Art is Everywhere in Life
It might be hard to notice with the heat of the past few weeks, but summer has come and gone and fall is finally here. Slowly, but surely, the world around us has begun to move towards winter in yet another cycle of the turning of seasons.
The reality of the natural world around us can easily be lost in the bustle and gleam of the artificial city, especially one as large as Los Angeles. But everywhere around us is always the firm, solid truth of nature, and that earthy realism has always inspired creativity, expression and artwork from the earliest civilizations until the present. Take the time this fall to notice the real art in life that is everywhere but so often overlooked. The art of the leaf and the stream, but also the artworks that exist in the faces of those we pass on the streets and the loved ones we cherish at home. Art does not merely exist on a canvas.
Continuing with that theme, this month we feature the Realism Movement within the art community, and those that gave it rise. So, if you love Art History, or just like knowing a bit more about some of your favorite classic artists, check out the In the Studio section below as we continue to cover some of the major styles in art.
Additionally, we spotlight local SoCal artist Doug Aitkin and his newest intriguing art "happening", Station to Station which will be arriving in California later in this month.
And as always we are bringing you some of the latest gallery openings, art shows and events, as well as some articles from our blog, so don't miss out on what is happening of interest to the art scene in southern California in July!
And, don't forget to check out the newest addition to FrameStore's commitment to our clients over at our blog. Newsletters only happen once a month, but our art blog can keep you up to date on the newest news, information, gallery and museum events as well as help educate and enlighten you on everything about art, design, and framing. So, drop over and see what we have happening at the FrameStore Blog today!
Autumn has come at last, and even as summer fights to maintain it's hold on LA, our eyes turn towards the winter and the eventual holidays, and FrameStore wants to help you make your memories of this past summer last forever!
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Stop by one of our stores this week to have one of our Art and Design experts help you to turn those precious memories that will only come once into lasting and lovely art that will bring joy for decades.
Spotlight on Local Artists:
Local artist Doug Aitkin has a long history of varied and unusual art projects, installations and experiments that have pushed the boundaries of how we define art, and his latest effort is no exception.
A graduate of the Pasadena Art Center College of Design, Aitkin was born in Redondo Beach and now lives in Venice, and to describe him as a multi-media artist would be to miss the mark by half. Initially studying magazine illustration, Aitkin graduated in Fine Arts and has spent the last twenty two years creating, organizing and producing creative projects across almost as many mediums as there are to use, from video installations, books, sculpture, and photography, to unorthodox sound experiments, and live "happenings" like his Broken Screen event in Los Angeles and Sonic happening in New York. His latest creative event draws from several of these concepts and goes a step farther by involving the elements of time and distance.
Station to Station is an ambitious, travelling "nomadic happening" that takes place on a train between New York and California along with several dozen other artists and musicians over the course of 3 weeks this month.
A public art project made possible by the Levi's® brand, and with the support of institutions such as LACMA and SFMOMA here in California, and Carnegie Museum of Art, MCA Chicago, and others, Station to Station will raise funds through ticket sales and donations to support non-traditional programming at nine partner museums around the country.
The list of participating artists, musicians and performers is impressive. Check out the full line up at the site:
The trip started on September 6th in New York City, and you can find images of the artists and events up until now on the press release site HERE.
Station to Station stops include:
September 6, 2013 New York, New York
September 8, 2013 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
September 12, 2013 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
September 14, 2013 Chicago, Illinois
September 16, 2013 Kansas City, Missouri
September 20, 2013 Lamy/Santa Fe, New Mexico
September 22, 2013 Winslow, Arizona
September 24, 2013 Barstow, California
September 26, 2013 Los Angeles, California
September 28, 2013 Oakland/San Francisco, California
If you manage to attend one of the California stops of this most intriguing event, be sure to let us know about it. It looks to be a wild ride.
Miracles and Martyrs:
Saints in the Middle Ages
The exhibition is presented in two parts. The pages of the manuscripts will be turned to reveal further treasures on December 3, 2013.
This exhibition of illuminated manuscripts from the permanent collection reveals the widespread appeal and influence of saints in art and society during the Middle Ages. Medieval artists pictured them in images of incredible horror and great beauty, designed to offer inspiration and comfort to the faithful.
Venerated for their willingness to suffer torture and death, their ability to perform miracles, and their privileged place in heaven, saints were integral to medieval Christianity. Graced with divine favor, they followed Christ's model of behavior and goodness, revealing the divine in the earthly realm.
Martyrs were greatly admired for braving intense persecution and willingly dying for their faith. In some images, artists produced arresting scenes of martyrs at the moment of suffering, while in others, saints hold the instruments of their torture, serene in the knowledge that salvation awaits.
On this page, the artist presents female saints with their names and the simple phrase, "Pray for us." Medieval readers would have easily recognized them by an identifying symbol each holds or by the depiction of their particular martyrdom. At top right, for example, Agatha's breasts are cut from her body, a particularly gruesome form of torture.
Saints experienced spectacular visions, performed miracles on behalf of the faithful, and were blessed by divine intervention into their lives. After death, saints were called upon to intercede, that is, to protect devotees or provide aid. Artists' images of these miracles brought to life the mystical legends for medieval readers.
The compassionate Saint Jerome uses golden tweezers to carefully remove a thorn from the paw of a lion that had wandered into his monastery seeking care for its wound. A tiny figure of a fearful monk cowers in the background, in contrast to the monumental figure of Jerome.
Piety and Practice
Medieval Christians often chose particular saints as special guardians for individuals, groups, and even specific professions. Various types of Illuminated books, including inspirational biographies and private prayer books, encouraged prayer, spread legends of the saints' pious acts, and honored their legacy.
Kneeling side by side, the aristocratic saints Aimo and Vermondo hold a representation of a monastery church. They helped fund construction of the actual church to honor Saint Victor, to whom they had successfully prayed for rescue from a treacherous hunting expedition.
Recently Acquired Manuscript Also on Display
This manuscript follows the adventurous and romantic exploits of the medieval nobleman Gillion de Trazegnies. He journeys to Egypt on pilgrimage, mistakenly becomes a bigamist, and dies in battle as a glorious hero.
This image is a detail of the first scene in the manuscript and depicts the events that led to the discovery of his story. According to the author of the book, he was visiting a church where he found an unusual triple tomb of a knight flanked by two women, seen in the foreground in a detailed church interior. The figures represent Gillion and his two wives.
If you visit the exhibition, be sure to leave us your thoughts and impressions on our blog over at
Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema:
The Golem and Its Avatars
A golem-a large, powerful creature made of clay-is a figure from Jewish folklore. The exhibition includes a wide variety of works that address the golem legend: footage from Paul Wegener's 1920 film Der Golem: Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World); photography; vintage posters; illustrations from the 1915 novel The Golem; modern prints; a designer gown, and comic books.
Wegener's film, based on the most well-known version of the legend, is set in sixteenth-century Prague, where a cruel emperor persecutes Jewish residents. Rabbi Loew fashions the Golem and brings him to life with a mystical amulet; the creature then rampages through the city, crushing the enemies of the Jews. The monster begins to experience glimmers of human emotion in the aftermath of destruction, before he is disabled, when a little girl removes the amulet and the Golem crumbles to dust.
The Golem legend had heightened currency in Europe during the 1920s, when anti-Semitism was on the rise.The idea of the golem, an inanimate object brought to life, remains potent today and can be seen as a metaphor for the artist's creative process.
If you visit the exhibition, be sure to leave us your thoughts and impressions on our blog over at
Para Mi Gente
MOCA presents RETNA: Para mi gente, a site-specific installation on view at MOCA Grand Avenue.
Los Angeles-based artist RETNA has a created an extensive environment inside the MOCA galleries, employing his sophisticated system of hieroglyphs, calligraphy, and illuminated script, which mirrors his sprawling public murals. Drawing upon Egyptian, Arabic, Hebrew, Old English, East Asian, and Native American typographies, RETNA has crafted his own lexicon and visual vocabulary that speaks to larger world histories and cross-cultural commonalities.
MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch said, "The work is totally contemporary but traces back to ancient scripts. RETNA filters these elements through the tradition of tagging and graffiti that has been seen in Los Angeles since the 1970s. All the best art is past, present, and future combined, and this is what RETNA is doing."
The installation features two large-scale murals, Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma (For my people, the Painters of our Spirit) and The falcon, before and after, that provide very different views of the artist's practice and trajectory. Para mi gente, los pintores de mi alma pays homage to modern and contemporary artists in the field, man of whom are in MOCA's renowned permanent collection. When offered the opportunity to create the piece inside the museum alongside many of the artists that have influenced his work, RETNA chose to honor them by writing their names in his distinctive calligraphic characters. Referencing the practice of graffiti tagging to claim terrain and assert one's presence, as well as the creation of memorial walls, RETNA actively chooses to commemorate artists both living and deceased whose visions have informed his process and aesthetic. While most viewers will be unable to decipher his alphabet, the artist has provided the following translation:
HopperGainesBrimstoneBradfordGlennLigonNegroCurry StellasoLopezJasperJohnsBourgeoisBaconSachsDeitchHope Miranom'sIgotthekeystothedoor Brimstone. AWR. MSK
The falcon, before and after, draws more heavily on the Chicano writing styles of Los Angeles street art crews and marks a return to RETNA's more traditional graffiti practice and his original process painting in public space. In keeping with his earlier work, the artist makes frequent reference to the spirit of the Falcon, an ancient Egyptian emblem signifying success, victory, power, and wisdom.
RETNA (AKA Marquis Lewis) was born in 1979 in Los Angeles, CA. At an early age, Retna was introduced to L.A.'s mural culture and while still in high school led one of the largest and most innovative graffiti art collectives in the city. An integral part of the Los Angeles art scene since the mid-1990s, RETNA has participated in over thirty international exhibitions and countless public murals. Recent projects have included a solo exhibition at Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles (2012); the Houston/Bowery wall in New York City (2012); a mural for the Louis Vuitton store, Miami, and SLS Hotel (2012); participation in Art in the Streets at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (2011); The Hallelujah World Tour, a traveling solo exhibition presented by Andrew Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfield, New York, and London (2011); "Silver Lining", as part of Primary Flight, the World's Largest Street Level Mural Installation at Art Basel Miami Beach (2010); Desaturated, a solo exhibition at New Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles (2010); and a mural for the Margulies Collection in Miami, FL (2009). Upcoming exhibitions include: Zona Maco, Michael Kohn Gallery, Mexico City, MX (2013), and Art Basel Hong Kong(2013).
Art Styles and Movements:
Realism in the arts may be generally defined as the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements. The term originated in the 19th century, and was used to describe the work of Gustave Courbet and a group of painters who rejected idealization, focusing instead on everyday life.
In its most specific sense, Realism was an artistic movement that began in France in the 1850s, after the 1848 Revolution. Realists rejected Romanticism, which had dominated French literature and art since the late 18th century. Realism revolted against the exotic subject matter and exaggerated emotionalism and drama of the Romantic movement. Instead it sought to portray real and typical contemporary people and situations with truth and accuracy, and not avoiding unpleasant or sordid aspects of life. Realist works depicted people of all classes in situations that arise in ordinary life, and often reflected the changes wrought by the Industrial and Commercial Revolutions. The popularity of such 'realistic' works grew with the introduction of photography - a new visual source that created a desire for people to produce representations which look "objectively real."
More generally, realist works of art are those that, in revealing a truth, may emphasize the ugly or sordid, such as works of social realism, regionalism, or Kitchen sink realism. The movement even managed to impact on opera, where it is called Verismo, with contemporary working-class heroines such as Carmen, who works in a cigarette factory, and Mimi in La bohème.
Realism as a style or movement needs to be distinguished from "realism" as a term to describe the very precise, detailed and accurate representation in art of the visual appearance of scenes and objects. Realism in this latter sense is also called naturalism (see below for "Naturalism"), mimesis or illusionism. It is found at many periods, and is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization. It becomes especially marked in European painting in the Early Netherlandish painting of Jan van Eyck and other artists in the 15th century. However such "realism" is often used to depict, for example, angels with wings, which were not things the artists had ever seen in real life. Equally, 19th century Realist painters such as Courbet are by no means especially noted for precise and careful depiction of visual appearances; in Courbet's time that was more often a characteristic of Academic painting, which very often depicted with great skill and care scenes that were contrived and artificial, or imagined historical scenes. It is the choice and treatment of subject matter that defines Realism as a movement in painting, rather than the careful attention to visual appearances. Other terms such as naturalism, naturalistic and veristic do not escape the same ambiguity, though the distinction between "realistic" (usually related to visual appearance) and "realist" is often useful, as is the term "illusionistic" for the accurate rendering of visual appearances.
In general, Realists depicted everyday subjects and situations in contemporary settings, and attempted to depict individuals of all social classes in a similar manner. Classical idealism and Romantic emotionalism and drama were avoided equally, and often sordid or untidy elements of subjects were not smoothed over or omitted. Social realism emphasizes the depiction of the working class, and treating them with the same seriousness as other classes in art, but realism, as the avoidance of artificiality, in the treatment of human relations and emotions was also an aim of Realism. Treatments of subjects in a heroic or sentimental manner were equally rejected.
As an art movement Realism was a reaction in the mid 19th century against what was seen as the artificiality of Romanticism, led by Courbet in France. It spread across Europe and was influential for the rest of the century and beyond, but as it became adopted into the mainstream of painting it becomes less common and useful as a term to define artistic style. After the arrival of Impressionism and later movements which downgraded the importance of precise illusionistic brushwork it often came to refer simply to the use of a more traditional and tighter painting style. It has been used for a number of later movements and trends in art, some involving careful illusionistic representation, such as Photorealism, and others the depiction of "realist" subject matter in a social sense, or attempts at both.
The Realist movement began in the mid-19th century as a reaction to Romanticism
and History painting
. In favor of depictions of 'real' life, the Realist painters used common laborers, and ordinary people in ordinary surroundings engaged in real activities as subjects for their works. Its chief exponents were Gustave Courbet
, Jean-François Millet
, Honoré Daumier
, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
. According to Ross Finocchio, of the Department of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, Realists used unprettified detail depicting the existence of ordinary contemporary life, coinciding in the contemporaneous naturalist literature of Émile Zola
, Honoré de Balzac
, and Gustave Flaubert
often called The Wanderers or The Itinerants in English, were a group of Russian
realist artists who in protest at academic restrictions formed an artists' cooperative; it evolved into the Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions in 1870.
Peredvizhniki portrayed the many-sided aspects of social life, often critical of inequities and injustices. But their art showed not only poverty but also the beauty of the folk way of life; not only suffering but also fortitude and strength of characters. Peredvizhniki condemned the Russian aristocratic orders and autocratic government in their humanistic art.
Prior The development of increasingly accurate representation of the visual appearances of things has a long history in art. It includes elements such as the accurate depiction of the anatomy of humans and animals, of perspective and effects of distance, and of detailed effects of light and colour. The Art of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe achieved remarkably lifelike depictions of animals, and Ancient Egyptian art developed conventions involving both stylization and idealization that nevertheless allowed very effective depictions to be produced very widely and consistently. Ancient Greek art is commonly recognised as having made great progress in the representation of anatomy, and has remained an influential model ever since. No original works on panels or walls by the great Greek painters survive, but from literary accounts, and the surviving corpus of derivative works (mostly Graeco-Roman works in mosaic) it is clear that illusionism was highly valued in painting. Pliny the Elder's famous story of birds pecking at grapes painted by Zeuxis in the 5th century BC may well be a legend, but indicates the aspiration of Greek painting. As well as accuracy in shape, light and colour, Roman paintings show an unscientific but effective knowledge of representing distant objects smaller than closer ones, and representing regular geometric forms such as the roof and walls of a room with perspective. This progress in illusionistic effects in no way meant a rejection of idealism; statues of Greek gods and heroes attempt to represent with accuracy idealized and beautiful forms, though other works, such as heads of the famously ugly Socrates, were allowed to fall below these ideal standards of beauty. Roman portraiture, when not under too much Greek influence, shows a greater commitment to a truthful depiction of its subjects.
The art of Late Antiquity famously rejected illusionism for expressive force, a change already well underway by the time Christianity began to affect the art of the elite. In the West classical standards of illusionism did not begin to be reached again until the Late medieval or Early Renaissance period, and were helped by the development of new techniques of oil painting which allowed very subtle and precise effects of light to be painted using very small brushes and several layers of paint and glaze. Scientific methods of representing perspective were developed in Italy and gradually spread across Europe, and accuracy in anatomy rediscovered under the influence of classical art. As in classical times, idealism remained the norm.
The accurate depiction of landscape in painting had also been developing in Early Netherlandish and Renaissance painting, and was then brought to a very high level in 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting, with very subtle techniques for depicting a range of weather conditions and degrees of natural light. After being another development of Early Netherlandish painting, by 1600 European portraiture could give a very good likeness in both painting and sculpture, though the subjects were often idealized by smoothing features or giving them an artificial pose. Still life paintings, and still life elements in other works, played a considerable role in developing illusionistic painting, though in the Netherlandish tradition of flower painting they long lacked "realism", in that flowers from all seasons were typically used, either from the habit of assembling compositions from individual drawings, or as a deliberate convention; the large displays of bouquets in vases, though close to modern displays of cut flowers that they have influenced, were entirely atypical of 17th century habits, where flowers were displayed one at a time. Intriguingly, having led the development of illusionic painting, still life was to be equally significant in its abandonment in Cubism.
Realism as the Depiction of Everyday Subjects
The depiction of ordinary, everyday subjects in art also has a long history, though it was often squeezed into the edges of compositions, or shown at a smaller scale. This was partly because art was expensive, and usually commissioned for specific religious, political or personal reasons, that allowed only a relatively small amount of space or effort to be devoted to such scenes. Drolleries in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts sometimes contain small scenes of everyday life, and the development of perspective created large background areas in many scenes set outdoors that could be made more interesting by including small figures going about their everyday lives. Medieval and Early Renaissance art by convention usually showed non-sacred figures in contemporary dress, so no adjustment was needed for this even in religious or historical scenes set in ancient times.
Early Netherlandish painting brought the painting of portraits as low down the social scale as the prosperous merchants of Flanders, and in some of these, notably the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (1434), and more often in religious scenes such as the Merode Altarpiece include very detailed depictions of middle-class interiors full of lovingly depicted objects. However these objects are at least largely there because they carry layers of complex significance and symbolism that undercut any commitment to realism for its own sake. Cycles of the Labours of the Months in late medieval art, of which many examples survive from books of hours, concentrate on peasants labouring on different tasks through the seasons, often in a rich landscape background, and were significant both in developing landscape art and the depiction of everyday working-class people.
In the 16th century there was a fashion for the depiction in large paintings of scenes of people working, especially in food markets and kitchens: in many the food is given as much prominence as the workers. Artists included Pieter Aertsen and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer in the Netherlands, working in an essentially Mannerist style, and in Italy the young Annibale Carracci in the 1580s, using a very down to earth unpolished style, with Bartolomeo Passerotti somewhere between the two. Pieter Bruegel the Elder pioneered large panoramic scenes of peasant life. Such scenes acted as a prelude for the popularity of scenes of work in genre painting in the 17th century, which appeared all over Europe, with Dutch Golden Age painting sprouting several different sub-genres of such scenes, the Bamboccianti (though mostly from the Low Countries) in Italy, and in Spain the genre of bodegones, and the introduction of unidealized peasants into history paintings by Jusepe de Ribera and Velasquez. The Le Nain brothers in France and many Flemish artists including Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers the Elder and Younger painted peasants, but rarely townsfolk. In the 18th century small paintings of working people working remained popular, mostly drawing on the Dutch tradition, and especially featuring women.
Much art depicting ordinary people, especially in the form of prints, was comic and moralistic, but the mere poverty of the subjects seems relatively rarely have been part of the moral message. From the mid-19th century onwards this changed, and the difficulties of life for the poor were emphasized. Despite this trend coinciding with large-scale migration from the countryside to cities in most of Europe, painters still tended to paint poor rural people, largely leaving illustrators such as Gustave Doré to show the horrors of city slums. Crowded city street scenes were popular with the Impressionists and related painters, especially ones showing Paris.
Medieval manuscript illuminators were often asked to illustrate technology, but after the Renaissance such images continued in book illustration and prints, but with the exception of marine painting largely disappeared in fine art until the early Industrial Revolution, scenes from which were painted by a few painters such as Joseph Wright of Derby and Philip James de Loutherbourg. Such subjects probably failed to sell very well, and there is a noticeable absence of industry, other than a few railway scenes, in painting until the later 19th century, when works began to be commissioned, typically by industrialists or for institutions in industrial cities, often on a large scale, and sometimes given a quasi-heroic treatment.
American realism, a movement of the early 20th century, is one of many modern movements to use realism in this sense.
Realism as Resisting Idealization
Realism or naturalism as a style meaning the honest, unidealizing depiction of the subject, can of course be used in depicting any type of subject, without any commitment to treating the typical or everyday. Despite the general idealism of classical art, this too had classical precedents, which came in useful when defending such treatments in the Renaissance and Baroque. Demetrius of Alopece was a 4th-century BCE sculptor whose work (all now lost) was said to prefer realism over ideal beauty, and during the Ancient Roman Republic even politicians preferred a truthful depiction in portraits, though the early emperors favoured Greek idealism. Goya's portraits of the Spanish royal family represent a sort of peak in the honest and downright unflattering portrayal of important persons.
A recurring trend in Christian art was "realism" that emphasized the humanity of religious figures, above all Christ and his physical sufferings in his Passion. Following trends in devotional literature, this developed in the Late Middle Ages, where some painted wooden sculptures in particular strayed into the grotesque in portraying Christ covered in wounds and blood, with the intention of stimulating the viewer to meditate on the suffering that Christ had undergone on his behalf. These were especially found in Germany and Central Europe. After abating in the Renaissance, similar works re-appeared in the Baroque, especially in Spanish sculpture.
Renaissance theorists opened a debate, which was to last several centuries, as to the correct balance between drawing art from the observation of nature and from idealized forms, typically those found in classical models, or the work of other artists generally. All admitted the importance of the natural, but many believed it should be idealized to various degrees to include only the beautiful. Leonardo da Vinci was one who championed the pure study of nature, and wished to depict the whole range of individual varieties of forms in the human figure and other things. Leon Battista Alberti was an early idealizer, stressing the typical, with others such as Michelangelo supporting selection of the most beautiful - he refused to make portraits for that reason.
In the 17th century the debate continued, in Italy usually centred on the contrast between the relative "classical-idealism" of the Carracci and the "naturalist" style of the Caravaggisti, or followers of Caravaggio, who painted religious scenes as though set in the back streets of contemporary Italian cities, and used "naturalist" as a self-description. Bellori, writing some decades after Caravaggio's early death, and no supporter of his style, refers to "Those who glory in the name of naturalists" (naturalisti).
In the 19th century "Naturalism" or the "Naturalist school" was somewhat artificially erected as a term representing a breakaway sub-movement of Realism, that attempted (not wholly successfully) to distinguish itself from its parent by its avoidance of politics and social issues, and liked to proclaim a quasi-scientific basis, playing on the sense of "naturalist" as a student of Natural history, as the biological sciences were then generally known. The originator of the term was the French art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary, who in 1863 announced that: "The naturalist school declares that art is the expression of life under all phases and on all levels, and that its sole aim is to reproduce nature by carrying it to its maximum power and intensity: it is truth balanced with science". Émile Zola adopted the term with a similar scientific emphasis for his aims in the novel. Much Naturalist painting covered a similar range of subject matter as that of Impressionism, but using tighter, more traditional brushwork styles, and in landscapes often with more gloomy weather.
The term "continued to be used indiscriminately for various kinds of realism" for several decades, often as a catch-all term for art that was outside Impressionism and later movements of Modernism and also was not Academic art. The later periods of the French Barbizon School and the Düsseldorf school of painting, with its students from many countries, and in 20th century America Regionalism are movements which are often also described as "Naturalist", although the term is rarely used of British painting. Some recent art historians have deepened the confusion by claiming either Courbet or the Impressionists for the label.
c 2013 Wikipedia
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