09 August 2012

Rooms With a View

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior, 1901.

In April-July 2011, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibition of some seventy paintings, drawings, and watercolors, mostly by Romantic artists of the earlier 19th century. (This first picture is an exception.) These are for the most part, small paintings whose main detail is a window. These are the kind of paintings you would want for your home, paintings of familiar things, sometimes slightly gossipy details of interior decoration and dress, often quite lyrical.

The window frame solves the problem of the focus of the painting, and the light, and often encourages the strong use of vertical lines, as in the folds of a woman's dress or curtains, or the legs of the furniture. The window frame also both narrows down the field of vision, and opens it up on the other side. Great play is made of fine detail against the comparative barrenness of household rooms of the period and the multiplicity of rectangles to be found in a room: you can see artists discovering abstract painting. There are many variations on simple themes: a girl at a window, an artist at a window. Sometimes the artists play against the idea of windows and show them blocked. The artists explore shadows and reflections. None of these paintings is a profound statement about Man or Art or God or Society,  but all of them with their muted colors show great tenderness and respect for the importance of the small things of our lives.

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at the Window, 1822. 

 Martin Drolling, Girl Tracing a Drawing, early 19th C.

 George Friedrich Kersting, Woman Embroidering, 1811.

 George Friedrich Kersting, Couple Standing at the Window, 1817.

                                                             Johann Christian Dahl, View of Pillnitz Castle, 1823.

Adolph Menzel, View from a Window in Marienstrasse, 1867.

 Wilhelm Bendz, Interior from Amaliegade with the Artist's Brothers, ca. 1829. 

 Carl Wilhelm Gropius, Sitting Room, ca. 1830.

 Jean Alaux, Louis Vincent Palliere in His Room at the Villa Medici, 1817.

Jean Alaux, Picot in His Studio at the Villa Medici, 1817.
 Leon Cogniet, The Artist in His Room at the Villa Medici, 1817.

 Anton Dieffenbach, Window in Sunlight, 1856.

Adolph Menzel, The Artist's Sitting Room in Ritterstrasse, 1851.

 Carl Gustav Carus, Studio Window, 1823-4.

The pictures here are scanned from the MMA catalog, Rooms With A View: The Open Window in the 19th Century (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2011).

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