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How Famous Paintings Were Created, Top Stories

Famous paintings can be examined endlessly, revealing more and more new details. But often what is interesting in the painting is not only what is depicted on the canvases, but also how and under what circumstances it was created. It turns out that curious stories and curious cases are connected with the process of writing many masterpieces. 

“Oath of the Horatii”, Jacques-Louis David

8 шедевров живописи, истории создания которых заинтригуют даже тех, кто далек от искусства

French artist Jacques-Louis David painted his painting, which became the standard in neoclassicism, in 1784 in Rome. The artist carefully planned the appearance of his masterpiece and did everything so that he did not go unnoticed.

First, David showed the canvas in Rome, collected enthusiastic responses there, and then wrote a letter to his patron in France. He said that he decided to make the picture not square, as required by the rules of the Paris Salon, but rectangular. He knew: otherwise it would simply be hanging on a par with every other painting and it would risk being lost.

This letter and the rumors that have spread have done their job: the picture booked an advantageous place in the already opened salon. The audience came to the main exhibition and saw an empty place. Naturally, everyone was waiting for what would happen there.

And with a delay, the picture arrived and was put in place. By making his work rectangular, David thereby consciously turned it into a unique one. Thus, the artist provided his painting with increased attention and, as a result, a sensation.

“Dance at Le moulin de la Galette”, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

8 шедевров живописи, истории создания которых заинтригуют даже тех, кто далек от искусства

“The Ball at the Moulins de la Galette” is a programmatic work of impressionism. Renoir depicted a democratic establishment, where the audience gathered in the evenings.

The artist’s studio was not far from the restaurant with the Moulin de la Galette dance hall. He created the painting there and worked diligently all summer of 1876. He came to the restaurant by three o’clock and wrote until six. And every day, friends helped Renoir drag a huge canvas from the workshop to the establishment and back.

By the way, to make the figures especially realistic, the artist’s friends agreed to pose for him day after day.

“The Raft of the Medusa”, Théodore Géricault

8 шедевров живописи, истории создания которых заинтригуют даже тех, кто далек от искусства

The plot of one of the most famous romantic paintings is the tragic event that occurred on July 2, 1816 off the coast of Senegal. Еhe French frigate Medusa crashed. Escaping, people moved to an overloaded raft with no food and water. After going through hellish suffering, only a few survived.

In the fall of 1817, a chilling book “The Death of the Frigate Medusa”, which became a bestseller, was published. It fell into the hands of the young artist Theodore Gericault. He had just returned from Rome to France and was looking for an idea.

According to art historian Ilya Doronchenkov, after reading the book, Jericho rented a large workshop, bought a huge canvas the size of a small apartment, and shaved baldly “so that there was no temptation to go out” (at that time such a hairstyle was not considered secular). Locked in the studio for several months, the painter created a colossal canvas.

“Ophelia”, John Everett Millais

8 шедевров живописи, истории создания которых заинтригуют даже тех, кто далек от искусства

The landscape of Ophelia is the quintessence of English nature. English artist John Everett Millet sat in front of the easel for 11 hours, painting each flower with botanical precision.

The painter expected the same dedication from his model — 19-year-old Elizabeth Siddal. Millet forced her to lie for several hours in a full bath. Despite the fact that he heated the bath using lamps, it was winter. The girl caught a serious cold. Elizabeth’s father threatened the artist that he would sue if he did not pay the costs of treatment for his daughter. So the devout art Milla had to pay up 50 pounds.

“The Morning of the Streltsy Execution”, Vasily Surikov

8 шедевров живописи, истории создания которых заинтригуют даже тех, кто далек от искусства

Vasily Surikov wrote his monumental canvas about the events of Peter’s times, according to the memoirs of the critic Nikolai Alexandrov, “almost under the sofa”: “in a small room with low windows, the picture stood almost diagonally across the room, and when he painted one part of the picture, he didn’t see another, and to see the whole picture, he had to squint at it from another dark room. ” Perhaps such Spartan conditions became the cause of criticism of the layout of the canvas.

While he drew the picture, there were many respected advisers who were ready to share their vision of the work with the author. So, Ilya Repin, with whom Surikov spoke closely, at the final stage of the painting, asked him: “What is it that you do not have a single executed one? You should here, on the gallows, on the right side hung him. ” And Surikov “hanged”. But Pavel Tretyakov, who looked in on that day, did not appreciate this. He stated that the artist thereby wants to spoil his painting. He removed the gallows.

Leo Tolstoy also followed the writing of the picture. Once he noticed that the hands of the archers, holding candles, were clean. But during the transportation on carts, they had to drip wax. Surikov agreed and finalized this moment.