History Podcasts

Painted Fragment of a Theban Woman

Painted Fragment of a Theban Woman

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was born on May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. Cassatt was the daughter of a well-to-do real estate and investment broker, and her upbringing reflected her family&aposs high social standing. Her schooling prepared her to be a proper wife and mother and included such classes as homemaking, embroidery, music, sketching and painting. During the 1850s, the Cassatts took their children abroad to live in Europe for several years.

Though women of her day were discouraged from pursuing a career, Cassatt enrolled in Philadelphia&aposs Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at age 16. Not surprisingly, she found the male faculty and her fellow students to be patronizing and resentful of her attendance. Cassatt also became frustrated by the curriculum&aposs slow pace and inadequate course offerings. She decided to leave the program and move to Europe where she could study the works of the Old Masters on her own, firsthand.

Despite her family&aposs strong objections (her father declared he would rather see his daughter dead than living abroad as a "bohemian"), Cassatt left for Paris in 1866. She began her study with private art lessons in the Louvre, where she would study and copy masterpieces. She continued to study and paint in relative obscurity until 1868, when one of her portraits was selected at the prestigious Paris Salon, an annual exhibition run by the French government. With her father&aposs disapproving words echoing in her ears, Cassatt submitted the well-received painting under the name Mary Stevenson.


Between November of 1881 and July of 1890, Vincent van Gogh painted almost 900 paintings. Since his death, he has become one of the most famous painters in the world. Van Gogh’s paintings have captured the minds and hearts of millions of art lovers and have made art lovers of those new to world of art. The following excerpts are from letters that Van Gogh wrote expressing how he evolved as a painter. There are also links to pages describing some of Vincent van Gogh's most famous paintings, Starry Night, Sunflowers, Irises, Poppies, The Bedroom, Blossoming Almond Tree, The Mulberry Tree, The Night Café, and The Potato Eaters, in great detail.

In December of 1881, at the age of 28 just as he began his first paintings Vincent wrote to his brother Theo about becoming a painter,

“Theo, I am so very happy with my paintbox, and I think my getting it now, after having drawn almost exclusively for at least a year, better than if I had started with it immediately… For, Theo, with painting my real career begins. Don't you think I am right to consider it so?”

Van Gogh worked at a feverish pace costing him money, causing him mental and physical stress and leaving him no time for any other source of income. But he was persistent. In a letter from March of 1882, Van Gogh wrote again to his brother Theo,

“Although I find myself in financial difficulties, I nevertheless have the feeling that there is nothing more solid than a `handicraft' in the literal sense of working with one's hands. If you became a painter, one of the things that would surprise you is that painting and everything connected with it is quite hard work in physical terms. Leaving aside the mental exertion, the hard thought, it demands considerable physical effort, and that day after day.”

In the same letter to Theo from 1882, Van Gogh writes,

“There are two ways of thinking about painting, how not to do it and how to do it: how to do it - with much drawing and little colour how not to do it - with much colour and little drawing."

Van Gogh's most famous painting is reviewed as well as Starry Night Over the Rhone and The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night.

Van Gogh firmly believed that to be a great painter you had to first master drawing before adding color. Over the years Van Gogh clearly mastered drawing and began to use more color. In time, one of the most recognizable aspects of Van Gogh’s paintings became his bold use of color. This is evident in both Van Gogh's landscapes and his still life paintings

About a year before his death Van Gogh predicted that there would be a great “painter of the future” who would know how to use color like no one else and would become the future of painting. He expressed this in a letter to his brother Theo in May of 1888,

“As for me, I shall go on working, and here and there something of my work will prove of lasting value - but who will there be to achieve for figure painting what Claude Monet has achieved for landscape? However, you must feel, as I do, that someone like that is on the way - Rodin? - he does not use colour - it won't be him. But the painter of the future will be a colourist the like of which has never yet been seen.

Vincent van Gogh's famous still life collection is detailed here..

But I'm sure I am right to think that it will come in a later generation, and it is up to us to do all we can to encourage it, without question or complaint.”

During his lifetime Van Gogh was never famous as a painter and struggled to make a living as an artist. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime The Red Vineyard. This painting sold in Brussels for 400 Francs only a few months before his death.

Vincent van Gogh died at the age of 37 bringing his career as a painter to an end, but beginning his legacy as the great painter of the future who inspired the world.

About a week after his death, Van Gogh’s brother Theo wrote to his sister Elizabeth about Van Gogh’s legacy as a great artist,

“In the last letter which he wrote me and which dates from some four days before his death, it says, “I try to do as well as certain painters whom I have greatly loved and admired.” People should realize that he was a great artist, something which often coincides with being a great human being. In the course of time this will surely be acknowledged, and many will regret his early death.”

Vincent van Gogh died at the age of 37 bringing his career as a painter to an end, but beginning his legacy as the great painter of the future who inspired the world. Today it remains a mystery as to what Van Gogh’s last painting was before his death. Find out more about which paintings among his final works are considered to be perhaps Vincent van Gogh’s last painting.

Frida Kahlo&aposs Accident

On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and Alejandro Gómez Arias, a school friend with whom she was romantically involved, were traveling together on a bus when the vehicle collided with a streetcar. As a result of the collision, Kahlo was impaled by a steel handrail, which went into her hip and came out the other side. She suffered several serious injuries as a result, including fractures in her spine and pelvis.

After staying at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City for several weeks, Kahlo returned home to recuperate further. She began painting during her recovery and finished her first self-portrait the following year, which she gave to Gómez Arias.

Analysis of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso

Picasso - often bracketed with Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Matisse (1869-1954), as one of the most influential modern artists - was a restless innovator whose greatest achievement was the co-invention (together with Georges Braque) of "Cubism" - a revolutionary way of representing reality in a painting. In devising this new "Cubist" idiom, Picasso rejected the traditional method of painting which involved creating the illusion of a three-dimensional image. Instead he emphasized the flat, two-dimensional nature of the picture, and avoided the use of traditional techniques - like linear perspective and foreshortening, as well as chiaroscuro and modelling. Using the "Cubist" method of painting, Picasso and other Cubist painters disassembled people and objects into flat 'snapshots' (views of the person/object) which they then laid out in a series of transparent/opaque overlapping planes. This allowed an object to be seen from a multiplicity of viewpoints (occurring perhaps at different times), instead of only a single viewpoint (at one particular time).

Of course Picasso and Braque didn't invent this new "Cubism" overnight. It involved a gradual process of experimentation which occupied both artists (independently to begin with) during the period 1908-10.

But Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) is traditionally seen as Picasso's pivotal first step towards the new Cubist style, a step which established him as the leader of avant-garde art in Paris. In preparation for it, Picasso did hundreds of drawings and other preparatory studies, including the charcoal drawing Nu aux bras leves (1907), and Head of a Sleeping Woman (Study for Nude with Drapery) (1907, Museum of Modern Art, New York). It is also worth noting that it was painted at the end of his "Negro" period, when he was heavily influenced by primitive carvings, notably the African sculpture on show at the time at the Ethnographic Museum in Paris. As a result, it features some disturbing anthropomorphic features and imagery. (Note: Other important influences on Picasso, regarding this particular painting, were the works of Cezanne (1839-1906) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). For another style, see also: Neoclassical Figure Paintings by Picasso (1906-30).

Interpretation of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

The huge composition (some 8 feet x 8 feet 244 x 233 cm), which would have filled an entire wall of his cramped studio in the Bateau Lavoir building in Montmartre, is a figure painting of a scene in a brothel. (Note: The title "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was a lighthearted suggestion by the poet and art critic Andre Salmon (1881-1969), who claimed to see a resemblance between Picasso's figures and the prostitutes on Carrer d'Avinyo - Avignon Street - in Barcelona. Picasso himself referred to it as "my brothel".) The painting presents us with an uncomfortable mosaic of angular and overlapping fragments of five female nudes, at least two of whom stare provocatively at the viewer. Its "Cubist features" combine powerfully with its violent forms and animalistic masks to both shock and challenge the viewer.

The picture is like a cinematic close-up. The five women - each over seven feet tall - are shockingly present, pressing themselves to the surface of the picture. The colour of their flesh makes them appear starkly naked rather than merely nude. And the way the figures are grouped is also striking: there appears to be no connection between them, which heightens the drama of the picture as well as its uncertainty. The two central women, in particular, are especially provocative: they stare expressionlessly out at the viewer, while lifting up their arms to show their breasts. These women - all aggressively flaunting their nudity - are real prostitutes with no hang-ups about what they have to offer. The head of one figure (top right) is covered with a primitive mask while a second, squatting, figure (bottom right) is also masked, although her face is made up of multiple views, like a badly arranged jigsaw.

Its "Cubist" characteristics include Picasso's use of flat, splintered imagery, together with patterns of light and dark (as opposed to rounded volumes), in order to create a sense of space and form. The splayed figure (bottom right) is made up of a collage of different viewpoints of herself, while the others are depicted in a flattened geometric form, with only minimal three-dimensionality. The painting's sharp, almost shard-like pictorial components, imbue it with a disturbing sense of violence and sexual power.

The main point of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was to challenge the viewer's normal assumptions. The gigantic intrusive nudes, the absence of perspective, the disconnected nature of the group, the juxtapositioning of normal faces with masked faces, the fact that all five seem to be arrested in time: all this contributed to the kaleidoscopic chaos and the sense of pictorial anarchy. Even the small tableau of fruit (bottom centre), the first indication of Picasso's interest in still life painting, appears to be falling from an upturned fragment of a bowl. The picture was a revolutionary act against the tyranny of Renaissance art, whose ruling principles of perspective, shading, colour and composition had to be trashed in order to usher in new ways of representing reality. The work paved the way for the explosion of abstract art - beginning with Picasso's own Analytical Cubism (c.1909-12) and Synthetic Cubism (1912-14) - and culminating in more rigorous abstract art movements like Russian Suprematism (c.1913-18) and Dutch De Stijl (1917-31).

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was the end result of a period during which Picasso focused heavily on the analysis and simplification of form. Bored and frustrated with the conventional theory of art as the imitation of nature - a task effectively mastered by Impressionism - he reached for a sort of 'intellectual expressionism' that would allow painters to portray a new reality based on the two-dimensional picture plane. Why Picasso chose such a shockingly explicit theme for his new style of modern art, remains unclear. However, he is known to have believed in the "redemptive" power of art to "exorcize" negative elements, so perhaps he thought that such a work might help to combat prostitution and sexual disease.

The work had undergone significant changes during the five months or so of its gestation. To begin with there were seven figures: five women plus (at the left) a standing man drawing back the curtain, as well as (seated in the centre) a sailor. Picasso then erased the standing man, replacing him with one of the women. Shortly afterwards he removed the sailor. He also increased the sense of aggression in the picture, and added the two masks.

Initially shown only to a handful of friends - including Georges Braque, the critic Felix Feneon (1861-1944), Andre Derain (1880-1954), Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), Picasso's dealer Daniel Kahnweiler (1884-1979), the Russian collector Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936), and Matisse (1869-1954) - the painting was so heavily criticized that Picasso decided not to exhibit it for nearly a decade. In 1916, the painting was exhibited at the Salon d'Antin, at a show entitled 'Modern Art in France'. Picasso called it 'Le Bordel d'Avignon' but Andre Salmon, the show's organizer, gave it the more innocuous name 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' (the young ladies of Avignon). After this, the painting remained with its creator until 1924, when it was sold to the designer Jacques Doucet (1853�), for 25,000 francs. This artificially-low price - Doucet obtained a valuation of 250,000 francs some months after the purchase - was agreed to after Doucet allegedly promised to bequeath the picture to the Louvre. In any event, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon wasn't seen in public again until 1938, when it was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Explanation of Other Paintings by Picasso

• La Vie (Life) (1903)
Picasso's poignant tribute to his friend Carlos Casagemas.

• Boy with a Pipe (Garcon à la Pipe) (1905)
Rose Period portrait which sold for $104 million in 2004.

• Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906)
Early painting of the Parisian art collector.

• Seated Woman (Picasso) (1920) Musee Picasso, Paris.
A marvellously modern version of a standard antique pose.

• Large Bather (1921) Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris.
Directly inspired by high classical Athenian sculpture from the Parthenon.

• Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) (1922) Musee Picasso, Paris.
Neoclassicist picture featuring Dionysian mythological figures.

• Woman in White (1923)
From Picasso's neoclassical period.

• Weeping Woman (1937)
More generalized follow-up to Guernica on the subject of suffering in war.

Major Works

Since she was trained by her father, there has been some debate regarding who actually painted certain earlier pieces by Gentileschi. The work "Madonna and Child" is one such work that has sometimes been attributed to Artemisia, and sometimes to her father.  Gentileschi&aposs first signed and dated painting was "Susanna and the Elders," completed around 1610. Taken from the Bible, Susanna is a woman tormented by two elders who falsely accused her of adultery after she rejects them Gentileschi&aposs work manages to convey this conflict in a vivid, realistic manner.

Some of Gentileschi&aposs surviving paintings focus on a female protagonist. The story of Judith appeared a number of times in her art. Around 1611, Gentileschi completed "Judith Slaying Holofernes," which depicts Judith in the act of saving the Jewish people by killing Assyrian general Holofernes the painting shows a close-up of this brutal scene—Judith slicing Holofernes&aposs throat while her handmaiden helps to hold him down. Soon after finishing this work (around 1613), Gentileschi painted "Judith and her Maidservant," which shows the pair after Holofernes&aposs death, with the maid holding a basket containing his severed head.

In 1625, Gentileschi again revisited Judith&aposs story in the painting "Judith and Her Maidservant and with the Head of Holofernes" this work conveys a sense of danger and mystery through its use of light and shadow, and shows Judith and her maid attempting to flee Holofernes&aposs tent with his severed head. Gentileschi also tackled other well-known figures from history and mythology with such works as "Minerva" (1615) and "Cleopatra" (1621-22).

Anne Carson

Anne Carson is a poet, essayist, professor of Classics, and translator. &ldquoIn the small world of people who keep up with contemporary poetry,&rdquo wrote Daphne Merkin in the New York Times Book Review, Carson &ldquohas been cutting a large swath, inciting both envy and admiration.&rdquo Carson has gained both critical accolades and a wide readership over the course of her &ldquounclassifiable&rdquo publishing career. In addition to her many highly-regarded translations of classical writers such as Sappho and Euripides, and her triptych rendering of An Oresteia (2009), she has published poems, essays, libretti, prose criticism, and verse novels that often cross genres. Known for her supreme erudition&mdashMerkin called her &ldquoone of the great pasticheurs&rdquo&mdashher poetry can also be heart-breaking and she regularly writes on love, desire, sexual longing and despair. Always an ambitious poet whatever her topic or genre, Merkin wrote of Carson&rsquos The Beauty of the Husband, &ldquoI don&rsquot think there has been a book since Robert Lowell&rsquos Life Studies that has advanced the art of poetry quite as radically as Anne Carson is in the process of doing.&rdquo Carson&rsquos recent collections include Nox (2010), Red Doc> (2013), and Float (2016). Her honors and awards are many, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the American Academy in Berlin. She has also received the Lannan Literary Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Carson was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1950. A high-school encounter with a Latin instructor, who agreed to teach her ancient Greek over the lunch hour, led to her passionate embrace of classical and Hellenic literature, influences which mark her work still. Carson attended the University of Toronto, though she dropped out twice before earning her BA, MA and PhD in Classics. Carson has taught at many universities in both the US and Canada, including McGill and the University of Michigan. Her publishing career began with Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay (1986), which also established Carson&rsquos style of patterning her writings after classical Greek literature. Such works as Glass, Irony, and God (1992), Plainwater: Essays and Poetry (1995) and Men in the Off Hours (2001) have helped seal the author&rsquos reputation as unique among contemporary poets. But perhaps the most widely received examples of her particular specialty are Carson&rsquos verse novels, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (1998) and The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (2001).

Autobiography of Red (1998) takes its cue from the legend of Hercules&mdashHerakles in the traditional spelling from the tale by Steischoros&mdashwhose tenth labor was to slay the red-winged monster Geryon. Recasting the story in modern time, Carson makes some significant choices. &ldquoIn Steischoros, Herakles kills Geryon and steals his red cattle,&rdquo explained Adam Kirsch in New Republic. &ldquoIn Carson, Herakles breaks Geryon&rsquos heart and steals his innocence.&rdquo The two characters are introduced as teenagers, Geryon (still red and sporting wings) a sheltered, sensitive high-school boy and Herakles a sexy, rebellious roughneck. The two begin an affair that ends as &ldquoHerakles cannot match the soul-tearing totality of Geryon&rsquos adoration,&rdquo as Chicago Review contributor Mark Halliday described it. Years later the two characters meet in Buenos Aires where Geryon falls into a destructive ménage a trois with Herakles and his new boyfriend, Ankash. The book drew strong reactions in several periodicals. Halliday felt that the book was &ldquowillfully whimsical and delightedly peculiar.&rdquo The Nation critic Bruce Hainley pronounced Carson &ldquoa philosopher of heartbreak&rdquo and said her epic-length poem made for &ldquoa brilliant book about desire, the ancient Greek poet Steischoros, volcanoes and the joyful brutalities of seeing and blindness&rdquo Echoing debates that continue to swirl around the Carson&rsquos prose-like poetics, Kirsch wondered if Carson had indeed produced the verse promised in the book&rsquos subtitle. &ldquoThe writing is clearly prose,&rdquo he maintained, &ldquolaid out in alternating long and short lines, with no strictness of measure or rhythm the division between a long line and a short one is typographical only, or at best syntactic.&rdquo

Carson&rsquos fable went on to earn nods from prize committees, though Autobiography of Red &ldquodid not start out a winner,&rdquo according to Time International reporter Katherine Govier. &ldquoPublished to scant notice . . . it was mainly talked about by writers here and there. Talk became buzz when the book won Quebec&rsquos QSPELL poetry award.&rdquo From there the volume went on to earn a National Book Critics Circle nomination, making the Canadian-born Carson one of the first two non-Americans to appear on the Circle&rsquos short list. Such word-of-mouth echoes the reception of another Carson book, her early volume Eros the Bittersweet (1986). According to John D&rsquoAgata in the Boston Review, the book &ldquofirst stunned the classics community as a work of Greek scholarship then it stunned the nonfiction community as an inspired return to the lyrically based essays once produced by Seneca, Montaigne, and Emerson and then, and only then, deep into the 1990s, reissued as &ldquoliterature and redesigned for an entirely new audience, it finally stunned the poets.&rdquo D&rsquoAgata sees Carson&rsquos earlier work as an essayist everywhere in her poetry, along with her deep absorption in Classical languages. Carson&rsquos work, D&rsquoAgata alleges, asks one to consider &ldquohow prosaic, rhetorical, or argumentative can a poem be before it becomes something else altogether, before it reverts to prose, to essay?&rdquo

Men in the Off Hours, a book of shorter poems which incorporate &ldquoepitaphs, love poems, verse-essays, commemorative prose, &lsquoshooting scripts&rsquo for purported TV dramas and poems addressed to paintings,&rdquo noted Publishers Weekly writer Stephen Burt, was met with great acclaim. Reviewing the collection for Salon, Kate Moses described it as a meditation on time, noting too that it &ldquoencompasses all of that picnic that time spreads behind itself: life and sex and love and death.&rdquo It was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Governor General&rsquos Literary Award and that National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2001 Carson also published The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos, a verse novel whose subject is &ldquothe waywardness of lust and the disaffection of the heart as seen through a marital breakup,&rdquo as Daphne Merkin wrote. It also received high praise and was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2000, Carson was awarded a MacArthur Foundation &ldquogenius&rdquo grant

Since her success of 2001, Carson has gone on to publish a volume of &ldquopoetry, essays and opera,&rdquo Decreation (2005). Comprised of short lyrics, a screenplay, oratorio, and long prose sections that combine literary criticism with philosophical investigation, the book takes as its title and impetus an idea of the philosopher Simone Weil. As Carson explains, Weil&rsquos notion of &ldquodecreation&rdquo is &ldquoan undoing of the creature in us&mdashthat creature enclosed in self and defined by self.&rdquo As Deryn Rees-Jones noted in the Independent, &ldquoin decreating we would, in our extinction of the self, find a metaphysical fullness, in tune with the universe.&rdquo Decreation received high praise from all quarters and Fiona Sampson, reviewing the book for the Guardian alleged that it &ldquooutlines one of the most idiosyncratic intelligences at work in contemporary literature,&rdquo and despite its genre-bending contents is &ldquomost of all&hellipinimitable poetry.&rdquo

Carson continues to be an important and exciting translator of classical writers. Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides (2006) and An Oresteia (2009) both sparked critical debate. A shocking playwright in his time, Euripides reached his highest fame during the Peloponnesian War. Grief Lessons presents four of his lesser-known tragedies and offers &ldquoa kind of primer on the intrinsic dangers of blind devotion to ideology,&rdquo wrote Hilton Als in the New Yorker. A Publisher&rsquos Weekly reviewer found that &ldquoCarson is nothing less than brilliant&mdashunfalteringly sharp in diction, audacious and judicious in taking liberties.&rdquo Carson&rsquos next translation, An Oresteia, is a composite of plays dealing with the fate of the house of Atreus and includes Agamemnon by Aeshcylus, Electra by Sophocles and Orestes by Euripides. The volume received somewhat mixed reviews for just those liberties Brad Leithauser in the New York Times Book Review found Carson&rsquos choice of diction irregular and often jarringly contemporary and &ldquofailed to find&hellipin Carson&rsquos translations a feeling of a composite whole. There are moments when her diction stoops so low I had trouble remembering I was dealing with men godlike in their splendor.&rdquo Emily Wilson, in the Nation, found that though Carson as a scholar is acutely aware of the differences between the three tragedians, she &ldquodoes not entirely succeed in making them sound properly distinct from one another,&rdquo though Wilson described Carson&rsquos translation as a &ldquomovement&hellipaway from the clear ideology of Aeschylus&rsquo Oresteia toward the much more complex, ambiguous world of Euripides&rsquo Orestes,&rdquo which makes the work all the more important and &ldquopertinent to the current political climate. &ldquo

Speaking to poet-critic Stephanie Burt, Carson admitted that at heart she considers herself a visual, not verbal, artist: &ldquoI didn&rsquot write very much at all until I guess my twenties because I drew. I just drew pictures, and sometimes wrote on them when I was young, but mostly I was interested in drawing. I never did think of myself as a writer!&rdquo Even after several acclaimed volumes, &ldquoI don&rsquot know that I do yet. I know that I have to make things. And it&rsquos a convenient form we have in our culture, the book, in which you can make stuff, but it&rsquos becoming less and less satisfying. And I&rsquove never felt that it exhausts any idea I&rsquove had.&rdquo

Marwar Art: Of Maharajas & Miniatures

Marwar is the dry desert land on the edge of the Thar Desert and it even derives its name from the harsh terrain and difficult life in the region. The Rathores of Marwar, known for their valour and courage, came to Marwar from Kannauj, from where they had earlier controlled Eastern and Central India.

They set down roots in Marwar in the 13th century, and made Pali and Mandore their capitals. In 1459, one of the Rathore rulers, Rao Jodha, established the city of Jodhpur near Mandore, and many smaller kingdoms were set up by his descendants in the vicinity of the Marwar capital of Jodhpur.

Rajasthani art is both prolific and diverse, and the way in which it evolved depended largely on the patronage of the rulers of the many kingdoms and states that populated the region. Based on geography, it is classified into four broad categories – Mewar, Marwar, Haroti and Dhundar.

Here, we will explore the Marwar subset of Rajasthani art, which includes the miniatures of Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Sirohi. The earliest paintings from this region were an illustrated Ragmala set painted in Pali by Virji. These paintings are in pure folk idiom, before Mughal elements appear.

Jodhpur & Nagaur

Jodhpur was the principal seat of the Marwar Rathores, home to their principal fort Mehrangarh, and their courts. The Jodhpur Maharajas were significant patrons of art and we find significant artwork from their ateliers in the course of the 600-odd years that they ruled the Marwar region. The Jodhpur court was one of the most prolific in the creation of miniatures.

The first truly productive period for Jodhpur miniatures came during the time of Maharaja Jaswant Singh in the mid-17th century. In earlier periods, Jodhpur miniatures were far more indigenous but by his time many Mughal conventions had filtered in, and Jaswant Singh had spent considerable time in Kabul bringing a Persian touch to Marwar’s art. He also nurtured a number of artists in his court, which also resulted in many portraits of the Maharaja.

His successor, Ajit Singh, was raised by Veer Durgadas, who had captured a part of Marwar from the Mughals for Ajit Singh. These events were celebrated in paintings and poems. Equestrian portraits were a favourite in the court.

Bakhat Singh, a son of Ajit Singh, was given Nagaur in the early 18th century, and during his time, painting in Marwar came into its own and developed its own idioms.

Besides these court scenes, festivals, legends and tales, religious texts and epics were illustrated in the Marwar court and many such albums and folios are displayed in museums across the world.

Bikaner was founded in 1489 by Bika Rathore, son of Rao Jodha, who had established Jodhpur. The rulers of Bikaner were close to the Mughals since the time of Akbar and enjoyed high positions in his court.

The patronage of art in Bikaner started with Raja Rai Singh in 1573 and further expanded under Raja Karan Singh and his son Maharaja Anup Singh, from 1631.

Under Karan Singh, Ali Raza, who had migrated from the Mughal court, created some exceptional paintings, mixing the local Bikaner style with Mughal idioms and thus creating a new approach.

Anup Singh stayed in Hyderabad for a substantial period of time after the siege of Golconda in 1687. During this time, he established a library in Bikaner, which became a repository of medieval manuscripts and paintings. During this period, his chief painter was Ruknuddin, who mixed indigenous Rajasthani styles with Deccani and Mughal conventions. He painted many significant texts like the Ramayana, Rasikapriya and Durga Sapt Sati.

Besides Ali Raza and Ruknuddin, Ustad Nuruddin, Murad, Ustad Abdulla Qayamji, Shah Muhammed, Ustad Hasim and Bahaudin were patronised by the Bikaner court. Mostly Muslim, these artists painted Hindu themes exceptionally well. Bikaner’s miniatures, with their softness, delicate lines, subdued colour palate, exceptional composition and stylistic sophistication, is very close to Mughal art.

The small state of Kishangarh is primarily known for its miniatures, arguably some of the best known and aesthetically gratifying ones from Rajasthan. The state of Kishangarh was founded by Kishan Singh, son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, in 1609. The Kishangarh school of art primarily evolved during the reign of Raj Singh and his son Sawant Singh, at the end of the 17th century. Both were talented artists and writers, and their atelier was home to artists like Bhawani Das, Surat Ram and Nihal Chand.

During Sawant Singh’s time, the art of Kishangarh reached great heights of aesthetic refinement. The artist Nihalchand, who was active during their rule, painted some of the most exquisite and noted paintings of the Kishangarh School.

The rulers of this kingdom were devotees of Krishna, with Raj Singh being a follower of Vallabhacharya Pushtimarg. Krishna lila and texts associated with Krishna like Gita-Govinda were thus a major part of Kishangarh art. One finds many regular themes in Kishangarh art, like the depiction of classic medieval texts, durbar scenes, festivities and religious epics.

One theme which sets Kishangarh apart is the depiction of Bani-Thani, an attendant of Raj Singh’s wife who caught Sawant Singh’s fancy and became his companion. He wrote about her in the poem Bihari Jas Chandrika, which became the basis of Nihal Chand’s famous painting. Sawant Singh and Bani Thani were depicted in many of the Krishna lila miniatures as Radha and Krishna. It is these paintings that make Kishangarh art incomparable.

Miniatures from Kishangarh are known for the blend of poetry and art, exceptional compositions, brilliant colour schemes, dynamic lines, panoramic landscapes and individualistic faces with pointed noses and chins, deeply curved eyes, and serpentine locks of hair, which became the ideal for all Rajasthani miniatures subsequently, especially for women.

Sirohi was a small kingdom near the present-day Rajasthan-Gujarat border. The state was founded by Runmal of the Deora clan in 1347. It maintained a degree of independence from both the Mughals and the Marathas for much of its existence it was also once a centre of Jainism. This is why one can see great similarities between miniatures from Sirohi and that of Gujarat.

The rulers of Sirohi were able administrators along with being patrons of art. Sirohi was known for the manufacture of double-edged swords from the mid-15th century till the mid-20th century. In the art of Sirohi, one finds little representation of the rulers and their lives.

Miniatures from Sirohi reflect two major themes. One of these themes is the representation of Jain themes like the depiction of Tirthankaras, illustrations of Jain texts and other such artworks done under Jain patronage. The Gurosan community was devoted to this and were known for their illustrations of Jain texts, which were mostly done under the supervision of Jain monks.

Another major theme in miniatures from Sirohi is illustrations of relatively non-religious texts and legends like the Ragamala, Baramasa, Nayika-bhed, Krishna-lila as well as legends like Laila-Majnu and Rukmini-harana.

The figures in Sirohi paintings tend to have flat features, round features and heavy bodies. The paintings use basic colours, the structures are usually flat and nature is neither too vibrant nor too formal. Many of the paintings have a distinctive red border.

The art of Marwar is full of details, references, allusions influences and history, and one can easily loose oneself in its diversity.

Painted Fragment of a Theban Woman - History

Images and Art

  • Abu Simbel
  • Abydos
  • Aswan
  • Cairo
  • Dendera
  • Edfu
  • Giza
  • Kom Ombo
  • Luxor
  • Saqqara
  • The West Bank/Luxor
  • Introduction
  • The New Egyptian Section
  • The Old Kingdom
  • The Middle Kingdom
  • The New Kingdom
  • Late and Ptolemaic-Roman Period
  • The Horemheb Reliefs
  • The Amulets
  • The Bronze Statuettes
  • The Funerary Objects
  • Writing
  • The Ushabti
  • The Virtual reconstruction of the Horemheb Tomb in Memphis
  • Funerary Stela
  • Relief from the Tomb of Mentuemhat
  • Reconstructed Predynastic Burial
  • Predynastic Jar
  • Model of a Butcher Shop
  • Book of the Dead
  • Bed
  • Mud Brick Stamped with Cartouche of Ramses II
  • Statue of the God Horus
  • Trial Piece
  • Bust of a Man
  • Potter
  • Colossal Statue of Tutankhamun
  • Mummy Mask
  • Coffin of Ipi-Ha-Ishutef
  • Butcher Slaughtering a Calf
  • The Mummy and Coffin of Meresamun
  • The Pyramids: Design and Construction
  • The Temple of Deir el Bahari (XVIII Dyn)
  • Abu Simbel - Nubia
  • The Alabaster Sphinx - Saqqara
  • Beit al-Wali - Nubia
  • Caesareum - Alexandria
  • The Catacombs of Kom es-Shouqafa - Alexandria
  • The Causeway - Saqqara
  • The Colossi of Memnon - Luxor
  • The Colossus of Ramesses - Saqqara
  • Crocodilopolis - Fayoum
  • Dionysias - Fayoum
  • The Early Kingdom Mastabas - Saqqara
  • Edfu - Nubia
  • Elephantine Island - Aswan
  • The Enclosure Wall - Saqqara
  • Geziret Fara'un - Sinai
  • The Great Pyramid of Cheops - Giza
  • The Great Sphinx - Giza
  • Kalabsha Temple - Nubia
  • Karanis - Fayoum
  • Karnak - Luxor
  • Kiosk of Qertassi - Nubia
  • The Maidum Pyramid - Dhashur
  • The Oracle of Amun - Siwa
  • The Palace of Amenhotep - Luxor
  • The Persian Shafts - Saqqara
  • Philae (Now on Agilika Island) - Nubia
  • The Pyramid Complex of Djoser - Saqqara
  • The Pyramid Complex of Menkaure - Giza
  • Pyramid of Amenemhat III (the Labyrinth) - Fayoum
  • The Pyramid of Chephren - Giza
  • The Pyramid of Meidum - Meidum
  • The Pyramid of Sekhemkhet - Saqqara
  • The Pyramid of Teti - Saqqara
  • The Pyramid of Unas - Saqqara
  • The Pyramids of Abu Sir - Abu Sir
  • The Pyramids of Dhashur - Dhashur
  • The Ramesseum - Luxor
  • The Serapeum - Saqqara
  • South Saqqara - Saqqara
  • The Step Pyramid of Djoser - Saqqara
  • Sun Temple of Abu Ghurab - Saqqara
  • Temple Dedicated to Sobek - Fayoum
  • The Temple of Abydos - Abydos
  • Temple of Deir el Bahari - Luxor
  • The Temple of Dendera - Dendera
  • Temple of Dush - Kharga
  • Temple of Hibis - Kharga
  • The Temple of Luxor - Luxor
  • Temple of Ramesses III - Luxor
  • The Temple of Taposiris Magna - Alexandria
  • Three Minor Pyramids - Giza
  • The Tomb of Ankh-mahor - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Kagemni - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Mereruka - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Princess Idut - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Ptah-hotep - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Queen Nebet - Saqqara
  • The Tomb of Ti - Saqqara
  • The Tombs of the Nobles - Aswan
  • The Tombs of the Nobles - Luxor
  • Unfinished Obelisk - Aswan
  • The Valley of the Kings - Luxor

Tomb of the Sons of Ramses II (recently discovered in the Valley of the Kings)
More on the Tomb of the Sons of Ramses II (no images)
The Window of Appearance: The Temple Palace of Rameses III at Medinet Habu 1175 BC, with a Quicktime movie of the The Rising of Rameses III ("Symbolism in Architecture", Mohammed Motlib)
Centre for Computer-Aided Egyptological Research (CCER), with two Quicktime VR objects, one of a statue of the goddess Selket from the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the other of a statue of the royal scribe Nebmertouef
Summaries of notable Egyptian Gods (Shawn C. Knight)

Important Art by Jenny Saville

Branded (1992)

In this monumental nude self-portrait ample breasts and dimpled folds of flesh loom large on the canvas. Viewed from below, the weighty figure dominates the frame. On the fleshy torso, Saville has inscribed the words of French feminist theorist Luce Irigaray: "delicate," "supportive," "irrational," "decorative," and "petite," all written backwards. Using this as a means of countering preconceived notions about the representation of women, Saville has literally branded these words on the painted flesh. Characteristic of the artist's early work with the female nude, Branded presents a direct and unidealized image of the female body.

Regarding this early work, Saville has said: "I'm not painting disgusting, big women. I'm painting women who've been made to think they're big and disgusting." In this and other early paintings, Saville subverts traditional notions of female beauty and femininity that have long dominated Western art. In the case of Branded this challenging of convention takes place through the artist's use of her own body. Art Historian Marsha Meskimmon has argued that "Saville's work interrogates our perception of the female body in challenging ways. To use the self in this way is to come full circle in the questioning of fixed identity and the body." An important early work, Branded was included in Saville's acclaimed 1992 Glasgow School of Art graduation exhibition, which propelled her to fame as one of the Young British Artists. Branded is often cited as a painting which made figurative painting popular in contemporary art. The work challenges the typical female nude (which is small, delicate, and 'beautiful') by making a huge painting with thick paint, which looks down on the viewer and flows out of the edges of the picture plane.

Plan (1993)

Saville's striking self-portrait, Plan, makes use of extreme foreshortening to present an uncompromising image of the female nude. Working from photographs rather than life, she presents a snapshot, a fleeting glimpse of a figure that struggles to be contained within the frame. The brushwork is both delicate and aggressive, often building up thick impasto on the painting's surface. She is nonetheless able to capture every vein, every dimple, every splotchy bit of flesh, and every strand of hair. Looking directly at the viewer over the marked terrain of her body, Saville calls our attention to complicated issues surrounding women's bodies, plastic surgery, and the "cult of exercise." The lines drawn on the flesh resemble the lines on a topographical map. They also reference the lines drawn by plastic surgeons on the skin of their patients in preparation for body altering surgeries. Saville has said: "The lines on her body are the marks they make before you have liposuction done to you. They draw these things that look like targets. I like this idea of mapping the body, not necessarily areas to be cut away, but like geographical contours on a map. I didn't draw on to the body. I wanted the idea of cutting into the paint. Like you would cut into the body. It evokes the idea of surgery. It has lots of connotations." Regarding these inscribed lines, some scholars have suggested: "In this mapping of the body as an area of problematic terrain a relationship is set up between perceptions of the natural and the planned. The question of who is exercising control over this 'plan' remains troubling and implicates the viewer of the image."

Plan was painted in 1993 and later exhibited by Charles Saatchi in Young British Artists III at the Saatchi Gallery in 1994. It was also included several years later in Sensation, the groundbreaking and controversial 1997 exhibition of Young British Artists at the Royal Academy of Art. An important early work by Saville, Plan is emblematic of her concern for depicting women as subjects rather than objects and is another painting in which the artist is both the subject and the painter, something that had previously been almost unheard of, especially in paintings of nudes. In her attempt to draw on the history of the female nude, while also showing women as they see themselves, Saville has given her figures a weighty presence that combines empathy, apprehension, vulnerability, and awe.

Passage (2004-05)

In Passage, a striking, confident nude woman is shown in a near recumbent position with outstretched legs that extend out beyond the picture frame. Thickly painted, though seemingly unfinished, Passage continues Saville's interest in sensuously painted, fleshy bodies that defy traditional representations of the reclining nude. The flesh is depicted with powerful and aggressive, though sumptuously handled brushwork that reveals the influence of a painter like Willem de Kooning, who was similarly drawn to representations of the body and flesh. The figure, a transgender woman with a 'natural' penis and surgically enhanced breasts, reclines provocatively, looking seductively at the viewer. In Passage, the position of the figure and the handling of the brushwork direct our gaze from the legs over the torso and breasts, to the head, creating a landscape of the body, a sort of "gender landscape," to use Saville's terminology.

Passage was painted when Saville was living and working in Palermo, Sicily. During this time, she began photographing transvestites and transgender people in Rome, which she then used as source material. Saville was interested in these bodies as hybrids that are both natural and artificial. Although Passage was painted from photographs, it is not a portrait in the traditional sense. She has said that she tried "to find bodies that manifest in their flesh something of our contemporary age. I'm drawn to bodies that emanate a sort of state of in-betweeness: a hermaphrodite, a transvestite, a carcass, a half-alive/half-dead head." At a time when LGBTQIA issues are coming to the fore, Passage reveals the body as a social construct and sympathetically represents an untypical, transgender woman's body. The figure floats, according to Linda Nochlin, in "that postmodern realm of gender nirvana, brilliantly theorized by Judith Butler as a zone of shifting sexual identities and the rejection of essential difference between male and female."