Tag Archives: awesome

Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden: painter, author, filmmaker

Mark Ryden (born January 20, 1963) is an American painter, part of the Lowbrow (or Pop Surrealist) art movement. He was dubbed “the god-father of pop surrealism” by Interview Magazine. Artnet named Ryden and his wife, the painter Marion Peck, the King and Queen of Pop Surrealism and one of the ten most important art couples in Los Angeles. Ryden’s aesthetic is developed from subtle amalgams of many sources, from Ingres, David and other French classicists to Little Golden Books. Ryden also draws his inspiration from anything that will evoke mystery: old toys, anatomical models, stuffed animals, skeletons and religious ephemera found in flea markets.

Ryden was born in Medford, Oregon on January 20, 1963, but was raised in Southern California, where his father made a living painting, restoring and customizing cars. He has two sisters and two brothers, one a fellow artist named Keyth Ryden, who works under the name KRK. Mark Ryden graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1987.

Ryden in 1983

From 1988 to 1998 Ryden made his living as a commercial artist. During this period he created numerous album covers including Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, the 4 Non Blondes’ Bigger, Better, Faster, More!, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ One Hot Minute, Jack Off Jill’s Clear Hearts Grey Flowers, and Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator.

Album art for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous”
Artwork for 4 Non Blondes’ “Bigger Better Faster More!”
Artwork for The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "One Hot Minute"
Artwork for The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “One Hot Minute”
Artwork for Jack Off Jill's "Clear Hearts Grey Flowers"
Artwork for Jack Off Jill’s “Clear Hearts Grey Flowers”

Also during this time, Ryden created book covers including Stephen King’s novels Desperation and The Regulators.

Coverart for Stephen King’s “Desperation”
Coverart for Stephen King’s “The Regulators”

He continued working as a commercial artist until his work was taken up by Robert Williams, a former member of the Zap Comix collective, who in 1994 put it on the cover of Juxtapoz, a magazine devoted to “lowbrow art”.

Coverart for Juxtapoz magazine, #17 1998

Ryden’s solo debut show entitled The Meat Show was in Pasadena, California in 1998. Meat is a reoccurring theme in his work. He observes the disconnect in our contemporary culture between meat we use for food and the living, breathing creature it comes from. “I suppose it is this contradiction that brings me to return to meat in my art.” According to Ryden, meat is the physical substance that makes all of us alive and through which we exist in this reality. All of us are wearing our bodies, which are like a garment of meat.

“Incarnation,” by Mark Ryden, 2009

A midcareer retrospective, Wondertoonel, which refers to a cabinet of curiosities or “Wunderkammer” (“wonder-room”), was co-organized in 2004 by the Frye Museum in Seattle and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. It was the best attended exhibition since the Frye Art Museum opened in 1952, and also broke attendance records in Pasadena. Debra Byrne, curator at the Frye at the time of Ryden’s exhibition, placed Ryden’s work in the camp of the carnivalesque—a strain of visual culture rooted in such works as Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. According to the Russian author and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975), there are three forms of carnivalesque art — the ritualized spectacle, the comic composition and various genres of billingsgate (foul language) — all three of which are interwoven in Ryden’s work.


In 2007, The Tree Show opened at the Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles. In this exhibition Ryden explores the modern human experience of nature. Ryden explains, “Some people look at these massive trees and feel a sort of spiritual awe looking at them, and then other people just want to cut them up and sell them, they only see a commodity”. Ryden has created limited editions of his art to raise money for the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy.

In 2009, Ryden’s exhibition The Snow Yak Show was shown at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo. In this exhibition his compositions were more serene and suggestive of solitude, peacefulness and introspection.


In 2010, The Gay 90’s: Old Tyme Art Show debuted at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York. The central theme of the show referenced the idealism and sentimentalism of the 1890s while addressing the role of kitsch and nostalgia in our current culture. Here Ryden explores the line between attraction and repulsion to kitsch. According to The New York Times, “Ryden’s pictures hint at the psychic stuff that pullulates beneath the sentimental, nostalgic and naïve surface of modern kitsch.”


Also in 2010, Ryden and Peck collaborated on a fantastical project entitled Sweet Wishes, a short, stop-motion animated film, and is in this author’s opinion, one of the most wonderful things ever created.

Sweet Wishes tells the tale of Dolly, Baby and Bear and what happens when they are granted a wish from a magical fairy. That same year, the pair released the story in a book of photographs in a children’s picture-book format, in a style very much in keeping with that of both artists.

mark ryden sweet wishes
On May 13, 2014, Ryden released an album entitled The Gay Nineties Old Tyme Music: Daisy Bell, featuring Tyler the Creator, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Katy Perry, Stan Ridgway of Wall Of Voodoo, Danny Elfman, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Nick Cave, scarling., Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Everlast, all giving a different rendition of the same song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two).” The proceeds from the signed and limited edition record benefited Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that supports musical education in disadvantaged elementary schools. The video interpretations of the songs below, were delightfully created by Ryden. (See more at Ryden’s YouTube account here.)


From December 10th, 2016, through January 14, 2017, the Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Italy, hosted the exhibition Mysterium Coniunctionis, a collaborative exhibition presenting very rare and limited edition prints from Ryden and his wife, Marion Peck. “Mysterium Coniunctionis” consisted of more than 20 artworks, mainly artist proofs, a collection that showcases Peck and Ryden’s peculiar and intriguing combinations. Their inviting compositions are executed with extremely complex, detailed artwork, that make visible a vision of society in which menace and comfort are inseparably interwoven.

See also:


Edited from:


Mark Ryden

Digital collage portrait by TMLipp
Created for The Artist Birthday Series
January 20, 2017
Click image for full resolution

TML Arts aims for accuracy in content and functionality in posts.
Click the button below to let us know about typos, incorrect information, broken links, erroneous attribution,
or additional relative information.

See something? Say something.



Special thanks to: Daily Artfixx, On This Day, WikipediaFind-A-Grave, A&E Bio, The Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, Famous Birthdays, Encyclopedia Brittanica, and all the art history buffs that keep the internet full of wonderful information and images. 


Frida Kahlo

Today’s Artist Birthday: Frida Kahlo

Artist Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoán, Mexico City, Mexico. Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Kahlo later became politically active and married fellow communist artist Diego Rivera in 1929. She exhibited her paintings in Paris and Mexico before her death in 1954.

Frida_life

Artist Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoán, Mexico City, Mexico. Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident.

1919, age
1919, age 11

Kahlo grew up in the family’s home where she was born — later referred as the Blue House or Casa Azul. Her father, Wilhelm (also called Guillermo), was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde. She had two older sisters, Matilde and Adriana, and her younger sister, Cristina, was born the year after Frida.

The Kahlo sisters (clockwise from left: Cristina, , Frida, )
The Kahlo sisters (clockwise from left: Cristina, Matlida, Frida, and seated Adriana )

Around the age of 6, she contracted polio, which caused her to be bedridden for nine months. While she did recover from the illness, she limped when she walked because the disease had damaged her right leg and foot. Her father encouraged her to play soccer, go swimming, and even wrestle — highly unusual moves for a girl at the time — to help aid in her recovery.

b67c0718eed3ceb2f415bba812a6a47f

In 1922, Kahlo enrolled at the renowned National Preparatory School. She was one of the few female students to attend the school, and she became known for her jovial spirit and her love of traditional and colorful clothes and jewelry. That same year, famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera went to work on a project at the school. Kahlo often watched as Rivera created a mural called The Creation in the school’s lecture hall. According to some reports, she told a friend that she would someday have Rivera’s baby.

1926
1926, age 19

While at school, Kahlo hung out with a group of politically and intellectually like-minded students. She became romantically involved with one of them, Alejandro Gómez Arias. On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and Gómez Arias 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.

Painting from 1940, describing her accident in
Painting from 1940, describing her accident in 1925

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. Becoming more politically active, Kahlo joined the Young Communist League and the Mexican Communist Party.

Frida's first self portrait, 19
Frida’s first self portrait, 1926

Kahlo reconnected with Rivera in 1928. He encouraged her artwork, and the two began a relationship. The couple married the next year. During their early years together, Kahlo often followed Rivera based on where the commissions that Rivera received were. In 1930, they lived in San Francisco, California, where Kahlo showed her painting Frieda and Diego Rivera at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. They then went to New York City for Rivera’s show at the Museum of Modern Art and later moved to Detroit for Rivera’s commission with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Frida and Diego, 1930
Frida and Diego, 1930
"Frida And Diego Rivera," 1931
“Frida And Diego Rivera,” 1931

In 1932, Kahlo incorporated more graphic and surrealistic elements in her work. In her painting, Henry Ford Hospital (1932), a naked Kahlo appears on a hospital bed with several items — a fetus, a snail, a flower, a pelvis and others — floating around her connected to her by red, veinlike strings. As with her earlier self-portraits, the work was deeply personal, telling the story of her second miscarriage.

"Henry Ford Hospital," 1932
“Henry Ford Hospital,” 1932

Kahlo and Rivera’s time in New York City in 1933 was surrounded by controversy. Commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller, Rivera created a mural entitled Man at the Crossroads in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller halted the work on the project after Rivera included a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the mural, which was later painted over. Months after this incident, the couple returned to Mexico and went to live in San Angel, Mexico.

Diego Rivera working on "Man At The Crossroads," 1933
Diego Rivera working on “Man At The Crossroads,” 1933
"Man At The Crossroads," as it looks today
“Man At The Crossroads,” as it looks today
Frida working on a painting of her own, while Diego worked on the mural "Man At The Crossroads," 1933
Frida working on a painting of her own, while Diego worked on the mural “Man At The Crossroads,” 1933

Never a traditional union, Kahlo and Rivera kept separate, but adjoining homes and studios in San Angel. She was saddened by his many infidelities, including an affair with her sister Cristina. In response to this familial betrayal, Kahlo cut off most of her trademark long dark hair. Desperately wanting to have a child, she again experienced heartbreak when she miscarried in 1934.

1934, Frida after having cut her trademark long hair
1934, Frida after having cut her trademark long hair

She and Rivera went through periods of separation, but they joined together to help exiled Soviet communist Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia in 1937. The Trotskys came to stay with them at the Blue House for a time in 1937 as Trotsky had received asylum in Mexico. Once a rival of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Trotsky feared that he would be assassinated by his old nemesis. Kahlo and Trotsky reportedly had a brief affair during this time.

Frida and Leon Trotsky, 193
Frida and Leon Trotsky, 1937

While she never considered herself a Surrealist, Kahlo befriended one of the primary figures in that artistic and literary movement, Andre Breton, in 1938. That same year, she had a major exhibition at a New York City gallery, selling about half of the 25 paintings shown there. Kahlo also received two commissions, including one from famed magazine editor Clare Boothe Luce, as a result of the show.

Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Natalya Trotsky, Reba Hansen, Andre Breton, Frida Kahlo, and Jean Van Heijenoort (clockwise from left)
Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Natalya Trotsky, Reba Hansen, Andre Breton, Frida Kahlo, and Jean Van Heijenoort (clockwise from left)

Kahlo was asked to paint a portrait of Luce and Kahlo’s mutual friend, actress Dorothy Hale, who had committed suicide earlier that year by jumping from a high-rise building. The painting was intended as a gift for Hale’s grieving mother. Rather than a traditional portrait, however, Kahlo painted the story of Hale’s tragic leap. While the work, The Suicide of Dorothy Hale (1939), has been heralded by critics, its patron was horrified at the finished painting.

"The Suicide Of Dorothy Hale," 1938
“The Suicide Of Dorothy Hale,” 1938
Frida's letter to Clare Luce Booth
Frida’s letter to Clare Luce Booth

In 1939, Kahlo went to live in Paris for a time. There she exhibited some of her paintings and developed friendships such artists as Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso. She divorced Rivera later that year. During this time, she painted one of her most famous works, The Two Fridas (1939). The paintings shows two versions of the artist sitting side by side, with both of their hearts exposed. One Frida is dressed nearly all in white and has a damaged heart and spots of blood on her clothing. The other wears bold colored clothing and has an intact heart. These figures are believed to represent “unloved” and “loved” versions of Kahlo.

"The Two Frida's," 1939
“The Two Frida’s,” 1939

Oddly, Kahlo and Rivera did not stay divorced for long. They remarried in 1940, and yet the couple continued to lead largely separate lives. And both became involved with other people over the years.

Frida and Diego, 1940
Frida and Diego, 1940

Kahlo received a commission from the Mexican government for five portraits of important Mexican women in 1941, but she was unable to finish the project. She lost her beloved father that year and continued to suffer from chronic health problems. Despite her personal challenges, her work continued to grow in popularity and was included in numerous group shows around this time.

1941, in a decorated plaster cast
1941, in a decorated plaster cast
"Self Portrait With Braid," 1941
“Self Portrait With Braid,” 1941

In 1944, Kahlo painted The Broken Column, which depicted a nearly nude Frida split down the middle revealing her spine as a shattered decorative column. She also wears a surgical brace and her skin is studded with tacks or nails. Again, Kahlo shared her physical challenges through her art. Around this time, she had several surgeries and wore special corsets to try to fix her back. She would continue to seek a variety of treatments for her chronic physical pain with little success.

"Broken Column," 19
“The Broken Column,” 1941

Her health issues became nearly all-consuming in 1950. After being diagnosed with gangrene in her right foot, Kahlo spent nine months in the hospital and had several operations during this time. She continued to paint and support political causes despite having limited mobility.

Frida, painting in her hospital bed
Frida, painting in her recovery bed

In 1953, Kahlo received her first solo exhibition in Mexico. She may have been bedridden at the time, but she did not miss out on the exhibition’s opening. Arriving by ambulance, Kahlo spent the evening talking and celebrating with the event’s attendees from the comfort of a four-poster bed set up in the gallery just for her. Kahlo’s joy was dampened a few months later when part of her right leg was amputated to stop the spread of gangrene.

Frida at her art opening in 1953
Frida at her art opening in 1953

Deeply depressed, Kahlo was hospitalized again in April 1954 because of poor health, or, as some reports indicated, a suicide attempt. She returned to the hospital two months later with bronchial pneumonia. No matter her physical condition, Kahlo did not let that stand in the way of her political activism. Her final public appearance was a demonstration against the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala on July 2.

July 19, the last time Frida was seen in public
July 2, 1954, the last time Frida was seen in public

About a week after her 47th birthday, Kahlo died on July 13 at her beloved Blue House. There has been some speculation regarding the nature of her death. It was reported to be caused by a pulmonary embolism, but there have also been stories about a possible suicide.

Frida's funeral,
Frida’s funeral, July, 1954
Frida's funeral, July, 1954
Frida’s funeral, July, 1954

She was cremated and her ashes are located at her beloved Blue House in, Coyoacan Mexico.

100ffd770759bdb31cd163697fdacd0b

Frida-Portrait-Thumbnail faca249b6141dcd700ec2c394e870a61 tumblr_nnfm19FyVr1rzajalo1_1280


Edited from:

http://www.biography.com/people/frida-kahlo-9359496


TML Arts aims for accuracy in content and functionality in posts.
Click the button below to let us know about typos, incorrect information, broken links, erroneous attribution,
or additional relative information.

See something? Say something.



Special thanks to: Daily Artfixx, On This Day, Wikipedia,
Find-A-Grave, A&E Bio, The Smithsonian American Art Museum Renwick Gallery, Famous Birthdays, Encyclopedia Brittanica, and all the art history buffs that keep the internet full of
wonderful information and images. 


Jacopo Pontormo

Today’s Artist Birthday: Jacopo Pontormo


Jacopo Carucci (May 24, 1494 – January 2, 1557), usually known as Jacopo da Pontormo, Jacopo Pontormo or simply Pontormo, was an Italian Mannerist painter and portraitist from the Florentine School. His work represents a profound stylistic shift from the calm perspectival regularity that characterized the art of the Florentine Renaissance. He is famous for his use of twining poses, coupled with ambiguous perspective; his figures often seem to float in an uncertain environment, unhampered by the forces of gravity.

Self portrait by Jacopo Pontormo, c. 15
Self portrait by Jacopo Pontormo, c. 1540

Jacopo Carucci was born at Pontorme, near Empoli, to Bartolomeo di Jacopo di Martino Carrucci and Alessandra di Pasquale di Zanobi. Orphaned at a young age, the Renaissance historian Vasari relates how, the “young, melancholy and lonely boy,” was shuttled around as a young apprentice, foreshadowing his legendary temperament: “Jacopo had not been many months in Florence before Bernardo Vettori sent him to stay with Leonardo da Vinci, and then with Mariotto Albertinelli, Piero di Cosimo, and finally, in 1512, with Andrea del Sarto, with whom he did not remain long, for after he had done the cartoons for the arch of the Servites, it does not seem that Andrea bore him any good will, whatever the cause may have been.

Self portrait by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525
Self portrait by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525

Pontormo painted in and around Florence, often supported by Medici patronage. A foray to Rome, largely to see Michelangelo’s work, influenced his later style. Haunted faces and elongated bodies are characteristic of his work. An example of his early style is a fresco depicting the Visitation of the Virgin and St Elizabeth, with its dancelike, balanced figures, painted from 1514 to 1516.

Pontormo-Visitazione1
“The Visitation of Virgin and St. Elizabeth,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1514-16

Done around the same time as the Visitation, His series on the life of Joseph, show a much more mannerist leaning. According to Giorgio Vasari, the sitter for the boy seated on a step is his young apprentice, Bronzino.

"Joseph In Egypt," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1517- . The sitter for the boy sitting on the steps is believed to have been Pontormo's assistant, and future master painter, Bronzino.
“Joseph In Egypt,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1517- . The sitter for the boy sitting on the steps is believed to have been Pontormo’s assistant, and future master painter, Bronzino.

In 1522, when the plague broke out in Florence, Pontormo left for the Certosa di Galluzzo, a cloistered Carthusian monastery where the monks followed vows of silence. He painted a series of frescoes, now quite damaged, on the passion and resurrection of Christ.

"The Resurrection of Christ," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1523. The series of frescoes located in the Certosa di Galluzzo monastery have been preserved as best as they can, after being severely damaged over the centuries.
“The Resurrection of Christ,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1523. The series of frescoes located in the Certosa di Galluzzo monastery have now been preserved as best as they can, after being severely damaged over the centuries.

The emotionally charged, large altarpiece canvas for the Brunelleschi-designed Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicità, Florence, portraying The Deposition from the Cross, is considered by many Pontormo’s surviving masterpiece (1528). The figures, with their sharply modeled forms and brilliant colors are united in an enormously complex, swirling ovular composition, housed by a shallow, somewhat flattened space. Although commonly known as The Deposition from the Cross, there is no actual cross in the picture. The scene might more properly be called a Lamentation or Bearing the Body of Christ.

deposition-from-the-cross
“The Deposition from the Cross,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1528. This beautiful and highly emotional work is considered to be the artist’s greatest surviving masterpiece.

Those who are lowering (or supporting) Christ appear as anguished as the mourners. Though they are bearing the weight of a full-grown man, they barely seem to be touching the ground; the lower figure in particular balances delicately and implausibly on his front two toes. These two boys have sometimes been interpreted as angels, carrying Christ in his journey to Heaven. It has been speculated that the bearded figure in the background at the far right is a self-portrait of Pontormo as Joseph of Arimathea.

Detail from "The Deposition of the Cross," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1528. Historians believe that the figure to the far right of the Madonna is a self-portrait of Pontormo.
Detail from “The Deposition of the Cross,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1528. Historians believe that the figure to the far right of the Madonna is a self-portrait of Pontormo.

On the wall to the right of the Deposition, Pontormo frescoed an Annunciation scene. As with the Deposition, the artist’s primary attention is on the figures themselves rather than their setting. Placed against white walls, the Angel Gabriel and Virgin Mary are presented in an environment that is so simplified as to almost seem stark. The fictive architectural details above each of them, are painted to resemble the gray stone pietra serena that adorns the interior of Santa Felicità, thus uniting their painted space with the viewer’s actual space. The startling contrast between the figures and ground makes their brilliant garments almost seem to glow in the light of the window between them, against the stripped-down background, as if the couple miraculously appeared in an extension of the chapel wall.

"The Annunciation," located in the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicità, in Florence, Italy, by Jacopo Pontormo, 1526-1528
“The Annunciation,” located in the Capponi Chapel in the church of Santa Felicità, in Florence, Italy, by Jacopo Pontormo, 1526-1528
Detail from "The Annunciation," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525-1528
Detail from “The Annunciation,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525-1528

Vasari tells us that the cupola was originally painted with God the Father and Four Patriarchs. The decoration in the dome of the chapel is now lost, but four roundels with the Evangelists still adorn the pendentives, worked on by both Pontormo and his chief pupil Agnolo Bronzino. The two artists collaborated so intimately, that specialists dispute which roundels each of them painted. Looking at each of the four however, one notices immediately that the style of the St. Matthew roundel appears distinctively different with heavier line and a more intense mannerist style than the other three. For this reason, many scholars believe that Bronzino completed this work on his own, or at least the majority of it.

3tondo2
“St. Luke,” from the Apostles series in the Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicità, Florence, Italy. Work completed by Jacopo Pontormo with assistance from his pupil Agnolo Bronzino, 1525-1528
3tondo3
“St. Mark,” from the Apostles series in the Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicità, Florence, Italy. Work completed by Jacopo Pontormo with assistance from his pupil Agnolo Bronzino, 1525-1528
3tondo1
“St. John,” from the Apostles series in the Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicità, Florence, Italy. Work completed by Jacopo Pontormo with assistance from his pupil Agnolo Bronzino, 1525-1528
"St. Matthew," from the Apostles series in the Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicità, Florence, Italy. Historians believe that this work was most likely done alone by Pontormo's student, Agnolo Bronzino, 1525-1528
“St. Matthew,” from the Apostles series in the Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicità, Florence, Italy. Historians believe that this work was most likely done alone by Pontormo’s student, Agnolo Bronzino, 1525-1528

This tumultuous oval of figures took three years for Pontormo to complete. According to Vasari, because Pontormo desired above all to “do things his own way without being bothered by anyone,” the artist screened off the chapel so as to prevent interfering opinions. Vasari continues, “And so, having painted it in his own way without any of his friends being able to point anything out to him, it was finally uncovered and seen with astonishment by all of Florence…

The Capponi Chapel in the church Santa Felicità in Florence, Italy, featuring the breathtaking artwork of Jacopo Pontormo, 15
The Capponi Chapel in the church Santa Felicità in Florence, Italy, featuring the breathtaking artwork of Jacopo Pontormo, completed 1525-1528

A number of Pontormo’s other works have also remained in Florence; the Uffizi Gallery holds his mystical Supper at Emmaus as well as a number of portraits.

"Supper At Emmaus," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525
“Supper At Emmaus,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525

Many of Pontormo’s work has been lost to history, but most tragic is the loss of the unfinished frescoes for the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence which consumed the last decade of his life. His frescoes depicted a Last Judgment day composed of an unsettling morass of writhing figures. Upon the death of Pontormo, his loyal and exceedingly patient pupil, apprentice, and seemingly only friend Agnolo Bronzino completed the fresco cycle around 1578. The sensual theme of the cycle was never fully accepted, culminating finally in 1738 when a shift toward an even more conservative orthodoxy in the church led to their destruction.  The drawings that remain however, show a bizarre and mystical ribboning of bodies that had an almost hallucinatory effect.

"Group Of The Dead," drawing by Jacopo Pontormo, 1546-1556, for the now destroyed fresco cycle at San Lorenzo church in Florence, Italy.
“Group Of The Dead,” drawing by Jacopo Pontormo, 1546-1556, for the now destroyed fresco cycle at San Lorenzo church in Florence, Italy.
Study for "Deluge," by Jacopo Pontormo, 1546-1556, for the now destroyed fresco cycle at San Lorenzo church in Florence, Italy.
Study for “Deluge,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1546-1556, for the now destroyed fresco cycle at San Lorenzo church in Florence, Italy.

Vasari’s Life of Pontormo depicts him as withdrawn and steeped in neurosis while at the center of the artists and patrons of his lifetime. This image of Pontormo has tended to color the popular conception of the artist, as seen in the film of Giovanni Fago, Pontormo, a heretical love. Fago, portrays Pontormo as mired in a lonely and ultimately paranoid dedication to his final Last Judgment project, which he often kept shielded from onlookers. Yet as the art historian Elizabeth Pilliod has pointed out, Vasari was in fierce competition with the Pontormo/Bronzino workshop at the time when he was writing his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. This professional rivalry between the two bottegas could well have provided Vasari with ample motivation for running down the artistic lineage of his opponent for Medici patronage.

2WEIsEH2CkIfuq36gFKxUBbmW5R

Perhaps as a result of Vasari’s derision, or perhaps because of the vagaries of aesthetic taste, Pontormo’s work was quite out of fashion for several centuries. The fact that so much of his work has been lost or severely damaged is testament to this neglect, though he has received renewed attention by contemporary art historians. Indeed, between 1989 and 2002, his Portrait of a Halberdier, held the title of the world’s most expensive painting by an Old Master, purchased for $35.2 million in 1989 by the Getty Museum.

"Portrait Of A Halberdier," by Jacopo Pontormo, 15
“Portrait Of A Halberdier,” by Jacopo Pontormo, 1530

Regardless as to the veracity of Vasari’s account, it is certainly true that Pontormo’s artistic idiosyncrasies produced a style that few were able (or willing) to imitate, with the exception of his closest pupil Bronzino. As for his alleged temperament, the diary that Pontormo kept the last two years of his life reveal that Vasari may have exaggerated some of Jacopo’s characteristics, but probably not by much. Most of the diary consists of tracking his bowel movements and other bodily functions, as well as a clear need to avoid humanity whenever possible, writing things like, “15th Sunday – Bronzino knocked at my door and then during the day Daniello; I know not what they wanted.” Pontormo also seemed to have had a ladder to his bedroom which he would draw up after him, making contact with the Master even more difficult.

"Trinity," marking the final resting place of the great Pontormo, painted by his pupil and friend, Agnolo Bronzino
A page from Pontormo’s diary, now kept by the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, in Florence, Italy.

In his declining years, it seems he descended into a kind of madness and spent most of his time shut up in his studio “chatting with angels” that he claimed lived in a tree outside his window. Old friends tried to intervene and often left him baskets of food and coins on the doorstep. He ignored the intentions of friends and fellow artists that wanted to help, believing they were in league with the devil.

pontormo drawings

His final years were sadly spent in great pain, roaming the streets, disheveled and fearful, a shell of his former self. He died a pauper’s death, a victim of what was known at the time as “dropsy,” today recognized as edema. He was buried on January 2, 1557 in the sumptuous Church of Santissima Annunziata, in the quiet chapel of St. Luke, the same chapel that contains his Sacra Conversazione, completed when he was just 19 years old. Opposite this is the Trinity, by his beloved Bronzino, marking Pontormo’s final resting place. Bronzino created the memorial to him including two portraits; Bronzino himself is on the right, Pontormo on the left.

"Trinity," marking the final resting place of the great Pontormo, painted by his pupil and friend, Agnolo Bronzino
“Trinity,” marking the final resting place of the great Pontormo, painted by his pupil and friend, Agnolo Bronzino

Edited from:


see an error? click here to send corrections!