What Makes a Great Painting?

 

Pietro Vannucci and Raphael, Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John, ca. 1500,Oil on wood

Just a quick update this week. Took a little day trip over to Frankfurt Saturday where we finally got to see the Städel Museum, a small treasure trove of Renaissance, Flemish and later Impressionist and modernist work. The place is bejeweled with work by Vermeer, Hans Holbein, Hieronymous Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, and Botticelli. It still blows me away how every European city has a collection the likes of which we Americans only see in big cities like New York and Washington.

And yet, I get fatigued by all of the religious and historical painting…. oh no, please not ANOTHER Madonna and child! I always gravitate toward small still life works (no surprise there), Flemish snow scenes, and landscapes. I guess I like to see how people lived and what their world was like, not their fantasies about biblical times and greek myths.

As you may have figured out, I’m a tough critic when it comes to the religious stuff and this painting stood out above everything else. It just has something that makes it great, at least to me. So much so, I’m still thinking about its shimmering, transparent blues and the gentleness of the Madonna’s expression. My eyes are drawn to her face. She looks like any contemporary woman… any young mother. I guess that’s why I like it so much. However, this picture does not do it justice. Go see it for yourself if you ever have a stopover in Frankfurt!

Here are a few other favorites from the collection:

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with Partridge and Pear, 1748, Oil on Canvas
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with Partridge and Pear, 1748, Oil on Canvas
Jan Vermeer van Delft, The Geographer, 1669, Oil on Canvas
Jan Vermeer van Delft, The Geographer, 1669, Oil on Canvas
Max Liebermann, Free Period in the Amsterdam Orphanage, 188, Oil on Canvas
Max Liebermann, Free Period in the Amsterdam Orphanage, 188, Oil on Canvas

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “What Makes a Great Painting?

  1. Yes, but isn’t the beauty that captures your attention in the first place? – that cause you to analyze?
    I see a lot of Renaissance/Baroque paintings at a many museums all over the world and I think most impressive and memorable experiences are when you focus on the details, rather than on whole painting. (my humble opinion:)

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