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Detroit Institute of Arts: Paintings by Famous Artists

Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Rembrandt


While the Detroit Institute of Arts is known for its diverse collection and Diego Rivera mural, it also has an impressive collection of paintings by famous artists, including Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Rembrandt and more. While the DIA obtained several of the paintings through purchases, many were gifted or bequeated to the museum through the generosity of prominant Detroiters, most notably Robert Hudson Tannahill.

Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), Baroque

Martha and Mary Magdalene (1598)
Photo © Cea (Creative Commons Some rights restricted)

Caravaggio was born in Italy, and his life was marked by his temper, brawls and brushes with the law. In fact, he fled Rome in 1606 after killing a man in a fight over a tennis game. It wasn't too long thereafter that he died from Malaria.

Caravaggio is best known for his realistic paintings of biblical scenes. He was innovative in that he used live models from the streets. He is also known for his use of light and shadows to dramatize elements of a scene.

The DIA provides a visual aid to highlight several elements of Caravaggio's Martha and Mary Magdalene (1598), a gift to the museum from the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford in 1973.

Sources: All-Art.org

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Post-Impressionism

Madame Cezanne
Photo © ellenm1 (Creative Commons Some Rights Restricted)

Cezanne was born in France. While his artwork tended toward the dark and violent at the beginning of his career, he was influenced by Impressionism around 1870 and eventually became known for his use of form and color. Unfortunately, Cezanne had little success in life.

The DIA's collection of works by Cezanne was heavily influenced by Robert Hudson Tannahill, who bequeathed several oil-on-canvas paintings by Cezanne, as well as a fund to purchase more. The DIA collection includes:

  • Skull and Book (1939-1906) watercolor
  • Head of a Man (1865), oil on canvas
  • Mont Sainte-Victoire (1839-1906)
  • Bathers (1880), oil on canvas
  • Slave, Graphite pencil (print)
  • The Three Skulls (1900), oil on canvas
  • Madame Cezanne (1839-1906), oil on canvas
Sources: All-Art.org

Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Realism / Impressionism

Woman with a Headband (1872/73)
Photo © Ellenm1 (Creative Commons Some rights reserved)

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Degas was born (in France) into wealth and always encouraged in the arts. He did go to law school for a brief time, but eventually left to study drawing.

Degas was known for his use of empty space, study of human movement, and use of modern subjects.

The DIA collection of Degas works includes several oil-on-canvas paintings, as well as a crayon, pastel, charcoal, and etching.

  • Morning Ride (1866), oil on canvas
  • Violinist and Young Woman (1871)
  • Woman with a Headband (1872/1873)
  • Portrait of a Woman (1877)
  • Schoolgirl (1881, cast after 1917), bronze sculpture
  • Jockeys on Horseback Before Distant Hills (1884)
  • Dancers (1897)
  • Dancers in Repose (1898), pastel and charcoal
  • Spanish Dancer (1900), bronze sculpture
  • Femme Assise s'essuyant le cote gauche (1900/1905), sculpture
Sources: TheArtStory.org

Paul Gauguin (1948-1903), Post-Impressionism

Self Portrait (1893)
Photo © Quick Fix (Creative Commons Some rights restricted)

Gauguin was born in Paris and a contemporary of van Gogh. His art was highly inspired by his move to Tahiti. He was known for flat forms, wild color and symbolism.

The DIA collection of his works includes:

  • La Petite Parisienne (1881), sculpture
  • Self Portrait (1893), oil on canvas

Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Fauvism

Matisse was born in France and originally studied law. It wasn't until he was bedridden in 1890 that he spent more time painting. He eventually studied art and moved to Paris. In 1905, a group show he took part in was dubbed group les fauves (“the wild beasts”) because the artists all experimented with violent color. He was known thereafter as the leader of Fauvism.

The DIA collection of artwork by Matisse was made possible through bequeathes by Robert Hudson Tannahill and several purchases. It consists of six pieces, including three oil-on-canvas paintings, a bronze-cast sculpture, a gauache and charcoal drawing, and stained/leaded glass:

  • Seated Nude (1909), bronze statue cast in 1930
  • Coffee (1916), oil on canvas
  • The Window (1916, oil on canvas
  • Poppies (1919), oil on canvas
  • The Wild Poppies (1953), gauache and charcoal on paper
  • The Wild Poppies (1969), stained and leaded glass
Sources: All-Art.org

Claude Monet (1840-1926), French Impressionist

Monet was born in France and was a founder of Impressionism. In fact, the movement was named after his 1872 painting Impression Sunrise. Throughout his career he explored the quality of light and colour under different conditions.

The DIA's collection of Monet's artwork includes one oil-on-canvas painting: Gladioli (1976). It was purchased by the City of Detroit for the DIA in 1921.

Sources: All-Art.org

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Cubism

The Melancholy Woman (1902)
Photo © artcultureny (Creative Commons Some rights restricted)

Picasso became famous as an artist and eventually quite wealthy during his lifetime. He was born in Spain in 1881 and attended Barcelona School of Fine Arts as a teenager before moving to Paris. In addition to George Braque, with whom he created Cubism, Picasso's contemporaries in France during that period were Henri Matisse and Joan Miro.

The DIA collection of Picasso's paintings includes six oil-on-canvas paintings from various stylistic periods of his life. The paintings were either bequeathed or gifted from prominent Detroiters, including W. Hawkins Ferry, Robert H. Tannehill, and Anne and Henry Ford II.

The collection includes:

  • The Melancholy Woman (1902) from Picasso's Blue Period (sombre subject, predominantly blue pallette)
  • The Portrait of Manuel Pallares (1909) and Bottle of Anis Del Mono (1915) from his Cubist period
  • Woman Seated in an Armchair (1923) that he painted when he was exploring the look of photography
  • Fruit, Carafe and Glass (1938) from his Classicism and Surrealism Period, and
  • Sylvette (1954), which was just one of the 40 drawings and oils done of the model
Sources: TheArtStory.org, PabloPicasso.org, Artchive.com, All-Art.org

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Founder of Impressionism

Woman in an Armchair (1874)
Photo © Ellenm1 (Creative Commons Some rights restricted)

Renoir is known for his "leisure" paintings and rough brushwork. The French artist was a painter, printmaker and sculptor.

  • Woman in an Armchair (1874), oil on canvas
  • Clearing in the Woods (1865), oil on canvas
  • Country Lane (early 20th century), watercolor
  • Seated Bather (1903/1906), oil on canvas
  • La blanchisseuse (1916), sculpture, bronze
  • The White Pierrot (1901/1902), oil on canvas
  • Graziella (1896), oil on canvas

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Post-Impressionism

Bank of Oise at Auvers
Photo © (Creative Commons Some rights restricted)

Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands, the son of a Protestant minister. He went on to pursue several unsuccessful careers before moving to Paris in 1886. He spent the last four years of his life studying the Impressionists and Japanese prints and then moving to Arles in 1888 to explore his evolving style. Van Gogh flirted with sanity during this time before killing himself in 1890.

Van Gogh's contemporaries were Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec while in Paris. van Gogh was ultimately known for cutting off his ear and his unique style of brushwork.

The DIA's collection of works by van Gogh includes four oil paintings:

  • Van Gogh's Self Portrait (1887) is a museum highlight and was purchased by the City of Detroit in 1922.
  • Portrait of Postman Roulin (1888) was a gift to the museum from Mr. and Mrs. Buhl Ford II in 1996.
  • The Diggers (1889) was bequeated by Robert H. Tannahill in 1970.
  • Bank of the Oise At Auvers was bequeated by Robert H. Tannahill in 1970.
Sources: All-Art.org

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Dutch Baroque

Rembrandt was born in the Netherlands and studied art in Amsterdam, eventually becoming a renowned portrait artist. He later became known for his religious scenes and landscapes. Although he went through a low period after 1642 (his wife died and he went bankrupt), Rembrandt continued to paint and teach.

Rembrandt is ultimately known for his use of light and shadow, unique brushwork, and humanization of religious figures. He is credited with 600 paintings over the course of his lifetime.

The DIA's collection of artwork by Rembrandt includes 68 etchings, as well as one oil-on-cedar-panel painting purchased by the City of Detroit for the museum in 1927: Visitation (1640).

Sources: All-Art.org.

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