Tag Archives: 1878

Roofs Under Snow in Art: Caillebotte, Georg Pauli, Henri Martin, Edmund Dulac, Claire Carpot

23 Jan

A few weeks ago I (re)discovered Caillebotte’s painting “Roofs Under Snow” and immediatelly afterwards I started seeing more paintings of snowy roofs. This seemed to be a recurring pattern and I decied to write a post about it because the theme seemed fitting for these lonesome and cold January days. In this post we’ll take a look at five paintings that feature the motif of roofs covered by snow, by the following artists: Caillebotte, Georg Pauli, Henri Martin, Edmund Dulac and Claire Carpot.

Gustave Caillebotte, View of Roofs (Snow Effect) or Roofs Under Snow, 1878

Caillebotte painted many views of Parisian streets and balconies in his typical precise and slightly cold and detached manner, but in the painting “View of Roofs (Snow Effect)”, painted in 1878, he approached the subject in a more laid-back, sketchy, Impressionist style. Using only a few colours, white, grey, blue and just a little bit of orange-brown, Caillebotte managed to capture a view from his window that appears realistic and atmospheric both at once. I love the way the attic windows of the building in the foreground are painted in a more detailed way while at the same time the objects in the distance are fading away in a dreamy blueish mist. That’s the way winter afternoons often die; in a blueish mist. The shutters on the windows are closed and uninviting. There is no joy or vivacity or winter magic in this scene.

Georg Pauli (Swedish, 1855-1935), Winter Evening at Söder, Stockholm, 1889

Swedish painter Georg Pauli’s painting “Winter Evening at Söder” from 1889 offers a warmer and dreamier rendition of the same motif. The roofs of Stockholm are covered with a thick white layer of snow. In the foreground the snow has blueish undertones but as our eyes move on to the distance we see that the streetlamps are casting a warm, golden glow on the freshly fallen snow. See what an effect the yellow and orange colours and the light have on the mood of the painting; the serious drabness that we have seen in Caillebotte’s painting is replaced by a golden veil of magic and coziness. The view from the window is, despite the obvious winter’s coldness, warm and inviting. In contrast to Caillebotte’s painting, here a yellow and red light is coming from the windows which makes us wander: who lives there and what are they doing? Sipping tea or eating biscuits, daydreaming their winter away… The light in the window indicates the presence of people and thus the scene appear more lively and inviting, even if we don’t directly see a human figure.

Henri Martin, The Roofs of Paris in the Snow, the View from the Artist’s Studio, 1895

“The Roofs of Paris in the Snow” is a rather realistic motif for Henri Martin whose work consists of more mystical, Symbolist motifs. Even his seemingly plain landscapes are flowery, warm and bathed in soft light. Parisian roofs covered in snow is an unlikely motif for Martin but it speaks of the artist’s hommage to Caillebotte. The cityscape of snow covered roofs and trees is built entirely out of little dots and dashes of colour which is typical for Martin’s Divisionist technique. It’s interesting to see how many dots of different colour on the same area produce something seeminly incoherent but that our eyes easily translate into an object; a roof, a building, a tree. Also, this technique creates a vibrant painting surface which seems flickering and lively and this goes great with the subject matter because that is indeed how the scene would have looked like with snow falling. How else to capture snow but in little dots and dashes of white?

Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter Night, 1911

French artist Edmund Dulac was known for his whimsical fairy tale and Shakesperean scenes and it is no surprise then that a winter night takes on a magical character when captured by his brush. “The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter Night” is found in a book “Stories from Hans Andersen(Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1911) and it shows a scene from the fairy tale of the same name by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. The Snow Queen is seen flying above the rooftops of a sleepy town on a winter’s night and she appears ghostly and ephemereal, the colour of her dress, hair and face is the same grey-blueish colour that the roofs are painted in. The light in the windows and the colourful glass on the cathedral add some liveliness to the scene and the effect of snow falling is stunning.

Claire Carpot (1901 – 1992), Christmas (Noel), 1949

And finally we have this very lively and very snowy painting called “Christmas” by a French painter Claire Carpot. What immediately captivated me about this painting is the way the snow was painted, and the quantity in which it was painted! I mean, there is just so much of it. So many snowflakes covering the canvas from top to bottom. Watching snow falling is definitely one of the bright sides of winter and this painting perfectly conveys this joy of seeing snow falling.

Edgar Degas – Star of the Ballet

9 Jul

Edgar Degas is my favourite Impressionist painter. He’d probably turn in his grave if he knew I called him an Impressionist because he hated the term, preferring to call himself a ‘Realist’ or ‘Independent’. I’ve written about him only once, but I adore his work so much that I don’t even feel the need to express how deeply I admire and love his ballerinas and theatre scenes.

1878. Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers by degas1878 Dancer with a Bouquet of Flowers (Star of the Ballet)

Degas’ name in art is almost inseparable with ballerinas, in the same way that Monet’s name is inseparable with waterlilies or the Sainte-Victoire mountain with Cezanne. Degas started painting ballerinas and subjects connected to ballet around 1870 when his family bankrupted. These paintings were appealing to the audience and possible buyers.

Painting Star of the Ballet is not my favourite Degas’ painting but it’s certainly very interesting. The paintings shows the ‘star of the ballet’ as the title suggests during her solo-performance on an empty stage. Other ballerinas can be seen peeking behind the curtains. The star is finishing her dance movement which Degas captured very accurately; one leg is visible, her hands are elegantly harmonised, and her head is slightly inclined to her right. One feels that one is truly witnessing this beautiful passing moment, and Degas highlighted this dynamic and fleeting mood even more by painting the skirt so fluttering, and the plush black bow around her neck flying around. The ballerina is placed in the right corner of the canvas, while the empty part of the stage occupies the largest part. This interesting asymmetry of the composition (all due to Degas’ interest in Japanese art) only enhances the sense of this fleeting moment. Still, her movement seems strangely frozen at the same time. Like the characters on Keats’ Grecian urn, the ballerina cannot travel through time, it even seems like she’s going to fall because of the lopsidedness of the composition. Degas hasn’t painted the duration of the movement, but rather the ‘eternity’ of the captured movement. His ballerina is eternally incomplete, her leg is invisible due to the dance position, and she’s balancing on the other leg like a flower.

The model for the painting was a very popular nineteenth century ballerina of Catalan origin – Rosita Mauri, famous for her ballet skills, her beauty and fierce temper. She captured the attention of many artists of the day. Degas’ brush is not the only one in Paris that wanted to capture her gracefulness on canvas, other painters such as Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Leon Comerre painted her too. She even caught the attention of the symbolis poet Stéphane Mallarmé with her performance in Andre Messager’s ballet Les Deux Pigeons. He wrote he was impressed with her ‘ritualistic animality’ because she performed the lead role with her long black hair loose.