Anne Vallayer–Coster was one of rococo era’s most prominent artists who enjoyed patronage from French aristocratic families, including, the monarchy. She painted both portraits and genre scenes. However, she is most eulogised for her still life paintings. Sadly, her being a still life painter, howsoever noteworthy, caused many to disregard her art for a long period of time.

Anne Vallayer–Coster was born on December 21, 1744 in Bièvre into a family of goldsmiths. She took early training in art from a number of artists and her father. By the age of twenty six she was already a part of Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Anne lost her father at a young age and, together with her mother, worked hard to support her family. For a brief while she enjoyed the patronage of Marie Antoinette and was elevated to the rank of nobility through her marriage.

As the Reign of Terror ensued women’s role in society was dwarfed. Artists like Anne Vallayer–Coster were forced to put their career on the back burner due to lack of support. About a decade later, when she was sixty years old, Empress Josephine procured two works of art from Anne. But it came too late to be of any assistance to revive her career before her death on February 28, 1818.

Anton Mauve is known for his strikingly realistic paintings, mostly dealing with bucolic subjects. He was born on September 18, 1838 in a Dutch town named, Zaandem. Briefly afterwards the family moved to Haarlem, where Mauve spent his youthful days. Mauve was privileged to receive training from some of the most prominent artists of the time. Noted painters, like, Pieter van Os and Wouterus Verschuur came into Mauve’s aid, teaching him the basic skills of painting. Indeed, Mauve’s later day animal paintings were permeated by the colours of Wouterus Verschuur’s art. The young artist spent considerable time seeking inspiration from Mother Nature in picturesque Dutch villages like Oosterbeek.

When Anton Mauve settled in The Hague (1872), he was already a prominent name in the world of art. He became a pioneer of The Hague School of art and also played an important role in the establishment of Pulchri Studio. Through marriage with Ariëtte Sophia Jeannette Carbentus, Mauve became related to Vincent van Gogh. In 1881, van Gogh apprenticed in Mauve’s studio for about a month. Unfortunately, this relationship did not progress in such cordial terms for long. However, van Gogh admitted Mauve’s influence on his work in a number of his personal letters.

The artist mostly preferred depicting the scenery vividly and figures incidentally. In fact, while painting farmhouse scenes he used to give precedence to the nature and animals over the attending human figures in the frame. Though it must be said, that such handling of subjects, gave his artworks an unparalleled quality. Mauve passed away on February 5, 1888. Van Gogh paid homage to his once friend and mentor by painting Souvenir de Mauve (circa March 30, 1888).

Romanticising the city of London may not have been in everyone’s taste. One British water colourist, Samuel Prout, though begged to differ. Not only did he paint elaborate street scenes of the great city but in the process elevated water colour cityscapes to such work of art as comparable to J M W Turner’s landscapes.

Prout’s (September 17, 1783 – February 10, 1852) childhood was spent in Devon. Encouraged by his teacher at school, he used to spend long hours outdoors sketching the rustic surrounding and creating humble paintings of the beautiful landscape. Entering into his twenties, Prout moved to London. He used his artistic skills and created lithographs to earn his living. However, not until his trip to the continent in 1818 did he find his own vocabulary on canvas. He saw the marvels of ancient architecture painted exquisitely on canvas. This stirred his imagination and prompted him to follow the same. His romantic paintings received praise across Europe and back home he was honoured with the title of Painter in Water–Colours in Ordinary by subsequent monarchs. 

Prout’s sentimentalism with ancient and sometimes decaying architectural structures was not vapid. Instead, each of his brushstrokes thrived on the changing imageries of a place in the annals of time. He was a poet with a brush in hand intently listening to the whispers of a civilisation before translating them on to the canvas.

Adelaide Hanscom Leeson was a gifted artist and photographer. She is widely known for her photographic illustrations of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Hanscom (November 25, 1875 – November 19, 1931) started picking up the basic skills of painting since her early childhood. After her family’s relocation to Berkeley, California she enrolled herself at the University of California and then at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. It is during this time that she started exploring other avenues and became interested in photography.

In 1902, Hanscom established her studio in San Francisco. Soon her vividly expressive pictorial photographs captured the imagination of many. She came to be known as one of the finest pictorialists of the Pacific Coast. She commenced her pioneering project, i.e. creating the photogravure for The Rubaiyat, in 1903. The news of such a project naturally created sensation across North America which was not exposed to such artistry at that point of time. Hanscom herself was deeply influenced by the verses of The Rubaiyat.

As if to stir the drama of her own life fortune intervened with her poor tricks in an effort to spoil Adelaide Hanscom Leeson’s parade of success. A devastating earthquake in San Francisco (1906) completely destroyed her studio and with that the prints of her work for The Rubaiyat. Bemused Hanscom left the city to settle in Seattle with a handful of prints that survived the fated day. She started working with even greater ferocity and produced quite a few portraits of the society ladies and gentlemen in her characteristic style. More importantly, she started creating photo illustrations of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese which took many years to complete.

Hanscom’s career in art was briefly interrupted after her marriage in 1908. She could begin her work once again some three years later. The ensuing productive period was intense but brief. The loss of her husband and father in quick succession caused her to plunge into a depressive state. Never did she recover from it and was forced to intermittently spend time in several mental institutions before being killed in a road accident. Aptly did say Khayyam,

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
But helpless pieces in the game He plays,
Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days,
He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,
Then one by one, back in the closet lays.

According to Giorgio Vasari Johan Gregor van der Schardt was a sculptor extraordinaire. Also known as Jan Gregor van der Schardt, the master sculptor produced elaborate bronze sculptures in line to Roman antiquity. The terracotta busts created by van der Schardt continue to enamour everyone more than four hundred years after they have been conceived. He also sculpted one of the first known self–portraits in terracotta for any sculptor.

Johan Gregor van der Schardt (circa 1530) was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He soon travelled to Nuremberg leaving his birthplace behind never to return again. The sculptor entered the court of Emperor Maximilian II. His intricately sculpted pieces were much in demand and he continued moving from one place to another working on commissions. But the defining period of his career came when he visited and eventually settled in Rome for a considerable period of time. En route he went to Venice, Mantua and other places in Italy. However, being in Rome helped him to be in close proximity to the antique statues some of which he copied in miniature forms.

Beside Vasari other contemporary artists of van der Schardt were also unanimous in his praise. One of them was Daniele Barbaro, the famous architect, mathematician, philosopher and translator of Vitruvius’s treatise. In 1576, Johan Gregor van der Schardt moved to the royal court of Denmark. He continued working there and for a brief while in Nuremberg relentlessly till his death in circa 1591.

The symbolism of Fernand Khnopff’s painting only gained in mystique with the passage of time. Born into a family of notable lawyers, Fernand Khnopff (September 12, 1858 – November 12, 1921) was but an accidental artist. He even joined a law school to satisfy his family’s whims but eventually dropped out due to lack of interest in the subject. His mind was steeped in the childhood memories of Bruges where he used to spend time sketching the city. Introduction to Xavier Mellery’s studio helped him in shaping his dreams.

As his prominence grew, Khnopff became acquainted with many contemporary artists. His trips to Paris helped him see the beauty of the works of the masters like Eugène Delacroix, Ingres and Gustave Moreau. The Paris World Fair (1878) and subsequent foray into the art market of England afforded him the friendships of Edward Burne–Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His artworks, exhibited in the Vienna Secession (1898), drew massive cheers from the audience. His talent also pervaded into the other closely related domains, such as, interior decoration, set and costume designs of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, Deutsches Theater Berlin etc. After Secession, the acquaintance with Gustav Klimt and mutual interest in each other’s work was inevitable.

Khnopff became a cult figure during his lifetime. The artist was also an amateur photographer. He poured his frank sentiments about his art on the pages of diary when he said, ‘It’s strange. When I put something incomprehensible into a picture, it’s usually because the form and colour interest me and because it just happens to fit in. Then my friends come along, ‘what is that suppose to mean?’ And they rack their brains for an interpretation, finding so many ingenious explanations that I feel quite proud of all the unarticulated ideas concealed in my pictures.’