie requested that she write another and Groundsel and Necklaces was published in 1946 and later renamed Fairy Necklaces when it was re-released in 1991. The third book she wrote was Simon the Swan which was completed in 1953, however Blackie ignored the book and it was not until 1988, fifteen years after the author death, that it got published. The paintings in these three stories differed from the flower fairy images as they were painted with either pastel or oil paint.

Cicely Mary Barker - Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker – Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

The artist was a devout Christian and produced many illustrations for Christian themed books and postcards. She also donated works to churches either for resale or display and I am showing one of her most recognised paintings The Parable of the Great Supper produced for St. George’s Church, Waddon.

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

The painting that hangs in the church is a triptych. The larger centre panel is entitled ‘The Great Supper’ and illustrates one of Jesus’ parables where ordinary people are brought in from the highways and byways to share in a great king’s feast, symbolising the inclusive spirit of Christianity. The two smaller side panels show St John the Baptist and Saint George.

The artist’s work slowed down in the 1950s, as she was teaching art at this time, then in 1954 her sister died so she became solely responsible for the care of her mother. The royalties from her books largely supported their life and occasionally she would do portrait commissions for extra money. When her mother died in 1960 Cicely’s health started to fail and she passed away in 1973.

Cicely Mary Barker - Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker – Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker - He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker – He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

The artist’s style was largely influenced by Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott as their books were popular during her childhood so she would have spent a lot of time reading them. She was also influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites Sir John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones. She admired them as they painted directly from nature and they could depict flora and fauna with near exactitude. The artist achieved her own botanical accuracy by referring to botanical books or having staff from Kew Gardens bring her specimens to paint. All the people featured in her images were real and were sourced from her sister’s kindergarten or were local villagers. She also had a habit of carrying a sketchbook with her and would quickly sketch any interesting child she saw while in public places. The costumes that the children wear were also created by her and after the painting was completed the fabric was recycled into new costumes.

In 1989, Frederick Warne, a division of Penguin Books, acquired the Flower Fairies properties and turned it into the commercial behemoth it is today. Half of the artist’s books were re-released in the 1980s and ’90s and you can buy flower fairy quilts, linen, fabric, stationary, figurines and many other products.

If you would like to see some of her religious works there are some images in this Flickr account and two articles, one at The Croydon Citizen and another at the Inside Croyden Blog.

The Paintings of Robert Herdman

Robert Inerarity Herdman (1829–1888) was born at Rattray, the youngest of the parish minister’s four sons. At age fifteen, he started at St. Andrews’ University with the intent of eventually entering the ministry like his father. However, this idea was soon forgotten as he spent much of his time sketching or painting.

In June 1847, he began six years of study at the Edinburgh Trustees’ Academy, where he remained as a student until the end of the 1853 session. While there, the artist became a regular recipient of prizes, winning his first award for shaded drawings, less than a year after his admission. Additionally, he obtained first and second prizes in the Antique and Life classes in 1851 and 1852 then in 1854 he won from the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) the Keith Prize and a bronze medal.

In 1855 the RSA gave Herdman his first commission where he spent a year in Italy making copies of old master paintings. In addition to these copies the artist made many of his own paintings to sell for a little income. Artistic life in Scotland revolved around the RSA and he became an Associate in 1858 and a full Academian in 1863. From 1850 until his death, the artist showed most of his works at the RSA, a total of about two hundred paintings over three decades. He also showed at the Glasgow Institute and a couple of pictures each year at the Royal Academy in London. The artist also made illustrations, which accompanied various poems and novels, for the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland. Many of these works were minor; however in 1869 he received a major commission from the Association, for a subject of his own choice ”capable of furnishing a powerful and effective engraving”, to be issued as a bonus to subscribers for five guineas. The subject Herdman selected—After the Battle – a Scene in Covenanting Times—was not based on any literary source. It was intended to be, as a story, fully self-explanatory. Such was the acclaim of the painting that the Association unanimously decided to buy it for presentation to the newly created National Gallery of Scotland and has since become one of his most recognised images.

Robert Herdman - After the Battle A Scene in Covenanting Times (1870)

Robert Herdman – After the Battle A Scene in Covenanting Times (1870)

Another source of income came from the re-use of studies as finished pictures and the painting of small replicas of larger compositions as can be seen in this portrait of a girl. The girl that appears in this painting resembles the girl in After the Battle.

Robert Herdman - Portrait of a Girl (1876)

Robert Herdman – Portrait of a Girl (1876)

Herdman’s paintings were mainly portraits and historical compositions in oil paint, but he also produced some notable landscapes in watercolour. His portraits ranged in style from the delicate, charming and beautiful images of young women and children to the strong and characterised images of male academics; a large number of these can be viewed on ARTUK’s website.

Robert Herdman - Dressing for the Charade The Children of Patrick Allan Fraser (1866)

Robert Herdman – Dressing for the Charade The Children of Patrick Allan Fraser (1866)

Robert Herdman - A fern gatherer West Highlands (1864)

Robert Herdman – A fern gatherer West Highlands (1864)

Robert Herdman - Evening (1862)

Robert Herdman – Evening (1862)

He first visited the Isle of Arran in the summer of 1864 and the landscape became a common feature in his paintings either as the setting of his portraits or as landscape paintings. These visits were not only painting expeditions but family holidays with repeated visits year after year.

Robert Herdman - Little Messenger (1860)

Robert Herdman – Little Messenger (1860)

Robert Herdman - Fern Gatherer (1866)

Robert Herdman – Fern Gatherer (1866)

Robert Herdman - Evening Thoughts (1964)

Robert Herdman – Evening Thoughts (1964)

Robert Herdman - Morning (1861)

Robert Herdman – Morning (1861)

Robert Herdman - Pleasures of Hope (1877)

Robert Herdman – Pleasures of Hope (1877)

Robert Herdman - The Gleaner (1863)

Robert Herdman – The Gleaner (1863)

Robert Herdman - The Arrochar Gleaner (1862)

Robert Herdman – The Arrochar Gleaner (1862)

Robert Herdman - The Time of Primroses (1954)

Robert Herdman – The Time of Primroses (1954)

Robert Herdman - Bonny Bell (1859)

Robert Herdman – Bonny Bell (1859)

For those interested in seeing a list of Herdman’s paintings, there are two catalogues at archive.org. One is for the Royal Scottish Academy and one for the Royal Academy, London. These are not a full list of works by the artist but rather a list of all works hosted at these galleries.

The Best Painting in History? Diego Velázquez

One of Pip’s favorite art analysts is someone who calls himself The Nerdwriter and has a series of videos on YouTube. Although his discussion of artwork is excellent, there has been no occasion to mention him on Pigtails until now. Recently, he reviewed a famous painting called Las Meninas and featured center stage was a little girl, a princess of Spain. The Nerdwriter considers this work more worthy of analysis than any other in history. An important distinction between photography and painting is that with painting, the artist has complete control and no element is there by chance so that the presence of the smallest detail can be a valid subject of discussion. The critic engages in the usual discussion of composition but also why the artist chose to depict two of Rubens’ paintings displayed in the background. The solution to a long-standing mystery is also convincingly proposed and, in The Nerdwriter’s opinion, what is great about this piece is that it is a bold statement about the virtue of painting itself. At that time, poets and musicians were highly regarded but not painters. The fact that the Rubens paintings were about the divine source of creativity and that a reflection of the king and queen in a mirror is coming from a canvas at the edge of frame seems to bolster the argument that Velázquez was making a profound statement about the power of the medium. “This is a painting about painting.” says The Nerdwriter.

Diego Velázquez - Las Meninas (1656)

Diego Velázquez – Las Meninas (1656)

Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) was one of the most important Spanish painters and beloved court artist under the reign of King Philip IV. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted many portraits of the Spanish royal family, notable European figures and even commoners. The importance of Velázquez’ contribution was acknowledged by realist and impressionist painters starting in the early 19th Century and included Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon who all recreated several of the more famous works. Philosopher Michel Foucault devotes the opening chapter of one of his books to a detailed analysis of Las Meninas and Philip Roth also referred to that painting as a metaphor for the distracted attraction of courtship.

Velázquez received good training in languages and philosophy but showed an early gift for art. He first studied under Francisco de Herrera and remained with him for only one year. It is probably from this master that he acquired the habit of using brushes with long bristles. At age 12, he apprenticed under the somewhat undistinguished Francisco Pacheco for five years and married his teacher’s daughter, Juana, in 1618. The couple had two daughters.

Velázquez’ first visit to Madrid in 1622 was very timely as the king’s favorite court painter had just died. By August 1623, Philip IV sat for Velázquez for the first time and was pleased. The painter was then offered permanent residence in the court. In 1628, Peter Paul Rubens came to Madrid and met Velázquez, developing a high opinion of him. Rubens’ visit inspired the younger painter to visit Italy to study the works of the Italian masters. Velázquez’ career culminated in what is arguably his greatest work, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) in 1656. It featured Margaret Theresa, the eldest daughter of Philip and his new queen, Mariana of Austria. The artist was given the honor of knighthood in 1659 and it was only through this royal appointment that he was able to escape the censorship of the Inquisition. Otherwise, he would never have been able to release his La Venus del espejo (Venus at her Mirror), the painter’s only surviving female nude. Velázquez’ final portraits of the royal children are among his finest works and include the Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress.

Diego Velázquez - Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress (1659)

Diego Velázquez – Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress (1659)