Magazine article Arts & Activities

Feelings in Art

Magazine article Arts & Activities

Feelings in Art

Article excerpt


Fame. Death. Obscurity. Fame again. Such is the story of 17th-century French painter Georges de la Tour: celebrated in life, forgotten in death, and reborn to historical acclaim 300 years later.

Born in Lorraine in 1593, La Tour was the son and grandson of bakers. Nothing is known of his early instruction, but as early as 1620, La Tour was finding success painting religious scenes.

By the 1630s he was firmly established and had begun creating genre scenes, such as this month's Art Print. "The works associated with the beginning of his career are daylit scenes of such subjects as peasants and card-sharpers; they are very different in spirit from the calm and majestic religious images of his maturity and have become controversial as regards attribution as well as dating." (

Works from this period are also marked by the artist's virtuoso handling of color and a highly realistic ability to render texture and pattern.

Later in his career, La Tour began to create paintings that would make him a favorite of many 20th-century modernist painters. Often using a single candle as a light source, his mature scenes are dramatic compositions that resemble stage sets.

His later works simplify his subjects to nearly geometric forms. "The paintings of La Tour's maturity, however, are marked by a startling geometric simplification of the human form and by the depiction of interior scenes lit only by the glare of candles or torches. His religious paintings done in this manner have a monumental simplicity and a stillness that expresses both contemplative quiet and wonder." (

La Tour fathered 10 children, one of which, Etienne, was also painter and worked in his father's workshop. La Tour died at the age of 59, falling victim to an epidemic that swept through Lorraine. Although he was the painter to kings and dignitaries, his work was forgotten until the early 20th century, when it was rediscovered by a German art historian. …

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