Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

Here is Linda Huang’s blog assignment on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

The greatest French decorative painter is Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. His international influence was even greater than that of Gustave Moreau. As a young man he had to abandon his early studies because of illness.  He travelled to Italy during where he discovered the frescoes of the Quattrocento and decided to become a painter. Ary Scheffer, Couture, Delacroix, and Théodore Chassériau were his teachers at the Beaux-Arts. In 1850, Chavannes exhibited a pietà at the Salon. In 1861 his career as a painter of murals for public buildings began with the Musée d’Amiens. He decorated many buildings, including the Panthéon, the Hôtels de Ville of Paris and Poitiers, the Sorbonne, various French museums, and the Boston Public Library. A very French mind – to the extent that his work attracted that other very French painter, Matisse – he brought to his art a sense of grandeur and an organisational logic that were precisely the gifts required for vast mural decorations. His decorative compositions attempt to reach monumentality not through depth but through superficiality, linearity of construction, the “majesty” of the organization and also by a certain philosophical pretention. The mobility of the man is clear; the influence of his work quite outstripped its intrinsic qualities, but he was, whether we like it or not, one of the masters of the Symbolist age, an age which made of Beauty and the Pure Idea a veritable religion.

The Young Mother

This painting was featured in the catalogue of the first monographic exhibition of the painter’s work that opened in 1887 at the Galerie Durand-Ruel with the title La jeune mère (The Young Mother). It was next to be found in the Charles Pacquement collection, and later in the Gould collection. It changed title along the way to be called La Charité (Charity). It is an autumnal scene in which nature appears in brown and golden tones, with a young mother, her children and a dog in the foreground to the right; two trees are at the centre of the composition and a river gently flowing separates them from an open field – planted with a few young saplings and two Italian-style houses – that stretches up to the horizon. A subtle balance is struck between warm and cold tones positioned in four superposed horizontal stripes from the foreground to the infinite, on both sides of the central motif, rendered in nuances of dark browns with orangey yellow strokes. Through a process of reutilisation and partial transposition of motifs common in Puvis de Chavannes’s work, this intimate scene was inspired by a detail of the foreground and centre of the 1873 Salon large painting: L’Eté (Summertime, Paris, Musée d’Orsay), with the addition of the image of the dog and basket, recreating a microcosm in homage to the maternal image within a serene natural setting.


Social issue the declining birth rate in Taiwan

Minister of Education Wu Ching-chi confessed that the declining birth rate in Taiwan still continues to worsen. The Ministry of Education’s predictions are that the declining birth rate will have a gradual impact on colleges and universities in Taiwan, starting in 2011. If the current situation continues, more than a third of the 164 colleges and universities in Taiwan, around 60 colleges and universities, will shut down by the year 2021, causing thousands of professors to become unemployed.
Statistics point out that the annual number of newborns in Taiwan has fallen below 200,000 births, as the newborn population is declining at the astonishing speed of 20% each year.


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